Thursday, July 24, 2014

EdwardSHerman. DavidPeterson. The Politics of genocide. Monthly Review Press. 2010. 01. Constructive genocides.

Constructive Genocides

In terms of the number of human lives taken and the awareness among policymakers that this was the likely consequence of their policies, perhaps the largest genocidal action of the last thirty years was the economic sanctions imposed upon Iraq following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. First adopted by Security Council Resolution 661 to compel Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait, the U.S. and British victors in the 1991 war on Iraq pressed the Council to adopt a new Resolution 687, following Iraq’s defeat, that demanded the destruction of Iraq’s chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its ballistic missiles; a Special Commission was created to supervise Iraq’s compliance. (37) In this way, a mechanism was established that enabled the United States and Britain, by denying that Iraq was in compliance with UN 687, to compel the Special Commission and Security Council to find that Iraq was not in compliance, thereby preventing the lifting of the sanctions.
Enforced chiefly by the U.S. and British governments, UN 687’s devastating sanctions prevented Iraq from repairing its water, sanitation, and electrical systems, all of which were deliber-ately destroyed during the massive bombing attacks of the war. A postwar assessment by the New York Times of the “Bush Administration’s internal findings” on the damage inflicted by the U.S. bombing campaign reported that “Iraq has, for some time to come, been relegated to a pre-industrial age, but with all the disabilities of post-industrial dependency on an intensive use of energy and technology.” One confidential source, who “played a central role in the air campaign,” even admitted to the Washington Post that so-called “Strategic bombing ... strikes [were aimed] against ‘all those things that allow a nation to sustain itself’” (38)—all those things “indispensable to the survival of [Iraq’s] civilian population,” to use the phrasing of the 1979 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions. (39)
Over the next thirteen years, none of these systems was returned to their pre-war state. Thomas Nagy observes that as early as January 22, 1991, just days into the bombing phase of the war, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency predicted that as Iraq depends on the importation of “specialized equipment and some chemicals” to supply its people with clean water, the failure to “secure supplies will result in a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population,” and lead to “increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease.” Based on this and subsequent U.S. planning documents, Nagy concludes that the “United States knew sanctions had the capacity to devastate the water treatment system of Iraq. It knew what the consequences would be: increased outbreaks of disease and high rates of child mortality.... The United States has deliberately pursued a policy of destroying the water treatment system of Iraq, knowing full well the cost in Iraqi lives.” (40)
The sanctions and the Sanctions Committee’s power to dispense or to withhold repair projects led Denis Halliday, the first UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs in Iraq, to resign his post in 1998, calling the impact of the sanctions “genocide.” His successor, Hans von Sponeck, quickly reached the same conclu-sion and resigned as well. A UN assessment in 1999 found “continuing degradation of the Iraqi economy with an acute deterioration in the living conditions of the Iraqi population and severe strains on its social fabric.... [T]he Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures adopted by the Security Council and the effects of war.” (41) A mortality survey carried out jointly that same year by UNICEF and the World Health Organization estimated that “children under five are dying at twice the rate they were [in 1989],” and that had this not been the case, half-a-million more children would have been alive at the end of the decade. (42)
This phase of the great Iraqi bloodbath “was not accidental nor the result of ignorance,” von Sponeck writes. “While [the U.S.–U.K. representatives on the Sanctions Committee] would painstakingly scrutinize Iraq Government orders for electricity spare parts and replacement equipment and would, phase by phase, block significant numbers of purchase requests for areas under Baghdad’s jurisdiction, the Sanctions Committee approved, with rare exceptions, all orders for Kurdistan.” (43) The same pattern was repeated for all infrastructure repair requests, as “almost 100 percent of all items put on hold by the sanctions committee of the UN Security Council during the oil-for-food programme period (1996–2003) was due to the U.S. and U.K. governments.” The sanctions regime “indiscriminately punished the Iraqi population as a whole,” von Sponeck writes elsewhere, and was judged “unequivocally illegal under existing international humanitarian law and human rights law” by the UN Economic and Social Council. (44) Indeed, this murderous economic warfare was labeled “sanctions of mass destruction” by John Mueller and Karl Mueller in 1999; they estimated that the sanctions had “been a necessary cause of the deaths of more people in Iraq than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history.” (45)
The normalization of this deliberate U.S. mass killing of civilians was starkly revealed in May 1996, when CBS TV’s Lesley Stahl asked UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright whether she believed the “price” of a reported half-a-million Iraqi children deaths was “worth it.”

Lesley Stahl: We have heard that a half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?
Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it. (46)

Of course, the sanctions-regime never brought about the removal of Saddam Hussein, and was probably never intended to remove his regime; it did, however, fulfill the U.S. (George Bush I, Bill Clinton, and George Bush II) and U.K. (John Major and Tony Blair) policy of reversing the material and political gains of the once rapidly modernizing country of Iraq as a leading power in the Middle East, while weakening it in advance of an invasionoccupation that began in 2003.
We may note that Lesley Stahl didn’t question Albright’s response, much less criticize her for it; nor for that matter did a single one of the “humanitarian” war and “responsibility to protect” intellectuals with whose work we are familiar. This thirteenyear-long mass killing was Constructive; Iraq’s hundreds-of-thousands of victims were unworthy of official notice and therefore of no interest to the establishment media and intellectuals. The deaths inflicted by the “sanctions of mass destruction” are thus not mentioned in establishment accounts as a U.S. “failure” to respond to the crime of genocide in this “age of genocide.” Nor, with the United States a perpetrator rather than a bystander, is the question of accountability ever raised.
This deep bias can be seen in the media treatment shown in Table 1, which tabulates the newspapers’ usage of the word “genocide” for the Iraq sanctions regime (and the later Iraq inva-sion and occupation), among other cases of mass killings. (47) The table shows that there were only eighty references to “genocide” stemming from the sanctions regime, whereas for Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, and Darfur, four Nefarious cases, the usage ran to 481, 323, 3,199, and 1,172, respectively, despite the much greater toll from the Iraq sanctions in all but the Rwanda case; and for the Congo, a Benign case, usage was a mere seventeen.

TABLE 1: Differential attributions of “genocide” to different theaters of atrocities [A]

or Cause
Deaths per
Print Media
Use of
per Theater
Ratio of
Usage (80,
Iraq Sanctions
as Base [B]
Ratio of
Deaths to
Usage [C]
10,000 to 1
The U.S.-U.K.
War and
13 [D]
76,923 to 1
13 [D]
69 to 1
12 to 1
250 to 1
Dem. Rep.
of Congo
317,647 to 1
256 to 1

[A] Factiva database searches carried out under the Newspapers: All” category in January 2009. The exact search parameters are described in note 47. We used the database operators w/5 and * to capture all variations of the word “genocide” (e.g., genocidal, genocidaires) occurring anywhere in the title or text within five words of the other primary search term; and we used the limiter not to exclude all items that also mentioned any one or more of the other search terms.
[B] This table adopts the number 80 (Row 1, Col. 3) as its base for all subsequent calculations; the totals in Col. 4 result from the totals in Col. 3 divided by 80.
[C] The totals in Col. 5 result from the totals in Col. 2 divided by the totals in Col. 3.
[D] See Table 2, below.

If we use the Iraq Economic Sanctions period as our base period for comparison, setting the eighty instances of media use of “genocide” to describe this period equal to the number 1, we see in Column 4 of Table 1 the extent of media bias. The bare ratios for usage of these six cases of mass killings are 0.2 for the 2003–2009 war (“genocide” was used to describe this period onefifth as often as the Sanctions period), 6 for Bosnia (six times as often), 4 for Kosovo, 40 for Rwanda, 15 for Darfur, and only 0.2 for the Congo (unlike the Sanctions period and the Iraq war, this is a Benign case). Adjusting these for the actual numbers killed, the ratios of death-tolls to usage of “genocide” flies out of sight for Iraq and especially for the Congo (see Column 5), where the victims are very numerous but unworthy, in contrast with the victims of Western targets. As we will see, the bias is maintained for other bloodbaths based on their political status.

It is notorious that the U.S. media, some by their own belated admission, (48) served as virtual government press agents during the eighteen-month run-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Although the devastating effects of the ongoing U.S. war and occupation have been harder to ignore than were the effects of the thirteen-year-long sanctions regime (largely because U.S. troops have been on the scene and suffering significant casualties, though only a small percentage of the total), the major political, media, and intellectual sectors of the U.S. establishment still have proven remarkably able to downplay the suffering and human losses of Iraq’s civilian population.
When serious studies estimated Iraqi deaths since the start of the war in March 2003 at 98,000, then climbing to 655,000, and then again to more than one million, with the overwhelming majority of these deaths attributed to violent causes, (49) the media and intellectuals rarely treated Iraqi deaths as a consequence— direct or indirect—of the invasion-occupation, let alone as a deliberately imposed bloodbath, crime against humanity, or “genocide.” Readers may be sure that in the context of Iraq coverage, the media never quoted Nuremberg’s Judgment or alluded to the U.S. war as a “supreme international crime” and to its statement that the “accumulated evil of the whole”—hence, responsibility as well—flows from the central act of aggression. (50) Also notable is the fact that in this case where their government was the aggressor, clearly violating the UN Charter by invading another country, the establishment media and intellectuals almost uniformly ignored questions about its compatibility with the rule of law. In their study of the New York Times’ coverage of war, Howard Friel and Richard Falk found that, “despite the fact that an invasion of one country by another implicated the most fundamental aspects of the UN Charter and international law, the New York Times’s editorial page never mentioned the words ‘UN Charter’ or ‘international law’ in any of its seventy editorials on Iraq from September 11, 2001 to March 21, 2003.” (51) The media also failed to grant knowledgeable critics of this planned act of aggression the time and space to express their beliefs and to call for accountability for the responsible political leaders, though they have welcomed commentators eager to dismiss such concerns.
The same holds true (if to a lesser degree of exclusion) for the general humanitarian disaster in Iraq, including a displacement crisis that remains one of the world’s gravest, with at one time well over four million Iraqis having been driven from their homes, roughly half of them fleeing to neighboring countries. (52) Only modest attention was given to the destruction and looting of Iraq’s archaeological heritage, perhaps the most valuable in the entire world. The assault started with the first Gulf War in 1991, but greatly escalated from March 2003 into an incalculable cultural disaster. Eleanor Robson of All Souls College placed its seriousness in historical perspective: “You’d have to go back centuries, to the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in 1258, to find looting on this scale.” (53) The U.S. leadership keeps good company.
It should also be noted that the pre-invasion bombing campaign, launched by the U.S. and U.K. governments to destroy what remained of Iraq’s air defenses as part of their preparation for the 2003 invasion, went unreported by the news media until three years later. (54) But in 2002, the tonnage of bombs dropped on Iraq by U.S. and U.K. fighter-bombers rose from zero in March, to 54.6 tons in September, and 53.2 tons in December. (55) Remarkably, although Iraq complained about these offensive breaches of the peace, nobody paid attention, despite the fact that Iraq filed documentation about them on a regular basis with the UN Security Council and the Secretary-General, as it had been doing for many years. (56) This actual start of this second phase of the great Iraqi bloodbath, as early as the spring of 2002, was never reported by any contemporaneous U.S. source we have been able to find.
Nor have the illegalities of U.S. policy during the occupation been carefully examined now that the removal of the former regime has been accomplished. With UN Security Council Resolution 1546 in early June 2004, (57) the United States even managed to secure retroactive legitimation of its military seizure of a sovereign country. In letters reproduced in the Annex to this breathtaking rewriting of history, Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who had been imposed by the Coalition Provisional Authority (i.e., by the occupying U.S. forces) only days before, requested that the U.S. military remain in Iraq as the leader of the so-called Multinational Force; in U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s reply, the United States solemnly pledged to do so. For its part, the Security Council played along with this farce, accepting that the “multinational force in Iraq is at the request of the incoming Interim Government... ,” thereby adding the Council’s de jure seal of approval to the U.S. invasion-occupation, the gravest violation of the UN Charter in recent memory. Also unexamined by the media is the Status of Forces Agreement between the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the U.S. invader-occupier, which grants U.S. forces colonial privileges. (58) Also contrary to international law will be any new legislation drafted under a military occupation that governs all facets of the extraction and shipment of Iraq’s oil and gas resources, as well as the distribution of the revenues. The latter is particularly contentious and was still incomplete well into 2009, as the Kurdish Regional Government remains eager to strike its own deals and serious tensions are growing inside Iraq between the Kurdish north and the Arab south. (59)
The April and later November 2004 attacks that destroyed much of Fallujah and depopulated a city of some 250,000 inhabitants have been compared to the Nazis’ 1937 bombing of Guernica, Spain, (60) although these were much larger assaults than that carried out by the Nazis, with vastly more sophisticated and lethal weaponry and firepower, and left more devastation and casualties. But with civilian killings largely kept off the official books, and, even when acknowledged, treated tolerantly for these unworthy victims, such killings and bloodbaths by the United States and its allies have been thoroughly normalized. High officials of the new Obama administration display no guilt about the mass killing and devastation caused by their predecessor. Indeed, in their view, it is the Iraqis who owe the United States a debt. As Vice President Joseph Biden explained, “we’ve expended our blood and treasure in order to back their commitment to their constitution” (61)—a bald-faced lie, as the U.S. “investment” was based on the fabricated threat of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” and on the real aim of projecting U.S. power into this oilrich region. Biden’s statement also ignores the monumentally greater costs in Iraqi blood and treasure exacted by his government’s “supreme international crime.”
Amusingly, we can see in Table 2 that while thirteen newspaper references to “genocide” in Iraq in the years 2004–2008 deal with the effects of the invasion-occupation, more than triple that number, forty-eight, apply the word to Saddam Hussein’s longsince defunct regime, and fifty-four mention it to describe the possible consequences of a civil war or a U.S. withdrawal. (62) As in the case of Vietnam, the real bloodbath, engineered by the United States, cannot be acknowledged; only enemies and targets of the United States can commit the crime officially labeled “genocide.”

TABLE 2: Attributions of “genocide” in the case of Iraq, 2004 –2008 [A]

Perpetrator – Cause of the Genocide
Print Media Use of ‘Genocide’
The 2003 War and Occupation
The 13-Year Sanctions Regime
The Saddam Hussein Regime
Sectarian Conflict or Post-U.S. Withdrawal

[A] Factiva database searches carried out under the “Newspapers: All” category in January 2009. The exact search parameters were those used in Table 1, Row 2. (See note 62.)

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