I love Russia’s vetoes. Sparse, strong, hard hits, they mark the limits of the Empire’s power. They said “No”, and Zimbabwe remained at peace, its old maverick Robert Mugabe still alive and kicking and proposing Obama his hand in marriage. They said “No”, and Burma could grow at its own pace. They said “No”, and Syria… well, Syria still suffers immensely, but it was not destroyed by the Sixth Fleet. All US vetoes are similar, – usually for Israel; Russia’s vetoes are fewer and evenly spread. The recent Russian veto (last week) stopped misuse of this terrible cliché “genocide”, and this is a good thing. It would be good to ban this word altogether.
‘Genocide’ is a nasty invention. Just think of it: mankind lived for thousands of years, through raids of Genghis Khan and Crusades, through extermination of Native Americans, slave trade and WWI, happily butchering each other in millions, without being encumbered by the G word. This term was invented (or updated from Jewish traditional thought) by a Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish lawyer, in the wake of Holocaust, in order to stress the difference between murdering Jews and killing lesser breeds. The word is quite meaningless otherwise.
The best flower of Europe, a million of the youngest and brightest were killed at Verdun – sad, but that’s not G. Young and old, women and men were incinerated in millions in the fiery furnaces of Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, Hiroshima – sorry, old chum, that’s not G. Millions starved to death in the brutal siege of Leningrad – well, you understand by now, that’s not G. It goes without saying that killing of five million Vietnamese or a million Iraqis were just “war is hell” business as usual.
In Israel, killing of five Jews by Palestinians has been qualified as G: the poor soldiers were murdered just because they were Jews. But killing of Palestinians by Jews is collateral damage. They were in the wrong place, in the wrong time, bad luck!
If so, why should one bother with G? This term was, and is a chosen weapon of war propaganda. Not surprisingly, Lemkin was a Cold War warrior, and he accused the USSR of multiple genocides: by providing Russian language education to natives of the Baltic states or by serving alcohol in a Muslim republic. No American misdeed would amount to G according to Lemkin, and according to the US reading of the G Convention, unless in an unlikely case of the US agreeing that it is guilty. European states say the US is not a participant to the G convention, for its many caveats amount to non-participation. However, the US speaks of G more often than most participants, usually in order to justify its intervention. The Big G became a mighty stick to unseat rulers and undermine regimes.
The G word is likely to cause more bloodshed, for a sad, rarely stated reason. If a victim of the crime is a nation, a tribe or an ethnic group, so is the criminal. Germans killed Jews, Turks killed Armenians, Hutu killed Tutsi etc. The moment you recognise G, you encourage the G of revenge. As the Jews considered themselves being the victims of G (this is an idea deeply ingrained in the Jewish tradition, though quite foreign to Christian thought) they tried to take revenge by poisoning millions of Germans. (They failed but never apologised).
Armenians provide another example of people seriously disturbed by G politics. Lemkin used the 1915 atrocities to dissimulate the purely Jewish idea of G, and the Armenians eventually embraced it. As the idea of G took its place in the law of the nations, the Armenian fighters began to seek and extract revenge from Turks – after fifty years at peace. G propaganda produced a terrible fruit in 1990-1992, when tens of thousands of Azeri (deemed “Turks” by their Armenian neighbours) were massacred and exiled “in revenge for the 1915 G”. A new generation of Armenians was poisoned by victimhood and revenge feelings, thanks to Lemkin and his followers.
A Genocide is not about past. It is about future. Innocent people will die, and die, and die, whenever this term is applied. Without the term, the Lethe will cover all. A good example is provided by Greeks. They suffered probably more than Armenians during the WWI, but as nobody applied the term G to “their” atrocities, they are not obsessed with revenge and live rather peaceably with their Turkish neighbours.
In Africa the concept of G was applied most vigorously by the Western neo-colonisers. You will not be surprised that no Westerner has ever been tried for G despite impressive results. Millions of chopped off hands and heads, but like in Raymond Chandler’s LA, “only darkies are tried.” Now Africa prepares to leave the ICC, the main dealer of the G politics. “Despite having received almost 9,000 formal complaints about alleged war crimes in at least 139 countries, the ICC has chosen to indict 36 black Africans in eight African countries.” – wrote David Hoille, a leading international lawyer.
No less authority than Christopher Black, the eminent international lawyer, proved beyond a shade of doubt that the familiar story of Ruanda genocide of Tutsi by Hutu was not only false, but had led to terrible revenge massacres of Hutu by Tutsi. And this story was utilised by Samantha Power and the interventionists of her ilk to bomb all over the world.
The last thing I want and shall do it to tire you, my reader, with tedious Balkan stories of who slaughtered whom and where. If you want to know the gruesome details, read Diana Johnstone. I am sure they all tried their beastly best.
There is no reason to single out one party – that is, no good reason. The Yugoslav war, the war fought by Clinton against the Serbs, was a large social experiment: how do you sow discord among brothers (Proverbs, 6) and turn a multi-ethnic state into a warren of quarrelling communities. The result was satisfactory, for Clintons. The biggest US military base in Europe came into existence. A wealthy independent socialist state was broken into many miserable statelets; all of them applied for a place in the EU; Russia has lost its potential foothold on the Balkans.
The politics of genocide were played to its utmost extent in the Balkans, deligitimising one of the sides in the internal conflict. The Slavs were subjected to an international tribunal of total dishonesty and bias. Their leaders died in jail. No accusation of real genocide has ever been proven, but the West’s right to judge and decide has been affirmed.
There was a nice extra profit. The West asserted that its will for justice is stronger than its religious solidarity with Christians, right? Now every Muslim should remember that the West will side with Muslims, if they are persecuted, right? Wrong. The Eastern Orthodox Christians (such as Serbs, Russians, Bulgarians, Greeks) do not belong to the Western civilisation. They are as foreign to the Westerners as the Muslims are. Indeed, when the Crusaders fought for the Holy Land, they killed the local Christians, too, saying: “Kill them all and let God sort them out.” So there was no hindrance to side with Muslims against Christians as long as they are Eastern Christians, but by sleigh of hand, the Muslims could be tricked into believing in the Western objectivity.
This feature has been used now. The vetoed draft was a clever and mischievous trap. Such drafts rarely get to the stage of a vote, as the powers (P5, the Big Five, or Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, choose the name) usually do not use the unique power of UNSC resolutions for propaganda purposes. Otherwise, they could vex the US with drafts calling for Gaza freedom. Being prudent, P5 avoid such brownie points. Now they did it, anyway. The result was predictable: Russia could not let the Christian Serbs being singled out in the “You are the Villain” competition. This Russian veto has been presented as “Russia is the enemy of Islam”, with the explicit intention to send the Daesh beasts down the Russian trail and undermine internal Russian cohesiveness.
Russia is not an enemy of Islam. Muslim steppe riders were the co-founders of Russia, together with Viking warriors, Slav ploughmen, Finn forest dwellers. The Muslim Kazan gave its title to the Russian crown. Tatars and Kazakhs are the mainstay of Russia. Russians proved themselves as benevolent rulers, good advisers, reliable friends to Muslims of Central Asia and Caucasus. They had build schools, educated native engineers, modernised these countries.
However, Russia considers its duty to protect the Eastern Christians. In a way, they inherited this responsibility from the Byzantines. For this reason Russia heavily invested in the Holy Land and in Greece, liberated Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia from the Turkish yoke.
In the terms of realpolitik, this policy has been extremely disappointing. Almost all the “liberated Eastern Christian” states eventually sided with Russia’s enemies, while the once-conquered Muslim states remained loyal to Moscow. Muslim Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and once-rebellious Chechnya are friends of Russians; so are Turkey and Iran.
The veto in the UNSC was supposed to protect Serbia from Western pressure, not to poke the Muslims. Remember that during the war, Russia was too weak to interfere and save Yugoslavia. Now Russia made its amends for 1999.
Hopefully, the Muslims will understand the Russian point. After all, the Turks and Azeris understood the Russian position on Armenia. In the recent commemoration of 1915 in Yerevan, Armenia, Putin was the only important guest – his French counterpart M Hollande made a brief appearance and flew away to Baku (to “Azeri Turks”, in Armenian parlance). Putin went there soon after an important and fruitful visit to Turkey, after an agreement with Erdogan. Visit to Armenia jeopardised this achievement, but Putin still did not shrink from the trip. Armenia for Russia is like Israel for the US. There is a very important Armenian diaspora in Russia, and the neighbours accept this reality like Israeli Arab neighbours accept the reality and inevitability of American support for Israel.
The Armenians and the Azeri soldiers marched together, one after another, on the Red Square on May 9 this year, approving the Russian position of the mediator and protector in the area. Perhaps it is a liability for Russia, but nobody promised them a rose garden.
Israel Shamir can be contacted at email@example.com