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March 7, 2010

Genocide — What is it and what causes it?

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , , , , , — furtherglory @ 10:49 pm

I get all my news from Google News on the Internet and Fox News on TV.  I rarely watch CNN, except when Chrisiane Amanpour is on. Last night, I saw a show which she did about genocide.  I was struck by the fact that she did not give any reason for any of the well known genocides, such as the genocide in Rwanda. To hear her tell it, genocide is something that happens because the perpetrators are evil, not because the victims did anything to piss them off.

During the show on CNN, I turned to a family member in the younger generation and said: “Refresh my memory on the Rwanda genocide.  Who killed whom and why?”  To which the family member replied, “The Hutus killed the Watusis because the Watusis are tall and strong while the Hutus are short and fat, so the Hutus were jealous of the Watusis, and that’s why they killed them.”

Up to this point, I had not realized that the Tutsis were members of the Watusi tribe. Amanpour was pronouncing Tutsi like “Tootsie” as in Tootsie roll, a type of candy. Now it all made sense: the inferior people  in Rwanda killed the superior people, who were completely innocent because, after all, the superior people can’t help it that they are superior and this pisses the inferior people off.

During a commercial, my family member told me the “back story” on the Watusis.  During the colonial period in Africa, the British put the Watusi tribe in charge and the Watsuis made slaves out of the Hutus.  On the CNN show, Amanpour neglected to mention this.

This morning, I looked up genocide on google and found this quote from the writings of M. Hassan Kakar on Wikipedia:

For genocide to happen, there must be certain preconditions. Foremost among them is a national culture that does not place a high value on human life. A totalitarian society, with its assumed superior ideology, is also a precondition for genocidal acts.  In addition, members of the dominant society must perceive their potential victims as less than fully human: as “pagans,” “savages,” “uncouth barbarians,” “unbelievers,” “effete degenerates,” “ritual outlaws,” “racial inferiors,” “class antagonists,” “counterrevolutionaries,” and so on.  In themselves, these conditions are not enough for the perpetrators to commit genocide. To do that—that is, to commit genocide—the perpetrators need a strong, centralized authority and bureaucratic organization as well as pathological individuals and criminals. Also required is a campaign of vilification and dehumanization of the victims by the perpetrators, who are usually new states or new regimes attempting to impose conformity to a new ideology and its model of society.
– M. Hassan Kakar

It is obvious that Kakar is describing the Nazis and the Holocaust.  But are all genocides the same? According to Wikipedia, YES!

Here is another quote from Wikipedia about how genocide always starts:

People are divided into “us and them”.

“One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases.”

“Genocide is always organized… Special army units or militias  are often trained and armed…”

“Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda…”

“Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity…”

“It is “extermination” to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human.”

“The perpetrators… deny that they committed any crimes…”

So, according to Wikipedia, Christiane Amanpour is right: the victims of a genocide are always innocent.  Their actions do not cause a genocide.  This means that genocide can never be prevented because there is nothing the victims can do to prevent it.  In fact, Amanpour mentioned the steps leading up to genocide, and her explanation was much like the Wikipedia quote.  She specifically mentioned that the Nazis called the Jews “vermin” and she used the word “extermination” in describing the Holocaust.

I am old enough to remember what Louis Farrakhan said many years ago, when he spoke at Brooklyn Public School 258:

“Nobody wants to talk about what the Jews did. They are always talking about what Hitler did to the Jews. But what did the Jews do to Hitler?”

Maybe the Tutsis did something that made the Hutus so mad that they just couldn’t take it any more, so they hacked the Tutsis to death and threw their bodies into a river.  I don’t know what the Tutsis did to provoke the Hutus because Amanpour didn’t tell us. Nor did she tell us what the Jews did to piss Hitler off.

Yesterday, I read the news on my computer, as usual, while I had my breakfast.  At the top of the page on Google News was this headline: Obama against Armenian ‘genocide’ bill.

Here is a quote from the news article:

Obama against Armenian ‘genocide’ bill
Saturday, 6 March 2010 08:25

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has said the Obama administration will do what it can do block further progress of a controversial bill describing as genocide the killing by Turks of Armenians during WWI.

A US congressional committee narrowly approved the resolution on Thursday, paving the way for a possible vote on Capitol Hill.

But Mrs Clinton said the administration would ‘work very hard’ to prevent this.

Turkey voiced strong protests after the vote and recalled its ambassador from Washington for consultations.

The same congressional committee passed a similar resolution in 2007 but it failed to go anywhere after then-President George W Bush weighed in strongly against it.

Muslim Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks but denies that up to 1.5m died and that it amounted to genocide.

The committee’s resolution urges President Obama to use the term genocide when he delivers his annual message on the Armenian massacres in April.

He avoided using the term last year although as a presidential candidate he said the killings were genocide.

So America gets to vote on what is genocide and what isn’t? Now that we are allies with Germany, can we vote to call the ethnic cleansing of Germans in Czechoslovakia and Poland, after World War II, a genocide? I wrote about the German expellees on a previous post.

When the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was first proposed in Washington, DC, the Armenians wanted to be included.  The decision was finally made that an Armenian exhibit could be included, but it had to be limited to atrocities against the Armenians during World War II and could not include the alleged genocide by the Turks during World War I.  This was done to appease the Turks who insist that the Armenians were not genocided.

In California, the Armenians are called the “Fresno Indians,” because many of them settled in the Central Valley and particularly in the city of Fresno, and they were discriminated against, much like the Native Americans were.

About fifteen years ago, there was a proposal to put up a Holocaust Museum in Sacramento, CA but the project never got off the ground because the “Fresno Indians” insisted on being included.  Whether you call them “Fresno Indians” or Armenians, these people will never be allowed to equate their alleged genocide with the Holocaust.


  1. Among the many Genocides konwn in history the Shoah meets the highest number of conditions listed above. Indeed, there had been a strong government in Germanu and allied states, the hatered propaganda had century deep roots of religious despise .- the Jews as Deicides guilty for the delay of messianic age amd so for all social and economic disasters – the good trained SS (and other militias in allied and occupied states) and the Wehrmacht as perpetrators, etc, etc. Not many of the other Genocides meet the whole list of above conditions. But this the reason we ought to study Shoah history in view to prevent other tragedies!

    Comment by Wolf Murmelstein — November 8, 2014 @ 9:49 am

    • How do you explain the fact that Jews are leaving Israel and going to Germany to live? If I were a member of an ethnic group that had been the target of a Genocide, I would not go to live in the country that had wiped out my ethnic group in a Genocide.

      Comment by furtherglory — November 8, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

  2. Very naive treatment indeed. For a better overview:

    Comment by UUU — April 3, 2010 @ 8:13 am

  3. Yes, I saw that as well. Stunning material.

    I recommend if you don’t want to be a couch potato news watcher, that you try Reuters or AP and go straight to the wires.

    Comment by Paul — March 8, 2010 @ 6:32 am

  4. I think this post severely misunderstands the nature of genocide, and misconstrues the modern understanding of it. Genocide scholars are the ones at the forefront in modern research who try to present an understanding to the atrocities, not just to present victims as completely innocent, and the killers as “evil.” Typically in genocides, you see what Kakar describes (he is not just focusing in on the Holocaust).

    Still, no matter of guilt can justify the slaughter of hundreds of thousands/millions of people. Much like no matter of German complicity in Nazi atrocities can justify the expulsion of 15 million Volksdeutsche from Eastern Europe. ‘Collective guilt’, for rational people, is gone, and has long been discredited.

    Finally, just remember that it is the US Holocaust Memorial Museum who is leading the charge to spread public awareness of the killings in Darfur, and to also label those acts as a genocide (which has legal obligations for the US and UN once recognized). Also, in the genocide courses I have had with former USHMM fellows (both were Jewish), all research assignments had to be on a genocide OTHER than the Holocaust.

    Comment by Wahrheit — March 7, 2010 @ 11:31 pm

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