Kibeho and Srebrenica : Ed Herman on the Politics of Genocide

By Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News, 04.25.2015

Professor Ed Herman explains the politics of genocide manifest in media coverage of the 1995 massacres in Kibeho and Srebrenica.

KPFA Weekend News Anchor Sharon Sobotta: This week marked the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Kibeho Massacre in Southwestern Rwanda, where an estimated 8000 Rwandan Hutu people were killed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Army. The same number of people were killed in Bosnia, also in 1995. The only English language press to report the anniversary were Australian print and radio outlets, and Pacifica’s Flashpoints Radio, and the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper.

KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Professor Ed Herman, the co-author of Manufacturing Consent, The Politics of Genocide, and Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later, about the massacres and the Western press.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Professor Herman, could you explain why the Kibeho Massacre has no place – except by its absence – in what you first identified as “the propaganda system” in Manufacturing Consent.

Professor Ed Herman: Because it was carried out by a client of the United States. So therefore, the people he kills are what, in Manufacturing Consent, we call “unworthy victims.” They’re unworthy victims. And the media follows the party line, so they’re “unworthy victims” and the media pays no attention to them. It’s a beautiful system.

KPFA: I should add that the Australian press reported the anniversary of the Kibeho Massacre because Australian combat medics and peacekeepers witnessed it and several of their veterans were quietly decorated for heroic efforts to rescue and treat wounded victims. Many left the military with post traumatic stress syndrome consequent to witnessing the massacre. But even as they reported that, the Australian press shied away from challenging the official account of the Rwandan massacres that included Kibeho.

Herman: Australia is a client of the United States. Its government follows the party line established by the United States, and its media do the same. So it works out very nicely.

KPFA: And now, by contrast, could you explain the role that Srebrenica, the massacre of 8000 people in Bosnia, also committed in 1995, plays in the propaganda system.

Herman: Well, that was a massacre that was carried out by a target of the United States, and therefore the victims were what, in Manufacturing Consent, we call worthy victims, and therefore the government pays a lot of attention to them, and the mass media do the same. In fact, in that case, the numbers are usually inflated, and I don’t believe there 8,000 actually murdered. There were thousands killed but many of them were combat troops and they were sort of merged with the people who were in fact executed. So there’s an inflation process too, but it all works out beautifully. The Serbs were demonized and therefore their victims were worthy victims and in a good propaganda system such as we have, the press pays a lot of attention to it.

KPFA: Professor Herman, would you like to say something about the essay you’re working on now about golden silence?

Herman: Well, yes, what I’m writing in “Golden Silence” is that the media is silent about things where unworthy victims are being killed. And so this is a case study. I mean it’s not reported at all in US press, although you had thousands and thousands of people killed, almost surely more killed than in Srebrenica. And yet the media ignores it completely. So it’s a golden silence.

KPFA: And that was Professor Ed Herman, the co-author of Manufacturing Consent, The Politics of Genocide, and Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later. The audio archive and transcript of Flashpoints report on the Kibeho Massacre can be found on the website of the San Francisco Bay View, sfbayview.com.

For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.


Paul Kagame: “Our Kind of Guy”

By Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
October, 2010

Back in 1995, a senior Clinton administration official, commenting on Indonesian President  Suharto, then on a state visit to Washington, referred to him as “our kind of guy.”[1]  He was speaking about a brutal and thieving dictator and double-genocidist (first in Indonesia itself, then East Timor), but one whose genocide in Indonesia terminated any left threat in that country, aligned Indonesia militarily as a Western ally and client state, and opened the door to foreign investment, even if with a heavy bribery charge.

The first segment of the double-genocide (1965-1966) was therefore serviceable to U.S. interests and was so recognized by the political and media establishment. Indeed, following the mass murders in Indonesia proper, Robert McNamara referred to the transformation as a “dividend” paid by the U.S. military investment there,[2] and in the New York Times, James Reston called Suharto’s rise a “gleam of light in Asia.”[3]Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame clearly is another “our kind of guy”: Like Suharto, Kagame is a double-genocidist, and one who ended any social democratic threat in Rwanda, firmly aligned Rwanda with the West as a U.S. client, and opened the door to foreign investment.  Later, and far more lucratively, Kagame helped carve out resource-extraction and investment opportunities for his own associates and the U.S. and other Western investors in neighboring Zaire, the massive, resource-rich Central African country renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1997 during the First Congo War (ca. July 1996 – July 1998).For many years Kagame has been portrayed in the Western mainstream media as the savior of Rwanda, having allegedly terminated the genocide committed against his own minority ethnic group, the Tutsi, by the Hutu majority (April – July 1994).[4]  He and his supporters have long justified the Rwanda Patriotic Front’s military invasions of Zaire – the DRC as a simple pursuit of the Hutu genocidaires who had fled Rwanda during the war within, and Kagame’s conquest of, the country.

This apologetic, long considered fraudulent by many marginalized dissidents, has finally come into question even within the establishment with the leak[5] and then wide circulation of a draft UN report prepared for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (i.e., “Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003,” June, 2010).

Not only does this report catalogue the massive atrocities committed in the DRC over a ten-year period, it attributes the responsibility for the most serious of these atrocities to the RPF.  “There is no denying that ethnic massacres were committed and that the victims were mostly Hutus from Burundi, Rwanda, and Zaire,” the draft report quotes the findings of a 1997 UN inquiry (para. 510).  Factoring-in the “scale of the crimes and the large number of victims” as well as the “systematic nature of the attacks listed against the Hutu…[p]articularly in North Kivu and South Kivu…suggests premeditation and a precise methodology” (para. 514).

The draft report’s section on the “Crime of genocide” concludes: “The systematic and widespread attacks…which targeted very large numbers of Rwanda Hutu refugees and members of the Hutu civilian population, resulting in their death, reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified crimes of genocide” (para. 517).[6]  As Luc Cote, a former investigator and head of the legal office at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), observed: “For me it was amazing. I saw a pattern in the Congo that I’d seen in Rwanda. It was the same thing. There are dozens and dozens of incidents, where you have the same pattern.  It was systematically done.”[7]

Actually, this was not the first time the UN had pointed to Kagame’s genocidal operations in Rwanda and the DRC.

Even before the 1997 inquiry (quoted above), the surviving written summary of Robert Gersony’s oral presentation at the UN in October 1994 reports “systematic and sustained killing and persecution of the Hutu civilian populations by the [RPF]” in southern Rwanda from April through August of that year, and “Large-scale indiscriminate killings of men, women, [and] children, including the sick and the elderly….”   The Gersony report estimated between 5,000 and 10,000 Hutu deaths each month from April on.  “It appeared that the vast majority of men, women, and children killed in those actions were targeted through the pure chance of being caught by the [RPF].”  (“Summary of UNHCR Presentation Before Commission of Experts,” October 11, 1994.)

Importantly, the members of this UN Commission agreed at this time to treat Gersony’s testimony and evidence as “confidential,” and ordered that it should “only be made available to members of the Commission”—who promptly suppressed its findings.[8]  (See the letter written on UN High Commissioner for Refugees stationary by Francois Fouinat, addressed to Ms. B. Molina-Abram of the Commission of Experts on Rwanda, October 11, 1994.)

Among the many other UN reports on the DRC, the second in the series by the UN Panel of Experts on the “Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo” (S/2002/1146, October, 2002) also stands out.  The UN Panel estimated that by September 2002, some 3.5 million excess deaths had occurred in the five eastern provinces as “a direct result of the occupation of the DRC by Rwanda and Uganda” (para. 96).  This report also rejected the Kagame regime’s rationale that its armed forces’ continued presence in the eastern DRC was needed to defend Rwanda against hostile Hutu forces terrorizing the border region and threatening to invade it; instead, the “real long-term purpose is…to ‘secure property’,” the UN countered (para. 66).[9]  But though this 2002 report was not ordered suppressed the way the 1994 Gersony report was, it was nevertheless ignored in the Western media, despite the fact that 3.5 million deaths greatly exceeds the highest toll attributed to the “Rwanda genocide” of 1994.

This suppression was surely a result of the fact that Kagame is a U.S. client, whose deadly efforts in the DRC were actually in line with the U.S. policy of opening up the country to U.S. and other Western mining and business interests.

In fact, in answering questions on this leaked report, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley admitted that “We do have a relationship with Rwanda apart from the tragic history of genocide and other issues in the 1990s. Rwanda has played a constructive role in the region recently.  It has played an important role in a variety of UN missions. It is in our interest to help to professionalize military forces. And we work hard on that in various parts of the world.  So we have engaged Rwanda.”[10]

Crowley and company hadn’t gotten around to studying that draft UN report at the time.  But then, on the other hand, there were those earlier UN reports of  Kagame’s mass killings of civilians in both Rwanda and the DRC, which led to no discernible U.S. or UN response (except, as noted, suppression).  Could it be that these were the acceptable responses of those “professionalized military forces,” as they have been to the performance of the professionalized forces of Suharto and the U.S.-trained Latin American troops fresh out of the School of the Americas?   Could it be that these horrors were also “dividends” and a new “gleam of light”—in Africa?

It is interesting to note that the first New York Times article on the draft UN report, by Howard French, refers to the difficulty encountered in getting this new report out—it was in fact leaked first to Le Monde in France by insiders who were concerned that its really critical parts might be excised before its release. The UN had already felt it necessary to show the draft to the Kagame  government for comments,[11] and that government’s denunciation of this “outrageous” document was spelled out in a full paragraph in the NYT article. As French explained it, there were “difficulties over seven months” in getting the report released over the objections of a government “which has long enjoyed the strong diplomatic support from the United States and Britain.”[12]

Perhaps the UN insiders and media were emboldened to act by the remarkable 93 percent vote total obtained by Kagame in the August 9, 2010 presidential election, where he seems to have gotten massive support from the Hutus whose relatives and ethnic compatriots he was busily slaughtering on such a large scale in the DRC.  This election got enough publicity to put Rwanda back on the media stage, if only briefly, with even the U.S. administration expressing mild “concerns” over “what appear to be attempts by the government of Rwanda to limit freedom of expression” (Philip Crowley, August 9),[13] and urging voluntary reforms.

Suppose credible evidence was found by the UN that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez had massacred thousands of refugee women, children, elderly, and wounded in a neighboring country.  Can you imagine the UN asking Chavez to comment on a draft report on his activities, and granting him seven months before someone leaked it to a major newspaper?

We may note also that this possible DRC genocide is discussed by Howard French and the rest of the mainstream media within the partially exonerating context of  “The Genocide” of 1994, where Kagame was allegedly the savior who ended a Hutu-engineered mass killing.  As French writes, following the established Western party-line, “In 1994, more than 800,000 people, predominantly members of the ethnic Tutsi group in Rwanda,, were slaughtered by the Hutu.”[14]  In this and other current mainstream reports there was, first, the primary genocide of the Tutsi by the Hutu, which it now appears may have been followed by a secondary genocide in response by the Tutsi against the Hutu.

But this context is based on a monumental establishment lie about the first genocide, and in fact the great difficulty in publicizing the mass murder in the DRC has an obvious common source with that lie: namely, as Kagame is a servant of the U.S. and other Western imperial powers,  reports of his crimes are ignored by Western officials and avoided in the mainstream media.

The truth, which Howard French and his associates cannot admit, is that the real 1994 genocide was also mainly the work of Paul Kagame, with the assistance of Bill Clinton, the British and Belgians, the UN, and the mainstream media.[15]

Paul Kagame relies on the myth of his savior role to maintain his domination of Rwanda,[16] although this merely supplements his primary dependence on force.  But he has made “genocide denial” a crime, with the standard model of the “Rwandan genocide” taken as the truth, so that those contesting his power can be treated as “genocide deniers” or “divisionists” and prosecuted for crimes against the Rwandan state.  On this basis, Peter Erlinder, a U.S. lawyer and lead defense counsel at the ICTR, was arrested when he arrived in Rwanda in late May to represent Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a Hutu opposition political candidate, who had also been arrested and barred from running for political office.  Although Erlinder was released on bail in mid-June, his arrest and the systematic crackdown on opposition parties and candidates prior to the August election has been awkward for defenders of the savior and standard model.[17]

As to the mythical character of that model, consider the following:

* The “triggering event” in the first genocide is generally accepted to have been the April 6, 1994 shooting down of  the jet carrying Juvenal Habyarimana, the Hutu president of Rwanda, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Hutu president of Burundi. There is overwhelming evidence that this shootdown was organized by Paul Kagame. This was the conclusion of  Michael Hourigan, an investigator who researched the subject for the ICTR in 1996.[18] But his report on this to ICTR prosecutor Louise Arbour was set aside, after consultation with U.S. officials, and the ICTR failed to engage in any further investigation of the “triggering event” over the next 13 years. Why would the ICTR, a creature of  the U.S.-dominated Security Council, drop this subject unless credible evidence pointed to the U.S.-supported Kagame and the RPF?

* An even more extensive investigation of the “triggering event” by French Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière concluded that Kagame needed the “physical elimination” of Habyarimana in order to seize state-power within Rwanda before the national elections called for by the 1993 Arusha Accords, elections that Kagame almost certainly would have lost, given that his minority Tutsi were greatly outnumbered by the majority Hutu.[19]

Bruguière also noted that the RPF alone in Rwanda in 1994 were a well-organized military force, and ready to strike.  And the politically weak but militarily strong Kagame-led RPF did strike, resuming its assault on the government of Rwanda within two hours of the Habyarimana assassination. This suggests advance knowledge as well as planning and an organization ready to act, whereas the Hutu planners in the establishment’s mythical version of  these events seem to have been disorganized, overmatched, and quickly overpowered. In less than 100 days, Kagame and the RPF controlled Rwanda.  On the assumption that the shoot-down was central to the larger plan of Hutu Power and genocide, this would have required a miracle of Hutu incompetence; but it would be entirely understandable if it was carried out by Kagame’s force as part of their plan to seize state-power.

* Kagame was trained at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and has received steady U.S. material and diplomatic support from the time he assumed command of the RPF shortly after the RPF’s invasion of Rwanda from Uganda in October 1990,[20] a serious act of aggression that was somehow not taken seriously in the Security Council, up to and beyond the RPF’s final assault on the Rwandan state that began on April 6, 1994. During that April assault, when the “genocide” was presumably well underway, the remnants of the Rwandan government urged the UN to provide more troops to contain the violence, but Paul Kagame didn’t want more UN troops as he was sure of a military victory, and—surprise!—the United States was also against such a troop addition.

In consequence, the Security Council greatly reduced the number of UN troops in Rwanda—a bit hard to reconcile with the standard account that the locus of primary responsibility for the 100 days of killings resides with “Hutu Power” (and killers) and their genocidal plan. The apology in 1998 by Bill Clinton on behalf of the “international community” for “not act[ing] quickly enough after the killing began”[21] was unconscionable hypocrisy.  Rather than failing at some non-existent humanitarian objective, the Clinton administration facilitated Kagame’s conquest of Rwanda in 1994, so Clinton shares Kagame’s criminality for the violence in Rwanda and for the violence that the RPF extended so ferociously into the DRC for so many years.

* As regards evidence on the killings, there is no doubt that many Tutsi were killed, although mostly in sporadic bursts and localized vengeance killings, not as the result of a systematically planned operation of Hutu commanders. Only the Kagame forces seem to have killed on a systematic and planned basis. And their killings were played down by the UN and United States.

Not only was the 1994 Gersony report on Hutu killings by the RPF suppressed by the UN, an internal memorandum to the U.S. Secretary of State in September 1994 that reported the killing of “10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month” by Tutsi forces also never saw the light of day, except for its unearthing by Peter Erlinder and its use as evidence at the ICTR.[22]  When the U.S. academics Christian Davenport and Allan Stam, who were initially employed by the ICTR to document all deaths in Rwanda during 1994, concluded that the “majority of victims are likely Hutu and not Tutsi,” they were promptly fired. “The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR [i.e., the Armed Forces of Rwanda] seemed to escalate as the [RPF] moved into the country and acquired more territory,” they write, summarizing what they consider the “most shocking result” of their research.  “When the [RPF] advanced, large-scale killings escalated.  When the [RPF] stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased.”[23]

Would it not have been incredible for Kagame’s Tutsi forces, the only well-organized killing force within Rwanda in 1994, whose surges on the battlefield were systematically accompanied by spikes in deaths, and who were able to conquer Rwanda in 100 days, to have been unable to prevent Tutsi deaths from exceeding the Hutu deaths by a large margin, as the standard model of the “Rwandan genocide” holds?  Indeed, it is incredible, and should be considered a propaganda myth.

* This myth is also incompatible with basic population numbers. As we first reported elsewhere,[24] and will now repeat here (see Table 1, below), the official 1991 census of Rwanda determined the country’s ethnic breakdown to be 91.1% Hutu, 8.4% Tutsi, 0.4% Twa, and 0.1% “other.”  Thus out of Rwanda’s 1991 population of 7,099,844 persons, Rwanda’s minority Tutsi population was 596,387, compared to a majority Hutu population of 6,467,958.  Additionally, as Davenport and Stam point out in their Miller-McCune article, the Tutsi survivors organization IBUKA claimed that “about 300,000 Tutsi survived the 1994 slaughter”—a number which means that “out of the 800,000 to 1 million believed to have been killed then, more than half were Hutu.”[25]  In fact, it is highly likely that far more than half of those killed in Rwanda during the April-July 1994 period were Hutu; and of course after the RPF seized state power in July, Hutu deaths inside both Rwanda and later the DRC continued unabated for another decade-and-a-half.

Concluding Note 

There is great continuity in U.S. policy in the Third World, and it is not pleasant. Thus a Bill Clinton official could find the mass killer Suharto “our kind of guy” in 1995, and Suharto  received steady U.S. support for 33 years, through the administrations of Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton, until his downfall during the Asian currency crisis in 1998. In a more recent time frame, extending from 1990 to today, Paul Kagame, an even more ferocious mass killer, has gotten support from the first George Bush, Bill Clinton, the second George Bush, and now Barack Obama (whose Deputy Secretary of State hadn’t gotten around to looking at the draft UN Report on Kagame’s mass killings in the DRC). It is interesting, also, to see the media treat this latest “our kind of guy” so kindly, with the liberal New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch even comparing Kagame to Abe Lincoln (in his 1998 book We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families), and Stephen Kinzer publishing a hagiography of this deadly agent of U..S. power (A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It [2008]).

This leaked UN report and the negative publicity generated by Kagame’s sham election in August 2010 may open up the mainstream a bit to a more honest examination of this U.S.-supported mass killer.  But that is no sure thing, given the value of his service to U.S. power in Africa, and given the U.S. establishment’s deep commitment to a narrative that for many years has protected and even sanctified the “man who dreamed.”

[ Edward S. Herman and David Peterson are co-authors of The Politics of Genocide, published in 2010 by Monthly Review Press. ]

—- APPENDIX —-

Table 1. Rwanda’s national population as of 1991,
broken-down by its two largest ethnic groups
[a]

Prefecture       Hutu      Tutsi    Totals [b]
Butare    618,172 (82.0%)  130,419 (17.3%)       753,868
Byumba    761,966 (98.2%)    11,639 (1.5%)       775,933
Cyangugu    489,238 (88.7%)    57,914 (10.5%)       551,565
Gikongoro    401,997 (86.3%)    59,624 (12.8%)       465,814
Gisenyi    708,572 (96.8%)    21,228 (2.9%)       731,996
Gitara    764,920 (90.2%)    78,018 (9.2%)       848,027
Kibungo    596,999 (92.0%)    49,966 (7.7%)       648,912
Kibuye    398,131 (84.8%)    69,485 (14.8%)       469,494
Kigali    822,314 (90.8%)    79,696 (8.8%)       905,632
Kigali City [c]    180,550 (81.4%)    39,703 (17.9%)       221,806
Ruhengeri    760,661 (99.2%)      3,834 (0.5%)       766,795
TOTALS 6,467,958 (91.1%) 596,387 (8.4%) 7,099,844
Urban    313,586 (83.9%)     57,186 (15.3%)       373,762
Rural 6,154,365 (91.5%)   558,265 (8.3%)    6,726,082

[a] Adapted from Table 4.2, “Répartition (en %) de la population de nationalité rwandaise selon l’ethnie, la préfecture ou le milieu de résidence,” in Recensement general de la population et de l’habitat au 15 aout 1991, Service National de Recensement, Republique Rwandaise,  p. 124.  Table 4.2 reported the national population of Rwanda, ca. 1991, by ethnicity and expressed as percentages (i.e., here the percentages inside the parentheses).  Based on Rwanda’s total population (7,099,844) at the time, we’ve simply calculated the related approximate totals in the second and third columns for Hutu and Tutsi (e.g., 7,099,844 x 8.4% = 596,387 for the total Tutsi population of Rwanda at the time of the 1991 census).  Note that these numbers are to be regarded as approximate totals.
  [b] Note that although we’ve omitted separate columns for the Twa and Other ethnic groups that were listed in Table 4.2 (1991), our Totals column here includes the totals for Twa and Other.
  [c] Note that Kigali City’s total is separate from the total for Kigali Prefecture.

Endnotes

[1] David E. Sanger, “Real Politics: Why Suharto Is In and Castro Is Out,” New York Times, October 31, 1995.  As Sanger described the Clinton administration’s embrace of Suharto: “When [Suharto] arrived at the White House on Friday [October 27] for a ‘private’ visit with the President, the Cabinet room was jammed with top officials ready to welcome him. Vice President Gore was there, along with Secretary of State Warren Christopher; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili; Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown; the United States trade representative, Mickey Kantor; the national security adviser, Anthony Lake, and many others. ‘There wasn’t an empty chair in the room’, one participant said. ‘No one used to treat the Indonesians like this, and it said a lot about how our priorities in the world have changed’….[Indonesia is] the ultimate emerging market: some 13,000 islands, a population of 193 million and an economy growing at more than 7 percent a year. The country remains wildly corrupt and Mr. Suharto’s family controls leading businesses that competitors in Jakarta would be unwise to challenge. But Mr. Suharto, unlike the Chinese, has been savvy in keeping Washington happy. He has deregulated the economy, opened Indonesia to foreign investors and kept the Japanese, Indonesia’s largest supplier of foreign aid, from grabbing more than a quarter of the market for goods imported into the country….’He’s our kind of guy’, a senior Administration official who deals often on Asian policy, said….”

[2] On Robert McNamara, see Noam Chomsky, Year 501: The Conquest Continues  (Boston: South End Press, 1993), p. 126.  “Particularly valuable,” Chomsky notes, with direct relevance to the story of Paul Kagame’s rise, “was the program bringing Indonesian military personnel to the United States for training at universities, where they learned the lessons they put so use so well.  These were ‘very significant factors in determining the favorable orientation of the new Indonesian political elite’ (the army), McNamara argued” (p. 126).

[3] James Reston, “A Gleam of Light in Asia,” New York Times, June 19, 1966.

[4] The most widely cited account of what we regard as the standard model of the “Rwandan genocide” is Allison Des Forges et al., “Leave None to Tell the Story”: Genocide in Rwanda  (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999).

[5] The existence of this draft UN document was first reported in France by Christophe Châtelot, “L’acte d’accusation de dix ans de crimes au Congo RDC,” Le Monde, August 26, 2010.

[6] See “Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, June, 2010.  Here we emphasize that although this report was leaked to the media and then circulated widely, we do not know whether it will be revised before its eventual official publication (scheduled for October 1, 2010), and how dramatic the revisions will be.

[7] Judi Rever, Congo butchery resembled Rwandan genocide: UN lawyer,” Agence France Presse, August 27, 2010.

[8] See the treatment of Robert Gersony’s oral presentation before the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as the written order by the Commission of Experts on Rwanda to suppress Gersony’s findings, in Christopher Black, “The Rwandan Patriotic Front’s Bloody Record and the History of UN Cover-Ups“, MRZine, September 12, 2010.

[9] Mahmoud Kassem et al., Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo (S/2002/1146), UN Security Council, October, 2002.

[10] U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley, “Daily Press Briefing,” U.S. Department of State, August 30, 2010.

[11] See Philip Gourevitch, “Rwanda Pushes Back Against UN Genocide Charges,” New Yorker Blog, August 27, 2010.

[12] Howard French, “U.N. Report on Congo Offers New View of Genocide Era,” New York Times, August 28, 2010.

[13] U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley, “Daily Press Briefing,” U.S. Department of State, August 9, 2010.

[14] French, “U.N. Report on Congo Offers New View of Genocide Era.”

[15] See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, The Politics of Genocide (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010), pp. 51-68.  For an electronic copy of this section of our book, see “Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Propaganda System,” Monthly Review 62, no. 1, May, 2010..

[16] The myth of the Paul Kagame-led Rwandan Patriotic Front ending rather than triggering and participating in—and even perpetrating—the mass atrocities of 1994 known as the “Rwandan genocide” was propagated by Alison Des Forges et al. in “Leave None to Tell the Story”: Genocide in Rwanda.   “The Rwandan Patriotic Front ended the 1994 genocide by defeating the civilian and military authorities responsible for the killing campaign,” we read in the chapter devoted to the RPF.  “Its troops encountered little opposition, except around Kigali, and they router government forces that began in early April and ended in July” (p. 692).  The entire chapter that Des Forges et al. devoted specifically to “The Rwandan Patriotic Front” (pp. 692-735) must be understood as an attempt to propagate this myth by which the Kagame dictatorship has justified its rule by violence since 1994 and the pillage that followed.

[17] See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, , “Peter Erlinder Jailed by One of the Major Genocidaires of Our Era—Update,” MRZine, June 17, 2010.

[18] See Affidavit of Michael Andrew Hourigan,  International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, November 27, 2006.  For other sources that discuss the suppression of the Hourigan memorandum, see Robin Philpot, Rwanda 1994: Colonialism Dies Hard (E-Text as posted to the Taylor Report Website, 2004), esp. Chap. 6, “It shall be called a plan crash”; Steven Edwards, “‘Explosive’ Leak on Rwanda Genocide,” National Post, March 1, 2000; Mark Colvin, “Questions unanswered 10 years after Rwandan genocide,” PM, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, March 30, 2004; Mark Doyle, “Rwanda ‘plane crash probe halted’,” BBC News, February 9, 2007; Nick McKenzie, “UN ‘shut down’ Rwanda probe,” The Age, February 10, 2007; and Tiphaine Dickson, “Rwanda’s Deadliest Secret: Who Shot Down President Habyarimana’s Plane?Global Research.com, November 24, 2008.

[19] Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, Request for the Issuance of International Arrest Warrants, Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, November 17, 2006, p. 12 (as archived by the Taylor Report website).

[20] Two early reports on the Paul Kagame-led Rwandan Patriotic Front’s 1994 overthrow of the remnants of the Habyarimana government are worth referencing here: Steve Vogel, “Student of War Graduates on Battlefields of Rwanda,” Washington Post, August 25, 1994; and Raymond Bonner, “How Minority Tutsi Won the War,” New York Times, September 6, 1994.

[21] “Clinton’s Painful Words Of Sorrow and Chagrin,” New York Times, March 26, 1998.

[22] See George E. Moose, “Human Rights Abuses in Rwanda,” Information Memorandum to The Secretary, U.S. Department of State, undated though clearly drafted between September 17 and 20, 1994.  This document was called to our attention by Peter Erlinder, the director of the Rwanda Documents Project at William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, ICTR Military-1 Exhibit, DNT 264.

[23] Christian Davenport and Allan C. Stam, “What Really Happened in Rwanda?Miller-McCune, October 6, 2009.

[24] See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Adam Jones on Rwanda and Genocide: A Reply,” MRZine, August 14, 2010, specifically Table 1, “Rwanda’s national population as of 1991, broken-down by its two largest ethnic groups.”

[25] Davenport and Stam, “What Really Happened in Rwanda?

First published in Z Magazine, October 2010

Edward S. Herman is Professor Emeritus of Finance at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and has written extensively on economics, political economy and the media. Among his books are The Real Terror Network, Triumph of the Market, and Manufacturing Consent.
David Peterson is a journalist based in Chicago.


The Demolition of the Yugoslav Tribunal:
A review of  Germinal Civikov’s “Srebrenica: The Star Witness”.
(NGO Srebrenica Historical Project: 2010; translated from the German, Srebrenica: Der Kronzeuge, 2009, by John Laughland)

By Edward S. Herman
January, 2011

This book is a devastating indictment of  the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY, or Tribunal), showing clearly that the ICTY “does not behave according to the traditions of the rule of law”–it is a political rather than judicial institution, and has played this political role well.It is not the first work to effectively assail the Tribunal—Laughland’s own book Travesty (Pluto: 2006), and Michael Mandel’s How America Gets Away With Murder (Pluto: 2004) are powerful critiques. But Civikov’s book is unique in its intensive and very effective focus on a single witness, Drazen Erdemovic, and the ICTY’s prosecutors and judges handling of that witness.

Erdemovic was the prosecution’s “star witness,” the only one in the trials of various Serb military and political figures to have claimed actual participation in a massacre of Bosnian Muslim prisoners. It is therefore of  great interest and importance that Civikov is able to show very convincingly that this key witness was a charlatan, fraud, and mercenary, and that the ICTY’s prosecutors and judges effectively conspired to allow this witness’s extremely dubious and contradictory claims to be accepted without verification or  honest challenge.

Erdemovic was a member of a Bosnian Serb military unit, the “10th Sabotage Unit,” an eight-man team of which he claimed shot to death 1,200 Bosnian Muslim prisoners at Branjevo Farm north of Srebrenica in Bosnia on July 16, 1995. Erdemovic confessed to  having personally killed 70-100 prisoners.

He was initially arrested by Yugoslav authorities on March 3, 1996, and quickly indicted, but was turned over to the ICTY at pressing U.S. and ICTY official request on March 30, 1996, supposedly temporarily, but in fact, permanently. He was himself eventually tried, convicted, and served three and a half years in prison for his crimes. This was a rather short term for an acknowledged killer of 70-100 prisoners, but longer than he had anticipated when he agreed to testify for the ICTY—he had expected complete immunity, as he told Le Figaro reporter Renaud Girard (“Bosnia: Confession of a War Criminal, “ Le Figaro, March 8, 1996).  He claimed to have an agreement with the ICTY whereby “in return for his evidence he will be allowed to settle in a Western country with his family. He will enter the box as a witness, not as an accused, and will thus escape all punishment.” But his earlier arrest, indictment and publicity in Yugoslavia may have made some prison term necessary for the ICTY’s credibility.

He ended up after his prison term in an unknown location as a “protected witness” of the ICTY. But even before his own sentencing he had begun his role as star witness in the ICTY’s (and U.S. and NATO’s) trials of accused Serbs. He appeared in five such trials, and from beginning to end was taken as a truth-teller by prosecutors, judges, and the mainstream media.

One of the most remarkable and revealing features of the Erdemovic case is that although he named seven individuals who did the killing with him, and two superiors in the chain of command who ordered or failed to stop the crime, not one of these was ever brought into an ICTY court either as an accused killer or to confirm any of Erdemovic’s claims. These co-killers have lived quietly, within easy reach of  ICTY jurisdiction, but untroubled by that institution and any demands seemingly imposed by a rule of  law.

The commander of his unit, Milorad Pelemis, who Erdemovic claimed had given the order to kill, made it clear in an interview published in a Belgrade newspaper in November 2005, that the Hague investigators have never questioned him. He had never gone into hiding, but has lived  undisturbed with his wife and children in Belgrade.

Nor have ICTY investigators bothered with Brano Gojkovic, a private in the killer team who Erdemovic claimed was somehow in immediate command of  the unit (a point never explained by him or prosecutors or judges). Civikov points out that only once did the judges in any of the five trials in which the star witness testified ask the prosecutors whether they were investigating these other killers. The prosecutors assured the judges in 1996 that the others were being investigated, but 14 years later the Office of the Prosecutor had not questioned one of them. And from 1996 onward the judges never came back to the subject.

As these seven were killers of many hundreds in Erdemovic’s version, and the prosecutors and judges took Erdemovic’s version as true, why were these killers left untouched? One thing  immediately clear is that the ICTY was not in the business of serving impartial justice even to the point of  arresting and trying wholesale killers of Bosnian Muslims in a case the ICTY itself called “genocide.”

But ignoring the co-perpetrators in this case strongly suggests that the prosecutors and judges were engaged in a political project—protecting a witness who would say what the ICTY wanted said, and refusing to allow any contesting evidence or cross-examination that would discredit the star witness. Civikov points out that the only time Erdemovic was subject to serious cross-examination was when he was questioned by Milosevic himself during the marathon Milosevic trial. And Civikov shows well that the ICTY presiding judge in that case, Richard May, went to great pains to stop Milosevic whenever his questions penetrated too deeply into the area of Erdemovic’s connections or credibility.

In April 2004, a Bosnian Croat, Marko Boskic, was arrested in Peabody, Massachusetts, for having caused a hit-and-run car crash while drunk. It was soon discovered that Boskic was one of the members of  Erdemovic’s killer team at Branjevo Farm. But journalists at the ICTY soon discovered that the Tribunal did not intend to ask for the extradition of this accused and confessed murderer.

A spokesman for the Office of the Prosecutor stated on August 2004 that the prosecutor was not applying  for the extradition  of Boskic because it was obligated to concentrate on “the big fish.”  So killing hundreds, and being part of a “joint criminal enterprise” murdering 1,200, does not yield big enough fish for the ICTY.

In fact, this is a major lie as dozens of cases have been brought against Serbs for small-scale killings or even just beatings, and the ICTY has thrived on little fish for many years. In fact, the first case ever brought by the ICTY was against one Dusko Tadic in 1996, who was charged with a dozen killings, all dismissed for lack of evidence, leaving him guilty of no killings whatsoever, but only of  persecution and beatings, for which he was given a 20 year sentence.

A number of other Serbs were given prison sentences, not for killing people, but for beatings or passivity in not exercising authority to constrain underlings (e.g., Dragolic Prcac, 5 years; Milojica Kos, 6 years, Mlado Radic, 20 years, among others). The dossier of  ICTY prosecution of little (Serb) fish is large.

Thus, the Boskic case does not fall into any little-fish-disinterest category. Rather, it is perfectly consistent with the failure to bring to court Pelermis or any of the seven known co-perpetrators of  the massacre.

Civikov’s very plausible hypothesis is that this is another manifestation of  star witness protection—the ICTY does not want his convenient testimony to be challenged. Little fish like Boskic might gum up a political project. Civikov contrasts the extremely alert and aggressive actions of  the ICTY and U.S. authorities in getting Erdemovic transferred to the Hague in March 1996 with this remarkable reluctance to even question Erdemovic’s fellow killers. He was seen quickly as a man who might make proper connections to enemy targets, so no holds were barred then, or later.

Another remarkable feature of  the handling of Erdemovic is his use as a star witness immediately after he had been declared mentally impaired and before his own sentencing. Following his first confession of  guilt on May 31, 1996, on June 27, 1996 Erdemovic was declared by his trial judges to be unfit for questioning in his own sentencing hearing because psychiatrists found him to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the doctors urging a pre-hearing review of  his mental condition in six to nine months time. But on July 5th, little more than a week after this medical report, Erdemovic was put forward as the star witness in a pre-trial hearing to publicize the current allegations against Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

This was a remarkable spectacle. The two accused had not been apprehended, so they were not present to defend themselves, nor were their attorneys. It was only the prosecutors and ICTY judges in action. The same judges who had just declared him mentally unfit for questioning in his own hearing now pushed him forward without any further medical examination. The presiding judge Claude Jorda explained that Erdemovic’s own trial and sentencing were postponed “because we have asked for some further medical information,” which suppresses the fact that the judgment of  the doctors was that Erdemovic was “unfit to be questioned,” presumably not just in his own trial.

But Jorda’s service to the political project runs deeper—he not only allows the Prosecutor to put on the stand a just-declared medically unfit person, and does this before this self-admitted murderer is sentenced, he even assures Erdemovic that his evidence as a witness for the prosecution “might be taken into consideration.”  It was mainly on the basis of  unverified and unchallenged (and unchallengeable) testimony of  this sick man and mass killer still facing his own trial and sentencing, that arrest warrants were issued for Karadzic and Mladic.

What Erdemovic was prepared to do in service to the ICTY program was to help build the case that there was a line of command between himself and his co-murderers  at Branjevo Farm and the Bosnian Serb high command, i.e., Karadzic and Mladic, and hopefully eventually Milosevic.

He did this poorly, never showing those leaders’ involvement in or knowledge of  this killing expedition, but mainly just asserting that its local commanders were under the authority of  central Bosnian Serb headquarters. He claimed that immediate authority over the killing operation was held by Brano Gojkovic, a private in a team that also included a Lieutenant, and he mentions a mysterious and unnamed Lieutenant Colonel who took the unit to the killing site and then left.

Erdemovic is not consistent on whether Pelermis ordered the killing or this unnamed Lieutenant Colonel. He also asserts that Colonel Petar Salpura, an intelligence officer of the Bosnian Serb army had direct command responsibility for the massacre.  He vacillates on Gojkovic’s power, sometimes making him “commander” with great authority, sometimes merely serving as an intermediary. Erdemovic himself was allegedly without authority and coerced into killing, but Civikov makes a very good case that  at that time Erdemovic was a sergeant, and that he had joined the team voluntarily. But he and a Lieutenant Franc Kos were supposedly bossed by private Gojkovic in this killing enterprise. This line of command is very messy!

Civikov shows that the prosecution and judges strove mightily and successfully to prevent any challenges to Erdemovic’s implausible and contradictory, and partly disprovable, claims about the line of command. This includes, importantly, their refusal to call before the court even one of those “little fish” co-murderers and higher commanders who might have clarified the facts. Instead of calling to the stand his boss, Lieutenant Pelermis, or Pelermis’s boss, Colonel Petar Salpura, the ICTY is happy to stop with “a psychologically disturbed and apparently demoted sergeant,” who makes the ties that this court is pursuing with undue diligence.

Erdemovic and a number of his colleagues in the .10th Sabotage Unit were clearly mercenaries, and after the ending of the Balkan wars served the French in Africa. Erdemovic himself had worked for a time with the Bosnian Muslim army, then with the Croatians, and then with the Bosnian Serbs.

He was trained as a locksmith, but never managed to work that trade. He found military service, and eventually serving as a star (and protected) witness, more profitable, but he regularly claimed before the Tribunal that he was a good man, hated war, was coerced into participating in the Branjevo Farm mass murder, and confessed to his crimes there because he was a man of conscience.

The ICTY judges believed him, never saw him as a mercenary despite his performing military service for all three parties in the Bosnian warfare, and the ICTY took pains to exclude any witnesses from testifying who would put him in a bad light.

They could not avoid several awkward witnesses in other trials: Colonel Salpura, a defence witness in the Blagovic and Jokic trials, denied authority over  the 10th Sabotage Unit, and gave clear evidence that the killer team was on holiday leave on July 16, 1995; Dragan Todorovic, a witness for the prosecution in the Popovic case and officer of the Drina Corp of the Bosnian Serb army, also testified that the killer unit was on leave, that Lieutenant Kos, not private Gojkovic, signed out for the arms to be used by the unit, and that Erdemovic volunteered to be a member of that unit, and was not coerced into joining it.

Except for these awkward witnesses, the prosecutors and judges were able to keep out of the court record the fact that the Erdemovic unit that went to the Branjevo Farm did so during a ten-day vacation leave, not during regular service hours. Erdemovic himself never mentioned this fact. They also successfully buried the fact that, according to an early interview with Erdemovic, he claimed that his colleagues received a large sum of gold, perhaps 12 kilos, for some kind of service rendered. This payment, which suggests mercenary service, and not payment by the Bosnian Serb army, was never explored by prosecutors or judges in any of the trials in which Erdemovic participated, and was only raised by Milosevic, who, as noted, was harshly limited in his questioning by Judge Richard May.

The facts that  members of the killing group were on leave on July 16, 1995, and later findings of a French secret service connection of  Pelemis and several of his colleagues, and the subsequent recruitment of  soldiers from the 10th Sabotage Unit for mercenary service in Zaire to fight in the war there on the side of Mobutu, are suggestive.

So is the fact that this mass murder of prisoners was extremely unhelpful to the Bosnian Serb cause, but worked out very well for the NATO powers. And it is clear why the ICTY, in service to NATO, would refuse to explore these questions and linkages.

The protection of  Erdemovic and the notable ICTY-NATO success in getting his problematic testimony accepted as truth in five separate trials of Serbs owes much to the media, which in the United States and Britain raised no questions and swallowed the party line intact (for a  case study, see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Marlise Simons on the Yugoslavia Tribunal: A Study in Total Propaganda Service,”  ZNet, 2004). This applied not just to the mainstream media but to the supposedly left and dissident media, with only Z Magazine in the United States publishing reviews of  serious critical works dealing with the ICTY (notably, Mandel, Laughland and Johnstone).

Germinal Civikov points out that killing 1,200 people in five hours, ten at a batch, as claimed by Erdemovic, would allow under three minutes for each batch, including getting them out of the buses, taking them to the shooting zone, shooting them, making sure of  their being dead, and disposing of  the bodies. There were also claimed interludes of  drinking, arguing, and cavorting. Why did the prosecutors, judges and media never address this issue of timing?

Why did the prosecutor sometimes speak of only “hundreds” killed at the Branjevo Farm? Could it be related to the fact that fewer than 200 bodies were recovered from the site, and no aerial photos were ever produced that showed body removal or reburial? Civikov says, “So something between 100 and 900? This lack of knowledge, incidentally, will not prevent the judges, several months later, from putting the figure of 1,200 in their judgment after all—mind you without any proof, then or now, apart from the accused’s own claim.” Once again, why did they not call any other perpetrator to discuss numbers?

One would love to know what the ICTY prosecutors and judges said behind the scenes in confronting Erdemovic’s numbers, lines of authority, role, lies and contradictions.  Perhaps the ICTY insiders did discuss them, but they and the media have played dumb. A Wikileaks was, and still is today, desperately needed to deal with the Erdemovic/ICTY travesty—and in fact, a Wikileaks on the ICTY would wreak havoc in the trial of Karadzic and pursuit of Mladic. So will Civikov’s Srebrenica: The Star Witness if it gets the exposure that it deserves.

First published in Z Magazine, January 2011

Edward S. Herman is Professor Emeritus of Finance at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and has written extensively on economics, political economy and the media. Among his books are The Real Terror Network, Triumph of the Market, and Manufacturing Consent(with Noam Chomsky).