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Re: <nettime> Genocide: what's in a word? (By Mick Hume)
t byfield on Mon, 5 Apr 1999 11:10:41 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Genocide: what's in a word? (By Mick Hume)

konfrontatie {AT} Desk.nl (Sun 04/04/99 at 02:45 PM +0000) FORWARDED:

> From: Living Marxism

analyses like this used to be interesting, but at a certain
point this endlessly persnickety examination of rhetoric be-
comes a circular enterprise. 

we're very familiar with the procedure wherein a politician
will compare this or that tyrant with 'hitler' (or movement
with 'fascism,' etc.), as well as with the ensuing conversa-
tion. the whole nondebate very quickly devolves into a kind
of scholastic enterprise, or, more accurately, a late-schol-
astic enterprise. one side uses these references to present
a 'clear' justification for moral action: 'the milosevic re-
gime is like the nazis and therefore we must act.' and then
the other side drapes itself in the mantle of historical ac-
curacy: 'no this regime isn't "like the nazis," that's just
rhetoric and propaganda.' etc., etc. the terrain of the con-
versation instantly shifts from the boring and painful ques-
tion 'what (if anything) is to be done?' to a weird melange
of historical methodology and political posturing. which is,
of course, closely related to the utter incoherence of this
situation--because the benchmark of coherence is the imagin-
ary clarity of the past. as though the leaders of the great
powers in WWI or WWII had the slightest clue what they were
doing or how it would all turn out in the end. many decades
later, we fancy we know 'what happened'--the implication of
which is that current situation is somehow 'different' from
that past, unrelated. sure, we'll just put the entire world
in a sea of bell jars and assess what 'really happens' from
an objective standpoint.

and so we read this stunning rebuke of the overblown rhetor-
ic of NATO pols and learn that the FYU regime isn't 'really'
engaged in 'genocide' or building 'concentration camps' pro-
perly understood. fabulous! so maybe the FYU regime came up
with something *new*--imagine that! something we don't have
a name for! NATO certainly seems to have developes some new
forms of idiotic destruction.

in talking about the FYU regime, i don't want it to seem as
if i'm thereby supporting NATO's actions. both 'sides' (and
there are more than two, yes?) are completely imbecilic and
are founded on destruction. if the situation wasn't so trag-
ic it would be hilarious to hear *NATO*--a militarist organ-
ization!--prattle about how Milosevic relies on chaos to ex-
ist. brilliant: and what exactly is NATO's reason for being?

this essay, while quite reasonable, was horribly flawed. for
example, it argued: 'the situation in Kosovo is a human tra-
gedy and people are suffering. Beyond that, nobody in Britain
knows what is really happening in Kosovo.' oh, and therefore
we should wait until we've attained some scientific standard
of evidence before acting? (did i say 'intervening with mili-
tary forces?' no. i said 'acting.') it then went on to claim
'it is inevitable that refugees will flee a war zone, where
the Serbs are cracking down on the Kosovo Liberation Army and
NATO is stepping up its bombing campaign...' of course it is
inevitable; it's not, however, inevitable that the KLA takes
the form that it has taken, that the FYU regime will respond
as it has, that the 'international community' will undertake
the actions it has taken. in short, none of this was 'inevit-
able,' so the satement is silly. as are the 'critical' exami-
nations of KLA and NATO claims which proved to be false (con-
centrations, assassinations), which are 'critically' likened
to WWI stories of mutilated nuns and Gulf War claims stories
of babies chucked out of incubators, etc. of course, there's
a long litany of stories that turned out to be true--the Sov-
iet gulags, being a particularly resonant example for europe-
an leftism. but those stories were *true* and, as such, have
no role in this procedure of justifying inaction by reciting
the distortions of the past and bowing before historical ver-
ities such as the holocaust. 

i suppose one could argue that if *everyone* hewed to a fana-
tically exact standard of history there would be no problem--
no mythicized animosities, no proganda, no need for anything
like intervention of *any* kind. what a nice idea! now let's
get on with the situation at hand. and that, as i see it, is
quite simple: the senile apparatuses of the Cold War are fin-
ally having a go at it, with horrendous results. if you find
that to be completely unacceptable, as i do, then we need to
find ways to dismember them and to find alternatives founded
on building upon what is good rather than, say, crushing the
bad. a lot of people are, or *were*, doing that in FYU prior
to this war; their work has been set back very severely. but
once this belligerence settles down, the lines will be quite
different, and we need to start looking at *those* lines and
the possibilities they might offer, not digging up dried-out
debates about what does or doesn't constitute 'genocide.'


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