Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kosovo Memory Book resolves the morbid "body count" debates

This is a brief article - these days, I am flat out following, and writing on, the Syrian revolution and apocalypse at

Nevertheless, given the previous prominence of the morbid "body counts" debates about how many Kosovar Albanians were slaughtered by Milosevic's racist and fascist ethnic cleansers in 1999 - with the favourite recycled article by the "anti-imperialist" left and the Islamophobic ultra-right being the one that answered either "very few" or "not enough" - I thought it was significant to note the final publication of the Kosovo Memory Book. I have copied an article about this below, with a link to the Memory Book.

This is the full list of the roughly 13,000 victims who were killed between 1998 and the end of 2000, including the 11 weeks of the NATO-Milosevic-KLA war in March-June 1999, the KLA uprising and brutal Serbian counterinsurgency of the year leading up this (1998-99), and the often brutal revenge against remaining Serb communities in the year or more afterwards.

As we always insisted at the time, the figure of approximately 10,000 Albanians killed, the most common figure cited at the time, was approximately correct - according to the article linked below, "the list includes 10,415 Albanians, 2,197 Serbs, 528 Roma, Bosniaks and other non-Albanians."

Of course, the 2197 Serbs killed is also a significant proportion, given that Serbs accounted for some 10% of the Kosovo population. Such figures have often been cited to suggest that the killings between Serb and Albanian forces was roughly proportional. This idea sits uncomfortably with known facts - eg, the fact that the "Serbian" massacre of Albanians was carried out by the Serbian state apparatus, the 4th largest military force in Europe, with overwhelming military superiority in advanced weaponry, whereas the Albanians were a guerrilla force lightly armed with AK-47's; and the fact that the mass killings of Albanians by this fascistic state corresponded the to the Nakbah-like expulsion of 850,000 Albanians - some half their entire population - from their homeland.

This contradiction is resolved when we understand that the 2197 Serb victims do not merely mean those Serbs killed in Kosovo by Albanian guerrillas during the war. Importantly, the figure also includes Serbs killed by NATO bombing within Serbia itself (as well as Kosovo); includes both military and civilian casualties; and includes Serbs killed in attacks by Albanians after the war ended until the end of 2000, in attacks motivated either by blood-lust revenge, opportunistic crime or a race-hate reflecting that of the oppressor they had just been freed from.

Saying this is in no way intended to diminish the importance of Serb civilians killed by NATO (really, how did bombing Serb civilians in Belgrade and Ljubijana, hundreds of kilometres north of Kosovo, help protect Kosovar Albanians from the Serbian armed forces in Kosovo - NATO only hit 13 Serbian tanks in the whole war, most in the last 10 days), still less of those killed in the period of post-war revenge and anarchy, innocent Serbs forced to pay for the crimes of the Serbian military and Chetnik bands who were safely back in Serbia following their rape and pillage of Kosovo.

However, what it does is underline that the war itself (on the ground, as opposed to NATO's air war), was absolutely a war of disproportionate slaughter and ethnic cleansing carried out by a massive military machine against a civilian population defended by lightly armed guerrillas, and the relative numbers do indeed represent this fact, because between the NATO bombing and the post-war revenge, virtually the entirety of the 2000 killed Serbs can be accounted for.

Michael Karadjis

Balkan Insight
10 December 2014

A wide-ranging list of more than 13,000 people of all nationalities who died or disappeared during the Kosovo conflict was published online to mark Human Rights Day.

Milka Domanovic | BIRN | Belgrade

[PHOTO}: The Kosovo Memory Book website.

The list of 13,517 people who were killed or went missing between January 1998 and December 31, 2000, including civilians and members of armed forces, was published on Wednesday on a website called the Kosovo Memory Book <>.

The list includes 10,415 Albanians, 2,197 Serbs, 528 Roma, Bosniaks and other non-Albanians. It was created by the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre and the Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo and was last updated on November 7.

The database says that 8,661 Kosovo Albanian civilians were killed or disappeared, as well as 1,797 Serbs and 447 Roma, Bosniaks and other non-Albanians. The rest of those registered were fighters.

"It is a result of years of research, which is based on the statements of witnesses and family members given to researchers from the Humanitarian Law Centre and Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo, as well as on data from court documents, forensic reports, armed forces records, NGOs and media reports, war diaries and other documents," the Humanitarian Law Centre said in a statement.

[PHOTO]: Women in Black human rights protest in Belgrade.

Meanwhile at a press conference to mark Human Rights Day, several Serbian NGOs warned that the Serbian government was failing to tackle rights issues.

Sonja Biserko from the Heksinki Committee for Human Rights said that the situation in Serbia was worse than 10 years ago, arguing that "Serbia is a divided society, primarily on ethnic grounds".

"The unwillingness of Serbia to overcome the legacy of the recent past and distancing itself creates tensions in regional affairs, as it was recently the case with the return of [war crimes defendant] Vojislav Seselj," Biserko said.

Marijana Toma from the Humanitarian Law Centre also spoke at the press conference, saying that Serbia was not issuing enough indictments for war crimes and that only low-ranking perpetrators were being prosecuted, while "the responsibility of middle- and high-ranking police and army officials is almost completely neglected".

Serbian peace group Women in Black also gathered in Belgrade on Wednesday to mark Human Rights Day with a protest action entitled 'Enough Terror'.

Activists held up placards listing human-rights problems and banners that read "I will always be an activist" and "I will not live in fear".

Stasa Zajovic from Women in Black said that it was impossible to speak about progress in the field of human rights.

"What's done [by the authorities] is done on a declarative level, and we want this action to point out to the difference between the real situation and promises," she said.

Human Rights Day is marked annually on December 10 to honour the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United Nations General Assembly adopted on December 10, 1948.


remember the "body count" debates ? ​



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bosnia’s Magnificent Uprising: Heralding a New Era of Class Politics?

Bosnia’s Magnificent Uprising: Heralding a New Era of Class Politics?

By Michael Karadjis
Beginning on February 5, mass protests led by workers and retrenched former workers in the privatised factories, along with students and other citizens, have rocked most major industrial cities in Bosnia, notably Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zenica, Bihac and Mostar.

 The state responded to initial protests with arrests, tear-gas and other forms of repression. In many cases peaceful protests turned violent; government buildings have been attacked, occupied, sometimes torched. Tens of thousands of protestors have demanded nothing less than the complete resignation of everyone at all levels of government from all parties, which they see as equally responsible for the massive multi-decade theft of people’s assets by the three wings of the nationalist oligarchy – Serb, Croat and Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) – which have run Bosnia as their fiefdom since being granted it in the US-engineered Dayton Accord that ended the Bosnian war in 1995.

 The main, if not only, form of theft that has sparked off the uprising is called privatisation. Mass lay-offs, new owners stripping assets and declaring formerly well-functioning state firms “bankrupt,” workers cheated of retrenchment packages, workers still at work not getting paid for months on end? Sound familiar? Some like to call it “illegal” or “corrupt” privatisation, but for millions of workers around the world it is just called privatisation, or bettter still, capitalism.

 According to Bosnia expert Eric Gordy (, the current uprising in Bosnia “is probably not the workers’ revolution we have been promised since those nice manuscripts began to be criticised by rodents in 1844. Sorry.”

 Perhaps not. But which workers’ revolution begins in some kind of pure form that can instantly be recognised?

 Gordy’s otherwise excellent prose notwithstanding, he does neither himself nor the Bosnian working class much justice with this intrusion of cynicism. Whatever the current uprising is or is not, it is the largest mass outbreak of unalloyed class struggle revolt, untouched by nationalist poison, that we have seen in Bosnia since it was ripped to bits by Serbian and Croatian nationalists – ie, the new Serbian and Croatian bourgeoisie which had arisen on the corpse of Yugoslav “market socialism” – in the early 1990s.

 And this is all the more significant given that the multi-ethnic Bosnian working class, in the great industrial centres of Bosniak-majority central Bosnia, was the living heart of the best traditions of multi-ethnic socialist Yugoslavia, and it is in these same centres that the current revolt has broken out.

“Return the factories to the workers”!

 And their demands indicate that some of the most powerful aspects of the ideology of that Yugoslavia – workers’ self-management of the factories, and radical social equality – have resurfaced, perhaps never buried very too deeply in the consciousness of the people.

 Let’s just look at some of the key demands put forward in the “Declaration by Workers and Citizens of the Tuzla Canton” on February 7 (

 While the call for “a technical government, composed of expert, non-political, uncompromised members who have held no position at any level of government” may sound naiive to anyone that has experienced unelected, neo-liberal “technical” governments in Greece and Italy, the protestors see this as merely a temporary government to get them to elections, and moreover it would “be required to submit weekly plans and reports about its work” to “all interested citizens.”

 This demand for such constant public oversight of the government – borne of the experience of decades of detached and arrogant rule by the three “ethnic” wings of the Bosnian oligarchy and suggesting a form of “people’s power” – already looks far in advance of these other so-called “technical” governments, and certainly coming from a different direction.

 However, it is the social program the people demand of such a government that makes it day and night compared to these neo-liberal, anti-people governments. The third set of demands, regarding issues related to the privatization of the major former state companies that dominated the city’s economy (Dita, Polihem, Poliolhem, Gumara, and Konjuh), are that the government must:

§  Recognize the seniority and secure health insurance of the workers.

§  Process instances of economic crimes and all those involved in it

§  Confiscate illegally obtained property

§  Annul the privatization agreements

§  Prepare a revision of the privatization

§  Return the factories to the workers and put everything under the control of the public government in order to protect the public interest, and to start production in those factories where it is possible

 After decades of neo-liberal onslaught, both in practice and at an ideological level, for a rising people to demand privatised factories be “returned to the workers” is an extraordinarily refreshing moment.

 It should be remembered that even neo-liberals and free marketeers can pretend to get behind campaigns against “illegal” privatisations in order to safely steer them in their ideological direction – they claim all the problems are caused by the “corruption” of the process, or “lack of transparency” and that indeed the problem isn’t the free market, but that the market is allegedly still not free or “perfect” enough.

 For example, in an otherwise useful article that details the theft, Aida Cerkez, writing for Associated Press, tell us that “more than 80 percent of privatizations have failed” as  well-connected tycoons have swept into these companies, stripping them of their assets, declaring bankruptcy and leaving thousands without jobs or with minimal pay” ( Failed? More like succeeded.

 A demand for factories to be returned to the workers – ie, to their rightful owners – cuts across these neo-liberal illusions, doesn’t allow them the time of day.

  Further demands include “equalizing the pay of government representatives with the pay of workers in the public and private sector” – a demand that has rarely been heard since Lenin wrote ‘State and Revolution’ in 1917 – as well as elimination of all kinds of special and additional payments to government representatives (eg, for sitting on committees etc) and “other irrational and unjustified forms of compensation beyond those that all employees have a right to.”

 Similarly, in Sarajevo, citizens demanded, along with resignation of everyone in government from all parties, release of arrested demonstrators, an end to the “larceny of society cloaked in politics” and criminal prosecution of those responsible, that society begins “conversations and actions at all levels of government in order to establish a more socially just order for all social strata; and for all those whose human dignity and material basic needs have been endangered or destroyed by the transitional theft, corruption, nepotism, privatization of public resources, an economic model that favors the rich, and financial arrangements that have destroyed any hope for a society based on social justice and welfare” (

 So while it may not yet be the “workers’ revolution” promised “in 1844,” it would be hard to disagree with Bosnian activist Emin Eminagić that this upsurge “could be the long-awaited opportunity to reintroduce the notion of class struggle into Bosnia and Herzegovina's society, moving away from the nationalist imaginaries of political elites” ( “We are hungry in three languages” explains a banner in demonstration in Zenica.

Background: The rise of bourgeois nationalism and the destruction of Bosnia

 It is extremely significant that there has been no trace of nationalist poison in any of the demands of the rising people. Nationalism was a product of rising capitalism within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the 1980s – the ideology of the rising bourgeoisie in the dominant nations, especially Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia – as they threw off the shackles of the Communist ideology, under the leadership of Broz Tito, of “Brotherhood and Unity,” ie, working-class solidarity between the various nations that made up the federation.

 Bosnia was the hardest nut to crack, because while the five other republics within the Yugoslav Federation represented, however imperfectly, five different Yugoslav nations, Bosnia was the only fully multi-ethnic republic – a republic completely mixed between Serbs, Croats, Muslims (Bosniaks), “Yugoslavs” (ie, those of mixed birth or who chose not to use an ethnic identifier) and others – it was Yugoslavia itself writ small. And likewise, the working-class cities of central Bosnia were in turn Bosnia’s heart – where workers of all these ethnic groups worked in the same factories, lived in the same apartment blocks – how were the new nationalist bourgeoisies to divide them?

 And yet divide them they – both these nationalist bourgeois cliques in neighbouring Serbia and Croatia, and the western imperialist powers – had to do; because a working class united across ethnic lines was not going to be much good for economic “reform,” ie, the privatisation/theft of what was then legally owned by the working class.

 Especially when this Bosnian working class had such a militant history of class struggle. Indeed, it was none other than the miners in this thoroughly multi-ethnic city of Tuzla in northern Bosnia who organised collections and sent support to the heroic British miners’ strike of the 1980s. Not a tradition the British ruling class wanted to maintain at any rate; perhaps partly accounting for Tory-ruled Britain being the most solidly supportive of the demands of Serbian bourgeois nationalist leader, Slobodan Milosevic, to split up Bosnia into newly created, ethnically-cleansed statelets.

 The problem with splitting Bosnia along ethnic lines being that people didn’t live in separate areas, but all together in cities, and in an interlocking, completely scattered patchwork in the countryside. Thus to create a “Serb Republic” within Bosnia as demanded by Milosevic, and likewise a smaller “Croat Republic” as demanded by his partner in crime, Franjo Tudjman of Croatia, required massive “ethnic cleansing,” in what became a euphemism for genocide.

 And the main victims of this were the plurality of the Bosnian population who were at once the most scattered throughout Bosnia geographically, the most urban-based and proletarianised, and who did not have a national “fatherland” outside Bosnia to arm them to the teeth – namely, the Bosnian Muslims, and the mixed Bosnians.

 And as the newly independent bourgeois states of Serbia and Croatia, via their massively armed local Bosnian proxies, began in April 1992 carving out their new “states” via ethnic cleansing, Britain and France enforced a criminal arms embargo on the Bosnian Republic, in violation of UN Article 51 on the right of UN-member states to armed self-defence, and in defiance of overwhelming votes in the UN General Assembly for this embargo to be lifted. Britain and France demanded nothing less than Bosnia’s surrender, its capitulation to one or the other of the unjust ethnic partition plans they continually proposed.

 Bosnia’s multi-ethnic government – led by Bosniaks and anti-nationalist Serbs and Croats at all levels – rejected these demands for ethnic apartheid and recognition of ethnic cleansing. While massively outgunned, it attempted to hold on at least the Bosniak-majority regions (the few it could defend against massive ethnic cleansing) and the mixed working class cities of central Bosnia.

 Once again, Tuzla, where the current revolt broke out, played a key role, alongside the capital Sarajevo, in maintaining a powerful multi-ethnic flavour for the resistance, not an easy task as over a million Bosniaks were driven into the small part of Bosnia still controlled by the government, from the 85 percent of the country which had been conquered and “cleansed” as Serb and Croat “republics.”

The Dayton republic of apartheid and dysfunction

 In the end it was US intervention in late 1995 – following three and a half years of slaughter – that granted half of Bosnia as an ethnically cleansed “Serb Republic” (RS), though Serbs were only one third of Bosnians, to the regime of the right-wing Serb Democratic Party (SDS), which had led the ethnic cleansing; the timing would almost suggest this was a reward for the SDS-led army having just committed genocide in the Bosniak town of Srebrenica, which was included in RS seemingly just as a matter of course.

 However, worried that granting a “Croat Republic” as well would leave a land-locked, poverty-stricken, revenge-seeking “Muslim state” in the heart of Europe, the US prevailed upon the Croat nationalists to accept a “Federation” with the Muslims in the other half.

 As such, this US-engineered Dayton Accord was far from an equal document:

§  The Serb nationalists got what they had fought for, an ethnic republic in far more of the country than could conceivably be “theirs”; but they could claim they were short-changed by not being allowed to unite with Serbia.

§  The Croat nationalists were not only denied the “right” to unite with Croatia, but did not even get their own republic like the Serb nationalists, and so considered themselves short-changed; but given the weakness of the Bosniak people and of the Federation as a whole, Croatia felt it had gained the same effective suzerainty over half of Bosnia as Serbia had gained over the other half, and used this to promote Bosnian Croat interests.

§  The Bosniaks lost the war, in being forced to cede half the country to RS, with the sop that the other half could still be called a “Federation,” and so were now forced to play the same game, trying now to compete with the Croats to dominate the Federation, where they at least had the advantage of numbers.

 Importantly, this “Federation” was no real concession to multi-ethnicity; not only had the damage been done, and rivers of blood divided these two populations (and both from the Serbs), but moreover the entire constitution of Bosnia was re-written to create ethnic quotas at every level of government, in both halves of the country, from the municipal level right up to the weak federal government. And levels there are: as Cerkez explains, “nearly 4 million people are governed by more than 150 ministries on four different levels of government.”

 And on top of this morass of ethnic-based politics, an international overseer – the High Representative – was appointed to be the final arbiter of politics in Bosnia – and to represent the interests of western capital, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as they attempted to push a neo-liberal economic “restructure” on to the battered country: such issues as overall economic direction were never to be up for popular vote.

 And so in peace, the policy of national division became dominant; and so every political issue that arose could become diverted into the nationalist box; every election, at every level, became a forum for the ethnic bourgeoisie to try to grab more of the spoils while spouting ethnic lies to their impoverished and frightened constituencies, while in the end, to form governments, grotesque coalitions of ethnic-based parties came into being, often mutually hostile, but competing with another such unprincipled bloc, a recipe for permanent dysfunction.

 So while the Bosnian Serb, Croat and now Muslim bourgeoisie stripped the economy and thieved the people’s assets – as required by neo-liberal “economic reform” – there could always be someone else to blame, another national group ready to take away the (unequal) “rights” they had all achieved at Dayton, in order to prevent the battered working people from putting the blame on their “own” thieving class.

 Indeed the very lopsidedness of the Dayton set-up aggravated this ethnic politics. RS leaders could continually threaten to leave Bosnia and unite with Serbia, knowing full-well it was impossible; Bosniak leaders could threaten to try to get RS abolished, again knowing it was impossible, however morally correct it may seem in the abstract – in practice, as a form of threat, it could only act divisively now the deed was done; Croat leaders could threaten to split the Federation and form a third, Croat entity. And then they could each scare and homogenise their “own” people with these threats of what the other group might do.

 Thus the significance now of today’s non-nationalist demands, not to mention ones which call for factories to be returned to the workers. In fact, this is not the first action cutting across ethnic lines – last June’s “Babylution” was a precursor, a brief multi-ethnic mass protest against the incredible dysfunction of a system in which parties and state agencies were unable to reach enough agreement to issue identity documents to babies, which led to the death of a child unable to cross the border for urgent medical treatment. But that brief moment has now been overshadowed by the current mass revolt.

Why is most revolt taking place in the Bosniak areas?

 But a question then arises – why has the uprising largely taken place in the Federation, and even within the Federation, overwhelmingly among the Bosnian Muslims? In fact, it hasn’t been only Muslims – there have been smaller outbreaks in RS, particularly in its capital Banja Luka, and indeed the people of Prijedor put forward a similar list of demands to those in the Federation cities; and within the Federation, Mostar, a city divided between Muslims and Croats, has also been impacted. But overwhelmingly it is the case.

 After all, the venality, the corruption and the theft have been no less obvious in RS than in the Federation; in fact the propensity of RS leader for many years now, Milorad Dodic, to farm out contracts to friends and connections is notorious. For example, the proceeds from the 2008 sale of RS Telecom were used to set up the Investment-Development Bank, supposedly to help citizens buy homes or small businesses to expand by lending at low interest rates, but most of its largest loans were given to  “foreign-backed companies with offshore bank accounts and assets that exist only on paper,” largely companies with ties to Dodik himself or his regime, including $2.2-million loan for a business run by his son. Dodik himself personally signed off on all these loans (

 At one level, the answer is easy: this is a working class uprising in the big industrial centres most impacted by neo-liberal “restructuring” and privatisation/theft; and Muslims dominate in these cities. Of the twenty largest cities and towns in Bosnia, fifteen are in the Federation.

 There are however other factors. First, the RS is probably slightly better off at the level of functionality. In its great wisdom, the international overseers of Bosnia carried out a “decentralisation” of the Federation mid-last decade, splitting it into ten cantons, while leaving RS as one entity. Now, while “decentralisation” might sometimes be a good thing, in the circumstances all it meant was a decentralisation of the already cumbersome ethnic-based bureaucracy: a proliferation of the problem, with vast extra layer of competing “ethnic” bureaucracies now running lots of new governments.

 But this “cohesiveness” of the RS, while better in some ways, is also based on the less democratic and more uniformly nationalist nature of RS; even the competition in the Federation between Bosniak and Croat parties, however venal, and the remnants of officially non-ethnic parties from the past, however unreal, offers some kind of break from the stultifying uniformity in RS. Even the differences between the different parties within RS are virtually non-existent, all based on the alleged need to “protect” the “Serb nation,” despite them getting the best deal from Dayton. It also means a more cohesive repressive apparatus.

 Which leads to the main point: reactionary nationalism was always stronger among the Serbs and Croats, reflecting the real interests of their ethnic elites to try to carve out parts of Bosnia as their own and to link these to the outside “fatherlands.” This means that, despite the wear and tear, this nationalism still has something of a hold in their regions, enough to divert a section of the population.

 Thus the reaction of RS leader Dodik to the uprising in the Federation and even its tentative spread to RS was to denounce the whole thing as a plot to abolish the RS; and while this may seem self-evidently absurd, when protestors turned up in the RS city Prijedor to make the same demands being made nation-wide, across the road a counter-demonstration raised hackneyed old nationalist slogans. Same in Belgrade in Serbia itself: one demonstration in solidarity with the Bosnian uprising, opposed by a counterdemonstration supporting war-criminal former general Mladic.

 It is fascinating to read the anecdotes. Mirjana Culina, a 72-year-old woman from Prijedor, believed the upsurge in the Federation was aimed at RS. “I don't know how. I don't have explanation. I just feel it,” she said ( As psychologist and activist Srdjan Puhalo explains:

 “If such a thesis is repeated for years in almost all media in Republika Srpska, the fear is understandable. Such a narrative eventually produced paranoia - systematic and planned. I would even say such paranoia was produced by the authorities themselves because it is easy to direct public attention there than to solve the problems in the economy, the health system, education and such normal problems. Here is still easier to be poor and hungry then be traitor. Because if you are poor and hungry, you are at least not contemptible.”

 In contrast, while the Bosniak elite inevitably became an eager player in the national game after Dayton, this nationalism was never more than skin-deep among the Bosniak masses, particularly in the industrial centres. As explained above, their survival as the most scattered and the most urbanised, yet also militarily and economically weakest, group required the maintenance of a multi-ethnic republic, meaning that even the aspiring Bosniak bourgeois elite had little use for nationalism which could only benefit its opponents.

 Thus, when British and French and UN “diplomats” continually tried to force ethnic partition plans onto Bosnia during the war, drawn up in consultation with Serb and Croat nationalist warlords, the inclusion of a “Muslim” statelet alongside the Serb and Croat statelets was the aim of the Muslims’ enemies, not their own; a land-locked apartheid ghetto into which all the ethnically-cleansed Muslims from the rest of Bosnia could be driven into. Thus when the Bosniak leadership finally accepted such plans under the pressure of genocide, strangulation sieges, embargo etc, it was in the form of national capitulation, not a product of their own nationalism at all.

 And so if this nationalism then became necessary and useful for the elite after 1995, it never had the same sway over the masses as elsewhere. Thus it is no accident that, imbued by less nationalist poison, the Bosniak workers have led the way back to the slogans of self-management and internationalism.

The collapse of Bosnia’s economy

 Bosnia’s catastrophic economic situation, featuring some 40 percent unemployment and 57 percent youth unemployment did not come from nowhere, and the thieving of the triple-headed ethnic elite carries major blame. Emin Eminagić gives an example of the kind of pillage that privatisation involved, in the former state chemical factory Dita (

 “In 2002, 59 percent of Dita's capital was allegedly bought by the workers … (yet) this was dragged on until 2005, when Dita was bought up by a chemical company under the name of "Lora" which is under the ownership of Beohemija, a chemical conglomerate based in elgrade Serbia … According to the financial reports from 2010 Dita was already going dwnhill (yet this) was preceded by several years of great production … What actually happened between 2007 when the privatization took place and 2010/11 (the year that strike and protests occurred) remains a mystery. According to some workers, between 2009 and 2010, they were ordered to put salt into the chemical mixture the company used to make detergent which damaged the machines they used, thus slowly destroying actual production capacities of the company . … Until now, the workers are owed over 50 salaries, most of them cannot retire, as they are lacking several years of work service due to the privatization
process that had been dragged on since 2002.”

 One has to imagine such examples multiplied manifold.

 Yet while the ethnic-based oligarchies are to blame, their actions are only to be expected within the political order imposed by Dayton and an economic program driven through by the international caretakers dictated by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Union.

 The latest IMF austerity program, imposed five years ago, froze budgets, slashed wages and veterans’ benefits and sped up privatisation, massively driving down consumption and doubling public debt. Bosnia was already in deep economic crisis, and as per the norm, the IMF “cure” was to make matters worse, by forcing already battered working people to pay for the theft of the new capitalist elite.

 The situation had been accentuated by the “free trade” policies imposed by the European Union as conditions for future membership, allowing foreign goods to pour in. As Andreja Zivkovic explains, “the economic model is based on opening up to foreign capital. Until 2008 foreign capital flows fed growth based on imports and consumer debt, but at the same time destroyed industry and created the present debt crisis. On the one hand, an overvalued currency pegged to the Euro enabled the borrowing needed to pay for imports; but on the other, it acted as a disincentive to investment in the real economy and made exports uncompetitive” (

 In particular, free trade agreements with neighbouring, richer, Serbia and Croatia in 2001, negotiated by their ethnically-connected Bosnian elites and approved by the EU as a kind of “apprenticeship” for full free trade, proved disastrous. By 2004, Serbian and Croatian products were dominating the markets in the two halves of Bosnia – ironically, it was easier to trade “free” across the official Bosnian borders than for the two halves of Bosnia to trade with each other. With Serbian and Croatian capital also grabbing assets in the two halves – for example, the 2008 sale of RS Telecom to Serbian capital – one might say the two neighbours were seeing the economic fruits of their victory in the war.

 As Bosnian agriculture collapsed under the weight of these imports, in 2005, hungry farmers from both sides of the divide set up a protest camp outside Sarajevo and camped there for many months – and were ignored.

 At the time the IMF program was imposed in 2009, the somewhat more democratic environment in the Federation made it the centre of resistance. While RS had already carried out significant privatisation, the Federation was far behind; and meanwhile, benefits for disabled veterans were 10 times higher in the Federation than the pittance they were getting in RS, making massive cuts a centrepiece of the IMF program. The IMF demanded cuts of 207 million euros from the Federation’s budget, some 10 per cent of its entity, cantonal and municipal budgets, while RS had to cut 73 million euros.

 Despite general strikes and massive veterans’ demonstrations in the Federation – veterans threatening “social revolution” – the IMF program was driven through in slightly amended form in June that year. Yet given the moral weight of the veterans – who had defended Bosnia through the darkest years – the Federation parliament then rejected the legislation to cut veterans’ benefits by 10 percent in October.

 Ironically, the fact that the RS budget was at that point experiencing a one-off windfall from its Telecom privatisation helped the argument that the RS’s more successful privatisation was a good thing. Naturally, this could not be repeated as the state lost these constant revenues, and the effects of the ramping of privatisation in both entities since 2009 speaks for itself – including what happened to the proceeds of this privatisation, as explained above.

International intervention?

 In this context, the threat by Valentin Inzko, the international “High Representative” or grand vizier of Bosnia, of intervention by EUFOR (European Union) troops “if the hooliganism continues” is entirely understandable from the point of view of the imperialist overlords and their system of neo-liberal pillage, gravely threatened by a horizontal, class-based uprising evoking the best of the socialist past. In this sense, the Bosnian workers are in the same boat as the Greek workers who have been resisting the catastrophe imposed on them by the same system.

 This may come as a surprise to some liberals who see the international presence as a balance against the competing nationalist oligarchies. It is true that, given this ethnic partition and dysfunction, the international overseer may appear the only unifying factor. However, the Dayton constitution means the HR must work through these oligarchies, while trying to smooth over any serious division; ultimately, European and American capital, which the HR represents, has only these oligarchies to work with to maintain capitalist rule.

 Thus when one faction or another of the ethnocracy steps too far out of line, threatening the entire Dayton order, they may be sanctioned or even sacked or jailed by the international vizier. This occurred, for example, in 2001, when then Croat member of the presidency, Ante Jelavic, and his Croat Democratic Party (HDZ), attempted to split the Federation by organising a referendum to set up a third, Croat, entity within Bosnia. He was sacked by High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, while NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) troops raided the Hercegovacka Bank, which he was using to finance the referendum, froze its accounts, seized documents and closed down most of its operations. Muslim and Serb leaders have similarly been sacked or threatened.

 But these actions are, on one hand, exceptional, and on the other, they allow the ethnocracy to demagogically pose as the victims of foreign colonial rule and thus keep alive “ethnic” politics. This ultimate foreign sanction thus acts to prevent not only mature independent institutions, but also the development of a real democratic alternative to the ethnocracy.

 The fact that these international sanctions don’t include action against the “regular” economic crimes that the nascent capitalist classes are expected to carry out in the neo-liberal EU is highlighted precisely by this threat of intervention against the working class uprising: the class interests of all wings of the oligarchy and international capital are paramount. “Valentin Inzko: Useless clown” reads one protest banner.

Where to?

 Slovene writer Zizek writes “What the Bosnian outburst confirms is that one cannot genuinely overcome ethnic passions by imposing a liberal agenda: what brought the
protesters together is a radical demand for justice” (

 Of course the so-called “ethnic passions” were never only that in the first place, and even at their height represented the new class forces that were burying the corpse of “market socialism.” He is quite right, of course, that the last twenty years of “liberalism,” presumably meaning a mixture of the capitalist market with elite bourgeois democracy, has only perpetuated these “ethnic passions” rather than overcoming them.

 How could it be otherwise? Despite the ascendancy of the ideology of singing the praises of “the market,” not just among reactionaries but also among most stripes of left-liberals ever since the collapse of the grotesque Stalinist aberrations of socialism around 1990, it is nothing but a system of ruthless dog-eat-dog competition for survival, however much it may be supplemented by band-aids, liberal anti-corruption wish-lists and chatter about “civil society” for the comfortable middle classes, while the working classes retrenched from and plundered by the “liberally” privatised enterprises are sent to hell.

 This liberal ideology has had an unexpected staying power – countless times throughout the world what have begun as genuinely popular upsurges, featuring the same “radical demand for justice,” have been side-tracked into the liberal morass. As noted above, this often takes the form of explaining that the privatisation and neo-liberalism that are the targets of the upsurge would be perfectly fine if only they had less corruption, more “transparency,” more “accountability,” the involvement of “civil society” and so on. Rather than privatisation – ie, capitalism – itself being the problem, the problem is the incompleteness of the privatisation, its impurity, the fact that it is still mixed with “corrupt” state interests and the like.

 As if there were another form of capitalism. As if their “pure” version even existed, let alone had any answers if it did.

 In the case of Bosnia, the alleged problem is the “ethnic” corruption of the process. As if there is another way.

 Slogans such as “return the factories to the workers” are declaring all this to be rubbish.

 Does that mean it is impossible that this upsurge too can be diverted? Who would want to make such a brave prediction. In fact, even the “factories to the workers” slogan is more a specifically Tuzla phenomenon – while all the protest demands feature issues of radical social equality, right to work, reversal of thieving privatisation etc, only the Tuzla workers have put up this ultimate demand.

 We can certainly say that the “ethnic” stranglehold over the militancy of Bosnian workers has been broken, and this is significant enough, and that some of their slogans point towards a more significant break with the logic of capitalism.

 That this challenge has arisen in Bosnia is entirely logical. The Socialist Yugoslavia under Broz Tito had many of the faults of the other eastern European regimes, including being run by a massive privileged bureaucratic caste which repressed genuine opposition; and where it was different, in its “market” version of socialism, this was unable to escape the logic of break-neck competition, economic anarchy and unemployment that characterise “market capitalism.”

 On the other side, however, Yugoslavia always had a more politically liberal atmosphere than elsewhere in the east, and above all its unique doctrine of “workers’ self-management” of the factories, and “social” property – the liberation of the means of production from bureaucratic control – is a powerful legacy that lives on in the consciousness of working people. A possibility, an image, of a different world (regardless of the fact that these worker self-managed enterprises at the time were undermined precisely by being thrown into the world of “the market”).

 Thus it is not only the call for factories to the workers, but in particular the word “return” – they were ours, after all.

 Nevertheless, even if the workers in Tuzla were to physically re-take control of their enterprises, this example would need to spread elsewhere in Bosnia, and indeed elsewhere in the Balkans, for it to have a chance of posing a new socially just order.

 In Greece, for example, the lull in the movement against EU-IMF imposed socio-economic catastrophe that was experienced through 2013 was broken when the workers at Greek Radio-Television (ERT) took over their own enterprise when the regime tried to close it. It became a rallying point, a source of hope, an example of a different way. But after several months, it could no longer survive on its own.

 Nevertheless, the movement for socialism needs such sparks to demonstrate that “another world is possible.” To again quote Zizek:

“Even if the protests gradually lose their power, they will remain a brief spark of hope, something like the enemy soldiers fraternising across the trenches in the first world war. Authentic emancipatory events always involve such ignoring of particular identities.”

 This is well-said, with the necessary addition that the “spark of hope” we are speaking of here is not only this ignoring of “ethnic” identities but also the clear pointers towards a new emancipatory socio-economic order.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Debunking Herman's Genocide Denial on Rwanda

Though my site is primarily devoted to Balkan issues, its inspiration is opposition to oppression wherever it exists. Indeed, that is why when we first read of the new book by Herman and Peterson, 'The Politics of Genocide', many of us on the left may at first have been encouraged, because it promises to discuss the important issue of how the imperialist media has double standards - the oppression, terror and genocide carried out by governments that at some point become official enemies of the main western imperialist states is called oppression, terror and genocide, while the oppression, terror and genocide carried out by imperialist states and their puppets and allies is either glossed over or given full support. After all, our hatred of oppression is precisely a reason we become anti-imperialists.

I mean, we would be encouraged at the appearance of such a book, that is, if we did not already know who the has-been crackpot, Ed Herman, and his sidekick blogger, someone called David Peterson, were. But unfortunately we know them well-enough. As may be expected, their book merely reverses the biases they claim exist in the imperialist media (and indeed do exist, if often not even remotely in the way they claim they do). For them, oppression, terror and genocide carried out by a government that has become an official enemy of Washington (usually for some tactical, conjunctural reason, never due to principle), is glossed over or essentially given support to. And the reason people such as I get worked up over this is precisely because these people - unlike the imperialist powers whose method they copy - actually claim to be leftists, and in the case of Herman actually have some pedigree due to his past association with Chomsky. The problem being that what they write is a monstrous betrayal of everything it means to be of the left, to be a relentless opponent of oppression of all kinds, no matter what the source.

Herman and Peterson have been engaged almost full-time in the most savage genocide-denial over the events in the Balkans in the 1990s for years. Their crowning "achievement" to date was their work of perfidy called "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre," where Herman and sidekick go out of their way to reference whatever ultra-rightist creep they can find, alongside some spurious "research" that would bore an amoeba, to claim that this extremely well-documented massacre of over 8000 defenceless Bosnian Muslims by the Bosnian Serb Chetnik army in July 1995 - termed even by the lame International Court of Justice a genocide - never really happened.

Thus, people in the know weren't expecting much.

Yet even some of them have apparently been surprised that they now go so far as to regurgitate the truly awful genocide denial regarding the far larger genocide of at least 500,000 Rwandan Tutsi in 1994. This author, however, was not the least surprised; I was just waiting for it to come out more in the open from the various hints they had earlier dropped. Much of this story derives from another crackpot of similar ilk, a lawyer named Chris Black, who has acted previously to both defend and to build disgraceful political apologia for Serbian war-criminals and genocidists. For many years now Black has shifted his attention from the Balkans to Rwanda. Herman and Peterson mostly regurgitate Black's stuff.

I feel vindicated that people like Herman, Peterson and Black are also deniers of the Rwandan genocide, because it may help some still confused over Balkan events to understand where the Balkan genocide deniers are coming from, they are made of the same cloth, when they are not the same people, as those who deny much bigger genocides. I would hope that people read Herman and Peterson on the Balkans (that is, if they must read their trash at all) with this fact in mind. I am also very pleased that such a useful deconstruction has been done of their garbage on Rwanda.

Monthly Review has lowered itself to producing a chapter of this crap book (but then again, it also allowed Herman a whole book-length series of articles a couple of years ago to display his horrible Balkan revisionism). Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, who have both written wrong things about the Balkans in trying to "relativise" the crimes of "all sides", but who ultimately earn more respect than Herman and others because they at least condemn, in no uncertain terms, the terror and oppression launched by the Serbian side, here also discredit themselves by giving this new book eulogies. That is a great shame.

The following is an excellent response to Herman and Peterson on Rwanda. Readers may search the archives here for my other exposes of Herman’s genocide denial on Srebrenica, Bosnia more generally, and Kosovo/a.

The politics of denialism: The strange case of Rwanda
Review of ‘The Politics of Genocide’
Gerald Caplan
2010-06-17, Issue 486
cc M DThe 1994 genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi never happened. This is this unfounded and disturbing allegation at the heart of a new book by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, writes Gerald Caplan. Instead the authors claim that that it was part of an elaborate American conspiracy to “gain a strong military presence in Central Africa, a diminution of its European rivals' influence, proxy armies to serve its interests, and access to the raw material-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo”. Why they want to create such gratuitous hurt for the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda is ‘impossible to fathom’, says Caplan, but their ‘egregious views’ ‘relegate them squarely to the lunatic fringe’.
This is a review of Edward S. Herman and David Peterson’s ‘’The Politics of Genocide’, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2010.

Edward Herman is a professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania and David Peterson is described as a Chicago-based journalist and researcher. Those who have read Herman's work, some of it in collaboration with Noam Chomsky, will only partly know what to expect from his latest book. Herman and Peterson argue that in a world controlled by the American empire and its media and intellectual lackeys, genocide has become a political construct largely manipulated by Washington and its allies. The claim of genocide becomes an excuse for so-called humanitarian intervention that disguises malevolent imperial motives: ‘The Western establishment rushed to proclaim “genocide” in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Kosovo, and Darfur…In contrast, its silence over the crimes committed by its own regimes against the peoples of Southeast Asia, Central America, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa is deafening. This is the “politics of genocide”.’

Herman and Peterson give some examples that should be familiar to all who reject the notion of the US as a unparalleled force for good in the world. The suffering of Iraqis under US-led sanctions in the 1990s, American support for Israel's repression in Gaza and destruction in Lebanon, the American role in the brutal massacres of Guatemalans and Salvadorans in the 1980s, America's backing for Indonesia's blood bath in East Timor – all are true, all are appalling, and all have been thoroughly documented. No doubt it's good for a new generation to be reminded of these atrocities, invariably distorted or ignored by the mainstream media. But I'm not at all sure that it's helpful to explore these issues against a frame of genocide, and it's supremely destructive that incontrovertible incidents of American crimes, such as the above, are included with bizarre fictions that have poisoned the authors' minds, such as below. This was decidedly unexpected from Edward Herman.


To this stage, this little volume might on balance just be considered recommended reading. Despite its strange biases and excesses in belabouring its thesis, it's a useful reminder of American double standards that should not be forgotten (particularly given the disappointing record of the Obama administration).

But all of this is mere preliminary for Herman and Peterson. Their main target, which is none of the cases mentioned so far, can be found squarely in the heart of the book. It's chapter 4, the longest single section, and its purpose is to show that the 1994 genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi never happened. In fact the entire ‘genocide’ in Rwanda is an elaborate American conspiracy to ‘gain a strong military presence in Central Africa, a diminution of its European rivals' influence, proxy armies to serve its interests, and access to the raw material-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo’. The authors' greatest bete noir is Paul Kagame, commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels during the 1990-94 civil war and 1994 genocide, long-time president of post-genocide Rwanda – and leading Yankee stooge.

Yes, in order to blame the American empire for every ill on earth, Herman and Peterson, two dedicated anti-imperialists, have sunk to the level of genocide deniers. And the ‘evidence’ they adduce to back up their delusional tale rests solidly on a foundation of other deniers, statements by genocidaires, fabrications, distortions, innuendo and gross ignorance. In this Grimm fairy tale, everyone who contradicts their fantasies is an American/RPF pawn – Paul Kagame, human rights investigator Alison des Forges, the head of the UN military mission in Rwanda during the genocide General Romeo Dallaire, and entire human rights organisations.

The main authorities on whom the authors rest their fabrications are a tiny number of long-time American and Canadian genocide deniers, who gleefully drink each other's putrid bath water. Each solemnly cites the others' works to document his fabrications – Robin Philpot, Christopher Black, Christian Davenport, Allan Stam, Peter Erlinder. It's as if a Holocaust denier cited as supporting evidence the testimonies of David Irving, David Duke, Robert Faurisson or Ernest Zundel. Be confident Herman and Peterson are now being quoted as authoritative sources on the genocide by Robin Philpot, Christopher Black, Davenport and Stam, Peter Erlinder.

In reality, there is only a relative handful of these American deniers, but the vast power of the internet makes them seem ubiquitous and forceful. Any online search for ‘Rwanda genocide’ gives them a vastly disproportionate pride of place. Besides the five cited by Herman and Peterson, this rogue's gallery of American deniers also includes Keith Harmon Snow and Wayne Madsen, who will bitterly resent the authors for failing to invoke them in their book.

Let me take a moment on Peter Erlinder, since he's been in the news recently. (I wrote about the case the other day in the Globe and Mail). As of this writing, Erlinder is in prison in Rwanda, charged, apparently to his great surprise, with genocide denial. I regret this decision by the Kagame government. I wish it had simply denied him entry when he provocatively showed up as counsel for Victoire Ingabire, a declared presidential candidate who is also controversially accused of being a denier. But no one could really be surprised at his arrest – especially Erlinder himself.

For Erlinder has explicitly conceded, more than once, that he knows he has broken Rwandan laws on genocide denial, and not in his work as a defence counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda (ICTR). For example, in a February 2008 article titled ‘Genocide Cover-up’, Erlinder writes that ‘under the laws of Rwanda I too am a criminal “negationist” for writing this essay.’ And in a May 2008 article, ‘Victor's Impunity’, he agrees that ‘Under the laws of Rwanda, I have violated the ban against “negationism” by questioning the Kagame version of events.’ Of course he considers the laws he violated to be unjust. Nevertheless, he chose to enter Rwanda aware he had broken them. Was this not daring the Rwanda government to lock him up? Why would they not when he had confessed his guilt?

That was by no means his only provocation. Erlinder flew to Rwanda last month directly from a conference in Brussels that was notable for its collection of deniers and accused genocidaires. So extreme was the composition of the conference that one of the world's most rabid Kagame-haters withdrew his participation. Indeed, shortly after the conference French authorities arrested one of the participants, Dr Eugene Rwamucyo, accused of taking part in the genocide.

Perhaps even worse, Erlinder has shamelessly distorted a ruling of the ICTR on which he's based so many of his attacks on Kagame and company beyond the Tribunal. A 2008 judgment ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to find that Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, seen by many as the mastermind of the genocide, had engaged in a conspiracy to exterminate all Tutsi. In a series of speeches and writings, including one of his better-known articles ‘Rwanda: No Conspiracy, No Genocide Planning…No Conspiracy?’ (Jurist, Dec. 24, 2008), Erlinder milked the decision for all he could. The title of the article said it all, and the question mark of course really doesn’t exist in his mind. As he said shortly before leaving America, there ‘was no conspiracy or planning to commit genocide or other crime’. No planning, no genocide. What could be simpler? (Once arrested, however, he found it far more prudent to declare that he in fact did not deny the genocide.)

Yet in none of his frequent references to this judgment has Erlinder thought it worth including the following statements from the judgment: 1. ‘Indeed, these preparations [by the accused] are completely consistent with a plan to commit genocide.’ 2. ‘It cannot be excluded that the extended campaign of violence directed against Tutsis, as such, became an added or an altered component of these preparations.’ Readers can judge for themselves whether this kind of intellectual dishonesty makes Erlinder a credible witness on any aspect of Rwanda history.

On the other hand, there are other writers on Rwanda on whom Herman and Peterson do not rely. They are many in number and they are totally ignored, except for the late Alison Des Forges, who is shabbily denigrated. In fact they include the overwhelming number of those who have ever written about the genocide. They include academics, human rights activists, journalists who were in Rwanda during the genocide or soon after, and others whose work brought them in close proximity to the events of 1994. Without exception, every single one agrees there was a genocide planned and executed by a cabal of leading Hutu extremists against Rwanda's Tutsi minority. Except for Des Forges, plus Linda Melvern, whose indispensable oeuvre merits a lonely footnote, not a single one of the following authors is cited by Herman and Peterson:

Alison Des Forges
Linda Melvern
Alex de Waal
Rakiya Omaar
Gerard Prunier
Romeo Dallaire
Peter Uvin
Rene Lemarchand
Scott Straus
Andrew Wallis
Jean Hatzfeld
Samuel Totten
Mahmood Mamdani
Scott Peterson
William Schabas
Timothy Longman
Christian Jennings
Fergal Keane
Howard Adelman
Astri Suhrke
Villia Jefremovas
Michael Barnett
Alain Destexhe
John Berry and Carol Berry
Wendy Whitworth
Allan Thompson
Kingsley Moghalu
Susan Cook
Philip Gourevitch
Carol Rittner
John Roth
Henry Anyidoho
Patrick de Saint-Exupery
Frank Chalk
Bill Berkeley
Colette Braeckman
Jean-Pierre Chrétien
Bruce D. Jones
Hugh McCullum
Ingvar Carlsson
James Smith
Shaharyar Khan
Elizabeth Neuffer
Alan Kuperman

Before we dismiss all these authors as tools of Yanky imperialism, it needs to be added that several of the most prominent – Des Forges, Uvin, Prunier, Lemarchand, Kuperman – are (or were) fierce critics of the post-genocide Kagame government in Rwanda. Yet none has thought to retract their original views on the reality of the genocide.

There are of course also the many grim testimonies of both Tutsi who somehow survived and Hutu who are confessed genocidaires. Both kinds are now widely available in published collections or online; the three volumes by French journalist Jean Hatzfeld are a good beginning. Not a single such testimony or collection is referred to in ‘The Politics of Genocide’, and in fact I've never yet met a denier who had the guts to make his case before an audience of survivors.

Nor is a single mention made of the testimonies of the few outsiders who remained in Rwanda through all or much of the 100 days:

Romeo Dallaire (UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda–UNAMIR)
James Orbinski (Medicíns Sans Frontiérès)
Phillippe Gaillard (International Committee of the Red Cross)
Carl Wilkens (Adventist Development and Relief Agency International)
Henry Anyidoho (UNAMIR)

As it happens, I know all of the above and none has the slightest doubt, having lived through it, that a genocide organised against the Tutsi took place. Three of them – Dallaire, Orbinski and Anyidoho – have written about their experiences. Of course, some of Herman and Peterson's most treasured sources like Robin Philpot insist that General Dallaire was also an American puppet. So we can obviously ignore Dallaire's views completely.


As for Alison Des Forges, until her untimely death perhaps the most prominent scholar and activist on the Rwanda file, she is dismissed as following: ‘[Prior to 1993], des Forges had worked for the US Department of State and National Security Council.’ Nothing more is said to disqualify des Forges, so we must conclude that simply working for these bodies demonstrates the unreliability of her views on the genocide. That her MA and Ph.D. theses were on Rwandan history, that she knew the country for 30 years before the genocide, that she was among a tiny number of outsiders who spoke Kinyarwanda, that she spent five years after 1994 researching the crisis, that her ‘Leave None to Tell the Story’ is a highly-respected encyclopaedic history of the genocide – all this is irrelevant to Herman and Peterson. In their obsessive anti-Americanism, they blithely smear des Forges entire life: ‘Alison Des Forge's career is best understood in terms of the services she performed on behalf of US power-projection in Central Africa, with this policy-oriented work couched in the rhetoric of 'human rights'. In the process, Des Forges badly misinformed a whole generation of scholars, activists, and the cause of peace and justice.’ But if she was such a loyal American hack, why was she such an unrestrained critic of America's great ally Kagame? This obvious contradiction is of no apparent interest to Herman and Peterson.

The work of the 1993 International Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Abuses in Rwanda is similarly dismissed. The Inquiry brought together four well-known human rights organisations whose investigation led them to conclude that the Habyarimana government was deliberately targeting Tutsi for massacre, that extremists anti-Tutsi rhetoric was growing and that anti-Tutsi militia were being formed. Yet none of this needs to be taken seriously. Why? Because the Commission was little more than an RPF front, ‘either directly funded by the RPF or infiltrated by it’. The sole source for this very serious accusation – made by no others of whom I'm aware – is Robin Philpot, Canada's preeminent denier of the genocide.

Is Philpot's charge remotely credible? Has he exposed some deep conspiracy no one else has ever detected? By coincidence, I know both the person who initiated the Commission of Inquiry, Ed Broadbent, and one of its members, William Schabas. (Alison Des Forges was another member, representing Human Rights Watch.) Instead of just dismissing the Philpot charge, I asked each of them about the Commission. Broadbent, a former leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, was then the president of Rights and Democracy, an independent Canadian-based international human rights organisation funded by the Conservative government of the day. I spoke to him by phone. Rumours of foul doings in Rwanda took him to the country in 1992, he told me, and he was so shaken by the evidence he found of violence and discrimination against the Tutsi minority that he organised and mostly funded the International Commission to follow up his work. He told me he is simply incredulous that anyone would claim a role for the RPF in its work, since it wasn't true.

Broadbent asked William Schabas, then professor of human rights law at the Universite du Quebec a Montréal, to represent Rights and Democracy in this investigation. Schabas is now director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland in Galway, where he also holds the chair in human rights law. In an email, Schabas told me he had never been to Rwanda before this mission and knew nothing about the country. ‘I certainly never detected any pro-RPF sentiment from Ed…There was one member who seemed to be a sympathiser of the RPF…Otherwise, many members were quite openly critical of or hostile to the RPF.’

Is this just a case of ‘he said–they said’? Does an open-minded reader consider that the accusations of Robin Philpot, a man who also believes General Dallaire was an American stooge, are as worthy of consideration as the two statements by Ed Broadbent and William Schabas? Are both Broadbent and Schabas, 17 years later, blatantly lying to me, just as Dallaire's entire life for the past 17 years must be a lie?

Or does one rather draw another conclusion about how the deniers operate? If there are views that contradict your own, you simply dismiss them as tools of either the US State Department or the RPF. Further proof is not required.


Let me cite the authors themselves to assure readers I haven't exaggerated or distorted their extraordinary re-writing of history. Chapter 4 of their little book is devoted to Rwanda and the Congo and its 18 pages constitute far and away their longest case study.

They begin by asserting that ‘the Western establishment [has] swallowed a propaganda line on Rwanda that turned perpetrator and victim upside-down’. In their Rwanda story, it's not Hutu extremists, the Presidential Guard, the post-Habyarimana interim government and the interahamwe militia who were the ‘prime genocidaires’. It was the RPF. As a matter of fact, ‘the Hutu members of Rwanda's power-sharing government couldn't possibly have planned a genocide against the Tutsi.’ In fact, President Habyarimana repeatedly refused, until literally the end of his life, to implement the power-sharing agreement set out in the Arusha Accords. In any event, why the Hutu members of the government ‘couldn't possibly have planned a genocide against the Tutsi’ is never remotely explained.

Next: The 1990 invasion of Rwanda from Uganda was carried out not by Rwandans but by Ugandan forces under Ugandan President Museveni, the RPF being ‘a wing of the Ugandan army’. There is no source given for this assertion, which contradicts almost all other histories of the invasion.

‘It is clear that Museveni and the RPF were perceived as serving US interests and that the government of President Habyarimana was targeted for ouster…The Ugandan army and the RPF were doing what the United States wanted done in Rwanda.’ This is the central thesis of the entire chapter on Rwanda, but the only source who actually ‘perceives’ matters this way seems to be Robin Philpot, the Canadian who denies the genocide, since he is the only source offered for this categorical assertion. No other historian of the genocide of whom I'm aware makes this claim and no evidence for it exists.

Turning Linda Melvern’s seminal book ‘Conspiracy to Murder’ on its head, the authors give us ‘an RPF conspiracy’ to overthrow the Hutu government and capture the state for themselves. Since one of their sources, Christopher Black, considers Melvern part of the ‘RPF-US propaganda machine’, she too can be dismissed. But then why, they want to know, has the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda( ICTR) ‘never once entertained the question of this conspiracy?’ This is indeed a reasonable question; I wondered about it myself. Here is their answer: ‘This, we believe, flows from US and allied support of the RPF, reflected in media coverage, humanitarian intellectuals' and NGO activism, as well as the ICTR's jurisprudence.’ In other words, a giant US-led conspiracy is at work here.

Dupes like me and most other writers believe the US and its allies betrayed Rwanda by refusing to reinforce the UN military mission there, as general Dallaire was pleading with them to do. Eyewitnesses in Rwanda believed they witnessed for themselves what was developing. The media actually played a deplorable role in the first month of the genocide, confusing a planned extermination with racist views of ‘primordial African savagery’. And the many different ICTR judges over 15 years, from around the globe, all pretended to base their findings on the legal evidence. Yet in reality, all this time everyone was subtly being manipulated by the United States. Indeed, so subtle was the manipulation that the devilishly cunning Yanks left no proof of it. Moreover, every leading member of the Clinton administration, including the president himself, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright, after her stint as ambassador to the UN as Clinton's Secretary of State, have shamefacedly admitted abandoning the Tutsi. Each claims to consider it perhaps the greatest regret of his/her time in office, merely demonstrating, of course, what unconscionable hypocrites they are.

Herman and Peterson hammer their charge home: ‘Paul Kagame and the RPF were creatures of US power from their origins in Uganda in the 1980s’. They have the undisputed evidence. From Allan Stam, ‘a Rwanda scholar who once served with the US Army Special Forces,’ they learn that Kagame ‘had spent some time at Fort Leavenworth…not too far before the 1994 genocide’. Fort Leavenworth, Stam explains, is ‘where rising stars of the US military and other places go to get training…The training that they get there is on planning large-scale operations. It's not planning small-scale logistics. It’s not tactics. It's about how do you plan an invasion. And apparently [Kagame] did very well.’

This crucial paragraph deserves a little parsing. To begin, it's absolutely no secret that Kagame was briefly at Fort Leavenworth, though Stam doesn't mention how very brief his stay was. Kagame himself has never kept it a secret. Note too that Allan Stam's credibility is based on two factors. First, that he is a ‘Rwanda scholar,’ though I believe not a single scholar listed above ever cites his work. Second, that he ‘once served with the US Army Special Forces’. Presumably this service gives him special insight into how the US army works. Yet he presents not a single specific detail about Kagame's few weeks at Fort Leavenworth that ties him to American interest in and plans for Rwanda, which no one has ever documented. And since thousands of officers from nations around the world have passed through Fort Leavenworth, you'd think that the thousands of large-scale invasions they would return home and orchestrate would be better-known to the world than they are.

Stam's curious thought processes are on display again, thanks to another citation by Herman and Peterson. By 1994, Stam has written, Kagame's ‘sophisticated plan for seizing power in Rwanda…looks staggeringly like the United States' invasion of Iraq in 1991.’ Perhaps it's my failing, but I have no idea what this means.


Herman and Peterson now take their argument further. They have concluded that the all-important conventionally-accepted truth about the 100 days of genocide is all wrong. In fact this was no genocide at all against the Tutsi in which at a minimum 500,000/600,000 and perhaps as many as a million unarmed Tutsi were slaughtered, along with many Hutu who wouldn't cooperate with the extremists' genocidal conspiracy. On the contrary. They cite the sensational estimate by Christian Davenport and Allan Stam that one million deaths occurred from April to July 1994, and that ‘the majority of victims are likely Hutu and not Tutsi.’ That the methodology employed to arrive at such an Orwellian assertion has been totally discredited is of no interest to our authors and never mentioned.

Indeed, even a million dead, mostly Hutu, isn't good enough for them. They refer to ‘a number of observers as well as participants in the events of 1994 [who] claim that the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million.’ With Herman and Peterson, you always have to watch your wallets. Checking the endnote for this rather extravagant statement, we find the figure comes from ‘a former RPF military officer Christophe Hakizimana’ in a letter to the 1999 UN Commission of Inquiry into the genocide. But that Commission, chaired by former Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson, hadn't the slightest doubt that genocide against the Tutsi had taken place and their report harshly criticised the US and its allies for refusing to intervene to stop it. So it's hardly surprising that the Inquiry's report never mentions Hakizimana and his accusations.

So how did our authors know about it? ‘We base this on personal communications with the international criminal lawyer Christopher Black of Toronto.’ It will by this time come as no surprise to readers to learn that Christopher Black is prominent among the small notorious band of deniers who cite each other so faithfully and who alone are the sources for Herman and Peterson's chapter 4. Even among the lunatic fringe of deniers, Black inhabits a universe of his own. Not only is the genocide of the Tutsi a ‘myth’, not only did France have nothing to do with it, not only did the RPF rampage ‘across the country massacring hundreds of thousands of Hutu and any Tutsi who were seen as non-reliable.’ As well, he asserts, before 1994 there was no ethnic problem in Rwanda, then 'a semi-socialist country considered a model for Africa’. For perspective, I note that this authority on Rwanda visited North Korea in 2003 and emerged to describe it as ‘a progressive, socialist country deserving the support of all progressive peoples around the world.’ Black also considered Slobodan Milosevic completely innocent of the charges brought against him and believes Milosevic was consistently committed to a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia during his time in government.

Do I belabour the obvious by pointing out that not a single one of the long list of authors cited above mention either Christophe Hakizimana or Christopher Black? Yet they are the two sources Herman and Peterson give for their stunning statement that ‘a number of observers as well as participants in the events of 1994 claim that the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million.’

The authors simply dismiss out of hand the widely-accepted facts about the genocide. ‘The established narrative's 800,000 or more largely Tutsi deaths resulting from a “preprogrammed genocide” committed by “Hutu Power” appears to have no basis in any facts beyond the early claims by Kagame's RPF and its politically motivated Western sponsors and propagandists.’ With this single sentence, and with no further amplification of any kind, the question of the number of Tutsi murdered is closed.

But there's much more about murdered Hutu. It is no surprise to the authors that the RFP killed so many people. After all, ‘the RPF was the only well-organised killing force within Rwanda in 1994...Clearly the chief responsibility for Rwanda political violence belongs to the RPF, and not to the ousted coalition government, the FAR [Rwandan army], or any Hutu-related group.’ So much for the interahamwe, apparently figments of everyone's imagination. And for the Hutu Power and Zero Network hit lists, which many diplomats actually saw. And for the explicit public threats against the Tutsi from RTLM hate radio and Kangura magazine. In the report I wrote for the International Panel of Eminent Persons appointed by the Organization of African Unity to investigate the genocide, there is a chapter titled ‘The Eve of the Genocide: What the World Knew’. The report, published in 2000 and called ‘Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide’, is still available online, so readers can access it in full, as indeed could Herman and Peterson.

Chapter 9 includes (among much else) the notorious 1990 racist document ‘Ten Commandments of the Hutu’; the dramatic increase in Habyarimana's military budget; the formation of the extremist radical Hutu party CDR; the beginning of military training for the youth wings of both Habyarimana's party (the interahamwe) and the CDR; Leon Mugesera's speech inciting annihilation of the Tutsi; the repudiation by Habyarimana and many of his officials and officers of the Arusha peace agreement; the opening of RTLM hate radio in mid-1993, funded by Habyarimana's inner circle; the report by Belgian intelligence at the end of 1993 that ‘The interahamwe are armed to the teeth and on alert...each of them has ammunition, grenades, mines and knives. They are all waiting for the right moment to act’; the Dallaire ‘genocide fax’ of 11 January 1994; the constant flow of new arms to Habyarimana's forces from France or from South Africa and Egypt paid by France; RTLM's broadcast on Match 1, as reported by the Belgian ambassador in Kigali, of ‘inflammatory statements calling for the hatred—indeed for the extermination of the Tutsi’; the late March statement by the officer in charge of intelligence for the Rwanda army that ‘if Arusha were implemented, they [the Rwanda army] were ready to liquidate the Tutsi’; the several RTLM and Kangura statements in the last days of March and early April that something major and dramatic was going to happen within the next few days; the public threat uttered on 4 April, two days before the genocide began, by Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, widely considered the ringleader of the Hutu extremist conspirators, that ‘The only plausible solution for Rwanda appears to be the extermination of the Tutsi.’

Can every one of these well-documented points actually be some fantastically clever component of the American conspiracy behind Kagame's RPF? Don't bother asking Herman and Peterson; they don't even try to explain them all away. They simply ignore hundreds of different pieces of evidence pointing to a developing Hutu extremist plot to annihilate the country's Tutsi.

Instead, they focus on the crimes of the RPF. Despite recklessly throwing around figures such as a million or even two million Hutu killed, the numbers they seem to take more seriously total some 25,000 to 45,000 Hutu massacred from April to July 1994. As evidence they cite the investigation led by Robert Gersony for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and even though Gersony's report mysteriously vanished, both UNHCR and the US State Department seem to have found these figures credible.

Typically, Herman and Peterson refer to the Gersony Report as ‘a whole body of important but suppressed research’. Maybe this reflects the problem of only reading other deniers. Yet look at chapter 22 of ‘Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide’, the report of the OAU-appointed panel, titled ‘The RPF and Human Rights’. It points out that while the actual Gersony report seemed to be missing, Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch had uncovered confidential notes based on briefings by Gersony and his colleagues. On p.253, the panel describes the supposedly ‘suppressed research’: ‘Gersony reportedly estimated that during the months from April to August, the RPF killed between 25,000 and 45,000 persons.’

After reviewing all the other evidence we could, the panel approved the following paragraph: ‘Our own conclusion, based on the available evidence, is that it is quite unrealistic to deny RPF responsibility for serious human rights abuses in the months during and after the genocide. They were tough soldiers in the middle of a murderous civil war made infinitely more vicious by the genocide directed by their enemies against their ethnic kin…Some had lost family and were aggressively looking for revenge. But none of these factors excuse the excesses of which they [the RPF] were guilty.’

So in fact the so-called suppressed research by Gersony has been well-known for years. But the panel also knew this: The fact of the genocide against the Tutsi was proved beyond any question, and while 25-45,000 deaths is a huge and gruesome number, it pales beside the genocide being executed at the same time. As noted earlier, the lowest estimate by serious scholars of Tutsi killed during the 100 days is 500,000–600,000; some believe it could be closer to a million.

Beyond that, the reason the catastrophe is called a genocide is precisely because it meets the definition laid down in the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: ‘acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’. That's what qualitatively distinguishes the organised and systematic campaign led by a cabal of well-placed Hutu extremists in government and the military from the terrible killings by the RPF. That's why the ICTR has deemed its priority to be the trial of accused genocidaire rather than of accused RPF soldiers. It's the well-understood distinction between the Nazis and the fire-bombers of Dresden and Hamburg. All are horrific crimes. But genocide is, in our world, the crime of crimes, and it comes first.


Let me address only two remaining points that are integral to the authors' case.

Almost every well-known writer on the genocide condemns the international community, led by the US, for refusing to intervene to stop the massacres of the Tutsi. Richard Barnett's book ‘Eyewitness to a Genocide’, for example, describes his year as a staffer at the US Mission to the UN – it happened to be 1994 – watching as the US and the entire UN chose to abandon Rwanda's Tutsi to its inexorable fate. Samantha Power found a large number of President Clinton's senior advisers who contritely explained to her why they failed to support General Dallaire's urgent cries for reinforcements. Madeleine Albright, Clinton's ambassador to the UN, has abjectly apologised for her role in leading the Security Council to decimate Dallaire's puny military mission, and has righteously claimed that behind the scenes she attempted to get the White House to change its position. Non-permanent members of the Security Council later complained they were kept in the dark about the real situation in Rwanda by those who resisted intervention, including UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali. All of this is now well known.

Here's what Herman and Peterson have to say: ‘What the United States and its Western allies (Britain, Canada and Belgium) really did was sponsor the US-trained Kagame, support his invasion from Uganda and the massive ethnic cleansing prior to April 1994, weaken the Rwandan state by forcing an economic recession and the RPF's penetration of the government and throughout the country, and then press for the complete removal of UN troops because they didn't want UN troops to stand in the way of Kagame's conquest of the country, even though Rwanda's Hutu authorities were urging the dispatch of more [sic] UN troops.’

The endnote for this dramatic paragraph gives as the source ‘the Rwandan UN ambassador Jean-Damascene Bizimana’. Presumably, though, it's only the last part of the sentence that comes from Bizimana. Bizimana had been appointed by President Habyarimana. When the President's plane was shot down on 6 April, an interim government of Hutu extremists was formed under Theoneste Bagosora. Bizimana remained in his post. In one of the many mind-boggling sidebars of the genocide story, 1994 happened to be Rwanda's turn to fill a rotating Security Council seat. So Bizimana ended up representing a genocidaire government on the Council throughout the entire genocide. Soon after the plane crash and the start of the genocide, Bizimana reported to his Security Council peers that the Rwandan military and its people had ‘reacted spontaneously’ and were attacking those suspected of being responsible for killing their president. Bizimana's peers eventually understood the obscenity of having a spokesperson for the genocidal regime sitting among them, but as the British ambassador told Linda Melvern, there was no procedure for getting rid of him.

The 6 April plane crash, as is entirely predictable, features prominently in Herman and Peterson's Orwellian version of Rwanda. The plane, a gift from French President Mitterrand to Habyarimana, was bringing from Dar es Salaam to Kigali not only Habyarimana but the President of Burundi as well. Both were killed, along with everyone else on board. In what we have seen is a typical trick of the authors, they state that ‘It has also been important to suppress the fact that that the first Hutu president of Burundi, Melchior Ndadaye, had been assassinated by Tutsi officers of his army in October 1993.’ That this assassination happened is true; that anyone has ever tried to suppress it is ludicrous. Why Herman and Peterson insist on it is incomprehensible. For the record, this incident is included in my own report, ‘Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide’, in Rene Lemarchand's chapter on Rwanda in ‘Century of Genocide’, in Gerard Prunier's ‘The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide’, in Stephen Kinzer's ‘A Thousand Hills’, and in Linda Melvern's ‘A People Betrayed’, just to mention the few volumes that I took down at random. Far from being suppressed, virtually everyone who writes about Rwanda recognises the great impetus given to Hutu Power advocates in Rwanda by Ndadaye's untimely murder.

Herman and Peterson have no doubt that the RPF shot down Habyarimana's plane. In fact they go that extra mile and add that ‘the United States and its close allies…very possibly aided the assassins in the shoot-down.’ The sole source for this ‘very possible’ charge is Robin Philpot. As for the crash itself, the authors invoke the familiar figures of Michael Hourigan and Jean-Louis Bruguiere. Hourigan is a one-time ICTR investigator who found a few disaffected RPF soldiers who accused the RPF and Kagame personally of responsibility for the crash. Bruguiere is a French magistrate who used some of the same informants as Hourigan, as well as the testimonies of accused genocidaires being held in Arusha, Tanzania, whom he took the trouble to visit (though he never went to Rwanda or spoke to a single RPF official). He too concluded that the RPF and Kagame were guilty. Alas for both of them, their case fell apart when several key informants retracted their entire testimonies, some declaring they had never said anything like what they were quoted as saying. This is all public knowledge, yet the authors never even hint that the basis of Bruguiere's conclusions had been substantially undermined.

It has always seemed most plausible to a majority of those studying the genocide that Hutu extremists and not the RPF shot down the President's plane. But proof was never available and the issue remained moot. It's been one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time. At the beginning of this year, however, a new report appeared by an Independent Committee of Experts appointed by the government of Rwanda, with the explicit title Report of the Investigation into the Causes and Circumstances of and Responsibility for the Attack of 06/04/1994 against the Falcon 50 Rwandan Presidential Aeroplane [sic], Registration Number 9xR-NN. The head of the 7-person committee was Dr Jean Mutsinzi, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Rwanda, now a judge of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. The Mutsinzi Report is available at, and my review of the report can be found at Pambazuka News 466, January 21, 2010.

While my review regretted that the Rwandan government hadn't sought an independent investigation to take place, and while the Committee had obvious pro-RPF biases, I nevertheless found their comprehensive report highly persuasive. They also smartly included a ballistics report from staff at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom based at Cranfield University that supported their conclusions. The report demonstrates why the RPF could not have been in a position to launch the fatal missiles while elements of the Rwandan army and Presidential Guard had the capacity, the means and the will to do so.

The report also documents the only logical motive for the attack, one that many other scholars had already anticipated. In the Dar es Salaam meeting of regional presidents that he attended on his final day, 6 April, Habyarimana announced what he had just told his own senior advisors. After stalling for months (a fact Herman and Peterson seem not to grasp at all), he was finally about to implement the Arusha Accords. That meant power-sharing in government and the full integration of the Rwandan and RPF armies. The personal consequences for many Hutu government and military officials would be disastrous. The latter had long sworn, publicly and privately, that they would accept Arusha over their dead bodies, and had pressured Habyarimana not to succumb to external pleas to implement. Finally, however, he decided he had no recourse but honour the agreement, and the extremists decided to nullify Arusha over their president's dead body.

Any reasonable person open to the evidence, including the likely motivation for the deed, will find the Mutsinzi Report credible. But I don't expect for a second that Messrs. Peterson or Herman or Black or Erlinder or Stam or Davenport or Philpot to accept a single word of it. No more do I expect them to agree with a single word in this review. They are well beyond evidence or reason or commonsense. They live in a different universe of witnesses and evidence, enough to satisfy themselves that the world has gotten Rwanda wrong and only they in the world have got it right.


Edward Herman and David Peterson have written a very short book that's not nearly short enough. It should never have seen the light of day. It brings shame to its two American authors, its publisher Monthly Review, and all those who have provided enthusiastic jacket blurbs, many of them prominent in progressive circles – Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Norman Solomon, David Barsamian. If this is what Anglo-American Marxism, or socialism, or anti-imperialism has degenerated into, we can hang our heads in shame for the future of the left.

Why a lifetime anti-imperialist leftist like Herman (and presumably Peterson) wants to exculpate the Serbs of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia of crimes against humanity is beyond my understanding. Why would it not have been enough to point out that appalling crimes were committed by all sides, but in every case Serbs were one of those sides? The only conceivable reason seems to be that the US and its allies singled out the Serbs for attack, which ipso facto makes them the real victims. Indeed, the authors' ally Christopher Black perversely sees Milosevic as an heroic figure.

As we've already seen, hyperbole and slipperiness are cherished tools of the authors, and not just in regards to Rwanda. ‘The leading mainstream experts on “genocide” and mass-atrocity crimes today,’ they assert, ‘still carefully exclude from consideration the US attacks on Indo-China as well as the 1965-1966 Indonesian massacres within that country’. First note the way they add ‘mass atrocity crimes’ to genocidal crimes. In fact, in many circles it surely remains widely accepted that the US was guilty of appalling atrocities in its aggressions against Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. As for the ‘exclusion from consideration’ of those Indonesian massacres, chapter 7 of Totten and Parson's popular volume ‘Century of Genocide’, is titled ‘The Indonesian Massacres’.

Two other similar examples: In true conspiratorial fashion, they argue that the crisis in Darfur was exaggerated to distract attention from America's real African interest, the mineral resources of the Congo. Why both weren't worthy of serious attention is beyond me. Nonetheless, they insist that Darfur solidarity activists dishonestly succeeded in framing Darfur as the ‘unnoticed genocide’, though many, including me, have long understood that it's been the best publicised international crisis in decades. And they charge that it's the calamity in eastern Congo that ‘has been truly ignored’, even though numerous celebrities, including playwright Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues), actor Ben Affleck (at least four times), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all made high-profile visits to the Kivus. When the US Secretary of State visits a small province in eastern Congo, you know it's the opposite of being ignored.

Many of the Rwanda deniers flaunt their left-wing credentials. As this essay makes clear, they are driven by their anti-Americanism. Certainly I agree that every progressive necessarily must be anti-American to some degree or other. But this little band has driven over the edge. As Peter Erlinder once wrote, America is ‘the most dangerous Empire the world has ever seen’. Everything bad must be America's responsibility. There's not even room for others to share that responsibility, though the French government's complicity in the Rwandan genocide, for example, has been definitively documented and is now even implicitly accepted by President Sarkozy and his foreign minister Bernard Kouchner.

Why the deniers are so determined, so passionate, so intransigent, so absolutely certain, so satisfied to remain part of a tiny minority of cranks, is completely unknown to me. Why they want to create such gratuitous, almost sadistic hurt for the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda is impossible to fathom. But in the end, it's irrelevant what furies drive their obsessions. It's their egregious views – not their motives – that matter. And their views relegate them squarely to the lunatic fringe.


* Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, ’The Politics of Genocide’, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2010, 112 pages plus endnotes and index, ISBN: 978-1-58367-212-9.
* Gerald Caplan has a PhD in African history. He recently published The Betrayal of Africa.
* Please send comments to or comment online at Pambazuka News.
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