Archive for February, 2008


As Used By Extremists Everywhere

rwandan_genocide_murambi_skulls.jpg

 

The holocaust is an emotive subject for many. It still has the power to shock and cause controversy like few other things across the 20th century. It marked one of the darkest spots in human history, some may say the darkest, but it is, sadly, by no means the only example of man’s inhumanity to man.

I have always found a strange curious interest in those like ‘historian’ David Irving who deny the holocaust, more out of a certain incredulity than anything else.  Having been to Auschwitz and Dachau myself I wonder what these people make of what was otherwise going on here.  What is their explanation for the vast tanks filled with human hair or spectacles or children’s toys or shoes?  And the sheer scale of buildings with their evidence of dense human habitation, how could this have happened across the country using the national railways and all if not part of a concerted, co-ordinated policy?  What could those involved on the German side have to gain from admitting that it took place, surely they should all seek to deny it, furthermore, if extreme right-wing Hitler sympathisers deny it, do they claim that it was never on the agenda at all? I am interested in what the arguments are for such a denial of what appears to be an unequivocal event. 
 
Is it a matter of personnel, a question of who knew and how systematic was the policy of death?  Here the Wannsee Conference would appear to suggest that it was both fairly widespread and went up to the top.  Furthermore the promotion of Auschwitz commandant SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höß would appear to corroborate this, Höß was no ordinary Wehrmacht pawn, an associate of Heinrich Himmler, member of the Waffen-SS and recipient of both the SS Honour Ring and SS Honour Sword. He was also the first commandant to use Zyklon-B as a method of mass extermination following extensive trials on Soviet PoWs in the Auschwitz camp. 
 
I am however also interested in why this episode of genocide is afforded such particular historical significance.  It will doubtless remain a major part of 20th century historical teaching for many decades, even centuries to come, which I do not necessarily see as a bad thing, just an inconsistent one if taken in comparison to other such events and their legacy.  It is estimated that 6 million Jews were killed in the Nazi death camps and there are memorials around the world to their memory, as there indeed should be.  But what of the 3 million Soviet PoWs were also murdered along with 500,000 gypsies, 250,000 mentally and physically handicapped and countless tens of thousands of trade unionists, communists, socialists, homosexuals and other ‘undesirable elements’.  These groups are given scant mention and are certainly not commemorated widely outside their own communities.  Where is their monument, where is the recognition that under a tyrannical regime whatever guise it choses to hide under the fine line between what constitutes a state normality and what constitutes a threat to security is arbitrary and changeable?  
 
The denial of the holocaust though is in some countries a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment and I am deeply uncomfortable with this because it smacks of the zenith of political correctness.  Any such brushing under the carpet of views is to give them an ill-deserved credence in the consequent interest it generates.  Yet no other event in history is afforded such protection, it would be unthinkable for legislation to exist to prevent historical revisionism for other dark events in human history such as a denial of the Rwandan genocide, ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, Stalin’s purges, the Crusades, the Irish Potato Famine even the pogroms against the Jews across Europe through the centuries, the systematic extermination of the indigenous populations of North and South America; Australia and many parts of colonial Africa. 
 
The fact is that this is a case of history viewed from the victor’s perspective.  Whilst I agree it smacks of poor taste to classify the Jews as in any way victors in the Second World War, I mean it in contrast to the German position and the ideals that the Nazis stood for.  Directly after the defeat of Germany the Soviet Union went from friend to enemy and the groups of the handicapped and the gypsies have been for a long time too marginalised and disenfranchised to wield any real influence. 
 
If one takes Russia under Stalin’s reign from 1924-1953 estimates vary widely as to how many died as a result of the regime ranging at the lower end from 6.5 million right up to estimates of 60 million by people like Solzhenitsyn.  The general consensus is settling at around a staggering 20 million deaths around 3-4 times more than Jews killed under the Nazis.  In fact it is estimated that between 10 and 20 million Soviets died as a result of the Second World War and undisputed that the Soviet Union suffered multiple times more casualties as a result of WWII than any other nation. In fact the 20 million figure would mean that the Soviet Union suffered as many casualties as all the other nations combined. 
 
The Soviet Union is but one example, directly comparable because it was at the same time in history, I could choose to look at Rwanda where between 500 000 and 1 million were slaughtered in 100 days in 1994 by the Interahamwe. This is systematic extermination far in excess of even what the Nazis or Stalin were able to achieve. And yet in the example of the Soviet Union and the Interahamwe in Rwanda we have not seen worldwide searches to bring the perpetrators to justice, we have not had the International Criminal Court being able to use figures of the nature of Simon Wiesenthal and the like.  And yet the US mounted a widespread manhunt to bring Osama Bin Laden in a man responsible for a fraction of the deaths that say Henry Kissinger directly caused due to the acquiescence to a criminally interventionist foreign policy in Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos etc.  Far from hiding in the mountains somewhere in the Middle East Kissinger tours the lecture circuit earning money and respect.  Presumably because to have got away with such assassination squad diplomacy one must admire his sheer audacity and ability to still be able to sleep at night.
 
On the flip side we hear a great deal of the genocide attributable to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia’s killing fields and yet far less of the deaths attributable to US foreign policy in the years preceding the Khmer take-over.  The US media had in fact already started decribing the genocide before it had even taken place as Chomsky has shown in Manufacturing Consent.
 
The number of casualties of the September the 11th disaster stands at 2,752 and this event will be taught across the Western world at least as an event of extreme historical significance, and yet how many people know of the Armenian Genocide (Death toll 1-1.5 million), the Assyrian Genocide (Death toll 500,000-750,000), the Burundi Genocide (Death Toll 50,000-100,000), or the Pontic Greek Genocide (Death Toll 300,000-360,000)? How much about the Bosnian ethnic cleansing is likely to be taught in the decades to come? Outside Ireland how much of the English culpability is looked at regarding the “Great” Potato Famine (Death Toll approximately 1 million +, or 20% of Ireland’s population)?  As John Mitchell wrote, “The Almighty sent the potato blight… but the English created the famine.” 
 
Obviously it would be true to say that the number of deaths in these events was not numerically as high as the Holocaust, however “Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.” – Jean-Paul Satre, and as a proportion of the population or when measured as an impact study on the demographics and subsequent effect on populations it could be argued that, at the very least for the communities concerned, these events were equally catastrophic and in all cases without question the international reaction to these events has been one of relative ambivalence.  It would be as dangerous precedent a if we merely based somethings newsworthiness or impact for history on the number of casualties alone as it would were we not to look at all such events in an effort to learn from them.  After all the Bosnian conflict and the Rwandan genocide would appear to suggest that far from learning the lessons of history so as not to repeat them humans have in fact learnt the lessons of history so as to hone and perfect the means of further atrocity.
 
Song Of The Day ~ Joe Jackson – It’s Different For Girls
 
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Mediawatch – Getting The Shakes!

Quake

Well bugger me if last night we didn’t have an Earthquake!
 
I know for the readers across the world outside Europe the fact that something of 5.3 on the Richter scale happened here is something of a non-event, however it was the largest one I remember and although only 0.2 higher than the one in 1990 it appeared more severe this time and yet I was about the same distance away from the epicentre as then. In 1990 I remember the toy parrot I had hanging from the ceiling swinging backwards and forwards. In 2002 I came out into the garden and nonchalantly lit up.
 
This one seemed bigger. It started quite benignly, a little shaking and a rumble and I thought, shit, earthquake and carried on watching the telly. Then the rumbling got a lot deeper and more violent and seemed a little more menacing when the crockery and stuff started to shake. There is something quite eerie about that noise, perhaps because it reminds me of the exhibit in the Natural History Museum that had a replica supermarket of the Kobe earthquake with CCTV footage from the event and you could stand in it and be shaken about.
 
It appeared to go on for longer than the others I have known as well, there is something primevally discomforting about the Earth moving, it sickens the stomach a little when it goes beyond that sense of something one can shrug off. The body seems to feel little after ripples as well, and it isn’t just me who’s felt that. Whether or not that was a seismic or a psychological thing I cannot say.
 
There was apparently an aftershock at 4am, I didn’t notice, I’d had enough excitement for one night!
 
Song Of The Day ~ Led Zeppelin – You Shook Me

 

Are you scared of Russia again yet?

Apparently the Russian FSB (ex-KGB) are running riot, if the Western media is to be trusted, which is debatable at the best of times let alone in these cases where there may be seen to be a clear political agenda at work, what we are expected to believe is that an organisation that ran for decades one of the most effective covert espionage operations across the world has suddenly decided that such secrecy is not in its best interests, or simply not necessary, when it comes to things like high profile target elimination.

 
It is true that the KGB and many of its operatives do not function quite in the same actively-sponsored way that it may have enjoyed in Soviet times and therefore many former employees may now be essentially little more than ‘guns for hire’. However to me at least it seems a little implausible that they have forgotten their training overnight in order to pursue a more public campaign to advertise their work.
 
First there was the ‘Orange Revolution’ in the Ukraine.  There was always something I never felt was quite right. There seemed to me, from the raw facts alone, to be a great deal of ambiguity which was not being reflected by an electrically-charged media who looked all intent on being a lynch mob for the “wronged” candidate, Viktor Yuschenko the one who happened, quite coincidentally, to be the pro-Western, that is to say pro-Western industry and foreign investment, candidate. We were given a black and white version of events, one which stated that the pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych had rigged the election in favour of his faction over Yuschenko’s.  A little digging appeared to suggest that there were many irregularities on both sides.
 
The initial first round election results had both candidates receiving a shade over 39% with Yanukovyych faring well in his Russian-bordering Eastern Ukraine whilst Yuschenko had likewise received most of his support from the EU-bordering Western Ukraine. The river Dnipro being the rough dividing line between the two areas. The turnout was cited as proof of Yanukovych’s gerrymandering since it stood at around 96% which was enough to make anyone suspicious. It was not however cited in context with the turnout figures of Yuschenko’s areas where the turnout was only marginally less at 94%. Presumably this extra 2% makes all the difference in the identification of foul play over a well-run honest campaign.
 
To make matters worse Yuschenko had been “poisoned” by means of dioxins which left pock-marking all over his face and didn’t kill him.  Correct me if I’m wrong but if you are trying to kill someone high profile would it not be a somewhat stupid idea to use something that even if it achieved the desired result would take not only a long time but in addition make it very publicly obvious what was going on.   I did hear an interview with a former KGB colonel who stated that he had never known the KGB to have used dioxins for poisoning.
 
Ironically in the West after a matter of months criticsims were already being made of the Orange government’s economic reforms, calling them too socialist and populist.  Yuschenko tried sacking most of the government but that doesn’t appear to have worked so one can only expect the US to come to his aid at some point and build a large airbase at Lviv.
 
Then there was the murder of defector Oleg Litvinenko. The use of polonium in the poisoning has been seen as proof of involvement of a state actor, as more than microscopic amounts of polonium can only be produced in nuclear reactors. Most polonium produced in Russia, however, is distributed by western commercial distributors. This is not to assert specifically that there is an evil shadowy Western presence at work herein, no how could such a thing be necessary, the US government can freeboot around and pretty much do openly what it desires. What it illustrates is depending on the nature of your spin the information that is omitted is often as important as the information that is given. Again I find it strange that an organisation such as the FSB would have chosen something so public and so high profile as a method. That is not to say that it could not have been them merely that one has to question a little further in order to determine whether or not it might have been rather than accepting it as red (forgive the pun!).  Unless of course the new FSB have decided in the case of the poisoning of Victor Yuschenko and Oleg Litvinenko to be altogether more unashamed and blatant in their approach.
 
Finally (for now) we also have the “irregularities” of the recent Russian election that has returned Vladimir Putin’s party to power with a large majority. However in much media coverage of interviews in Russia Putin in particular appears to have fairly widespread support particularly in voter rich areas such as Moscow. We are told about a “creeping Putsch” and referred to the election of Vladimir Putin to follow Boris Yeltsin in a ‘by any means necessary approach.’ Then our attention is further drawn to the establishment of a spurious war on a separatist group, the Chechens, responsible allegedly for terrorist attrocities in order to enact large scale internal humanitarian repression and violation of human rights and legislative curbs on civil liberties…
 
I’m sensing you’re way ahead of me here…!
 
Do not get me wrong, I am not suggesting for a moment that Russia is a beacon of hope for those in the country nor of us on the Left any more than it ever really used to be in the Soviet days. I just find the propaganda war interesting nowadays, in the Cold War era there did at least seem to be some difference in the two ideologies even if neither were especially population-friendly. Now it appears there is a neo-capitalist/state capitalist hegemony that simply differs in the specific language it uses in order to appeal to the voting majority to retain its hold on power. Dissent seems now to have been marginalised to the point of near-extinction so ingrained is the propaganda of no alternative. To account for any gradual shift or the ‘muttering masses’ some new threat comes to light in order that people feel scared and cower in their own homes.
 
The media world has so many enemies for us to hate now it is a wonder we come out of our homes at all but Osama Bed Linen, Slobbo Milosevic, the Taliban and even Saddam Hussain, all of whom have been likened to Hitler and Stalin at one time or another, couldn’t cut the same sort of pathological fear as the old foe themselves.  The Reds are coming back
 
If you want a coping strategy my advice is to find a combination of what my Da told me to do with monsters in a nightmare which was to imagine them on the khazee and to do what a journalist for The Observer did in Libya when confronted with Col. Gaddafi’s cult of personality which was to call him Keith and refer to him thus throughout the rest of the travelogue.   You can choose to be afraid and allow your human rights to be ceded away to nothing in anti-terrorist laws which smack of emergency powers of the 1930s, or you can choose not to buy into the hegemony and cast your net wider and ask yourself why you are being told certain things and by whom.
 
It’s up to you. 
 
Song Of The Day ~ Radiohead – Black Star