December 28, 2005


"I just read the incredible Fisk materials," William Osborne writes. "His observations, and the ways he states them, are stunning. As he so clearly demonstrates, journalistic euphemisms to mask atrocities have become a part of our 'culture.' Orwellian.

"And I very much appreciate Doug Ireland's postscript comments in WHAT'S GOIN' ON?, since he brings to the fore a very important issue. He says that the word 'genocide' has 'a very precise meaning.' Unfortunately, that is not true. It is only within the last century that humanity has even begun to address genocide. Our thinking about it is still very confused."

Osborne continues:

Most dictionaries define genocide in very simplistic and absolutist terms. The American Heritage Dictionary, for example, says that genocide is "The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group."

Such definitions beg obvious questions. What would define "planned"? How planned were the events in Rwanda? What does "entire" mean? In the Balkans, Moslems were exterminated only in areas where it was deemed a necessary part of ethnic cleansing. Was it not genocide because the murder took place only within specific cities and regions? In Sebrenica 8000 Moslem men and boys were mass murdered. Was it not genocide because the women and girls were spared?

And how do we define national, racial, political, and ethnic groups in a world where these delineations are often very fluid? What percentage of a specific group do you have to murder before it becomes genocide? And how wide does the geography of mass murder have to be before it becomes genocide? Isn't there also such a thing as cultural genocide -- the systematic and violent destruction of a people's identity? How would that be defined? What role does cultural genocide play in helping us to define, prove, and punish physical genocide?

These considerations illustrate that our definitions of genocide are still vague and confused. We have not developed laws that define the many manifestations and degrees of genocide, much less codes that would define the necessary proofs and levels of punishment. Humanity is gradually developing an understanding that it needs a World Court, and this will require new bodies of law. Our vague definitions of genocide will need to be clarified by philosophers and legal theorists.

Naturally, many of our leaders will want to set the bar for the definition of genocide so high and narrow that they will be able to wriggle underneath it. This will be especially true for our Generals. We should not be fooled by that Four Star ruse.

We are arming and training a large Shia/Kurdish majority to fight a dirty, ethnic civil war against a disempowered and deeply hated Sunni minority. History illustrates that over the next 15 years this could lead to a systematic, mass destruction of a large portion of Iraq's Sunni population and their culture. As I've previously estimated, depending on how events evolve, the potential ranges from 500,000 to 1.8 million people through death or exile.

This could be avoided, but if it happens, should those who caused the civil war and who armed its participants be held responsible for some form of genocide? We already know that the invasion was illegal. What about its consequences?

See this from Der Spiegel Online:

Guatemala, 1981-1983

In the history of Guatemala's bloody 36 years of civil war from 1960 to 1996, the early 80s stand out as a period of particular viciousness. In what became known as "The Silent Holocaust," the Guatemalan army methodically worked its way through the country's Mayan communities, killing men, women and children. A total of 200,000 people died during the war, many thousands of them Mayan victims of genocide.