|The Great Genocide game|
|Thursday, 15 January 2009|
Prof. RAJIVA WIJESINGHE
Genocide is an extremely ugly action. Unfortunately it is now seen also as a word that can be used, while conveying the idea of something ugly, to ensure results that are also ugly, in a very different way. In short, the word is used exploitatively, to denigrate and indeed to do down others by playing on emotions.
The game, for it is a game, of enormous cynicism as well as skill, began perhaps through an accident. The word took on enormity in the 20th century because of the genocide perpetrated on the Jews. This genocide was perpetrated principally by the Germans under Hitler, but it was also promoted by several other European nations.
So, when the war was over, and Hitler was defeated, and the question of recompense arose, nations that had been complicit in genocide were anxious to make amends.
This was also one way of making clear that the new ruling elites were not complicit in the monstrosities that had taken place. So they decided to promote a new country for the Jews, a country in which they would be safe from genocide.
Unfortunately, it never occurred to them that it was the perpetrators of genocide who should make amends. In the great redrawing of the map of Europe that took place in 1945, they did not think that perhaps the Jews should be given a territory of their own where they would be safe in the Great Pale where they had lived for generations, perhaps in part of that Germany which was given to Poland, perhaps in part of that Poland which was given to the Soviet Union.
No, it was much easier to give them a large slice of Palestine, since the previous inhabitants of Palestine did not really count in European eyes, certainly not as much as either the victims or the perpetrators of genocide.
And what a successful stratagem that turned out to be. In all fairness to the Anglo-Saxons, they were not the prime movers of the project.
Indeed their ruling classes, not having been involved in the horrors of the concentration camps, were less ashamed then of their residual anti-semitism than the Europeans. But once the game started, it was a game they were well equipped to play to a finish.
Britain, having suffered from Jewish terrorism in the run up to the creation of Israel, and then having washed its hands of the area it had so avidly grabbed at the end of the First World War, behaved just like Balfour, when he moved to an exalted position under Lloyd George when Asquith was overthrown.
Roy Jenkins, in his seminal biography of Asquith, cites the Churchill description of Balfour making the move ‘like a powerful graceful cat walking delicately and unsoiled across a rather muddy street’.
I had thought of Balfour in this connection, because it was his Declaration that was used to give the concept of Israel some legitimacy from the time of the First World War. Though Balfour may not have necessarily meant Palestine, and indeed that assumption ran contrary to what the British were promising the Arabs whom they had roused against the Turks, he obviously felt something was owed to interests that had helped furnish the wherewithal to conduct a protracted war.
So the stage was set for the extraordinary ambiguity of the British in exercising their mandate over Palestine over the next three decades, decades in which the Palestinian proportion of the population of their homeland was drastically reduced through sponsored immigration.
Nevertheless, the British did not wholly sell the pass in the period after the Second War, and they suffered for it as in the explosions that took the lives of their leading officials, one of the first indications that terrorism can sometimes pay. In the fifties however, like Balfour, they shifted position powerfully but gracefully. Anthony Eden evoked the shade of Hitler when Egypt turned dangerously socialist, and joined with France in establishing for Israel its role for the next few decades, that of the Western oasis in the desert.
The prophecy was to prove self-fulfilling, not least because the United States, having maintained its previous more idealistic detachment over Suez, jumped on the bandwagon in the sixties, terrified perhaps by continuous left-leaning coups against Arab monarchies, traumatised by the polarisations caused by their adventures in Vietnam. And so the recompense made for genocide proved remarkably advantageous for the West, not perhaps so much for the actual perpetrators, but for those saw themselves as responsible for their security, and that of the world.
Obviously, if a stratagem is successful, it makes sense to repeat it. For fifty years however, this could not be done through the United Nations, given the polarisations of the Cold War. But once the War was over, and when it seemed likely that the World would be led by the West for decades to come, the Great Game could resume. And so we have the remarkable spectacle of Kosovo, where cries of genocide in 1999 played on feelings roused by earlier incidents. In those earlier incidents, the world had accepted that the ghastly action and the emotive word matched, with regard to the Holocaust, Rwanda, Srebenica.
No matter that the case was much less clear-cut in Kosovo: if the United Nations would not act, then NATO would. As it happened, the countries opposed to intervention gave in with good grace, perhaps overwhelmed by military force, but also relying on guarantees that autonomy would not lead to independence.
But guarantees mean nothing, in the ruthless world of the Great Gamers. Words are given in order to break them when convenience dictates. And while Jews can trump Muslims, Muslims can trump Orthodox Slavs.
Hence the wonderful doublespeak of an official, Western of course, committed to the independence of Kosovo, in response to a suggestion that Serbian-dominated northern Kosovo was also entitled to decide on its own position. ‘If you had subdivided Kosovo with a partition, where would that ever end?
You would then have a metastatis of mini-states around the Balkans. Every medium-sized minority would want its own state and that would be a formula for instability. ‘It obviously never occurred to him that the same argument could have been made against partitioning Serbia so as to create Kosovo.
But it would be naive to expect consistency, or principled solutions to problems, when self interest is all. What would be funny however, were it not so sad, is the manner in which naked self interest is promoted under the guise of principles - or rather through the use of emotive words intended principally to denigrate whatever is disliked for whatever self-contained reason.
And, incidentally, if one ever needs to consider the origin of ‘a metastatis of mini-states’, one need only consider the brilliance with which the British, with a little help from the French, carved up the Arab portions of the Turkish empire they brought down along with the Austrian and the German empires in 1918.
While they gave independence to the states created out of the latter two empires, they kept careful control of the alien others. Except for Arabia, which they doubtless thought a useless desert, they created Protectorates in the three states given to the other sons of the Sheriff of Mecca, and they kept for themselves the invaluable Mediterranean coast, through the Mandates of Lebanon and Palestine. And so too, brilliantly, they ringed Arabia round with a metastatis of mini-states, guarding the waterways, all solidly under occidental control. Such genius. Such utterly unashamed double standards.
The Great Genocide game (part II)
Obvious double standards
Double standards are most obvious now with regard to what is going on in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinians killed, thousands injured, economic blockades, none of them have led to the Western protectors of Israel using the word to characterise what is going on.
This may be understandable in terms of the fact that Israel is not deliberately aiming to destroy a race, in the manner which Hitler and all his associates in Europe attempted with the Jews.
But it is ironic that the word is thrown around so easily with regard to other countries now, while this mass assault on Palestinians qua Palestinians is not seen in the framework of the Convention on Genocide which defines genocide in terms of killing members of a particular group, causing serious bodily and mental harm to them and deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
In human terms it is also tragic that the victims of so much suffering have no qualms about inflicting so much themselves now on others. The literary image of Jews as victims of prejudice is something that Israelis of course are delighted to escape from, since obviously no one wants to be a victim.
But that they should have slipped so easily into the other extreme, the triumphant perpetrator of what they had themselves suffered from, is a depressing vindication of the sort of psychological vision Shakespeare encapsulated in his depiction of Shylock as both victim and villain.
But it is not only that centuries of ill treatment have hardened the Jews to demanding their pound and more of flesh when they feel themselves hurt. What is worse is that they are also led astray by their certainty of impunity for whatever they do.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, was reported to have said ‘I haven’t seen too many tears shed in Paris, London or Berlin over the fact that we have hit Hamas targets’, and that about sums up the sheer callousness with which the modern Israeli knows he can treat the suffering of civilians.
The reaction of the West is all that matters and, however many civilians die, it can be argued that these somehow deserve to die because they are in some way implicated in terrorism, and this argument will be credited by those who cannot afford to criticise the monster they created.
So Gareth Evans, riding his white charger to protect, dodged in Geneva the question as to why he and his backers did not invoke R2P against Israel by claiming that R2P applied to internal problems, and those critical of Israel were proponents of two states.
That is casuistry at its worst, and Gareth obviously understood this, for he admitted that something needed to be done - unfortunately he clearly was not going to do this, even though he felt entitled to pontificate about other countries which have seen nothing like the horrors that have been going on in Gaza.
As far as Gaza is concerned indeed Gareth’s argument does not hold water. Even though it could be argued that Israel controls the West Bank by conquest alone (though that should not preclude moral obligations for areas in which it enforces its writ as it wills), Gaza after all was part of the British mandate of Palestine. If it was not taken over by Israel, to which I believe it was initially entrusted, then it should revert to the hegemony of the United Nations.
Unfortunately, in the military victories Israel had periodically achieved over the last sixty years, victories regularly fuelled by advanced American technology (whether obtained illegally as in 1948 or with full financial and other support as now), the actual status of Gaza has been forgotten.
Meanwhile, other outriders of the West produce what might be termed distractions, by drawing attention to what they claim is genocide elsewhere. Thus we had in December, whilst the Israelis were preparing their onslaught, the Great Genocide Index. It is based entirely of predilection dressed up in jargon, and thus produces a list of eight stages which are in a state of red alert as regards genocide, and another thirteen which are in a state of yellow alert.
The list is based on five indices which seem to have been selected on a fairly arbitrary basis of indicators, all of them not just occidental but Anglo-Saxon, most of them feeding into each other. To qualify to be classified as red alert, a country has to figure on all five lists. The eight countries that thus figure include Sri Lanka and Pakistan, with China on yellow alert.
Which particular genus Pakistan and China are trying to destroy is not made clear. And Israel itself, the country that has legal and official status, is not mentioned at all, the introduction of the term Palestine into the name of the area serving to obfuscate the issue of where responsibility lies.
The five indices use some strange language for those who understand what genocide means, though since the term is used simply for emotional purposes it is understandable that the compilers did not seek academic or any other form of precision.
The absurdities of the list are quite self evident, but it may be worth noting the most absurd criterion of all, in the list that in general seems less preposterous than the rest. Amongst the preconditions here for a country to seem genocidal is trade openness.
That last dead giveaway reveals the motivation behind the whole exercise, i.e. give a dog a bad name and hang him. To use economic predilections to assert that countries are genocidal is taking gamesmanship to the brink.
Many of the other criteria are also strange, whilst the value judgments of some of the indices suggest not just ignorance or carelessness but an unremitting hostility to particular countries.
But the idea that the perpetrators of these indices need to be transparent, that they should make clear all their sources of funding, is not widespread, and in any case they have this wonderful system of wheels within wheels which permits the initial perpetrators of prejudice to hide behind the myriad smokescreens the network produces.
The Great Genocide game (part III)
Perhaps the most astonishing of the interlocking networks used to denigrate Sri Lanka as part of the Great Kiplingesque Genocide Game is The Genocide Intervention Network (one that leaves out Israel altogether), which it seems was set up a few years ago by a couple of peace studies undergraduates from an American college. Their logic however does no credit to American university education.
LTTE child soldiers
They claim that ‘Government victories forced the LTTE to resume guerrilla tactics, with deadly implications for civilians,’, ‘LTTE concessions at talks led Karuna to break away,’ and, ‘When Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power, hardline militants assumed high level Defence Ministry positions. With policies such as the incorporation of the national police into the defence establishment, LTTE wariness of the new government increased. This provoked a belligerent government response, causing fighting to resume.’
LTTE concessions? Wariness provoking belligerence? Clearly these American undergraduates have no understanding of the English language. No mention here of the fact that, while the Rajapakse Government scrupulously observed the Ceasefire for nine months from the time it took office, the LTTE began violent attacks on servicemen almost immediately, leading the Scandinavian monitors to question whether, given their actions, the CFA was still in force.
The peace studies undergraduates also obviously did not know that it was the LTTE’s authoritarian leader Prabhakaran who repudiated the minimal concession made by his negotiators (and then withdrew from talks long before President Rajapakse’s election), and that amongst the reasons Karuna has given for splitting away was his realisation that Prabhakaran would not compromise.
The Genocide Intervention Network describes the LTTE as ‘the predominant Tamil rebel group fighting against the Sinhalese government for Tamil rights and an autonomous Tamil state’, while the Karuna group are ‘a breakaway faction that garnered support from the Security Forces to attack the LTTE.
They forcibly recruit child soldiers and regularly abduct and murder suspected LTTE members and supporters.’ Such a description, ignoring even UN figures, suggests that The Genocide Intervention Network is some sort of synonym for the LTTE.
The Genocide Watch List meanwhile claims that mass killings of ordinary people are already going on in Sri Lanka, although curiously it blames anti-Tamil mobs and the LTTE. This is clearly just ignorance rather than strategy but, even if for once Government is not blamed, the idea that anti-Tamil mobs are loose suggests someone stuck in a time warp a quarter of a century ago.
Taken altogether, Sri Lanka does not come out too badly in four of the five indices used, but somehow the overall conclusion of what is termed the Genocide Project, heavily influenced by the undergraduate pronouncement, placed Sri Lanka amongst the eight countries on Red Alert.
This may not seem too important, given that the Genocide Project itself does not seem to have any great standing, but the timing of the outburst is suspicious. It coincides with the presentation to the Obama administration of a policy report on genocide, by a team headed by a much more respectable figure, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
That report makes no mention of Sri Lanka, but naturally TamilNet and related instruments of what Donald Reed describes as Fifth Generation Warfare made good use of the coincidence.
So did Bruce Fein, hired as he has been by a group that calls itself Tamils against Genocide to denigrate Sri Lankan government officials. Is all this simple coincidence? We might know more if we knew who funded the Genocide Project or the various indices it employs - and in particular the most arbitrary of them - but no one thinks accountability and transparency are essential for organisations that sit in judgment on sovereign democratic states.
Sri Lanka has recently had stunning examples of the irresponsibility if not downright dishonesty of such Non-Governmental Organisations.
The financial scandal at the Free Media Movement is perhaps outdone by the revelation that ICES had, under the distinguished leadership of Radhika Coomaraswamy and Bradman Weerakoon and Rama Mani, run up huge deficits which it has met from its investment.
It has now failed to pay their dues to the Kandy officials who first drew attention to the financial mess, furious as ICES funders were that their attempts to invoke R2P in Sri Lanka were stymied.
Those who challenged the orthodoxies had therefore to be thrown out, and their questions ignored, by the new Board which still pays obeisance to Sithy Tiruchelvam who continues to dominate ICES, and the Law and Society Trust, and the other various Trusts associated with Neelan, like a grand spider in the midst of a web that seems designed primarily to entrap the Sri Lankan state.
This was not the way Neelan behaved, but Neelan himself is now almost forgotten. After he was killed by the LTTE, ICES adopted an approach that basically assumed appeasement of the LTTE was in order, to the extent of inviting Gareth Evans to commemorate Neelan by making waves against the Sri Lankan state, with nary a mention of who killed Neelan. That Mrs Tiruchelvam should have been part of this betrayal of the ideals for which Neelan stood is utterly depressing.
But we are a microcosm of the larger world. A distinguished Indian diplomat told me, when we were discussing the transformation of the United Nations into essentially a body of white officials, that that was not the whole story.
Unlike in the old days, when UN officials came from government service and hoped to go back to that, now they came from NGOs and saw their future therein. We have seen the effects of this in the irresponsibility of people such as Benjamin Dix, who had first worked with Solidar before moving on to UNOPS, and there are plenty of other examples.
In short, we have people who claim that their idealism justifies anything, including denigration of any who disagree with them. They get used to working without any sense of accountability to any institution except their own, and unfortunately this approach is accepted by other such institutions. So the Genocide Project does not check on the credentials of those whose effusions it privileges, and in time the Genocide Project will be cited as gospel by others.
But at some stage in this game what could be considered naivete gets taken over by particular political agendas. It is not difficult, for those with a strong sense of purpose, to use the naive, sometimes through funding, sometimes through carefully chosen feeding in of information. The result is value judgments that can then be used at will.
Perhaps at present we have little to fear. But we have to remember that, as Asia increases in importance, economically as well as politically, outsiders will want to have outposts of what they think of as their own special civilisation in the midst of an alien other world.
I do not think we have to worry too much about the United States in this regard since it is confident enough in its relations with India not to feel threatened by Indian prosperity - just as way back in 1948 it did not push as a nation for the creation of Israel.
But the Jews within the States were a powerful lobby, and LTTE surrogates are now trying to play a similar role. Americans sadly are not able easily to register the distinction between the totalitarian Tigers and those who made up Israel who had developed solid democratic traditions over the years, at least for their own kind.
The recent chauvinistic critique by LTTE surrogates of American assistance to open up the East economically may alert them, but the Feins of this world will do their best to convince them that all will be well, and all manner of things too.
And then there others, who must fear the emergence of India, and feel that continuing tensions in the region will be the best hope of slowing things down, to ensure continuing economic domination by the West, at least of the service sector.
If keeping the LTTE going is the only way to achieve this, then it has to be done. But for justification for assistance to the LTTE, it is necessary to suggest that the Sri Lankan state is worse.
All this may sound far-fetched but, when too many coincidences occur, it is necessary to be wary. None of this may be connected to official policies, but often statecraft can be developed by individual adventurers who, because their governments will not repudiate them, drive more principled people along the road they have marked out. It has happened before, we need to be careful it will not happen again.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
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