Every government lives with the knowledge that it either uses such suppression [of genocide], or might be called upon to use it. A government would rather not open a can of worms by accusing others of genocide, for fear that it might also be so accused.
-- Robert Davis and Mark Zannis (1)
In October 2001, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to the Labour Party Conference: “And I tell you if Rwanda happened again today as it did in 1993, when a million people were slaughtered in cold blood, we would have a moral duty to act there also.” It was Blair’s version of the “Never again” mantra.
His sincerity was damned by what the International Committee of the Red Cross called “the most deadly war ever documented in Africa. Indeed, the highest war death toll documented anywhere in the world during the last half century,” and ongoing since 1998 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet, it was allowed to slide under the UK media radar, as it was in the US and elsewhere.
A recent article in The Independent describes a litany of nefarious deeds perpetrated against the Black villagers in the eastern region of Sudan called Darfur, invoking images of a one-sided intra-ethnic conflict. (2) Government-backed so-called Arab Janjaweed militias are singled out as the sole culprits in ethnic cleansing. A previous article examined the selectivity with which the western corporate governments wield the term “ethnic cleansing.” (3) This selectivity extends to the term “genocide.” The international reluctance to invoke the term “genocide,” according to The Independent, “has emboldened the Janjaweed Arab militias and their backers in the Islamist government in Khartoum.”
The significance of the genocide label is particularly highlighted by the recent UN acknowledgement of the WWII holocaust. Here too one aggrieved group has co-opted the holocaust as exclusive to itself even though it was not the party suffering the largest loss of life in the holocaust. Soviet Slavs were massacred in the tens-of-millions because of Nazi abhorrence for communism; this constitutes a genocide largely shoved under the carpet.
Consequently, the genocide perpetrated against the Jews in WWII sets the refrain, “Never again” in the starkest historical contradiction. This contradiction is compounded by the Zionist-perpetrated genocide in Palestine. (4)
There is dissension on whether or not the violence in Darfur is ethnically motivated; nevertheless, violence is ongoing and people are being killed. The Independent focused on “the facts”: “More than 70,000 people have been killed. More than 1.6 million have been forced from their homes in a conflict that has been described as ‘the world’s worst humanitarian crisis’.”
Facts provide a good yardstick for comparison. The CIA Factbook gives the population of Sudan as 39,148,162, based on a July 2004 estimate (one assumes this to be an estimate based on facts.) The July 2004 estimate for Iraq’s population is 25,374,691. The prestigious peer-review medical journal The Lancet has estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed since the US-UK launched their aggression against Iraq. (5) Extrapolation of these figures indicates that the number of people killed in Iraq is over 100 percent greater than the number killed in Sudan. Consequent to this comparison, one must ergo surmise that The Independent has built a compelling case for the labeling of genocide in Iraq. This comes after three UN humanitarian heads had resigned in disgust at the “genocidal” UN sanctions.
Already US government officials have called the debacle in Sudan genocide; therefore, following the argument in The Independent, because of the legal implications under the Genocide Convention it is “imperative to act.”
In an interview with ABC’s Sam Donaldson during the 2000 US presidential campaign, US selected-president-to-be George W. Bush categorically restricted US involvement in atrocities: “We should not send our troops to stop ethnic cleansing and genocide outside our strategic interests.” This is a revelatory and morally repugnant remark. In other words, Bush predicates US involvement exclusively out of self-interest -- not out of concern for the victims of ethnic pogroms. The US imperialist interest in Sudan concerns its quickly up-and-coming economic rival, China, which imports much oil from Sudan.
The attitude of Bush also reveals the insincerity of his regime’s pronouncements on concern for the institution of freedom and democracy in Iraq. Writer Rick Salutin observantly noted the US motivated self-interest in Iraqi elections from Bush’s comment: “The notion that, you know, somehow we’re not making progress [in Iraq] I -- I just don’t subscribe to. I mean, we’re having elections.” Wrote Salutin: “And note that [Bush] said ‘we’re,’ not ‘they’re,’ having elections.” (6)
Criticism is instead deflected at the UN. UN Secretary General Kofi “Annan’s desk may fudge the issue of genocide.” But Annan did not fudge the issue of legality when he pronounced belatedly on the aggression of Iraq; Annan stated unequivocally that it was “illegal.”
Since the magnitude of genocide has been demonstrated to be proportionately much greater in Iraq, the imperative to act assumes greater relevance in Iraq where the western corporate media, by and large, worse than fudges the ongoing genocide in Iraq; it is complicit in its cover-up -- a moral breach of gravest proportions.
The Independent article closed by citing, what it considers an argument-closing rationale on genocide in Sudan, from a British genocide-prevention group, Aegis Trust: “Was the killing intentional? Yes. … Was it systematically organised by the al-Bashir regime using government-armed Janjaweed militias, bombers and helicopter gunships? Yes. Were the victims chosen because of their ethnic and racial identity? Yes.”
This argument-closing rationale can just as easily be applied to Iraq, where the British forces are actively participating: Was the killing in Iraq intentional? Obviously, yes. What else can one conclude when peaceful options to ensure the disarmament of Iraq were rejected out-of-hand against the will of most of the international community? What else can one assume from the actions of a fist-pumping and jubilating self-declared war president following his decision to launch the invasion? (7)
Was the aggression systematically organized by the George W. Bush regime using government-armed military, bombers, and helicopter gunships? Yes. Add to this arsenal, among other weaponry, some illicit: bunker busters, cruise missiles, cluster bombs, ammunition replete with depleted uranium, chemical weapons such as napalm, and, according to eye-witness accounts, poison gas. (8)
Were the victims chosen because of their ethnic and racial identity? No, Iraq was invaded and occupied because it sits on top of a huge oil supply. The racist Israeli state provides a meaningful comparison of ethnicity and victimization: the predominately White European Jewish settlers enjoy full US backing in their ethnic pogrom against the indigenous Palestinians.
As The Independent concluded: “This, in short, is genocide. The genocide continues.” Conclusively, the “Never again” mantra is just that: a mantra.
Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Robert Davis and Mark Zannis, The Genocide Machine in Canada: The Pacification of the North (Black Rose, 1973), p 20. The authors argue that governments have long been leery of ceding power to the UN under the Genocide Convention. The Canadian government exempted itself from many of the provisions within the Convention while the US government had refused to ratify it because it interfered with its national sovereignty [the 1948 Genocide Convention was subsequently ratified by the US government in 1988 “although U.S. ‘Reservations’ and ‘Understandings’ at ratification make it as difficult as possible to apply the Convention to the U.S. government (John Bart Gerald, “Is the U.S. Really a Signatory to the U.N. Convention on Genocide?” Serendipity, 1995)].
(2) Kim Petersen, “A Tale of Two Ethnic Cleansings,” Dissident Voice, 17 June 2004. What is the logic of taking up of the case of new atrocities and leaving old atrocities to continue to fester?
(3) Anne Penketh, “Darfur: Never again?,” The Independent (UK), 26 January 2005
(4) Francis A. Boyle “Palestine Should Sue Israel for Genocide before the International Court of Justice,” Media Monitors, 2 December 2000. Renowned international law professor Boyle makes the case for bringing the Genocide Convention to bear on the Israeli government for having “ruthlessly implemented a systematic and comprehensive military, political, and economic campaign with the intent to destroy in substantial part the national, ethnical and racial group known as the Palestinian People.”
(5) Les Roberts, Riyadh Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi, Gilbert Burnham, “Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey, The Lancet, 29 October 2004
(6) Rick Salutin, “Don’t mistake elections for democracy,” Globe and Mail, 28 January 2005. Salutin points out the selective nature of the US government’s regard for democracy by citing examples of US abhorrence of democratic outcomes in Nicaragua and Algeria. While there are numerous historical examples to cite, Salutin might also have updated this selective US abhorrence of democratic results to today’s Haiti and Venezuela.
(7) Martin Merzer, Ron Hutcheson and Drew Brown, “War begins in Iraq with strikes aimed at ‘leadership targets,’” Knight Ridder, 20 March 2003
(8) Dahr Jamail, “Dispatches from Iraq: ‘Unusual’ Weapons Used in Fallujah,” Dissident Voice, 29 November 2004. “They used everything -- tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground.”
Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen
Rationale of Suicide Bombing
* The Progressive Paradox: Defining Viability
* The Shame
* The Wrong Direction
* The Pornography of War