Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Denying Rwanda: A Response to Herman & Peterson

[Introductory note: In July 2010, Pambazuka.org published a long review by Gerald Caplan of the recent book by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, in which Caplan accused the authors of denying the 1994 holocaust in Rwanda. Herman & Peterson responded with a lengthy broadside against Caplan, published on Pambazuka on July 8, to which I issued a stopgap response from my temporary base in Burkina Faso. That intervention elicited another outpouring by Herman & Peterson, specifically attacking me, posted to the Monthly Review blog on August 14. The following comments represent a fuller engagement with Herman & Peterson's assertions, accusations, and denialist fabrications.]

When I first learned of the publication of Edward Herman and David Peterson's barely-a-book, The Politics of Genocide, and when I read Gerald Caplan's lengthy review followed by Herman & Peterson's 8,000-word response, I was travelling with no fixed address in West Africa. While necessarily postponing an engagement with the volume until I returned to Canada, I felt justified in preparing (from Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso) a thousand words or so of comments explicitly limited to the assertions made in Herman and Peterson's riposte to Caplan. Having now imbibed a further 6,000 words from the authors, specifically denouncing me and my work, and having read The Politics of Genocide, my concerns about their denialist and fundamentally anti-scholarly enterprise have only deepened.

In a paper to be presented to the conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars next year, I will examine Herman & Peterson's work alongside that of their fellow Rwandan genocide deniers. I limit my comments here to the authors' published statements on Rwanda, both in their online posts and in The Politics of Genocide. (I trust I have the title of their book right, by the way. Herman & Peterson manage to misstate the name of my own work, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, no fewer than eight times in the footnotes of their latest post.)[1]

In my response to Herman & Peterson's first missive, I accused them of a "selective and mendacious" use of a key source: the research (itself highly problematic) of Christian Davenport and Allan C. Stam. Nowhere in their 8,000-word response to Caplan -- which will be read by many times more people than their book will be -- do Herman & Peterson acknowledge that Davenport & Stam found "the vast majority" of the 1994 mass killing to have been carried out by "the FAR [Rwandan army], the Interahamwe [militia] and their associates" -- that is, the shock troops and death squads of Hutu Power.

Their treatment of this source in The Politics of Genocide is likewise highly misleading. In a single glancing mention in the text (p. 59), they write that Davenport & Stam "are inconsistent on the question of likely perpetrators, with their evidence of likely RPF responsibility contradicted by assertions of primary responsibility on the part of the FAR." Note first that there is no inconsistency in Davenport & Stam's findings, since there is no evidence, in their work or elsewhere, of "likely" (i.e., primary) RPF responsibility for the mass killing. Note too that "primary responsibility on the part of the FAR" is a much more anodyne framing than "the vast majority," Davenport & Stam's actual phrasing. Moreover, Davenport & Stam list the perpetrators not as the FAR alone, but the Interahamwe militia, and (as I read them) diverse allies of both these forces. That is, the perpetrators were drawn from a coalition of distinct, overwhelmingly Hutu actors and agents. Not only does this imply a coordinated and systematic genocide, but it makes a mockery of Herman & Peterson's absurd assertion, in The Politics of Genocide, that "the RPF was the only well-organized killing force within Rwanda in 1994" (p. 58).

For Herman & Peterson to offer any evidence at all for their squalid inversion of reality, however, they need Davenport & Stam. There is almost nothing else in the scholarly literature that can be squeezed into their framework, even in denatured form. So in the process of bending Davenport & Stam to make them fit, they not only jettison their sources' core conclusions and substitute their own; they toss out Davenport & Stam's guiding assumptions as well! In preparing their statistical analysis of patterns of violence, Davenport & Stam divided Rwandan territory into zones that were government-controlled, RPF-controlled, and contested. Herman & Peterson aver that this is "problematic." In fact, they allege, those whom Davenport & Stam deemed guilty of "the vast majority" of the killing were such a bumbling bunch that "it is frankly counterintuitive" to consider them "in control of anything" (p. 133). Really, it's a wonder the poor dears could tie their shoes -- let alone mobilize to massacre at least half a million Tutsis and oppositionist Hutus.

So now, "the vast majority" of the killing that Davenport & Stam specifically attributed to Hutu Power forces is thrown up for grabs. Herman & Peterson can seize upon Davenport & Stam's finding that "when the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased" to contend that this shows RPF forces were "the initiators and the main perpetrators of 1994's mass blood-letting." Davenport & Stam's framing in fact fits with a picture of Hutu Power agents lashing out genocidally at Tusis, in spasms that correlate with RPF advances. There is a certain logic to that -- panic and insecurity are frequently spurs to more frenzied killing -- but there is no other evidence for it that I am aware of, and in any case Herman & Peterson's "logic" is entirely different. They point out in their attack on me that in The Politics of Genocide, they do indeed note the incongruence between their arguments and Davenport & Stam's findings. But they word it as follows: "Davenport and Stam fail to draw the most important conclusion from their superb work ..." They don't fail to draw the important conclusion; they draw the exactly opposite important conclusion. Davenport & Stam, apparently, are "superb" and credible authorities when their findings are convenient. When they are inconvenient, they must be ruled out as "problematic" or "fail[ing]," and replaced by rickety fabrications of Herman & Peterson's own, mercifully unique devising.

Does all of this qualify as a "selective and mendacious" use of Davenport & Stam's research -- the allegation I made in my earlier comments on Herman & Peterson's work? You be the judge.

With Davenport & Stam's core schema dismissed, on no evidence whatsoever, Herman & Peterson can substitute "roving patterns of killing" (p. 58). And from this now-nebulous mist emerges their pièce de résistance: "Clearly, the chief responsibility for Rwandan political violence belonged to the RPF, and not to the ousted coalition government, the FAR, or any Hutu-related group." Again, not a shred of evidence is offered to buttress an assertion that is more extreme, in its denialism and revisionism, than any statement I have heard or read, save from accused or convicted Rwandan génocidaires, their supporters, and occasionally their lawyers.

And yet, this is actually one of the more serious analytical strategies pursued in the Rwanda section of The Politics of Genocide. Elsewhere, Herman & Peterson's revisionist claims are so thinly-sourced as to be risible. Typical is the assertion that "a number of observers as well as participants in the events of 1994 claim that the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million" (p. 58, emphasis added). The "number of observers" and "participants" appears to be one -- perhaps. The sole source cited in the footnote (p. 132) is a letter allegedly written by a renegade RPF officer. It was reported to the authors by Christopher Black, who (as Herman & Peterson almost proudly proclaim) happens to be a defense attorney for an accused Hutu génocidaire.

Similarly, the conspiracy theory that "Paul Kagame and the RPF were creatures of U.S. power from their origins in Uganda in the 1980s" (p. 55), used as a Yankee tool to wrest control of D.R. Congo's rich resources, rests mainly on the fact that Kagame "had spent some time at Fort Leavenworth, [Kansas] ... not too far before the 1994 genocide." Here they again cite Allan Stam -- in fact, they bet the farm on this figure, alone or in collaboration with Davenport. Herman & Peterson claim, remarkably, that within one or two hours of the missile strike on the plane of Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, 50,000 RPF troops moved "into action on two fronts, in a coordinated fashion" (p. 56). The source for this striking assertion? A public lecture by Allan Stam.

One last example: Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General at the time of the Rwandan genocide, is quoted as declaring that "The genocide in Rwanda was 100 percent the responsibility of the Americans!" (p. 135). Even if Boutros-Ghali made such a statement, it is impossible to know how to interpret it without an understanding of the relevant context. It might well have reflected the Secretary-General's frustration with America's failure to supply intervention forces to suppress Hutu Power's killing machine. But who knows if the statement is genuine? The source is one of Herman & Peterson's fellow travellers, Robin Philpot, who assures us that Boutros-Ghali "told him [this] on the record."

On the basis of this casual abandonment of scholarship, we are supposed to reject and invert the entirety of the scholarly literature on the 1994 Rwandan genocide; all major human-rights investigations; and the immense wealth of survivor testimony. Herman & Peterson's hubris is awe-inspiring. But it prompts me to ask: just whom do they expect to buy their swill? The authors include passing citations of a small handful of distinguished Rwanda scholars -- Gérard Prunier, René Lemarchand, Linda Melvern, Filip Reyntjens. None of them supports (to say the least!) the denialist interpretation advanced by Herman & Peterson, depicting the RPF/Tutsis as the principal agents of the mass killing in Rwanda in 1994, ordinary Hutus as the primary victims, and "Hutu Power" as an utterly disorganized and victimized entity. Nor do I know of any human-rights report that asserts it, and Herman & Peterson cite none in their supporting notes.

So let us face it. This brand of extreme revisionism and denial of the 1994 Rwandan genocide is shared by only "a tiny number of long-time American and Canadian genocide deniers, who gleefully drink each other's putrid bath water," as Gerald Caplan so aptly phrased it in his review of The Politics of Genocide. Like Herman & Peterson, the deniers cherry-pick a few useful factoids and declamations from serious scholarship on Rwanda (or halfway serious, like Davenport & Stam), while dismissing the vast bulk of the scholarly and human-rights literature as hopelessly corrupted by nefarious (western/imperialist) interests. This has the additional advantage of cutting down on what would otherwise be an onerous reading list, since the literature on Rwanda is now so extensive, detailed, and utterly contrary to Herman & Peterson's formulations.

I confess I wondered, when preparing my first response to Herman & Peterson, whether their depiction of events in Rwanda in 1994 resulted from ignorance and incompetence, rather than actual malice. Their latest post rules this out, I'm afraid. In first criticizing their framing, I drew special attention to a passage to which they had given considerable analytical weight (it appears in very similar form in their book, pp. 56-57):
Would it not have been incredible for Kagame's Tutsi forces to conquer Rwanda in 100 days, and yet the number of minority Tutsi deaths be greater than the number of majority Hutu deaths by a ratio of something like three-to-one? Surely then we would have to count Rwanda 1994 as the only country in history where the victims of genocide triumphed over those who committed genocide against them, and wiped the territory clean of its 'genocidaires' at the same time. If ever a prima facie case existed for doubting the collective wisdom of 'academics, human rights activists, [and] journalists' whose opinions the establishment respects, we find it here, with the alleged Hutu perpetrators routed and fleeing for their lives in neighbouring countries, and the alleged Tutsi victims in complete control.
I responded: "By conflating Rwanda's civilian Tutsis with 'Kagame's Tutsi forces' -- Herman and Peterson none-too-subtly adopt Hutu Power's justification for slaughtering Tutsi civilians: that they constituted a 'fifth column,' indistinguishable from the invading RPF." It was, I asserted, "a disgraceful ploy [that] ... by itself ... casts Herman and Peterson's 'analysis' into utter disrepute."

It is frankly nauseating to witness Herman & Peterson retreating not an iota from this calumny against a defenseless civilian population. Indeed, they press the point further: "Jones fails to mention the long historic class division and warfare between Tutsi and Hutu, and the creation of many hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees after the RPF invasion of Rwanda," along with similar irrelevancies and imputations of guilt-by-ethnocultural-affinity, all intended to support a framing that -- yes, Rwandan Tutsis were intimately in cahoots with the murdering RPF. So they really were responsible for their own genocide ... except that, of course, Herman & Peterson deny they ever experienced a genocide. At which point words fail me.

In the Rwanda section of their book, and in their online posts, Herman & Peterson do deploy one piece of real evidence: the 1991 government census in Rwanda. This estimated that Tutsis constituted 8.4 percent of the Rwandan population, or about 600,000 people. Natural increase would have boosted this population by some tens of thousands by 1994. If 70-80 percent of this number perished, then the Tutsi death toll would fall at the lower end of mainstream estimates (that is, it would be around half a million), rather than at the upper end by which Tutsis constituted the large majority of 800,000 total victims (Gérard Prunier) or roughly one million (the Rwandan government; Davenport & Stam, with caveats).

The precise death toll will, of course, be debated forever, and is of secondary importance. What is essential, and unquestionable, is that systematic, organized killing of Tutsis took place on a massive scale in Rwanda between April and July 1994.  How centrally organized the genocide was remains a subject of intense and legitimate dispute. There is of course no requirement that killing be centrally organized in order to qualify as genocidal.

For the toll of the 1994 genocide of Tutsis to lie at the upper end of available estimates, Tutsis would have to have been substantially undercounted in the 1991 census. There are very good reasons to believe they were. As Prunier pointed out in his early (1996) classic on the genocide (The Rwanda Crisis, never cited by Herman & Peterson), the total given for Tutsis "can safely be reckoned a low figure, first because the government systematically tried to underestimate the Tutsi population in order to keep its school and employment quotas [for Tutsis] low, and secondly because the Tutsis themselves often tried to pass themselves off as Hutu, going as far as acquiring ID cards mentioning the wrong ethnic grouping to avoid discrimination. So a reasonable and even conservative estimate would make the Tutsi population no less than one-third higher, i.e. about 12%, which would give about 930,000 Tutsi living in Rwanda on 6 April 1994" (pp. 263-64) -- taking into account natural increase between 1991 and 1994. Prunier cites "more accurate estimates of the Tutsi population surviving in late July 1994" in arguing for "a grand total of 130,000 Tutsi survivors," which by his careful reckoning "gives a casualty figure of around 800,000 Tutsis killed in three months, to which an unknown number of opposition Hutu (between 10 and 30,000) must be added" (pp. 264-65).[2]

As an addendum, the likelihood that Tutsis would self-identify as Hutus for census purposes was in fact acknowledged in the final census report itself, issued in April 1994, the very month the genocide erupted. "Given that the declaration of the ethnic group is not a simple matter in Rwanda," the report's authors noted, "one may wonder whether the current proportion of Hutu is not overestimated. Indeed, some members of other ethnic groups report that they are Hutu. This practice has existed since the end of the Tutsi Monarchy (1961)." This passage is quoted in Marijke Verpoorten's article for Population, published in 2005, available in full online, and again uncited by Herman & Peterson.[3]

Note, finally, that even Herman & Peterson apparently regard much higher estimates of the Tutsi population as credible. They write on p. 55 of their book that Rwandan Tutsis constituted "a numerical minority in the country (at most 15 percent overall)" (emphasis added).

What of the issue of RPF atrocities, up to and including genocide against Hutus, both within Rwanda and in next-door D.R. Congo? My own engagement with this subject over the years bears comparison, I think, with that of anyone in genocide studies. And it is far more extensive and detailed than Herman & Peterson's.

In my first published piece on Rwanda ("Gender and Genocide in Rwanda," 2002), I pointed to the RPF's "apparent duplication" of Hutu Power strategies, particularly gender-selective ones, "both during the rebel invasion of Rwanda and in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 holocaust." Just as Herman & Peterson quoted from a US State Department memorandum to the effect that RPF killings after the genocide "served to reduce the population of Hutu males," I suggested back in 2002 that some of the widely-observed gender disparities (an underrepresentation of males) in post-genocide Rwanda might be linked to "a substantial underrepresentation of Hutu men," reflecting "the RPF's apparent duplication of Hutu Power's gendercidal strategies, both during the rebel invasion of Rwanda and in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 holocaust." I noted further that aside from gender-selective massacres, "the atrocities inflicted by the vengeful, predominantly Tutsi forces of the RPF also included a number of indiscriminate slaughters, such as the mid-April attack on a 'mixed group of hundreds of civilians and militia at the hill Kanazi [which] killed all except three persons,' and neighborhood sweeps at Murambi (Byumba prefecture) where the RPF 'killed seventy-eight persons, of whom forty-six were listed as children.'"

This analysis was based mostly on the work of the very human-rights investigator that Herman & Peterson so malign: Alison Des Forges. According to the authors, Des Forges was a tireless "advocate for the standard model of the 'Rwandan genocide'" (p. 129), and so deeply compromised that an investigative commission she co-chaired in Rwanda in March 1993 was "either directly funded by the RPF or infiltrated by it" (pp. 64-65; this according, naturally, to the gossipy Robin Philpot). Yet when Herman & Peterson declaim about the "suppressed Gersony report" (p. 59) at the UN, they at least have the grace to cite as a key source (p. 131) -- Des Forges's 1999 book, Leave None to Tell the Story! This includes some 35 pages on RPF atrocities and abuses during the April-July 1994 period. So a central piece of evidence supposedly undermining the standard model is culled from the author who typifies that model for Herman & Peterson. As this suggests, the scholarly mainstream on Rwanda is, in fact, a great deal more nuanced and balanced than Herman & Peterson fantasize, or themselves aspire to.[4]

In the new edition of my Genocide textbook, printed a few days before I saw Herman & Peterson's critique of the first edition (or at least a version of it they know as Genocide: A Critical Introduction), I detailed further allegations levelled against the RPF for its conduct both before and during the genocide:
Mounting criticism of the RPF-dominated regime's authoritarianism has been accompanied by an increasingly skeptical appraisal, in the scholarly and other commentary on Rwanda over the past few years, of the actions of the RPF during the genocide, when its forces almost certainly massacred tens of thousands of Hutus in revenge for the scenes of carnage that their troops discovered as they advanced against the Hutu Power regime. Roméo Dallaire, commander of the UNAMIR forces in Rwanda, was harsh in his assessment of [the] RPF's performance before and during the genocide, condemning its "inability to see beyond [its] own self-interest" in his widely-read memoir, Shake Hands with the Devil. The RPF was "intransigent" and "relentlessly inflexible about any concessions that might have eased the tension in the country, both before the civil war broke out and later, when they had [government forces] on the run." On April 18, ceasefire negotiations broke down, and the RPF resumed its advance toward Kigali; for Dallaire, "it was absolutely plain that [the RPF] didn't want a ceasefire." Meeting in early May with RPF commander (now Rwandan president) Paul Kagame, he records Kagame's "pragmatic" demeanor, "the complete portrait of the cool warrior," and quotes him as saying: "There will be many sacrifices in this war. If the [Tutsi] refugees have to be killed for the cause, they will be considered as having been part of the sacrifice." According to Dallaire, it was only one of "several points" at which Kagame "talked candidly ... about the price his fellow Tutsis might have to pay for the cause."

While serious attention to Tutsi/RPF abuses and atrocities was present at the outset in some human-rights commentary (see, e.g., Alison Des Forges's Leave None to Tell the Story) ... and has gradually percolated into the scholarly literature, it has been notably absent in the quest for justice since 1994. ... (pp. 360-61)
With reference to Rwanda's domestic politics, I quoted Gérard Prunier's contention that the RPF government was "perceived by the average Hutu peasant as a foreign government" (p. 360). In appraising whether, in its domestic policies, post-genocide Rwanda under the RPF should genuinely be counted as a "success story," I wrote that the issue was "controversial" in light of the Rwandan government's status as "a thinly disguised Tutsi dictatorship" (quoting René Lemarchand). I noted that "no opposition party was allowed to contest" the first two post-genocide elections (or, for that matter, the one just concluded), and cited a judgment by the UK Economist that the Kagame regime "allows less political space and press freedom at home than Robert Mugabe does in Zimbabwe," while "anyone who poses the slightest political threat to the regime is dealt with ruthlessly." I also pointed out that part of Rwanda's spectacular post-genocide growth was ascribable to the "half-acknowledged boost [the economy received] from the looting of eastern Congo's rich resources, following the extension of Rwandan power there in 1996" (pp. 588-89). Further on D.R. Congo, I noted Rwanda's "depredations" against Hutus (p. 589), and wrote in my case study of this internationalized war:
... In 1997 Rwanda assisted the overthow of the Mobutu regime by Laurent Désiré Kabila, viewed as a Rwandan proxy and partner in the struggle against Hutu killers. En route to Kinshasa, Kabila's force and the Rwandan army rampaged against Hutu populations in eastern Congo. By one estimate, some 200,000 people died in these little-known, RPF-engineered, and so far unprosecuted massacres. It was, noted historian Gérard Prunier, "the first known instance of postcolonial imperial conquest in Africa by an African country."
In similar fashion, I detailed the atrocities of the Tutsi client militia leader, Laurent Nkunda, whose "record of violence in eastern Congo includes destroying entire villages, committing mass rapes, and causing hundreds of thousands of Congolese to flee their homes" (p. 369, quoting Howard French). A footnote explored the Rwandan government's "close ties to the warlord" (p. 376, again quoting French).

It is perfectly legitimate, and important, to highlight these aspects of the Kagame regime, and to explore relatively understudied elements of the Rwandan genocide, its aftermath, and the wars and genocides in D.R. Congo. That inquiry is in fact well advanced, conducted by scholars with deep knowledge and an abiding understanding of Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. The long-overdue United Nations report leaked in August 2010, documenting in detail the Rwandan army's role in genocidal atrocities against Hutus in Congo during the 1996 "clearing of the camps" and after, is clearly a watershed that no scholar or student of the region -- and no analyst of Rwanda and the RPF -- will be able to ignore.

It remains, nonetheless, malicious and profoundly illegitimate to deny the systematic genocidal killing of Tutsis in Rwanda, by diverse institutional agents of "Hutu Power," from April to July 1994. Such brazen denialism is what Herman & Peterson have propounded, online and in The Politics of Genocide. In Herman's case, this besmirches an often honorable career on the progressive left, though the decline was already well advanced -- he has gained notoriety in recent years for efforts to obscure and deny the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, among other inexplicably reactionary campaigns.[5]

The only humane and politically mature response to such denial, on the left and elsewhere, is to confront it squarely, and reject it unequivocally.

Adam Jones
Kelowna, BC
November 17, 2010
Text is to be considered final.


[1] Notes 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 20, 26. I will not respond here to Herman & Peterson's criticisms of my textbook, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction (Routledge, 2006), except to express a hope that the second edition, just published (August 2010), will assuage them somewhat. It includes more material (including three photos) on US genocide in Vietnam, a case-study of genocide in Iraq since 2003, the revised death-toll they mention for the wars of the Yugoslav succession, and many other emendations and additions. Herman & Peterson also cite my edited book Genocide, War Crimes & the West: History & Complicity, though they don't draw conclusions about what this might suggest about my leftist-progressive credentials. I have much more commonly been denounced as anti-American than as an imperialist stooge (see, e.g., "Genocide Scholar 'Silenced' on Academic List For Comments About Bombing of Afghanistan", Counterpunch, October 26, 2001). My work has been warmly praised by Michael Parenti, Richard Falk, Mike Davis, and other leftist luminaries. Intriguingly, around the time that Herman & Peterson's post appeared, so did a review of Genocide, War Crimes & the West (first published in 2004) in The Red Phoenix, blog of the communist American Party of Labor. According to this far-left source, "Adam Jones' book ... is an incredibly revealing anthology containing accounts of atrocities carried out by Western imperial capitalism and those who serve its interests abroad. Articles describing the little-known and little-understood history of imperialist actions from Algeria to Vietnam, Armenia to Yugoslavia, and even the genocide of Native peoples by colonialism in the United States and Canada are reproduced in this essential text. Jones' book serves as an important lesson to its readers about the reality behind the United States and other powers' attempts to 'spread democracy and civilization' at gunpoint, as well as to remind those who advocate 'peaceful resistance' to imperialism of the futility of their position."

[2] I will not seek to evaluate the credibility of the estimate of 300,000 Tutsi survivors offered by the survivors' organization Ibuka, except to note that (1) it is exceptional to my knowledge, and I can think offhand of all manner of reasons for a survivors' estimate or roll to be inflated, as I'm sure Herman & Peterson can; (2) it is typical of Herman & Peterson's method to combine the lowest available  estimate of Tutsis living in Rwanda at the time of the 1994 genocide with the highest available estimate of survivors in the aftermath; and (3) if Rwanda is the totalitarian dictatorship that Herman & Peterson allege it is, then surely any such organization must be a craven patsy of the Kagame regime. Why, then, would the authors accept its estimate as gospel -- except that it is too convenient to resist?

[3] Verpoorten pointed out further that in three population counts carried out by the Belgian colonial authority (in 1933, 1952 and 1956), "data show much higher proportions of Tutsi than under the Hutu regime: respectively 15.3%, 17.5% and 16.6%." While "this hardly constitutes evidence for the under-reporting of Tutsi" in the 1990 census, it is suggestive. And Verpoorten's own statistical inquiry in Gikongoro prefecture finds that while Tutsis were counted as 12.8% in the 1990 census, local population data, which she considers more reliable, has the population at 17.5% Tutsi. "... Interestingly, if the scale of under-reporting at the national level was the same as that found in Gikongoro -- i.e., about 40% -- the calculated death toll would be close to 800,000, in the order of magnitude put forward by Gérard Prunier ..." (However, Verpoorten herself supplies "an estimate of 500,900 Tutsi killed in the genocide, a loss of 77.0% of the Tutsi population of Rwanda.")

[4] It is worth noting that Des Forges claims "the number of civilians slain [by the RPF] diminished markedly after late September [1994]" (p. 732). This was the very month that the State Department memo cited by Herman & Peterson was prepared, describing "10,000 or more Hutu civilians [killed] per month" since the outbreak of mass violence in April. The order of magnitude of the killing, as described in the State Department memo, is in keeping with the findings of the Gersony commission and Des Forges ("Gersony himself reportedly estimated that during the months from April to August the RPF had killed between 25,000 and 45,000 persons, between 5,000 and 10,000 persons each month from April through July and 5,000 for the month of August" [Leave None to Tell the Story, p. 728]).

[5] In The Politics of Genocide, Herman & Peterson appear to retreat a grudging half-step from their denialist stance on Srebrenica. They still contemptibly place the "Srebrenica massacre" in scare-quotes, and proclaim that "the case for eight thousand 'men and boys' being executed at Srebrenica is extremely thin ..." "But even if an event such as the Srebrenica massacre occurred exactly as accepted by the Western establishment, we are still faced with the anomaly that the total number of deaths in Bosnia ... pales into relative insignificance ...," etc., etc. (pp. 47-48, emphasis added).


  1. A couple of further points. I realized after crafting this response that in fact, the very first thing I published on Rwanda was not the "Gender and Genocide in Rwanda" article from 2002, but a snippet in my 2000 article for the Journal of Genocide Research, "Gendercide and Genocide". The snippet in question concerned not Hutu atrocities against Tutsis in 1994, but RPF atrocities against political dissidents in 1997. The quote was from Seth Sendashonga, the ex-Minister of the Interior in the RPF government, speaking from exile in Kenya. I felt strongly enough about it to transcribe it personally from a video source: "I've been a member of the RPF since April 1991," said Sendashonga. "I know a lot about the massacres committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Army. The RPF wanted to establish its supremacy, and to do so they had to eliminate any potential rival. In many cases the Army came for men, ages 18 to 55, and took them away by night, never to be seen again. Their families search for them in vain, in the prisons of Rwanda, but they all died at the hands of the Rwandan Patriotic Army. The general pattern was to select youth and men who were still active, as well as leaders, teachers, farming instructors -- anyone who played a role, any community leader was particularly singled out." This was presented as an emblematic case of "gendercide," hence genocide, in my analysis.

    A second and final thought, concerning the supposed discombobulation of all Hutu Power forces in 1994, such that Herman & Peterson cannot conceive of them as having sponsored or organized the mass killing of defenseless Tutsis. If these forces were so utterly inept and fragmented, how did they manage one of the most rapid and intricately-organized refugee flows in history -- at the end of the genocide, as the RPF pushed Hutu Power's allies and quiescent civilian population into forced exile in Zaire (D.R. Congo)? In that exile, at least 1.2 million refugees were organized according to their original prefecture/commune/cell structure in Rwanda. The structure held under de facto Hutu administration until the camps were liquidated, and at least tens of thousands of Hutus exterminated, by the RPF.

    How was that possible, Messrs. Herman & Peterson? How did forces not "in control of anything" manage to orchestrate this almost surreal flow of over a million Rwandan Hutus, and their subsequent micro-organization and administration in the camps? Go figure.

  2. Thank you for this powerful, indeed devastating, refutation of Herman and Peterson's denialist booklet that turns the facts about the Rwandan genocide upside down. Herman has a long history of denialism, which I saw first in "After The Cataclysm", co-authored with Noam Chomsky, denying the reality of the Cambodian genocide. It consisted of the same weasle-worded evasion of eye-witness testimony from thousands of Cambodians, the same blindness to thousands of mass graves, and the same Marxist blame of every evil in the world on American imperialism.

    There is no excuse for any kind of imperialism, but to deny the fact that many genocides are internally generated from systems of domination within societies is a denial that mass killing may arise from ethnic, racial, religious, political, and ideological conflicts independent of foreign forces.

    Greg Stanton
    President, Genocide Watch

  3. Many of us bent over backwards to give Herman & Chomsky the benefit of the doubt, both regarding Cambodia, and regarding Chomsky's defense of Robert Faurisson's right to publish his denialist lies about the Nazi gas chambers. In my view, neither Herman nor Chomsky was explicitly denialist about the Cambodian genocide, and certainly Chomsky never endorsed Faurisson's views on the Holocaust. In the light of the explicitly denialist stance now adopted by Herman on Rwanda (following his disgraceful performance on Bosnia and Srebrenica, which I was insufficiently attentive to and critical of at the time), and given Chomsky's direct endorsement of the volume in which this denialism appears, many of us are feeling sick and betrayed ... and frankly, a little foolish.

  4. Thank you. That was an excellent review of the arguments. Now I'll have to read the books! I must say I'm bewildered by some of the progressive left's elder statesmen at the moment. I thought Chomsky and Herman's work excellent with the exception of their chapter on Cambodia (and that I have to say, in hindsight). Some seem to to have turned to contrarianism as a tactic rather than scholarship. Sad to see.

  5. Dr. Jones -
    I am very curious to hear your reactions to the research of Davenport and Stam. Do you have a link to something you've posting concerning their research?


  6. Dear Adam,
    your work as well as writings are the best healing medicine for a broken souls of Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosova.
    Thank you !


Please be constructive in your comments. - AJ