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"See No Evil"
Amazing People are Denying Every Genocide in Sight

Issue 11, Fall 2012
G P N   S T O R Y

Story of a Guardian column by George Monbiot and Responses by Adam Jones, Linda Melvern, Marko Attila, and an Excerpt from Martin Shaw

In May 2012, George Monbiot published in the London Guardian, an article "See No Evil."

Monbiot poses a question about the amazing denials of genocides that are proliferating from once well-thought-of writers and thinkers who he characterizes as "the internationalist left."  Monbiot's question is, "How did genocide denial become a doctrine of the internationalist left?"

The author observes about himself that he has become obsessed with the puzzle of how bonafide scholars and "intellectual luminaries" can write such utter nonsense and "infectious idiocy."  He says that he first raised the issue when he wrote a strong critique of the book, "The Politics of Genocide," by Edward Herman (sp?) and David Peterson in which the two "downplay or dismiss" both the  Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the genocide of the Bosnians in Srebrenica in 1995.  So who killed the victims?  In Rwanda, it plain gets reversed and the victims become the victimizers.  [Ed. Note: A major phenomenon in strategies of denialists we have learned]. "The great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million" and they were murdered by the Tutsi's. (Monbiot refers to page 54 of the Herman and Peterson book for this quote). In Srebrenica, the killers are "undetermined."

Monbiot writes how he then suffered additional shocks to his system when he wrote a well-known left-wing publisher to get coverage of this madness and publisher "flatly refused."   So then Monbiot went on to a great hero of his, Noam Chomsky, who had written the Foreword to Herman and Peterson's book [Ed's. Note: Foreword's to deniers' books in Chomsky's life began a long time ago with his famous foreword to a book denying the Holocaust by George Faurisson, for which many of us never forgave Chomsky despite his gifted intellectual contributions to linguistics].

"I wrote to Noam Chomsky, a hero of mine, who provided the Foreword to Hermann and Peterson's book, asking whether he had read it [Ed: One of Chomsky's famous defenses of his much criticized Foreword to the Faurisson Holocaust denial book was that he never read the book but that he wrote the Foreword because he believes that everyone should be able to say everything] and whether he accepted the account it contains of the Rwandan genocide and the massacre of Srebrenica.  Watching that brilliant mind engage in high handed dismissal and distraction has been profoundly depressing.  While failing to answer my questions, he accused me of following the Washington script [Ed. Note: The reference is to the Washington DC propaganda of the US, Chomsky's number one target]."

Monbiot concludes that is what is going on has to be viewed as more than "the kind of esoteric infighting to which the left too often succumbs," and that what is involved is a critical human rights issue.  "If people who claim to care about justice and humanity cannot resist what looks to me like blatant genocide denial we find ourselves in a very dark place."

Source: Monbiot, George (May 22, 2012).  See No Evil.  Guardian, London.

Please click here to see the full article which also provides full references

The author, George Monbiot, asked four of the world's leading genocide scholars to comment. The following are some of the commentaries that were posted by the Guardian in response to George Monbiot.


Statement by Professor Adam Jones, University of British Columbia, Okanagan, author of Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction

"Ed Herman's shift from unmasking atrocities, as with Vietnam, to denying and concealing them in the cases of Srebrenica and Rwanda, is one of the most depressing things I have witnessed on the left. Herman began grinding a denier's axe on Srebrenica soon after the events - perhaps out of some nostalgic attachment to the oppressive and atrocious 'Yugoslav' government of Slobodan Milosevic. His more recent intervention on Rwanda is truly his nadir. He has demonstrated no past familiarity or competence with this case, and yet he advances what is probably the most systematic denial of the Tutsi genocide I have ever read, at least from anyone who's not on trial for genocide or defending them.

"Herman and Peterson present an interpretation of the events in Rwanda from April to July 1994 that is a straightforward inversion of the reality accepted, and studied in intimate detail, by every major scholar and investigator of the subject. I am not aware of a single exception in comparative genocide studies and scholarship on Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. This is quite analogous to declaring that the Jewish Holocaust did not occur, and in fact, the real victims were Germans slaughtered by Jews. Herman and Peterson contend that the 'only well-organized' killing force in Rwanda during this period was the Tutsi-dominated RPF. The RPF certainly committed major and possibly genocidal atrocities in Rwanda in 1994, claiming tens of thousands of victims. But this was dwarfed by the Hutu holocaust of Tutsis, which exterminated up to a million people. Herman and Peterson completely obfuscate the agents of 'Hutu Power,' the killing squads that roamed every corner of Rwanda available to them for week after week, hunting down every last ragged Tutsi survivor they could find, checking in and out of their day's duties like clockwork. They were organized and mobilized by an apparatus of hate that sprang into immediate action when the Hutu president Habyarimana's plane was shot down in April 1994. How much detailed pre-planning of the killing there was is a legitimate question. But to baldly deny that systematic and generalized killing of Tutsis occurred in those three apocalyptic months is to deny the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings, and to do it in such a casual and malicious way that it leaves me slack-jawed.

"There is also a sense in which, while not racist in themselves, Herman and Peterson's contentions rely on the racism once described by a central object of their criticism, the late Alison Des Forges. Talking about western inaction during the Tutsi genocide of 1994, she said that 'Rwanda was simply too remote … too poor, too little, and probably too black to be worthwhile.' Most people today have trouble telling Hutus from Tutsis in a country so distant from centers of power. And hey, who really cares anyway? That's the type of widespread ignorance and callousness that Herman and Peterson exploit - the kind they need, if their nonsense is to slide past."

Reprinted with permission of Adam Jones


Statement by Linda Melvern, investigative journalist and author of A People Betrayed and Conspiracy to Murder

"The work of Herman and Peterson is genocide denial; it is presented under the guise of scholarly debate. It is a part of a number of statements and articles aimed at obfuscating, distorting, minimising or even denying the genocide of the minority Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994.

"A programme of genocide denial was begun in April 1994 as the massacres spread. It was devised by the genocidaires themselves. Its aim was to prove to the world that the huge number of civilian deaths in Rwanda was due to "fighting" in a resumed civil war. This view was actively promoted by the Rwandan ambassador sitting in the UN Security Council in New York. Later on the campaign shifted focus and the perpetrators began desperately to try to prove that a plan to eliminate the Tutsi had never existed - there had been no Conspiracy to Murder. This one great lie would become the foundation stone of the defence case at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). It is a view actively promoted by key defence lawyers from the ICTR who claim that the genocide of the Tutsi is "a myth". They maintain that " a standard account" of events - or what has even been called an "idealised history" of events - is deeply flawed. Herman and Peterson have relied on genocidaires and their lawyers for their accounts of what they believe took place.

"There is overwhelming evidence to counter this common denial. The conclusions of the UN Security Council's Independent Commission of Experts in December 1994 reported to the Council that the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the crime of Genocide had been "massively violated" in Rwanda between April 6 and July 15. The experts had found "overwhelming evidence" to show that the extermination of the Tutsi had been premeditated and planned months in advance; a conspiracy to destroy Tutsi is confirmed as fact by judges at the ICTR.

"Over the years the manipulation of the evidence and disinformation has influenced journalists, students and academics. In France, in Belgium, in the USA, in Canada and in the UK the denial of the genocide of the Tutsi has served to detract from continuing efforts to investigate the circumstances of what happened; in my own case have been attempts to try to prevent publication of on-going research."

Reprinted with permission of Linda Melvern

The following is a "fair use" excerpt from the commentary of Martin Shaw who refused GPN permission to publish his entire note

Statement by Professor Martin Shaw, Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals / University of Roehampton / University of Sussex

"The ... question is why do the Chomskyites do it? The obvious answer is political: they have such a huge investment in the idea that the USA and the West are the source of all the world's evils, that they can only process information to fit this case. More complex answers might include, that like their fellow deniers in the former LM coterie, they are building an intellectual and political niche out of contrarian positions. The danger is that such nonsense, with its pseudo-scholarly apparatus of extensive footnotes and media science, finds a ready audience among the political idealistic."


Statement by Dr Marko Attila Hoare, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University, London

"The extent of Herman's and Peterson's cynicism in their misuse of source material is simply breathtaking. Thus, they make much of the findings of Mirsad Tokaca's Research and Documentation Centre (RDC), that total Bosnian war deaths - narrowly defined - were approximately 100,000. Yet where the RDC's findings contradict Herman's and Peterson's revisionist scribblings, they pass over them in silence. Thus, they continue both to deny the Srebrenica massacre and to parrot the myth that Bosnian Muslim forces themselves massacred thousands of Serbs in the Srebrenica region. Yet the RDC's findings have comprehensively disproved the latter myth while providing further strong evidence - if any were needed - that Serb forces massacred over eight thousand Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in July 1995.

"The RDC's figures show that 81.06% of all war deaths from the Podrinje region - where Srebrenica and the surrounding Serb villages are located -during the whole of the war were Muslims (a total of 16,940 civilians and 7,177 soldiers) while 18.73% were Serbs (870 civilians and 4,703) soldiers. The RDC's figures show that 10,333 people from the Podrinje region were killed during 1995; that over 93% of these were Muslims; and that 9,328 out of the 10,333 were killed during the single month of July. Conversely, the RDC has specifically investigated the Serb death-toll in the Bratunac municipality, where the bulk of Bosnian Army killings in the Srebrenica region are alleged to have taken place, and concluded that 119 Serb civilians and 448 Serb soldiers were killed there during the whole of the war. All this from a source that Herman and Peterson themselves loudly trumpet."

Reprinted with permission of Dr. Marko Attila Hoare

Sources: Comments reprinted with permission of Adam Jones, Linda Melvern and Marko Attila Hoare, plus as noted, a "fair use" quotation from Martin Shaw.  Posted on Monbiot.com