Untouchable - The Uses And Misuses Of 'Genocide Denial'

Date Written:  2017-12-05
Publisher:  MediaLens
Year Published:  2017
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22483

One of the wonders of contemporary propaganda is the extent to which corporate commentators are in denial about their use of the term 'genocide denial'. Clearly, they believe they are using a neutral, objective term to describe indisputable facts of genocidal killing and ugly refusals to recognise those facts. The delusion is quickly exposed when we ask a few simple questions. For example: how often do we see 'mainstream' commentators describing US-UK sanctions on Iraq from 1990-2003 as 'genocidal', as affirmed by senior UN diplomats? How often do journalists describe supporters of the devastating Bush-Blair war on Iraq, the Obama-Cameron war on Libya, or May's war on Yemen as 'genocide deniers'? Can we imagine someone who supported the war on Libya being called an 'Obama apologist'? Like 'terror' and 'terrorism', 'genocide' and 'genocide denial' are simply not terms that are applied to Western actions. This really awesome level of bias points to the reality that 'genocide denial' is a propaganda term overwhelmingly used to portray Official Enemies as morally and intellectually despicable, in fact untouchable. As used in the 'mainstream', the term is antirational, an attack on honest debate.



rare exceptions aside, 'denial' is a toxic term that is best left to propagandists. It is extremely dangerous to suggest, in effect, that atrocity claims are so certain, so clear-cut, that challenging them implies a kind of moral sickness that rightly results in reputations being trashed. Who decides when it is 'the moral equivalent of Holocaust denial' to challenge such claims: Oliver Kamm, George Monbiot, the British government, Media Lens?

The absurdity becomes clear as soon as we consider some examples. Was it 'genocide denial' when the BBC, ITN, the Observer and other media rejected former UN secretary-general Denis Halliday's claim that sanctions, rather than the Iraqi government, were responsible for 'genocide' in Iraq?

Were Amnesty International guilty of 'genocide denial' when they told us in 2003 that, in the previous decade, Saddam Hussein had been responsible for executions in the 'hundreds' per year, rather than in the 10,000s or 100,000s, as some political commentators were suggesting?

Was it 'genocide denial' when newspapers challenged but mostly ignored the 2004 and 2006 Lancet studies that found nearly 100,000 and 655,000 excess deaths in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, respectively?

The related term 'apologist' is increasingly being used to smear anyone who challenges warmongering US-UK claims made against the likes of Venezuela, Iran and North Korea. An 'apologist' is someone engaged in 'denial', which is again intended to link to Nazi 'Holocaust denial'. To challenge BBC propaganda on protests in Venezuela is to be labelled a 'Maduro apologist', and so on.

The grim reality of the world in which we live is that cynical interests are determined to extend the prohibition on discussing the Holocaust to discussion of the Srebrenica massacre, to discussion of Syria, and to other issues. The laser-like focus on crimes by Official Enemies while Western crimes in Iraq, Libya and Yemen are blithely ignored, leaves no doubt that the concern is almost never for the suffering of victims in places like Bosnia and Syria. As Theodore Sayeed explained:

'It's all about... leveraging the debatable humanitarian motives of Western intervention in the Balkans as a precedent for invading Iraq and Syria and Iran and whatever enemy of the year beckons after that.'

It is all about delegitimising rational criticism of atrocity claims justifying Western 'intervention'.

The horrific goal, then: to make it more difficult to challenge 'our' crimes.

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