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Book Review: “The Politics Of Genocide”
By Edward Herman And David Peterson

By Dr Gideon Polya

05 December, 2011

Repeated, intolerable  atrocities against Humanity are made possible by remorseless lying on the p[art of the perpetrators. “The Politics of Genocide” by Edward S. Herman and  David Peterson (foreword by Noam Chomsky; Monthly Review Press, New York , 2010) is a very important book that exposes holocaust-ignoring and genocide-ignoring by Western  Mainstream media, political and academic Establishments except when the atrocities are committed  by “enemies” of the US Alliance.

Edward S. Herman is an American economist and media analyst. He is Professor Emeritus of Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and also teaches at Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania . He is the co-author with Professor Noam Chomsky (MIT) of  “Manufacturing Consent:: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” (1988) that, in the words of the publisher,  shows “that, contrary to the usual image of the news media as cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in their search for truth and defense of justice, in their actual practice they defend the economic, social, and political agendas of the privileged groups that dominate domestic society, the state, and the global order. Based on a series of case studies - including the media's dichotomous treatment of “worthy” versus “unworthy” victims, “legitimizing” and “meaningless” Third World elections, and devastating critiques of media coverage of the U.S. wars against Indochina - Herman and Chomsky draw on decades of criticism and research to propose a Propaganda Model to explain the media's behavior and performance… What emerges from this work is a powerful assessment of how propagandistic the U.S. mass media are, how they systematically fail to live up to their self-image as providers of the kind of information that people need to make sense of the world, and how we can understand their function in a radically new way.” David Petersen is an independent journalist and researcher based in Chicago .

1. Definitions.

It is important to define some critical terms that are used in “The Politics of Genocide”, specifically “killing”, “massacre”, “holocaust”,  “genocide” and “war crimes”, terms that were inadequately defined in the book as outlined below in relation to the Sanctions and Occupation of Iraq by the war criminal US Alliance (page references to the book are given in parentheses).

“Killing” is the ending the life but can clearly be either violent or non-violent.  Thus whether a child or indeed any person is killed by bombs, bullets or bashing (violent killing) or is killed through deliberately imposed deprivation (non-violent avoidable death) the mortality is the same and the culpability of the perpetrator  the same. The book fails to set out this non-distinction with clarity but does set out some of the appalling consequences of the 1990-2003 sanctions and bombing regime for the people of Iraq: “A mortality survey carried out jointly that same year  [1989] 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” (p31). It is notable that after the US installed the Maliki Puppet Government in 2006 the UN infant mortality statistics were radically and unbelievably changed downwards  and were able to indicate apparent decreased infant mortality under sanctions and further decrease under war and occupation (the 2010 Revision of the UN Population Division asserts that “infant deaths per 1,000 live births” were  41.8 (1985-1990),  43.4 (1990-1995),  38.1 (1995-2000), 35.9 (2000-2005), and 34.6 (2005-2010) ).  Using the pre-Maliki UN Population Division data, one can estimate that under-5 infant deaths totaled 1.2 million under Sanctions (1990-2003) and totaled 0.8 million under US Alliance Occupation (2003-2011), a total of 2.0 million under-5 infant deaths, 90% avoidable (from comparisons with other countries) and due to gross, war criminal  violation by the US Alliance of Articles 55 and 56 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of  Civilian Persons in Time of War (see: http://www.un-documents.net/gc-4.htm  ) that demand unequivocally   that an Occupier must supply life-sustaining food and medical provisions to a conquered population “to the fullest extent of the means available to it”.

“Massacre” is the killing of a substantial number of essentially defenceless people. The term usually implies violent killing but clearly the passive killing of 1.8  million Iraqi infants under Sanctions and Occupation is a “massacre of the innocents”.  However  this passive mass murder was not confined  to defenceless under-5 year old Iraqi infants. Thus it is estimated for impoverished Developing Countries that total avoidable deaths (excess deaths, avoidable mortality, excess mortality, deaths that should not have happened) is 1.4 times under-5 infant deaths.  Accordingly non-violent avoidable deaths from deprivation in Iraq under Sanctions and Occupation totaled 1.4 x 2.0 = 2.8 million. However  avoidable mortality can be defined as the difference between actual deaths in a country and deaths expected for a peaceful, decently governed country with similar demographics (see “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”: http://globalavoidablemortality.blogspot.com/2008/08/body-count-global-avoidable-mortality.html ) and total avoidable deaths from deprivation in Iraq independently determined from UN Population Division mortality data total 2.9 million (1990-2011), the breakdown being 1.7 million (under Sanctions, 1990-2003) and 1.2 million (under Occupation, 2003-2011).

However we must also consider violent Iraqi deaths at the hands of a US Alliance equipped with the latest high technology weaponry. “The Politics of Genocide” estimated 1 million such violent Iraqi deaths under Occupation (pp34, 35). However, informed by expert epidemiological data from the UK market research company Opinion Research Business (ORB) and from top US medical epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University , the eminent US Just Foreign Policy organization estimates 1.5 million Iraqi deaths due to the US Alliance invasion, commenting “The number is shocking and sobering. It is at least 10 times greater than most estimates cited in the US media, yet it is based on a scientific study of violent Iraqi deaths caused by the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003” (see: http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/156 ). Violent Iraqi deaths in the Gulf War totaled about 0.2 million, this giving a total of 1.7 million  violent Iraqi deaths in the period 1990-2011. Total war-related deaths in Iraq – violent deaths and avoidable deaths from war-imposed deprivation – total 1.9 million (1990-2003), 2.7 million (2003-2011) and 4.6 million (1990-2011).

“Holocaust” is the death of a huge number of people. The term “holocaust” was first applied to a World War 2 atrocity in 1944 by Indian writer N.G. Jog in his book “Churchill's Blind Spot: India” in reference to the Bengali Holocaust, the man-made Bengal Famine in which the British, with Australian complicity,  deliberately starved 6-7 million Indians to deaths in the period 1942-1945. The term was subsequently used to describe the World War 2 Holocaust in which 30 million Slavs, Jews and Gypsies were killed by the Nazi Germans but in an extraordinary process of racist Zionist-promoted holocaust ignoring and holocaust denial, the term “Holocaust” has come to mean for many only the Jewish Holocaust part (5-6 million killed) of the more general WW2 Holocaust (30 million killed). The 4.6 million war-related deaths   Iraq (1990-2011) amount to an Iraqi Holocaust when compared with the WW2 Bengali Holocaust (6-7 million Indians killed), the WW2 European Holocaust (30 million Slav, Jews and Gypsies killed), the WW2 Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million killed, 1 in 6 dying from deprivation) and the Chinese Holocaust (35 million Chinese died under Japanese occupation, 1937-1945).   

“Genocide” is defined in International Law by Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention that states: “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: a) Killing members of the group; b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” (see: http://www.edwebproject.org/sideshow/genocide/convention.html ). Unfortunately, this legal definition is only spelled out in full 5 pages before the end of the text  of the book (p105). The Iraqi atrocity has involved 1.7 million violent deaths, 2.9 million non-violent avoidable deaths from war–imposed deprivation, 2.0 million under-5 infant deaths (90% avoidable and due to US Alliance war crimes) and 5-6 million refugees – an Iraqi Holocaust and an Iraqi Genocide as defined by Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention (see “Iraqi Holocaust, Iraqi Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/iraqiholocaustiraqigenocide/ ). Herman and Peterson report Dennis Halliday , the first UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs in Iraq, resigning in 1998, calling the impact of the sanctions ”genocide” (p30)   and correctly identifying the Iraq occupation  atrocity as an Iraqi Genocide:  “When serious studies estimated Iraqi deaths since the start of the war in March 2003 at 98,000, then climbed to 655,000, and then again to more than one million, with the overwhelming majority of these deaths attributed  to violent causes, 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”” (p34).

With this background and analysis  we can briefly outline the contents of this very important book as a whole.

2. Introduction.

The authors  point out that in 1945 the US had “50% of the world's wealth but only 6% of its population” and the US leaders recognized the need for policies “to maintain this position of disparity” and that “by one estimate, the United States carried out “extremely serious” military interventions in at least twenty-nine different countries  from 1945 to 2009”. The justification was “national security” and the “Soviet threat” during the Cold War (1945-1990). In “Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Blood baths in Fact and Propaganda” (CRV) , Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman considered bloodbaths perpetrated by the US in Vietnam (1954-1973), the Philippines (1898-1973), Thailand (1946-1973), Indonesia (1965-1969), Cambodia (1965-1973), East Pakistan (1971) and Burundi (1973) and developed 4 bloodbath categories , specifically “Constructive” (done by the US, the “good guys”), “Nefarious” (done by enemies of the US, the “bad guys”), “Benign” (done by friends of the US i.e. by non-US “good guys”) and “Mythical” (a fictional sub-set of the “Nefarious”). Professor Herman's' present book uses these definitions. New excuses have been required to justify US aggression in the last 2 decades since the fall of Soviet Communism.  In particular is the notion of “responsibility to protect” (R2P)  (popularized by people such as former foreign minister Gareth Evan of US lackey Australia) and coupled with “exceptionalism”  permitting the US to invade and devastate in the  name of R2P, a line backed by mainstream media, politicians and academics. Further, the International Criminal Court (ICC) chose to ignore bloodbaths committed by the US or its friends. The book quotes Professor Noam Chomsky: “”If it's a crime of somebody else, particularly an enemy, then we're utterly outraged. If it's our own crimes either comparable or worse, either it's suppressed or denied. That works with almost 100 percent precision” (p27).  

The book does not give a detailed catalogue of these crimes. The reader is referred to William Blum's book “ Rogue State ” for a detailed account. My book “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, in addition to providing a succinct, avoidable mortality-related  history of every country of the world from the Neolithic era onwards, uses UN Population Division data  to estimate avoidable mortality in all countries of the world  since 1950 (when such global demographic data became available). In particular it was estimated from detailed year-by-year, country-by-country analysis that the 1950-2005 avoidable deaths in countries occupied in the post-1945 era by the US totaled  82 million, the corresponding numbers being 727 million (for the UK), 142 million (France), 72 million (The Netherlands), 36 million (Belgium), 24 million (Portugal), 24 million (Israel) and 9 million (Spain) (see: http://globalavoidablemortality.blogspot.com/2008/08/body-count-global-avoidable-mortality.html ).

3. Constructive Genocides.

In the  section entitled   “The Iraq Sanctions  Regime Killings”,  the book sets out the carnage due to genocidal sanctions, the outrage of civilized UN officials like Dennis Halliday (who called it “genocide”) and the disquiet of CBS TV's Lesley Stahl over the deaths of “half a million children”. I estimate that in the Sanctions War (1990-2003) violent deaths totaled 0.2 million, avoidable deaths totaled 1.7 million and under-5 infant deaths totaled 1.2 million i.e. war-related deaths totaled 1.9 million (Herman and Peterson estimate 0.8 million).  In the subsequent section entitled  “The Iraq Invasion-Occupation” the authors estimate 1 million post-invasion i.e in  2003-2010 (I estimated 1.5 violent deaths, 1.2 million avoidable deaths from deprivation and 0.8 million under-5 infant deaths i.e. a total of 2.7 million war-related deaths in the period 2003-2011).

However Herman and Peterson  have analyzed Mainstream print media use of the world “genocide” to describe the Iraq Sanctions (0.8 million deaths, 80 instances) and the Iraq Occupation (1 million deaths, 13) , as compared to the carnage inflicted on Bosnian Muslims (33,000, 130), Kosovo Albanians (4,000, 323), Rwanda (800,000, 3,199), Democratic Republic of the Congo (5.4 million, 17) and Darfur (300,000, 1,172). It is not genocide when the US or its friends do it, but disproportionately described as “genocide” if enemies of the US do it (Table 1, p35). The authors analyzed use the word “genocide” by Mainstream print to describe  aspects of the Iraq atrocity (my estimates of deaths in parenthesis) , specifically the 2003 War and Occupation (2.7 million, 13 instances), the 13 year Sanctions Regime (1.9 million, 3), the Saddam Hussein regime (0.4-0.9 million, 48), sectarian conflict of post-US withdrawal (54), other-irrelevant (30) (Table 2, p38). The authors conclude “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”” (p38). People talk of the Cambodian Genocide (2 million killed after the Indo-China War) but not of a  Lao Genocide (war related deaths 1.1 million including   0.1 million violent deaths) or a Vietnamese Genocide (war-related deaths 15.3 million including  3.4 million violent deaths ).      

4. Nefarious Genocides.

In this section the authors critically examined some atrocities committed by US enemies, namely (deaths according to Herman and Peterson in parentheses) the Bosnian Genocide (33,000), the Kosovo Genocide (4,000), the Rwanda Genocide (800,000) and the Darfur Genocide (300,000) Their critiques, in short,  relate to a concomitant Serbian Genocide in Krajina by the Croats (2,000 Serbs killed, 250,000 Serbian refugees) in the Balkan civil  wars  and the artificiality of Western description of black, Arab, Muslim Darfur victims as “Africans”  and of black, Arab, Muslim perpetrators  as “Arabs” in a conflict also impacted by climate change and drought.

Great controversy was raised by this book over the Rwanda Genocide. The “official” US, Western media and Tutsi version was that after the shooting down of an aircraft carrying the Hutu Rwandan President  Juvenal Habyarimana and Tutsi Burundi President Ntaryamira on 6 April 1994, there was a pre-planned Hutu massacre of 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus  that was terminated by invasion from Uganda of the Paul Kagame-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) with 2 million Hutus fleeing to the Congo. A modified version of the official story offered by Professor Jared Diamond in his brilliant  book “Collapse” admits that there were revenge killings of Hutus by the Tutsi RPF and that there was also mass killing of Hutus  for land in a crowded country. The revisionist  version offered by Herman and Peterson is that the US-trained Kagame and his US-backed RPF were involved in the shooting-down of the plane, the massacre of Hutus i.e the Rwandan Genocide involved a Tutsi Genocide by the Hutu FAR (Rwandan Armed Forces) and Interahamwe and a Hutu Genocide by Hutus and Tutsis , with the Hutu Genocide continuing as RPF forces invaded the Congo and were involved in the civil war that has killed 5.4 million people (according to Herman and Peterson). Thus the crime of Bill Clinton was not just that he had failed to act to prevent the Tutsi Genocide (“official version”) but that he was also actively involved in backing the murderous Kagame-led RPF and Kabila-led Congolese forces (“revised version”).

The pathological dishonesty of successive US Administrations and the US-beholden Western Mainstream media makes for caution over any US “official versions” whether over the 9-11 atrocity (that almost certainly involved the US itself; see “US did 9-11”: https://sites.google.com/site/expertsusdid911/home and was used as the excuse for killing 9 million Muslims in Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan: https://sites.google.com/site/muslimholocaustmuslimgenocide/  ) or the Rwandan Genocide. Thus the Rwandan Government under US-backed Tutsi President Paul  Kagame has angrily dismissed a UN Report about a Hutu Genocide by Kagame Tutsi forces and US-backed Congolese President Laurent Kabila's Congolese forces in the Congo in 1993-2003 (see “Christian Science Monitor, 27 August 2010: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2010/0827/Rwanda-dismisses-UN-report-detailing-possible-Hutu-genocide-in-Congo ). Rwandan opposition figure Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is under arrest in Rwanda for departing from the “official version”. According to Professor Charles Kambanda (a former member of the Rwandan Government and a law professor at professor at St. John's University , New York ) :  “ RPF is telling us the Tutsi were victims while the Hutu were perpetrators. [The Opposition] FDU is saying no, both were equally victims and perpetrators. Another difference is power sharing. Victoire Ingabire is saying we must share power, among the Hutu, Tutsi, and the Twa. Kagame doesn't believe in that. Kagame believes in just handpicking a few Hutu, whom he's going to manipulate and put in power here and there, just to show people that there are a few Hutu in his system” (see: http://www.anngarrison.com/audio/rwanda-prosecution-stalls-in-ingabire-trial ).

5. Some Benign Bloodbaths.

In this chapter  the authors  analyze a variety of small to huge atrocities  and how the Mainstream print media applied the term “genocide” to those events perpetrated by US enemies. It is of course clearly understood by the authors and by  all decent people that whether they are small or huge atrocities  they are all atrocities that must be condemned. Table 3 (p72) summarizes a number of such events (deaths in parentheses) including  the US-complicit bloodbath in El Salvador (El Mozote Massacre, 1981; 880-1,000 deaths) , US- and Israel-complicit Mayan Genocide in Guatemala (0.3 million Mayan Indian deaths; Rio Negro Massacre, 1982, 444 deaths) , the Sabra-Shatilia Massacre by Falangists in Israel-occupied  Lebanon (3,000 killed), the US-backed Israeli devastation of Gaza  (2008-2009, 1,400 killed), the US-backed Indonesian Liquica Massacre, East Timor , 1999; 200,000 killed in the Timorese Genocide). One key comparison is the Srebrenica Massacre (8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys killed by the Serbs and identified as “genocide” in 442 media reports)  as compared to the Croat ”ethnic cleansing”  of the Krajina border region in 1995  that involved 250,000 Serb refugees with 2,000 Serbs being killed (identified as a genocide in 1 media report). Similarly the Turkish Kurdish  Genocide (350,000 Kurds killed in the WW1 Kurdish Genocide and 30,000 Kurds killed in the1980s and 1990s) is largely ignored whereas Saddam Hussein's Kurdish Genocide is reported as “genocide”.

6. Mythical Bloodbaths.

This chapter is devoted to a battle at Racak in Kosovo in 1999 that was described by US media as a massacre. The authors conclude that “If Racak is a mythical atrocity, as we believe, then the war (the NATO bombing of Serbia) it helped sell to the world was based on a lie, and any notion that this war was in pursuit of justice is called into question by this fact alone” (p101).

7. Concluding Note.

This final chapter involves an analysis  of ICC unresponsiveness  to Western-complicit atrocities and concludes “The Western establishment rushed to proclaim “genocide” in Bosnia-Herzegovina , Rwanda , Kosovo, and Darfur , and also agitated for tribunals to hold the alleged perpetrators accountable. In contrast its silence over the crimes committed by its  own regimes against the people of South East Asia, Central America, the Middle East , and Sub-Saharan Africa is deafening. This is the “politics  of genocide”.


“The Politics of Genocide” is a very important book that exposes Mainstream media, politician and academic lying about gross human rights abuse and genocide. History ignored yields history repeated and genocide ignored yields genocide repeated. The latest series of US and UK atrocities is the US Alliance War on Muslims that has since 1990 been associated with 12 million war- and occupation-related  Muslim deaths, the breakdown being 4.6 million (Iraq), 5.6 million (Afghanistan), 2.2 million (Somalia), 50,000 (Libya)  and 0.1 million (Palestine), these continuing atrocities being associated with refugees totaling  5-6 million (Iraq), 3-4 million (Afghanistan), 2 million (Somalia), 1.2 million (Libya) and 7 million (Palestine) – evidence of an Iraqi Genocide, an Afghan Genocide, a Somali Genocide, a Libyan Genocide and a Palestinian Genocide. Yet these genocidal realities and indeed these very genocide terms are ignored by Western media and formal complaints to the International Criminal Court fall on deaf ears (see “Muslim Holocaust, Muslim Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/muslimholocaustmuslimgenocide/ ).  

Dr Gideon Polya currently teaches science students at a major Australian university. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has recently published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contributions “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007): http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1445960.htm ) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/4047-the-plight-of-the-palestinians.html ). He has just published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot..com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open2.net/thingsweforgot/ bengalfamine_programme.html ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya's huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeaceplanetmotherchild/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonpolya/ .  




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