May 5, 2006
Genocide is a political term completely devoid of meaning. When Colin Powell first made his claim that genocide was taking place in Sudan the most reliable figures showed that approximately 98,000 people had been killed in Darfur. At the same time the UK’s most-respected medical journal Lancet estimated that 100,000 Iraqis (mostly civilians) had been killed in the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. That was in 2004.Recent estimates put that figure at 250,000 to 300,000.
So, which country was really undergoing genocide; Sudan; with a population of 48 million or Iraq with a population of 25 million?
It’s clear that Iraq, in terms of population, suffered at least 4 times the number of casualties as Sudan although the term genocide has never appeared in any western newspaper nor will it.
Genocide was never used to describe the 3 million Vietnamese who were killed out of a population of 27 million; a whopping 17% of the indigenous people. These are statistics that Hitler would have envied but they have slipped by the media virtually unnoticed.
Instead, genocide is used to disparage "other people’s" killing; especially when it factors into plans for military intervention and stealing precious resources as is the case in Sudan. That’s why we say that genocide is a political term completely devoid of meaning.
The greatest act of genocide in the 19th century took place in the American homeland where tens of millions of Indians were killed or ethnically cleansed to purge them from their native land and prepare for the first great American century. "God" played a vital role in that nation-wide massacre just as he does today. His will was invoked in the catchphrase "Manifest destiny" the belief that that the lord sanctified the white-man’s butchery of the native people. Things haven’t changed much, have they?
The racial stereotypes that were popular then, are only slightly different today. The "savage Redskin" of the Great Plains has morphed into the "bloodthirsty Muslim terrorist", but the object is still the same. Murder is always easier when the victim is demonized.
It was nearly the turn of the century before the Catholic Church acknowledged that Indians have souls. Clearly, the church is light-years ahead of the Bush administration who still believes that Muslims are chattel who can be dispatched to torture-chambers in remote gulags where they are left to rot.
Now, we are facing a new era of genocide in Iraq. From the very beginning we could see that the US occupation would use all its power to destroy Iraqi nationalism. Following the fall of Baghdad marauding gangs were given free reign to loot the nation’s cultural treasures, museums, public archives, state-owned businesses, graveyards and war memorials. Troops were ordered to let the chaos unfold while Rumsfeld casually dismissed the anarchy as a celebration of their new-found freedom.
"Freedom is untidy", Rumsfeld opined. But, behind the secretary’s breezy exterior, his real purpose was clear. America would destroy the cultural links to Iraq’s past in order to fashion a restructured neoliberal state; the new world order. For that to take place, Iraq’s cultural identity would have to be reduced to rubble.
This process has continued throughout the last 3 years as Iraq’s religious and cultural icons have been purposely looted or destroyed. The administration is attempting to create a blank-slate so the occupier can impose his social-model without competing with tradition.
Isn’t this a form of cultural genocide?
The wanton destruction of cultural treasures is anything but accidental. It is a deliberate and malicious assault on the underpinnings of Iraqi identity. The same rule applies to the repeated attacks on holy sites and mosques. Bush and company are trying to uproot the most deeply-felt spiritual connections that one has with others in the community.
Similarly, there’s been assassination campaign directed at academics, doctors, intellectuals and scientists; another clear example that the US occupation is not merely designed to subjugate the Iraqis, but to liquidate those people who transfer the culture from one generation to the next. The killing of academics is an attempt to erase the collective consciousness by removing those who are capable of rebuilding the former society.
It is no different then burning a bridge, only in this case, it is a form of genocide.
Iraqi resistance has only intensified the determination of the American overlords to crush all the symbols of Iraqi identity. Hundreds of mosques, palaces and memorials have been flattened or badly damaged. As Vietnam veteran Tony Swindell says in a recent article, "Our descent into hell has begun…"
First there was Gitmo, then the global rendition program, then Abu Ghraib, then the pulverizing of Fallujah, and now trigger-happy raids that are filling multitudes of sandy graves with men, women and children. Has "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" become the mission in Babylon? Can't anyone remember Vietnam, where we left behind more than a million dead civilians? In Iraq, we've way past the half-million mark, probably the million mark, if you count the 1990s sanctions. Are the American people as blind and deaf as they seem? Don't we see ourselves walking through the gates of hell and can't we hear the doors clanging shut on our country?"
The violence in Iraq has increased exponentially in response to the growing resistance. The killing and maiming of innocent civilians is now a routine part of the daily news-cycle rarely appearing on America’s front pages. The breakdown in troop morale is nearly as predictable as the up-tick in the murders, massacres, and crimes against humanity.
Iraq has quickly slipped into an orgy of violence; a mindless bloodbath directed by men who never saw a battle-field or wore the uniform. We’re now looking at concerted effort to fracture the society into a thousand shards and eradicate the last vestiges of Iraqi identity.
If that isn’t genocide, then what is it?