Boy, Do We Need A Hippocratic Oath For Journalists


For the record: Around June 17 or 18, both Edward S. Herman and I each began submitting manuscripts to the Guardian of London, prompted by false and misleading claims that had been made by the British writer George Monbiot on June 14, in his weekly commentary for this prestigious newspaper.  "Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers," was the title the Guardian had given it.  At Monbiot's own website, the title he had chosen was more direct: "Naming the Genocide Deniers" (June 13).

Over the next several days, Ed and I tried different editors at the Guardian, including editors with responsibility for its Comment & Debate section (i.e., in its print edition) as well as its online Comment Is Free section.  As the latter exists online exclusively, and posts many manuscripts daily, it seemed particularly appropriate to submit our manuscripts to Comment Is Free.  I also submitted mine to the Guardian's Response column editor — as did Ed, eventually.

From roughly June 21 through July 5, the Guardian informed us that our draft-responses were under review. 

Then on July 5, Joseph Harker, the Response column editor, sent Ed and me an email telling us that our draft-responses went "wider than George Monbiot's piece and his comments on your work in this area," and therefore the Guardian couldn't publish them in their current form.  He also told us that although the Guardian has no problem with offering persons the chance to respond, the Guardian has to be satisfied that the responses facts are accurate, and that the "view expressed are a reasonable interpretation of the facts…."  Harker proceeded to raise five objections to our draft-responses.  But, he added, if we'd revise and resubmit them jointly as one response, at a length at or below a maximum of 550 words, he would consider our revised draft. 

This we managed to do, coming in exactly at the 550-word limit — and after some additional cuts by the Guardian, a 524-word single joint-response was posted to the Guardian's website (July 19) as well as printed in the next-day's newspaper (July 20). 


Oh, yes.  Lest I forget to mention it, our response ran under the appalling title: "We're not genocide deniers."

In what follows, I am reproducing-in-full Joseph Harker's July 5 email to Edward Herman and me.  I do this not only for the sake of the record — but more important, because I'd like readers of "We're not genocide deniers" to know that I myself replied via email to Harker and three of his colleagues with a point-by-point assessment of the alleged factual inaccuracies that precluded the Guardian from finding any space anywhere within even its strictly-online Comment Is Free section for our original separate responses to Monbiot.  


Edward S. Herman, "Reply to George Monbiot on 'Genocide Belittling'," unpublished manuscript, June 17, 2011 (as posted to ZNet, July 19, 2011)

David Peterson, "George Monbiot and the anti-'Genocide Deniers' Brigade," unpublished manuscript, June 17, 2011 (as posted to ZNet, July 19, 2011)

David Peterson
Chicago, USA



From: "Joseph Harker" <  >
To: davidepet@comcast.net, "Edward S, Herman" <  >
Sent: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 4:04:24 AM
Subject: re: your reply to George Monbiot

Dear David and Edward,


Apologies for the delay. Your proposed submissions required consideration as they go wider than George Monbiot's piece and his comments on your work in this area. 


Maybe first I should explain our editorial policy. There is no automatic right to reply. We do, though – unlike any other daily newspaper – offer the chance to respond, though we have to be satisfied that the contributions where they refer to facts are accurate, that the views expressed are a reasonable interpretation of the facts and that they address issues raised in the piece to which they are responding.


These standards are especially important to uphold on such sensitive and important issues as Rwanda and Srebrinica, which are often the subject of wide academic debate, investigation and often strongly held conflicting opinions.


With regard to your proposed submissions we note for example:-


1. The passage George Monbiot referred to concerning your version of the 8,000 deaths at Srebrenica says nothing about executions:  

"But the situation is more complicated than the public relations specialists would have us believe. That there were killings of non-combatants in Srebrenica, as in all war zones, is a certainty. And those who perpetrated them deserve to be condemned and prosecuted. And whether it was three or 30 or 300 innocent civilians who were killed, it was a heinous crime. There can be no equivocation about that. At the same time, the facts presented in this volume make a very cogent argument that the figure of 8,000 killed, which is often bandied about in the international community, is an unsupportable exaggeration. The true figure may be closer to 800. The fact that the figure in question has been so distorted, however, suggests that the issue has been politicized. There is much more shock value in the death of 8,000 than in the death of 800."


2. Hadzihasanovic did not say that the men were killed in combat:

http://www.icty.org/x/cases/krstic/trans/en/010406ed.htm, pages 9532 and

3. On the Sarajevo market shelling, ICTY examined the evidence and determined that it was the work of Serb forces: 

http://www.icty.org/x/cases/galic/acjug/en/gal-acjud061130.pdf, paras 317-335 

4. As for ICMP being “directly run by Bosnian Muslim officials”, the ICMP has two US and two European directors; only one of two deputy directors is a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

And where you say that “it will not allow its results to be revealed and tested by any counsel for the defendants": 

In fact, the ICMP has testified in numerous cases and says it has recently "offered the defense in the case of Radovan Karadzic to make a representative selection of cases for review by the parties to that trial". The ICMP says it is legally bound not to divulge the genetic information of family members without their consent, and therefore seeks their consent before submitting such data to the parties in criminal prosecutions.



5. On the issue of Rwanda, we noted these two reviews, which claim that your sources were misrepresented.


In addition, there is a weight of evidence of organised slaughter of Tutsis, which the international tribunal has confirmed in lengthy trials with masses of evidence.



Bearing all this in mind, I do not consider it would be appropriate to run your submissions in their current form in the Response column. However, I would be prepared to consider a Response column from you if you could provide a revised version which directly addressed George's comments and was within our editorial guidelines. This would be a maximum of 550 words.

Alternatively, if you wish to submit a shorter letter, on the same basis, this could be considered by our letters editor (letters@guardian.co.uk).



Response editor


    Dear Joseph Harker et al.: Thanks for running Edward S. Herman's and my single joint-response to George Monbiot's June 14 commentary in The Guardian.  (For the Monbiot, see "Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers;" and for our joint response, "We're not genocide deniers," July 19.)
    About the five objections that The Guardian raised to Edward Herman's and my original separate responses, which we submitted back on June 17 or thereabouts, I believe that only one of these objections is sound.
    So permit me to respond to each one of them in turn.    

    1. In his June 14 commentary, George Monbiot wrote that "a new book called The Srebrenica Massacre…claims that the 8,000 deaths at Srebrenica are 'an unsupportable exaggeration.  The true figure may be closer to 800'."  
    Yes, these 11 words do appear in
The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics
(Alphabet Soup, 2011), which is edited by Edward S. Herman.
    But these 11 words as well as your own more complete quotation from the same passage are taken from page 8 of its Foreword, which was written by Phillip Corwin, at one time the UN Civilian Affairs Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It would be a rare collection of articles on any topic in which all of
the different contributors are collectively held to have asserted what any one contributor asserts individually. 
    Whereas Edward Herman's work on this specific topic (and mine as well) presents a critique of the so-called "Srebrenica massacre," meaning an assessment of the evidence that exists for the alleged execution of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim male members of the Srebrenica "safe area" population some time after July 11, 1995, hence also an assessment of the standard interpretation of the evidence as constituting "genocide," the category of deaths and the category of executions are entirely different.  My own personal hunch is that Corwin's "8,000 killed" should be read as 8,000 killed execution-style.  Hence, what Corwin intended to state is that the facts presented in this volume make a very cogent argument that the figure of 8,000 executed is an unsupportable exaggeration.  The true figure may be closer to 800

    With all of the killings in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina from April 1992 through late 1995, and especially from April 1992 into early 1993, it is certainly possible for forensic anthropologists to produce thousands upon thousands of individual human remains from graves in this general area, as well as from surface remains.  Nevertheless, the questions relevant to the notion of the Srebrenica massacre(s) as an historical event are:

(A) Was the person represented by the mortal remains a member of the Srebrenica "safe area" population at a time relevant to the "Srebrenica massacre," i.e., as of early July 1995?

(B) To which ethnic group in life did the persons represented by these mortal remains belong, i.e., Bosnian Muslim or Bosnian Serb?

(C) In which manner did these persons die, i.e., were they murdered in a criminally meaningful fashion, did they die in combat, did they die from natural causes, and so on? 


    But neither Monbiot nor anyone else can illustrate Herman's or my position accurately and fairly by quoting from a Foreword contributed to this collection by another gentleman.  Instead, one ought to quote Edward Herman and me.  So, to conclude this first point, let me quote from The Politics of Genocide (Monthly Review Press, 2010, pp. 47-48), which illustrates more accurately and fairly what we think:  

Of course, the "Srebrenica massacre" of July 1995 has been cited heavily and repeated endlessly, and with the greatest indignation, to demonstrate that "genocide" actually had taken place in Bosnia. This was helped along by the fact that both the ICTY Trial Judgment and decision on Appeal in the case of the Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic argued that genocide could occur in one "small geographical area" (the town of Srebrenica), even one where the villain

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