Thursday, July 24, 2014

EdwardSHerman. DavidPeterson. The Politics of genocide. Monthly Review Press. 2010. 02. Nefarious genocides.

Nefarious Genocides

Samantha Power once marveled about how the government in Khartoum “could hardly have predicted that an obscure, inaccessible Muslim region like Darfur would become a cause célèbre in America.” (63) Power is naive, ignoring the obvious facts that have made Darfur a predictably well-qualified candidate for a focus on villainy: That its government is dominated by Muslim Arabs; that the Sudan possesses oil, but that it is China rather than the United States or the West which has developed a strong relationship with Khartoum; and that the United States and Israel need distractions from their own human rights atrocities and those of their allies plundering the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Thus we read in Table 1 that “genocide” was used to describe Khartoum’s conduct in Darfur (i.e., inside the Sudan) ninety times as frequently as it was used to describe U.S. conduct in Iraq, a foreign country seized via a war of aggression and where more than three-times as many people died during the same years (2003–2009).
In fact, this far lower death-toll in Darfur had already begun to receive full “genocide” billing within twelve months of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army’s first armed attacks on Sudanese military posts and its accompanying political declaration in February and March 2003. (64) By March 2004, perhaps ten thousand people had died in Darfur and upwards of one million had fled their homes. Lobbying for foreign intervention, Mukesh Kapila, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sudan, called this the “world’s greatest humanitarian and human rights catastrophe” and “possibly the world’s hottest war.” The only question in Kapila’s mind was whether the events should be designated “ethnic cleansing” or “genocide.” (65)
Rhetoric such as this is crafted to elicit action: In the face of mass-atrocity crimes, we must do something—and even doing nothing is a form of doing something, as one of the tenets of “humanitarian” and R2P-type interventionism would have us believe. Calling Darfur an “Unnoticed Genocide,” the American Eric Reeves wrote in the Washington Post: “[P]eople are being destroyed because of who they are, racially and ethnically—‘as such,’ to cite the key phrase from the 1948 U.N. Convention on Genocide.” (66) Unveiling his Action Plan to Prevent Genocide, Secretary-General Kofi Annan singled out Darfur of all the world’s conflicts “with a deep sense of foreboding,” likening it to the situation in Rwanda ten years earlier and adding that “Whatever terms it uses to describe the situation, the international community cannot stand idle.” (67)
As Mahmood Mamdani puts it, such rhetoric is also a “reduction of a complex political context to a morality tale unfolding in a world populated by villains and victims who never trade places and so can always and easily be told apart.” In this “simple moral world,” where “evil confronts good” and “atrocities mount geometrically,” a group of “perpetrators clearly identifiable as ‘Arabs’ confront victims clearly identifiable as ‘Africans’”—and the “victim [is] untainted and the perpetrator [is] simply evil.” (68) Typical of this comic-book genre is the work of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who “from the outset,” Mamdani adds, por-trayed Darfur as a “contest between ‘Sudan’s Arab rulers’ and ‘black African Sudanese’.” “The killings are being orchestrated by the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, partly through the Janjaweed militia, made up of Arab raiders armed by the government,” Kristof wrote in March 2004, emphasizing the almost other-worldliness of the Arab government in Khartoum. “The victims are non-Arabs: blacks in the Zaghawa, Massaliet and Fur tribes. ‘The Arabs want to get rid of anyone with black skin’, Youssef Yakob Abdullah said. In the area of Darfur that he fled, ‘there are no blacks left’.” (69)
But the distinction made by Kristof, Power, Reeves, and their many allies in the Save Darfur campaign between Sudan’s Arab rulers and their black African victims falsely racializes the conflict. As the 2005 Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur concluded, any rendering of the conflicts in the western Sudan as “African” versus “Arab” mistakes political identities, which are the consequences of these conflicts, as their causes. “The various tribes that have been the object of attacks and killings (chiefly the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes) do not appear to make up ethnic groups distinct from the ethnic group to which persons or militias that attack them belong,” the Commission stated. “They speak the same language (Arabic) and embrace the same religion (Islam).” (70) Contrary to Kristof et al., the government in Khartoum is comprised of black Africans no different than the black Africans in the western Sudan that oppose it. The relevant distinction in the Western Sudan is thus a political one that turns on supporting the government (“Arab”) versus opposing it (“African”). The alleged “Arab-African divide” is one that has been “fanned by the growing insistence on such a divide in some circles and in the media” (in particular the white European and U.S. media); it is a process that has “contributed to the consolidation of the contrast and gradually created a marked polarisation in the perception and self-perception of the groups concerned.” (71) The “Crisis in Darfur” is thus a kind of blank slate upon which Western moralists have projected foreign categories that betray the nature of the interest they take in the conflict, but do not reflect the realities or genuine needs of the people involved.
Additionally, the UN Environment Program argued in an extensive 2007 survey that the “underlying causes” of the conflicts in Darfur were to be found in factors such as regional climate instability, drought, desertification, population growth, food insecurity, and over-exploitation of scarce resources; it concluded that “Darfur is degraded to the extent that it cannot sustainably support its rural population.” Referring to this report, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that “Almost invariably, we discuss Darfur in a convenient military and political shorthand—an ethnic conflict pitting Arab militias against black rebels and farmers. Look to its roots, though, and you discover a more complex dynamic. Amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.... It is no accident that the violence in Darfur erupted during the drought.” Another report issued in 2007 by a “blue-ribbon panel of retired admirals and generals” for the CNA Corporation noted similarly that “Struggles that appear to be tribal, sectarian, or nationalist in nature are often triggered by reduced water supplies or reductions in agricultural productivity.” This report added that the “situation in Darfur ... had land resources at its root.... Probably more than any other recent conflict, Darfur provides a case study of how existing marginal situations can be exacerbated beyond the tipping point by climaterelated factors.” (72)
Still, the publicity generated over the course of 2004 by the framing of Darfur as the “unnoticed genocide” without doubt ranks as the most successful propaganda campaign of its kind this decade. Always alleged to be spiraling out of control, despite the fact that, through the end of 2008, Darfur benefited from the “largest humanitarian aid operation in the world, with more than 80 organizations and 15,000 aid workers,” and had received this kind of high-priority response for five consecutive years; (73) and yet always labeled “forgotten” or “ignored,” despite the fact that even when it was alleged to be at its most ignored, Darfur already had become the most heavily publicized crisis in the world. (74)
“It is time to move against the regime officials who are responsible for the killing,” the International Crisis Group’s John Prendergast urged in July 2004. “The sands of the Sahara should not be allowed to swallow the evidence of what will probably go down as one of the greatest crimes in our lifetimes.” (75) A PIPAKnowledge Networks poll that same month found that 56 percent of Americans already had been convinced that “genocide” was occurring in Darfur; 69 percent also believed that, “If the UN were to determine that genocide is occurring in Darfur, then the UN, including the U.S., should decide to act to stop the genocide even if it requires military force.” (76)
As the signature Nefarious bloodbath of the early twenty-first century, Darfur has been so successfully framed as “genocide” that in its December 2008 report, the Genocide Prevention Task Force singled out the “striking level of public engagement in the Darfur crisis” as a model for how to “build a permanent constituency for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities” (77)— a statement we take to mean that the U.S. establishment’s handling of the western Sudan (ca. 2003-2010) should serve as a model for how best to propagandize a conflict as “genocide,” and thus to mobilize elite and public opinion for action against its alleged perpetrator.
Yet, for twice as many years as Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered nearly twenty-times as many deaths, leading researchers to call it the “world’s deadliest crisis since World War II,” with an estimated 5.4 million deaths from August 1998 through April 2007. (78) But Kinshasa is not Islamic, and its foreign exploiters are the United States, Britain, France, and other African states allied with the West—most notably Rwanda and Uganda. Hence, it is the Congo’s vastly greater death toll over ten years that has been truly ignored, while to its north, it was Darfur that became a “cause célèbre in America,” with more NGO, celebrity, student, and Internet-based activism and emotional tourism devoted to Darfur than to any other crisis in the contemporary period. The U.S. authors Steven Fake and Kevin Funk write that unlike “[e]fforts to halt Western-backed humanitarian catastrophes, such as the bloodbath in Iraq, or the Israeli Occupation, [which] fail to attract corporate funding or sympathetic pledges from the Oval Office,” Darfur activism thrives because it is “largely rooted in establishment-friendly ideals such as a Western ‘purity of arms’, disregarding prospects for a negotiated settlement in favor of the language of force, and the use of force in this case by self-designated benevolent Westerners to save dark-skinned victims from their Arab and Muslim tormentors.” (79) Given these variables, the campaign to stop the monumental bloodletting in the Congo can wait, and blood can keep flowing in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine with fewer interruptions.
“As of today, I would not say there is a war going on in Darfur,” the Nigerian General Martin Agwai, retiring as military commander of the joint UN–African Union Mission in Darfur, told reporters in late August 2009. “Militarily there is not much. What you have is security issues more now. Banditry ... people trying to resolve issues over water and land at a local level. But real war as such, I think we are over that.” (80) The New York Times’s coverage of Agwai’s remarks reported that he had said the “war in Darfur was essentially over.” (81) “Agwai became the latest senior figure ... to play down the level of violence in Darfur,” Reuters added, “where the conflict has mobilised activists who accuse Khartoum of genocide.”
As news of Agwai’s remarks circulated, the Save Darfur coalition immediately rejected them, as did others. Agwai “undermines international urgency in resolving these problems if people are led to believe that the war in Darfur is over,” former International Crisis Group member and veteran Darfur-”genocide” activist John Prendergast said, and thus “takes the wind out of the sails of international action.” (82) Prendergast’s Enough Project (co-founded by Prendergast in 2007 “to build a permanent constituency to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity” (83)) was just then launching a new advocacy campaign around Darfur called Keep the Promise: Sudan Now; the new campaign involved like-minded organizations such as Stop Genocide Now, the Genocide Intervention Network, and Investors Against Genocide. (84) Citing Prendergast’s reaction, Alex de Waal, among the most highly respected Sudan experts in the world, was outraged. “[Prendergast’s] campaign is not about domestic solutions but international (read: U.S.) action,” de Waal wrote on his Making Sense of Darfur blog. “A campaign focused on a genocide that isn’t happening, for the U.S. to step up its pressure to stop killing that has already ended, is just making Save Darfur look poorly-informed, and America look silly.... ” ‘Save Darfur’ isn’t about Sudan, or indeed Darfur, at all—it’s about an imagined empathy and generating a domestic American political agenda. Shame on you, Prendergast and your fellow ‘activists,’ shame, shame, shame.” (85)
But Western officials, Kofi Annan’s United Nations, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), “human rights” celebrities, and the news media long ago succeeded in framing the crisis in Darfur as “genocide,” pitting Muslim Arab perpetrators against black victims—and making it the Nefarious genocide-of-choice. This channeling of interests and emotions toward Darfur is also a wonderful diversion from the more directly Western-controlled violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gaza Strip, and elsewhere. As we show throughout this book, this is the standard operating procedure for all atrocities-management campaigns.

During the civil wars that accompanied the dismantling of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the United States, Germany, NATO, and the European Union (EU) all sided with the national groups seeking to break away from the unified federal state, and opposed the national group that held out for the longest time to preserve it, the Serbs; this placed the Western bloc solidly behind the Croats and Slovenes, then the Bosnian Muslims, and finally the Kosovo Albanians. (86)
The wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–1995) and Kosovo (1998–1999) received enormous attention in the United States and in the West generally, helped along by the creation of the ICTY and its determined service on behalf of NATO and its Yugoslavian clients (the Bosnian Muslims, Croatians, and Kosovo Albanians) and in opposition to the demonized Serbs. Because the wars were supported and even carried out by the NATO powers, and there was significant ethnic cleansing and ethnic killings, it goes almost without saying that not only “ethnic cleansing” but also the words “massacre” and “genocide” were quickly applied to Serb operations. The remarkable inflation of claims of Serb evil and violence (and playing down of NATO clients’ violence), with fabricated “concentration camps,” “rape camps,” and similar Nazi-and Auschwitz-like analogies, caused the onetime head of the U.S. intelligence section in Sarajevo, Lieutenant Colonel John Sray, to go public even before the end of the wars in Bosnia with his claim that “America has not been so pathetically deceived since Robert McNamara helped to micromanage and escalate the Vietnam War.... Popular perceptions pertaining to the Bosnian Muslim government ... have been forged by a prolific propaganda machine. A strange combination of three major spin doctors, including public relations (PR) firms in the employ of the Bosniacs, media pundits, and sympathetic elements of the US State Department, have managed to manipulate illusions to further Muslim goals.” (87)
The Bosnian Muslim leadership had started touting claims of 200,000 deaths by early 1993, (88) only some nine months after the start of these civil wars, and figures such as this and 250,000 (and sometimes higher) quickly became institutionalized in the establishment media, helping to push the “genocide” claim and to justify calls for foreign intervention to protect the Bosnian Muslims. But this claim came to grief in 2005–2007, when two different studies, the first sponsored by the ICTY itself and the other by the Norwegian government, concluded that the Bosnian conflicts had resulted in combined deaths on the order of one hundred thousand for all sides, including both civilians and military victims. (89) Given their sources, these findings could not easily be ridiculed as “holocaust denial” or “revisionism,” but they were treated in very low-key in the Western media, only slowly displacing the much higher 200,000–250,000 figures— and with no analyses and explanations of the earlier gullible acceptance of the implausible and unverified Bosnian Muslim propaganda claims.
Of course, the “Srebrenica massacre” of July 1995 has been cited heavily and repeated endlessly, and with the greatest indignation, to demonstrate that “genocide” actually had taken place in Bosnia. This was helped along by the fact that both the ICTY Trial Judgment and decision on Appeal in the case of the Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic argued that genocide could occur in one “small geographical area” (the town of Srebrenica), even one where the villainous party had taken the trouble to bus all the women, children, and the elderly men to safety—that is, incontestably had not killed any but “Bosnian Muslim men of military age.” (90) As Michael Mandel observes, “Genocide was transformed in this judgment, not into mere ethnic cleansing but into the killing of potential fighters during a war for military advantage.... In the Krstic case, the concept of genocide, except as pure propaganda, lost all contact with the Holocaust—a program for the extermination of a whole people.” (91) The case for eight thousand “men and boys” being executed at Srebrenica is extremely thin, resting in good part on the difficulty in separating executions from battle killings (of which there were many in the July 1995 Srebrenica actions), partly on highly contestable witness evidence (much under coercive plea bargaining (92)), and an interest and passionate will-to-believe the worst of the thoroughly demonized Serbs. A videotape of Bosnian Serbs killing six Bosnian Muslim men, far from Srebrenica and of dubious provenance, was read even by respectable Western analysts as serious evidence that eight thousand had been executed at Srebrenica. (93)
But even if an event such as the Srebrenica massacre occurred exactly as accepted by the Western establishment, we are still faced with the anomaly that the total number of deaths in Bosnia (one hundred thousand on all sides), and even more so the number of Bosnian Muslim civilian deaths during the four years of “genocide” (some thirty-three thousand in all), pales into relative insignificance when compared to the deaths suffered by Iraqi civilians during the thirteen-year-long “sanctions of mass destruction” and the now seven-year-long U.S. invasion and occupation. Given the 800,000 and one million death estimates for the two Iraqi cases, deaths there exceeded the Bosnian Muslim civilian death toll by 24-to-1 and 30-to-1, respectively. However, as Table 1 shows, the use of the word “genocide” was greater for Bosnia by six times for the sanction-deaths and thirty-seven times for deaths during the invasion-occupation. The anomaly of disparate word usage (and differential attention and indignation) can only be explained by the adaptation of the media and intellectuals to the propaganda and public relations needs of the Western political establishment. They are very attentive to and passionate about Nefarious, hence “genocidal,” bloodbaths; but they are exceedingly quiet over those that are Constructive and display “complexities.”

In the Kosovo case as well, Western plans for attacking and dismantling Yugoslavia called for the prior demonization of the Serbs, inflating their killings of worthy victims, and preparing— ex ante and ex post justification—for the NATO bombing war, occupation, and neocolonial control of Kosovo. The ICTY played a key role in this process, having been organized from the beginning as a faux-judicial instrument of NATO’s policy, which required war for its consummation, along with the indictment and prosecution of NATO’s primary targets. This was the true “joint criminal enterprise” in the Balkan wars, blamed in Orwellian fashion on an alleged Serb-based “joint criminal enterprise.” (94)
Just as the word “genocide” was used lavishly for the Bosnian Serbs’ conduct during the wars in Bosnia, so it was applied often to the Serbs’ conduct in Kosovo (i.e., inside the Republic of Serbia), both before the NATO bombing war of March 24–June 10, 1999 and during and after that war. In the year before the bombing war, as NATO prepared for the attack, the ICTY also turned its focus on Serb maltreatment of the Kosovo Albanians, (95) and Western officials, the ICTY, and Western media built up a steady volume of accusations and publicity about Serb wrongdoing. There is solid evidence that in this period the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was being supplied and trained for military action by U.S. forces and was made extremely aware that provocations of the Serbs would pay off with a long prepared U.S. and NATO attack. (96) Amusingly, British Defense Secretary George Robertson acknowledged to his Parliament on the very day that NATO launched its war that, through January 1999, more people had been killed in Kosovo by the KLA than by the Serbs; (97) the total estimated killings in Kosovo since the start of 1998 were two thousand, with perhaps five hundred attributable to the Serb military. (98)
The bombing war led to some furious military action by the Serb army and the KLA in Kosovo, with many killings and a massive flight of the province’s residents, Serb and Roma as well as Kosovo Albanians. (99) There were indignant official claims in the United States, Germany, and Britain of massive Serb killings and an ongoing genocide. Within days of the start of NATO’s war, German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping claimed “Genocide is starting here,” and NATO spokesperson Jamie Shea that “we are now on the brink of a major humanitarian disaster ... the likes of which we have not seen in Europe since the closing days of World War II.” (100) Hysterical NATO and KLA estimates of the missing and presumably slaughtered Kosovo Albanians at times ran upwards of one hundred thousand, reaching 500,000 in one State Department press release. (101) German officials leaked “intelligence” about an alleged Serb plan called Operation Horseshoe to depopulate the province of it ethnic Albanians, and to resettle it with Serbs, which turned out to be an intelligence fabrication. KLA commander Hashim Thaci warned a German television channel that the Serbs had rounded up one hundred thousand ethnic Albanians in a soccer stadium in Pristina, their fate unknown but likely sealed. Again a piece of disinformation, but reported as probable fact. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen told CBS TV’s Face The Nation program that Milosevic “put about a million and a half people out of their homes, and we’re now seeing about 100,000 military-age men missing.” (102)
Wartime propaganda was sustained for the first few months after the war, as forensic experts and media representatives descended on Kosovo like hungry locusts, looking for bodies and stories of massacres. (103) The search for stories ran aground on a sea of unprovable allegations and provable lies. But the coup de grace for the Kosovo “genocide” was the absence of bodies. In the end, only some four thousand bodies were found, including Serbs and military personnel; and by the middle of 2007, only 2,047 were still listed as missing. (104) Looking at Table 1, we can see that news-papers used the word “genocide” to apply to Serb actions in Kosovo 323 times, versus eighty for Iraq’s “sanctions of mass destruction” and thirteen for the Iraq invasion-occupation, whereas the death-tolls in the last two cases exceeded that in Kosovo by 200 and 250 times. Bias could hardly be more spectacular. But you may be sure that officials, the media, and the humanitarian intellectuals have never apologized for their lies and bodycount inflations or explained how all of this happened.

Elsewhere we have written that the breakup of Yugoslavia “may have been the most misrepresented series of major events over the past twenty years.” (105) But the far bloodier and destructive invasions, insurgencies, and civil wars that have ravaged several countries in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa over the same years may have been subjected to even greater misrepresentation.
To a remarkable degree, all major sectors of the Western establishment swallowed a propaganda line on Rwanda that turned perpetrator and victim upside-down. In the much-cited 1999 study of “Genocide in Rwanda” on behalf of Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights in Paris, Alison Des Forges writes that “By late March 1994, Hutu Power leaders were determined to slaughter massive numbers of Tutsi and Hutu opposed to [Hutu President Juvénal] Habyarimana,” and that on April 6, 1994, with the assassination of Habyarimana, “A small group of his close associates ... decided to execute the planned extermination.” Although “responsibility for killing Habyarimana is a serious issue,” it pales in comparison to “responsibility for the genocide. We know little about who assassinated Habyarimana”—a false statement, as shown below—but “We know more about who used the assassination as the pretext to begin a slaughter that had been planned for months”—true enough, but in exactly the opposite sense reported by Des Forges. (106)
During testimony at a major trial of four Hutu former military officers before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Des Forges acknowledged that by April 1992 (i.e., a full twenty-four months before “the genocide” is alleged to have been implemented), the “government in charge of Rwanda [had become] a multiparty government, including Tutsi representatives, and it is for that reason alone that it is impossible to conclude that there was planning of a genocide by that government.” (107) Although Des Forges tried to salvage the Hutu conspiracy model, alleging plans by individual Hutu members of the coalition government to use their “official powers” to carry-out a pre-planned genocide, this model disintegrated on cross-examination. (108) Des Forges could not explain how Hutu “individuals” used these “powers” without the knowledge of their Tutsi and Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) associates. Furthermore, she was forced to admit that pro-RPF ministers were in cahoots with the RPF and its plans for war (which we describe below) and that after the Habyarimana assassination, the RPF did not simply respond in self-defense to a Hutu-organized killing spree, but initiated its own killing spree. In other words, while the Hutu members of Rwanda’s power-sharing government couldn’t possibly have planned a genocide against the Tutsi, the Tutsi-led RPF was well-positioned to paralyze any government response to plans it had developed—and that were implemented—to avoid the threat of a free election the RPF was destined to lose, to assassinate the Hutu president, and to take over the country by military force. Yet, Des Forges’ dramatic concessions before the ICTR never turned-up in the Western media, and in her public statements thereafter she continued to repeat the official propaganda line about a Hutu conspiracy to commit genocide right up to the very end. (109)
To accept the standard model of “The Genocide,” one must ignore the large-scale killing and ethnic cleansing of Hutus by the RPF long before the April-July 1994 period, which began when Ugandan forces invaded Rwanda under President (and dictator) Yoweri Museveni on October 1, 1990. At its inception, the RPF was a wing of the Ugandan army, with the RPF’s leader, Paul Kagame, having served as director of Ugandan military intelligence in the 1980s. The Ugandan invasion and resultant combat were not a “civil war,” but rather a clear case of aggression. Yet this led to no reprimand or cessation of support by the United States or Britain—and in contrast to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait just two months before, which was countered in the Security Council by the same-day demand that Iraq withdraw its forces immediately, the Council took no action on the Ugandan invasion of Rwanda until March 1993 and did not even authorize an observer mission (UNOMUR) until late June 1993; the RPF by then occupied much of northern Rwanda and had driven out several hundred thousand Hutu farmers. (110)
It is clear that Museveni and the RPF were perceived as serving U.S. interests and that the government of President Habyarimana was targeted for ouster. (111) UN Security Council inaction flowed from this political bias. In his assessment of the years he spent representing U.S. interests in Africa, former Assistant Secretary of State Herman Cohen raised the question of why, as of October 1, 1990, the “first day of the crisis,” as he calls it, “did [the United States] automatically exclude the policy option of informing Ugandan President Museveni that the invasion of Rwanda by uniformed members of the Ugandan army was totally unacceptable, and that the continuation of good relations between the United States and Uganda would depend on his getting the RPF back across the border?” (112) This is naive but revealing— the answer, like that to the question of why the United States lobbied for the withdrawal of UN forces from Rwanda as the “genocide” was getting underway in April 1994, is that the Ugandan army and RPF were doing what the United States wanted done in Rwanda.
The United States and its allies worked hard in the early 1990s to weaken the Rwandan government, forcing the abandonment of many of the economic and social gains from the social revolution of 1959, and thereby making the Habyarimana government less popular and helping to reinforce the Tutsi minority’s economic power. (113) Eventually, the RPF was able to achieve a legal military presence inside Rwanda thanks to a series of ceasefires and other agreements that led to the Arusha Peace Accords of August 1993. Pressed upon the Rwandan government by the United States and its allies, they called for the “integration” of the armed forces of Rwanda and the RPF and for a “transitional,” power-sharing government until national elections could be held in 1995. (114) These accords positioned the RPF for its bloody overthrow of a relatively democratic coalition government and the takeover of the Rwandan state by a minority dictatorship.
As we have already suggested, the established perpetrator-victim line requires suppression of the crucial fact that the shootingdown of the government jet returning Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira to Kigali on April 6, killing everyone onboard, was carried out by RPF commandos and had been regarded by RPF planners as an essential first strike in its final assault on the government. Although the mass killings followed this assassination, with the RPF rapidly defeating any military resistance by the successor to Habyarimana’s coalition government and establishing its rule in Rwanda, these prime génocidaires were and still are today portrayed as heroic defenders of Rwanda’s national unity against Hutu “extremists” and the Interahamwe militia, the RPF’s actual victims.
Acceptance of this line also requires the suppression of a key verdict in a December 2008 Judgment by the ICTR. (115) This seven-and-a-half year trial of four former high-ranking Hutu members of the Rwanda military produced an acquittal of all four defendants on the Tribunal’s most serious charge: That they participated in an alleged conspiracy to commit genocide against the country’s Tutsi minority. To the contrary, the court ruled unanimously that the evidence is “consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle and measures adopted in the context of an on-going war with the RPF that were used for other purposes from 6 April 1994.” (116) Of course, it was the RPF that had been organized to carry out a “military power struggle” against Rwanda’s Hutu majority for several years prior to April 1994; and with its Tutsi base a numerical minority in the country (at most 15 percent overall), the RPF recognized that they would suffer an almost certain defeat in the free elections called for by the Arusha Accords. But that it was the RPF, itself, that conspired to assassinate Habyarimana and to carry out subsequent mass killings in its aftermath remains entirely beyond the grasp of the ICTR. Although it has failed to convict a single Hutu of the conspiracy to commit genocide charge, the ICTR has never once entertained the question of an RPF conspiracy— despite the RPF’s rapid overthrow of the Hutu government and capture of the Rwandan state. This, we believe, flows from U.S. and allied support of the RPF, reflected in media coverage, humanitarian intellectuals’ and NGO activism, as well as the ICTR’s jurisprudence.
Paul Kagame and the RPF were creatures of U.S. power from their origins in Uganda in the 1980s. Allan Stam, a Rwanda scholar who once served with the U.S. Army Special Forces, notes that Kagame “had spent some time at Fort Leavenworth, ... not too far before the 1994 genocide.” Fort Leavenworth is the U.S. Army’s “commander general staff college, ... where rising stars of the U.S. military and other places go to get training as they are on track to become generals. The training that they get there is on planning large-scale operations. It’s not planning small-scale logistic things. It’s not tactics. It’s about how do you plan an inva-sion. And apparently [Kagame] did very well.” By 1994, Kagame’s RPF possessed a sophisticated plan for seizing power in Rwanda that, in its final execution, Stam says, “looks staggeringly like the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 1991,” as well as the manpower and the materiel necessary to carry it out. Stam adds that the RPF launched its final assault on the Rwandan government almost immediately after the assassination of Habyarimana, within 60 to 120 minutes of the shooting-down of his jet, with “50,000 [RPF] soldiers mov[ing] into action on two fronts, in a coordinated fashion”—clearly “a plan that was not worked out on the back of an envelope.” (117)
So the Hutu conspiracy model, still at the center of establishment belief even if implicitly rejected by the ICTR, suffers from the RPF-Kagame locus of responsibility for the triggering event (the shootdown of Habyarimana’s jet during its approach to Kigali airport) and the incredible speed and coordinated nature of the RPF’s military response, which again suggest detailed planning, and a different set of conspirators.
But there is also the fact that the alleged Hutu perpetrators of “The Genocide” were the ones driven from power, with several million Hutus sent fleeing from Rwanda by July 4, the date by which the RPF had taken Kigali. We also see that before the end of July, Washington withdrew diplomatic recognition from the ousted government and awarded it to the RPF—the “entity that exercises effective control in Rwanda,” a State Department spokesman explained. And we see that at the same time, Washington began dispatching U.S. troops and large-scale aid to Kigali, (118) after having lobbied and voted at the Security Council on April 21 for a withdrawal of virtually all UN troops, over the objections of Rwanda’s ambassador, (119) positively facilitating both the slaughters and the RPF’s conquest of power. If the established narrative about “who used the assassination as a pretext” were true, then Rwanda would be the first case in history in which a minority population, suffering destruction at the hands of its tor-mentors, drove its tormentors from power and assumed control of a country, all in the span of less than one hundred days. We find this incredible in the extreme.
So does a whole body of important but suppressed research. An investigation in July and August 1994, sponsored by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to document Hutu massacres of Tutsis, found instead massacres of Hutu civilians in RPF-controlled areas of Rwanda on the order of twenty-five to forty-five thousand, leading the UNHCR to take the extraordinary step of blocking Hutu refugees from returning to Rwanda in order to protect them. Prepared by Robert Gersony, the report “concluded that there was ‘an unmistakable pattern of killings and persecutions’ by soldiers of the [RPF] ... ‘aimed at Hutu populations,’” the New York Times reported. But the Gersony report “set off a bitter dispute within the world organization and led the Secretary General to demand that the United Nations officials refrain from discussing it,” in an effort to placate the RPF and, more importantly, its Western sponsors. (120) Officially, the report “does not exist” at the United Nations, (121) and Gersony was instructed never to discuss his findings (a ban he has largely respected (122)).
A memorandum drafted in September 1994 for the eyes of Secretary of State Warren Christopher reported that the UNHCR team “concluded that a pattern of killing had emerged” in Rwanda, the “[RPF] and Tutsi civilian surrogates [killing] 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month, with the [RPF] accounting for 95% of the killing.” This memorandum added that “the UNHR team speculated that the purpose of the killing was a campaign of ethnic cleansing intended to clear certain areas in the south of Rwanda for Tutsi habitation. The killings also served to reduce the population of Hutu males and discourages refugees from returning to claim their lands.” (123) The added significance of this campaign was that the south of Rwanda shares border with northern Burundi, where a majority Tutsi population long has dwelled.
Separately, U.S. academics Christian Davenport and Allan Stam estimated that more than one million deaths occurred in Rwanda from April through July 1994. (124) They concluded that the “majority of victims were likely Hutu and not Tutsi.” Initially sponsored by the ICTR, but later dropped by it, Davenport and Stam’s work shows convincingly that the theaters where the killing was greatest correlated with spikes in RPF activity (i.e., with RFP “surges,” in their terminology), as a series of RPF advances, particularly in the month of April 1994, created roving patterns of killing. In fact, they describe at least seven distinct “surges” by the RFP (e.g., “they surged forward from the North downward into the Northwest and middle-eastern part of the country”), and every time, an RPF “surge” was accompanied by serious local bloodbaths. (125) Then in late 2009, Davenport and Stam reported what they called the “most shocking result” of their research-to-date: “The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR [i.e., the Hutu-controlled Armed Forces of Rwanda] seemed to escalate as the RPF 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.” (126)
With these facts, Davenport and Stam appear to link the mass killings of 1994 to RPF actions; this work also suggests that the mass killings were not directed against the Tutsi population. Moreover, a number of observers as well as participants in the events of 1994 claim that the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million. (127)
Yet, Davenport and Stam shy away from asserting the most important lesson of their work—not only that the majority of killings took place in those theaters where the RPF “surged,” but also that the RPF was the only well-organized killing force within Rwanda in 1994, and the only one that planned a major military offensive. (128) Clearly, the chief responsibility for Rwandan political violence belonged to the RPF, and not to the ousted coalition government, the FAR, or any Hutu-related group. But Davenport and Stam are inconsistent on the question of likely perpetrators, with their evidence of likely RPF responsibility contradicted by assertions of primary responsibility on the part of the FAR. (129) In short, their work does not break away from the mainstream camp overall. However, they do acknowledge that forms of political violence took place other than a straightforward Hutu “genocide” against the minority Tutsi—in itself, a rarity in Western circles. As with the suppressed Gersony report, Davenport and Stam’s findings caused great dismay at the United Nations, not to mention in Washington and Kigali. They have been under attack and in retreat since they were expelled from Rwanda in November 2003, when they first reported that the “majority of the victims of 1994 were of the same ethnicity as the government in power,” and have been barred from entering the country ever since. (130) The established narrative’s 800,000 or more largely Tutsi deaths resulting from a “preprogrammed genocide” committed by “Hutu Power” appears to have no basis in any facts beyond the early claims by Kagame’s RPF and its politically motivated Western sponsors and propagandists.
We also know a lot more about “who assassinated Habyarimana.” In one of the most important, and also suppressed, stories about “The Genocide,” former ICTR investigator Michael Hourigan developed evidence as far back as 1996–1997, based on the testimony of three RPF informants who claimed “direct involvement in the 1994 fatal rocket attack upon the President’s aircraft” and “specifically implicated the direct involvement of [Kagame]” and other members of the RPF. But in early 1997, when Hourigan hand-delivered his evidence to the ICTR’s chief prosecutor Louise Arbour, the latter was “aggressive” and “hostile,” Hourigan recounts in a 2006 affidavit, (131) and advised him that the “investigation was at an end because in her view it was not in [the ICTR’s] mandate”—a decision that “astounded” Hourigan. It is one that former ICTR chief prosecutor Richard Goldstone also rejected, telling a Danish newspaper that the assassination is “clearly related to the genocide,” as it was the “trigger that started the genocide....” (132) Suppressing evidence of the assassination’s perpetrator has been crucial in the West, as it seems awkward that the “trigger” for “The Genocide” was ultimately pulled, not by the officially-designated Hutu villains, but by the Tutsi victors in this conflict, the RPF, long-supported by the United States and by its close allies (who very possibly aided the assassins in the shoot-down (133)). It has also been important to suppress the fact that the first Hutu president of Burundi, Melchior Ndadaye, had been assassinated by Tutsi officers of his army in October 1993, an action celebrated by the RPF and stirring fears among Rwanda’s Hutus.
A far more comprehensive eight-year investigation by the French magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière, who had been asked to rule on the deaths of the three French nationals operating the government jet that was shot down in April 1994, concluded that the assassination followed from Kagame’s rejection of the Arusha power-sharing accords of August 1993, and that for Kagame the “physical elimination” of Habyarimana was therefore essential to achieving the goal of an RPF-takeover in Rwanda. (134) Bruguière issued nine arrest warrants for high-ranking RPF members close to Kagame and requested that the ICTR, itself, take up Kagame’s prosecution, as under French law, Bruguiere could not issue an arrest warrant for a head of state. (135)
As best we can tell, the existence of Hourigan’s evidence has been reported only once in two different U.S. newspapers (the Los Angeles Times and Seattle Times), and never in the New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal; Bruguière’s findings were mentioned in several U.S. newspapers (sixteen that we have found), including three short items in the Washington Post, a major report in the Los Angeles Times (reprinted in the Seattle Times), and one blurb apiece in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal totaling ninety-four words. (136) Amusingly, the U.S. media have reported fairly often on Bruguière’s work as a “counterterrorism” specialist in France, including several dozen items in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. But when we check the U.S. media for Bruguière’s eight-year inquiry into mass killing in Rwanda, a case where his focus was on a U.S. client-agent as the primary villain, their interest declines close to zero. (137) The propaganda system works.
The invasions, assassinations, and mass slaughters by which the RPF shot its way to power in Kigali advanced many objectives, and their support by the “enlightened” states is regarded by many of the defense teams that practice before the ICTR as reflecting a quid pro quo between Washington and the RPF: Washington gains a strong military presence in Central Africa, a diminution of its European rivals’ influence, proxy armies to serve its interests, and access to the raw material-rich Democratic Republic of Congo; the RPF renews Tutsi-minority control of Rwanda and gains a free hand to kill any perceived internal rivals, along with a client state’s usual immunities, money, weapons, foreign investment, and a great deal of international prestige.
One year after ICTY and ICTR chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte (successor to Louise Arbour) opened what she called the “Special Investigation” of the RPF in 2002, she was terminated as chief prosecutor at the ICTR, despite taking her plea directly to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whom Del Ponte called inflexible on the question. In her memoirs, Del Ponte recounts a June 2002 meeting with Kagame at his presidential abode in Kigali. Kagame, “fuming,” told her: “If you investigate [the RPF], people will believe there were two genocides.... All we did was liberate Rwanda.” This was followed by a May 2003 meeting with Pierre Prosper, the Bush administration’s ambassador-at-large for war crimes, who, in Del Ponte’s words, “backed the Rwandans” and “suggested that [she] surrender responsibility for investigating and prosecuting the alleged crimes of the RPF.” By the time Del Ponte was able to meet with Annan in New York in late July 2003, she told Annan: “This will be the end of the Special Investigation,” and to which Annan replied: “Yes. I know.” (138)
Del Ponte told an interviewer after her position with the ICTR ended: “It is clear that it all started when we embarked on these Special Investigations” and “pressure from Rwanda contributed to the non-renewal of my mandate.” (139) Doubtless, pressure from other sources with a lot more clout on the Security Council played an even greater role. Former ICTR (and ICTY) spokesperson Florence Hartmann also recounts extensive interference by the United States, Britain, and Kagame’s RPF in every effort by the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate RPF crimes. (140) Hassan Jallow, Del Ponte’s successor at the ICTR, has stated on the record that he does not believe the assassination of Habyarimana belongs within the ICTR’s mandate, and under his charge (September 2003 on) the Office of the Prosecutor systematically dragged its feet when it came to the crimes of the RPF, always pleading a need to carry out “additional inquiries” without ever bringing a single indictment. (141) Through the end of 2008, 100 percent of the ICTR’s indictments for “serious violations of international humanitarian law” committed during 1994 have been brought against Hutu members of the former government and ethnic Hutus more generally, and none against members of the RPF, despite the ICTR’s Statute making no distinctions on the basis of ethnicity or political allegiance. (142) Neither the RPF’s violent takeover of Rwanda, its massacre of “10,000 or more Hutu civilians” per month in 1994, nor any of its other numerous postwar slaughters, have ever once been disturbed by criminal charges at the ICTR.
Very big lies about Rwanda are now institutionalized and are part of the common (mis)understanding in the West. In reality, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame is one of the great mass murderers of our time. Yet, thanks to the remarkable myth structure that surrounds him, he enjoys immense popularity with his chief patron in Washington, the image of this big-time killer transmuted into that of an honored savior deserving strong Western support. Philip Gourevitch, one of Kagame’s prime apologists for many years, portrays him as an emancipator, a “man of action with an acute human and political intelligence” who “made things happen;” he also compares Kagame to “another famously tall and skinny civil warrior, Abraham Lincoln.” (143) A more recent hagiography by Stephen Kinzer portrays Kagame as the founding father of a New Africa. It is “one of the most amazing untold stories of the modern history of revolution,” as Kinzer explains it, because Kagame overthrew a dictatorship, stopped a genocide, and turned Rwanda into “one of the great stars” of the continent, with Western investment and favorable PR flowing. (144) In fact, what Kagame overthrew was a multiethnic, power-sharing, coalition government; what Kagame imposed was a Tutsi-dominated dictatorship; and what Kagame turned Rwanda and the whole of Central Africa into was a rolling genocide that is still ongoing— but it is true that he is a shining “star” in the Western firmament and its propaganda system.
In Samantha Power’s view, and in accord with this same myth structure, “The United States did almost nothing to try to stop [the Hutu genocide],” but instead “stood on the sidelines”— ”bystanders to genocide.” (145) But this is doubly false. What the United States and its Western allies (Britain, Canada, and Belgium) really did was sponsor the U.S.-trained Kagame, support his invasion of Rwanda from Uganda and the massive ethnic cleansing prior to April 1994, weaken the Rwandan state by forcing an economic recession and the RPF’s penetration of the government and throughout the country, and then press for the complete removal of UN troops because they didn’t want UN troops to stand in the way of Kagame’s conquest of the country, even though Rwanda’s Hutu authorities were urging the dispatch of more UN troops. (146) Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali also wanted to increase UN troop strength, (147) and complained bitterly in his memoirs about the “obstruction” caused by the Clinton administration: “The U.S. effort to prevent the effective deployment of a UN force for Rwanda succeeded, with the strong support of Britain,” he wrote; the Security Council “meekly followed the United States’ lead....” (148) (We may recall that Samantha Power also claimed that the United States “looked away” when Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, when in fact the U.S. gave Indonesia the go-ahead, the arms to carry out the invasion, and diplomatic protection in the United Nations. For Power, whenever the United States colludes in a genocidal process, she pretends that U.S. guilt is at worst that of remaining a mere “bystander,” but never that of an accomplice, let alone a perpetrator.)
In the Rwanda “genocide” case, the “human rights” community played an unusually active role in supporting the real aggressors and killers, in close parallel with their own governments’ perspectives and policies. As in the case of the Western aggressions against Yugoslavia (1999) and Iraq (2003), Human Rights Watch and other nongovernmental organizations simply ignored the “supreme international crime” (or “act of aggression by Uganda,” in Herman Cohen’s phrase) while conveniently, and in hugely biased fashion, featuring lesser human rights violations. (149) They downplayed or ignored entirely the refugee crisis created by the Ugandan-RPF invasion and occupation of northern Rwanda and the armed penetration and de facto subversion of the rest of the country by the RPF. Every response to these by the Habyarimana government from October 1990 onward was scrutinized for “human rights” violations and framed as evidence of unlawful state repression. They systematically evaded the massive evidence of RPF responsibility for the April 6, 1994 shoot-down surely because the finding conflicts with their deep commitment to the model of a pre-planned Hutu genocide and the RPF’s self-defensive rescue of Rwanda, the twin components of the established perpetrator-victim line. We believe that their biases played an important role in supporting the RPF’s aggression, its penetration of the country, and the execution of its final assault on power. Above all, we believe that their biases and propaganda service con-tributed substantially to the mass killings that followed—all in accord with the needs of actual U.S. policy.
On March 8, 1993, just days before the Security Council took up the situation in Rwanda for the first time, a consortium of four human rights organizations, led by Human Rights Watch and calling itself the International Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Abuses in Rwanda, issued its Report. (150) The commission concluded that, rather than Rwanda having suffered an invasion by Uganda, from which the Habyarimana government had yet to liberate its country, the Habyarimana government was instead guilty of something very close to a genocidal rampage against the country’s Tutsi minority, with two thousand dead since October 1990, “systematic killings,” widespread rape, and a “climate of terror.” (151) Alison Des Forges, one of the commission’s co-chairs, later commented that this report “put Rwandan human rights abuses squarely before the international community” (152) — but it was only the Habyarimana government’s alleged abuses that the commission focused on.
The commission produced its report after its members spent no more than two weeks on the ground in Rwanda in January of that year and only two hours in territory controlled by the RPF. The commission itself had close ties to the RPF, its sponsors “either directly funded by the RPF or infiltrated by it,” Robin Philpot reports. (153) Prior to her work on this commission, Des Forges had worked for the U.S. Department of State and National Security Council. William Schabas, a Canadian member of the commission, issued a press release at the time the full report was released that bore the title “Genocide and war crimes in Rwanda.” (154) He thus drew attention to a category of crime that not even the establishment narrative alleges was to begin for another thirteen months. Stressing that in the work of the commission the “word genocide has been mentioned on a number of occasions,” Daniel Jacoby, the president of the International Federation of Human Rights League, stated that the situation in Rwanda “is not simply an ethnic confrontation. It goes beyond that. Responsibility for the killings can be placed extremely high.” (155) Human Rights Watch’s annual World Report covering 1993 noted that when the RPF launched its major offensive that year, “it justified the offensive in part by the need to counter human rights abuses of the Rwanda government” such as those put squarely before the world by the commission’s report. In short, with the brunt of its findings coming down against the Habyarimana government, the commission’s work served to delegitimize the government of Rwanda and enhance the legitimacy of the armed forces of the RPF. As the RPF quickly used the commission’s claims to justify a new killing spree, we believe the case can be made that the overall impact of this report—and of the work of HRW and its allies with respect to Rwanda over the past two decades—was to underwrite the mass killings to follow, including the vast numbers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, regularly explained as carried out by the benevolent RPF and Uganda in search of Hutu “génocidaires.”
As we see on Table 1 (above), the 1994 mass killings in Rwanda remain the sine qua non for “genocide” usage, generating more attributions for this theater than for any other in our survey (3,199, nearly triple the number for Darfur). This, we believe, follows from the successful framing of the Hutus as the villains, executing a preplanned “genocide” against the Tutsis—a Nefarious and Mythical bloodbath at one and the same time—and Kagame’s RPF as the defender-savior of the Tutsis and of Rwanda and Central Africa as a whole, with the RPF unexpectedly finding itself the new power in the country one day. But it also cleared the ground for Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni—Kagame’s ally and the two staunchest U.S. clients in the region—to periodically invade and occupy the DRC (named Zaire through 1997) and beyond without opposition from the “international community.”
The Pentagon has very actively supported these invasions of the DRC, even more heavily than it supported the RPF’s drive to take Kigali. This led to the killing of many thousands of Hutu refugees in a series of mass slaughters (ca. 1994–1997), and also provided cover for a greater series of Kagame-Museveni assaults on the Congo that have destabilized life in this large country of perhaps sixty million people, with literally millions perishing in the process. (156) In his letter of resignation to Chief Prosecutor Hassan Jallow, Filip Rentjens, a Dutch academic and one-time expert witness before the ICTR, took issue with the “impunity” that protects the RPF leadership from prosecution. “[RPF] crimes fall squarely within the mandate of the ICTR,” he wrote, and “they are well documented, testimonial and material proof is available, and the identity of the RPF suspects is known.... It is precisely because the regime in Kigali has been given a sense of impunity that, during the years following 1994, it has committed massive internationally recognized crimes in both Rwanda and the DRC.” (157)
But this again has been compatible with Western interests and policy, as it contributed to the replacement of Mobutu with the more amenable Laurent Kabila (and later his son Joseph) and the opening up of the Congo to a new surge of ruthless exploitation of precious gems, rare industrial minerals, and timber by Western companies in a different kind of “resource war”—a fine illustration of “shock therapy” with murderous human consequences for the Congolese people, the equivalent of “one tsunami every six months” for more than a decade, (158) but with large gains to a small business and military elite. In a series of UN reports which coined the phrase “elite networks” to denote the “politically and economically powerful groups involved in the exploitation activities” that lie at the heart of the Congo genocide, we read that “The war economy controlled by the three elite networks [i.e., Kinshasa, Rwanda, and Uganda] operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo dominates the economic activities of much of the Great Lakes region.... Years of lawlessness and a Government incapable of protecting its citizens have allowed the armed groups to loot and plunder the country’s resources with impunity.... They have built up a self-financing war economy centered on mineral exploitation”—and sales to the transnationals that manufacture the personal computers and cell phones of our everyday lives. (159)
The U.S.-supported leaders Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni undeniably have been key actors in the terrible bloodbaths of the Congo. In consequence, these were Benign bloodbaths, in contrast with killings in Darfur or Kosovo. Table 1 shows that in only seventeen items in our newspaper universe were deaths in the Congo referred to as “genocide”—or one “genocide” reference for every 317,647 deaths. When we contrast this with how the same newspapers treated, say, the Nefarious bloodbath of the Kosovo Albanians, where only twelve deaths were necessary to receive one “genocide” reference, the basic outline of the politics of genocide could not be made more stark or clear.

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