What is genocide? According to the dictionary, it is the “murder of a whole group of people, especially a whole nation, race, or religious group”.
By that definition British rule in India; the Spanish conquest of South America; the British colonisation of America and Australia; the Jewish Holocaust in Germany; the Islamic conquest of India; the 1914 murder of one million Armenians by Turkey; the 1971 murder of three million Bengalis by Pakistan within the span of a single year; and the Hutu massacre of Rwanda in 1994 would certainly qualify as genocide.
However, the killings of an alleged 8000 Bosnian Muslim men by Serbs in Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia cannot be called genocide. Let’s not forget that these men were combatants in a vicious war where the participants – Serbs, Croats and Bosnians – were all guilty of war crimes. Also, coming from the West the number is most likely inflated and needs to be taken with a healthy dose of caution.
Secondly, while there’s no dispute that Bosnian males were killed in the war zone, it is also true the Serbs spared the non-combatants. Between 25,000 and 30,000 women, children and elderly Bosnian Muslims were evicted from Srebrenica without bloodshed. Considering the scale of atrocities committed by all sides during the Yugoslav civil war, the Serbs acted with admirable restraint.
According to Diana Johnstone, an American political writer based in Paris, “There was a massacre of prisoners, whose proportions are disputed. That was a war crime. But it was not genocide. When your victims are military age men and you spare women and children, that cannot be genocide by any sensible definition.”
The Serbians are being targeted because they are pro-Russia. It’s as simple as that. “Serbia was seen as a potential Russian ally in the region, as the Serbs are Orthodox Christians, and so that was the reason it was targeted,” Johnstone says. “The story was that Orthodox Christians are the bad guys and the Muslims are the good guys. And that’s been a constant US strategy for the last several decades.”
The West’s definition of genocide is not just phony but is constantly modified to suit different situations. The tribunal the western power set up for the former Yugoslavia was clearly ordered to go after the Serbs. And indeed, it claimed – quite bizarrely – that because the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica had a patriarchal society, therefore killing the men was a localised genocide.
But the tribunal’s far-fetched explanation is tailored to suit the likes of the US, UK, Spain and Germany – countries responsible for countless genocides through the centuries. These countries are now acting as judge, witness and executioner in the Srebrenica case.
Is western interventionist ideology tailored to highlight alleged human rights abuses in some countries and ignore them in others? The answer is both yes and no.
Yes, the West is keen to trumpet human rights abuses in countries that are not in sync with its master plan for global domination. That is an admirable tenet of Machiavellian geopolitics. But there’s another, more insidious, reason. It is because the scale of their own crimes is so staggering that western nations quickly latch on to other countries’ internal problems.
For instance, during their 200-year rule in India, the British killed at least 60 million Indians. In Australia, settlers – the more accurate word is invaders – from Britain erased Aboriginal civilisation. Ward Churchill’s book ‘Indians Are Us? Culture and Genocide in Native North America’ says more than one hundred million Native American people were “eliminated” in the course of Europe’s ongoing “civilization” of the Western Hemisphere.
That number could well be an understatement. In 1492 when Christopher Columbus took an island that he renamed Espanola (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic), the place was populated by more than 8 million native Taino people. Four years later, the Taino were reduced to three million. By 1514 the island had barely 22,000 of them; only two hundred were recorded in 1542. The Taino soon became history.
In other words, Spain alone killed more people than 57 Hiroshima bombs – in one generation, in a tiny corner of the Americas.
In Texas, which was much larger, “an official bounty on any native scalps was maintained until well into the 1870s. The result was that the indigenous population of this state, once the densest in all of North America, had been reduced to near zero by 1880.
By the end of the 19th century, writes David E. Stannard, a historian at the University of Hawaii, Native Americans 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”.
According to Lenore Stiffarm and Phil Lane, “There can be no more monumental example of sustained genocide – certainly none involving a ‘race’ of people as broad and complex as this – anywhere in the annals of human history.”
British genocide in India
The Bengal Famine of 1943-44 can be classified as the greatest disaster in the subcontinent in the 20th century. Nearly 4 million Indians died because of an artificial famine created by the British government. This is an extremely conservative figure based on British data and Indian sources put the real figure at 7-8 million.
What is remarkable about the scale of the disaster is its time span. World War II was at its peak and the Germans were rampaging across Europe, targeting Jews, Slavs and the Roma for extermination. It took Adolf Hitler and his Nazi cohorts 12 years to round up and murder 6 million Jews, but their Teutonic cousins, the British, managed to kill almost between 4 and 8 million Indians in just over a year, with Prime Minister Winston Churchill cheering from the sidelines.
Australian biochemist Dr Gideon Polya has called the Bengal Famine a “manmade holocaust” because Churchill’s policies were directly responsible for the disaster. Bengal had a bountiful harvest in 1942, but the British started diverting vast quantities of food grain from India to Britain, contributing to a massive food shortage in the areas comprising present-day West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Bangladesh.
Author Madhusree Mukerjee tracked down some of the survivors and paints a chilling picture of the effects of hunger and deprivation. In Churchill’s Secret War, she writes: “Parents dumped their starving children into rivers and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains. Starving people begged for the starchy water in which rice had been boiled. Children ate leaves and vines, yam stems and grass. People were too weak even to cremate their loved ones.”
“No one had the strength to perform rites,” a survivor tells Mukerjee. “Dogs and jackals feasted on piles of dead bodies in Bengal’s villages.” The ones who got away were men who migrated to Calcutta for jobs and women who turned to prostitution to feed their families. “Mothers had turned into murderers, village belles into whores, fathers into traffickers of daughters,” writes Mukerjee.
By 1943 hordes of starving people were flooding into Calcutta, most dying on the streets. Even the Anglophile Jawaharlal Nehru was moved to comment that the sight of well-fed white British soldiers amidst this apocalyptic landscape was “the final judgement on British rule in India”.
Churchill could easily have prevented the famine. His excuse — currently being peddled by his family and supporters — was Britain could not spare the ships to transport emergency supplies. But Mukerjee has unearthed documents that challenge his claim. She cites official records that reveal ships carrying grain from Australia bypassed India on their way to the Mediterranean.
Churchill’s hostility toward Indians has long been documented. At a War Cabinet meeting, he blamed the Indians themselves for the famine, saying they “breed like rabbits”. His attitude toward Indians may be summed up in his words to Amery: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” On another occasion, he insisted they were “the beastliest people in the world next to the Germans”.
Late Victorian Holocausts
To be sure, Churchill’s policy towards famine-stricken Bengal wasn’t any different from that of earlier British despots in India. In ‘Late Victorian Holocausts’, Mike Davis points out that here were 31 serious famines in 120 years of British rule compared with 17 in the 2,000 years before British rule.
In his book, Davis tells the story of the famines that killed up to 29 million Indians. These people were, he says, murdered by British State policy. In 1876, when drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau, there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the Viceroy, Robert Bulwer-Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent their export to England.
In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine, grain merchants exported record quantities of grain. As the peasants began to starve, government officials were ordered “to discourage relief works in every possible way”. The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. Within these labour camps the food given to workers was less than the daily calorie intake of Jewish inmates of Buchenwald, the Nazi concentration camp of World War II.
Even as millions died, Lytton ignored all efforts to alleviate the suffering of millions of peasants in the southern Indian and concentrated on preparing for Queen Victoria’s investiture as Empress of India. The highlight of the celebrations was a week-long feast at which 68,000 dignitaries heard her promise the nation “happiness, prosperity and welfare”.
In 1901, The Lancet estimated that at least 19 million Indians had died in western India during the famine of the 1890s. The death toll was so high because the British refused to implement famine relief.
So it’s hardly surprising that Hitler’s favourite film was The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, which showed a handful of Britons holding a continent in thrall. The Nazi leader told the then British Foreign Secretary Edward Wood (Earl of Halifax) that it was one of his favorite films because “that was how a superior race must behave and the film was compulsory viewing for the SS”.
1857: An untold holocaust
After the First War on Independence in 1857, in which most of India rose against British rule, the British killed up to 10 million Indians in savage reprisals. In War of Civilisations: India AD 1857, Amaresh Misra, a writer and historian based in Mumbai, says the British pursued a murderous decade-long campaign to wipe out millions of people who dared rise up against them.
Misra argues there was an “untold holocaust” which caused the deaths of 10 million people over 10 years beginning in 1857. Conventional histories have counted only 100,000 Indian soldiers who were slaughtered in savage reprisals, but none have tallied the number of rebels and civilians killed by British forces.
“It was a holocaust, one where millions disappeared. It was a necessary holocaust in the British view because they thought the only way to win was to destroy entire populations in towns and villages. It was simple and brutal. Indians who stood in their way were killed. But its scale has been kept a secret,” Misra told the Guardian.
The real war criminals
Clearly, when it comes to war crimes the Serbians are way down the pecking order. Russia was therefore right in vetoing the UN Resolution in July that attempted to accuse the Serbs of genocide.
In fact, we’d like to see some balance here. So how about the West first condemns the genocide of Native American, Indian and Aborigine populations? How about booking Henry Kissinger for war crimes? Or at least withdrawing his Nobel Peace Prize, which the American was given shortly after he ordered the napalam bombing of Vietnamese civilians.
You get the picture. If the laws that convicted Saddam Hussein and Serbian leaders are applied fairly, then every American and British leader would have to be executed.
China, Central and Eastern Europe in 2021: BRI and the 17+1 Initiative during vaccine times
When the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 spread in March 2020, China played a crucial role in the global supply of critical medical goods such as face masks and disinfectants as their main exporter. According to UN Comtrade (2020) data, 44% of the world’s exports of face masks originated from China in 2018, whereas the next largest exporters such as Germany (7%) and the US (6%), play a comparatively minor role. Due to China´s a track record of using trade to pursue its foreign-policy goals, Beijing´s donation of medical equipment to other countries has been called as a mask diplomacy as the officials and politicians in many Western European countries as well as the European Union have viewed it as a Chinese influence-buying campaign that seeks to divide the EU.
Similar scenario is nowadays taking place under new magical keyword – a vaccine. Hungary was the only European Union member state to decide not to wait for the European Medicines Agency to approve the vaccines and began negotiating supplies of COVID vaccines from China and Russia. This so called Chinese vaccine diplomacy is no surprise. Last May, President Xi Jinping indicated that China would want to use vaccines to strengthen its position in the world. The “Health Silk Road” is together with winning the COVID-19 vaccine race one of the Beijing´s top priorities in 2021. President Xi Jinping is also expected to offer a Chinese vaccine to participants in the online 17+1 Central and Eastern European Summit on February 9.
The ninth 17+1 Central and Eastern European Summit is being postponed since the first half of 2020 where was supposed to take place before the hit of pandemic. Already before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Central and Eastern European countries have been increasingly dissatisfied with the outcome of their economic engagement with China and thus the upgrade of the economic cooperation and shaping the relations is in long-term plan. Moreover, when the U.S.-China confrontation has turned the Central and Eastern Europe into a new ground of great power competition for influence. This summit would break a deadlock over holding a meeting and show new signs in relations between China and Europe.
The transregional cooperation between China and Eastern Europe, the so-called “17+1” initiative, began in April 2012 in Poland where Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, and representatives of 16 CEE countries, including 11 EU members, hold a meeting. Wen promised investments and infrastructure development to boost the regional economies. China puts an emphasis on its connectivity with Europe and regards railways, ports and FDI as the foundation for achieving balanced development and social cohesion in Europe. For China, the region promised cheap access to European markets. The initiative was quickly co-opted into China’s wider Belt and Road Initiative, which launched the following year. When Greece joined as the 17th member in 2019, it elevated the political significance of the now 17+1 alliance even further. Before the onset of 17+1 cooperation, Chinese investment and trade were spatially unbalanced, and concentrated in north-western Europe. Because of the weak condition of transport infrastructure, the trade between China and Central and Eastern European countries heavily relied on the infrastructure networks of Germany, the Netherlands and France.
Despite voices about the decreasing power of the 17+1 Initiative, the COVID-19 pandemic does not bring an era of active Chinese engagement in the European region to the end. It contrary shows Beijing´s flexibility and adaptation to the world circumstances, including the competition imposed by U.S. interests in bilateral cooperation with the Central and Eastern European countries that could contribute to regional development as well.
UN Comtrade (2020), “UN Comtrade Database. Export data at country level”
EU playing a zero-sum game in Kosovo
When it comes to Kosovo settlement, the European Union is clearly trying to regain the initiative. It was with poorly concealed jealousy and irritation that Brussels watched the delegations of Belgrade and Pristina sign an agreement to normalize their bilateral trade and economic relations in early September in Washington, and with the current change of guard in the US, is now trying to get back its levers of influence. Therefore, Brussels wants to organize a new high-level meeting between Serbia and Kosovo.
Miroslav Lajcak, the European Union’s Special Representative (EUSR) for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, made this intention clear on December 2, when speaking at the European Parliament event marking the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to him, preparations are now underway for a new high-level meeting to be held as part of the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.
Tellingly, according to a report by the Albanian news agency Telegrafi, citing sources in Brussels, the upcoming talks are expected to focus on resolving property rights in Kosovo. This means that Brussels is looking for an agenda that the sides can agree on and one that would differ from what they discussed in Washington. This is all the more important now that the negotiating process has virtually ground to a halt since September. According to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Belgrade will not agree to have a new summit unless the Kosovar authorities are prepared to create an Association of Serbian Municipalities on the territory of their province (primarily in the north). This provision is part of the accords signed by Belgrade and Pristina in Brussels under the auspices of the EU, but since then the Kosovo authorities have actually blocked its implementation. However, because the European Union hasn’t got any really ambitious initiatives to come up with, the planned parley (if it takes place any time soon) looks bound to be less effective than the September talks in Washington. This, in turn, will deal a new blow to Brussels’ ambitions in the Balkans.
Realizing this, the EU leadership has been ramping up its criticism of the United States, essentially accusing Washington of trying to phase Brussels out of the Kosovo negotiation process. Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, recently said it loud and clear that the solution of problems in the Western Balkans is entirely the EU’s patch, and that the bloc’s global role depends on the success of its policy in this region.
“If we are unable to solve the problems in the Balkans, then we can’t be a significant global player,” Borrell said.
Russia insists that the problems of Kosovo and other Balkan disputes can only be solved on the basis of international law through talks to achieve mutually-acceptable compromises. During a December 14 visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that there is no alternative to ensuring peace and stability through political dialogue and respect for national interests, based on international law and pertinent UN Security Council resolutions.
“It is principally important to help the countries of this region settle their problems via national dialogue and avoid attempts to drag any of these countries into serving somebody else’s unilateral geopolitical interests,” Lavrov emphasized.
Interaction between Russia and Serbia is all the more important amid the ongoing negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, as it serves as a political and diplomatic counterbalance to the Pristina- Brussels-Washington “axis.” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic confirmed the invariable nature and timeliness of such interaction during a December 14 joint news conference in Belgrade with Russia’s visiting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Vucic also underscored his country’s desire to expand friendly and partnership relations with Russia.
When speaking about the possible outcome of the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina, one should also keep in mind Turkey’s growing interest in this issue. Ankara is trying to play an increasingly active role in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean region. As the Serbian daily newspaper Informer rightly noted, “One thing the Turkish president can’t be denied is the consistency and frankness with which he is implementing a strategy to bring back a big and mighty Turkey on the territories once occupied by the Ottoman Empire.”
In this situation, it is in Russia’s best interests to expand its partnership with Serbia, while simultaneously working with other key international players to ensure stability and security in the Balkans and counter the nationalist and destructive forces that can still be found in the Balkan capitals.
From our partner International Affairs
Talking Turkey With Greece: Turkey and Israel’s Marriage of Convenience
On January 25, Graeco-Turkish talks begin, at which Turkish claims to Greek island territories will be high on the agenda. Before we briefly consider the Israeli position, herewith a spot of recent history.
Scorned countries sometimes seek out other scorned countries, for reasons of self-interest. Thus Germany, humiliated after the First World War, co-operated with the Soviet Union, first with secret military agreements, and then more openly after the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922; both countries also had problems with the same country, Poland. Both were considered international pariahs at the time, whether rightly or wrongly.
Israel co-operated closely with South Africa when the latter, under its apartheid regime, was internationally blackballed, with most of the balls being black. The co-operation was largely military, overt and covert. Links between the countries’ external security services, Boss and Mossad, were close. Both countries ignored numerous UN resolutions.
The most recent example of the scorned seeking the scorned is, or course, that of Israel and Turkey, who revived a military co-operation agreement in 1996, that goes back to the late Fifties. Again, both states are hardly a paragon of international virtue, supported only consistently by the USA and its strategic acolyte, Britain, but also by Germany, for atavistic business reasons in the case of Turkey, and a contrived feeling of guilt in the case of Israel.
Both Israel and Turkey ignore numerous UN resolutions; both fear Russia; their respective security services exchange information on Syria; and both have a common enemy, also Syria. Both countries occupy parts of other countries, illegally, Cyprus and Palestine, and Syria’s Golan Heights. An interesting quirk is that Syria has territorial claims on its former coloniser, Turkey: with the connivance of France, Hatay (Alexandretta) was stealthily ‘acquired’ by Turkey in 1939, despite the fact that Syrians were in a majority.
The question is whether this is just another ephemeral unholy alliance, an alliance of pure self-interest, that works in spite of deep-seated historico-cultural differences, or something more significant. The evidence suggests that it is more than a simple marriage of convenience. Anyone who knows about the plethora of secret meetings between the two states, that has gone on for years, of the deep-seated mutual disdain between much of the Arab world and its former coloniser, Turkey, will realise that the military co-operation agreement is but the tip of an iceberg, an iceberg being pushed by hoards of American frogmen, with the avowed objective of achieving firm control over the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. In this way, Russian influence in the Mediterranean and the Middle East can be contained, á la Kennan, and Israel can be subtly inserted into the de facto NATO fold, with Jordan perhaps being brought into the equation for good measure, while the Turkish mercenaries continue to kill Kurds and Israel conveniently buries the Oslo accords, continuing its ethnic cleansing and illegal settlements.
The U.S. Embassy in Athens has justified Israeli-Turkish co-operation with the following words: ‘US military co-operation with Turkey and Israel is a matter of long-standing policy and practice. As a NATO ally and friend with Turkey and as a special ally with Israel, both democracies and key regional players, the United States shares core values and mutual security and political objectives in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel and Turkey have likewise found that they share common objectives, in part from confronting the same set of neighbours which have pursued weapons of mass destruction programmes, have been sponsors and supporters of terrorism, and which have been inimical to democracy, the rule of law and regional stability.’
These neighbours are not actually named, but are obviously Iran and Syria, not to mention some others. There is no mention of Israeli terrorism at home and abroad (vis. Vanunu) or of the treatment of innocent and unarmed Kurdish villagers, no mention of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and chemical and biological weapons programmes, nor of its disregard for international law. Above all, the core values and common objectives shared by the USA, Turkey and Israel are difficult to locate, unless it is to help the U.S. contain Russia.
A few years ago the essentially pro-American Economist wrote that Syria’s concerns about Turkish-Israeli military co-operation were ‘fairly well grounded.’ The article undoubtedly embarrassed the Pentagon and angered the Turkish and Israeli governments. It represented one of those very occasional but authoritative Economist warnings that things had gone too far. The last time the Economist had said anything so risqué was just after the abortive American attempt to rescue the American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, by printing a front-page cartoon of President Carter dressed as a cowboy, with his six-guns at the ready. Cruel stuff, and exaggerated criticism, maybe unjustified, even, yet nevertheless telling.
Turkey has in the past threatened to attack Syria. Today it occupies part of it, claiming that Syria supports the Kurds in Turkey. Israel also bombs Syria periodically. In 2008, published Israeli-Turkish military co-operation involved a 1998 $ 700 million contract for Israel to upgrade 54 Turkish F4’s, a $70 million one to upgrade 48 F5’s, and joint manufacture of 1000 tanks and ‘some helicopters.’ Israel also hoped to sell Turkey an early warning system, and also used Turkish territory for low-flying exercises.
Then came a sudden deterioration in Turkey-Israel relations, with Israeli commandos killing of nine Turks on a vessel trying to break the Gaza blockade. Military co-operation between Israel and Turkey was suspended. Backstage American pressure on its two key allies, however, along with an American sponsored joint military love-in between Greece and Israel is leading to new Turkish diplomatic pirouetting: relations between Israel and Turkey could be improving. Bilateral talks are in the offing, and full diplomatic relations could be restored by March, meaning re-activating Turkish-Israeli diplomatic and military relations.
For Greece, the unholy alliance could become more than an irritant, because of Cyprus. However far-fetched it may sound, Turkey could easily encourage the Israeli air force and navy to train in occupied Cyprus, with the Pentagon publicly tut-tutting, but privately sniggering. It could even offer a home in northern Cyprus to would-be Jewish immigrants, as it did in the sixteenth century. There is even a small minority of extreme Zionists in Israel that claims Cypriot territory as part of the Jewish heritage. Thus, an already overcrowded Israel could find more Lebensraum. When one looks at the extremist elements in Turkey and Israel, such plans are not beyond the bounds of possibility.
Greece is now part and parcel of the “new” Cold War, co-operating with Israel and the U.S. militarily more than ever before, in the naïve hope that Turkey will drop its claims on Greek territory. But despite irritation with recent Turkish behaviour, the U.S. and Israel are unlikely to be of much help when it comes down to diplomatic detail: in 2003, the U.S. Embassy wrote the following to me: ‘We recognize Greece’s border with Turkey, but not all the territorial waters implications which Greece asserts. We have not taken a position on sovereignty over Imia/Kardak, in part because of the lack of an agreed maritime boundary.’
When I asked about Greece’s twelve mile nautical and ten-mile airspace limits, the reply was: ‘We recognize the six [!]-mile territorial sea claim and a claim to the superjacent air space. We do not recognize Greece’s claim to territorial air space seaward of the outer limit of its territorial sea.’ I doubt that their position has changed. Similarly, the Israel Embassy refused to answer my question about Greece’s air and sea limits.
Clever Turkish diplomacy currently involves balancing itself between the U.S. and Russia, in the knowledge that neither the U.S. nor Israel will do more than protest diplomatically – á la Cyprus invasion – if Turkey snatches a small Greek island. The U.S.’s main aim is to keep Greece in the anti-Russian camp by not agreeing with Greece’s position on its Aegean borders. For if the U.S. – and Israel – came out in support of Greece’s position, this would push Ankara more towards Moscow.
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