By Maung Zarni
May 11, 2015
Genocides have always been inconveniences and unwelcome nuisances - to those in power. #Myanmar's genocide of over 1 million Rohingyas is no exception.
Genocides are a garden variety. Neither the scale of direct killings nor the methods of destruction of a people - on the basis of 1) ethnicity, 2) race, 3) religion and 4) national origin/identity/grouping matters as far as the UN Genocide Convention, a treaty, not a well-meaning humanist resolution like the Responsibility to Protect or so-called R2P.
The Young Turks, reeling from the loss of Ottoman Empire, emptied the Armenian neighborhoods in 1915, by force-marching hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenians across the deadly desert where a large number dropped dead - as they were expected. When the survival rate proved a bit too high for the Turkish genocidaires they resorted to direct slaughters. The Americans protested vehemently, and told to take a high. The rest of "Christian Europe" was business as usual. 100 years later, the Church (Pope Francis) pronounced the 'G' word and led a memorial at St Peter's - just this April.
The Nazis capitalized on the methodical culture and advancement in science. General Electric - that now sells turbines to Myanmar today - was only too happy to sell the Nazi its products. You got Auschwitz, across the borders in Poland. The Swedes whose weapons Myanmar uses today were happy sellers of Saab engines to Hitler's Air Force. Why not!?? There was profit to be made, under the guise of 'neutrality' - we in ASEAN calls it 'non-interference principle'. The British intelligence knew Hitler's 'dark intention' as early he came to power and built the first concentration camp a short drive outside of Munich - at Dachau; but the Jew haters who ran Britain, symbolically (that is, the Buckingham Palace) and politically (10 Downing and the Foreign and Colonial Office (euphemistically termed 'British Foreign and Commonwealth', but the Brits vacuumed everything worth anything from other people's societies and Environments) looked the other way. Aside from the typical anti-Semitism of Eaton-Oxbridged Upper Crust - remember the day when women, Jews, blacks and dogs were not allowed in the Enlightened institutions of the ruling classes in Anglo-American world which now parades itself as the torch-bearer of "Civilization" - Britain was more interested in collaborating with Hitler's military intelligence which had unparalleled knowledge of Uncle Joe and his Soviets. So, Britain of Scottish and English Enlightenment chose to look the other way when Adolf was slaughering the Jews (and other Nazi victims) by the thousands. The Swiss that gave the world such wonderful things like 'Red Cross' and the principle of 'neutrality' when humans slaughtered one another by the hundreds of thousands were happily depositing the Nazi gold teeth and other genocidal loots in the old town Geneva. All Mighty Christian God and his beautiful cathedral can co-exist with such dark institutions as Swiss banks with sick histories - against the beautiful backdrop of Swiss Alps. The end of 'civilization' (or Reason and Enlightenment) as the world knew it then. (Incidentally, the knowledge of USSR was so sought after by the Anglo-Americans that several thousand Nazis - including SS and intelligence officers - who were made redundant by the Nazi's defeat got put on Washington's payroll - all paid for by US tax payers. If JP Morgan with a honorary doctorate from Oxford was bankrolling Harvard-trained Hitler's men to 'develop' the Germany economy then the Americans who were told their heroic troops saved humanity in the Old Europe they were kept in the dark - for about 70 years - that that humanity-saving Government in Washington was employing useful Nazis - while executing not-so-useful Nazis at Nuremberg.
Fast forward to USSR's Gulags. Stalin destroyed the lives of millions - 30 millions? - after 26 million Russians perished in the war with his buddy Hitler. Of course, Uncle Joe from Georgia couldn't care less these Russians were slaughtered or dropping dead like flies. Ah, that doesn't count as 'genocide' because the genocide convention was crafted to exempt destroying one's political enemies on grounds of ideology: ethnicity was - and is still - widely misconstrued to be a biological matter, not an ideology. (what is religion, which is covered by the 1949 Convention, if not an Ideology - with a bold-faced big 'I'? So, Russians on Russians; Commies on commies. Who cared beyond substance for anti-USSR propaganda!!??
Then come Indonesian genocide of the Chinese in 1960s. No it was not a genocide. It was part of the Cold War era necessity. The CIA was giving the list of Commie suspects. The Indonesian patriots and nationalists - meaning anti-Chinese genocidal racists - were unleashing the dogs of death on a few million Chinese. Those who survived felt compelled to assume a new identity: so skinned Mr Wong and his family, for instance, would morphed into the Wanandis, post-Chinese genocide.
What of the infamous Khmer Rouge, led by the French- and Thai-trained Khmer intellectuals? (Pol Pot and one other bloke did their advanced degrees in France while Brother Number was enrolled at a top Thai law program in Bangkok) The Khmer Rouge used young teenagers as executioners; they were very frugal. No bullets; they were to be saved for the Vietnamese troops and the Yankees. Systematic underfeeding of its dystopian victims did its intended job. Khmers were dropping dead like flies - like the Armenians before them in Kurdish deserts, except in their own cooperative farms - Kempuchaean gulags, really. In nearly 4 years, a third of the population was wiped out. Jimmy Carter's USA - yes, that Mr Human Rights and Peace, the ultimate Elder of the Elders - decided to not only seat the post-genocidal genocidaires - now kicked out into the jungles of Khmer-Thai borders by the Vietnamese intervention - at the UN as the 'sole legitimate representative' of the Khmer people; Vietnam was a Soviet proxy, so Khmer-on-Khmer slaughters by the million - nearly 2 million perished in less than 4 years - was preferable to the Red menace in Phnom Penh. China did its part, pumping nearly $10 billion into the post-genocidal Pol Pot regime while the United Kingdom and Thailand gave respective helping hands. Nearly 40 years on the dark event in the Killing Fields, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal - in its 7th or 8th year, now proudly funded by the United States - because ECCC ( its acronym) would not raise the role of the Americans - the likes of Kissinger and his policy of 'carpet bombing' of Cambodia - in precipitating the Khmer-on-Khmer (and Khmer on Chinese, Cham and Vietnamese) genocides. "Tell your Khmer friends that we don't mind that they are bastards, as long as they act as our bastards" - paraphrasing the renowned statesman and an idol of International Relations-types, namely Kissinger, who was on the record telling Thai Foreign Minister to convey the official sentiment tinged with dodgy if typical American 'pragmatism'. (How a Jew who escaped the Nazis in Germany himself morphed into something far worse is a story for another time).
You see. I can go on and on and on about different genocides. Not really an apt metaphor, but genocides are like a garden in spring time. They come in different forms, shapes, smells, on different terrains, under different climates, on different soils.
But invariably genocides are joint ventures - like economic exploitation, nah, DEVELOPMENT! Some finance them. Others partake in them. A few clever ones would help whitewash, make light, deliberately mis-frame so that no one with an important political, economic, cultural or intellectual mission would be inconvenienced. Pundits who desire a seat at the table, space for quotes, or air time would tailor their analyses to suit the ears that cannot be inconvenienced.
My own country's genocide in Myanmar, I take it very personally. Literally some of the leading genocidaires are my family friends, old mates and acquaintances. Some helped lay the legal foundation - like the late Rakhine historian Saya U Aye Kyaw and Ne Win's legal hand Dr Maung Maung, trained at Lincoln's Inn and Utrecht while having taught at Yale Law - for the Rohingya genocide. Some Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing, trained by Ben Anderson at Cornell, helps develop our own Burmese version of "Final Solution" - the Rakhine Action Plan, and sweet-handles Soros, UN and other influential officials. Then Thant Myint-U who moves in influential circles talking about saving the colonial heritage - Rangoon - while the real mission is saving the generals from un-due external pressure from reforming, ending the civil war - and yes, stopping their inter-general slow-burning genocide of the Rohingyas. Even the Nobel Lady has observed Noble Silence and, in a misguided, typical Aung San Suu Kyi fashion, takes global criticism stoically on the issue of the unfolding genocide of her political partners in Naypyidaw the likes of Shwe Mann, Min Aung Hlaing and the puppet president Thein Sein.
When the Rohingyas were no more as a people in my country, how they were wiped up will attract many scholars and experts. For this is the longest and most imaginatively executed genocide in recorded history of all genocides. The methods, the pace, the laws, the players, the perpetrators evolve over a long span of nearly 40 years, since the Far Eastern Economic Review, then a reputable regional news magazine, sounded an alarm that Burma was building an apartheid. Now FEER itself is no more. But the genocide the seedling of which FEER's editors kinda forsaw is a fully grown tree: the Burmese Way to Rohingya Destruction is on display.
But like in any other case before Myanmar's genocide of 4 decades the powerful and the influential and those who should - and do - know better don't want to inconvenience themselves. So, genocide is served up in the mass media as 'human trafficking', (forced and economic/voluntary) 'migration', human rights abuses, 'humanitarian crisis' 'communal conflict'.
Human rights organizations that are bold enough to say the inconvenient 'G' word or 'R' word (for Rohingyas) do misconstrue, wittingly or not, the dark phenomenon that is unfolding before our eyes as if genocide were only about large scale direct killings, slaughter-house scenario.
Mass graves, washed up humans, sea-stranded victims, starving infants, desperate humans caged behind barbed-wired fences, dying old or sick Rohingyas, murdered pregnant women, raped girls, or worse.
None - absolutely none - of the above moves the really serious world of policy makers, academics, politicians and marketizers, beyond media and popular voyeurism.
In his head as a teenager in pre-Nazi Poland, the late Raphael Lemkin asked a 6 million $ question, paraphrasing him: how come killing one man (a Turkish home minister and genocidaire on the streets of Berlin by an Armenian survivor of Turkish genocide) constitutes a murder while killing a million amounts to nothing.
We have to ask a similar question: Myanmar's generals have officially commissioned the crime of the slow genocide since 1978 that still burns on with its dribbling effects with occasional spikes of direct killings. And all that the world wants to do is to have a conversation about them not being nice to the wretched of Myanmar, the genocided Rohingyas.
That sick war criminal Donald Rumsfeld might say, 'we don't live in the world we like; we live in the world that exists'.
Sadly - and tragically for the Rohingyas - we do live in the world where genocides are always considered inconveniences.