The Politics of Genocide

The Politics of Genocide

The Politics of Genocide

The Politics of Genocide

Synopsis

In this impressive book, Edward S. Herman and David Peterson examine the uses and abuses of the word "genocide." They argue persuasively that the label is highly politicized and that in the United States it is used by the government, journalists, and academics to brand as evil those nations and political movements that in one way or another interfere with the imperial interests of U.S. capitalism. Thus the word "genocide" is seldom applied when the perpetrators are U.S. allies (or even the United States itself), while it is used almost indiscriminately when murders are committed or are alleged to have been committed by enemies of the United States and U.S. business interests. One set of rules applies to cases such as U.S. aggression in Vietnam, Israeli oppression of Palestinians, Indonesian slaughter of so-called communists and the people of East Timor, U.S. bombings in Serbia and Kosovo, the U.S. war of "liberation" in Iraq, and mass murders committed by U.S. allies in Rwanda and the Republic of Congo. Another set applies to cases such as Serbian aggression in Kosovo and Bosnia, killings carried out by U.S. enemies in Rwanda and Darfur, Saddam Hussein, any and all actions by Iran, and a host of others.

With its careful and voluminous documentation, close reading of the U.S. media and political and scholarly writing on the subject, and clear and incisive charts, The Politics of Genocide is both a damning condemnation and stunning exposé of a deeply rooted and effective system of propaganda aimed at deceiving the population while promoting the expansion of a cruel and heartless imperial system.

Excerpt

By Noam Chomsky

Perhaps the most shattering lesson from this powerful inquiry is that the end of the Cold War opened the way to an era of virtual Holocaust denial. As the authors put it, more temperately, “[d]uring the past several decades, the word ‘genocide’ has increased in frequency of use and recklessness of application, so much so that the crime of the 20th Century for which the term originally was coined often appears debased.” Current usage, they show, is an insult to the memory of victims of the Nazis.

It may be useful, however, to recall that the practices are deeply rooted in prevailing intellectual culture, so much so that they will not be easy to eradicate. We can see this by considering the most unambiguous cases of genocide and cases in which the word has been debased, those in which the crime is acknowledged by the perpetrators, and passed over as insignificant or even denied in retrospect by the beneficiaries, right to the present.

Settler colonialism, commonly the most vicious form of imperial conquest, provides striking illustrations. the English colonists in North America had no doubts about what they were doing. Revolutionary War hero General Henry Knox, the first . . .

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