Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: genocide

Thinking about the “G”-word

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on March 16 2015

http://test.ceylontoday.lk/51-87480-news-detail-thinking-about-the-g-word.html

 

Colman's Column3

“’When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’”

The purpose of language is to convey ideas as succinctly and accurately as possible under the aegis of a common understanding. Definition is crucial. We must define our terms logically, sensibly and consistently if we are to have a productive dialogue – otherwise we are talking at cross-purposes.

Way back in the mists of last century, I worked in the child protection field. The NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) sent me a report alleging that 50 % of girls and 25% of boys under the age of 16 in the UK had been victims of child sexual abuse. This was shocking news. When I analysed the raw data of the NSPCC survey, a different picture emerged. One is horrified at the idea of innocent children being raped. However, one might be less upset at girls encountering a flasher or hormonal boys seeking out pornography. The NSPCC’s definition of sexual abuse of children encompassed consensual sexual relations between teenagers below the legal age of consent and obscene language. The NGO was pursuing its fund-raising agenda by propagating sensational statistics, which covered a wide continuum of behaviour. Reading the small print one could see that: “Sexual abuse takes many forms: explicit sexual talk; showing pornography; sexual touching; lack of privacy to bath or undress; masturbation; and sexual intercourse.”

The Northern Provincial Council passed a resolution alleging that successive national governments of Sri Lanka have been following a policy of genocide against Tamils in Sri Lanka.

What is genocide? The etymology is hybrid, coming from genos (Greek for family, tribe, or race) and -cide (Latin for killing). Has the entire race of Tamils in Sri Lanka been killed? Has there been any official plan or policy to exterminate Tamils in Sri Lanka? Is Humpty Dumpty a member of the NPC?

The word “genocide” did not exist until 1943. This does not mean that there was no genocide before that date. Many Irish people believe that Oliver Cromwell engaged in genocide. The ground for Cromwell’s actions was prepared under the Tudors in a manifesto written by the poet Edmund Spenser. In his “View of the Present State of Ireland” (1596), Spenser argued that starvation was the best way to control the fractious Irish. Spenser described how the starving Irish population would “consume themselves and devour one another”.

The Irish quite naturally resisted . Cromwell re-conquered Ireland with a death toll of possibly 40% of the entire Irish population. There was wholesale burning of crops and killing of civilians and many were sent to the West Indies as slaves. A recent book, God’s Executioner by Mícheál Ó Siochrú, is a forceful restatement of the prosecution case that Cromwell’s campaign was genocidal. Cromwell’s programme achieved the almost complete dispossession of the Catholic landed elite. The native ruling classes were destroyed and replaced by the Protestant Ascendancy.

There was a plan. Hitler, Mengele and Baldur von Shirach might have learnt a thing or two from Sir William Petty (1623-87) – mathematician, mechanic, physician, cartographer and statistician – who devised a public-private partnership for “fusing science and policy”. Petty explored the idea of breeding the “meer Irish” out of existence by deporting 10,000 Irishwomen of marriageable age to England every year and replacing them with a like number of Englishwomen.”The whole Work of natural Transmutation and Union would in four or five years be accomplished.” Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal to lampoon Petty’s ideas. Swift suggests that impoverished Irish might profit by selling their surplus children as food for the rich.

Because of the famine that followed the potato blight of 1845, Ireland’s population fell by 25%.  One million people died of starvation and typhus. Millions emigrated over following decades. Some 2.6 million Irish entered overcrowded workhouses where more than 200,000 people died. In his book Three Famines, Thomas Keneally, the Australian novelist who wrote Schindler’s List, quotes a contemporary observer: “Insane mothers began to eat their young children who died of famine before them; and still fleets of ships were sailing with every tide, carrying Irish cattle and corn to England”. The 1911 Census showed that Ireland’s population had fallen to 4.4 million, about half of its peak population.  Broadcaster and historian Robert Kee suggested that the Irish Famine of 1845 is “comparable” in its force on popular national consciousness to that of the “final solution on the Jews,” and that it is not infrequently thought that the Famine was something very like, “a form of genocide engineered by the English against the Irish people”.

Kee mentioned the horror that is the benchmark for genocide in the 20th Century. There is no doubt that Hitler had long had a plan to exterminate all the Jews in Europe and he succeeded in killing six million of them. It is an affront to logic to give the name of genocide both to what happened to the Jews under the Nazis and to what happened to Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Raphael Lemkin (June 24, 1900 – August 28, 1959) coined the word “genocide”. Lemkin was a Jewish Polish lawyer who immigrated to the United States in 1941. He first used the word in print in Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation – Analysis of Government – Proposals for Redress (1944), and defined it as “the destruction of a nation or an ethnic group.”

By Lemkin’s original simple definition, it would seem obvious that many Sri Lankan Tamils are using the word genocide incorrectly and mischievously. Whatever heinous crimes may have been perpetrated against Tamils in Sri Lankan the “ethnic group” has clearly not been “destroyed”. According to the 2012 census, there were 2,270,924 Sri Lankan Tamils in Sri Lanka, 11.21% of the population. Sri Lankan Tamils constitute an overwhelming majority of the population in the Northern Province and are the largest ethnic group in the Eastern Province. The current Chief Justice is Tamil and Tamils occupy many senior positions.

Lemkin took an interest in the subject of genocide while studying the killing by Turkish forces of 1.5 million Armenians. In 1913, a triumvirate of Young Turks, consisting of Mehmed Talaat, Ismail Enver and Ahmed Djemal, assumed dictatorial powers and concocted a plan to  create a new Turkish empire, a “great and eternal land” called Turan with one language and one religion. On 24 April 1915, Ottoman authorities rounded up and arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. There had been prior preparations. In fact, one argument for defining this as genocide is that it had been brewing for at least a century. In 1913, Turks disarmed the entire Armenian population. About forty thousand Armenian men served in the Turkish Army. In the autumn and winter of 1914, all their weapons were confiscated and they were employed as slave labour  to build roads or  used as pack animals. There was a very high death rate. Along the way, they were frequently set upon by Kurdish tribesmen, who had been given license to loot and rape. Kurds are seen today as victims of the Turkish state but they played a major role in the persecution of Armenians.

It is still dangerous in modern Turkey to talk about the genocide. Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk was accused of having violated Section 301 of the Turkish penal code, which outlaws “insulting Turkishness.” An optimistic feature in today’s Turkey is that many non-Armenians are prepared to speak out and many Kurds in particular are taking reconciliatory measures to atone for the crimes of their ancestors.

The simple definition of genocide – the attempt to exterminate an entire race-  has been expanded to cover a continuum that undermines the usefulness of genocide as a concept. Tamils who support the NPC resolution say that it fits the UN convention of 1948. According to that  genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:

  • killing members of the group;
  • causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to bring about its physical destruction;
  • imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • forcibly transferring children of this group to another group.

 

To say that the whole GOSL campaign against the LTTE was a genocide against the Tamil people is just plain wrong. To say that genocide has been going on since 1948 is ludicrous. It does not help victims of real child sexual abuse to bump up the statistics by including minor offences. While dirty talk might be unseemly and inappropriate, it is not the moral equivalent of raping a baby.  Action should be taken against sexual crimes and against violations of human rights. However, racial discrimination is not on a par with the extermination of a race. It does not help victims (Sinhalese and Muslim as well as Tamil) of the GOSL to pretend that Sri Lanka has had a Hitler or a Stalin or a Mao or a Pol Pot or a Cromwell or an Ahmed Djemal. (Although a successful Tamil businessman spoke to me vehemently in those terms about Dickie Jayewardene.)

Martin Shaw is a research professor of international relations at the Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals and Sussex University best known for his sociological work on war, genocide and global politics. He is a frequent contributor to the website Open Democracy. I asked Professor Shaw about the question of genocide in Sri Lanka but he hedged and prevaricated. Commenters on Open Democracy have been critical of his writings on genocide. “What Shaw and his post-modernist ilk contend is that we should move in the opposite direction and expand definitions to points ad infinitum.”

Dr Rhadhika Coomaraswamy has been described as a brilliant scholar and there is no doubt that she is a doughty champion of human rights. She was the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict until 13 July 2012.  She wrote in response to the NPC resolution: “some Tamil nationalist lawyer has suddenly woken up to the fact that if we use the “G” word then there is a legal case for a separate state. This of course is a delusion of theoretical lawyers… Accountability for war crimes and human rights violations is a completely different frame of action than the claim for a separate state”. She continued: “We as a community have had enough of all this name-calling- genocide, traitor, nation- all that is just unnecessary hyperbole at this time in our history. There are so many problems that have to be solved through discussion and dialogue that affect people in their everyday life”.

Dr Coomaraswamy argues that it is time to abandon the victim mentality that lies behind the NPC resolution: “Let us regain our self -respect and our self-confidence, stand tall, look our Sinhalese and Muslim brothers and sisters in the eye, start acting as their equals and begin to build lasting partnerships.”

 

Reconciliation in Bosnia

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday, 29 July 2012

Tensions between the Yugoslav republics soon emerged after Tito’s death and in 1991, the federation collapsed into mayhem. The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was particularly complex and horrific because there were so many parties involved. It was principally a territorial conflict, initially between Serb forces and the national army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (which was mainly composed of Muslim Bosniaks) and Croatian forces. The population of the multi-ethnic, multi-faith Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was 44% Muslim Bosniaks, 31% Orthodox Serbs, 17% Catholic Croats. Serbs set up their own enclave within Bosnia, Republika Srpska, whose army had some 80,000 personnel during the war and committed war crimes and genocide against Bosnia Muslims and Croats.

Sarajevo

Sarajevo and Srebrenica can stand as specimens for the many horrors of the Bosnian war. The siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, three times longer than the Siege of Stalingrad. There was an average of 329 shell impacts per day during the course of the siege, with a maximum of 3,777 on July 22, 1993. It is estimated that nearly 12,000 people were killed or went missing in the city, including over 1,500 children. An additional 56,000 people were wounded, including nearly 15,000 children. Snipers killed civilians queuing for water or trying to buy food in the market. Bosniak homes were ransacked, males taken to concentration camps, women repeatedly raped. UNICEF reported that, at least 40% children in the city had been directly shot at by snipers; 51% had seen someone killed; 39% had seen one or more family members killed; 19% had witnessed a massacre; 48% had their home occupied by someone else; 73% had their home attacked or shelled; and 89% had lived in underground shelters. The Bosnian Government reported a soaring suicide rate by Sarajevans, a near doubling of abortions and a 50% drop in births since the siege began.

Srebrenica UN failings

In July 1995, at Srebrenica, a “safe area” under UN protection, 8,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up by Serb forces under Ratko Mladić and massacred. The victims included boys aged under 15, men over the age of 65, women, and reportedly even several babies. Dutch UN soldiers were criticised for failing to protect the Bosniak refugees in the “safe area”. Lieutenant-Colonel Thom Karremans was filmed drinking a toast with  Mladić .
In 2005, in a message on the tenth anniversary commemoration of the genocide, Kofi Annan noted that great nations had failed to respond adequately and that Srebrenica would haunt the UN forever. In 2004, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled that the massacre constituted genocide, a crime under international law.
Addressing the Bosnian parliament in July 2012 Ban Ki-moon said: “In a tragedy of such epic proportions, there was so much blood and so much blame. The United Nations did not live up to its responsibility. The international community failed in preventing the genocide that unfolded”.

Jasmin Mujanović argues that persistent fallacies have informed the international community’s attempts to “deal” with Bosnia since (at least) 1991-92. He writes that the war was not “the result of the unbridled and millennial ethnic hatreds of its peoples, but rather the engineered and orchestrated machinations of an unaccountable political elite seeking to secure its political and economic survival in a period of immense social crisis…” Significant elements of the international community advocated a foreign policy based on preserving a vacuous conception of ‘stability’ and ‘unity’ rather than a principled insistence on democratization and human rights. …the international community had sent strong signals to the country’s leadership that an increased role by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) would be a welcome step towards checking some of their growing concerns about the stability of political authority in the country in the post-Tito period.”

Death toll

There are large discrepancies between estimates of the total number of casualties in the Bosnian war, with estimates ranging from 25,000 to 329,000. According to Prof. Steven L. Burg and Prof. Paul S. Shoup, “The figure of 200,000 (or more) dead, injured, and missing was frequently cited in media reports on the war in Bosnia as late as 1994. The October 1995 bulletin of the Bosnian Institute for Public Health of the Republic Committee for Health and Social Welfare gave the numbers as 146,340 killed and 174,914 wounded on the territory under the control of the Bosnian army. Mustafa Imamovic gave a figure of 144,248 perished (including those who died from hunger or exposure), mainly Muslims. “

Peace?

There were several major massacres during 1995 and NATO made widespread air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions supported by UNPROFOR rapid reaction force artillery attacks. On 14 September 1995, the NATO air strikes were suspended to allow the implementation of an agreement with Bosnian Serbs for the withdrawal of heavy weapons from around Sarajevo. A 60-day ceasefire came into effect on October 12, and on November 1 peace talks began in Dayton, Ohio. The war ended with the Dayton Peace Agreement signed on November21, 1995.

 
The Dayton Accord was described as a “construction of necessity” the immediate purpose of which was to freeze the military confrontation, and prevent it from resuming. There is no space here to go into the intricate juggling to swap territories from one group to another in order to establish the new nation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH). Many scholars have deemed Dayton an impressive example of conflict resolution which has turned Bosnia from a basket-case to a potential EU member.

Critics have, however, had problems with the fact international actors, unaccountable to BiH’s citizens, were allowed to shape the agenda of post-war transition, and decide punishment for local political actors. Another perceived flaw is that each ethnic group was discontented with the results.

Truth and reconciliation

Retributive justice is impossible to apply in a context like Bosnia where so many were involved in the conflict. There are not enough resources to capture and try everyone who committed war crimes. Widespread arrests would reignite conflict. In January 2005, Hajra Catic of the Mothers of Srebrenica organization, “lost faith” in ICTY’s ability to dispense justice after they sentenced Dragan Jokic, a man she believed was responsible for 3,000 deaths, to only nine years in prison.

Eileen Babbitt wrote about UN efforts to reintegrate refugees: “they were coming back to communities where they were really, really unwanted. Most of them were coming back to places where they were a majority population and now post-war they are the minority, so another group has literally taken over and moved into their homes, and many of those people are also displaced, traumatized, etc. and they’re not about to simply give up everything and welcome the returning refugees with open arms.”

 
Reconciliation is hampered by a refusal to face up to the truth because each group has its own narrative. Schools are strictly segregated and children learn three different versions of the war. After many failed attempts, there has still not been a successful truth commission.

On 6 December 2004, Serbian president Boris Tadić made an apology to all those who suffered crimes committed in the name of the Serb people. Croatia’s president Ivo Josipović apologized in April 2010 for his country’s role in the Bosnian War. On 31 March 2010, the Serbian parliament adopted a declaration “condemning in strongest terms the crime committed in July 1995 against Bosniak population of Srebrenica” and apologizing to the families of the victims.

Europe

In Bosnia, 88% support the country’s bid for EU membership. Identification with Europe as a supranational community can in Bosnia and Herzegovina become a way to overcome ethnic differences. Poll results show that support for EU membership is strongest in the Muslim community, with 97% in favour, while 85% of Bosnian Croats support it and 78% of Bosnian Serbs. The EU-initiated processes of institutional engineering and systemic inclusion of minority groups and non-nationalists into policy-making processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina signals an important and historic shift from an ethnocentric citizenship model towards a democratic and inclusive citizenship regime.

Bosnia today

On July 25, 2012, Ban Ki-moon addressed the BiH parliament and noted the progress achieved by Bosnia and Herzegovina over the last two decades, including its transformation from a country which hosted UN peacekeepers to a troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, and from occupying the agenda of the Security Council to successfully serving on the Council. “Led by your priorities and direction, we are working together to create jobs especially for young people, extend social protection for the most vulnerable groups, end the suffering of those enduring protracted displacement, safeguard the environment, tackle discrimination and promote respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

The Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) highlighted the continued marginalization of minority groups, particularly Roma. In a joint opinion issued in June, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UK Foreign Affairs Minister William Hague expressed disappointment at the protracted institutional gridlock in Bosnia that was preventing needed reforms, including ending ethnic discrimination in politics.

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/news-features/item/8742-reconciliation-in-bosnia.html#sthash.Ih6Zh13M.dpuf

 

Rwanda- Twenty Years after Genocide

This article was published in Ceylon Today on April 16 2016

Colman's Column3

Twenty years have passed since the genocide in Rwanda. The true numbers of dead will never be known – some estimates go as high as five million but the figure generally used is 800,000. In 1994, during 100 days, vast numbers of Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were killed in well-planned attacks ordered by the interim government that took power when President Habyarimana was assassinated on 6 April.

 
Divide and Rule
One cannot help but note that in the colonial project it was not uncommon for the imperial power to take advantage of, or even create, ethnic conflicts in pursuit of a divide and rule strategy. Britain did this with Jews and Arabs in Iraq, Tamils and Sinhalese in Ceylon, and in Kenya, Kikuyu and Luo.

 
Both the Germans and the Belgians promoted Tutsi supremacy in Rwanda, considering the Hutu and Tutsi different races. In 1933, the Belgians made the fateful decision to issue identity cards classifying every Rwandan as Tutsi or Hutu. In 1994, these cards helped Hutu to identify hundreds of thousands of Tutsi and kill them.

 
One can view the subsequent ethnic cleansing and genocide as horrendous extensions of the trend that began in the 1950s. As the decolonization of Africa was approaching, the Belgians changed their Rwanda policy. They had favoured the Tutsi but they reversed themselves and made the Hutu masters of Rwanda just before granting the country independence in 1962. Hutu activists began killing Tutsi, forcing more than 100,000 to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, including Uganda. In 1962, the now pro-Hutu Belgians held a referendum and elections in which the country voted to abolish the monarchy. Cycles of violence followed, with exiled Tutsi attacking from neighbouring countries and the Hutu retaliating with large-scale slaughter and repression of the Tutsi.

 
After independence, government-sponsored Hutu gangs carried out periodic massacres of Tutsi. Many Tutsi fled the country. Those who remained became second-class citizens and were denied full rights to education, employment, and travel. Whenever extremist or corrupt Hutu politicians needed a scapegoat, or wished to divert attention away from their own misdeeds, they attacked the Tutsi minority.
In 1973, Juvénal Habyarimana seized power in a military coup. Pro-Hutu discrimination continued, but there was greater economic prosperity and violence against Tutsi diminished.

 
Aftermath of Genocide
When Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front took over the country, the new government had the daunting logistical problem of dealing with the vast number of people accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The government carried out more than a hundred and twenty-five thousand arrests by 1997. By 2001, Rwanda’s prisons and communal jails were bursting at the seams with 120,000 alleged genocidaires. Rwanda’s courts were shut down for more than two years after the genocide. Amnesty International estimated that after the genocide there were only ten lawyers left in the country. The government calculated that it would take another 110 years to prosecute all the prisoners.

 

Philip Gourevitch wrote: “Nobody ever talked seriously about conducting tens of thousands of murder trials in Rwanda. Western legal experts liked to say that even the lawyer-crowded United States could not have handled Rwanda’s caseload fairly and expeditiously”.

 

Gacaca court system
To speed things up, Rwanda implemented the Gacaca court system, often translated as “justice on the grass”. This is a method of transitional justice designed to promote healing and a new start, with justice to some extent being placed in the hands of the victims.

 
International justice
Gacaca was Rwanda’s own approach to the aftermath of genocide. There was also international intervention. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was set up in November 1994 by the UN Security Council in order to judge people responsible for the genocide and other serious violations of international law in Rwanda or by Rwandan citizens in nearby states, between 1 January and 31 December 1994. The new Rwandan government came to view the tribunal as an assault on both its legitimacy and sovereignty.

 
There has been much animosity within Rwanda against the ICTR for its slowness, incompetence and alleged rampant corruption. The UN has a bad name in Rwanda because of its failure to intervene during the genocide.

 
What is Rwanda Like Today?
Rwanda is a small country with 8.8 million people packed into a land area about the size of Maryland. The population is young and predominantly rural, with a density among the highest in Africa. The climate is moderate, there are few jungles, and slave traders never penetrated into Rwandan territory. Rwanda is landlocked, and for much of its history it was isolated from the world; the first European did not arrive until 1892. It has neither great mineral wealth nor space for large-scale agriculture.

 
Many observers consider the capital of Rwanda, Kigali, to be the safest city in Africa today, and Rwanda one of the safest countries in the world. An international school opened for the children of foreign investors and entrepreneurs flocking to the country. Rwanda has low corruption compared with neighbouring countries. Many outsiders believe that no other poor country is embarked on such a promising campaign to improve itself, and are thrilled with what President Kagame is doing.

 
During the 2000s,  Rwanda’s economy, tourist numbers and Human Development Index improved rapidly. Between 2006 and 2011, the poverty rate reduced from 57% to 45%, and child mortality rates dropped from 180 per 1000 live births in 2000 to 111 per 1000 in 2009.

 
Human Rights
Not everyone sees Paul Kagame as a knight in shining armour. Not everyone buys the story of genocide. Barrie Collins, author of Obedience in Rwanda: A Critical Question, argues that Kagame rose to power because NGOs and the UN convinced the world that what was, in reality, a brutal civil conflict in the early 1990s, was a genocidal act on the part of the Rwandan Hutus, led by then president Juvénal Habyarimana, against Rwandan Tutsis. US Ambassador at Large for War Crime Issues, Stephen Rapp, declared that Rwanda’s leaders could be tried by the International Criminal Court for aiding and abetting war crimes in neighbouring countries such as , the Congo and Central African Republic. Journalists criticising the government can be prosecuted for defamation. Political parties are prohibited from appealing to group identity, and public statements promoting “divisionism” are forbidden. The authorities have used these limitations to imprison critics.

 
Kagame argued that some Westerners define “human rights” too narrowly, defending rights of personal expression but underestimating the importance of stability and economic progress. Kagame’s defenders argue that too much democracy too soon will split Rwanda apart again. Texan agronomist Tim Schilling said: “It’s necessary to have a little repression here to keep the lid on” while Kagame’s economic development programme takes hold. Many have argued that poverty fed the violence. Kagame is addressing the problem of poverty.

 
Reconciliation
Whatever the concerns about human rights, there is no denying that Rwanda has transformed from a country devastated by genocide, to a peaceful nation striving for peace and prosperity. An important part of Rwanda’s ongoing recovery process has been the promotion of cultural industries that have clear social benefits. Rwanda’s government worked closely with international partners to establish a platform for promoting the creative industries. Rwanda is focusing on restoring relationships between people through mandatory community service, called umuganda, which means, “coming together in common purpose”. Umuganda contributes greatly to the process of developing a conciliatory accommodation between former antagonists. NAR (Never Again Rwanda) focuses on the role of young people in learning and reflecting on the genocide.

 
Kubwimana Venuste, Secretary General of the International Foundation for Transformation, wrote, “One needs to remember that there is something in the past to be forgiven. It is probably not possible to attain complete justice or reconciliation, but Rwandans created conditions that favour accountability so that they could move from reconciliation to conciliation.

 

Instead of moving back to a previous relationship, we built on the possibilities and forged new bonds. Each one of us, Hutu and Tutsi, has the moral duty and responsibility to ensure that never again shall there be the senseless shedding of blood in our country. Remembering can also act as deterrence.”

Militarisation, Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing

This article was published in the Sunday Island on August 31, 2013

 

An interesting book on militarisation was recently published by Michigan State University Press. Winona LaDuke calls her book The Militarization of Indian Country. That title may be a bit of a stumbling block to PCers who think we should be talking about Americans”. For the sake of consistency, I will follow Ms LaDuke and use the term “Indian”.

 
Numbers Game

 
As always with body counts the facts are in dispute.

 
See: https://pcolman.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/deadly-accountancy-part-1/

 
It is impossible to estimate how many Indians populated the area now covered by the USA before the white man arrived. Some scholars 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. 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 five million, while Lenore Stiffarm and Phil Lane Jr suggested a total of 12 million. Anthropologist Henry Dobyns in 1983 had estimated the 1492 aboriginal population of the present territory of the USA at about ten million.

 
It seems that a mere 250,000 Indians were still alive in the territory at the end of the 19th century. Today there are around half a million Indians in the USA.

 
Genocide?

 
According to Ward Churchill, professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, the drastic reduction of the Indian population represents a “vast genocide . . . , the most sustained on record.” David E. Stannard, of the University of Hawaii, wrote that by the end of the 19th Century American Indians had undergone the “worst human holocaust the world had ever witnessed.”

 
The simple definition of genocide is: “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.” The international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Article II describes two elements: 1) the mental element, meaning the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”, and 2) the physical element which includes five acts. A crime must include both elements to be called “genocide.” Article III described five punishable forms of the crime of genocide: genocide; conspiracy, incitement, attempt and complicity.

 
Relocation, Land Grabs or Ethnic Cleansing?

 

 

The Trail of Tears is a name given to the forced relocation by the US Army of Indians from south-eastern parts of the USA following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Many died from exposure, disease and starvation on the route. By 1837, 25 million acres had been opened up for predominantly white settlement.

 
Even before the Indian Removal Act, the fixed boundaries of autonomous tribal nations were subject to continual cession and annexation. There was pressure from squatters and the threat of military force in the newly declared US territories (those federally administered regions whose boundaries supervened upon the Indian treaty claims). As these territories became states, state governments sought to grab the land therein. These pressures were magnified by US population growth and the expansion of slavery.

 
Relocation continued after the Trail of Tears and continues today. In theory, Indians are free to live anywhere. It is estimated that one-third to one-half now lives in cities. Nowadays, there exist about 300 federal reservations, with a total of 52,017,551 acres held in trust by the federal government, the large majority west of the Mississippi. There are also 21 state reservations, most of these in the East.

 
Ethnic Cleansing by Assimilation and Abduction

 
In the 1880s the US government implemented a policy of forced assimilation. Lakota children as young as five were forcibly removed from their homes and taken to boarding schools hundreds of miles away to boarding schools, where the motto was “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” The policy continues today.

 
According to a report dated 22 January 2013, (A Report to the US Congress from the Coalition of Sioux Tribes for Children and Families) American Indian children constitute approximately 13.5% of the child population of South Dakota, yet they make up on average 54% of those who enter foster care. The number of Indian children entering South Dakota foster care every year is about 742. As of July 2011, there were 440 American Indian children in family-run foster homes in South Dakota; 87% of them lived in non-Indian family foster-care.

 
Nearly $100 million in federal funding is being sent to South Dakota to administer foster care each year. These federal funds constitute a significant portion of state expenditures, and, according to the NGO Families USA, they have “a positive and measurable impact on state business activity, available jobs, and overall state income.” All this demonstrates a strong financial incentive for state officials to take high numbers of Indian children into custody. A vigorous campaign is currently being waged by the Lakota People’s Law Project to secure the return of over 2,200 Lakota, Dakota and Nakota children illegally taken from their homes.

 
Indians and the Military-Genocidal Complex

 

According to Ms LaDuke, many Indians live in places called Fort Something or Other, in poor and devastated zones. She asserts that the military: “has taken our lands for bombing exercises and military bases, and for the experimentation and storage of the deadliest chemical agents and toxins known to mankind… Uranium mines, depleted uranium testing, and nuclear waste storage have done as much or more damage to Indian Country as nuclear bomb testing.”

 

If the Great Sioux Nation were in control of its 1851 treaty areas, LaDuke claims, “it would be the third greatest nuclear power on the face of the earth.”

 

Cannon Fodder

 

South Dakota has nine reservations, with unemployment ranging from a “low” of 12% on one smaller reservation to 89% on the largest reservation. These figures were last compiled in 2005. South Dakota’s overall unemployment rate is 4.7%, exclusive of reservations. Unemployment, poor health, violence, alcoholism, PTSD all plague the Indian community.

 

Bottom of Form

 

In spite of being victims of the US army, Indians have made a disproportionate contribution to the US armed forces. Many Indians recognize in current US wars echoes of wars against the Indian nations. Nevertheless, Indians have the highest military enlistment rate of any ethnic group and the largest number of living veterans (about 22% of Indians aged 18 or over). “How,” LaDuke asks, “did we move from being the target of the US military to being the US military itself?” She opposes militarism but wants veterans to be honoured.

 

Around 1.7% of US active duty forces are Indian; their proportion of the US population is 0.8%. Sergeant Brandon Bowden, a recruiting officer says: “Many want the college benefits; others are out for some skill set they could use, as the economy is very bad in this small area. Quite a few are looking for jobs, with the unemployment rate so high.” One mother was furious at the US military for the death of her son in Afghanistan. She reminds herself of what her son always used to tell her. “They are the ones who sign my cheque Mom; they are the ones who help me support my family.”

 

Reconciliation in Cambodia

This was published in the Sri Lankan newspaper, The Nation, on May 20 2012

 

From 1975 to 1979, when the Khmer Rouge established Democratic Kampuchea, they attempted to transform all aspects of Cambodian society. Out of a population of eight million, some five million were displaced. According to Ben Kiernan, Director of the Genocide Studies Programme at Yale, 1.7 million perished.

Foreign interference was a strong contributory factor to the rise of the Khmer Rouge. The suffering caused by the US bombings orchestrated by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Henry Kissinger drove thousands of Cambodians to oppose Lon Nol’s American-backed government.

Paranoid absolutism

The Khmer Rouge leaders identified as ‘class enemies’ Cambodians who were even slightly better- off. Angkar, the ruling body of the regime, executed almost everyone suspected of connections with the former government or with foreign governments. The wearing of spectacles was enough to classify one as a subversive intellectual.
To save ammunition, executions were brutal and personal. The children of adult victims had their heads dashed against tree trunks. The soldiers who carried out the executions were mostly young men or women from peasant families.
Auto-genocide

Although genocide is generally defined as the attempt to wipe out one race or religious group by another, the Cambodian horror qualifies, although it took place within a homogeneous grouping. Pol Pot and his followers sought to replace the existing culture with an invented one. Although 90% of Cambodians were Buddhist, out of 60,000 monks only 800 survived. All the institutions of state were destroyed.

Overthrow of Khmer Rouge by Vietnam

At the end of 1978, Vietnam overthrew its former Khmer Rouge allies and installed a client government, dominated by Khmer Rouge defectors, including Hun Sen, who became foreign minister and then prime minister, a post he still holds today, despite allegations of corruption. The Vietnamese singled out just two Khmer Rouge leaders as responsible for the genocide and in August 1979, staged a show trial, in absentia, of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, who were quickly found guilty and were sentenced to death. Ieng Sary was later pardoned.
Hun Sen’s government has been consistently criticized by Western human rights groups for arresting and torturing dissidents, and starving them to death. Hundreds of thousands of anti-Vietnamese Cambodians fled to the refugee camps on the Thai border.

Foreign complicity

Any attempt at reconciliation had to wait until the end of the cold war when international support for warring factions dried up. The psychotically insular nature of the regime did not mean that the outside world was not implicated in the horror. China was Kampuchea’s main supporter. Later the USSR financed the Vietnamese invasion, while China, the USA and other Western and ASEAN nations provided support to the Khmer Rouge rump and two royalist anti- Vietnamese factions.

By the time of the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991, all parties accepted the need for a political settlement because of the exhaustion of years of conflict. For the international actors ‘reconciliation’ was tied to the factions participating in elections. For the Cambodian people, reconciliation was equated with more complex questions of justice and reintegration.
Extraordinary chambers in the courts of Cambodia

In 1997, the Cambodian government asked for the UN’s assistance in setting up a genocide tribunal. It took nine years to agree the shape and structure of the extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), which started work in July 2006 and became fully operational in June 2007. The first trial did not begin until  February 17, 2009.

The ECCC is a hybrid court applying Cambodian and international law and employs a mix of Cambodian and international judges. A decision was made to limit prosecutions to five of the senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea, namely those who gave orders and those primarily responsible for the most serious crimes.

The Cambodian judiciary is widely considered to be corrupt. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Dith Munthy, remains a member of the ruling party’s (CCP) highest decision-making body. Some in Cambodia would prefer that no trial be conducted at all rather than having the country undergoes a substandard judicial process.  However, a majority of Cambodians expect the ECCC to have a positive impact for victims and to promote national reconciliation. One third of Cambodians identify punishment of the Khmer Rouge’s top leaders as an important precondition for forgiveness.  Even though the genocide happened over 30 years ago, 98% of Cambodians interviewed in August 2004, wanted to have a tribunal, and 61.3% expected that it would bring justice for them.

These hopes will probably be thwarted. Even in recent months, the ECCC has been mired in controversy. The Cambodian government is strongly opposed to potential new cases involving five mid-level members of the regime. Swiss reserve judge Kasper-Ansermet has left after arriving as recently as December 2011 as the UN’s choice to replace a German judge who quit citing government interference at the court. Throughout his brief tenure, Kasper-Ansermet said he was stymied by his Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng. The perpetually cash-strapped tribunal has so far completed just one trial, sentencing a former prison chief to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.
Recording truth

A public truth commission has been blocked by members of the current government, who were previously Khmer Rouge officials themselves. In the absence of a public truth commission, the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), an independent research institute, has been collecting, archiving , and publishing data on the Khmer Rouge and provides objective information about the genocide to the public. Its two main objectives are to preserve the history and crimes of the Khmer Rouge as a foundation for reconciliation.

Buddhism and reconciliation
The Dhammayietra, or annual ‘Pilgrimage of Truth’ marches, began in 1992. The spiritual leader of the pilgrimages, Maha Ghosananda, nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, made explicit the idea that the adoption of a Buddhist process does not mean that justice will not be served. He argues that reconciliation “does not mean that we surrender our rights and conditions,” but instead that “we use love” to address these questions.
Human rights in Cambodia today

The lack of punishment for Khmer Rouge leaders has set a precedent for a culture of impunity.  As of January 2012, Human Rights Watch was not impressed with Cambodia’s progress. The government of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) continues to use the judiciary, penal code, and threats of arrest or legal action to restrict free speech, jail government critics, disperse peaceful protests by workers and farmers, and silence opposition party members. Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy remains in exile rather than face long prison sentences as a result of politically motivated unfair trials.

Remembrance

In Cambodia, 35% of the population is under the age of 15. Many children find the horrors recounted by their parents hard to believe. The perpetual revising history texts add to the confusion for youth about what they should believe.

In 1984, when the Khmer Rouge was still active, May 20 was set up as a National Day of Hatred. The original objective was to mobilize international public opinion against the Khmer Rouge and their foreign backers. The crimes of the regime are remembered in public meetings and ceremonies at village cemeteries and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
In 2001 the Day of Hatred was renamed the Day of Commemoration. Progress?

 

Militarisation, Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing

This article was published in the Sunday Island on 31 August 2013.

 

An interesting book on militarisation was recently published by Michigan State University Press. Winona LaDuke calls her book The Militarization of Indian Country. That title may be a bit of a stumbling block to PCers who think we should be talking about Americans”. For the sake of consistency, I will follow Ms LaDuke and use the term “Indian”.

Numbers Game

As always with body counts the facts are in dispute.

See: https://pcolman.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/deadly-accountancy-part-1/

It is impossible to estimate how many Indians populated the area now covered by the USA before the white man arrived. Some scholars 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. 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 five million, while Lenore Stiffarm and Phil Lane Jr suggested a total of 12 million. Anthropologist Henry Dobyns in 1983 had estimated the 1492 aboriginal population of the present territory of the USA at about ten million.

It seems that a mere 250,000 Indians were still alive in the territory at the end of the 19th century. Today there are around half a million Indians in the USA.

Genocide?

According to Ward Churchill, professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, the drastic reduction of the Indian population represents a “vast genocide . . . , the most sustained on record.” David E. Stannard, of the University of Hawaii, wrote that by the end of the 19th Century American Indians had undergone the “worst human holocaust the world had ever witnessed.”

The simple definition of genocide is: “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.” The international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Article II describes two elements: 1) the mental element, meaning the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”, and 2) the physical element which includes five acts. A crime must include both elements to be called “genocide.” Article III described five punishable forms of the crime of genocide: genocide; conspiracy, incitement, attempt and complicity.

Relocation, Land Grabs or Ethnic Cleansing?

The Trail of Tears is a name given to the forced relocation by the US Army of Indians from south-eastern parts of the USA following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Many died from exposure, disease and starvation on the route. By 1837, 25 million acres had been opened up for predominantly white settlement.

Even before the Indian Removal Act, the fixed boundaries of autonomous tribal nations were subject to continual cession and annexation. There was pressure from squatters and the threat of military force in the newly declared US territories (those federally administered regions whose boundaries supervened upon the Indian treaty claims). As these territories became states, state governments sought to grab the land therein. These pressures were magnified by US population growth and the expansion of slavery.

Relocation continued after the Trail of Tears and continues today. In theory, Indians are free to live anywhere. It is estimated that one-third to one-half now lives in cities. Nowadays, there exist about 300 federal reservations, with a total of 52,017,551 acres held in trust by the federal government, the large majority west of the Mississippi. There are also 21 state reservations, most of these in the East.

Ethnic Cleansing by Assimilation and Abduction

In the 1880s the US government implemented a policy of forced assimilation. Lakota children as young as five were forcibly removed from their homes and taken to boarding schools hundreds of miles away to boarding schools, where the motto was “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” The policy continues today.

According to a report dated 22 January 2013, (A Report to the US Congress from the Coalition of Sioux Tribes for Children and Families) American Indian children constitute approximately 13.5% of the child population of South Dakota, yet they make up on average 54% of those who enter foster care. The number of Indian children entering South Dakota foster care every year is about 742. As of July 2011, there were 440 American Indian children in family-run foster homes in South Dakota; 87% of them lived in non-Indian family foster-care.

Nearly $100 million in federal funding is being sent to South Dakota to administer foster care each year. These federal funds constitute a significant portion of state expenditures, and, according to the NGO Families USA, they have “a positive and measurable impact on state business activity, available jobs, and overall state income.” All this demonstrates a strong financial incentive for state officials to take high numbers of Indian children into custody. A vigorous campaign is currently being waged by the Lakota People’s Law Project to secure the return of over 2,200 Lakota, Dakota and Nakota children illegally taken from their homes.

Indians and the Military-Genocidal Complex

According to Ms LaDuke, many Indians live in places called Fort Something or Other, in poor and devastated zones. She asserts that the military: “has taken our lands for bombing exercises and military bases, and for the experimentation and storage of the deadliest chemical agents and toxins known to mankind… Uranium mines, depleted uranium testing, and nuclear waste storage have done as much or more damage to Indian Country as nuclear bomb testing.”

If the Great Sioux Nation were in control of its 1851 treaty areas, LaDuke claims, “it would be the third greatest nuclear power on the face of the earth.”

Cannon Fodder

South Dakota has nine reservations, with unemployment ranging from a “low” of 12% on one smaller reservation to 89% on the largest reservation. These figures were last compiled in 2005. South Dakota’s overall unemployment rate is 4.7%, exclusive of reservations. Unemployment, poor health, violence, alcoholism, PTSD all plague the Indian community.

In spite of being victims of the US army, Indians have made a disproportionate contribution to the US armed forces. Many Indians recognize in current US wars echoes of wars against the Indian nations. Nevertheless, Indians have the highest military enlistment rate of any ethnic group and the largest number of living veterans (about 22% of Indians aged 18 or over). “How,” LaDuke asks, “did we move from being the target of the US military to being the US military itself?” She opposes militarism but wants veterans to be honoured.

Around 1.7% of US active duty forces are Indian; their proportion of the US population is 0.8%. Sergeant Brandon Bowden, a recruiting officer says: “Many want the college benefits; others are out for some skill set they could use, as the economy is very bad in this small area. Quite a few are looking for jobs, with the unemployment rate so high.” One mother was furious at the US military for the death of her son in Afghanistan. She reminds herself of what her son always used to tell her. “They are the ones who sign my cheque Mom; they are the ones who help me support my family.”

Militarisation, Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing

 

winona-laduke

An interesting book on militarisation was recently published by Michigan State University Press. Winona LaDuke calls her book The Militarization of Indian Country. That title may be a bit of a stumbling block to PCers who think we should be talking about “Native Americans”. For the sake of consistency, I will follow Ms LaDuke and use the term “Indian”. The most accurate term would probably be “the indigenous people of the territory now known as the USA”. The term “Native American” was the bright idea of the US government itself and has met with only partial acceptance. No other proposed naming conventions have been accepted by all indigenous groups. According to the 1995 US Census, 50% of people who identified themselves as indigenous preferred the term “American Indian,” 37% preferred “Native American” and the remainder preferred other terms or had no preference.  “American Indian” appears often in treaties between the USA and the indigenous peoples with whom they have been negotiating since the colonial period.

Numbers Game

As always with body counts the facts are in dispute.

See: https://pcolman.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/deadly-accountancy-part-1/

It is impossible to estimate how many Indians populated the area now covered by the USA before the white man arrived. Some scholars 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. 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 five million, while Lenore Stiffarm and Phil Lane Jr suggested a total of 12 million. Anthropologist Henry Dobyns in 1983 had estimated that in 1492 the aboriginal population the present territory of the USA was about 10 million.

It seems that a mere 250,000 Indians were still alive in the territory at the end of the 19th century. Today there are around half a million Indians in the USA.

Genocide?

According to Ward Churchill, professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, the drastic reduction of the Indian population represents a “vast genocide . . . , the most sustained on record.”  David E. Stannard, of the University of Hawaii, wrote that by the end of the 19th Century, American Indians 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.”

Readers of Gordon Weiss might pause at the open-ended vagueness of that phrase “countless tens of millions of people” but surely there is no doubt that a lot of indigenous people died.

The simple definition of genocide is: “The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.” The international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Article II describes two elements of the crime of genocide: 1) the mental element, meaning the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”, and 2) the physical element which includes five acts described in sections a, b, c, d and e. A crime must include both elements to be called “genocide.” Article III described five punishable forms of the crime: genocide; conspiracy, incitement, attempt and complicity.

Relocation, Land Grabs or Ethnic Cleansing?

The Trail of Tears is a name given to the forced relocation by the US Army of Indians from south-eastern parts of the USA following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Many suffered from exposure, disease and starvation on the route. Many died. By 1837, 25 million acres had been opened up for predominantly white settlement.

Trail

Even before the Indian Removal Act, the fixed boundaries of autonomous tribal nations were subject to continual cession and annexation. There was pressure from squatters and the threat of military force in the newly declared US territories (those federally administered regions whose boundaries supervened upon the Indian treaty claims). As these territories became states, state governments sought to grab the land therein. These pressures were magnified by US population growth and the expansion of slavery.

Relocation continued after the Trail of Tears and continues today. In theory, Indians are free to live anywhere. It is estimated that one-third to one-half now lives in cities. Nowadays, there exist about 300 federal reservations, with a total of 52,017,551 acres held in trust by the federal government, the large majority west of the Mississippi. There are also 21 state reservations, most of these in the East.

Indians and the Military-Genocidal Complex

According to Ms LaDuke, many Indians live in places called Fort Something or Other, in poor and devastated zones. She asserts that the military: “has taken our lands for bombing exercises and military bases, and for the experimentation and storage of the deadliest chemical agents and toxins known to mankind… Uranium mines, depleted uranium testing, and nuclear waste storage have done as much or more damage to Indian Country as nuclear bomb testing.”

In Alaska, 700 active and abandoned military sites include 1,900 toxic hot spots. There was an aborted plan to create a harbour in Alaska by dropping a series of nuclear bombs. If the Great Sioux Nation were in control of its 1851 treaty areas, LaDuke claims, “it would be the third greatest nuclear weapons power on the face of the earth.”

Ethnic Cleansing by Assimilation and Abduction

In the 1880s the US government implemented a policy of forced assimilation. Lakota children as young as five were forcibly removed from their homes and taken to boarding schools hundreds of miles away to boarding schools, where the motto was “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” The policy continues today.

According to a report dated 22 January 2013, (A Report to the US Congress from the Coalition of Sioux Tribes for Children and Families) American Indian children constitute approximately 13.5% of the child population of South Dakota, yet they make up on average 54% of youth who enter foster care in the state each year. The number of Indian children entering South Dakota foster care every year is about 742. As of July 2011, there were 440 American Indian children in family- run foster homes in South Dakota; 87% of them lived in non-Indian family foster-care.

Nearly $100 million in federal funding is being sent to South Dakota to administer foster care each year. These federal funds constitute a significant portion of state expenditures, and, according to the NGO Families USA, they have “a positive and measurable impact on state business activity, available jobs, and overall state income.” All this demonstrates a strong financial incentive for state officials to take high numbers of Indian children into custody.

A vigorous campaign is currently being waged by the Lakota People’s Law Project to secure the return of over 2,200 Lakota, Dakota and Nakota children illegally taken from their homes by DSS. In one case a young boy was abducted when he left his relatives to use the restroom while family members were attending a high school graduation ceremony. It was weeks before his family found where he had been taken.

Cannon Fodder

soldiers

South Dakota has nine reservations, with unemployment ranging from a “low” of 12 percent on one smaller reservation to 89 percent on the largest reservation. These figures were last compiled in 2005. South Dakota’s overall unemployment rate is 4.7 percent, exclusive of reservations. Unemployment, poor health, violence, alcoholism, PTSD all plague the Indian community.

It has been suggested that American Indians, as a result of the loss of life, land, and destructive government policies, suffer from a legacy of historical unresolved grief, which shares PTSD symptoms. The research that has been conducted suggests that American Indians suffer from PTSD at a greater rate in comparison to the general population; data indicates that 22% of have PTSD. In one population of American Indian adolescents it was found that 96% of children had witnessed at least one traumatic event and 75% had some symptoms of PTSD.

nodrunkenindians_sm

Indians die from diabetes at a greater rate than all other races and ethnicities combined in the US. The leading causes of death among Indians ages 1-14 are accidents, and homicides. The leading causes of death among this same population ages 15-24 are accidents, suicide and death. For those aged 25-44 the leading causes of death are accidents followed by chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, which are usually attributable to excessive alcohol use. The white man introduced firewater and it continues to be a problem today.

native-american-alcohol-690x389

In spite of being victims of the army, Indians have made a disproportionate contribution to the armed forces. Many Indians recognize in current US wars echoes of wars against the Indian nations. Nevertheless, Indians have the highest military enlistment rate of any ethnic group and the largest number of living veterans (about 22 percent of Indians aged 18 or over). “How,” LaDuke asks, “did we move from being the target of the US military to being the U.S. military itself?” She opposes militarism but wants veterans to be honoured.

Around 1.7% of US active duty forces are Indian; their proportion of the US population is 0.8%. Sergeant Brandon Bowden, a recruiting officer says: “Many want the college benefits; others are out for some skill set they could use, as the economy is very bad in this small area. Quite a few are looking for jobs, with the unemployment rate so high.” One mother was furious at the US military for the death of her son in Afghanistan. She reminds herself of what her son always used to tell her. “They are the ones who sign my cheque Mom; they are the ones who help me support my family.”

Reconciliation in Canada

And yet where in your history books is the tale

Of the genocide basic to this country’s birth?
–Buffy St. Marie

Readers of this series may be surprised to learn that Canada has a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Canada has the image of a civilised beacon for human rights. In Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index Canada comes in at a saintly number nine compared to UK’s 17, USA’s 19 and Sri Lanka’s 79. Canada is never shy of berating Sri Lanka on human rights.

Why does Canada need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Actually, the TRC is focused on a specific issue rather than on human rights in general. In June 2008, the Canadian government undertook an effort to understand the history, abuses and intergenerational impact of the Indian Residential School (IRS) system that operated in Canada for over 100 years.

The IRS system consisted of a nation-wide network of church- and state-run schools focused on separating  indigenous (First Nation, Inuit, and Métis)  children from their cultural heritage. From 1920 into the 1960s, attendance was mandatory for aboriginal children aged 7 to 15. Priests and Indian Agents forcibly removed many children from their families and sent them to the schools. It is estimated that more than 150,000 children went through these schools.

Children were severely punished if they used their native language. Food and medical services were inadequate. Overcrowding contributed to the spread of disease. The mortality rate for residential school students was 40%. Children were often subjected to severe physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

One theory suggested that the name of Canada came from the Spanish cá nada,  meaning there is nothing there. There may have been no gold or silver but there were people. Scientists believe  that bones and artefacts prove  First Nations people have lived in what is now Canada for more than  12,000 years.

Canadian prosperity has long been tied to the existence of an “extractive frontier” where population densities were very low, and natural resources were abundant, untapped and essentially free. Inexpensive access to new lands depended upon a policy of keeping Aboriginal peoples separate and unequal, with neither the rights nor the power to demand full value for their labour and materials – or the land which was stolen from them.

 

According to Reverend Kevin Daniel Annett, there was a “Canadian Holocaust” and mainstream Christian churches were and are complicit in it. Annett claims  that the total number of aboriginals killed in the Canadian genocide by the British Crown is approximately 25 million people. Annett claims that over 50,000 aboriginal children are still missing and unaccounted for from the residential schools operated by the Catholic and other churches on behalf of the British Crown. Many believe that Annett is a charlatan or a madman. (He does bear a remarkable resemblance to mad poet Robert Lowell!).

How do the descendents of those people who occupied Canada 12,000 years ago fare today? The effects of the forced introduction of European culture and values, the dispossession of Aboriginal lands, and the imposition of alien modes of governance are still felt today. Underlying the problems of poverty, poor health and substance abuse is a loss of identity and helplessness from having their values oppressed and their rights ignored.

As of the 2006 census, there were 1,172,790 Aboriginal people in Canada, or 3.8% of the national population. In 1995, 55.6% of Aboriginal people living in Canadian cities were poor. 52.1% of all Aboriginal children were poor in 2003. First Nations people experienced a disproportionate burden of many infectious diseases. Similarly, the tuberculosis rate among First Nations people remained eight to ten times that seen in the Canadian population as a whole. Only 56.9% of homes were considered adequate in 1999­.

In 2012 three UN expert committees rated Canada’s  performance on meeting rights commitments — and found it wanting. An Amnesty International report found “a range” of “ongoing and serious human rights challenges,” especially for indigenous peoples. There was a disproportionate number of missing or murdered indigenous women on Vancouver’s downtown East Side from 1997-2002, and their cases did not receive equal treatment by police. AI says that UN recommendations have too often been ignored, and the implementation process is so “cloaked in secrecy” that most Canadians have no idea whether the government plans to act on them. Meghan Rhoad, women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch said that “the epidemic of violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada is a national problem and it demands a national enquiry.”

An interviewer who met Annett described his “unexpected demeanour and the intelligent clarity of his words”.  She  asked him what he wanted. “A war crimes trial. Returning the children’s remains, first of all, for a proper burial”.

Rather similar to what Canada wants from Sri Lanka. Canada has had longer to think about it.

Reconciliation in Ireland Part 2

Cromwell’s Genocidal Legacy

During the negotiations towards the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, which eventually led to independence and today’s modern republican state of Ireland, Lloyd George was heard to express his exasperation at the Irish team’s  reluctance to discuss current mundane issues such as borders and policing. “They  only want to talk about Cromwell!”
Jonathan Powell in his book on the more recent Northern Ireland peace process, Great Hatred, Little Room, said that he and Tony Blair had the same problem with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness. With them it was Cromwell,  with Reverend Ian Paisley it was the Siege of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne.

Winston Churchill was not loved by the Irish. My father described him as the man who sent the Black and Tans into Ireland to shoot civilians and burn villages. Churchill described the impact of Cromwell on Anglo-Irish relations thus:
“…upon all of these Cromwell’s record was a lasting bane. By an uncompleted process of terror, by an iniquitous land settlement, by the virtual proscription of the Catholic religion, by the bloody deeds already described, he cut new gulfs between the nations and the creeds. ‘Hell or Connaught’ were the terms he thrust upon the native inhabitants, and they for their part, across three hundred years, have used as their keenest expression of hatred ‘The Curse of Cromwell on you.’ … Upon all of us there still lies ‘the curse of Cromwell’.”

History lives in the present. Cromwell was a hard act to forgive and forget.

Plantations and Genocide

In October 1641, after a bad harvest, Phelim O’Neill launched a rebellion, hoping to rectify grievances of Irish Catholic landowners. Once the rebellion was underway, the resentment of the native Irish in Ulster boiled over into indiscriminate attacks on the settler population. Recent research suggests  4,000 settlers were killed directly and up to 12,000 may have perished from disease or privation after being expelled from their homes. Ulster was worst hit. The atrocities committed by both sides further poisoned the relationship between the settler and native communities and arguably the wounds still fester. Does this remind anyone of Palestine?

Cromwell with the New Model Army by 1652 had effectively re-conquered Ireland. Cromwell held all Irish Catholics responsible for the rebellion of 1641. The Irish Catholic land-owning class was utterly destroyed and Cromwell achieved the logical conclusion of the plantation process. Over 12,000 New Model Army veterans were given Irish land instead of wages. They were required to keep their weapons to act as a reserve militia in case of future rebellions.

Cromwell has his defenders among modern historians but a recent book, God’s Executioner by Mícheál Ó Siochrú, is a forceful restatement of the prosecution case. The 1649-53 campaign lingers in the Irish psyche for the  huge death toll (possibly 40% of the population).There was  wholesale burning of crops, forced population movement and slaughter of civilians. The post-war Cromwellian settlement of Ireland has been characterized as “genocidal”.

The fifty years from 1641 to 1691 saw two catastrophic periods of civil war in Ireland  which killed hundreds of thousands of people and left others in permanent exile. Some Irish were sent to the West indies as slaves. The first recorded sale of Irish slaves was to a settlement along the Amazon in South America in 1612 but early arrangements were probably unofficial although encouraged by James I. In 1637, a census showed that 69% of the inhabitants of Montserrat in the West Indies were Irish slaves. The Irish had a tendency to die in the heat, and were not as well suited to the work as African slaves, but African slaves had to be bought. Irish slaves could be kidnapped. After the 1641 rebellion, an estimated 300,000 were sold as slaves. In the 1650’s, 100,000 Irish Catholic children were taken from their parents and sold as slaves, many to Virginia and New England. From 1651 to 1660 there were more Irish slaves in America than the entire non-slave population of the colonies.

The wars, which pitted Irish Catholics against British forces and Protestant settlers, ended in the almost complete dispossession of the Catholic landed elite. The Plantations had a profound impact on Ireland in several ways. The native ruling classes were destroyed and replaced by the Protestant Ascendancy.

Sir William Petty

William Petty (1623-87) – mathematician, mechanic, physician, cartographer and statistician – devised a public-private partnership for “fusing science and policy”. Petty is best known through his connection with the Cromwellian settlement of Ireland. Arriving in Ireland in 1652 as physician-general to the army, he set about making himself useful by  surveying the boundaries of holdings and assessing relative values. This became known as the Down Survey, which commodified Irish land. It standardised the measure of estates, in size and in value, and, as, Petty himself was a major holder of these debentures, he became very rich. When he arrived in Ireland, he had maybe £500 in assets, but  he came to own 50,000 acres in County Kerry alone. John Aubrey estimated Petty’s  rental income at its height at £18,000 a year – perhaps £27 million in today’s money.

Petty anticipated Henry Ford’s methods (Ford’s father was from County Cork) of division of labour and economies of scale. He divided complicated tasks into bits that could be handled by men “not of the nimblest witts”, that is, by the soldiers themselves, who were also tough enough to deal with angry landowners and “with the severall rude persons in the country, from whome they might expect to be often crossed and opposed”.

One way of preventing Ireland from being a haven for terrorists was to transform it  by social engineering into a peaceful and productive land. Ireland could be seen as a laboratory in  which a new, rational and virtuous society might be developed. Petty wrote: “Some furious Spirits have wished, that the Irish would rebel again, that they might be put to the Sword.” He had some scruples: “I declare, that motion to be not only impious and inhumane, but withal frivolous and pernicious even to them who have rashly wish’d for those occasions.”

Eugenics and Ethnic Cleansing

Petty explored the idea of breeding the “meer Irish”  out of existence by deporting 10,000 Irishwomen of marriageable age to England every year and replacing  them with a like number of Englishwomen?  “The whole Work of natural Transmutation and Union would in four or five years be accomplished.” The Englishwomen would run Irish households on much more civilised lines: “The Language of the Children shall be English, and the whole Oeconomy of the Family English, viz. Diet, Apparel, &c., and the Transmutation will be very easy and quick”.

Cromwell’s genocidal campaign had been financed through promises of confiscated Irish land. Rebels were executed and others were sent as slaves to the West Indies. Irish soldiers were given the opportunity of going abroad to fight in foreign armies and became known as the Wild Geese.

All land east of the River Shannon was claimed by the Crown. About 8,400,000 acres were reassigned from Catholic to Protestant owners. The former Irish owners could either accept transportation to poorer land reserved for them in Connaught or be tenants of the new Protestant owners. Catholic ownership plummeted from 60%  of the land before the Rebellion to less than 10%  after 1652. It was a great experiment in the movement of populations and transference of social power.

There has been speculation  that Irish travellers  were descended from ancestors who were made homeless by Cromwell.

Petty may have provided some useful ideas to Hitler and Mengele.. While I deplore the activities of conflict junkies who are only happy when the fires of hatred are constantly stoked, one cannot understand contemporary Ireland without knowing where the divisions in Irish society originated.

Reconciliation in Ireland Part 1

Ireland’s Revenge on the Tudors.

I have been watching on DVD the Showtime TV series The Tudors. It strikes me as ironic that the series was filmed in Ireland and has provided gainful employment to innumerable Irish actors (including my Facebook friend Nick Dunning, wonderfully shifty as Thomas Boleyn).  Ironic because many of the troubles Ireland has suffered over the centuries resulted from the policies and actions of Henry VIII (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers – Sean O’Keefe from County Cork- who first came to fame as the man who shot Michael Collins in Neil Jordan’s film).

Patriotic Irishmen, my father included, like to talk about 800 years of British oppression (see the responses to my essay on Groundviews: http://groundviews.org/2012/03/17/martyrology-martyrdom-rebellion-terrorism/). True, Strongbow (Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, Lord of Leinster, Justiciar of Ireland)  invaded Ireland in 1170, but it was not until the Tudors that the real oppression began. Strongbow is described as Cambro-Norman,  a term used for Norman knights who settled in southern Wales after the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

War on Terrorism?

The Normans were not generally too much of a bother to the native Irish and actually helped bring a measure of efficiency to agriculture, commerce and the law. To a great extent the Normans “went native”. Some adopted the Irish language and customs, and intermarried, and the Irish themselves also became “Normanised”. Many Irish people today bear Norman-derived surnames such as Fitzgerald, Burke, Roche and Power. There are many Irish D’Arcy’s, De Laceys and De Burghs. There are several distinct types of Irish face. One of them- thin lips, sharp nose- is distinctively Norman.

Many of Ireland’s problems came from Wales. The  Welshman Henry VII founded the Tudor dynasty in 1485 after killing the reigning King Richard III. In 1536, Henry VIII deposed the Fitzgerald dynasty of Kildare as Lords Deputies of Ireland. The Fitzgeralds had been, in effect, rulers of Ireland since the 15th century but had become a security threat to the Johnny-Come-Lately Tudor dynasty by inviting Burgundian troops into Dublin and crowning  the Yorkist pretender, Lambert Simnel as “King of England” in 1497. In 1536, Silken Thomas Fitzgerald rebelled  against Henry VIII. The rebellion was put down and Henry tried to bring all Ireland under his control to prevent it being used as a base for  a Catholic invasion of England.

Spenser’s Final Solution


Edmund Spenser, considered by many the first English poet of note after Chaucer, could also be regarded as the  Radovan Karadzic of his day. Spenser  wrote most of his masterpiece, The Faery Queene, on his 3,000 acre estate at Kilcolman Castle in County Cork. County Cork is in the province of Munster. He also wrote propaganda advocating genocide. The Munster Plantation of the 1580s was the first mass plantation in Ireland. It was a punishment for the Desmond rebellions.  The Desmond dynasty was annihilated and their estates were confiscated.

In his View of the Present State of Ireland (1596), Spenser outlined his programme for civilizing the wild Gaels. Declan Kiberd has written: “The sheer ferocity of Spenser’s writings on the Irish resistance – a ferocity quite at odds with the gentle charm of his poetry-  can only be explained  as arising from a radical ambivalence.   He wished to convert the Irish to civil ways, but in order to do that found that it might be necessary to exterminate many of them”. The tract was definitely written to influence policy and seriously argued that starvation was the best way to bring the Irish under control. The pamphlet argued that Ireland would never be totally “pacified” (remember the “pacification villages” in Vietnam?)  by the English until its indigenous language and customs had been destroyed, if necessary by violence.

Spenser’s View is seen today as genocidal – a precursor of fellow-poet Radovan Karadzic, perhaps? Spenser did express some praise for the Gaelic poetic tradition, but also used much tendentious and bogus analysis to demonstrate that the Irish were descended from barbarian stock. He fully understood the consequences of what he was advocating and described in graphic detail the effects on a starving Irish population who “consume themselves and devour one another”.


Spenser was a beneficiary of the theft of land from the native Irish. Spenser communicated with his neighbor and fellow poet Sir Walter Raleigh, who had commandeered 40,000 prime Irish acres for himself at Youghal.

Richard Boyle, First Earl of Cork, may have been an ancestor of the writer Richard Boyle, who has long been resident in Sri Lanka. Both were born in Canterbury. The Earl of Cork claimed most of the County and Munster as his own.

 

Plantations

English “Undertakers” were wealthy colonists who undertook to import tenants from England, Scotland  and Wales to work their new lands. The plan was for land to be confiscated and redistributed to create concentrations of British settlers around new towns and garrisons. The new landowners were explicitly banned from taking Irish tenants. The Planters were also barred from selling their lands to any Irishman.

The remaining Irish landowners were to be granted one quarter of the land in Ulster and the ordinary Irish population was relocated to live near garrisons and Protestant churches. Up to 80,000 English and Scots Protestants had been settled in the previously Catholic north of Ireland by 1641. The Reformation did not “take” in Ireland. This was because brutal methods were used to pacify the country and exploit its resources, which heightened resentment of English rule.

Settlers with a British and Protestant identity, would form the ruling class of future British administrations in Ireland. Penal laws discriminated against Catholics, who were barred from public office and from serving in the army. Voting for  Parliament was rigged so the Protestants would always have the majority.

There is a familiar imperial pattern here of colonisation, land theft, divide and rule, religious and racial discrimination, and brutality leading to conflict. During the years of the Provisional IRA terrorist campaign the British from a superior height would say : ”Why is it these people can’t just get on with each other?” To Irish people, it is not an Irish problem. Ireland suffered from an English (or possibly Welsh) problem.

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