Genocide Denial and Genocide Facilitation: A Response to Gerald Caplan
Genocide Denial and Genocide Facilitation:
Gerald Caplan and The Politics of Genocide
Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
In his June 17 "review" of our book The Politics of Genocide, for Pambazuka News, Gerald Caplan, a Canadian writer who Kigali's New Times described as a "leading authority on Genocide and its prevention," focuses almost exclusively on the section we devote to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Caplan says virtually nothing about the rest of the book: Nothing about the analytic framework that we apply throughout, nothing about the wealth of data that we report about usage of the term 'genocide' for different theaters where atrocities have been committed, nothing about our criticisms of "responsibility to protect" doctrine and the International Criminal Court, and almost nothing about the many other conflicts that also serve to corroborate our thesis. Instead, Caplan uses his "review" to falsely identify the main locus of responsibility for the mass killings known as the "Rwanda genocide," falsely deny the central and ongoing U.S. role in the catastrophic events in Rwanda and the DRC from 1990 to the present, and maliciously label anyone who disagrees with him a "genocide denier" and member of the "lunatic fringe." Caplan even defends Paul Kagame's dictatorship, including Kagame's suppression of free elections and free speech. All of this, we believe, makes Caplan not only a genocide denier, but as he helps divert attention from Kagame's mass killings and pillage in the DRC, a genocide facilitator as well.
Caplan as Book Reviewer
Caplan is a careless reviewer. He accuses us of neglecting to cite a lengthy list of 45 authors ("Except for [Alison] Des Forges, plus Linda Melvern,…not a single one of the following authors is cited by Herman and Peterson"), at least seven of whom we actually do cite, four positively: Gérard Prunier on the Gersony affair in Rwanda, Fergal Keane on the Bruguière report, and
(One scholar on Caplan's list who we didn't cite in our book but are more than happy to cite here is René Lemarchand. In a recent letter to Pambazuka News raising doubts about Caplan's "credentials in commenting on the merits of the Mutsinzi report" [for our treatment of this, see below], Lemarchand writes that "the misinformation conveyed by [Caplan] is enough to cast the strongest doubts on [the Mutsinzi report's] veracity.")
Indeed, Caplan does not even maintain consistency with his own previous writings, including one work about which he seems especially proud: The 2000 report on behalf of the Organization of African Unity, titled
Caplan criticizes us for contending that the Rwandan Patriotic Front's "1990 invasion of
In a similar vein, Caplan mocks us for asserting that the Rwandan field-work by the
Why Caplan would assail us over what we write about the origins of the RPF as "a wing of the Ugandan army," as well as the "suppression" of Gersony's research into RPF killings, when eleven years ago, this was what Caplan himself was writing, is an intriguing question.
Caplan’s Versus the Alternative View of the Rwanda Genocide
The answer, we believe, is that Caplan's real purpose in writing about The Politics of Genocide is simply to discredit it for rejecting the party-line on which Caplan has staked so much of his reputation. In Caplan's words, this party-line claims that "The signing of the Arusha agreement in 1993 proved the last straw for the Hutu Power extremists….Just before 8:30 p.m. on April 6, 1994, a private jet carrying President Habyarimana…was blown out of the sky. Logic says the deed was organized by Hutu extremists, afraid the president was selling them out….Over the next 100 days, in a carefully coordinated assault organized from the very top of the Rwandan Hutu hierarchy, at least 600,000 and perhaps closer to a million Tutsi were slaughtered…."
The counter-theme of the relevant section of our book contends that "all major sectors of the Western establishment swallowed a propaganda line on Rwanda that turned perpetrator and victim upside-down," with the Tutsi Paul Kagame and his Tutsi military force, the RPF, acting as both the initiators and the main perpetrators of 1994's mass blood-letting, and subordinating all else to its seizure of state-power in Rwanda. The consequences of this plan include one million or more deaths in Rwanda, several million more in the DRC, perhaps the worst protracted human crisis on the planet over the past two decades—and a supremely well-entrenched dictatorship that now celebrates its 16th year in power, preparing yet again to stage a fake election in August 2010 to rival the one it put on seven years ago, with opposition Hutu parties and candidates prohibited from running against the incumbent, and Kagame's victory by a landslide guaranteed. (Kagame was awarded 95 percent of the reported vote in 2003.) But as our account of these real and still-ongoing genocides in Central Africa's
Caplan’s Versus the Alternative Analysis of the Genocide’s “Triggering Event”
One central problem for Caplan and the faction that advocates the Kagame-as-savior party-line is the evidence on the responsibility for the April 6, 1994 shoot-down of the Falcon-50 jet carrying the Hutu President of
As far back as 1996, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) investigated the assassination, and its chief investigator at the time, the Australian lawyer Michael Hourigan, presented then-ICTR Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour with evidence that Kagame and his RPF were responsible for it. Arbour, apparently after consultation with U.S. officials, quickly terminated the investigation, alleging that responsibility for the assassination was outside the jurisdiction of the ICTR. This was false, as the ICTR's mandate covers events taking place in Rwanda from January 1 through December 31, 1994; but Arbour's quashing the investigation was consistent with her long-standing service to U.S. power, both in its war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and its support and protection of the Kagame regime. As Hourigan told the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende in 2006, "The only time the prosecutor [Arbour] said it was not within the [ICTR's] mandate was when I implicated Kagame."
Caplan explains-away the Arbour-Hourigan episode on the ground that Hourigan's witnesses were merely “disaffected RPF soldiers,” who later recanted their testimonies. But Hourigan was an experienced investigator capable of evaluating witness evidence. Furthermore, this does not explain why Chief Prosecutor Arbour dropped the subject in early 1997, long before any witness-recantation had occurred. Nor does it explain why the ICTR never again took-up investigation of this "triggering event" in the 13 years since—unless it was because credible evidence points to Kagame and the RPF.
The French anti-terrorism Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière's inquiry into these events 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 Arusha Accords, elections that Kagame most certainly would have lost, given that his minority Tutsi were greatly outnumbered by the majority Hutu. Bruguière also noted that the RPF alone in
There is also the fact that the RPF launched its final assault on the government of Rwanda within two hours of the shoot-down, which suggests prior knowledge as well as plans and an organization ready for action, whereas the Hutu planners in Caplan’s mythical construction seem to have been disorganized, overmatched, and quickly overpowered. Allan Stam, a Rwanda scholar and former U.S. Special Forces officer, has called attention to the extent to which the military maneuvers by Kagame's RPF after April 6, 1994 were “staggeringly like the United States invasion of Iraq in 1991,” which he implies Kagame might well have learned in his stay at Fort Leavenworth. Caplan of course sneers at Stam's credentials, and pretends that he has "no idea what this means." But Caplan never explains how the alleged Hutu planners of the 1994 genocide were routed so quickly, while the U.S.-supported and trained Kagame-RPF drove them from power.
Although Kagame runs a violent totalitarian state, and his regime has jailed, driven into exile, and killed dissidents at home and abroad, Caplan does not question the credibility of the witness recantations that he believes undermine the Hourigan case or the regular production of fresh witnesses that support the official Kagame (and Caplan) line. Caplan also finds the 2009 results of the so-called Independent Committee of Experts (i.e., the Mutsinzi Report) that Kagame appointed to investigate the assassination to be "largely persuasive," as they (needless to say) "pin the blame directly and fully on a group of Hutu extremists who were simply not prepared to accept the power-sharing provisions of the Arusha Accords." Typical for Caplan, he adds that only "genocide deniers, Hutu extremists and Kagame-haters" would reject the findings of investigators appointed by Kagame. But these, again, are the words of a Kagame apologist, and they allow us to understand why a disciplined Kigali newspaper such as The New Times would refer to Caplan as a “leading authority on Genocide and its prevention.”
Among the “genocide deniers” and “Kagame haters” who find the Mutsinzi report completely unpersuasive are René Lemarchand, the distinguished scholar on
Caplan’s Minimizing the U.S. Role in Central Africa
Caplan objects to our attempts to show the very important role of
More important, Caplan does not tie Kagame's
Caplan makes much of the highly publicized expressions of remorse by high-ranking members of the
In short, the Clinton administration viewed the monumental losses of life from April through July 1994 and beyond in both Rwanda and neighboring countries to be "worth it," in the words Madeleine Albright once used when responding to a question about "half a million" dead Iraqi children from the U.S.-imposed “sanctions of mass destruction.” As then-Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) Susan Rice reportedly told her colleagues after visiting Central Africa late in
Caplan Manages the
Caplan derides the "sensational estimate" by Christian Davenport and Allan Stam that one million deaths occurred from April to July 1994, and that the "majority of victims are likely Hutu and not Tutsi." The "methodology employed to arrive at such an Orwellian assertion has been totally discredited," Caplan adds. But although the Davenport - Stam methodology has never been discredited, and The Politics of Genocide makes important use of their work, Caplan's preferred numbers and assignment of victims, based on no discernible methodology, have long been institutionalized, and Caplan can routinely regurgitate them without fear of rebuttal.
In their 2009 article for Miller - McCune,
For Caplan, however, as one of his section-headings states, we are merely taking the "Hutu genocidaires" and turning them into "dead Hutu victims." This is hardly the case. But as Caplan himself reports that the "lowest estimate by serious scholars of Tutsi killed during the 100 days is 500,000 - 600,000," with some (Caplan included) who "believe it could be closer to a million," skepticism towards the standard model of the "
Caplan does acknowledge Tutsi killings of Hutus, but he fails to mention our citation of a memorandum to the
Caplan on the Role of the 1993 Human Rights Commission
Caplan objects to our comments about the 1993 International Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Abuses in
We also point out that William Schabas, the Canadian member of the commission, issued a press release in conjunction with the commission's report that bore the title, "Genocide and War Crimes in
Caplan’s Accommodation to Violations of Freedom of Speech
Caplan finds no serious problem with Kagame's laws criminalizing "genocide denial" and a litany of similar thought-crimes, laws which allow someone who defends political targets accused by Kagame of promoting "genocide ideology" to be charged with exactly the same crimes. U.S. attorney Peter Erlinder was arrested on the basis of these laws in late May, after he flew to Kigali to take up the defense of Victoire Ingabire Umhoza, the leader of the United Democratic Forces - Inkingi party, who herself had been arrested on "genocidal denial" charges in April. Caplan justified Erlinder's arrest on the ground that Erlinder entered Rwanda with the full-knowledge that he was guilty of "questioning the Kagame version of events," in Erlinder's words. Caplan ignores the fact that Kagame's "genocide denial" laws and the arrests of his critics and opponents are the work of a totalitarian regime, but Caplan contends that Ingabire and Erlinder had it coming—Ingabire because "she [told] reporters she doesn't know whether more Tutsi or more Hutu were killed" in 1994, and Erlinder because "[his] presence is like a sharp slap in the face to all survivors of the genocide." Caplan shows himself to be completely committed to the version of history embedded in
Erlinder has never denied that mass-atrocities and genocide were committed in
Caplan also takes issue with what he calls Erlinder's "intellectual dishonesty." According to Caplan, Erlinder, a lead defense counsel for the Hutu former Major Aloys Ntabakuze in the Military 1 trial, is guilty of falsifying the trial chamber's December 2008 Judgment in this case. As Caplan describes it:
in none of his frequent references to this judgment has Erlinder thought it worth including the following statements from the judgment: 1. ‘Indeed, these preparations [by the accused] are completely consistent with a plan to commit genocide.’ 2. ‘It cannot be excluded that the extended campaign of violence directed against Tutsis, as such, became an added or an altered component of these preparations.’
Both of the sentences to which Caplan gives the numbers 1 and 2 occur in paragraph 2110 of the December 2008 Judgment. In-between these two sentences, however, there appear two other sentences that Caplan himself omits. These sentences read: "However, [these preparations] are also consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle. The Chamber recalls that, when confronted with circumstantial evidence, it may only convict where it is the only reasonable inference."
Caplan thus omits the reason given by the trial chamber for acquitting the four Hutu defendants in Military 1 of the most serious charge that can be brought against them at the ICTR: Conspiracy to Commit Genocide. As the government of
Caplan wants readers to believe that challenges to the "
To test Caplan's claim about the disproportionate coverage of the alleged "genocide deniers," we used the Factiva database to assemble a modest media universe, and found that whereas Caplan has had at least 22 bylined articles related to Rwanda within this media universe, not a single article by any of these six critics turned up.
Not only does Caplan himself thus enjoy a disproportionate access to the establishment media, but he has used his access to attack the so-called "deniers" by name:
It is also of interest that that the poor victimized Caplan not only dominates the “deniers” in the establishment Western media, he has access to and is appreciated in The New Times, the Kigali-based English-language newspaper that is friendly with and possibly sponsored by the Kagame dictatorship. As we noted earlier, that paper profiled Caplan as a “leading authority on Genocide and its prevention.” This all fits our framework of analysis: the United States steadfastly supports Kagame, establishment U.S. and Western media support also flows to Kagame, and Caplan enjoys media access while the "deniers" are marginalized—and of course Kagame's media appreciate Caplan too. Whether in the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, or
Caplan makes another serious error of fact, claiming that the
Caplan, Kagame, and the DRC
From the very first UN report in 2001 on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the invading Rwanda Patriotic Army as well as Ugandan military commanders and civilians have been identified as leading the mass-scale looting of the DRC, and the bloodshed that accompanied it. As the two major foreign state actors at work inside the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda long had established what the UN calls "elite networks," structures parallel to and working in conjunction with Rwandan and Ugandan authorities, and organized to manage the "mechanisms for revenue generation,…once their troops have departed." At their core, these "elite networks" are comprised of political, military, business, and even false militia and "rebel" fronts, and maintain their control of territory through intimidation, threats, and violence. By the late 1990s, they had already "built up a self-financing war economy centered on mineral exploitation," with the "looting that was previously conducted by the armies themselves…replaced with organized systems of embezzlement, tax fraud, extortion, the use of stock options as kickbacks and diversion of State funds…."
The UN rejected the RPF's rationale that its armed forces' continued presence in the Rwanda-controlled area of the eastern DRC was needed to defend
Gerald Caplan has long downplayed the catastrophe in the DRC and especially the Kagame regime's role in causing this catastrophe. In his 2004 essay, "The Genocide Problem: 'Never Again' All Over Again," Caplan refers to genocide in
Of course, in his references to the genocide in
[ Edward S. Herman is professor emeritus of finance at the
---- Endnotes ----
 Gerald Caplan, "The Politics of denialism: The strange case of Rwanda. Review of 'The Politics of Genocide'," Pambazuka News (No. 486), June 17, 2010.
 We take this description of Caplan from Edmund Kagire, "Author Calls for Upholding 'Never Again' Principle," The New Times (
 See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, The Politics of Genocide (
 On the analytic framework that we use to explain (largely) U.S. media coverage of different mass atrocities around the world, see Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, pp. 15-17; and for three tables that represent attributions of 'genocide' to different theaters of atrocities, see p. 35, p. 38, and p. 72. In focusing on our treatment of
 René Lemarchand, "Doubts on the Veracity of Mutsinzi Report," Pambazuka News (No. 467), January 28, 2010.
 See Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide, International Panel of Eminent Personalities, Organization of African Unity, 2000.
 Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, p. 53.
 Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide, para. 6.17, para. 6.12, and para. 20.23.
 See Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, pp. 57-59, where we assess the work not only of Robert Gersony (including its synopsis by a September 1994 memorandum for U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher that reported the RPF was "[killing] 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month"), but also the valuable work of the U.S. academics Christian Davenport and Allan Stam.
 Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide, para. 22.9, para. 22.12, emphasis added.
 Gerald Caplan, "The Rwandan Genocide," in The Betrayal of Africa (
 Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, p. 51.
 For one example of what we mean by the Kagame-as-savior party-line, see Philip Gourevitch, "The Life After," New Yorker, May 4, 2009. To this day, Kagame is feted in the Western metropolitan centers, but nowhere near as obsequiously as in the
 See Affidavit of Michael Andrew Hourigan, International Criminal Tribunal for
 See Statute of the International Tribunal for
 In 1996, the Canadian Louise Arbour was vetted for the job of Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and in this role, Arbour did everything that could b asked of her to expedite the U.S.-led NATO bloc's war against the
 Bjørn Willum, "Terrorattentatet FN ikke vil høre om," Berlingske Tidende (
 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).
 See Allan C. Stam, "Coming to a New Understanding of the Rwanda Genocide," a lecture before the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy,
 Ibid, shortly after the 22:30 mark.
 See Dr. Jean Mutsinzi et al., Report into the Investigation of the Causes and Circumstances of and Responsibility for the Attack of 06/04/1994 Against the Falcon 50 Rwandan Presidential Aeroplane, Registration Number 9XR-NN (a.k.a. The Mutsinzi Report), Independent Committee of Experts,
 Gerald Caplan, "Who killed the president of Rwanda?" Pambazuka News (No. 466), January 21, 2010.
 Lemarchand, "Doubts on the Veracity of Mutsinzi Report."
 Luc Marchal et al., "Analysis of the Mutsinzi Report," CirqueMinime, February 8, 2010.
 Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, p. 53.
 See the Peace Agreement between the Government of the
 "The situation concerning Rwanda," UN Security Council (S/PV.3368), April 21, 1994, p. 6.
 "The international community," President Bill Clinton said in
 Lesley Stahl, “Punishing Saddam,” 60 Minutes, CBS TV, May 12, 1996.
 In Gérard Prunier, Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe (
 Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, p. 68, and pp. 29-38. Also see esp. Table 1, "Differential attributions of 'genocide' to different theaters of atrocities," p. 35.
 Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, pp. 58-59.
 Christian Davenport and Allan C. Stam, "What Really Happened in Rwanda?" Miller-McCune, October 6, 2009.
 Alison Des Forges, "Leave None to Tell the Story": Genocide in
 Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, p. 66.
 See Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, June 4, 2003, and its Amendments (as posted to the website of the Rwandan Ministry of Defense), specifically Article 13, "Revisionism, negationism and trivialization of genocide are punishable by the law," and Article 9, which commits the Rwandan government to "fighting the ideology of genocide and all its manifestations." Also see Law Relating to the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Ideology (No. 18/2008), Codes and Laws of Rwanda, Ministry of Justice,
 See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, "Peter Erlinder Jailed by One of the Major Genocidaires of Our Era—Update," MRZine, June 17, 2010.
 See Peter Erlinder, "The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: International Justice or Juridically-Constructed 'Victor’s Impunity'?" May, 2008. As Erlinder also pointed out in the same article: "The Rwandan Government, with
 Gerald Caplan, "The Law Society of Upper Canada and genocide denial In Rwanda," Toronto Globe and Mail (Web exclusive), June 11, 2010. Also see Caplan, "The Politics of denialism," para. 8-12. Caplan's Globe and Mail defense of Kagame's totalitarian laws received a sharp rebuttal by the
 Judge Eric Mose et al., Judgment, The Prosecutor v. Theoneste Bagosora et al. (ICTR-98-41-T), International Criminal Tribunal for
 Factiva database searches carried out for five sources on July 1, 2010, for all available dates. The five sources were All Africa, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Globe and Mail, and Toronto Star. The basic search parameters were rst=(afnws or mtlg or otct or glob or tor) and
 Gerald Caplan, "Memory And Denial—the Genocide Fifteen Years On," All
 See Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, Table 1, "Differential attributions of 'genocide' to different theaters of atrocities," p. 35.
 See Safiatou Ba-N'Daw 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/2001/357), UN Security Council, April, 2001; 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; 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/2003/1027), UN Security Council, October, 2003; and Jason Stearns et al., Final Report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo (S/2008/773), UN Security Council, November, 2008.
 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, para. 13.
 Ibid, para. 12 - 21; here para. 21, para. 12, and para. 19.
 Ibid, para. 65 - 96; here para. 65. As this 2002 report also states: "The elite network's operations in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo are managed centrally from the [Rwanda Patriotic Army] Congo Desk, which serves to link the commercial and military activities of the RPA" (para. 70).
 Ibid, para. 96.
 Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, p. 43, citing Benjamin Coghlan et al., Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo: An Ongoing Crisis, International Rescue Committee - Burnet Institute, January, 2008.
 Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, pp. 43-44.
 Gerald Caplan, "The Genocide Problem: 'Never Again' All Over Again," The Walrus, October, 2004.
[[Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, "Genocide Denial and Genocide Facilitation: Gerald Caplan and The Politics of Genocide," ZCom, July 4, 2010. ]]