Peace Reaserch and Conspiracy Theorists

Ceremony for the victims of the first Markale massacre in 1994
Ceremony for the victims of the first Markale massacre in 1994

This article originally appeared on Norwegian Website, Vepsen 06/03/2014 

Last month many Sarajevo citizens found the way to the memorial Markale massacre 5 February 1994 (1), in which 68 people were killed when a shell hit the crowded marketplace. Massacre provoked international outrage, one year later on August 28, five Serb mortar shell landed on the same market place killings scores of civilians and helping to trigger NATO intervention which ended with the Dayton Peace Agreement in December 1995.

By John Faerseth

While most agree the most obvious explanation, which has been established by The Hague tribunal – that the shell was fired from the Serb positions around Sarajevo – there have always been those who have argued that it was not the Serbs but the Bosnian government forces who fired the grenade to arouse sympathy. One of them is the imprisoned Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [2 ]. Another is Ola Tunander, professor at the Peace Research Institute ( PRIO ), who during a speech in August last year [3 ] claimed that the massacre was a ” false flag ” attack by Bosnian forces aimed at  triggering an intervention.

This initiative was just the latest in a series conspiracy theories from Tunander, who since the mid -2000s has been known as an avid  “9/11- Truther” who believes that the U.S. government itself was behind the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. He is also known as an ardent advocate of the existence of  “dypstater” or “deep-states” at the intersection of intelligence, military and criminal groups in a number of countries, and that a wide variety of terrorist acts in post-war Europe has been ” false flag ” operations run by such ” deep-states.” Tunander created a great deal of controversy when he in the wake of the terror 22 July 2011 speculated whether such an environment could also have been involved here , or it could be a case of an operation directed by Israel or Saudi Arabia. [4 ]

Tunander lecture took place at the event; Nordiska Fredssamtal in Degerfors. (Sweden) Here also in attendence was the pro – Serbian Swedish organization Justitia Pax Veritas who defend Serb war crimes by showing that all parties were equally bad, and last summer ended up in the spotlight as they defended the Serbian government’s decision to stop a planned gay parade of ”safety ” reasons. In the lecture Tunander also claimed that since the early 1990s had existed secret plans to take turns knocking out Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Iran.

Peace Research at it´s best and worst is the requirement that one should listen to arguments from all sides in a conflict. At its best, this opens up a nuanced perspective and prevents the demonization of the parties. At its worst it can lead moral relativism and conspiracy, as when, in a book about “konfliktterori”  (Conflict Theory) published by Johan Galtungs Transcend Network states that ”the Zionist declaration of war” against Germany before the war was part of the backdrop of conflict between Germans and Jews. [5 ] that there was such a declaration of war is a widespread notion in anti-Semitic and right wing groups, and based on some Jewish leaders called for a boycott of Germany after Hitler’s seizure of power had already led to attacks on German Jews from Nazi storm troops. [6 ]

Tunander´s fraternization with Serbian nationalism as witnessed by earlier initiatives in which he has accused the Bosnian government and the Kosovo Albanian guerrilla; Kosovo Liberation Army of  cynically practicing “human sacrifice” in the 1990s by provoking massacres of it´s own people in the hope of outside support, can probably best be understood as an expression of what the American author and journalist Chip Berlet has described as “Right Woos Left”. [7] With this aim Berlet shows how anti -war activists from the left and exponents of the extreme right since the first Gulf war in 1991, found each other in a joint commitment towards American foreign policy. Berlet refers to a number of examples of how parts of the anti -war movement has increasingly taken over conspiratorial notions from the government hostile American extreme right wing , especially from the neo-Nazi environment journals Spotlight and American Free Press and from the neo-fascist La Rouche movement . One of the most frightening examples of this is the Montreal -based peace organization Centre for Research on Globalization, led by Professor Michel Chossodovsky [ 8], which has been accused of spreading conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers role in starting both world wars, vaccine resistance and holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about 11 September which was first launched on the extreme right site Serendipity.

While he cannot be held directly responsible for this, Ola Tunander often referred to as the authority on the Centre for Research on Globalization website; Global Research. It is also a tell  that he chose to stay to discuss the Utøya massacre partly based on the information from extreme right website Veterans Today.

Fraternizing with conspiracy thinking is becoming a serious problem for peace research, both in Norway and internationally. It’s time to deal with this if it is not going to be a playground for buffs and conspiracy theorists.


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