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The Politics of Genocide [Paperback]

Edward S. Herman , David Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 May 2010
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 expose 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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press,U.S. (25 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583672125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583672129
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.9 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 406,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Edward Herman and David Peterson have written a superb study of the uses of the term `genocide'. Herman is Professor Emeritus of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and Peterson is a journalist and researcher.

In 1973 Noam Chomsky and Herman wrote that the USA has "been the most important single instigator, administrator and moral and material sustainer of serious bloodbaths in the years that followed the Second World War." They cited the cases of the Philippines (1898-73), Thailand (1946-73), Palestine (1948-), Vietnam (1954-73), Central America (1954-), Indonesia (1965-69), Cambodia (1965-73), East Pakistan (1971) and Burundi (1972), More recently, Iraq (1990-), Rwanda (1994), the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] (1998-2007) and Afghanistan (2001-) have joined the grim list.

Herman and Peterson examine killings in Sudan, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and the DRC. They also study war crimes committed by US allies Israel, Croatia, the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, Turkey, Indonesia, El Salvador and Guatemala.

They note that the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda all exclude the crime of aggression from their jurisdiction. (Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch likewise exclude aggression from their remit.)

When, in 1999, the Yugoslav government asked the International Criminal Court to issue an injunction against the NATO powers bombing it, the US government replied that it had `not consented to the Court's jurisdiction in this case, and absent such consent, the Court has no jurisdiction to proceed'. The Court agreed that it `cannot decide a dispute between States without the consent of those States to its jurisdiction'.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST HAVE for every "aware" person 8 April 2011
Format:Paperback
In 90s I was just a boy growing on Balkan and thought that people of USA, UK and other traditional Serbian allies were manipulated by Croatian, Bosnian and later Kosovo Albanian propaganda and was angry. I thought they didn't know what was really happening and that Serbian enemies won media war while loosing the one on the field.

With help of this book also I today believe have a clue what have happened and I am not angry anymore but disappointed that Clinton administration can consider themselves being part of "civilized and democratic world".

Visit also Lord Byron's foundation for Balkan studies website and read more.

The truth is the highest aesthetics and can not be suppressed. Thanks to Herman and Peterson we didn't have to wait too long.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine addition to any political studies collection 17 July 2010
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There are few atrocities greater than genocide, but why does it so often go ignored? "The Politics of Genocide" delves into recent Genocides and why it has been used more often for political gain than anything else. This analysis asks many questions and provides many examples and discussion about various recent genocides from Darfur to Kosovo to even events like those that often happen in Israel's relations with Palestine. "The Politics of Genocide" is a fine addition to any political studies collection.
14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good study of the propaganda uses of the term 'genocide' 7 Sep 2010
By William Podmore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Edward Herman and David Peterson have written a superb study of the uses of the term `genocide'. Herman is Professor Emeritus of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and Peterson is a journalist and researcher.

In 1973 Noam Chomsky and Herman wrote that the USA has "been the most important single instigator, administrator and moral and material sustainer of serious bloodbaths in the years that followed the Second World War." They cited the cases of the Philippines (1898-73), Thailand (1946-73), Palestine (1948-), Vietnam (1954-73), Central America (1954-), Indonesia (1965-69), Cambodia (1965-73), East Pakistan (1971) and Burundi (1972), More recently, Iraq (1990-), Rwanda (1994), the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] (1998-2007) and Afghanistan (2001-) have joined the grim list.

Herman and Peterson examine killings in Sudan, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and the DRC. They also study war crimes committed by US allies Israel, Croatia, the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, Turkey, Indonesia, El Salvador and Guatemala.

They note that the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda all exclude the crime of aggression from their jurisdiction. (Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch likewise exclude aggression from their remit.)

When, in 1999, the Yugoslav government asked the International Criminal Court to issue an injunction against the NATO powers bombing it, the US government replied that it had `not consented to the Court's jurisdiction in this case, and absent such consent, the Court has no jurisdiction to proceed'. The Court agreed that it `cannot decide a dispute between States without the consent of those States to its jurisdiction'. The US state puts itself above the law it enforces on others.

Herman and Peterson recount how in April 1994, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, falsely alleging that the Hutus were conspiring to commit genocide. (Later, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda did not find any Hutu guilty of conspiracy to commit genocide.) The RPF killed Rwanda's Hutu President Habyarimana and began the mass killing: as the genocide started, the US and British governments successfully pressed for UN troops to leave. The Tutsi minority bloodily overthrew the democratic coalition government, killed two million people, mostly Hutu, and forced millions to flee Rwanda.

US allies Rwanda and Uganda repeatedly invaded the DRC in the 1990s and since: in 1998-2007, 5.4 million were killed, 20 times the toll in Darfur. In 2003-9, the US media used the word `genocide' 90 times as often of Darfur as of Iraq, where three times as many were killed. (The US-British sanctions of mass destruction (1990-2003) had killed 800,000 people; the war and occupation killed more than a million.) The International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur rejected in 2005 the charge of genocide against the Sudanese government.

The authors provide a mass of challenging evidence that the USA and its allies use the term genocide as a propaganda weapon against their enemies, while themselves committing worse crimes with impunity.
13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Troubling look at the quality of academic "Genocide Studies" and NGOs 14 May 2010
By A. Stamm - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I purchased this book. I am familiar with Chomsky and Herman's work on the Propaganda Model (Manufacturing Consent), with Chomsky's work on the state of liberal academics (Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship), and I've read much the same material cited in this book (particularly the books of Sam Powers, Philip Gourevitch, Alex de Waal). Somehow, though, I hadn't ever pieced it together the way Herman and Peterson do.

Herman and Peterson make the point that the terms genocide, massacre, and ethnic cleansing are applied with zeal towards official US or European enemies, and that they are almost entirely absent in descriptions of genocides, cleansings, and massacres carried out by the US or it's favored states. Parallel to this are the mainstream scholars in Genocide Studies and in various human rights organizations, who tend to accept the prevailing standards of what constitutes genocide (or not) uncritically, or outright collude in the propagation of such biased standards.

I've been wondering for some time whether to subscribe to Monthly Review magazine, which comes with a discount on books they publish. This book has definitely convinced me to do so.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read, if a Little Short 15 Aug 2012
By Brett A. MccUlly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Applying the "Propoganda Model" (crafted by Herman with Noam Chomsky; see Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media) to the recent history of genocide and bloodbaths, the Herman and Peterson demonstrate how politicized the term of genocide is: reserved for our official enemies, but ignored when the US or its allies carry out the killing.

The authors briefly review major bloodbaths and genocides in the past 30 years, particularly with regard to their depiction in the mainstream Western media. Thus readers should be aware that this book does not go deeply into the events and history surrounding the bloodbath/genocide.

Another question is why Afghanistan wasn't a separate case in the book. Dasht-e-Leili, a massacre of several thousand by the Northern Alliance, is included, but not the country as a whole. Since this treatment is granted to Iraq, it is unclear why it is not similarly given for Afghanistan. Even, for example, the initial bombings in late 2001 may have resulted in as many as 20,000 casualties. [1]

A casualty of the cursory treatment given to each atrocity is that competing narratives of a bloodbath/genocide are not given much space. This is not a problem for most of the cases, as they are generally uncontroversial at to the facts. However, the chapter on Rwanda has received strong backlash from some academics. Herman and Peterson appear to be aware of how controversial their thesis is (which is that it was the Hutus, and not the Tutsis who suffered the majority of casualties from the genocide), and devote the most text to it than for any other atrocity.

Having read Gerald Caplan's review of Politics of Genocide and the responses that followed, I've concluded the following, speaking as a non-expert on the Rwanda genocide:

*A key piece of evidence presented by the authors is a study written by Christian Davenport and Allan Stam; they quote from the study: "[t]he killings in the zone controlled by the FAR [i.e., the Hutu-controlled Armed Forces of Rwanda] seemed to escalate as the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front, the main Tutsi militia] moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased." (58) However, Herman and Peterson make no compelling case to attribute these killings to the RPF. On his blog, Adam Jones, a student of genocide, notes this "fits with a picture of Hutu Power agents lashing out genocidally at Tusis, in spasms that correlate with RPF advances."

*The authors also quote from a September 1994 State Department memo which notes that the "[RPF] and Tutsi civilian surrogates [killing] 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month, with the [RPF] accounting for 95% of the killing." (57) However, that would lead to, in a few months time, thirty or forty thousand Hutus dying, which conforms to the 'standard model' or the genocide. To reach the level of Hutu casualties argued for by Herman and Peterson, such a rate of killing would have to continue for more than five years for Hutus to make up a majority of casualties.

The authors do bring up an important point in that no Tutsi or member of the Kagame regime has been prosecuted for war crimes. If the above memo is correct, that is indeed a travesty of justice.

*The case that "the RPF was the only well-organized killing force within Rwanda in 1994" isn't made as strongly as it should have been, considering this part of the authors' argument is so integral to their overall conclusions. The authors state that three consecutive prime ministers were "either pro-RPF or subsidized by it", a pro-RPF minister headed the civilian intelligence agency, and "Rwanda's "integrated" military then combined the armed forces of the Tutisi-lead RPF that was seeking to overthrow the government alongside the government's regular army". (129) It's unclear why the government's regular army isn't considered a 'well-organized killing force' or, for that matter, why the Interahamwe militia isn't also included in this category. For example, according to Gerald Caplan [2], Belgian intelligence reported "at the end of 1993 that `The interahamwe are armed to the teeth and on alert...each of them has ammunition, grenades, mines and knives. They are all waiting for the right moment to act'".

*While informing the reader that the US desired a different regime in power in Rwanda, the authors never explain why. What was Habyarimana doing that was so objectionable to the US government?

*The authors claim that Tutsi forces mobilized "60 to 120 minutes" (56) after Rwandan president Habyarimana was killed, providing evidence that the killing was preplanned by the RPF. However, the source for this is a public lecture by Allen C. Stam; I may be nitpicking here, but a better source is preferable.

*Herman and Peterson find it "incredible in the extreme" that "Rwanda would be the first case in history in which a minority population, suffering destruction at the hands of its tormentors, drove its tormentors from power and assumed control of a country". (56-57) However, I agree with Adam Jones [3] that Herman and Peterson are "conflating Rwanda's civilian Tutsis with "Kagame's Tutsi forces"", given that the RPF was, by Herman and Peterson's own admission, an outside invading force.

*One point not mentioned in any of the responses to Herman and Peterson is why the Hutu government's UN ambassador pleaded for more UN peacekeepers while Paul Kagame and the RPF desired the opposite. It seems that those carrying out genocide would prefer not having outside observers of any kind.

One should be able to attack conventional wisdom, whether it's physics or genocide, without being attacked personally. Unfortunately Herman and Peterson were immediately labeled genocide deniers and part of the "lunatic fringe", as Caplan put them (the authors one-upped Caplan by accusing him of being a "genocide facilitator"). Their work deserves serious attention and, if necessary, serious rebuttals.

[1] Steele, Jonathan. May 20, 2001. "Forgotten victims". The Guardian.
[2] Caplan, Gerald. June 17, 2010. "The politics of denialism: The strange case of Rwanda". Pambazuka News.
[3] Jones, Adam. July 15, 2010. "On genocide deniers: Challenging Herman and Peterson". Pambazuka News.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars political econmy of human rights it ain't 16 Oct 2012
By Brenden J. Vigus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The work Herman did with Chomsky was very carefull and accurate. This book may be pretty much correct on most topics, but it's not a gread source of information (it's a pretty slim book). In regards to some topics they mention I'd recommend The Fateful Triangle, Pity the Nation, Defending the Holy Land, Political Economy of Human Rights vols 1 & 2, and Leave None to Tell the Story.

I have to give this one star because Herman and Peterson flatly deny a planned and executed extermination of Tutsi in Rwanda. Kagame indeed killed tens of thousands during this time; for the authors this isn't enough. In their mind, the majority of violence was exacted by the invading RLF, and the majority of the dead in the country were Hutu. Reading their responses to critiques of this position, I was absolutely disgusted. So much skirting! They talk at length about style, about authors they know... it's absolutely shameful. There is a literal mountain of first hand testimony relating to the '94 genocide. In fact the whole international community stood and watched on the ground and didn't intervene. H&P's evidence backing their assertion that this bulk of evidence is incorrect is breathtakingly thin. They have the statement of one general in the genocidal government and correspondence with his lawyer, and they mention that the main author of Leave None to Tell the Story worked for the U.S. in the past. Objectively, this doesn't do a damn thing to overturn that mountain of first-hand testimony. Honestly, H&P hung themselves out to dry with their section on Rwanda. Shame on them.
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