Edward S. Herman and David Peterson: The Politics of Genocide.

Author:Komath, Chandran

Edward S. Herman and David Peterson

The Politics of Genocide, Monthly Review Press: New York, 2010, 159 pp:

9781583672129, US$12.95 (pbk)

Herman and Peterson's book fundamentally critiques 'the basic outline of the politics of genocick' in contemporary times. By employing three ingenious frameworks ('constructive', 'nefarious' and 'benign') for disentangling the politics of genocide, the volume brilliantly captures the sheer hypocrisy of 'genocide-oriented intellectuals and media' and the cruelties of Western humanitarian interventions that evidently reflect a 'huge political bias' in favour of the USA and other imperialist countries. Unsurprisingly, the intensity of the crimes and the worth of the victim's life are decided by a single criterion: that of 'who is responsible for carrying them out' (p. 16). The crimes and mass killings committed by the USA and other imperialist powers are always 'constructive', therefore the 'victims are unworthy' and this cannot thus be called 'ethnic cleansing' or 'genocide'. However, mass murders carried out by US allies and clients are 'benign'. Finally, brutalities carried out by enemies of the USA are 'nefarious', and therefore victims deserve immediate attention and rigorous punishment for the perpetrators.

Herman and Peterson's analysis painstakingly reveals the role of media pundits, human rights intellectuals, international NGOs and their criminal silence over US-supported mass killings in various parts of the world. Liberal academic and media treatment of human rights violations, and their laments over 'crimes against humanity', are always selective. Their explanations do not touch any of the mass killings perpetrated by the USA, and 'whenever the United States colludes in a genocidal process', they pretend that 'U.S. guilt is at worst that of remaining a mere "bystander", but never that of an accomplice, let alone a perpetrator' (p. 64). Samantha Power's Pulitzer Prize winning (2003) book 'A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide, is a classic example in this regard.

The section 'Constructive Genocides' includes various cases of mass murders, like the thirteen years (1992-2003) of economic sanctions that killed a million people, mainly children and women, and the occupation and destruction of Iraq, which killed a million and displaced around 5 million, by Anglo-American forces in 2003. The economic sanctions imposed upon Iraq destroyed that country's social fabric, and its impact was...

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