Tag Archives: Genocide

‘Genocide’: All Jargon, No Penance

Much with all subjects, thanks to the television and the internet, humanity has been blindsided with too much information and desensitization to important issues. With all this info, what can we do about it?

Like Ashoka, who converted himself and his state to Buddhism after his army slaughtered 100,000 at Kalinga, humanity needs to feel horrible about what has been done (whether it fits the definition of genocide or not). It must be learned and moved on from, taken as a lesson…instead, we dally and bicker over details.  The failure is with modern bureaucracy.14850-asokacopy-1354542624-535-640x480

Before WW2 and since the dawn of mankind, news of such events traveled much slower, if it was ever heard at all.There are “genocidal acts” being committed everyday, yet we don’t go to war. Is it a matter of going after those trying to “rule the world,” or entering into a conflict under the banner of genocide when its an economic interest.

There is failure in the term ‘Genocide’ because it lacks universality. Because I use it, doesn’t “mean” a thing (well, yes, but beyond philosophically). The people who have the power to effect change need to use it, or otherwise prove the term worthless. Merely a business decision.

When people with the power to label such events ignore it, it doesn’t mean that it is forgotten.  The lack of acknowledgement brings resentment, and instead of an opportunity to learn and better humanity, the inaction of bystanders is reinforced as an acceptable human behavior.

Good recent article: Is Preventing Genocide Possible?

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Asia Minor: Clash of Religions

Asia Minor is the area of the Asian continent encompassed by Turkey.

map via: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/shepherd/asia_minor_p20.jpg

map via: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/shepherd/asia_minor_p20.jpg

It is basically the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe.  It was multi-ethnic for thousands of years.  Over time, Muslims from all over Asia settled in the area.  The area that the Christian Armenians inhabited is almost right in the middle of Asia Minor. They would face expulsion when ultra-nationalist Turks came to power. The conflict was that Armenians were Christian in a country which pressed for one religion (Islam). In a wave of Islamic fundamentalism, the Christian Armenians were considered infidels.

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Genocide? ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Instead

The term “ethnic cleansing” was used as a euphemism for ‘genocide’ during the Bosnian conflict.banja-luka-ethnic-cleansing-of-bosniaks-bosnian-muslims-and-bosnian-croats

The CIA study found that the Serbs were responsible for most of the “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia. While Croatian and Muslims had committed crimes, they “lacked the sustained intensity, orchestration, and scale of the Bosnian Serb’s efforts.”

It is estimated that the Serbs were responsible for 90% of the atrocities there.  Bill Clinton, as part of the effort to avoid US involvement, was convincing in claiming that atrocities were committed equally on both sides.

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Genocide: An Inexacting Buzz Word

France Rwanda Genocide

Genocide is: Killing members of a group or causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.  It can also be describe inflicting conditions on a group to bring about their destruction, as well as preventing births within the group and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Not to belittle the term, or those who experienced violent and barbaric equivalencies as mentioned above, but by those definitions, genocide occurs here, in our own country, first, and still, with the Indian population and shortly afterwards, the black population.  These demographics have consistently, since the inception of this country, have been subject killing and bodily harm by state sanctioned or popularly led actions; though the brutality of such grievous treatment is in remission, elements of hatred based on race still exist. Genocide prerequisites such as “mental harm” to the group are evidenced in land appropriations, forced relocations and legal codes meant to stifle and isolate. The lack of reparations is obvious; the United States still exists: there is no Iroquois Confederacy or Cherokee nation or a sovereign Lakota territory within American borders.

I say this because the term fails.  Its non-usage in the face of obvious atrocities, such as those in Bosnia or Rwanda, almost shows that the term is only applicable so long as the victim is white, Jewish or a popular form of Christianity.  Inaction almost wiped out the Jews and Armenians, and UN idleness in the last few instances that fit the genocide definition, almost resulted in the same for their respective peoples.  The use of the label is inexact, although, I’m sure, a sincere attempt to redress what could just be simply put: barbarism. I say we forget about the nomenclature, and work to stamp out barbarism in our own society and others we are in league with, rather than deliberating incessantly over the term ‘genocide’ and when and if each situation deserves to be legally defined as such.

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“Genocide” – Still a Crime w/out a Name

centurys-first-genocide-2

“The aggressor … retaliates by the most frightful cruelties. As his Armies advance, whole districts are being exterminated. Scores of thousands – literally scores of thousands – of executions in cold blood are being perpetrated … there has never been methodical, merciless butchery on such a scale, or approaching such a scale.

And this is but the beginning. Famine and pestilence have yet to follow … We are in the presence of a crime without a name.”

***

On August 24, 1941, Winston Churchill broadcast the atrocities being committed against Jews and Jewish Bolsheviks in Eastern Russia by Nazi forces.  The worst of the Holocaust was still to come, and post-war, name would be invented to describe these crimes. [1] “The crime of … deliberately wiping out whole peoples is not utterly new in the world,” Rafael Lemkin would say in 1945.  “It is so new in the traditions of civilized man that he has no name for it.” Setting out to label these crimes, he formed the word “genocide,” combining words “genes” for race or tribe, and the Latin ending “–cide” for killing.[2]  This simple term and its subsequent use and non-use would eventually be the subject of great debate.  For the interracial courts to prosecute someone for genocide, the charges would have to be clear.  Sometimes, even the most heinous human rights abuses never obtain the label.  Recent situations, such as the crisis in Sudan highlight the frustrations of the word, and how it is used.  In his autobiographical account, “What is the What,” ‘Lost Boy’ Achak Deng witnesses many of the atrocities that the United Nations (UN) considers genocide — yet the crisis still fails to receive the official designation.  The UN and the rest of the world, in its dalliance upon the issue, are cold in their consideration of the separated families, uprooted lives, and merciless, cold blooded death since the beginning of the conflict.

The United Nations would define the term at the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” Adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1948, the nine articles call genocide “a crime under international law, contrary to the spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilized world.”  Article II of the convention names a series of acts that are prosecutable offenses when “committed with intent to destroy … a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, such as:  a) Killing members of the group; b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”[3]  The events that Deng witnessed amount to ‘acts of genocide’ and seem fit the definition, but lack the term officially. In his time in south Sudan, he recalls experiences similar to the listed Article II items, in much more descriptive and harrowing language.

When the murahaleen entered his hometown of Marial Bai, Deng recalled, first, the “crack of gunfire.” There were easily two hundred, three hundred or more.”  Thinking the men were there only to steal the cattle, soon the “sky broke open with gunfire.”  The invaders would burn down the church, and kill indiscriminately taking slaves when it suited them.  “Those who ran were shot.  Those women and children who stood still were herded onto the soccer field. A grown man made the mistake of joining this herd, and was shot … He was tied by the feet and dragged by a pair of horses” [4]  Indiscriminate killing would seem to be an act of genocide, if “killing members of the group” is literally interpreted. But here it is not.  Situations like this were not mere isolated incidents, they occurred throughout southern Sudan, and the Dinka people were the common victims to Moslem raiding parties of the north.  Wells were poisoned, with the bodies of family members.  Houses, if not burnt initially, would be burnt in the next invasion, causing further depravity and bodily harm.   Those who managed to run a distance were picked off by long range rifle. As prerequisite of Article II, if the case of bodily harm was dismissed, surely the psychological harm should be noticed–these were acts of terror and extermination.

Deng’s time in the desert with the Lost Boys, also fits genocide criteria on paper.  A forced walk in the desert, surviving the ferocity of African wildlife and limited food resources, for weeks on end, could be argued as “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”  To expect children to survive such a march is improbable.[5] Another Article II item, the prevention of births, occurred from the start, with the kidnapping of girls and women into slavery.  With the deaths and capture of young men and women, such as Deng’s childhood friend Moses and future potential mothers like his boyhood crush, Amath, a generation or more … perhaps the entire Dinka existence, is left in limbo. With no women left free to reproduce and populate the tribe, the tribe would in essence, cease to exist.

Lemkin notes “the term does not necessarily signify mass killings although it may mean that. More often it refers to a coordinated plan aimed at destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups so that these groups wither and die like plants that have suffered a blight.”[6] Was Deng’s experience not considered coordinated enough to be called genocide?  The definition given by the UN is too vague and problematic to serve these modern unnamed crimes. Is not murder, rape, and enslavement a crime against humanity? Perhaps the term ‘genocide’ has lost its effectiveness, or become a shell of its former meaning.   Could it be that genocide is specific word that only properly defines the events of the Holocaust?  Lemkin concedes that “genocide is too disastrous a phenomenon to be left to fragmentary regulation. There must be an adequate mechanism for international cooperation in the punishment of the offenders.” There needs to be a new way of classifying these atrocities, one that can’t be debated in the midst of crisis and for years afterwards.  “Genocide” still can’t define these “crimes with no name.” A new term, broader in its application and less tangled in bureaucracy, is needed[7]: ‘Genocide’ still doesn’t adequately define these “crimes without a name.”

Works Cited

Eggers, Dave (2006). “What is the What.”  Vintage Books, New York. p. 91-93

Fussell, James T. “A crime without a name.” Prevent Genocide International. http://www.preventgenocide.org/genocide/crimewithoutaname.htm  (accessed April 30, 2009)

Lemkin, Rafael. “Genocide-a modern crime.” Prevent Genocide International. http://www.preventgenocide.org/lemkin/freeworld1945.html  (accessed April 30, 2009)

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Geneva, Switzerland.  Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/p_genoci.htm  (accessed April 30, 2009)

[1] Fussell, James T. “A crime without a name.” Prevent Genocide International. http://www.preventgenocide.org/genocide/crimewithoutaname.htm  (accessed April 30, 2009)

[2] Lemkin, Rafael. “Genocide-a modern crime.” Prevent Genocide International. http://www.preventgenocide.org/lemkin/freeworld1945.html  (accessed April 30, 2009)

[3] Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Geneva, Switzerland.  Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/p_genoci.htm  (accessed April 30, 2009)

[4] Eggers, Dave (2006). “What is the What.”  Vintage Books, New York. p. 91-93

[5] It is in this author’s opinion, that if the murahaleen had the resources to find and exterminate the Lost Boys, they would have.

[6] Lemkin, Rafael. “Genocide-a modern crime.” Prevent Genocide International. http://www.preventgenocide.org/lemkin/freeworld1945.html  (accessed April 30, 2009)

[7] The author’s suggestion is simply “Human Rights Abuse,” but as with the term ‘genocide,’ even that phrase is tangled in red tape.

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