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Reply to George Monbiot on “Genocide Belittling”


Isn’t George Monbiot “belittling” genocide when he puts the death of 8,000 soldiers at Srebrenica in the same class as the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust death camps?  ("Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers," The Guardian, June 14.)

Monbiot makes his case for disallowing discussion on killings at Srebrenica and Rwanda on the ground that these “are two of the best documented acts of genocide in history.” But the Holocaust is much better documented, so doesn’t that make Raul Hilberg, author of the classic account of The Destruction of Europe’s Jews,  a belittler when he estimated the total dead at only 5.1 million?

 

Can you have “genocide” in one small town, where the women and children are spared, and when it is not clear how many were executed and how many were killed in combat? The Bosnian Muslim General Enver Hadzihasanovic claimed with "certainty" at the Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic’s trial that 2,628 Muslim "soldiers and commanding officers" from the 28th Division were killed in combat during their retreat from Srebrenica, and the forensic pathologist Ljubisa Simic found that of the total bodies exhumed in graves by Tribunal workers for the years 1996 through 2002, for roughly 77 percent of the bodies it was either impossible to determine the manner of death (execution or combat) or the manner of death strongly suggested that it was combat-related. Monbiot tells us that DNA has allowed the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) to identify the "corpses of 6,595 of the 7,789 Bosnians reported as missing after the siege of Srebrenica," but he fails to mention that DNA does not show how an individual died, or when, which allows the ICMP, the Yugoslavia Tribunal, and Monbiot to pretend that these were all executions.  Monbiot’s statement that our book asserts “that the 8,000 deaths at Srebrenica is ‘an unsupportable exaggeration’,” substitutes “deaths” for the word actually used, which is “executions.”

 

Monbiot cannot conceive that the ICMP is biased, though its chairman is appointed by the U.S. Secretary of State, it is directly run by Bosnian Muslim officials, and it will not allow its results to be revealed and tested by any counsel for the defendants.  He is satirical at the notion that “the market massacres [in Sarajevo] were carried out by Bosnian Muslim provocateurs,” though there are numerous credible cites to this claim in The Srebrenica Massacre, and, “like Karadzic,” as Monbiot expresses it for me, UN officials and Lord David Owen were believers that the Muslims  fired the shell that caused the bread queue massacre of February 5, 1994 (see Owen on the BBC1 Panorama TV broadcast of October 30, 1995; also, Owen, Balkan Odyssey, pp. 279-280). 

 

As regards Rwanda, Monbiot cites a “long discredited denier’s claim” by Mick Hume that “Paul Kagame’s army ‘shot down’ President Habyarimana’s plane” to start the genocide. But that claim was made by International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda investigator Michael Hourigan in 1997, only to be rejected by ICTR chief prosecutor Louise Arbour after consultation with U.S. officials; it has also been made by the French Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles, and many others—not just Mick Hume.  Rwanda scholar and former U.S. special forces officer Allan Stam also notes that Kagame’s forces were in concerted-action within two hours of the shoot-down, implementing a plan “that was not worked out on the back of an envelop.”

 

Regarding Rwanda numbers, in The Politics of Genocide (with David Peterson) we cite demographic data, the Davenport-Stam findings, and others indicating that Hutus comprised the majority of the victims of the 1994 massacres.  We also cite a State Department memo of September 1994 that reported that Kagame’s forces were killing Hutu civilians at the rate of 10,000 a month.  And we cite UN reports from 2002 and 2003 about the resource-theft-related carnage in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the first of which estimated "more than 3.5 million excess deaths" in the areas of the DRC occupied by Rwanda's and Uganda's forces through September 2002, and about which Monbiot himself has also written in the past ("The victim's licence," The Guardian, August 13, 2004). Isn’t ignoring this caliber of sources and findings today, while focusing on 8,000 in Bosnia and the "fairytale view" of Paul Kagame's rise to power in Rwanda, itself a textbook case of genocide belittling?

 

There are very few sentences in George Monbiot’s June 14 diatribe that withstand close scrutiny. Instead, I urge readers to check out the badly misrepresented originals: The Politics of Genocide (with David Peterson, Monthly Review Press, 2010) and The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics (Alphabet Soup, 2011).

 

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