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"Modern, state sponsored genocide is, perhaps, the least obvious because it is always shrouded in patriotic covers and obscured with nationalistic platitudes and slogans. The mass media of nations that systematically erode the humanity of others, is usually engaged to simplify the process and to reduce the targeted people into objects."
The year 2004 commemorates the horror of the wide scale genocide that occurred in Rwanda a decade ago. During this carnage, it is estimated that close to a million Tutsi were methodically butchered by their Hutu neighbors and countrymen. The slaughter was carried out over a few months, marking it with the infamous distinction of being, perhaps, the most intense and accelerated genocide in modern history. In contrast it took the Nazi’s several years to kill 14 million people, approximately half of them European Jews.
Sadly, the horrendous stain and stench of genocide did not begin or end with the demonic killing spree in 1994 Rwanda, and if we are to make an earnest effort to examine these tendencies, learn from them, and ensure that they are less likely to occur again, we must study the dynamics, the ideologies, and the practices of a land that has long posed behind a facade of liberty, democracy, and justice. We must remove the blinders and peer into its unique and sordid legacy of racism, sexism, flagrant greed, and genocidal policies and practices.
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The calculated murder of millions of indigenous people for the core purpose of amassing land, wealth, and resources, was initially carried out under the command of Christopher Columbus. In a brazen attempt to find an expedient route to India, Columbus and his crew (lost and half-starved) landed on the large island of what is now called Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Columbus was impressed with the natives generosity, good manners, and compassion, yet instead of being inspired by these qualities he considered them signs of weakness, childishness, and inferiority. He soon demanded that the natives turn over to him all their gold. When they were unable to satisfy him, they were given quotas and forced to work. Those that failed to produce enough for their enslavers were tortured in fiendish ways. One of the most common was to cut off the limbs. Ward Churchhill, explains in his revealing book, ‘Indians are Us’:
"The tribute system, instituted by the Governor sometime in 1495, was a brutal way of fulfilling the Spanish lust for gold and acknowledging
Spanish distaste for labor. Every Taino over the age of fourteen had to supply the rulers with a hawk’s bell of gold every three months (or in gold-deficient areas, twenty-five pounds of spun cotton); those who did were given a token to wear around their necks as proof that they had made their payment; those who did not were, as (Columbus’s brother, Fernando) says discreetly "punished"- by having their hands cut off, and left to bleed to death."
Christopher Columbus spearheaded a system of chattel slavery and systematic extermination that resulted in the deaths of 8 million natives, virtually killing off the entire population in 50 years. Over the next few centuries, the European penchant for greed and violence, culminated in the elimination of over a hundred million of the indigenous people in the land that became known as South America.
Genocide in North America
There are few episodes in human history as sad or as shameless as the calculated mass murder, displacement, and plunder that was perpetuated against the indigenous population of North America. Although not as extensive in terms of total numbers killed as in South America, for sheer sneakiness, underhandedness and bold-faced hypocrisy, there are few eras that could rival it.
It was, in fact, among the British colonizers of the North American hemisphere that the first documented instance of biological warfare occurred. Sir Jeffrey Amherst, (commander in chief of the British forces) and the correspondence sent between him and a junior officer indicate that a fiendish plan was hatched to intentionally infect the native population with small pox virus. This was facilitated through the procurement of infected blankets and handkerchiefs from army hospitals and the distribution of them to the natives in what was ostensibly a humanitarian gesture. On June 24, captain Ecuyer, of the Royal American British Army recorded in his journal: "...We gave them two blankets and a handkerchief out of the smallpox hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect."
To better ensure that it did have the desired result, the natives were then directed to return to their villages so that they would (predictably) be in the ideal position to infect other members of their tribes and nations and the small pox (one of the most dangerous and painful sicknesses imaginable) would spread like wild fire.
Newspapers and eyewitness accounts verify that it did, making one question how much of the spread of "white mans diseases" among the so-called Indians were really just accidental.
Starvation was another tactic utilized by the colonizers. In many reservations and internment camps, the natives were simply isolated on desolate lands and had food and clothing withheld from, or sold away to the highest bidder by unscrupulous Indian agents or camp commanders. Moreover, the purposeful and wasteful killing of the buffalo decimated the plains Indians by eradicating their major food supply. Another method was to place bounties on the heads of natives, regardless if the possessor was man, woman, or child. The Hollywood depiction of United States calvary soldiers protecting themselves or peaceful white settlers from the savage onslaught of hostile Indians are simply not true. More often than not, it was US army units who were the marauders and they would routinely attack the sleeping native encampments during the pre-dawn hours, slaughtering everyone within.(A favorite practice to dispose of Native American infants was to grab them by their ankles and to bash ! their brains out against the trunks of trees).
Another genocidal technique was to force march the Indians (already weak from starvation and hypothermia) for hundreds of miles to a far off "reservation." Typically, as in the case of the Cheyenne nation, half of them died along the way.
Most historians concur that there were between 12 and 50 million Native Americans on the North American when the first European explorers and settlers arrived. Four centuries later, the Native population had been reduced to approximately 200,000.
The crimes perpetuated on African people during over three centuries of chattel slavery are unimaginable in their cruelty and debauchery. In fact, the deeds are so alternatively callous and vicious that most people resort to a kind of psychic disassociation and denial.
The genocide against the Africans is unique in that it was designed not only to systematically ravage and destroy physical bodies it deemed rebellious or unsuitable and to exploit those that were considered ideal for work and breeding.
It was like no other because it sought to completely destroy all of the mental, and spiritual characteristics that make a person a human being. The language, the religion, the institution of marriage, the bonds between parents and children, and between siblings were all methodically assaulted through a ghastly series of physical and psychological torments that have no equal in the annals of human history.
From the moment the Africans were captured they were subjected to the most severe humiliation and torment. Shackled together in long slave caravans, they were often marched for thousands of miles to the coast where they were imprisoned like cattle inside giant holding pens.
Contrary to popular belief, usually about half of those captured were children under the age of 16, with many being no more than toddlers. Infants were summarily disposed of, for the slave raiders considered them too bothersome to take along.
Once the time came for them to be loaded on the ships, they were branded and chained together by their necks, hands, and feet. Many had to be flogged and clubbed aboard, as they clung with all their strength to the African soil of their ancestors.
Their condition in the bowels of the ship are too heinous to adequately describe. Every available space in the hold was utilized, and they were often laid on their sides spoon fashion or packed in, head to foot, like sardines with hardly any room to turn or to sit up.
Fettered with rusty iron cuffs, they lay for months in the stench of urine, vomit, feces, blood, and mucus. The skin of their knees, hips and backbones were quickly worn away by the friction of the wooden slabs, exposing raw flesh,
The women and children were usually held in a separate hold, and they had their own vile brand of horror to contend with. The African men would listen helplessly to the frantic screams of their sisters, their wives, their young sons and daughters, as the Europeans enslavers fell upon them to satisfy their deviant sexual lusts.
Periodically, the captured Africans would be taken aloft (topside) and ordered to jump and dance for exercise and to be examined for injury and disease. At the first sign of serious illness, the Africans would be thrown, still chained, overboard, where they would inevitably be drowned and devoured by sharks.
Rumors would circulate among the chained Africans as they lay in the coffin like hold feeling the pitch of the ship rise and fall, as to the purpose of their capture buy these strange, alien, and pale creatures. Some offered that their captors, although in the form of men, were in fact demons on a unholy mission to transport them to hell for some past mis-deeds. Others were under the impression that they were to be skinned and their flesh used as leather for the manufacture of shoes. Still others were certain that they were to be fattened up like livestock and eaten. And from the ghastly treatment they received from their captors, there was little to assuage these concerns.
Yet, with all the torments, the chains, the guns, the clubs; yes even the boiling vat of hot oil the whites kept ready to pour on them from above the hold at the slightest sign of insurrection, the Africans discerned in the eyes of their tormentors, a deep and abiding fear.
It is estimated that anywhere between 50 to 100 million Africans were killed during the "middle passage." Millions more would endure various forms of exploitation, oppression and death, once they arrived in the wilderness of North America.
"I have studied with great interest the laws of several American states concerning reproduction by people whose progeny would in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock."
-- Adolph Hitler
American Influences on Hitler
Nazi Germany of the 1930's and 1940's has become synonymous with the creed and practice of racial superiority, genetic manipulation, and the wholesale murder of those considered weak, incompetent, and inferior. Yet, neither Adolph Hitler or the racist philosophy and infrastructure that he established came into existence out of thin air. They were, in fact, well woven within the stained fabric of American social and institutional life.
Regardless of which direction one turned, or into which institution one peered, (whether legislative, executive, judicial, medical, or academic) white racism stared back, ugly, irrational, insidious, and smug.
Although Hitler utilized the modern tools of a highly propagandized and industrialized nation to spring his assault on millions of people that he stigmatized as sub-human, he borrowed his ideas of white supremacy and genetic purity from the United States. Moreover, his strategy and implementation of displacement, internment, slave labor, medical experimentation on human subjects, and his fixation with the mad science of eugenics, were also inspired by his knowledge of American history.
Hitler and his underlings acquired a racist dogma and utilized it in a quest to produce a blue eyed blond haired, "master race." He sought to achieve this by several methods. He ordered that non-Nordics be systematically annihilated through forced labor, starvation, gassing, beating, and sterilization. He also enacted laws that making it illegal, under penalty of severe punishment, for whites to marry non-whites. Encouraged by an enthusiastic (white)German acceptance, Hitler quickly set up the state machinery of segregation, removal, internment, and murder of all those he perceived as sub-human and undesirable.
A powerful tool of Hitler’s fascist and racist system was the pseudoscience known as eugenics. The eugenics movement, did not originate with Hitler and the Nazis, but was conceived and implemented in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, and financed and facilitated by powerful Americans in business, politics, and the judiciary. The forerunner to Hitler’s twisted vision, American eugenics sought to terminate all other racial, ethnic, and social classes that were deemed unworthy, or burdensome. It began as a dogma hatched in the minds and spewed in the boardrooms, classrooms, and lounges of some of Americas’ most respected businesses and most prestigious universities and social clubs. It’s adherents believed that those groups that possessed inferior gene pools, should be eliminated, so as not to corrupt or to circumvent those who were the carriers of superior genetic material. Those who were categorically designated as inferior were always the ! Black, the Brown, and the Asian, but were not limited to them alone but included any individual or group that had a perceived weakness, whether it was poverty, mental retardation, or physical sluggishness. Immigrants were also vigorously targeted, especially those from eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.
The American eugenic movement was subsidized and facilitated through lofty private and public agencies and departments. Edwin Black writes in his revealing book, ‘War Against the Weak’:
The main culprits were the Carnegie Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harriman railroad fortune, in league with America’s most respected scientists hailing from such prestigious universities as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, operating out of a complex at Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island.
The eugenic network worked in tandem with the US Department of Agriculture, the State Department, and numerous state governmental bodies and legislatures throughout the country, and even the US Supreme Court.
They were all bent on breeding a eugenically superior race, just as agronomists would breed better strains of corn. The plan was to wipe away the reproductive capability of the weak and inferior."
Indeed, the seeds of ignorance, fear, and hatred that were the basis of the eugenics movement can be traced back to the 15th century, and the first contact of Europeans with the people of Africa and the indigenous people of the American continent, for coupled with the desire to plunder and to usurp, was the desire to justify these actions by concocting outrageous racial doctrines and theories. Eventually the descendants of those early conquerors, who had inherited the wealth, the privileges, and the savage legacy of their forefathers, began to develop wild theories of their own.
The cancer of racism, systemized to exploit, oppress, and repress a group because of so-called racial characteristics, and genocide (the mass killing of people for political, economic, and/or ideological reasons) cannot be blamed on any single individual, though we scour the history books , and attempt to isolate them from the social, political and economic systems that molded them and enabled them. Indeed, racism does not entrench itself in society except through the establishment of institutions fed by cultural mores, and these cultural icons and institutions turn out racists, as surely as a diary factory will churn out cheese.
Contemporary American Genocide
Genocide is not a practice (or a condition) that is regulated to the garbage heap of the past, or limited to some war torn and exotic land, but is very much a part of the American political, economic, educational, and legal landscape. Contemporary genocide in America is a quiet force creeping silently and largely unnoticed by most. It, nevertheless, has manifested itself in many insidious ways, particularly among African and Native Americans.
It should be reiterated that the dynamics of genocide does not solely pertain to the physical demise of a people, but includes all those elements and effects that lead to or that cause a calculated assault that weakens the targeted group in such a way that it results in economic, medical, political, educational, or ideological death.
With this in view, we find that regardless of what decade or era we examine, or with what statistics we analyze, there is evidence that Black people in America are being systematically and methodically strangled.
There is a climate of racial hatred in America (as there has been for centuries) that is conducive to acts of genocide, by individuals, as well as institutions. Somehow, the life of a Black man, or woman, or child is perceived to be not as important or as worthy as that of a White. Black children who are abducted or who are murdered, rarely make the national news. This elite media service is apparently reserved for whites only. Although the same media is very prompt and adept at projecting Blacks as criminals, ignoramuses, and buffoons. This negative stereotyping , along with the American educational system’s penchant for ignoring Black genius and contributions, marks Blacks as non-people, whose lives are not as important or as vital and thus sets Blacks up to be beaten, choked-out, shot, locked up, and locked out.
The judiciary system reinforces the concept that Blacks are un-people by consistently giving out lighter sentences for offences against Blacks, and harsher penalties for Blacks who have the temerity to be convicted of crimes against whites. Also, overall Blacks are consistently jailed, convicted, and sentenced disproportionately to their national numbers. (Although Blacks make up approximately 13 percent of the nation, we average 60 percent of the jail and prison populations). Black men in prison cannot be effective husbands and fathers, or the protectors of their families or communities.
Abortions and other sterilization procedures are encouraged and directed at young African American women in the social agencies and in many inner city hospitals.
In fact, a "no cost" sterilization procedure is, perhaps, the only operation in which a Black person need not worry about being billed. The prospective client is assured by the hospital staff that the process can take place with no charge.
Housing for most Black Americans is still segregated, dilapidated, and unhealthy. Many situated near toxic waste dumps or the gigantic chimney stacks of bellowing industrial complexes. Periodically, the local newspapers will run horror stories of peeling paint and the dire effects of lead poisoning on ghetto children.
Heath care is at best marginal, and in many instances, non-existent. And in many of the country’s larger cities, trauma hospitals (with a primary Black patient base), are being moved out or shut down because of "mismanagement" or "lack of funds," thus putting Black people in the deadly predicament of having to traverse long distances to be admitted into emergency care.
There is a dangerous revitalization in the proliferation of racist, neo Nazi and American White supremacist groups. The so-called right wing intelligentsia is also hard at work cranking out the time worn drivel about inherent White superiority and Black inferiority.( The racist theories in the popular best seller, ‘The Bell Curve’ is one example).
Beginning in the late 1960's (with a renewed assault in the mid 1980's and the advent of crack cocaine) the Black communities across America have been saturated with a steady supply of the most destructive drugs and chemical poisons.
Whether, heroin, crack cocaine, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, marijuana, or toxic pharmaceutical substances posing as medicines, they all corrode both the quality and the quantity of Black life.
This despicable form of chemical warfare has plagued us, in one form or another, for decades. Yet, few suspected how deliberate it was until the 1994 revelation by a San Diego newspaper that the U S government (through the Central Intelligence Agency had carried out a scheme to spread crack cocaine across Black America. These allegations prompted California Representative, Maxine Walters, to start an investigation. She discovered that the allegations were, indeed, supported by the facts.
Since the mid-1980's, AIDS and HIV had silently devastated Black America.
Several respected and renowned scientists, nutritionists, and medical doctors have come forth with convincing evidence that these diseases are man made biological weapons produced in government laboratories for the purpose of decimating Black people world wide.
Dr. Jack Felder, a biochemist who was employed by the US army in it’s germ warfare program, discloses that the AIDS epidemic was planned and commissioned with the sanction of the United States government and the World Health Organization. And Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz, makes the case that HIV/AIDS, is the result of a national security strategy hatched under the Nixon and Carter administrations to reduce the populations of Black and Brown people.
Dr. Horowitz writes that Nixon’s National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, called for massive third world depopulation, fearing that overpopulation in third world countries would place a drain on western resources and lead to the destabilization of the United States. Later, under the Carter administration, the new head of the NSA, Zbigniew Brzezinski, secretly drew up what was called National Security Memorandum 46, authorizing the FBI and the CIA to initiate genocidal policies and procedures.
Modern, state sponsored genocide is, perhaps, the least obvious because it is always shrouded in patriotic covers and obscured with nationalistic platitudes and slogans. The mass media of nations that systematically erode the humanity of others, is usually engaged to simplify the process and to reduce the targeted people into objects. Thus entire blocks, villages, cities, even countries, can be obliterated with such euphemisms as "the neutralization of pockets of resistance" or "winning the war on terror".
Statistics do not remotely give an account of the terrible carnage and horror of genocide, for numbers do not reveal the twisted, bloated bodies, they do not convey the burned off limbs, and they do not echo the horror of a child’s screams as it’s body is riddled with bullets, perforated with shrapnel, or blow apart by a strategic land mine.
Very often genocide is made palatable, or at least tolerable, by sophisticated propaganda networks that work at the behest of the political/military machinery that drop the bombs, and shoot the missals. It is usually hidden behind the bright facade of some noble or humanitarian cause. Thus, the killing of 10,000 Somalian civilians in 1992, was dubbed "operation breadbasket" and the massacre of tens of thousands of Iraqis during the 2003 US led invasion was labeled "operation Iraqi freedom". Even the systematic murder and plunder of millions of Native Americans is described as "civilizing the continent". Yet, apart from the physical toll, genocide integrates itself within the land, and nests itself within the consciousness, long after the bodies are buried and the screams are silenced. It takes it greatest toll, perhaps, in the ghastly stain it leaves on the human heart and psyche. It remains to be seen, whether after years, or decades (or even after centuries) this terrib! le imprint can be removed.
Notes and References:
. Ward Churchhill, "Indians are Us," Common Courage Press, 1994
. "Ethnic Cleansing in Connecticut, Our State’s Role in the Nazi eugenics Movement" accessible online at: http://www.hartfordadvocate.com/gbase/ News/content.html?oid=oid:32556
. Edwin Black, "War Against the Weak," 2003
. Barbara Reynolds, "A Conversation with Maxine Waters", Essence Magazine, Jan. 1999
. "AIDS Update", Global Africa Pocket News, accessible online at: http://www.globalafrica.com/AIDSupdt.htm
. Dr Leonard G. Horowitz, "Death in the Air: Globalization, Terrorism, and Toxic Warfare", Tethahedron Publishing Group, 2001
by courtesy & © 2004 Steven Malik Shelton