Peter Oborne, the Telegraph columnist, complains on the Spectator blog about virulent misrepresentations and innuendo. Oddly, he names me as a culprit, for noting sceptical comments made by one David Morrison about the Srebrenica massacre. Morrison is co-author of a recent slim volume with Oborne purporting to explain the pacific character of Iran’s nuclear programme.
I asked why Oborne was associating with a sinister crank. Oborne’s response not only fails to give an answer but compounds the conundrum – for he defends the legitimacy of Morrison’s comments. So far from being a denier of Srebrenica, says Oborne, “Dr Morrison explicitly stated in his article ‘that Bosnian Muslims got massacred in large numbers is not in doubt’ ”.
To understand the feebleness of that comment, recall the disastrous libel action brought by David Irving against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books in 2000 for calling him a Holocaust denier. According to the judgment, “Irving radically modified his position [during the hearing]: he accepted that the killing by shooting had been on a massive scale of between 500,000 and 1,500,000 and that the programme of executions had been carried out in a systematic way and in accordance with orders from Berlin”.
Irving accepted that many Jews had been massacred by the Nazis. But that did not mean that Professor Lipstadt’s description of him as a Holocaust denier was unfair: on the contrary, that’s what Irving was, and the judgment confirmed this.
That’s relevant to our subject, for Srebrenica denial, like Holocaust denial, advances bogus demographics, calumnies against the victims of genocide and exculpation of the perpetrators. Its advocates of course don’t dispute that many Bosnian Muslims were murdered: instead, they deny the massacre that actually took place at Srebrenica in July 1995, namely the systematic murder of 8,000 men and boys in an act of genocide.
We know how many were murdered at Srebrenica, because the bodies have been found. I don’t trouble to argue this point with the deniers; I merely offer to put them in touch with the scientists from the International Commission on Missing Persons who have done the harrowing work of locating and identifying the mortal remains of the victims. They have by now recovered the remains of more than 7,000 victims and identified almost all of them by DNA analysis. They reliably estimate a total of between 8,000 and 8,100 victims.
That evidence of an unspeakable crime was never meant to be discovered. People who maintain that “the math just doesn’t support the scale of 8,000 killed” utter a lie. Yet those words, by the pro-Serb lobbyist General Lewis MacKenzie, are approvingly cited by Morrison as “the context” of the massacre.
I haven’t troubled here to deal with Morrison’s fantastic additional claim in a Telegraph podcast that “I have never come across a statement from Ahmadinejad saying that the Holocaust didn’t happen”. Oborne acknowledges that the comment was foolish and says that Morrison accepts precisely what he disputed only a few days ago in the podcast. And that’s Oborne’s defence of his co-author.
It’s obvious that Morrison is a hapless incompetent of insanitary opinions. Why a prominent newspaper columnist has published a book with him is a more open question.
UPDATE: In response to my exposure of his opinions on Srebrenica, Morrison has now added a Delphic and dishonest footnote to his original article. It claims that he has never denied the Srebrenica genocide and says he accepts the estimate of the ICMP for the number of victims.
But of course that’s false. Morrison certainly has denied the Srebrenica massacre, in the very article that I uncovered. It was written in 2005, when the estimated total of Srebrenica victims was long established by all competent researchers, and reproduced an article by General Lewis MacKenzie as “the context” for the Srebrenica massacre. In it, MacKenzie asserted: “Evidence given at The Hague war crimes tribunal casts serious doubt on the figure of ‘up to’ 8,000 Bosnian Muslims massacred.”
Morrison has already demonstrated that in public debate he’s a danger to himself and a liability to his co-author. He may thus not even realise that the evidence of his own website refutes him.