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Is Kingston University, London Becoming a McCarthyite Institution?
Dear Vice Chancellor Weinberg and Dean McQuillan:
I am writing to raise a complaint against one of your faculty members, Marko Attila Hoare, who is an Associate Professor at Kingston, and is therefore under your supervision.
Dr. Hoare has undertaken a campaign against me and many other writers who have criticized the NATO interventions in the Balkans during the 1990s; he has used clearly false statements, faked quotations, and other inappropriate actions that violate generally accepted standards of academic conduct. His attacks are directed against my writings on Yugoslavia, most notably my 2009 book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, published by Vanderbilt University Press.
In making his attacks, Hoare has often used the Kingston University affiliation to bolster his credibility, and his conduct is therefore the responsibility of Kingston administrators; it is for this reason that I am writing to you. Most of the information contained in this letter can be found through simple web searches, or through specific hyperlinks that I provide.
Since this is an open letter, let me begin by describing the larger context: The NATO interventions in the Balkan wars of the 1990s have constituted some of the most important international events of the post-Cold War era. The interventions gave NATO a new justification and also laid the groundwork for later interventions, including those in Iraq and Libya. The supposed lessons of the Balkan intervention have informed the discussions of major world events during the past two decades, including recent debates regarding the Western reactions to the crises in Syria and the Ukraine. Our historical undertaking of the Balkans crisis is therefore a matter of major importance. The problem is that debate on this issue has been stifled by a campaign of harassment against almost anyone who questions the official narrative that surrounded the interventions or the general context of the breakup of Yugoslavia that preceded the interventions.
Look through the Balkan-related postings on the Internet, and you will quickly find attacks against numerous persons who have questioned any aspect of the standard narrative. Often these attacks are directed against prominent left-wing critics of intervention, such as Noam Chomsky. But they are also directed against establishment figures such as David Owen, a former UK foreign minister; Philippe Morillon, a retired French general and UN peacekeeping commander; William Schabas, past President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars; Dejan Jović, chief policy analyst to the President of Croatia; and many others. The tone of these attacks is often strongly ideological, from a neo-conservative, pro-interventionist stance.
Among these various attack postings, the most prominent emanate from your faculty member, Dr. Hoare. Indeed, Hoare has played a central role in many of these attacks, since his academic affiliation gives him legitimacy. His postings are then picked up and cited by other, often anonymously-directed sites, which collectively have established a prominent web presence.
The key problem here is that much of what Hoare and his Internet followers write is false. In making this point, I do not suggest that Hoare’s writings are intemperate, objectionable, or tendentious; they often are simply false. I will make this matter as concrete as possible by drawing from my own experience with Dr. Hoare, who has been attacking my writings over the past several years.
Hoare presents me as an apologist for Slobodan Milošević, and he falsifies to make his point. In reality, I have always condemned Milošević and the Serb nationalist project that he supported. Here is what my book stated (p. 60): “Overall, Milošević made a central contribution to Yugoslavia’s demise, by pioneering a new style of political leadership – that of the racist demagogue.” Similar points were made repeatedly throughout the book.
Yet, Hoare claims in a 2014 posting that my political agenda is to “ensure that the real warmongers – tyrants like Slobodan Milošević and Bashar Al-Assad – should be free to wage their wars without fear of Western military intervention or even serious condemnation from the Western media [emphasis added].”
The second part of this sentence is simply one of Hoare’s numerous falsehoods, since I have never objected to serious condemnation of Milošević’s crimes, in the media or elsewhere. On the contrary, my own book condemned Milošević, as noted above. With regard to Assad: The only time I have commented publicly on Syria was during an interview with RT News, in which I said nothing like what Hoare claims.
In a 2013 publication in an academic venue, Hoare states that I am one of several authors who are “unwilling to acknowledge the culpability of the former regime of Slobodan Milošević or of the Great Serb nationalists” for contributing to Yugoslavia’s breakup in 1991. In reality, my book clearly stated that Milošević did contribute to the breakup (“Milošević made a central contribution to Yugoslavia’s demise…”), virtually the opposite of what Hoare claims. In the article where this false statement appears, Hoare cites his affiliation with Kingston University.
One of Hoare’s most inflammatory accusations is that I somehow have blamed the victims for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Serb forces murdered some 8,000 Bosnian prisoners. This accusation began with a posting to Modernityblog over three years ago, in which Hoare alleged: “You falsely portray the Srebrenica Muslims as the ones principally guilty of the violence in the Srebrenica region and of ‘creating the hatred’ there – despite the fact that most of the killing in the region was the work of the Serb forces… [You] blame the victims.”
The above is an extended series of false statements, virtually the opposite of what I have written on the Srebrenica massacre, which is this: “Without question, the Bosnian Serb army and their political and military leaders must bear the overwhelming burden of guilt for having orchestrated this calamity.” I also place secondary blame on the Bosnian leadership for contributing to the conditions that led to the massacre. Contrary to Hoare, I do not blame the massacre victims, nor do I argue that the Muslims were the ones “principally guilty of the violence in the Srebrenica region.” On the contrary, I state that the Serbs were the perpetrators of the massacre.
Another one of Hoare’s techniques is the use of faked quotations, wherein he fabricates quoted statements, which he attributes to me. Then he criticizes me for saying things that in reality I never said. In the above Modernityblog posting, for example, Hoare attributes to me the phrase “creating the hatred,” which he presents as a direct quotation. The implication is that in my view the Bosnian Muslims were “creating the hatred” in the Srebrenica area. In fact, this is a fake quotation. This phrase “creating the hatred” appears nowhere in any of my writings. Then in a later posting, he attributes to me the quote “created the hatred,” which once again implies that in my view the Muslims had created the hatred in Srebrenica. But the quoted phrase appears in none of my writings, and the essence of its meaning corresponds to nothing I have ever said.
And there is yet a third fake quote, in the title of one of Hoare’s reviews: “First Check Their Sources 2: The Myth that ‘Most of Bosnia Was Owned by the Serbs Before the War.’” The first part of the title (“First Check Their Sources”) is a play on words from the title of my book, which is First Do No Harm. The embedded phrase in Hoare’s title (“Most of Bosnia Was Owned…”) is presented as a direct quote, with quotation marks. This quote is yet another fabrication, which falsifies both the literal wording of my book and also the substance of my stated views. And he again cites his Kingston faculty position.
More generally, Hoare seeks to attack my scholarship, which in principle is a reasonable thing to do, since substantive criticism is a basic feature of academic discourse. In this case however, Hoare uses falsehoods to sustain his criticisms. Two specific examples: In 2010, he states that Gibbs “hasn’t bothered to engage with the existing literature, but simply ignored all the existing works that undermine his thesis.” He then lists five specific authors that I supposedly failed to cite (Michael Libal, Richard Caplan, Daniele Conversi, Brendan Simms, and Hoare himself). Please note that Hoare claims I “simply ignored” these writers. He does not say that I under-cited them or that I inappropriately cited them; he claims I ignored them. This is an unambiguous statement. In fact my book cited four of these five, each several times, and also included them in the bibliography. Hoare’s own writings were cited in five separate endnotes (pp. 252, 264, 274, 280, 305). Thus, his claim that I ignored the authors is false.
The above posting remains on Hoare’s website to this day, with the false statement still there. And the website clearly notes Hoare’s affiliation with Kingston University.
And then in 2014, Hoare makes the following false claim: “He [Gibbs] does not have even a single piece of real evidence to demonstrate that Germany encouraged Croatia to secede from Yugoslavia.” In reality, my book provided evidence from such mainstream publications as Jane’s Intelligence Review, generally regarded as one of the leading sources on military and intelligence topics; a book by David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist; and the memoirs of Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Germany’s foreign minister at the time of Croatia’s secession – all of which clearly do present “real evidence” that Germany encouraged secession by Croatia or by Croatia’s partner republic, Slovenia.
In his memoirs, Genscher stated that during the 1991 breakup, “It was also important for us [Germans] to establish that the Yugoslav peoples alone had the right to freely determine the future of their nation,” with a strong implication that the Croatian and Slovenian “peoples” had the right to secede and that the Yugoslav central government could not stop them. Genscher also expressed support for a united Yugoslavia – which constituted the official policy for public purposes – but he also affirmed “an individual nation’s ‘right to secede’” from Yugoslavia, a viewpoint that very likely did encourage secessionists in Croatia, just as I claimed. All of this was presented in my book (pp.79, 249). By any reasonable standard, Genscher’s statements constitute “real evidence” that Germany encouraged Croatia to secede, and Hoare’s claim to the contrary is false.
Whether these false statements and faked quotations were made deliberately or due to incompetence is a matter that only Hoare himself can clarify.
In addition to outright falsifications, Hoare also presents false insinuations. Here is a quote from one of Hoare’s reviews, posted in 2011, where he insinuates that I am somehow an extreme anti-Semite, though without a scintilla of evidence:
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion have been used by anti-Semites from the Nazis to today’s Islamists, despite the fact that they were exposed as a forgery a century ago. German anti-Semites sought to explain away Germany’s defeat in World War I in 1918 by a supposed ‘stab in the back’ by the Jews, shifting the ignominy for the murderous Imperial German regime’s military collapse onto an innocent third party. In much the same way, apologists for the former regime of Slobodan Milošević have for twenty years tried to blame the ignominious break-up of Yugoslavia – which the Milošević regime deliberately engineered – on democratic Germany’s supposed ‘encouragement of Croatian secessionism’. They have done this despite a complete failure to uncover any evidence to support their thesis.
David N. Gibbs in First do no Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, 2009) is the latest author to attempt to breathe life into the corpse of this myth…
Hoare implies that my book is equivalent to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Nazi propaganda – but with no substantiation at all. Hoare does this knowing perfectly well that I am Jewish. And in the course of the above, he cites his Kingston faculty position.
Over the past three years, Hoare has not removed or altered the above posting from his website. Indeed, in a 2014 attack, he cites the posting to bolster his argument, and he thus recirculates anew the statements about Nazi propaganda and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And again, the Kingston affiliation is noted.
One of Hoare’s main claims against my book First Do No Harm is that it constitutes an “extreme anti-Croatian, anti-Bosnian and Great Serb propaganda tract,” an accusation that he repeats several times (with some variations in wording) in his 2014 posting.
In reality, I have no personal, family, or political ties to any ethnic group in the Balkans, and have no ethnic agenda whatsoever. Hoare’s accusation is false. As noted above, my book clearly condemned Milošević’s role, as well as the associated Serb atrocities. I repeatedly acknowledged that Serb forces were responsible for more of the killings than any of the other ethnic armies. And after years of effort, Hoare and his colleague Josip Glaurdic have only been able to find two minor errors of fact in the book (the mischaracterization of a document, which my book cited for historical background; and the mischaracterization of British diplomat David Owen’s relationship with the Hague criminal tribunal). Beyond this, the extensive attacks against my book have been predominantly non-substantive – to state the matter somewhat charitably.
Since First Do No Harm has been subjected to a fair amount of abuse, let me point out that it has also been praised in such diverse venues as the New York Review of Books, Washington Times, Science & Society, Diplomatic History, and Croatian Political Science Review, among many other publications. I have attached a list of excerpts from reviews – both good and bad – for interested readers, who can judge for themselves.
And Hoare’s accusation of ethnic propaganda is ironic, given his own background, which is ethnically partisan to a high degree: Throughout much of his professional life, Hoare has been associated with the Bosnian Institute, which functioned in effect as a lobbying group in favor of Western military intervention against a single ethnicity, the Serbs. He won an award from the Congress of North American Bosniaks, which is overtly partisan. The award expressed appreciation for Hoare’s “outstanding contributions to the advancement of Bosniaks and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the world.” The Bosnian Embassy in London recently hosted a reception for Hoare, to celebrate the publication of his book on Bosnian history.
Of course, these ethnic and national affiliations would be less problematic if Hoare were to adhere to academic objectivity; but this is not the case. Hoare frequently dismisses challenges to his views – even from the most mainstream sources – as Great Serb, propagandistic, discredited, and the like, thus establishing a distinctively tautological brand of reasoning. With regard to style, Hoare employs a polemical approach, with sensationalized denunciations directed against almost anyone who disagrees with him, sometimes accompanied by implied threats that his opponents will have their reputations ruined. At one point, he writes that authors who disagree are like “lambs to the slaughter” who will surely “sacrifice whatever reputations they may have.” It sounds as though Hoare is proposing a campaign of harassment and defamation against anyone who opposes his views. And he does this while citing his position as an “Associate Professor at Kingston University, London,” as stated on his website.
Please note that I do not object to Hoare’s polemics, his insults, or his ranting style of exposition. Much of this can be considered an exercise of academic freedom, which is rightly protected.
What is objectionable is Hoare’s repeated use of falsehoods and faked quotations — activities that clearly are not protected by academic freedom. I also object to the repetitious nature of these attacks, recycling the same claims again and again, sometimes over a period of years, thus creating a climate of harassment. And I object to Hoare’s implied threat that writers who disagree with his views will have their reputations ruined.
As you know, this is not the first time I have contacted Kingston about this problem. In 2011, I sent you a 9-page letter of complaint, which detailed Hoare’s falsifications. I followed up my letter with an article in Antiwar.com, which emphasized Hoare’s use of faked quotations. After an extended delay, Dean McQuillan responded to my complaint by stating in essence that Kingston accepted no responsibility for his actions and would do nothing. But the Dean did not dispute any of my claims that Hoare had systematically falsified. And the normally voluble Hoare offered no public response at all.
If called upon, I can reproduce copies of my email exchanges with the Dean, to establish the facts of the situation.
All the above took place some two to three years ago. Since that time, Hoare has launched repeated attacks against me, with no end in sight. Apparently, Hoare has developed a real obsession with my work, and to some extent with me personally. I find his behavior to be bizarre and unsettling.
I am surprised that Kingston is taking the matter so lightly.
As a result of this situation, I will adopt a new policy: Every time in the future that I am forced to respond to Hoare’s attacks, I will emphasize the role of Kingston University in helping to make these attacks possible. I will especially emphasize the roles of Vice Chancellor Weinberg and Dean McQuillan, who are Hoare’s academic supervisors. Up to this point, there has been too little accountability with regard to Hoare’s conduct. It is time to correct the problem.
The real loser in this affair remains the US and British public. Due to Hoare’s tactics, the public understanding of Yugoslavia’s breakup has been fundamentally distorted, due to a climate of intimidation and fear, which has prevented genuine scholarly debate. This cannot be tolerated any longer.
David N. Gibbs
David N. Gibbs is professor of history at the University of Arizona, who has published extensively on international relations, political economy, and US foreign policy. His latest book is First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Vanderbilt University Press, 2009).