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“My fight may be hopeless, but it is as necessary as ever”


About George Monbiot’s My fight may be hopeless, but it is as necessary as ever (The Guardian, May 22), here is one important rejoinder which I’ve been meaning to take-up since the commentary first appeared, but am just getting around to now.

Monbiot writes:


   
The Politics of Genocide seeks to downplay or dismiss both the massacre of Bosniaks at Srebrenica in 1995 and the genocide of Tutsis committed by Hutu militias in Rwanda in 1994.  Their claims are extraordinary: that the cause of death of the "vast majority" of the Bosniaks at Srebrenica remains "undetermined"; that rather than 800,000 or more Tutsis being killed by Hutu militias in Rwanda, "the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million", while members of the Hutus' Interahamwe militia were the "actual victims" of genocide.


Edward Herman and I have responded at great length to these Rwanda-related objections in the past.  (See George Monbiot and the Guardian on 'Genocide Denial' and 'Revisionism'," MRZine, September 2, 2011.)

Here I want to zero-in on just one of Monbiot's claims: That we’ve written some place that Monbiot never cites “that the cause of death of the ‘vast majority’ of the Bosniaks at Srebrenica remains ‘undetermined’” (emphasis added).

This is a more flagrant misrepresentation than anybody appears to have noticed.  So let me address it.

Monbiot conveys the impression that we wrote his paraphrase of our text in our book, The Politics of Genocide (Monthly Review Press, 2nd Ed., 2011).  But in fact we did not: No phrase or assertion such as Monbiot provided in his commentary appears on the pages of The Politics of Genocide.

On the other hand, in the detailed response to Monbiot that Ed and I published at MRZine, here was what we actually wrote (I'll toss-in the endnote for good measure):
   

Monbiot also takes the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) as an unchallengeable authority on the body-count at Srebrenica, even though its staff is 90 percent Bosnian Muslim and operates under U.S. sponsorship.[59]  He takes at face value the ICMP's claim that, "using DNA screening, [it] has so far identified the corpses of 6,595 of the 7,789 Bosnians reported as missing after the siege of Srebrenica," and adds that the ICMP's "work suggests that the total number of victims is close to 8,100."  It never occurs to Monbiot that DNA cannot fix  the mode or time of death, so that when those 6,595 or 8,100 individuals died (i.e., in July 1995? or June 1992 – March 1993?), and whether they were executed, killed in battle, or perished from natural causes, are legally meaningful differences that in the vast majority of cases remain undetermined.

[59] In late 2007, the Financial Times reported that the ICMP's "staff…are 93 per cent Bosnian [Muslim]…." (Christian Jennings, "Forensics: DNA fills gaps of history," December 11, 2007.)


It is quite clear that Monbiot has misrepresented us.  That is, he tells the Guardian’s readers that we wrote that the cause of death of the ‘vast majority’ of the Bosniaks at Srebrenica remains ‘undetermined’,” but in fact we never wrote anything of the kind strictly about the cause of death. 

Instead, as you can plainly see, we wrote that “DNA cannot fix the mode or time of death,” so that whatever the ICMP may claim about the identities of the Bosnian Muslims “reported as missing after the siege of Srebrenica,” the ICMP cannot tell us “when those 6,595 or 8,100 individuals died (i.e., in July 1995? or June 1992 – March 1993?),” and, most important of all, that “whether [those individuals] were executed, killed in battle, or perished from natural causes, are legally meaningful differences that in the vast majority of cases remain undetermined.” (emphases added).

For a synopsis of the critical investigations by the Serb forensic pathologist Ljubiša Simic into what the Yugoslavia Tribunal's autopsy reports in the trial of the Bosnian Serb general Radislav Krstic were able to determine, see "Srebrenica-Related Graves Through 2002" (ZNet Blogs, July 22, 2011).

I hope this helps to clarify matters a little.

    David Peterson   
    Chicago, USA

"My fight may be hopeless, but it is as necessary as ever," ZBlogs, May 25, 2012.
 

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