George Monbiot On Genocide Belittlers.
George Monbiot has written a fine piece in the Guardian, Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers:
“But genocide denial is just as embarrassing to the left as it is to the libertarian right. Last week Edward Herman, an American professor of finance best known for co-authoring Manufacturing Consent with Noam Chomsky, published a new book called The Srebrenica Massacre. It claims that the 8,000 deaths at Srebrenica are “an unsupportable exaggeration. The true figure may be closer to 800.”
Like Karadzic, the book claims that the market massacres in Sarajevo were carried out by Bosnian Muslim provocateurs. It maintains that the Serb forces’ reburial of Bosnian corpses is “implausible and lack[s] any evidential support” (an astonishing statement in view of the ICMP’s findings). It insists that the witnesses to the killings are “not credible” and suggests that the Bosnian Muslim soldiers retreated from Srebrenica to ensure that more Bosnians were killed, in order to provoke US intervention.
These are not the first such claims that Herman has made. Last year, with David Peterson, he published a book called The Politics of Genocide. Mis-citing a tribunal judgment, he maintains that the Serb forces “incontestably had not killed any but ‘Bosnian Muslim men of military age’.” Worse still, he places the Rwandan genocide in inverted commas throughout the text and maintains that “the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million”, and that the story of 800,000 “largely Tutsi deaths” caused by genocide “appears to have no basis in any facts”. It’s as straightforward an instance of revisionism as I’ve ever seen, comparable in this case only to the claims of the genocidaires themselves.
But here’s where it gets really weird. The cover carries the following endorsement by John Pilger. “In this brilliant exposé of great power’s lethal industry of lies, Edward Herman and David Peterson defend the right of us all to a truthful historical memory.” The foreword was written by Noam Chomsky. He doesn’t mention the specific claims the book makes, but the fact that he wrote it surely looks like an endorsement of the contents. The leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were “perfectly entitled” to talk down the numbers killed at Srebrenica. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Media Lens has waged a long and fierce campaign against Iraq Body Count for underestimating the number killed in that country.
Why is this happening? Both the LM network and Herman’s supporters oppose western intervention in the affairs of other nations. Herman rightly maintains that far more attention is paid to atrocities committed by US enemies than to those committed by the US and its allies. But both groups then take the unwarranted step of belittling the acts of genocide committed by opponents of the western powers.
The rest of us should stand up for the victims, whoever they are, and confront those trying to make them disappear.”
The original post with full references can be seen at Monbiot’s site.
Update 1: In a hole, stop digging, but Media Lens carry on:
“One initial thought. Monbiot writes:
‘The leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were “perfectly entitled” to talk down the numbers killed at Srebrenica.’
What does ‘talk down’ really mean here? Downplay? Underestimate? Deliberately underestimate? Dishonestly underestimate?
In fact, last week we spelled out our position to Monbiot on Twitter:
‘We’re saying +everyone+ is entitled to debate facts. Who are we, or you, to say they are not? Do you possess Absolute Truth?’
Imagine how it would have looked for him, if he had honestly represented our position:
‘The leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were “perfectly entitled” to debate the numbers killed at Srebrenica.’
As Monbiot also knows (we sent him a link to what follows), this is also what we wrote in 2009:
‘It is certainly true that we have posted articles by Herman and Peterson discussing the massacre on our website. But it is simply false to suggest that they have argued that “the genocide at Srebrenica was all a hoax”. Herman and Peterson have written:
‘”The Srebrenica massacre took place in the month before Operation Storm, Croatia’s devastating attack and ethnic cleansing of some 250,000 Serbs from the Krajina, with over 1,000 civilians killed, including over 500 women and children…” (Edward Herman and David Peterson, ‘The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,’ Monthly Review, October 2007; http://www.monthlyreview.org/1007herman-peterson1.php)
‘Their very rational concern is to discuss the “asymmetry in how the Srebrenica massacre and Operation Storm have entered the Western canon”. (Ibid) Their interest, then, is in precisely +comparing+ how these two horrific massacres were treated by Western politics and media. Herman and Peterson have also written:
‘”There is a good case to be made that, while there were surely hundreds of executions, and possibly as many as a thousand or more, the 8,000 figure is a political construct and eminently challengeable.” (Herman and Peterson, ‘Milosevic’s Death in the Propaganda System,’ ZNet, May 14, 2006; http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/3884)
‘Herman and Peterson, then, are +not+ denying that mass killings took place at Srebrenica. They also do not accept the figure cited by Kamm and others, but that they are perfectly entitled to do. The point is that while critics are free to take issue with their facts, sources and arguments, it is nonsense to accuse them of sins that are the “moral equivalent of Holocaust denial”. And to associate us with Holocaust denial on the grounds that we publish their material is desperate indeed.’
Notice that Monbiot has smeared us in a national newspaper on a subject we have never written about beyond the above explanation of why we posted, or linked to, articles by Herman and Peterson on the subject on our website. We have not ourselves ever written about the Srebrenica massacre other than to affirm that it took place. For this, according to Monbiot, we are guilty of the thought crime of ‘genocide denial’.”