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Posts Tagged ‘genocide denial

George Monbiot On Genocide Belittlers.

with 22 comments

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.’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/13/left-and-libertarian-right

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.’

http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=585:dancing-on-a-mass-grave-oliver-kamm-of-the-times-smears-media-lens&catid=23:alerts-2009&Itemid=9

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’.”

[My emphasis.]

Chomsky’s Silence on Ratko Mladic And Srebrenica.

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Normally, you can’t shut up Noam Chomsky. He pops up in the media. An article here, a video clip there. Whatever else you say about him, he is indefatigable.

But surprisingly he’s been rather silent on the arrest of Ratko Mladic and Srebrenica, as far as I can tell.

Presumably, some time in the future he will inflict upon us some tortured piece, which exculpates Radovan Karadžić, Ratko Mladic and blames it all on the UN or ICTY. It is just a matter of time, and Chomsky is such a creature of habit.

James Bloodworth has written a good post on this very topic, ably summing up Chomsky’s method:

“The behaviour of Chomsky in this instance should be put into the context of the wider reaction of certain sections of the left to all Western intervention – no matter that intervention in this case happened altogether too late. The method of Chomsky and his acolytes is straightforward: select an action taken by the West – whether in Kosovo, Rwanda, or Libya (or in this case belatedly in Bosnia and Herzegovina) – invert the role of perpetrator and victim, before forming a conclusion which lays the blame for every atrocity at the door of Western intervention or a Western ally in the region. If this means denying or downplaying genocide committed by those opposed to Western forces, then so be it. “

Update 1: I should remind those genocide deniers, fans of Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladic that this blog has a zero tolerance for neo-fascists, their mates and deniers, so go away. Stop spamming my threads and if you can, slowly read my comment’s policy.

A Better Venue.

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Professor David N Gibbs will be familiar to readers.

Previously, I courteously gave him a guest post, that was a mistake as I receive nothing but hassle and aggravation for my troubles.

Thankfully, it is not an error I intend to repeat.

Professor Gibbs is now using Louis Proyect’s blog.

Apparently, Louis Proyect is Professor Gibbs’ friend and his blog, Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist, is a far more suitable venue for Professor Gibbs’ writings.

I wish them well, they are ably suited.

Update 1: These are the relevant posts concerning Professor Gibbs:

Denial About Rwanda.

The Second Coming of Joe McCarthy: David Gibbs Responds to Hoare’s Criticisms

Denial In The West.

Apologies To Marko.

Professor Gibbs, Failure To Address The Issues.

A Scholar Replies To David N. Gibbs.

A Pompous Ass.

A Scholar Replies To David N. Gibbs.

with 10 comments

Dr. Marko Attila Hoare previously posted an initial reply to David N Gibbs on his blog, Greater Surbiton, as First Check Their Sources: On David N. Gibbs and ‘shoddy scholarship’.

One of the key parts was:

“…let us first make this clear: it is wholly untrue that Gibbs’s book has ‘presented an extended critique’ of my own publications. Anyone reading Gibbs’s book without examining carefully the endnotes would not even notice that I had been criticised at all: my name does not appear in the text itself, nor in the index. Gibbs has four trivial quibbles with me, buried in his endnotes. Gibbs does not, as he now claims, accuse me in his book of ‘shoddy scholarship’, and has made this accusation only in his subsequent reply to me.”

In a second reply, First Check Their Sources 2: The myth that ‘most of Bosnia was owned by the Serbs before the war’ Dr. Hoare deals with Gibbs’ questionable use of sources.

This explains it:

“Gibbs’s claim that ‘Serbs had always occupied most of Bosnia’s land area, owing to their demographic dominance in rural regions’ and that ‘the Serbs had always controlled most of the land in Bosnia – since they were disproportionately rural’ is therefore false. His deduction, based on this falsehood, that Western peace-plans that awarded over 40% of Bosnia to the Serb rebels were actually unfavourable to them, can therefore be exposed as an attempt to fabricate Serb victimhood at Western hands.”

I suspect that over time Professor Gibbs’ book will be liberally torn apart, for its doubtful use of sources, misrepresentation of data and speculative interpretations.

Professor Gibbs, Failure To Address The Issues.

with 7 comments

I finally got around to reading all of the 339+ comments on David Gibbs’ guest post and I must say I am disappointed.

I like academic discussions normally.

I appreciate clever people making intelligent points and I confess to being a fan of Engage, where some witty or informative exchanges are to be found. I had hoped that this guest post would be equally sharp and illuminating, sadly it is not.

Professor Gibbs seems to have made a conscious choice not to address the criticism of his work in any significant way.
Read the rest of this entry »

Apologies To Marko.

with 6 comments

I made a mistake by allowing David Gibbs a guest post.

At the time I thought he was a reasonable academic who deserved a right of reply, however, subsequently I have had time to reflect on my poor judgement.

I could excuse it away by saying I was rushed and I often tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in such matters. I could say I thought it would be informative to see these issues thrashed out, but that’s not good enough.

It was very poor timing, inconvenient for everyone except seemingly Professor Gibbs, and at the very least it should have been put off for another time.

In truth, I should have probably said “use someone else’s blog or create your own”. But that’s not good enough

So my sincere apologies to Marko Attila Hoare, who was stuck in Germany when this first came about, by the excessive snow and blocked airports. I can appreciate how difficult it was for him.

Dr. Hoare was rightly annoyed at matters, but made a conscious effort to put all that behind him and deal with Gibbs’ arguments.

I haven’t reviewed the thread with any real attention to detail, and will probably cover its contents in a future post.

Dr. Hoare deserved better, I am very sorry for the hassle and inconvenience that I caused him.

In the future, should Professor Gibbs want a “right of reply” then he can use the able services of his friend and fan, Louis Proyect or post in the comments boxes, like everyone else.

I won’t make the same mistake twice!

Denial In The West.

with one comment

[I wanted to write this whilst it was fresh in my mind (I shall try to blog more in the coming week, promise).]

The thread below concerning Professor Gibbs has been a bit of an eye-opener for me, not least to see experts discussing the Balkans.

And I professed no expertise in that area, I followed things about 20 years ago, but not with the detail or intensity of many of my posters.

Still, as an antifascist, I can recognise denial when I see it (and I was probably remiss letting some posters contribute to that thread, my mistake), so when I read of Edward S. Herman and Srebrenica Research Group alarm bells started to ring in my head.

Initially, I wondered to what extent did Herman denied the genocide at Srebrenica? I assumed it was going to be difficult to find any incriminating statements from him, but I was wrong.

Herman despite years as an academic obviously isn’t too concerned with evidence.

Herman is published extensively by Znet and useful critiques of his views can be found at the Srebrenica Genocide blog:

It’s A Fact: 8,106 Killed In Srebrenica Genocide,
Srebrenica Massacre Faq’s: Facts Vs Srebrenica Genocide Denial,
Edward S. Herman – Genocide Denier Caught In Lies, Again
and Reply To Herman & Peterson.

There’s probably more that I missed, but it gives you a flavour of it all.

In other schools of genocide denial there are frequently many sleights of hand, misdirections and verbiage, which tend to hide or try to minimise the denier’s outright denial, to soften it, to make it more acceptable.

Not so with Herman, as I noticed in an article he penned for Znet in July 2005, The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre* [I apologise to readers for linking to this material, but it is a necessity in this case.]

Readers can make their own minds up, but I think when Herman argues a “…third is that the evidence for a massacre, certainly of one in which 8,000 men and boys were executed, has always been problematic, to say the least…”, he is fairly and squarely in the territory of deniers.

Further Herman compounds it by:

“With 8,000 executed and thousands killed in the fighting there should have been huge grave sites and satellite evidence of both executions, burials, and any body removals. But the body searches in the Srebrenica vicinity were painfully disappointing, with only some two thousand bodies found in searches through 1999, including bodies killed in action and possibly Serb bodies, some pre-dating July 1995. The sparseness of these findings led to claims of body removal and reburial, but this was singularly unconvincing as the Bosnian Serbs were under intense military pressure after July 1995.”

All of this written in 2005, even then it was clear that nearly 8000 people were listed as missing by the International Commission on Missing Persons in June 2005:

“One month before the 10th anniversary of the fall of Srebrenica in 1995, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has completed identifications of more than 2,000 of the Srebrenica victims. There are altogether almost 7,800 persons listed on the ICMP database of the missing from Srebrenica, and, as family members continue to report missing relatives and donate blood samples for DNA identification, that number is slowly growing. Many of the missing have not yet been exhumed from mass graves that are still hidden around the country.”

Later, by 2010, the DNA evidence was irrefutable:

“By analyzing DNA profiles extracted from bone samples of exhumed mortal remains and matching them to the DNA profiles obtained from blood samples donated by relatives of the missing, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has revealed the identity of 6,481 persons missing from the July 1995 fall of Srebrenica. Of this, 775 DNA-identified victims will be buried on July 11th in the Potočari Memorial Center, Srebrenica.

The number of reported missing for whom ICMP has blood samples as well as the matching rate between DNA profiles extracted from these bone and blood samples leads ICMP to support an estimate of around 8,100 individuals missing from the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995.

In all of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the ICMP has made a total of 13,124 accurate, DNA-led identifications of individuals since ICMP’s DNA system went online in November 2001. To make these DNA identifications, ICMP has collected 69,838 blood samples from relatives of the victims and has received from BiH institutions 32.295 bone samples taken from exhumed human mortal remains.

The most difficult case load in BiH is the identification of Srebrenica remains. As a result of attempts by perpetrators to conceal evidence of this major atrocity, many bodies were removed from their initial mass graves and reburied in other locations. As a consequence, body parts are found disarticulated in numerous primary and secondary mass grave sites. ICMP forensic anthropologists use DNA analysis as a tool in re-associating disarticulated parts of the same body. In one case, ICMP identified a Srebrenica victim whose body parts were found in four different mass graves two of which were 20 km from the other two locations.

So coming back to the original point. It didn’t occur to Herman, that perpetrators of genocide often lie and try to hide incriminating evidence of their crimes, even if that is blindingly obvious from past genocides, and bleeding obvious to anyone remotely thoughtful on this subject.

So if someone says Edward S. Herman has a point, you’ll know where they are coming from, Genocide Denial and all the baggage that comes with it.

Update 1: Bill Weinberg takes Herman and Znet to task in, Z magazine supports genocide.

Denial About Rwanda.

with 37 comments

I am indebted to Marko Attila Hoare for pointing me to the piece below by Adam Jones, and I freely admit that I rarely see eye to eye with Marko politically, but his work in shining a light on genocide denial is admirable and worthy of praise.

Marko’s new post covers genocide denial in the Balkans and Rwanda, and he points out the deniers’ techniques haven’t changed much over the years. Amongst them is how they will use an obscure source to dismiss a reputable one, mangle a source to change its meaning and intent, or link to a questionable piece of evidence to buttress their arguments. That is only for starters, deniers will use every disreputable method possible and do so consciously, which is why their actions must be vigorously opposed.

Adam Jones, a specialist in the field, takes apart The Politics of Genocide by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson:

“For Herman & Peterson to offer any evidence at all for their squalid inversion of reality, however, they need Davenport & Stam. There is almost nothing else in the scholarly literature that can be squeezed into their framework, even in denatured form. So in the process of bending Davenport & Stam to make them fit, they not only jettison their sources’ core conclusions and substitute their own; they toss out Davenport & Stam’s guiding assumptions as well! In preparing their statistical analysis of patterns of violence, Davenport & Stam divided Rwandan territory into zones that were government-controlled, RPF-controlled, and contested. Herman & Peterson aver that this is “problematic.” In fact, they allege, those whom Davenport & Stam deemed guilty of “the vast majority” of the killing were such a bumbling bunch that “it is frankly counterintuitive” to consider them “in control of anything” (p. 133). Really, it’s a wonder the poor dears could tie their shoes — let alone mobilize to massacre at least half a million Tutsis and oppositionist Hutus.

So now, “the vast majority” of the killing that Davenport & Stam specifically attributed to Hutu Power forces is thrown up for grabs. Herman & Peterson can seize upon Davenport & Stam’s finding that “when the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased” to contend that this shows RPF forces were “the initiators and the main perpetrators of 1994’s mass blood-letting.” Davenport & Stam’s framing in fact fits with a picture of Hutu Power agents lashing out genocidally at Tusis, in spasms that correlate with RPF advances. There is a certain logic to that — panic and insecurity are frequently spurs to more frenzied killing — but there is no other evidence for it that I am aware of, and in any case Herman & Peterson’s “logic” is entirely different. They point out in their attack on me that in The Politics of Genocide, they do indeed note the incongruence between their arguments and Davenport & Stam’s findings. But they word it as follows: “Davenport and Stam fail to draw the most important conclusion from their superb work …” They don’t fail to draw the important conclusion; they draw the exactly opposite important conclusion. Davenport & Stam, apparently, are “superb” and credible authorities when their findings are convenient. When they are inconvenient, they must be ruled out as “problematic” or “fail[ing],” and replaced by rickety fabrications of Herman & Peterson’s own, mercifully unique devising.

It is perfectly legitimate, and important, to highlight these aspects of the Kagame regime, and to explore relatively understudied elements of the Rwandan genocide, its aftermath, and the wars and genocides in D.R. Congo. That inquiry is in fact well advanced, conducted by scholars with deep knowledge and an abiding understanding of Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. The long-overdue United Nations report leaked in August 2010, documenting in detail the Rwandan army’s role in genocidal atrocities against Hutus in Congo during the 1996 “clearing of the camps” and after, is clearly a watershed that no scholar or student of the region — and no analyst of Rwanda and the RPF — will be able to ignore.

It remains, nonetheless, malicious and profoundly illegitimate to deny the systematic genocidal killing of Tutsis in Rwanda, by diverse institutional agents of “Hutu Power,” from April to July 1994. Such brazen denialism is what Herman & Peterson have propounded, online and in The Politics of Genocide. In Herman’s case, this besmirches an often honorable career on the progressive left, though the decline was already well advanced — he has gained notoriety in recent years for efforts to obscure and deny the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, among other inexplicably reactionary campaigns.[5]”

Read Marko’s post on The bizarre world of genocide denial.

Update 1: Martin Shaw has also pointed out the inadequacies of The Politics of Genocide book and its endorsement by Noam Chomsky:

“All this is also welcome fuel for a determined group of Rwanda genocide-deniers. A new book by Edward S Herman and David Peterson focusing on the use of the term “genocide” in the media and academia – The Politics of Genocide (Monthly Review Press, 2010) – argues that the western establishment has “swallowed a propaganda line on Rwanda that turned perpetrator and victim upside-down” (p.51); the RPF not only killed Hutus, but were the “prime génocidaires” (p.54); there was “large-scale killing and ethnic cleansing of Hutus by the RPF long before the April-July 1994 period (p.53); this contributed to a result in which “the majority of victims were likely Hutu and not Tutsi” (quoted with approval, p.58).

Herman and Peterson state 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” (p.58). But a check of the reference for this shocking statement finds no more than a letter from a former RPF military officer and personal communications from a former defence council before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (n.127, p.132) – both participants rather than “observers”. That is enough for these authors to dismiss the idea of “800,000 or more largely Tutsi deaths” as RPF and western propaganda (see Adam Jones, “On Genocide Deniers – Challenging Herman and Peterson”, AllAfrica.com. 16 July 2010).”

Update 2: Returning to Marko’s comments on David.N Gibbs’ book:

Consequently, it has been with a certain inner groaning that I’ve become aware of the latest regurgitations of the old denialist narrative. One such regurgitation is David N. Gibbs, First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, 2009). To give a foretaste of what you can expect of this book, Gibbs has this to say about the Srebrenica massacre: ‘Certainly, the murder of eight thousand people is a grave crime, but to call it “genocide” needlessly exaggerates the scale of the crime.’ (p. 281).

Needless to say, Gibbs has no academic expertise on the former Yugoslavia or the Balkans and does not read Serbo-Croat. He hasn’t bothered to engage with the existing literature, but simply ignored all the existing works that undermine his thesis. He has not tackled the evidence presented by Daniele Conversi, myself and others, that the Milosevic regime and the Yugoslav People’s Army deliberately engineered the break-up of Yugoslavia; or the work of Michael Libal and Richard Caplan, exploding the myth that Germany encouraged Croatia to secede from Yugoslavia; or the work of Brendan Simms, demonstrating that Britain’s intervention in Bosnia actually shielded Karadzic’s Serb forces from hostile international intervention. Instead, Gibbs has cherry-picked a few odds and ends in order to present the same old revisionist story, only with a larger number of endnotes than the previous versions written by Diana Johnstone, Michael Parenti et al. Yet he must know very well that his book will not survive a critical review by a genuine specialist in the field, that it will be ignored by all serious scholars and that it will serve only to confirm the views of the small, dwindling minority already committed to the revisionist narrative.