AMERICAN HOLOCAUST/ AMERICAN DREAM
Introduction: the word “genocide” was coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish legal scholar. The term was legally defined in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Article 2 of the convention defined genocide as any act committed with the intent to destroy a group of people based on their national origin, ethnicity, race or religion by killing, inflicting serious bodily or mental harm, creating a set of conditions that debases life, and/or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group for assimilation.
Based on its own definition, genocide could include almost every war, past and present. The question then becomes how you define war and how is it different from genocide. The definition of war is so vague and sterile that it could include any type of armed conflict from nation-against-nation to neighbor-against-neighbor and for any reason.
There is nothing in the definition of war or genocide that includes taking control of a land base for its resources. But, most certainly, war is not just about land. The victors will certainly want to extend their political and cultural influence on the subjected people. Wouldn’t that be a form of “ethnic cleansing?”
One can look at the annals of history and find many instances of what could be defined as genocide; for example the systematic destruction of Carthage by the Romans, and certainly the Crusades. But the fact is that most wars at that time were about conquest, control of land, people and resources, and less about ethnic cleansing or assimilation. Many oppressed people were allowed to keep their faith, customs and cultures so long as that did not pose a threat to the authority.
The difference in the modern world is that very few governments have absolute control over their diversified dominions. This gives rise to groups that can bring about devastating consequences from within a nation’s borders through suspicion, fear, animosity, and prejudice that has led to racial oppression, assimilation, hostility and killing.
Clearly, the taking of the Americas was about conquest. However, blinded by power, greed and profit, the victors quickly turned to the use of genocide not only to maintain order but to assimilate the “conquered indigenous people” under the colonial mindset of racial superiority. I believe that this is the real first act of Genocide since the Middle Ages.
It’s both sad and incomprehensible that the true historical origins of the American Dream have been ignored. But then, it has always been the practice of the victor to tell the tale. Americans are taught that Hitler and the Nazi Party committed one of the most atrocious acts in the history of mankind. This is not entirely the truth. The greatest single act of genocide occurred here in the Americas. An act that surpasses all others yet remains one of the quietest remnants of history itself, but not for long.
An American icon, Christopher Columbus, supposedly discovered America in 1492, though I don’t understand how something is discovered when a civilization was already there. Understandably this is due to the colonial mindset of racial superiority in that Indians were not counted as “real people.” It is estimated that up to 114 million North American Indians have perished since the invasion and immigration of white Europeans. The number includes deaths due to war, disease, relocation and destruction of culture.
The People’s Party of Mao Ze-Dong, 1949–1950 in Tibet, and 1958 – 1961 in China: Chairman Mao’s “Cultural” Revolution can be credited with the deaths of 78 Million people as a result of severe starvation, mass suicide and political persecution.
The Great Purge of Joseph Stalin, 1932–1939: Known as Yezhovshchina (the Yezhov regime) 23 million Russians were executed as a result of a series of campaigns to rid the Communist Party of unaffiliated persons, saboteurs, and anyone deemed by the Soviet Secret Police, the NKVD (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del), to be a threat to the Communist Party.
The German Holocaust 1941-1945: It is estimated that up to 10.5 million people were exterminated by the Third Reich – six millions Jews, up to three million Soviet prisoners, over one million Romanians, 200,000 handicapped and the elderly, 15,000 homosexuals and 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Butcher of the Congo, Leopold II of Belgium, 1886–1908: Known as the “Rubber Terror,” agents of Leopold II ran forced labor camps to extract rubber from trees in the Congo. The Chicotte, a whip made of raw, sun-dried hippopotamus hide, was used to motivate. More extreme measures included hands being cut off, as seen in Sierra Leone today. Those who died under the harsh rule of Leopold II totaled eight million. Many were forced into the desert to die of thirst and watering holes were poisoned. Others were gunned down or whipped to death by the Chicotte. To save ammo, the butt of a rifle or bayonet was used.
Hideki Tojo, 1941–1944 is responsible for the murder of at least eight million civilians in China, Korea, Philippines, Indochina and other Pacific Islands. He also ordered the deaths of tens of thousands of Allied POWs, and sanctioned biological experiments on POWs and Chinese civilians.
Khmer Rouge, Cambodia, 1975–1979: It is estimated that between 1.7 million and three million were killed as a result of Pol Pot’s “social engineering program.” Compared to the population of Cambodia during this time, seven million, roughly one-third of the country died as a result of this genocide.
Kim Il Sung, North Korea, 1948–1994: It is estimated that about 1.6 million people living in concentration camps were purged as a result of his absolute control over North Korea.
The Armenian Genocide, 1915–1923, was the systematic annihilation of Armenian civilians by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire. It is estimated that up to 1.5 million people were killed as a result of massacres and forced marches that were designed to lead to death.
The Pacification Campaign after the Philippine-American War, 1902–1913: After the Philippine-American War from 1899–1902, the U.S. launched a pacification campaign that resulted in the deaths of over one million men, women and children.
Rwandan Genocide, 1994: Hutus killed an estimated one million unarmed men, women and children in this hundred-day long rampage.
Leonid Brezhnev, 1979–1982: General Secretary of the Communist Party and Leader of the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Considered more of an act of genocide than a war, Brezhnev killed over 900,000 Afghanis from 1979 to 1982.
The Zunghar Khanate Massacres, 1755–1758: The Qianlong Emperor, the 6th Qin Emperor of China, killed upwards of 600,000 Zunghars. The wives and children of the slain were divided up among the Qing soldiers.
Saddam Hussein, 1980–1990 in Iran, and 1987–1988 in Kurdistan: During Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror, it is estimated that he was responsible for 600,000 deaths resulting from genocidal attacks. His most notable was the Halabja poison gas attack, better known as Bloody Friday, that took the lives of about 5,000 people on March 16, 1988.
Decossackization, 1919–1920: This was a term used by the Bolsheviks for the elimination of the Cossacks. After the establishment of Soviet power in Petrograd, conflict broke out between the new Communist regime and the Cossacks. The Decossackization or Raskazachivaniye was a policy to reduce the privileges of the Cossacks and divide up their territory. As a result, up to 500,000 Cossacks were killed.
Circassian Ethnic Cleansing, 1817 – 1864: After the Russian conquest of the Caucasus, Russian soldiers forcefully rounded up tribal groups in Caucasia including Chechnya, Dagestan, Karachay and the Circassians for relocation. During this forced exodus, up to 400,000 people were massacred.
Idi Amin Dada 1969–1979: Since 1962, more than two million people have been killed in Uganda. Idi Amin was responsible for at least 300,000 of these deaths.
The Darfur Conflict, 2003–Ongoing: The Darfur Conflict in the Sudan began in February 2003, when the Sudan Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement took up arms, accusing the Sudanese Army of suppressing non-Arab Sudanese. The continued conflict has left more than 300,000 dead.