Brian's Reviews > The Politics of Genocide

The Politics of Genocide by Edward S. Herman
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Sep 01, 10

Read in September, 2010

The United Nations' Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as "[k:]illing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; [d:]eliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; [i:]mposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [f:]orcibly transferring children of the group to another group" with intent to "destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group." According to Herman and Peterson, a more honest rendition of the Convention would include the qualifier "provided the party responsible for said actions is not acting on behalf or under the direction of the United States, its NATO allies, or a client state." In other words, the label "genocide" is frequently employed by politicians, the media, intellectuals, and human rights NGOs in reference to crimes committed by official enemies of the United States and rarely---if ever---in reference to massacres perpetrated by the US or its clients and allies. The authors maintain that this is as true now as it was when the Convention entered into force on 12 January 1951.

To support their conclusion, Herman and Peterson review fourteen of the most recent slaughters perpetrated by a state or major political body and classify them as "Constructive Genocides," "Nefarious Genocides," "Benign Bloodbaths," or "Mythical Bloodbaths" based on whether the responsible parties' were respectively the US elites themselves, their enemies, their allies or clients, or---again---their enemies. In the category of "Constructive Genocides," the authors list the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq between 1991 and 2003, which killed an estimated 800,000 civilians with a ratio of 10,000 deaths for every one time the word "genocide" appeared in print, and the US-UK invasion and occupation, which killed an estimated 1,000,000 Iraqis with a ratio of 76,923 deaths for every time the word genocide appeared in print. Under "Nefarious Genocides," on the other hand, they list---with 300,000 dead and a death/genocide ratio in the press of 256 to 1--- the Darfur wars and killings, the killings of Bosnian Muslims---33,000 deaths and 69 to 1 deaths per instances of "genocide"---Bosnia and Herzegovina, of Albanians---4,000 reported deaths and a ratio of 12 to 1--- in Kosovo, reports of a Hutu massacre of 800,000 Tutsi in Rwanda---in reality, according to the authors, the Hutu were the victims of a violent coup perpetrated by the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front which orchestrated several massacres throughout the country---while numerous massacres---5,400,000 deaths and a ratio of deaths to "genocide" in the press of 317,647 to 1---by US clients in the Democratic Republic of Congo were largely ignored by politicians and the media. The number of "unworthy victims" killed in so-called "Benign Bloodbaths," which include Israel's invasion of Lebanon and its 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, Croatia's Operation Storm, Dasht-e-Leili in Afghanistan, Turkey's vs. Iraq's treatment of their Kurdish populations, Indonesia's massacre of East Timorese, and widespread state terror and mass killings in Guatemala and El Salvador. Finally, the authors argue that the massacre at Račak is entirely unsubstantiated, and therefore place it in the "Mthical Bloodbaths" category.

One of the most disturbing trend is the frequency with which various alternative media and Non-Governmental Organizations like Amnesty International apply the same official standard of one-way applicability as mainstreams intellectuals, the commercial media, and the United Nations when determining whether violence qualifies as genocide. Apparently even NGOs can sometimes be seduced by economic or other factors into adopting the same stance as the traditional segments of the official establishment, to the detriment of countless victims of genocide and other crimes against humanity who will probably never find justice. Anyone who is concerned about the injustice and violence that seems to dominate much of the world today should take the time to read this short book. It underscores the pressing need for people to hold the political and media institutions accountable for what they say and demand that they stop distorting the truth by hiding their actions behind misleading language and twisted rhetoric.
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