George Monbiot had an important article in yesterday’s Graun: important, not so much because of what it said (which is not new), but because of who was saying it and where he was saying it. Monbiot is a respected figure in what can broadly be described as Chomskyite/ Gallowayite/Grauniad (CGG) circles. He’s not a Trot or any kind of Marxist, which (regretably) adds to his credibility in such circles. He was even a supporter of ‘Respect’ for a while, before seeing through Galloway.
So when Monbiot makes a pronouncement, particlarly on a subject close to the collective heart of the CGG crowd, it carries weight. When he challenges one of their shibboleths (as he did a while back over nuclear energy), it gets them thinking in the way that a piece, however well argued, from a source (like us at Shiraz) they don’t like, wouldn’t. Now I’m not for a moment arguing that all the CGG crowd are consistent genocide deniers. Denial of the Rwanadan genocide of up to a million Tutsis by Hutu forces is relatively rare, at least amongst apparently sane people. Not so, though, denial (or semi-denial) of the Bosnian genocide and, in particular, the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica where reliable research suggests over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered by Serb sorces; denial of this intended genocide (and actual mass-murder) is commonplace on sections of the CGG “left”, in part because of the fact that the Stalinists, the SWP and the anti-war movement at the time deliberately played down the criminality of the Serb leadership and/or tried to shift the blame onto the ‘West.’ But even more important is the fact that Noam Chomsky – a revered figure in CGG circles – has effectively endorsed this revisionism.
So Monbiot’s article taking the big stick to Chomsky and his co-thinkers Edward Herman, David Peterson, John Pilger and the Media Lens crowd, is to be welcomed. The earlier part of the article concentrates on Monbiot’s old betes noir, the Living Marxism/ LM/ Spiked Online axis , but they are much less influential on the left, being widely recognised as a bunch of right ring ‘libertarian’ loons. So it’s the attack on Chomsky and his chums that is most important here, and Monbiot does a first class demolition job:
…But genocide denial is just as embarrassing to the
left as it is to the libertarian right. Last week Edward Herman, an American
professor of finance best known for co-authoring Manufacturing Consent with Noam
Chomsky, published a new book called The Srebrenica
Massacre. It claims that the 8,000 deaths at Srebrenica are “an
unsupportable exaggeration. The true figure may be closer to 800.”
Like Karadzic, the book claims that the market massacres in Sarajevo were
carried out by Bosnian Muslim provocateurs. It maintains that the Serb forces’
reburial of Bosnian corpses is “implausible and lack[s] any evidential support”
(an astonishing statement in view of the ICMP’s findings). It insists that the
witnesses to the killings are “not credible” and suggests that the Bosnian
Muslim soldiers retreated from Srebrenica to ensure that more Bosnians were
killed, in order to provoke US intervention.
These are not the first such claims that Herman has made. Last year, with
David Peterson, he published a book called The Politics of Genocide. Mis-citing
a tribunal judgment, he maintains that the Serb forces “incontestably had not
killed any but ‘Bosnian Muslim men of military age’.” Worse still, he places the
Rwandan genocide in inverted commas throughout the text and maintains that “the
great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million”,
and that the story of 800,000 “largely Tutsi deaths” caused by genocide “appears
to have no basis in any facts”. It’s as straightforward an instance of
revisionism as I’ve ever seen, comparable in this case only to the claims of the
But here’s where it gets really weird. The cover
carries the following endorsement by John Pilger. “In this brilliant exposé of
great power’s lethal industry of lies, Edward Herman and David Peterson defend
the right of us all to a truthful historical memory.” The foreword was written
by Noam Chomsky. He doesn’t mention the specific claims the book makes, but the
fact that he wrote it surely looks like an endorsement of the contents. The
leftwing website Media Lens maintained that Herman and Peterson were “perfectly
entitled” to talk down the numbers killed at Srebrenica. What makes this all the
more remarkable is that Media Lens has
waged a long and fierce campaign against Iraq Body Count for underestimating
the number killed in that country.
Why is this happening? Both the LM network and Herman’s supporters oppose
western intervention in the affairs of other nations. Herman rightly maintains
that far more attention is paid to atrocities committed by US enemies than to
those committed by the US and its allies. But both groups then take the
unwarranted step of belittling the acts of genocide committed by opponents of
the western powers.
The rest of us should stand up for the victims, whoever they are, and
confront those trying to make them disappear.
The complete article, fully referenced, can be read here
The same article, as published by the Graun / CIF is here, and worth looking at if only for some of the hysterical comments that follow.
An even better article: Michael Deibert says Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Arundhati Roy and other revisionists should apologise.