On interview techniques

After being found guilty and sentenced to 40 years by the ICTY today, David A. Graham over at The Atlantic’s Notes highlights a 1993 interview conducted with Radovan Karadzic —

In January 1993, still relatively early in the Bosnian war, [CBC’s] As It Happens scored an interview with Karadzic. In a retrospective segment years ago, former host Michael Enright reminisced about preparing for the interview and his plan to ask standard questions. But he decided that wasn’t going to cut it, so he took a more direct approach when the tape started rolling:

“Mr. Karadzic, generally how—in your view, how is the ethnic cleansing going?” Enright deadpanned.

Karadzic was unsurprisingly annoyed.

“Ethnic cleansing was not part of our policy any time,” he fumed. “Ethnic cleansing was on all sides, and it was sort of ethnic shifting of the people, because Serbs have escaped from Muslim surroundings and the Bosnians have escaped from Serbian surroundings.”

Enright kept rolling, maintaining a studiously detached tone.

[…] It’s a remarkable interview: A reporter asking extremely tough questions of a leader, with great authority and command of facts, about a faraway conflict. You don’t hear this sort of exchange often. For one, few war criminals will talk to the media. For another, few reporters have the chops to pull it off live like this. They might worry about losing access, too—although when the interview ended, Karadzic signed off with a cheery, “Welcome, any time!”

[links in original; click through for further transcript and audio]

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On Super Tuesday

A ways back, I was deeply involved in an American student anti-genocide campaign, specifically responsible for education programming. I eventually came to the belief that the organization’s time and energy was best spent educating Americans on global issues, certainly, but to also pay a large amount of attention to issues closer to home. I didn’t have the language at the time to express my feelings convincingly, but seeing the news about Trump’s dominance in the polls made me revisit those discussions once again —

On push factors

Emanuel Stoakes in Foreign Policy’s Dispatch blog discusses testimonies and documentary evidence shown in the new Al Jazeera documentary, “Genocide Agenda” that purports to link the Myanmar government to anti-Muslim incitement.

The film points to a multi-pronged strategy by the government to encourage anti-Muslim hatred across the country, while pursuing policies against the Rohingya that legal scholars in the film refer to as “genocidal.”

In 2011, Myanmar’s reformist government launched a cautious process of liberalization that removed long-standing restrictions on opposition party activity, allowed for relative freedom of the press, and led to the release of many political prisoners. Yet the country’s gradual opening has also been blamed for the emergence of ferocious sectarian violence between the Buddhist majority and members of the Muslim minority. This conflict is often depicted as organic and spontaneous, a grassroots eruption of stored-up grievances enabled by new freedoms.

Yet what this version of events ignores is that government officials and members of the military elite have played an active role in fomenting interethnic tensions. Evidence obtained by Al Jazeera shows conclusively that the recent surge of anti-Muslim hatred has been anything but random. In fact, it’s the product of a concerted government campaign clearly aimed at promoting instability and undermining the opposition by stirring up the forces of militant nationalism.

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For more on Burma (/Myanmar): see Christian Caryl in Foreign Policy on the politicalization of religion influencing the upcoming national election.

Regarding early(-er) warning of mass atrocities, see John Sides at the Monkey Cage talking with Jay Ulfelder about the Early Warning Project. Regarding legal analysis on definitions, see Marko Milanovic at the EIJL: Talk! blog discussing the recent decision of Vasiliauskas v. Lithuania (ECtHR).

On perpetrators and victims

Stumbled across a fascinating conversation hosted over at Foreign Policy: in discussing victims and perpetrators of genocide, Joshua Oppenheimer and David Rieff touch on film, intervention, kitsch and smugness. [note, the transcript is a reduxed version of the audio]

Joshua Oppenheimer: Most nonfiction films dealing with human rights abuse tend to tell us that things are well in hand because we’re following an activist or an investigator or a judicial process that promises some sort of resolution even if, when the film ends, things are still a mess. The sense of things getting better when we leave allows the viewer to more easily let go of the experience and to feel like it is being dealt with by somebody, somehow. It also serves the viewer to feel that, by having this explained to us as a phenomenon that’s at least at arm’s length from us, it’s something that we can understand from above. The task of cinema in intervening in and exploring these issues is to actually immerse us in these problems, in these phenomena, so that we actually feel something about what is it like as a survivor or, in the case of The Look of Silence, to have to live surrounded by the still-powerful perpetrators and to live in fear for half a century. Most human rights documentaries also replicate that most basic form of narrative escapism, dividing the world into good guys and bad guys. That is reassuring because we inevitably identify with the good guys. But it’s problematic because it makes it difficult to understand — not in the sense to excuse, but to understand how human beings do these sorts of things to each other and the consequences for how we continue to live in the aftermath of atrocity. If we don’t accept the uncomfortable proposition that every perpetrator of virtually every act of evil in our history has been a human being like us, then we actually foreclose the possibility of understanding how we do this to one another and therefore make it impossible to figure out how we might prevent these things.