Guenter Lewy, who for many years taught political science at the University of Massachusetts, has been a contributor to Commentary since 1964. His books include The Catholic Church & Nazi Germany, Religion & Revolution, America in Vietnam, and The Cause that Failed: Communism in American Political Life. .
On September 21, the National Museum of the American Indian will open its doors. In an interview early this year, the museum’s founding director, W. Richard West, declared that the new institution would not shy away from such difficult subjects as the effort to eradicate American Indian culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a safe bet that someone will also, inevitably, raise the issue of genocide.
The story of the encounter between European settlers and America’s native population does not make for pleasant reading. Among early accounts, perhaps the most famous is Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor (1888), a doleful recitation of forced removals, killings, and callous disregard. Jackson’s book, which clearly captured some essential elements of what happened, also set a pattern of exaggeration and one-sided indictment that has persisted to this day.
Thus, according to Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, the reduction of the North American Indian population from an estimated 12 million in 1500 to barely 237,000 in 1900 represents a "vast genocide . . . , the most sustained on record." By the end of the 19th century, writes David E. Stannard, a historian at the University of Hawaii, native Americans had undergone the "worst human holocaust the world had ever witnessed, roaring across two continents non-stop for four centuries and consuming the lives of countless tens of millions of people." In the judgment of Lenore A. Stiffarm and Phil Lane, Jr., "there can be no more monumental example of sustained genocide—certainly none involving a 'race' of people as broad and complex as this—anywhere in the annals of human history."
The sweeping charge of genocide against the Indians became especially popular during the Vietnam war, when historians opposed to that conflict began drawing parallels between our actions in Southeast Asia and earlier examples of a supposedly ingrained American viciousness toward non-white peoples. The historian Richard Drinnon, referring to the troops under the command of the Indian scout Kit Carson, called them "forerunners of the Burning Fifth Marines" who set fire to Vietnamese villages, while in The American Indian: The First Victim (1972), Jay David urged contemporary readers to recall how America’s civilization had originated in "theft and murder" and "efforts toward . . . genocide."
Further accusations of genocide marked the run-up to the 1992 quincentenary of the landing of Columbus. The National Council of Churches adopted a resolution branding this event "an invasion" that resulted in the "slavery and genocide of native people." In a widely read book, The Conquest of Paradise (1990), Kirkpatrick Sale charged the English and their American successors with pursuing a policy of extermination that had continued unabated for four centuries. Later works have followed suit. In the 1999 Encyclopedia of Genocide, edited by the scholar Israel Charny, an article by Ward Churchill argues that extermination was the "express objective" of the U.S. government. To the Cambodia expert Ben Kiernan, similarly, genocide is the "only appropriate way" to describe how white settlers treated the Indians. And so forth.
That American Indians suffered horribly is indisputable. But whether their suffering amounted to a "holocaust," or to genocide, is another matter.
It is a firmly established fact that a mere 250,000 native Americans were still alive in the territory of the United States at the end of the 19th century. Still in scholarly contention, however, is the number of Indians alive at the time of first contact with Europeans. Some students of the subject speak of an inflated "numbers game"; others charge that the size of the aboriginal population has been deliberately minimized in order to make the decline seem less severe than it was.
The disparity in estimates is enormous. In 1928, the ethnologist James Mooney proposed a total count of 1,152,950 Indians in all tribal areas north of Mexico at the time of the European arrival. By 1987, in American Indian Holocaust and Survival, Russell Thornton was giving a figure of well over 5 million, nearly five times as high as Mooney’s, while Lenore Stiffarm and Phil Lane, Jr. suggested a total of 12 million. That figure rested in turn on the work of the anthropologist Henry Dobyns, who in 1983 had estimated the aboriginal population of North America as a whole at 18 million and of the present territory of the United States at about 10 million.
From one perspective, these differences, however startling, may seem beside the point: there is ample evidence, after all, that the arrival of the white man triggered a drastic reduction in the number of native Americans. Nevertheless, even if the higher figures are credited, they alone do not prove the occurrence of genocide.
To address this issue properly we must begin with the most important reason for the Indians’ catastrophic decline—namely, the spread of highly contagious diseases to which they had no immunity. This phenomenon is known by scholars as a "virgin-soil epidemic"; in North America, it was the norm.
The most lethal of the pathogens introduced by the Europeans was smallpox, which sometimes incapacitated so many adults at once that deaths from hunger and starvation ran as high as deaths from disease; in several cases, entire tribes were rendered extinct. Other killers included measles, influenza, whooping cough, diphtheria, typhus, bubonic plague, cholera, and scarlet fever. Although syphilis was apparently native to parts of the Western hemisphere, it, too, was probably introduced into North America by Europeans.
About all this there is no essential disagreement. The most hideous enemy of native Americans was not the white man and his weaponry, concludes Alfred Crosby, "but the invisible killers which those men brought in their blood and breath." It is thought that between 75 to 90 percent of all Indian deaths resulted from these killers.
To some, however, this is enough in itself to warrant the term genocide. David Stannard, for instance, states that just as Jews who died of disease and starvation in the ghettos are counted among the victims of the Holocaust, Indians who died of introduced diseases "were as much the victims of the Euro-American genocidal war as were those burned or stabbed or hacked or shot to death, or devoured by hungry dogs." As an example of actual genocidal conditions, Stannard points to Franciscan missions in California as "furnaces of death."
But right away we are in highly debatable territory. It is true that the cramped quarters of the missions, with their poor ventilation and bad sanitation, encouraged the spread of disease. But it is demonstrably untrue that, like the Nazis, the missionaries were unconcerned with the welfare of their native converts. No matter how difficult the conditions under which the Indians labored—obligatory work, often inadequate food and medical care, corporal punishment—their experience bore no comparison with the fate of the Jews in the ghettos. The missionaries had a poor understanding of the causes of the diseases that afflicted their charges, and medically there was little they could do for them. By contrast, the Nazis knew exactly what was happening in the ghettos, and quite deliberately deprived the inmates of both food and medicine; unlike in Stannard’s "furnaces of death," the deaths that occurred there were meant to occur.
The larger picture also does not conform to Stannard’s idea of disease as an expression of "genocidal war." True, the forced relocations of Indian tribes were often accompanied by great hardship and harsh treatment; the removal of the Cherokee from their homelands to territories west of the Mississippi in 1838 took the lives of thousands and has entered history as the Trail of Tears. But the largest loss of life occurred well before this time, and sometimes after only minimal contact with European traders. True, too, some colonists later welcomed the high mortality among Indians, seeing it as a sign of divine providence; that, however, does not alter the basic fact that Europeans did not come to the New World in order to infect the natives with deadly diseases.
Or did they? Ward Churchill, taking the argument a step further than Stannard, asserts that there was nothing unwitting or unintentional about the way the great bulk of North America’s native population disappeared: "it was precisely malice, not nature, that did the deed." In brief, the Europeans were engaged in biological warfare.
Unfortunately for this thesis, we know of but a single instance of such warfare, and the documentary evidence is inconclusive. In 1763, a particularly serious uprising threatened the British garrisons west of the Allegheny mountains. Worried about his limited resources, and disgusted by what he saw as the Indians’ treacherous and savage modes of warfare, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, wrote as follows to Colonel Henry Bouquet at Fort Pitt: "You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians [with smallpox] by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method, that can serve to extirpate this execrable race."
Bouquet clearly approved of Amherst's suggestion, but whether he himself carried it out is uncertain. On or around June 24, two traders at Fort Pitt did give blankets and a handkerchief from the fort’s quarantined hospital to two visiting Delaware Indians, and one of the traders noted in his journal: "I hope it will have the desired effect." Smallpox was already present among the tribes of Ohio; at some point after this episode, there was another outbreak in which hundreds died.
A second, even less substantiated instance of alleged biological warfare concerns an incident that occurred on June 20, 1837. On that day, Churchill writes, the U.S. Army began to dispense "'trade blankets' to Mandans and other Indians gathered at Fort Clark on the Missouri River in present-day North Dakota." He continues: Far from being trade goods, the blankets had been taken from a military infirmary in St. Louis quarantined for smallpox, and brought upriver aboard the steamboat St. Peter’s. When the first Indians showed symptoms of the disease on July 14, the post surgeon advised those camped near the post to scatter and seek "sanctuary" in the villages of healthy relatives.
In this way the disease was spread, the Mandans were "virtually exterminated," and other tribes suffered similarly devastating losses. Citing a figure of "100,000 or more fatalities" caused by the U.S. Army in the 1836-40 smallpox pandemic (elsewhere he speaks of a toll "several times that number"), Churchill refers the reader to Thornton’s American Indian Holocaust and Survival.
Supporting Churchill here are Stiffarm and Lane, who write that "the distribution of smallpox- infected blankets by the U.S. Army to Mandans at Fort Clark . . . was the causative factor in the pandemic of 1836-40." In evidence, they cite the journal of a contemporary at Fort Clark, Francis A. Chardon.
But Chardon's journal manifestly does not suggest that the U.S. Army distributed infected blankets, instead blaming the epidemic on the inadvertent spread of disease by a ship's passenger. And as for the "100,000 fatalities," not only does Thornton fail to allege such obviously absurd numbers, but he too points to infected passengers on the steamboat St. Peter's as the cause. Another scholar, drawing on newly discovered source material, has also refuted the idea of a conspiracy to harm the Indians.
Similarly at odds with any such idea is the effort of the United States government at this time to vaccinate the native population. Smallpox vaccination, a procedure developed by the English country doctor Edward Jenner in 1796, was first ordered in 1801 by President Jefferson; the program continued in force for three decades, though its implementation was slowed both by the resistance of the Indians, who suspected a trick, and by lack of interest on the part of some officials. Still, as Thornton writes: "Vaccination of American Indians did eventually succeed in reducing mortality from smallpox."
To sum up, European settlers came to the New World for a variety of reasons, but the thought of infecting the Indians with deadly pathogens was not one of them. As for the charge that the U.S. government should itself be held responsible for the demographic disaster that overtook the American-Indian population, it is unsupported by evidence or legitimate argument. The United States did not wage biological warfare against the Indians; neither can the large number of deaths as a result of disease be considered the result of a genocidal design.
Still, even if up to 90 percent of the reduction in Indian population was the result of disease, that leaves a sizable death toll caused by mistreatment and violence. Should some or all of these deaths be considered instances of genocide?
We may examine representative incidents by following the geographic route of European settlement, beginning in the New England colonies. There, at first, the Puritans did not regard the Indians they encountered as natural enemies, but rather as potential friends and converts. But their Christianizing efforts showed little success, and their experience with the natives gradually yielded a more hostile view. The Pequot tribe in particular, with its reputation for cruelty and ruthlessness, was feared not only by the colonists but by most other Indians in New England. In the warfare that eventually ensued, caused in part by intertribal rivalries, the Narragansett Indians became actively engaged on the Puritan side.
Hostilities opened in late 1636 after the murder of several colonists. When the Pequots refused to comply with the demands of the Massachusetts Bay Colony for the surrender of the guilty and other forms of indemnification, a punitive expedition was led against them by John Endecott, the first resident governor of the colony; although it ended inconclusively, the Pequots retaliated by attacking any settler they could find. Fort Saybrook on the Connecticut River was besieged, and members of the garrison who ventured outside were ambushed and killed. One captured trader, tied to a stake in sight of the fort, was tortured for three days, expiring after his captors flayed his skin with the help of hot timbers and cut off his fingers and toes. Another prisoner was roasted alive.
The torture of prisoners was indeed routine practice for most Indian tribes, and was deeply ingrained in Indian culture. Valuing bravery above all things, the Indians had little sympathy for those who surrendered or were captured. Prisoners. unable to withstand the rigor of wilderness travel were usually killed on the spot. Among those—Indian or European—taken back to the village, some would be adopted to replace slain warriors, the rest subjected to a ritual of torture designed to humiliate them and exact atonement for the tribe's losses. Afterward the Indians often consumed the body or parts of it in a ceremonial meal, and proudly displayed scalps and fingers as trophies of victory.
Despite the colonists' own resort to torture in order to extract confessions, the cruelty of these practices strengthened the belief that the natives were savages who deserved no quarter. This revulsion accounts at least in part for the ferocity of the battle of Fort Mystic in May 1637, when a force commanded by John Mason and assisted by militiamen from Saybrook surprised about half of the Pequot tribe encamped near the Mystic River.
The intention of the colonists had been to kill the warriors "with their Swords," as Mason put it, to plunder the village, and to capture the women and children. But the plan did not work out. About 150 Pequot warriors had arrived in the fort the night before, and when the surprise attack began they emerged from their tents to fight. Fearing the Indians' numerical strength, the English attackers set fire to the fortified village and retreated outside the palisades. There they formed a circle and shot down anyone seeking to escape; a second cordon of Narragansett Indians cut down the few who managed to get through the English line. When the battle was over, the Pequots had suffered several hundred dead, perhaps as many as 300 of these being women and children. Twenty Narragansett warriors also fell.
A number of recent historians have charged the Puritans with genocide: that is, with having carried out a premeditated plan to exterminate the Pequots. The evidence belies this. The use of fire as a weapon of war was not unusual for either Europeans or Indians, and every contemporary account stresses that the burning of the fort was an act of self-protection, not part of a pre-planned massacre. In later stages of the Pequot war, moreover, the colonists spared women, children, and the elderly, further contradicting the idea of genocidal intention.
A second famous example from the colonial period is King Philip’s War (1675-76). This conflict, proportionately the costliest of all American wars, took the life of one in every sixteen men of military age in the colonies; large numbers of women and children also perished or were carried into captivity. Fifty-two of New England’s 90 towns were attacked, seventeen were razed to the ground, and 25 were pillaged. Casualties among the Indians were even higher, with many of those captured being executed or sold into slavery abroad.
The war was also merciless, on both sides. At its outset, a colonial council in Boston had declared "that none be Killed or Wounded that are Willing to surrender themselves into Custody." But these rules were soon abandoned on the grounds that the Indians themselves, failing to adhere either to the laws of war or to the law of nature, would "skulk" behind trees, rocks, and bushes rather than appear openly to do "civilized" battle. Similarly creating a desire for retribution were the cruelties perpetrated by Indians when ambushing English troops or overrunning strongholds housing women and children.
Before long, both colonists and Indians were dismembering corpses and displaying body parts and heads on poles. (Nevertheless, Indians could not be killed with impunity. In the summer of 1676, four men were tried in Boston for the brutal murder of three squaws and three Indian children; all were found guilty and two were executed.)
The hatred kindled by King Philip’s War became even more pronounced in 1689 when strong Indian tribes allied themselves with the French against the British. In 1694, the General Court of Massachusetts ordered all friendly Indians confined to a small area. A bounty was then offered for the killing or capture of hostile Indians, and scalps were accepted as proof of a kill. In 1704, this was amended in the direction of "Christian practice" by means of a scale of rewards graduated by age and sex; bounty was proscribed in the case of children under the age of ten, subsequently raised to twelve (sixteen in Connecticut, fifteen in New Jersey). Here, too, genocidal intent was far from evident; the practices were justified on grounds of self-preservation and revenge, and in reprisal for the extensive scalping carried out by Indians.
We turn now to the American frontier. In Pennsylvania, where the white population had doubled between 1740 and 1760, the pressure on Indian lands increased formidably; in 1754, encouraged by French agents, Indian warriors struck, starting a long and bloody conflict known as the French and Indian War or the Seven Years' War. By 1763, according to one estimate, about 2,000 whites had been killed or vanished into captivity. Stories of real, exaggerated, and imaginary atrocities spread by word of mouth, in narratives of imprisonment, and by means of provincial newspapers. Some British officers gave orders that captured Indians be given no quarter, and even after the end of formal hostilities, feelings continued to run so high that murderers of Indians, like the infamous Paxton Boys, were applauded rather than arrested.
As the United States expanded westward, such conflicts multiplied. So far had things progressed by 1784 that, according to one British traveler, "white Americans have the most rancorous antipathy to the whole race of Indians; and nothing is more common than to hear them talk of extirpating them totally from the face of the earth, men, women, and children."
Settlers on the expanding frontier treated the Indians with contempt, often robbing and killing them at will. In 1782, a militia pursuing an Indian war party that had slain a woman and a child massacred more than 90 peaceful Moravian Delawares. Although federal and state officials tried to bring such killers to justice, their efforts, writes the historian Francis Prucha, "were no match for the singular Indian-hating mentality of the frontiersmen, upon whom depended conviction in the local courts."
But that, too, is only part of the story. The view that the Indian problem could be solved by force alone came under vigorous challenge from a number of federal commissioners who from 1832 on headed the Bureau of Indian Affairs and supervised the network of agents and subagents in the field. Many Americans on the eastern seaboard, too, openly criticized the rough ways of the frontier. Pity for the vanishing Indian, together with a sense of remorse, led to a revival of the 18th-century concept of the noble savage. America's native inhabitants were romanticized in historiography, art, and literature, notably by James Fenimore Cooper in his Leatherstocking Tales and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his long poem, The Song of Hiawatha.
On the western frontier itself, such views were of course dismissed as rank sentimentality; the perceived nobility of the savages, observed cynics, was directly proportional to one’s geographic distance from them. Instead, settlers vigorously complained that the regular army was failing to meet the Indian threat more aggressively. A large-scale uprising of the Sioux in Minnesota in 1862, in which Indian war parties killed, raped, and pillaged all over the countryside, left in its wake a climate of fear and anger that spread over the entire West.
Colorado was especially tense. Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians, who had legitimate grievances against the encroaching white settlers, also fought for the sheer joy of combat, the desire for booty, and the prestige that accrued from success. The overland route to the East was particularly vulnerable: at one point in 1864, Denver was cut off from all supplies, and there were several butcheries of entire families at outlying ranches. In one gruesome case, all of the victims were scalped, the throats of the two children were cut, and the mother’s body was ripped open and her entrails pulled over her face.
Writing in September 1864, the Reverend William Crawford reported on the attitude of the white population of Colorado: “There is but one sentiment in regard to the final disposition which shall be made of the Indians: ‘Let them be exterminated—men, women, and children together.’” Of course, he added, "I do not myself share in such views." The Rocky Mountain News, which at first had distinguished between friendly and hostile Indians, likewise began to advocate extermination of this “dissolute, vagabondish, brutal, and ungrateful race.” With the regular army off fighting the Civil War in the South, the western settlers depended for their protection on volunteer regiments, many lamentably deficient in discipline. It was a local force of such volunteers that committed the massacre of Sand Creek, Colorado on November 29, 1864. Formed in August, the regiment was made up of miners down on their luck, cowpokes tired of ranching, and others itching for battle. Its commander, the Reverend John Milton Chivington, a politician and ardent Indian-hater, had urged war without mercy, even against children. "Nits make lice," he was fond of saying. The ensuing orgy of violence in the course of a surprise attack on a large Indian encampment left between 70 and 250 Indians dead, the majority women and children. The regiment suffered eight killed and 40 wounded.
News of the Sand Creek massacre sparked an outcry in the East and led to several congressional inquiries. Although some of the investigators appear to have been biased against Chivington, there was no disputing that he had issued orders not to give quarter, or that his soldiers had engaged in massive scalping and other mutilations.
The sorry tale continues in California. The area that in 1850 became admitted to the Union as the 31st state had once held an Indian population estimated at anywhere between 150,000 and 250,000. By the end of the 19th century, the number had dropped to 15,000. As elsewhere, disease was the single most important factor, although the state also witnessed an unusually large number of deliberate killings.
The discovery of gold in 1848 brought about a fundamental change in Indian-white relations. Whereas formerly Mexican ranchers had both exploited the Indians and provided them with a minimum of protection, the new immigrants, mostly young single males, exhibited animosity from the start, trespassing on Indian lands and often freely killing any who were in their way. An American officer wrote to his sister in 1860: "There never was a viler sort of men in the world than is congregated about these mines."
What was true of miners was often true as well of newly arrived farmers. By the early 1850's, whites in California outnumbered Indians by about two to one, and the lot of the natives, gradually forced into the least fertile parts of the territory, began to deteriorate rapidly. Many succumbed to starvation; others, desperate for food, went on the attack, stealing and killing livestock. Indian women who prostituted themselves to feed their families contributed to the demographic decline by removing themselves from the reproductive cycle. As a solution to the growing problem, the federal government sought to confine the Indians to reservations, but this was opposed both by the Indians themselves and by white ranchers fearing the loss of labor. Meanwhile, clashes multiplied.
One of the most violent, between white settlers and Yuki Indians in the Round Valley of Mendocino County, lasted for several years and was waged with great ferocity. Although Governor John B. Weller cautioned against an indiscriminate campaign—"[Y]our operations against the Indians," he wrote to the commander of a volunteer force in 1859, "must be confined strictly to those who are known to have been engaged in killing the stock and destroying the property of our citizens . . . and the women and children under all circumstances must be spared"—his words had little effect. By 1864 the number of Yukis had declined from about 5,000 to 300.
The Humboldt Bay region, just northwest of the Round Valley, was the scene of still more collisions. Here too Indians stole and killed cattle, and militia companies retaliated. A secret league, formed in the town of Eureka, perpetrated a particularly hideous massacre in February 1860, surprising Indians sleeping in their houses and killing about sixty, mostly by hatchet. During the same morning hours, whites attacked two other Indian rancherias, with the same deadly results. In all, nearly 300 Indians were killed on one day, at least half of them women and children.
Once again there was outrage and remorse. "The white settlers," wrote a historian only 20 years later, "had received great provocation. . . . But nothing they had suffered, no depredations the savages had committed, could justify the cruel slaughter of innocent women and children.” This had also been the opinion of a majority of the people of Eureka, where a grand jury condemned the massacre, while in cities like San Francisco all such killings repeatedly drew strong criticism. But atrocities continued: by the 1870's, as one historian has summarized the situation in California, "only remnants of the aboriginal populations were still alive, and those who had survived the maelstrom of the preceding quarter-century were dislocated, demoralized, and impoverished."
Lastly we come to the wars on the Great Plains. Following the end of the Civil War, large waves of white migrants, arriving simultaneously from East and West, squeezed the Plains Indians between them. In response, the Indians attacked vulnerable white outposts; their "acts of devilish cruelty," reported one officer on the scene, had "no parallel in savage warfare." The trails west were in similar peril: in December 1866, an army detachment of 80 men was lured into an ambush on the Bozeman Trail, and all of the soldiers were killed.
To force the natives into submission, Generals Sherman and Sheridan, who for two decades after the Civil War commanded the Indian-fighting army units on the Plains, applied the same strategy they had used so successfully in their marches across Georgia and in the Shenandoah Valley. Unable to defeat the Indians on the open prairie, they pursued them to their winter camps, where numbing cold and heavy snows limited their mobility. There they destroyed the lodges and stores of food, a tactic that inevitably resulted in the deaths of women and children.
Genocide? These actions were almost certainly in conformity with the laws of war accepted at the time. The principles of limited war and of noncombatant immunity had been codified in Francis Lieber's General Order No. 100, issued for the Union Army on April 24, 1863. But the villages of warring Indians who refused to surrender were considered legitimate military objectives. In any event, there was never any order to exterminate the Plains Indians, despite heated pronouncements on the subject by the outraged Sherman and despite Sheridan's famous quip that "the only good Indians I ever saw were dead." Although Sheridan did not mean that all Indians should be shot on sight, but rather that none of the warring Indians on the Plains could be trusted, his words, as the historian James Axtell rightly suggests, did "more to harm straight thinking about Indian-white relations than any number of Sand Creeks or Wounded Knees."
As for that last-named encounter, it took place on December 29, 1890 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. By this time, the 7th Regiment of U.S. Cavalry had compiled a reputation for aggressiveness, particularly in the wake of its surprise assault in 1868 on a Cheyenne village on the Washita river in Kansas, where about 100 Indians were killed by General George Custer's men.
Still, the battle of Washita, although one-sided, had not been a massacre: wounded warriors were given first aid, and 53 women and children who had hidden in their lodges survived the assault and were taken prisoner. Nor were the Cheyennes unarmed innocents; as their chief Black Kettle acknowledged, they had been conducting regular raids into Kansas that he was powerless to stop.
The encounter at Wounded Knee, 22 years later, must be seen in the context of the Ghost Dance religion, a messianic movement that since 1889 had caused great excitement among Indians in the area and that was interpreted by whites as a general call to war. While an encampment of Sioux was being searched for arms, a few young men created an incident; the soldiers, furious at what they considered an act of Indian treachery, fought back furiously as guns surrounding the encampment opened fire with deadly effect. The Army's casualties were 25 killed and 39 wounded, mostly as a result of friendly fire. More than 300 Indians died.
Wounded Knee has been called "perhaps the best-known genocide of North American Indians." But, as Robert Utley has concluded in a careful analysis, it is better described as "a regrettable, tragic accident of war," a bloodbath that neither side intended. In a situation where women and children were mixed with men, it was inevitable that some of the former would be killed. But several groups of women and children were in fact allowed out of the encampment, and wounded Indian warriors, too, were spared and taken to a hospital. There may have been a few deliberate killings of noncombatants, but on the whole, as a court of inquiry ordered by President Harrison established, the officers and soldiers of the unit made supreme efforts to avoid killing women and children.
On January 15, 1891, the last Sioux warriors surrendered. Apart from isolated clashes, America’s Indian wars had ended.
The Genocide Convention was approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1948 and came into force on January 12, 1951; after a long delay, it was ratified by the United States in 1986. Since genocide is now a technical term in international criminal law, the definition established by the convention has assumed prima-facie authority, and it is with this definition that we should begin in assessing the applicability of the concept of genocide to the events we have been considering.
According to Article II of the convention, the crime of genocide consists of a series of acts "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group as such" (emphases added). Practically all legal scholars accept the centrality of this clause. During the deliberations over the convention, some argued for a clear specification of the reasons, or motives, for the destruction of a group. In the end, instead of a list of such motives, the issue was resolved by adding the words "as such"—i.e., the motive or reason for the destruction must be the ending of the group as a national, ethnic, racial, or religious entity. Evidence of such a motive, as one legal scholar put it, "will constitute an integral part of the proof of a genocidal plan, and therefore of genocidal intent."
The crucial role played by intentionality in the Genocide Convention means that under its terms the huge number of Indian deaths from epidemics cannot be considered genocide. The lethal diseases were introduced inadvertently, and the Europeans cannot be blamed for their ignorance of what medical science would discover only centuries later. Similarly, military engagements that led to the death of noncombatants, like the battle of the Washita, cannot be seen as genocidal acts, for the loss of innocent life was not intended and the soldiers did not aim at the destruction of the Indians as a defined group. By contrast, some of the massacres in California, where both the perpetrators and their supporters openly acknowledged a desire to destroy the Indians as an ethnic entity, might indeed be regarded under the terms of the convention as exhibiting genocidal intent.
Even as it outlaws the destruction of a group "in whole or in part," the convention does not address the question of what percentage of a group must be affected in order to qualify as genocide. As a benchmark, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has suggested "a reasonably significant number, relative to the total of the group as a whole," adding that the actual or attempted destruction should also relate to "the factual opportunity of the accused to destroy a group in a specific geographic area within the sphere of his control, and not in relation to the entire population of the group in a wider geographic sense." If this principle were adopted, an atrocity like the Sand Creek massacre, limited to one group in a specific single locality, might also be considered an act of genocide.
Of course, it is far from easy to apply a legal concept developed in the middle of the 20th century to events taking place many decades if not hundreds of years earlier. Our knowledge of many of these occurrences is incomplete. Moreover, the malefactors, long since dead, cannot be tried in a court of law, where it would be possible to establish crucial factual details and to clarify relevant legal principles.
Applying today’s standards to events of the past raises still other questions, legal and moral alike. While history has no statute of limitations, our legal system rejects the idea of retroactivity (ex post facto laws). Morally, even if we accept the idea of universal principles transcending particular cultures and periods, we must exercise caution in condemning, say, the conduct of war during America’s colonial period, which for the most part conformed to thenprevailing notions of right and wrong. To understand all is hardly to forgive all, but historical judgment, as the scholar Gordon Leff has correctly stressed, "must always be contextual: it is no more reprehensible for an age to have lacked our values than to have lacked forks."
The real task, then, is to ascertain the context of a specific situation and the options it presented. Given circumstances, and the moral standards of the day, did the people on whose conduct we are sitting in judgment have a choice to act differently? Such an approach would lead us to greater indulgence toward the Puritans of New England, who fought for their survival, than toward the miners and volunteer militias of California who often slaughtered Indian men, women, and children for no other reason than to satisfy their appetite for gold and land. The former, in addition, battled their Indian adversaries in an age that had little concern for humane standards of warfare, while the latter committed their atrocities in the face of vehement denunciation not only by self-styled humanitarians in the faraway East but by many of their fellow citizens in California.
Finally, even if some episodes can be considered genocidal—that is, tending toward genocide—they certainly do not justify condemning an entire society. Guilt is personal, and for good reason the Genocide Convention provides that only "persons" can be charged with the crime, probably even ruling out legal proceedings against governments. No less significant is that a massacre like Sand Creek was undertaken by a local volunteer militia and was not the expression of official U.S. policy. No regular U.S. Army unit was ever implicated in a similar atrocity. In the majority of actions, concludes Robert Utley, "the Army shot noncombatants incidentally and accidentally, not purposefully." As for the larger society, even if some elements in the white population, mainly in the West, at times advocated extermination, no official of the U.S. government ever seriously proposed it. Genocide was never American policy, nor was it the result of policy.
The violent collision between whites and America's native population was probably unavoidable. Between 1600 and 1850, a dramatic surge in population led to massive waves of emigration from Europe, and many of the millions who arrived in the New World gradually pushed westward into America's seemingly unlimited space. No doubt, the 19th-century idea of America’s "manifest destiny" was in part a rationalization for acquisitiveness, but the resulting dispossession of the Indians was as unstoppable as other great population movements of the past. The U.S. government could not have prevented the westward movement even if it had wanted to.
In the end, the sad fate of America's Indians represents not a crime but a tragedy, involving an irreconcilable collision of cultures and values. Despite the efforts of well-meaning people in both camps, there existed no good solution to this clash. The Indians were not prepared to give up the nomadic life of the hunter for the sedentary life of the farmer. The new Americans, convinced of their cultural and racial superiority, were unwilling to grant the original inhabitants of the continent the vast preserve of land required by the Indians’ way of life. The consequence was a conflict in which there were few heroes, but which was far from a simple tale of hapless victims and merciless aggressors. To fling the charge of genocide at an entire society serves neither the interests of the Indians nor those of history.
by chris l pettit on November 22, 2004 at 5:21 AM
A fine article...
I greatly appreciate the discussion of the Genocide Convention and the application of the laws of warfare that existed at the time. It is hard to apply the concept of genocide to a situation that occurred literally hundreds of years before the concept was developed. It is so difficult to examine crimes against humanity when you are forced to weigh current attitudes versus the attitude of the period.
The Native Americans were most certainly targeted for extermination or conversion by many of the settlers. I think a sociological and anthropological study is rather pertinent in this sense, especially since we are discussing the Puritans and other hard core extremist religious elements who tended to view everyone as converts, and were not shy about labeling those who did not want to convert savages. The well documented practice of biological warfare that took place by sending infected linens to Native American encampments might be described as one of the founding moments of the practice of utilising biological warfare against another people. When that is considered, it screws up the figures even more, and really blurs the line between what deaths can be termed "accidental" and "unforseeable" and what deaths were intentionally caused by biological warfare.
What we can learn from applying the current standards of human rights to historical events such as the slaughtering of the Native Americans is that had they happened today they would most certainly fall under the current legal definition of genocide. They also demonstrate the incredible arrogance and ignorance of the Puritans and other religious zealots in their "formation" of the "New World"...as if it did not exist in totality before they arrived. By destroying Native American culture the settlers destroyed many attitudes and practices that would be highly instructive in dealing with the circumstances of today. The annihilation of the Native Americans has great significance when analyzing the cultural genocide being perpetrated against the Palestinians and Tibetans today, to mention only two of countless instances that are taking place globally.
One thing that must be stated, and that is a major fallacy and shortcoming of those who claim that the key aspect of analyzing genocide is the intent of the perpetrator is that the emphasis lies on the effect on the culture and victims, not the mindset of the perpetrator. If a result of an action is genocide, then the action is genocide. Specific intent is not required. Even a cursory reading of the history behind the genocide convention reveals that the reason why the major powers pushed for such a strong emphasis on the specific intent was a fear that the indigenous populations would be able to press a case against the major powers for genocide against their peoples. THis was, of course, sheer idiocy given that the convention would not be applicable to past actions, but such is the way that ignorant political figures think when constructing legislation...even on a global level.
Re: Fascinating... (#47189)
by John H. Lederer on November 22, 2004 at 7:35 AM
"The well documented practice of biological warfare that took place by sending infected linens to Native American encampments might be described as one of the founding moments of the practice of utilising biological warfare against another people. When that is considered, it screws up the figures even more, and really blurs the line between what deaths can be termed "accidental" and "unforseeable" and what deaths were intentionally caused by biological warfare."
Strange. I read the interesting and well written article and concluded that the evidence for intentional and accomplished biological warfare was far weaker than I had previously believed. 'Well documented" would not occur to me in the case of the Mandan where the author points out that the original sources do not support the conclusion.
Indeed, if Fort Pitt and the Mandan are the only two such incidents over a 200 year history I would regard the overall case as very weak indeed, and many guilty of creating a great calumny.
Re: Fascinating... (#47217)
by Ben H. Severance on November 22, 2004 at 2:59 PM
I am against you on other topics, but share your views on this matter.
No Genocide in America (#47216)
by Ben H. Severance on November 22, 2004 at 2:57 PM
Your defintion of genocide has the appearance of tortured semantics. Inherent in the term is the intent of the perpetrator, as in the case of "homocide." If the result defines the term, then the Black Death must be defined as genocide and not merely a pandemic. Anyway, I would add that sending small-pox laced linens into Indian villages was hardly the beginning of biological warfare. It was common practice in ancient and medieval warfare to catapult an infected human or animal carcass into a besieged city. In neither case, however, was this resort to biological tactics standard operating procedure.
As for what happened to the American Indians, that was not genocide, but rather the unfortunate byproduct of two competing peoples clashing over resources. While there were plenty of instances of extermination, by the Puritans or other colonists, these were limited by duration and location, and were pepetrated by both sides (remember Opecheganough's attempts to destroy the Jamestown colony in 1622 and 1644?) In any event, the motive was rarely extermination per se as much as land acquisition (or reclamation) coupled with the need to eliminate a threat to security.
At no point in U.S. history was it ever official governmental policy to deliberately and systematically wipe out the various Indian tribes. That the Indians were, indeed, essentially wiped out is the result less of state action and more to the inexorable expansion of the American population. Homesteaders, farmers, prospectors, miners, ranchers, pioneers, railroad men, etc... did more harm to the Indians (and vice versa) than the U.S. government. Inevitably, westward expansion brought conflict, and the U.S. army was hardly going to take the side of the uncivilized tribes against its own citizenry.
It is absurd to think that a growing nation of tens of millions along the East coast was going to respect the boundaries of a tiny number of Indians who occupied the vast acreage of land to the West. Keep in mind, that from the colonial period forward, most Americans believed that the frontier held the promise of economic independence and the political liberty that came with land ownership. No arbitrary demarcation line, such as the Proclamation of 1763 or some stop-gap treaty, was going to slow down this expansionist phenomenon. Frankly, white Americans would have preferred that the Indians simply get out of the way. When they didn't, for obvious reasons, the two sides fought with atrocities commited by both parties. The bottom line is that the two worlds of the Indian and the white were incompatible and irreconcilable. Either the Indians defeated westward expansion, which was technologically and numerically impossible, or the whites drove them off, which is what happened. It was certainly a tragedy, but it was also perfectly in keeping with what most migratory peoples have done throughout history. Who cries for the Western Roman Empire and its "genocidal" victimization at the hands of the expanding Germanic tribes?
There are mass movements in this world that no government or set of laws can thwart. Sometimes those movements are good (e.g., civil rights), sometimes they are tragic (the fate of the American Indian). I have no doubt that the American Indians would have lost little sleep had it been the white race that perished, instead of the other way around. Such is the grim reality of human nature. But the silver lining is the changed outlook of Americans today, and their greater willingness to understand and respect other cultures.
Re: No Genocide in America (#89210)
by Nico J J on May 13, 2006 at 12:41 AM
Dear Mr Severance,
I just read your comment and I felt the urge to reply as simply as possible.
I am a European and live in Europe. It has never been in anyone's mind here that the Western Roman Empire was the object of any genocide. The invaders were either assimilated or returned home. We in France are the produce of many invasions: the founding populations were the Gallic (Celtic) tribes, but even them probably met some pre-Gallic populations that they assimilated. Ever since we have been "invaded" by different populations or warriors, but the basic population never disappeared from the surface of earth. When the Franks invaded us (they gave us our name: France), they settled here and then were assimilated. They didn't take the place of the Gallo-Roman population.
In the case of the Indians I feel you're comparing what hapened to a soccer match: 2 teams competed and the strongest won. Except that the team who had the trophy before is not here anymore. But it's not like in a match: it had been the territory of the Indians and the bisons for thousand years and they were invaded. Their country was stolen from them, then they disappeared (or almost): even if there was no intent, when you make an action and the result of that action is that the person who was there disappears because of your action, it is still homicide. Genocide is when a population or a distinct human group disappears. How do you call the Indian disappearance ? Absentia ?
There is for sure a difference with what the Nazis did: they had a planned project to wipe out from the surface of earth and wherever they were, a distinct population that they hated. In the case of Indians the problem didn't come up because they were Indians: if the Indians had been living somewhere else, there wouldn't have been any problem (which was not the case of Jews and other populations in the eyes of the Nazis). Alas, they were on a territory that was the object of desire by other people who had otherwise no desire to share (without saying so).
At some point you say that the motive was not extermination per se as much as land acquisition coupled with the need to eliminate the threat to security. I find this a bit hypocritical.
It's like saying that a robber didn't want to kill the owner, but had to, because he/she needed to ensure his/her own safety. Wouldn't you laugh ? Do you really think so ? Land acquisition ? Would you be happy today to have people coming from overseas to make "land acquisitions" (forced land acquisitions) and ensure their own safety with guns ? You can't just say it was a mere competition and poor Indians, they lost: we wanted to take the land and the country, but not kill them. The result is that they are killed, but we didn't intend to. That's life, no guilt. Really ? Come in Europe and ask people in general. You will be surprised how they view all this. And we have our share of guilt as those were European governments and nations who initiated the first inroads in the Americas.
I agree with you that there are mass movements in history that are unavoidable in the human course. That's true. Human history is full of that. But what does this have to do with genocide ? Even if it is the result of an historically unavoidable trend, a genocide is still a genocide if the conditions to a genocide are fulfilled. And talking about unavoidable trends (always questionable anyway) does not take away the guilt, does it ?
In on e of your sentences, you say that "(...)the U.S. army was hardly going to take the side of the uncivilized tribes against its own citizenry". You're not implying that the Indians were not civilized or that a civilization is superior to another, right ? Otherwise, do you know anything about the different "Indian" civilization" ? Do you think it's "civilized" to invade a territory and take over ?
Finally, why did you have to add that the Indians (if they were still there) would have lost little sleep if it had been the other way around ?? Is it about one side against another in your eyes ? Really ? How would you react then if, again, you were invaded today and someone told you, sorry, it's the human history and, sorry, it's just too bad for you ?
Sorry for this long comment that I am not sure you will even read.
Anyway, I realize how European outlooks differ from today Americans' outlook. Acknowledging a fault speaks in your honor and means you start to master you own history: denying it is getting ready to do it again. We have made so many mistakes in our long European history: we are still learning from that, but we have progressed. Just look at how peaceful Western Europe now is, France and Germany for instance have moved a long way forward.
Re: No Genocide in America (#133958)
by Alp Arslan SAHIN on April 28, 2009 at 5:55 PM
According to your opinion; if someone is a WASP, he has a right take possession of other humanbeings properties doesn't he? For instance, that was what happened in ıraq. In fact,despoilment is the mother lode of western culture...
Re: Fascinating... (#47227)
by Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach on November 22, 2004 at 3:34 PM
I must agree with Ben. Genocide must include some intention on the part of the perpetrator. How else can one distinguish between traditional wars, in which large numbers of one side are wiped out, and actual "genocide."
Any definition of genocide that excludes those intentions is simply useless as a conceptual tool, as far as I am concerned.
Re: Fascinating... (#47251)
by John H. Lederer on November 22, 2004 at 9:07 PM
F. Braudel has an interesting take on the competition between the early settlers and the Indians. Simplified his claim is that the ascendancy of the Europeans was largely the result of birthrates. Because the Europeans weaned early and used cow's milk as a substitute for several years of nursing, they outbred the Indians.
Re: Fascinating... (#58122)
by Mubde' ABSI on April 6, 2005 at 4:05 AM
To Chris and Ben,
Genocide is genocide whether affected people are Native-Americans or Jews or more recenly the people of Palestine, Iraq and Muslims of Balkan region and Afaganistan. Let us not dwell much on terms but results. Killing is killing is killing no matte what politicized conventions say about them. People on earth classify all killings as genocides.
by chris l pettit on November 23, 2004 at 5:32 AM
The definition depends on whether you look at the legal history and development, or whether you choose to stick with a political and ideological definition. Those who choose to suit their own individual beliefs will be bound to mention that, according to a strict and narrow reading of the genocide convention, specific intent is required. I have no qualms with that interpretation...however, it ignores the fact that there has been a rich history concerning the definition of genocide, from the Nuremburg Tribunals to the ICTR, to the ICTY, to the ICC, that re-introduces cultural genocide into the equation (look at the Tadic case in the former Yugoslavia and the Akayesu case in Rwanda) as well as emphasising that the intent of the perpetrator is not as vital as an element as ideolologues would like to believe, as it is nearly impossible to prove.
You do realise that, under your definition of the term, the Nazi slaughtering of Jews, Communists, Homosexuals, etc, does not fit the definition of genocide? The Nazis were not primarily targeting Jews...they were establishing a pure Aryan state...killing the Jews, et al was just a means to that end...thus there was no specific intent. They were not killing Jews specifically because they were Jewish...they were killing them for what they were not...Aryans. THus is the idiotic and tortured logic of your position. It is how the US is able to say that what happened in Vietnam was not genocide and Israel and China are able to say that they are not committing genocide...they are not targeting people for what they are...but rather for what they aren't...or to save an ideal. This is the nature of cultural genocide. Under your narrow definition, genocide very rarely exists. What happened in Rwanda and Yugoslavia do not even qualify. The judges in the ICTR and ICTY were wise enough to discern this logic and altered their interpretations accordingly. I know that ideologues such as yourselves are oh so much wiser than those of us who actually practice international law and have immersed ourselves in the topic, so please, in your omnipotence, explain to us humble professionals of the craft what your ideology dictates that we define the term as.
Why don;t you actually look at the negotiation documents and commentaries that accompany the Genocide Convention...the reason that the greater powers forced the exclusion of the cultural definiton of genocide is that they were concerned about claims from their own indigenous peoples...it is there in print!! There have been many scholarly articles, including my own, written on the topic. Ethnic cleansing is considered part of genocide...there is even a SC Resolution on the matter!! I know this does not matter to ideological scholars such as yourselves who are oh so much more brilliant than any of us practitioners...maybe you should be running things and we can do away with any semblence of law whatsoever, replacing it with your jingoistic idealisms perhaps?
What is any war other than a clash in ideologies or conflict over resources? Did anyone notice that the Native Americans were here initially and were invaded upon by the settlers? Mr. lederer, i note the flaws in the analysis that there were few isolated incidents of biological warfare...it is impossible to make that claim...just as it is impossible to make the claim that almost all occurrences were purposeful. Hence the reason why we focus on the victims and not the intent of the perpetrators!!! It is simply foolish to accept the idea that Native Americans were not slaughtered in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons. I know your undying belief in white mans destiny allows you to disregard other human beings, but your ideology is of no concern to anyone but yourself...maybe you ought to base your arguments in logic and rationality.
Ben...I never state that the Native Americans did not perpetrate atrocities. Why is it that everytime I simply point out a fallacy in an argument, the opposite position is automatically imputed upon me by your interpretations. I did not see any attacks by Native Americans until after the settlers began slaughtering them...they greeted the settlers as equals...they allowed to confiscate their familial lands because they had no concept of private property. Quite simply, it is impossible to make the claim that anyone except the settlers started this mess.
It should be reiterated that mass expulsion and emigration, which was most definitely a policy of the US government, is a war crime and one of the key components of the path to genocide. Again...no government would set out on a genocidal path...it is a downward spiral. My mentor at UF, Prof. Nagan, has written an incredible article on the topic that is available in the Yale Journal of International Law. Even the Nazis did not originally start as genocidaires. Regardless...they are crimes against humanity that are recognized by governments as they occur. There are other levels of culpability...and the actions of the US government fall under gross negligence, if not blatant recklessness...two valid culpabilities under international criminal law. I know none of you actually respect such an idea, since the ignorance of the topic is palpable, but maybe you should try thinking outside of your narrow ideological boundaries for a change?
Ben...i am starting to share your grim viewpoint of human nature. As is illustrated by the ignorance and intolerance of posters such as Mr. Lederer and Lopescu, some human beings are unable to utilize their ability to reason and recognize those universal values recognised by all cultures and religions. Mass movements are not "inevitable" and I am surprised that you would so brusquely brush off what was nothing less than a migration that wiped out a living culture. We cannot sit idley by while "manifest destiny" takes effect. your comment about the Native Americans not caring about the despise of the settlers is idiotic and outrageous. We have so much to learn from the cultures that we have wiped out through our hubris (and are trying to do to Islam at the moment). The Native Americans for the most part welcomed the settlers and tried to understand them. There will always be exceptions to every rule and I am sure there were some intolerants (such as Mr. Lederer is an intolerant in this case). it is these intolerant and ignorant vioces that must be drowned out by those voices who actually believe in human rights and peace...and will work for equality of all peoples. it was not until the settlers started slaughtering the Native Americans and encroaching on their land that the violent conflicts began. One sees the same story from Columbus in hispaniola to Cortes and Pizarro, to De Soto. A cursory reading of history would provide this knowledge for you. Are you guys sure you are qualified to be posting on the web site? i guess it is your right under the First Amendment to show your ignorance, but still, I would feel a little foolish at this point if I were you.
By the way, Mr. Lederer...I do want to acknowledge your citing of Mr. Braudel;s study. While it is quite narrow and only identifies one of hundreds of factors...it is one factor that needs to be considered in every analysis. Simple it is...as are you if you base your claims solely on that narrowsighted argument. I am sure that you have other sources of insight that you combine with this analysis to form your argument. Unfortunately, Braudel's analysis is inconsistent with scientific analysis and takes a very Western elitist view of the matter. he fails to take into consideration the difference in cultures, the different roles played by women, even during childbirth, and the different ways in which the women of both cultures prepared for childbirth (for instance...Native American women working and carrying on until practically the day of birth while "European" women tended to take what we would consider a more traditional path). So the study in itself, as well as its conclusions, is highly problematic and sheds little light on the subject. however, it does give us an interesting angle that needs to be considered in any coherent analysis.
Re: Genocide... (#47273)
by Ben H. Severance on November 23, 2004 at 9:03 AM
Thanks for your refreshing insights. While I stand by much of what I said, you were right to rebuke a few of my more nasty comments. I have no idea how Indians would have felt had the white settlers been the ones who died out; that was a cheap shot on my part--very ethnocentric. Additionally, I agree that the whites did initiate the saga of blood-letting between the two peoples as John Smith in Jamestown and the Pequot War of the Puritans demonstrates, but we must remember that the colonists were often in survival mode, so they took desperate measures from time to time. I would add that the goodwill you speak of among the Indians often disguised ulterior motives. When the English arrived at Jamestown, Chief Powhatan was attempting to subdue the various tribes around the Tidewater region. He saw the English, and especially their metal instruments, as a potential ally in his larger war.
As for the definitional debate, I do consider the Nazi Holocaust a genocide of the worst sort. Hitler was not simply trying to create a master race, but annihilate supposedly "inferior" races. One can never dismiss the racial component in Nazi thinking. From Mein Kampf to the Wansee Conference, the obliteration of the Jews was always a major goal of the Third Reich. Now, I think that today's Jews have taken over the Holocaust as an event that happened only to them, but having lost six million there is no denying the centrality of Jews in the Final Solution.
As for posting on HNN, I'll do so whether I have the credentials or not. Why you even object to who is posting is odd, unless you also object to the legion of media lightweights who waste America's time with their loquacity. Having said this, I do admit that my commentary is often inconsistent. I oscillate between being a proud patriot, who defends this country and its many strides toward progress, and an indignant Christian, who is often disgusted by the mean-spirited policies of American government and the lack of genuine love for neighbor. In the end, I pray that I come down on the side of religious faith and not secular allegiance, hence my admiration for those (such as yourself) who can see beyond national boundaries and elevate compassion for the international community above their own pig trough.
Re: Genocide... (#47289)
by Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach on November 23, 2004 at 1:49 PM
1) “Those who choose to suit their own individual beliefs will be bound to mention that, according to a strict and narrow reading of the genocide convention, specific intent is required.”
Chris, I am disappointed that someone so concerned about the law would demonstrate such contempt for those who view the law at face value. The statement “committed with intent to destroy” is not some strict and narrow meaning, it is fundamental to the definition. To me, it would be like suggesting that the term “without due process of law” be a mere “narrow reading” of the 14th amendment’s prohibition on denying any person life, liberty, or property. Ignore such significant language and you fundamentally alter the meaning of the term. It is as true with genocide as with any other word in the English language.
2) “You do realise that, under your definition of the term, the Nazi slaughtering of Jews, Communists, Homosexuals, etc, does not fit the definition of genocide? The Nazis were not primarily targeting Jews...they were establishing a pure Aryan state...killing the Jews, et al was just a means to that end...thus there was no specific intent. They were not killing Jews specifically because they were Jewish...they were killing them for what they were not...Aryans.”
I cannot disagree with your interpretation of history more. The very term “genocide” was coined precisely to describe the murder of the Jews, who were murdered because they were Jews. Communists, Slavs, Homosexuals, Catholics, etc. were all killed in large numbers, but not with the objective of literally exterminating them all (after all, Communists in occupied Eastern Europe were not collected en masse and murdered, and some of Hitler’s top aids were homosexual with his knowledge. No one ever simply went around arbitrarily murdering Catholics. Gypsies, perhaps would far better meet the criteria for genocide). The murder of Jews was unique precisely because they were targeted as a group, even to the detriment of the Nazi war machine. Neither the French, the Italians, nor the Japanese were Aryan but they were not the victim of a Nazi genocide.
3) “THus is the idiotic and tortured logic of your position. It is how the US is able to say that what happened in Vietnam was not genocide and Israel and China are able to say that they are not committing genocide”
One could quite easily turn the “idotic and tortured logic” around by suggesting that by your definition, all serial killers, and perhaps even anyone who takes a life is engage in genocide since they are destroying, “in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group as such.” The death of even one person could be interpreted as constituting a part of a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.
4) “This is the nature of cultural genocide. Under your narrow definition, genocide very rarely exists. What happened in Rwanda and Yugoslavia do not even qualify.”
You are partly correct, genocide rarely does exist, but it does occur. I am curious as to why you would believe that Rwanda and Yugoslavia would not be included in the conventional definition. In both cases, the intent truly was to eradicate an entire group of people AS SUCH.
5) “I know that ideologues such as yourselves are oh so much wiser than those of us who actually practice international law and have immersed ourselves in the topic, so please, in your omnipotence, explain to us humble professionals of the craft what your ideology dictates that we define the term as.”
I would argue that the term means exactly what its definition says it means, no more no less. The fact that others want to include in the definition anyone and everyone they wish does not change the definition. You may call what is happening to the Palestinians, for example, genocide, you may also call it Apartheid, slavery, Holocaust, ethnic cleansing, racism, terrorism, chauvinism, ethnocentrism, sexism, Darwinism, or you may even call it a table, chair, car, or baloney sandwich. However, all of these words have actual definitions that the English speaking world generally accepts and uses. The fact that you would dramatically change the definition does not change this.
6) “I know this does not matter to ideological scholars such as yourselves who are oh so much more brilliant than any of us practitioners...maybe you should be running things and we can do away with any semblence of law whatsoever, replacing it with your jingoistic idealisms perhaps?”
Any law that cannot even define its terms is not a law that is reliable or predictable enough to be conceptually relevant to me. If the definition of robbery, or murder in the first degree, changed depending on who the lawyers and judges were, I don’t believe it would be a very useful system of jurisprudence.
For the record, by the way, I actually disagree with the authors conclusions. I believe that Native Americans were indeed the victims of genocide, based on the conventional definition of the term. I believe that there was in fact the knowing attempt to exterminate Native peoples and cultures. This can be seen in their treatment as well as in the massive popularity of sending Indian children to white schools to eradicate their native culture. Again, I stress, no alteration of the definition need be made.
Also, as a side note, I take issue with the claim made by Ben that “today's Jews have taken over the Holocaust as an event that happened only to them.” Jewish organizations do strive to prevent other groups from claiming that they had it just as bad when they really did not. As an analogy, consider the fact that Black group also actively try to prevent other groups from claiming that the history of racism in this country effected, say, the Irish or Catholics in the exact same way as it effected blacks. No one ever claims that blacks have “taken over” racism or slavery. The fact suggest that the Holocaust was uniquely targeted towards Jews, and perhaps Gypsies as well. The attempt to rewrite history to have ones own group included as equivalent victims for contemporary political reasons does not make Jews who correct this fallacy “taking it over.”
Re: Genocide... (#47307)
by Ben H. Severance on November 23, 2004 at 4:17 PM
I apologize for my presumptuous language. It isn't my intent to minimize the suffering of Jews under Nazi oppression. My statement reflects only my personal perception of how many of today's Jews look back on the Holocaust. In public school I always heard the six million figure cited and learned a great deal about the Jewish experience in the death camps. This was horrifying enough, but it was only much later that I became aware of the full magnitude of the Holocaust. The Einsatzgruppen massacred an estimated 2.5 million non-Jewish civilians, mostly eastern Slavs, and usually in cold blood. To be sure, Nazis such as Himmler always prioritized Jews for liquidation, but non-Jewish deaths reached genocide proportions as well.
As for blacks and racism, the Reparations crowd has certainly laid claim to American slavery as the most villanous act ever perpetrated in human history.
Re: Genocide... (#47310)
by N. Friedman on November 23, 2004 at 4:59 PM
Surely World War II was an obsenity and the murder of others along with the Jews is rather important to know about and understand. I do not quarrel with what you say one wit.
However, the central role which Judeophobia played in Nazi ideology and the special effort made, unlike with all others except, to some extent, the Roma, to eradicate all traces of the Jewish people - to make it as if they had never existed -, makes understanding the Shoah as a separate thing rather important.
Of particular concern today, we live in a time when, ideologically speaking, the far Left, European elites and Islamists have made eliminationist anti-Zionism, an ideology which does not even bother to employ its own language but instead uses traditional Antisemitic screed, ***central*** in their ideology. In such a time, it is necessary - dare I say critical - to re-double our efforts to understand a past version of eliminationist Judeophobia and to combat it.
And, note, I do not take anything away from the 60 million people killed in WWII or the millions of civilians who perished with the Jews. I merely say it is important to understand motivations behind such an outrage. And, since Judeophobia was quite central to Nazism, as it is today to the far left, European elites and Islamists, we need to heed obvious warning signs that are very, very troubling.
Re: Genocide... (#104396)
by S Dennis on January 11, 2007 at 4:22 PM
I realize that this discussion is several years old, but I just came upon it. As I read the arguments for and against the position of the original article, I wondered when somebody would bring US policies regarding Indian boarding schools into the discussion. Thank you. Someone finally did. Even if one can choose to rationalize the many atrocities suffered by American Indians - Indians defending the land of their ancestors, their way of life, their livelihood, their religion - as the tragic result of westward expansion, one cannot deny that the well-documented series of acts committed by agents of the US government through its system of Indian education were committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group as such. Richard Henry Pratt, superintendent of the Carlisle Indian School and "father" of the Indian boarding school movement at one time wrote to President Rutherford B. Hayes, "I am at this time, 'fighting' a greater number of 'the enemies of civilization,' than the whole of my regiment put together, and I know further that I am fighting them with a thousand times more hopes of success." Commissioner of Indian Affairs William Jones said, "To educate the Indian in the ways of civilized life, ...is to preserve him from extinction, not as an Indian, but as a human being." However well-intentioned this preservation of human life, it cannot be denied that the systematic denial of access of Indian children to the language, religion, and so-called inferior cultural values of their parents while promoting the so-called superior values of white, Christian civilization had both the intent and the result of stamping out the Indian. It had both the intent and the result of destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group as such. I cannot disagree more with the conclusion of the originator of this discussion who wrote, "In the end, the sad fate of America's Indians represents not a crime but a tragedy, involving an irreconcilable collision of cultures and values...To fling the charge of genocide at an entire society serves neither the interests of the Indians nor those of history." In actuality, the opposite is true: to acknowledge the truth about the systematic destruction of American Indians does serve both the interests of Indians and those of history. So many today wish to dismiss this truth as ancient history and as an excuse of some survivors (today's Indians) not to take responsibility for their failures to succeed in white society. And while we use this get-over-it mentality to rationalize our past, most will acknowledge that for many crime victims, the first step in healing comes when the accused both gives a full accounting of his criminal actions and shows genuine remorse for the results of those actions. Why do we insist on adding further injury by denying Indians this first step in healing? We can learn the lessons of our history only when we acknowledge the truth of our history. This is how we serve history.
Adam...a question.... (#47337)
by chris l pettit on November 24, 2004 at 4:49 AM
Why does the reason behind the coining of the term "genocide" have any relevance? Is it not the application of the term and not why it was coined? The fact that the term was coined to describe the slaughter of the Jews is unrelated to the legal definition as articulated in the Genocide Convention. The academic who coined the term included cultural genocide and what is now known as ethnic cleansing in his definition. The point I was making was that the narrow interpretation of the genocide convention that is put forth above excludes even the Nazi intentions. It is not an interpretation of history...the Nazis were trying to get rid of all inferior peoples...this does not fall under the strict construction of the genocide convention being advocated. They did not target specific peoples for any other reason than they were not Aryans...and were thus inferior. In legal terms, the requirement of specific intent is not fulfilled. So you are absolutely right to state that the term was created to describe Nazi atrocities (not just against Jews...be careful).
Secondly...why do you stick with the strict construction of the convention. My respect for the law is for its development and ability to change. The reason of tribunals and their justices overcomes the self interested nation state politics of those parties that defined genocide out of existence when articulating the original convention. Genocide per se can hardly be found if you insist on the narrow specific intent requirement. you can make a political or ideological argument that serves your own purposes...but if you regard what the Nazis did as specific intent, you must also include American action in Vietnam, the slaughtering of Armenians, Pol Pots action in Cambodia, one can go on and on, as genocide, as the actions taken were of the same ilk...extermination or mass deportation for not being something. you naturally bring political, social and cultural identities back into the picture...something that the Wester powers tried to force out of the Genocide Convention. So either way, you lose the argument unless you take a politically and ideologically biased position.
Re: Adam...a question.... (#47358)
by Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach on November 24, 2004 at 11:29 AM
1) “Why does the reason behind the coining of the term "genocide" have any relevance?”
You have claimed that by the traditional understanding of the term, that is to say, the purpose for which it was coined, it would not include the Jewish people under the Nazis. The fact that the term was used precisely to refer to what happened to the Jews is of relevance to the discussion.
2) “The fact that the term was coined to describe the slaughter of the Jews is unrelated to the legal definition as articulated in the Genocide Convention.”
But it is the legal definition that you are deputing, is it not? If I am not mistaken, I believe that you are trying to argue that the authors of the Genocide Convention “borrowed” this new term, genocide, and then decided to arbitrarily define it in a way that would exclude its intended meaning. My argument is that the term genocide was coined to describe the murder of the Jews, it was defined with this act in mind, and it means what it says, which is to say, "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group as such."
3) “It is not an interpretation of history...the Nazis were trying to get rid of all inferior peoples...this does not fall under the strict construction of the genocide convention being advocated. They did not target specific peoples for any other reason than they were not Aryans...and were thus inferior.”
I am afraid that you are mistaken. Even the above claim acknowledges intent to destroy, as you say, “all inferior people,” and thus falls under the standard definition. Certainly, everything that I have read, from Christopher Browning to Daniel Goldhagen, among others, demonstrates that of all of the groups that the Nazis murdered, of which there were many, the Jews were the only people whose annihilation was actively propagated by every tool of the state (remember the Nurenberg Laws?), advocated by Hitler himself in his book and in his speeches, and actively carried out even when it slowed down the Nazi war machine. Based on all of the evidence, including Hitler’s own suicide note, I simply cannot agree with you that the Jews were never targeted for extermination, and that they are no different from, say, the French, the Italians, the Poles, etc. You may believe whatever you like about the Holocaust, but you are mistaken to assume that your analysis is an interpretation that is subscribed to by most mainstream Holocaust scholars.
4) “Secondly...why do you stick with the strict construction of the convention.”
The intent portion of the convention is pivotal to the definition. I like that definition precisely because it is conceptually useful as a tool to analyze and distinguish different forms of mass murder. By eliminating the intent portion, genocide is no longer any different from many other mass murders, and thus is conceptually useless. Why have the term at all? Why not simply say that what happened in Rwanda was the exact same as what Stalin did in the 1920’s and 1930’s except that Stalin killed far more. Why not argue, as some have already pointed out, that the flu epidemic of 1918 is equivalent in every meaningful way as Saddam Hussein gassing the Kurds, again save for numbers. Because I believe that making some distinctions between deaths is important, this is why I cannot simply ignore a fundamental passage of the definition.
5) “Genocide per se can hardly be found if you insist on the narrow specific intent requirement.”
And genocide can be found every rock if you expand it to include virtually every conflict in which both sides are not of the same culture. The Civil War now becomes genocide, as does every war ever fought between 2 cultures.
6) “you can make a political or ideological argument that serves your own purposes...but if you regard what the Nazis did as specific intent, you must also include American action in Vietnam, the slaughtering of Armenians, Pol Pots action in Cambodia, one can go on and on, as genocide, as the actions taken were of the same ilk...extermination or mass deportation for not being something.”
I do not necessarily follow your logic. Do you have any evidence that the American intention in Vietnam was to eradicate the Vietnamese people in the same way as the Nazis wanted to eradicate the Jews? Why “must” the one match the other? As for the Armenians, you may very well be correct, they were the victims of genocide, and they do not need to rewrite the definition to prove it. Furthermore, extermination is not the same thing as mass deportation, and thankfully, we have the language to delineate the differences.
7) “So either way, you lose the argument unless you take a politically and ideologically biased position.”
Once again, you seem to believe that my logic must naturally follow a particular path when the path you have assigned it has nothing to do with what I am saying. Could I not charge you with the same thing? Could I not argue that you only want to broaden the definition so that you can use the term for political and ideological reasons, perhaps to use against Israel, or the United States? This is why definitions are so important. If you get to change the definition simply because you don’t like what some state is doing and thus want to call it every nasty name you can think of, then it becomes meaningless. Indeed, I would argue that those such as yourself who do broaden definitions already have voided any value in terms such as Nazi, racism, Hitler, genocide, and ethnic cleaning. Once everything becomes these things, nothing does.
Re: Adam...a question.... (#47364)
by N. Friedman on November 24, 2004 at 1:11 PM
I could not agree more with you.
If we cannot distinguish one thing from another, then we know neither thing.
Re: Adam...a question.... (#58291)
by Jerry t Sena on April 9, 2005 at 3:18 AM
Correction: If we cannot distinguish one thing from another, they are the same thing.
Wait a minute... (#47403)
by chris l pettit on November 25, 2004 at 4:18 AM
when did I ever refer to the original definition? In my original post I referred to the definition as articulated in the Genocide Convention, which is not the original definition. In the question post i refer to the definition of the term by its founding father. He included cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing in his definition. it was not then subsequently included in the genocide convention due to the fears of the US and other powers that indigenous peoples would have a genocide claim. Where is the problem in understanding? I can;t really explain it much clearer. The argument that the Native Americans did not suffer genocide in todays terms fails when one looks at the original definition...the argument that anything is genocide, even the Nazi atrocites, fails when one takes a strict construction of the genocide convention since the specific intent requirement was not fulfilled. So if you want to stick with the original definition, Native Americans suffered from what is now called genocide..if you want to use a strict interpretation of the GC, even the Nazis did not commit genocide. Pick your poison fellas...you are absolutely in the dark on this issue. I am simply trying to educate you at this point.
Adam...I urge you to read the deliberations leading up to the adoption of the convention. The quote that you supply was hotly debated, as was the inclusion of the concept of cultural genocide. The GC has warped the definition of genocide so much that it no longer refers to the crimes committed against those targeted by the Nazis (why does it always have to be Jews? what about the Communists, intellectuals, homosexuals? Jews arent the only people on the planet). Your specific intent to destroy in whole or in part fails to be met since the Nazis were not targeting a specific people...they were targeting all those peoples who weren't "Aryan." Therefore the specific intent to destroy a group fails. Logic, fellas...tough to grasp, but makes you much more intelligent.
There were many laws that were targeted against all political parties the nazis did not like, against communists, against intellectuals who spoke out. For every instance of Nuremburg Laws, one can find secret laws (like those currently being used against dissidents and Muslims in the US) that target other groups. The argument that the Nazis committed genocide because they were targeting a group loosely described as all "inferior peoples" is intriguing. however, it becomes problematic for you in that the specific intent requirement then becomes so broad the you reintroduce cultural genocide into the GC and revert back to the original historical definition, which would mean that the Native Americans suffered from genocide, as do the Palestinians, as do the Tibetans, as did the Vietnamese...on and on. The US was targeting "communists" by the way...meaning the whole population of Vietnam and anyone who did not agree with them (see Laos and Cambodia).
You actually demonstrated perfectly how you imbue your own ideology on the definition when you talk about your interpretation of the genocide convention and the way you construe it. In legal terms, you stretch a definition that does not exist to meet your criteria while narrowing it to eliminate those criteria you dont like. I have explained how the concept of genocide includes cultural genocide, while the narrow definition of specific intent eliminates nearly all instances of genocide through its legal requirements. your ideological requirements could be met, but the legal ones are not. In other words, once again you are imposing your ideological viewpoint on an objective legal concept...a BAD IDEA. I only point out the flaws in the argument and inherent biases. If you choose to take that ideological stance, cool, but know that it only applies to your reality, not law as it exists or functions in terms of universal human rights.
Mr. Friedman...cute quote...coming from an ignorant man such as yourself who clearly has no knowledge or understanding of history or international law, i think I will stick with my critiques from real historian, justices, and legal scholars...you should keep hidden this Thanksgiving...i here turkey is the order of the day.
Re: Wait a minute... (#47407)
by Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach on November 25, 2004 at 11:23 AM
1) “The argument that the Native Americans did not suffer genocide in todays terms fails when one looks at the original definition...the argument that anything is genocide, even the Nazi atrocites, fails when one takes a strict construction of the genocide convention
since the specific intent requirement was not fulfilled.”
Chris, thus far you have refused to address anything that I have posted, choosing instead to simply restate your point over and over again that my argument somehow necessitates that the Nazis be excluded. You keep saying that the specific intent requirement was not fulfilled. I am saying that your interpretation goes against some of the top scholars of the subject. I am not saying that you are wrong, per se. But continuing to repeat the same claim without addressing my concerns gets us nowhere.
2) “So if you want to stick with the original definition, Native Americans suffered from what is now called genocide..if you want to use a strict interpretation of the GC, even the Nazis did not commit genocide. Pick your poison fellas...you are absolutely in the dark on this issue. I am simply trying to educate you at this point.”
I have debated with you for some time on this site Chris, but I don’t know if I have ever seen your posts so arrogant and dismissive of the facts. Perhaps if you were to post an exact definition based this original understanding, it would be useful to see if you are correct regarding the Native Americans. However, as stated above, I believe you are incorrect in your understanding of what exactly the Nazis did and why.
For the record also, I believe that the Indians were victims of genocide, and the definition need not be molested in order to make the case.
3) “why does it always have to be Jews? what about the Communists, intellectuals, homosexuals? Jews arent the only people on the planet”
I do not have the time or the inclination to explain why the Jews were specifically targeted for extermination when the Communists, intellectuals, homosexuals were not, but suffice to say, I can either believe you, Chris, and the many others who wish to rewrite history on this issue for modern political reasons, or I can believe the many people who have studied this issue and wrote extensively on it. However, I will be brief:
Communists: Hitler hated communists, but to him, the real people behind all of Communism was… guess who?... the Jews! When the Nazis occupied Communist territory, the leaders were killed, but there was never an active attempt to simply liquidate the entire Communist society.
Intellectuals: You must be joking? You honestly believe that Hitler’s aim was the total annihilation of all intellectuals? What about his scientists, his engineers? Of course intellectuals of the enemy were killed, but not because they were intellectuals per se, but because they could pose a potential threat to Nazi authority in the occupied territory.
Homosexuals: Hitler considered homosexuality to be a threat to his grand racial plan. Thus it was a crime, similar to robbery. An estimated 1.2 million men were homosexuals in Germany in 1928. Between 1933-45, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested as homosexuals, and of these, some 50,000 officially defined homosexuals were sentenced. Most of these men spent time in regular prisons, and an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 of the total sentenced were incarcerated in concentration camps. Unlike Jews. men arrested as homosexuals were not systematically deported to Nazi-established ghettos in eastern Europe. Nor were they transported in mass groups of homosexual prisoners to Nazi extermination camps in Poland.
Ironically, you do not ask about the Gypsies, but if you had, I would have agreed that the Gypsies were also the victims of Nazi genocide. They were perhaps the only other group that was targeted for total extermination in the short term.
The problem with this discussion Chris, is that the idea that Jews were unique victims of genocide does not conform with some people’s ideas of what Jews should be, and thus try to minimize their victim-hood, and make those who stick to history sound arrogant, or somehow begging for attention. This is not a debate, as far as I am concerned. It is a discussion between someone who believes that the Holocaust happened the way it did, and someone who believes that there was no specific intent to kill Jews, and that the Jews were no different from regular Aryan Germans, who the Nazis also killed in large numbers. None of this, of course, is intended to minimize the millions upon millions of non-Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
4) “Your specific intent to destroy in whole or in part fails to be met since the Nazis were not targeting a specific people...they were targeting all those peoples who weren't "Aryan." Therefore the specific intent to destroy a group fails. Logic, fellas...tough to grasp, but makes you much more intelligent.”
Your arrogance has now been matched by a similar ignorance. If you are correct, the French, Italians, and many others would have been similarly rounded up and sent to camps and yet if you actually check your history books, Hitler was allies with Italy and when the Nazis occupied Italy, your promised Holocaust of the entire Italisn population never materialized.
5) “You actually demonstrated perfectly how you imbue your own ideology on the definition when you talk about your interpretation of the genocide convention and the way you construe it. In legal terms, you stretch a definition that does not exist to meet your criteria while narrowing it to eliminate those criteria you dont like.”
An interesting charge. In your next post, I assume that you have some evidence to back this up. The definition requires that intent be present, and I have been arguing that the Nazis showed intent. For some reason unknown to me, you seem to interpret this is some ideological construction?
6) “your ideological requirements could be met, but the legal ones are not. In other words, once again you are imposing your ideological viewpoint on an objective legal concept...a BAD IDEA.”
And once again, you fail to actually explain what it is you are saying? What is the basis of your charge? If I write the word “chair,” and you actually read the word “chair” on this post, are you being ideological? You seem to throw the term around but have failed to either define it or demonstrate how reading a legal definition and then applying it to a specific case is ideological.
Based on this conversation Chris, it is clear to me that you deny the Holocaust as it happened and believe that those Jews are simply either lying, or exaggerating for some nefarious purpose. If you wish to speak about the Nazi era on this post and wish to be taken seriously, I would recommend that you include some link or source for your information, because your own credibility on this issue, speaking for myself, is no longer accepted.
Some recommended reasing:
Re: Wait a minute... (#47417)
by N. Friedman on November 25, 2004 at 2:33 PM
Very, very well put.
I reiterate my statement about Chris. He has a long way to go - being, by his own terms, an anti-Zionist - to distinguish his views from Judeophobia. Now we learn that he denies the Shoah. That, to me, is a position held ***only*** by radical Antisemites and totally uneducated people. I am inclined not to think him ignorant.
And frankly, I have never seen both such views, i.e. Holocaust denial and anti-Zionist, held by a person who is not a ***rabid*** Judeophobe. Am I missing something?
Re: Wait a minute... (#58124)
by Mubde' ABSI on April 6, 2005 at 4:21 AM
You enjoy arguments for the sake of arguing no more. Where do you put the Israelis in your argument. Are not they commiting genocide against the Palestians every day of the year.
Why do not you save your words to explain current events in the world and not the past.
What do you call the American Army attack on Afganistan and Iraq. Tons of explosives are used to wipe entire populations. Wht do you call this legal warfare. May be they will refer to this genocide as saving humanity from potential terrorists.
How about not long ago, the Nuclear genocide of two Japanese cities. What do you call that? testing nuclear weapon to save the earth from bad Japanese!!!
Our best fight against genocide is love of each other. Yes, we should all love one another and respect the greatest gift that GOD bestowed on people; their lives.
Re: Wait a minute... (#48129)
by chad faulkner ryan on December 6, 2004 at 10:23 AM
The relationship between the Holocaust and the removal of the indian people from the western americas, isn't one that I would consider logical. First of all the extermination of millions of Jews should be the definition of genocide. I don't know how you can say that it isn't. Look at the root words, geno (genetics), cide (extermination). Hitler was killing off the Jews because he didn't approve of their genetic structure. I do not believe this is in the same catagory as America's Manifest destiny. The unethical and "bullied" way we herded Native Americans was horrible, but nothing close to the Holocaust. Some say that the domination of the American continent was "survival of the fittest". I don't necessarily agree with that, but i do believe it had its purpose. American settlers had no intention of removing their race from the planet. They only wanted to move them out of the way. It was just unfortunate that the west wasn't big enough for the settlers and the Indians.
Re: Fascinating... (#58121)
by Mubde' ABSI on April 6, 2005 at 3:45 AM
It is really interesting to make a similar resemblance between the Native-Indians genocide and the new Iraqi genocide. In both cases, the American Government and Its Army (not the American People) are killing masses of people for the simple pupose of changing their heritages.
No matter what the cause might be, no one should ever have the right to kill another man. "Those who kill a single man is as if they killed all men".
Americans should revolt against their government genocide practices in every country on earth.
Re: Fascinating... (#134518)
by Charles Rout on May 24, 2009 at 2:01 PM
"Your defintion of genocide has the appearance of tortured semantics. Inherent in the term is the intent of the perpetrator, as in the case of "homocide.""
Yes, a lawyer['s approach to genocide. Reminds me of Bush lawyers and torture. No quantity of intellectual lipstick will help this pig, to borrow from recent politics. If it is not clear from the writings of the European invaders (which is what they were) about their attitudes, as a whole, and particularly with those that ended up with the practical power, towards the native tribal people of the Americas (and yes, it is obvious), then surely their actions and the results of those actions are all you need to know.
They indeed erased the peoples and cultures of the "savages" and "infidels" as was clear from their "manifest destiny" as they repeadedly, systematically took their lands, their resources, and when they resisted, their lives.
They are gone. The invaders did this. On purpose. They were for the most part glad of it, unless fairly recent re-evaluations. Another in the long line of cultures wiped out by other cultures. Not surprising in human history. But the culture that did this one is in time and structure very close to our own.
We should face this truth bravely, and stop trying to explain it away.
Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide? (#47380)
by Rick Martin Duiker on November 24, 2004 at 5:58 PM
My God, you question it?
Europeans used conventional weapons, including machine guns (Gatling guns) at Wounded Knee, biological agents (intentional use of small pox, measles), and chemical weapons (alcohol) over a period of 450 years to obliterate an entire race of people from two continents.
We displaced Native Americans, invaded their ancestral lands, destroyed their cultures, and waged continuing wars of extermination against them as late as the thirties (as late 1934 Mexican soldiers would take Yaqui indian and Apache infants by their feet, swing them full-force against boulders to smash their heads).
They've never recovered from the culture shock, many still die, from sadness or horror I suspect.
And you ask that a question?
Re: Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide? (#47500)
by Mike West on November 27, 2004 at 7:09 PM
The vast majority of Indians died of diseases that came over with the Europeans. That doesn't excuse the many cases of murder, and destruction that was foisted upon the Indians. But your examples of the tools of genocide don't add up.
The Gatling gun was only in use in the late 1800's, and Indian warriors likely figured out ways to stay away from such a weapon. It was not a reason for the deaths of enough Indians to call it genocide.
The biological agents issue has few documentated cases, and, how could the prospective users biological warfare agents keep themselves from getting smallpox, or measles? That knowledge wasn't available back then.
Alcohol was sold to Indians, but was this more from enterprising booze dealers. I've bever read anything about U.S.Government programs to send alcohol to Indians, which would have been the only way to aide in the genocide that you wrote about.
Was the horrible acts by Mexican soldiers commited on Yaqui and, Apache children part of a Government program, or the actions of a few sadistic Mexican soldiers? It would seem to be an example of oppression, not genocide.
Re: Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide? (#47719)
by Bob Spiegelman on December 1, 2004 at 2:58 AM
The question is whether an "intention" to be an intention has to be subjective (inside in the heads or words of specific actors/writers) or whether it can be embedded in the actual totality of a number of actual deeds (hundreds if not thousands) that come together and aim in a particular direction or pattern (toward a specific outcome over a given period of time). An intention need not be conscious or acknowledged up front; but embedded in a process of which some are more or less conscious in carrying out. Also, an intention (subjective or structural, conscious or not) can be genocidal without actually achieving genocide. Either way, the effect is devastating on the victims and that takes priority over all these parsings.
Re: Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide? (#50799)
by Charles Lee Geshekter on January 17, 2005 at 1:34 PM
"A process in which some are more or less conscious....." - this is tautology and ahistorical question-begging at its worst.
The cause of the effect is what we are debating, and parsing this or parsing that aside, you need to remember that even the thinnest pancake always has two sides.
Re: Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide? (#105564)
by lux ben molina on February 16, 2007 at 12:25 AM
of course indians were and still are victims of Genocide maybe you would see thing from a different view if you knew how things are we are dying from culture shock already dead with no dreams or belief in any god at all .But being a YAQUI INDIAN i have no say i just watch our people die in there own vermillion sleep and just wish the fucking mexican goverment never did any thing to us but then again we would be stuck in poor wrecked mexico and not the ''free'',greedy america i call home today.I have no anger for what they did ,they thought they were playing god but ended up killing themselves and good people in the way of trying to be free from something they were trying not to be .So yes indians are Genocide surviviors been here longer than the damn jews and still ignored.
Re: Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide? (#134513)
by Charles Rout on May 24, 2009 at 1:40 PM
Time and again the Europeans invade Indian land, forced them out, wrote treaties they failed to stick to, and murdered them (with guns or infected blankets) when they could not have their way. They systematically suppressed their language and culture. And with the aid of guns and germs, they effectively erased them from the "new world." Only the most self-absorbed and blind members of the winning culture can turn around and say it all happened by accident, it was a "tragedy", not a "crime." But every culture that has been guilty of genocide has this instinct of denial. And everyone else in the world but them can see it for what it is..
Question about historical evidence (#47357)
by Charles Lee Geshekter on November 24, 2004 at 11:15 AM
Would someone care to identify the three key cultural weaknesses among indigenous American tribes that contributed significantly to their defeat and demise at the hands of western European settlers?
I mean in addition to what scientists would term their "epidemiological weakness" derived from their historical isolation, a factor not found (for instance) among most indigenous peoples in sub-Saharan Africa.
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47365)
by Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach on November 24, 2004 at 1:40 PM
Hmmmm, a good question. Aside from the fact that they were defenseless from European disease, I would speculate on the following 3:
1) A lack of gunpowder, which is not only more deadly than arrows, but also create a psychological effect on the victims. I admit that this is not cultural, but I do believe that it is significant.
2) Their nomadic lifestyles did not allow them a permanent base of operations to set up weapons depots, training camps, and a command center.
3) In a classic illustration of the prisoners dilemma, Native tribes were not united and thus many opted to cooperate with Europeans rather than see their enemies try and do the same.
If the Native Americans were able to unite early on and create some defensive perimeter early on, and if they had the weapons capacity to enforce it, it is possible that their fate would have been very different. Since early colonization was either settlements or commercial enterprises, such an obstacle would likely have made the New World too costly to exploit.
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47376)
by Charles Lee Geshekter on November 24, 2004 at 4:18 PM
Those are all vitally important factors, Adam.
It also seems that a relative lack of technical innovations and apparent inferiority in terms of military know-how worked against Indian societies as well.
Their lack of political unity and general absence of large centralized states perhaps reflected their nomadic and pastoral mode of production which, in turn, militated against forming a common front.
I'm not sure.
Jon - turn off that TV this minute or no pie for you.
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47377)
by Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach on November 24, 2004 at 5:33 PM
“It also seems that a relative lack of technical innovations and apparent inferiority in terms of military know-how worked against Indian societies as well.
I don’t know if I would necessarily call it lack of technical innovation. Remember that mush of European innovation stemmed from need and commercial competition. Better sails meant faster ships, which means cheaper transport. The Indians were no less technical, but in a manor that fit their own environment. For example, the Indians moved and relocated entire villages with such speed, it is rather remarkable, and the efficiency with which they constructed their housing, and utilized their kill certainly did not fail to impress various European authors of the time. Thus was the nature of their isolated environment that they could not have taken gun powder from the Chinese, and since horses are not indigenous to their land, warfare had to do without a Calvary.
In terms of military know-how, I would not be so quick as to use the term “inferiority,” but perhaps instead they were unprepared for a military style entirely alien to their own. Again, European military skills developed with need. Thus did European generals study the greats of the 30 Years War, the Greats studied the Romans, the Romans studied the Greeks, and so forth.
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47382)
by Val Jobson on November 24, 2004 at 6:51 PM
You need to distinguish between different tribes in different regions at different times; they were not all nomadic; their economies depended on different factors; and some were more military than others. To view them as a homogeneous society begets useless generalisations; at worst it approaches racism. Furthermore, over four centuries, the aboriginal and invading societies all changed and adapted to circumstances and to each other.
The phrase "key cultural weaknesses among indigenous American tribes" also is a problem; would you ask what the key "cultural superiorities" of the European invaders[aka settlers] were? It is a loaded question which assumes the superiority of the invading group.
For instance you would be unlikely to answer that question by saying the worst cultural weakness of the aboriginal peoples was their generosity and helpfulness. When the first Europeans came, instead of allowing them to die from their ignorance of how to survive in the harsh conditions of the New World, the aboriginal people traded with them, allowed them to stay, provided food and taught them the skills they needed to survive. So is generosity a cultural weakness? And what kind of cultural weakness abuses generosity?
A less loaded question would be "Why did aboriginal peoples not prevent Europeans from taking over their land?"
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47388)
by Charles Lee Geshekter on November 24, 2004 at 8:10 PM
I seem to have struck an important nerve here which is just as well. I never suggested that the indigenous peoples of North America were a "homogenous society." Your not suggesting that European societies were homogenous, which would be tantamount to the same essentialist nonsense one hears from so-called "Afrocentrists."
I merely asked what were some key identifiable weaknesses that prevented or precluded the indigenous societies from repelling or thwarting the European colonists.
If you imagine that there were no such "weaknesses" (and to suggest they were "too kind" or "too generous" to outsiders is really hilarious and quite deceptive) then you are forced to identify the "strengths" of the invaders.
Whichever route you chose, the key question that must be answered is how and why did the Europeans succeed in colonizing North America and how and why were the indigenous peoples unable to stop them?
There were many cultural superiorities held by the equally diversified array of European settlers and to acknowledge them is not racism, but historical accuracy. Your closing question is partially agreeable, but I would simply revise it to read "what cultural and historical factors prevented the aboriginal peoples from taking over their lands?"
After all indigenous peoples were themselves once invaders from Siberia, if we accept the ethno-linguistic reconstructions of Joseph Greenberg. Shall we refer to them as "Sibero-Americans?"
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47394)
by Val Jobson on November 24, 2004 at 9:25 PM
You do not appear to understand that generosity, the importance of sharing, was a widespread and important cultural value among aboriginal peoples; and that to them the greed displayed by Europeans was a strange and distasteful character trait.
Instead of starting with the assumption that European cultures were superior, you need an accurate understanding of European and aboriginal cultures so that you can compare the two without resorting to cultural triumphalism; and so that you can understand the relations between a particular European culture and a particular aboriginal culture. A generalisation would be that Frenchmen showed more respect toward the aboriginal people they knew than Englishmen did, for example.
Different countries had different experieinces; Canada mostly avoided having Indian wars on the prairies, mainly for reasons of geography. It was a fur frontier instead of a farming frontier, leading to cooperation in the fur trade instead of competition for land. The priaire tribes suffered the loss of the buffalo and settled on reserves before the Canadian prairies were settled for farming; they were settled later because they were colder than the US plains and so had a shorter growing season.
"The key question that must be answered is how and why did the Europeans succeed in colonizing North America and how and why were the indigenous peoples unable to stop them?" This is a better question, because it avoids the moralistic overtones in the first question, and because it allows for a discussion of all factors involved, not just possible cultural ones.
Then you can look at the people in terms of their culture; for instance they may have been willing to share the land with Europeans, but then found the Europeans were not willing to reciprocate. Closely tied with the culture of a particular group would be their adaptation to their particular environment; and their activities of hunting, fishing, farming or trading. Many cultures were seriously damaged by the epidemics of smallpox and other diseases, but also by other environmental disasters, such as the disappearance of the buffalo. Another environmental factor may in fact be the most important one; that they were simply out-numbered.
As for "invaders from Siberia", oh please! Are you trying to imply that they invaded and took the land from some other group? The Atlanteans, maybe? Von Daniken's extraterrestrials? The Lost Tribes of Israel?
Would you care to list the "many cultural superiorities held by the equally diversified array of European settlers"?
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47429)
by Charles Lee Geshekter on November 25, 2004 at 4:41 PM
Sorry mate - but all your hootin' and hollerin', shuckin' and jivin' and weepin' and wailin' won't cut it when it comes to grasping the core, essential verdict of North American post-Columbian history.
You seem blissfully but angrily unaware of it anyhow so sadly there's little I can do to open your eyes.
As a comparative example, the Khoisan speakers of southern Africa (forager peoples) were overrun and overwhelmed by culturally superior, more adroit, more adaptive, better organized, physically stronger, better unified and far more cunning Bantu-speaking iron age cultivators.
The Khoisan hunters and gatherers had three options: to flee into more marginal habitats, to resist bitterly and stand their ground, or to be assimilated out of existence.
They tried all three and today, 800-1000 years after the initial contact the Khoisan are as peripheral, degraded and marginal to the modern world of southern Africa as the majority of descendants of native Americans (indigenous peoples) are to the United States in 2004.
You may deplore that outcome, wish and pray that it had not turned out that way, wish to assign blame and treachery all around.....but that is the inescapable conclusion.
In North America, the European colonists, settlers, invaders (whatever) were culturally superior to indigenous peoples in their ability to borrow, steal, and imitate from other cultures. That was one key genius of Euro-Asian cultures too, by the way, as Jared Diamond and others have shown.
Their curiosity about novel things, their eagerness to experiment with new ways, their grasp of the unfamiliar, and all the while their command of geography and habitat diversity..... these were among the many things that made European settlers/invaders/colonists triumphant, along with the demonstrated weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the people they encountered, including their epidemiological inferiority, or whatever politically correct euphemism you prefer to use.
There is not one shred of evidence that challenges the conclusion that there was no Navaho da Gama, no Iroquois Guttenberg, no Sioux Darwin, no Cherokee Marx, no Arapaho Freud, no Lakota Galileo, and no Hopi da Vinci.
I don't know why this is so hard for you to grasp, but I would like not to have to explain this to you again.
Re: Question about historical evidence (#65713)
by David Liao on July 29, 2005 at 10:46 AM
This may be a late objection, but I think your comments that Eurasian culture is somehow superior is a badly founded emotional opinion, even if you cite Jared Diamond, Durant, or anyone else.
Native Americans DID adapt in many ways. They were capable of creating and keeping diplomatic relationships, holding to treaties (in reference to the old quip that the US never signed an Indian treaty that it did not break), providing key strategic and tactical support for centuries to European and American forces, and contributing to the later part of the Enlightenment.
The Iroquois Confederacy alone contributed dormant and ignored ideals such as a democratic process involving declarations of war, balanced and effective hierarchy, and female leadership. John Locke and countless other European philosophers and Founding Fathers mirror this sentiment in observing that egalitarian government was possible in such an "uncivilized" setting.
And by the way, it was not that the Native Americans could not adapt to European culture. It was that they were eventually forbade to by law for centuries. Imagine trying to integrate into a culture that systematically confiscates your property (cross reference Cherokees) and creates laws to prevent you from reading or writing their culture (in effect until the 1850's and even beyond.)
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47459)
by Charles Lee Geshekter on November 26, 2004 at 1:11 PM
Adam made several telling points about military technologies with which I entirely concur.
European inventions and innovations certainly "stemmed from need and commercial innovation," which was provoked in large part by the intense and growing competitveness between burgeoning European states after 1400, a situation that was not matched in Asia or the Middle East at that time.
Because it was Europeans who sailed to the Western Hemisphere, then back and forth many times while neither native Americans nor Asians did anything remotely similar (leaving aside the case of the Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho, the exception that proves the rule), it was the Europeans, more so than anyone else who mastered the diverse and deadly arts of mass killing from a distance.
This would culminate in the airplane, followed soonafter by dropping bombs from planes (Italians in Libya in 1911), and eventually awesome and horrible weapons of mass destruction, etc.
It seems to me that given the radically different trajectories of military innovations found in Europe vs. indigenous America after 1450, it is not inappropriate or inaccurate to describe one set of cultures as "inferior" or "superior" to the other one.
This by no means denigrates or belittles native American cultures and further suggests that we study them even more intensely than ever.
But the verdict of history seems quite clear, even while we vigorously debate our respective interpretations of the facts, the theories, and the theories about the facts, as Alfred North Whitehead would have noted.
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47372)
by Jonathan Dresner on November 24, 2004 at 3:21 PM
I think you should do your own homework.
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47430)
by Charles Lee Geshekter on November 25, 2004 at 4:42 PM
Jon - turn off that TV this minute, or you'll get no pie.
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47433)
by Jonathan Dresner on November 25, 2004 at 6:29 PM
I make my own pie, thank you very much, and watch very little TV.
I do however, know, as you and your respondents do not seem to, that the "superiority" of European weaponry, etc, was quite shallow, as all of the important technologies were borrowed from Asia rather than developed in Europe.
Re: Question about historical evidence (#47458)
by Charles Lee Geshekter on November 26, 2004 at 12:49 PM
While not making and eating pies, you must be a very busy boy all right.
As a good story-teller, did you also know, perforce, that Asians mapped the world, spread their languages 'round the globe, established international scholarly forums, invented airplanes, and discovered the cure for several diseases?
Alas, thanks to a nefarious Euroracist conspiracy to prevent the world from knowing these facts, Asians have garnered an astonishingly disproportionately tiny share of the Nobel prizes over the past 100 years.
I know you will help get the word out.
Come to think of it, maybe you should watch more TV.
Ethnic cleansing (#47244)
by Oscar Chamberlain on November 22, 2004 at 6:28 PM
Sadly, the breakdown of Yugoslavia has given us a more apt term: ethnic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing has at its core the same sort of anger and bigotry and opportunism that marked the movement West.
Such an amalgam can also pave the path to genocide, and the line between the two is a blurry one.
Re: Ethnic cleansing (#47263)
by chris l pettit on November 23, 2004 at 5:34 AM
There have been several articles pubished on the topic, and I just published a quite lengthy one. Let me know if you would like the cites. you will find that ethnic cleansing qualifies as genocide under international law under current legal norms.
Re: Ethnic cleansing (#47285)
by N. Friedman on November 23, 2004 at 12:45 PM
Driving people from their homes is certainly a terrible thing. No doubt about it.
At the same time, if you wish to opine that "ethnic cleansing" is "genocide," such is an abuse of language - no matter what statute you refer to -.
I note: the number of disputes which have involved ethnic cleansing - often on all sides - is so great that it would rob the word "genocide" of all meaning.
Thus, the Sudeten Germans were ethnically cleansed from Czechoslovakia (2 million people), Christians were ethnically cleansed from Turkey and, in exchange, Muslims were ethnically cleansed from Greece, Jews were ethnically cleansed from Arab/Muslim dominated countries (856,000 people), ethnic Turks and Bulgarians were ethnically cleansed from certain border regions, Poles were ethnically cleansed from Belorussia and Ukraine, etc., etc.
Note: there have been actual genocides, as the dictionary uses the word: "The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2000). Note the key word "extirmination" which, is something quite different from "expulsion." )
Note incidents of actual genocide: in southern Sudan (2 million slaughtered), in Armenia (by the Turks in the early 20th Century), of Armenians in the Muslim world (in the late 19th Century by Arab Muslims and Turkish Muslims), of Jews in the 1940's (by the Nazis and others), etc., etc. These genocides are the real thing.
I leave you with this quote from an article by Howard Jacobson, the great British writer, as the quote is directed at your abuse or, perhaps, deconstruction of the English language.
"When Jews demur from the word Holocaust each time there is an instance of man's inhumanity to man, it is not because they think their suffering is keener, or somehow more pristine, than anyone else's. It is simply that one thing is not another thing. When next there is an attempt first to slander and then to wipe out a whole people, to burn away every trace of them and their beliefs from the face of the earth, to make it as though they never were and to ensure they never will be again, Jews will accept that Holocaust is the word.
This is not a species of scholasticism, verbal fastidiousness for its own sake. If we do not properly describe what a thing is like and not like, we do not know what it is. It is in the nature of hatred not to know what a thing is like and not to care. Which is why we say that hatred is blind. Indeed, one of the signs that hatred is being brewed, in an individual or a community, is the deliberate wedding of like to unlike. Brutes yoke unlikes together in haste, enjoying that surge in emotional violence that blurring all distinctions brings.
Here is why intellectuals, philosophers, artists, poets, are so important to our wellbeing. By exploring the ways things are different, however much they may sometimes look the same, by showing us how and why a thing became the thing it is and not another thing, they help still the undifferentiated violence of the furious and embittered. Little by little, they bring the calm of distinctness and individuality back into our lives."
Howard Jacobson, "Think what you like about Israel, but to equate Zionism with Nazism is simply incendiary," The Independent, April 20, 2002.
You would do well to explore how ethnic cleansing and genocide are different. It would do you, in particular, a lot of good. And it would also do you a lot of good to consider that the effort to join that which is different allows hatred to brew. And that, frankly, is the opposite of what law is supposed to be about.
Re: Ethnic cleansing (#47298)
by Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach on November 23, 2004 at 2:28 PM
Well put, Mr. Friedman. Thank you for the apt quotes.
Re: Ethnic cleansing (#47302)
by N. Friedman on November 23, 2004 at 3:09 PM
Thank you. The issue really, really is the effort by some to wed unlikes, thus blurring the distinctions which distinguish us from savages. Such is, as Jacobson notes, a sure sign that hatred is brewing. And, it is a sure sign of the troubling ideology that permeates some "intellectuals" these days.
Why a lawyer cum "scholar" would deliberately wed unlikes is beyond me since, in fact, legal analysis involves the making of careful distinctions, not the blurring of distinctions. After all, murder is not the same thing as segregation. And genocide is not the same thing as ethnic cleansing no matter what some statute might erroneously suggest - or, as is more likely the case, be misinterpreted (even by some court) to mean.
Read the Tadic decision as well as Akayesu.... (#47336)
by chris l pettit on November 24, 2004 at 4:36 AM
I know law is beyond you and you disregard it at your peril...but the fact is that both the UN and international tribunals now recognise ethnic cleansing as a genocidal act. if you don;t like it...that is fine, but dont accuse me of being wrong when I simply repeat what has been stated in credible legal forums as well as the UN...
Re: Read the Tadic decision as well as Akayesu.... (#47350)
by N. Friedman on November 24, 2004 at 10:22 AM
One. I am aware that there is a movement in International law and in certain
International bodies to capture non-genocidal activity under the heading “genocide.” I think the
change in the law - or the groups which push that change - is seriously misguided. I think that
the end result will be that the law is unable to distinguish the merely awful (e.g. ethnic cleansing)
from circumstances that are terrible beyond all words (e.g. the Shoah). And, in that ethnic
cleansing is to genocide more or less like arson is to murder, would it not be better to create a
crime of ethnic cleansing? In that way, the two crimes remain what they are, two different
Two. It is one thing to say that genocide may include ethnic cleansing. It often does. It
is, however, quite another thing to say that ethnic cleansing ***qualifies as*** genocide, if we
use those words as they are understood by people with a college or graduate school level of
education. Consider this analogy. A chair may have an armrest but an armrest does not usually
qualify as a chair. In my language, a chair with an armrest is a species of chair. Also, in my
language, that does not make the armrest qualify as a chair. On your reading, an armrest
qualifies as a chair (or, to quote you, “ethnic cleansing qualifies as genocide...” (#47263) at
http://hnn.us/comments/47263.html ). In other words, your usage is really a misuse of language.
If we call ethnic cleansing “genocide,” what word should we use to distinguish genocide from
ethnic cleansing? Your language lumps all these bad acts - some worse than others - into one
word. Which is to say, your language, were it to gain dictionary acceptance, would rob the
language of the ability to make certain distinctions now made by people of reasonable
intelligence. Again, according to the dictionary, genocide is defined as “The systematic and
planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group.” The American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2000), Houghton Mifflin
Company. Note, once again, the word “extermination” from the definition and the absence of
the term “expulsion.” Your language makes “expulsion” qualify as a form of “extermination.”
My view is that your usage deconstructs the language with no imaginable purpose other than to
Three. How should we understand the position taken by the UN and certain international
tribunals that ethnic cleansing is a genocidal act? I would agree that genocide is often
accompanied by ethnic cleansing. But, that is quite different from the assertion that, as you say,
“ethnic cleansing qualifies as genocide...” So, what are you asserting, that genocide may be
accompanied by ethnic cleansing or that ethnic cleansing is a species of genocide?
Four. How does your point even address my comment? Which is to say, whether or not
International tribunals, the UN and some courts believe it reasonable to eliminate the distinction
between ethnic cleansing and genocide, the fact remains that such entities are destroying real
distinctions and, as a result, I asserted and continue to assert help those interested in spreading
hatred. As Mr. Jacobson says, brutes, filled with hatred, yoke together unlikes. Surely, you
understand this rather serious concern.
Five. A number of instances of ethnic cleansing have been expressly approved by the
International Community. Of particular relevance is the ethnic cleansing of Christians from
Turkey into Greece and the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from Greece into Turkey. Does that, on your view
of the law, make the International community guilty of genocide? If not, why not?
Re: Ethnic cleansing (#88790)
by Andrea Marting on May 9, 2006 at 12:27 AM
Thus, the Sudeten Germans were ethnically cleansed from Czechoslovakia (2 million people), Christians were ethnically cleansed from Turkey and, in exchange, Muslims were ethnically cleansed from Greece, Jews were ethnically cleansed from Arab/Muslim dominated countries (856,000 people), ethnic Turks and Bulgarians were ethnically cleansed from certain border regions, Poles were ethnically cleansed from Belorussia and Ukraine, etc., etc.
Note: there have been actual genocides, as the dictionary uses the word: "The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2000). Note the key word "extirmination" which, is something quite different from "expulsion." )
Actually, if you agree with the terminology you have posted N. Friedman, then genocide has not actually been commited. Attempted yes, but commited no. Charging anyone with Genocide would be like charging someone with murder who had failed to kill their intended target. When the charge should actually be attempted murder.
Genocide never happened to the Jews, granted genocide was attempted. What happened to the Jews falls more in the catagory of ethnic cleansing. Since Jewish peoples were never exterminated.
ex·ter·mi·nate ( P ) Pronunciation Key (k-stûrm-nt)
tr.v. ex·ter·mi·nat·ed, ex·ter·mi·nat·ing, ex·ter·mi·nates
To get rid of by destroying completely; extirpate. See Synonyms at abolish.
[Latin exterminre, extermint-, to drive out : ex-, ex- + terminre, to mark boundaries (from terminus, boundary marker).]
ex·termi·native or ex·termi·na·tory (-n-tôr, -tr) adj.
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.