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Another Kind of Holocaust Denier

Here's the dif.....

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 18, 2005.

While we wait with hushed breath for the contents of Ward Churchill’s alleged rebuttal to the charges against him, let me arc electricity between my fingers and predict the following.

Churchill’s likely densely footnoted screed will prove, contrary to his claims, that he did indeed plagiarize and falsify. He’s been used to not having his work checked up on, and since he’s already name calling his accusers, he must know he has to stay on the offensive. I’ve been waiting for Patricia Limerick, the ranking western scholar at CU, to voice her opinion of Churchill and his work, and her silence, I believe, is telling. I certainly do not know one way or the other. This is just a prediction. Can’t wait for it to be made public.

Still, it raises up a bunch of questions about how history is tabulated and patted into shape, and an article in the New York Times prompts some further inquiry. It seems the statistics coming out of Darfur, a western province of the Sudan in north central Africa, are so variable and conflicting that questions have been raised. The implication is that the Arabs in Khartoum downplay the deaths and agony of these poor people they slaughter at will while many in the West exaggerate them for sympathy and support. When two entities seeking such support offer up conflicting – and wildly conflicting – estimates of death and horror, it demeans and threatens any belief in the tales coming out of the whole area.

Here in Boulder the Damned, the left of the 1980’s was likely to bring out the words “holocaust” and “genocide” if two peasants in Guatemala were shot during a domestic dispute. Lot of exaggeration and inflation of rhetoric. It wasn’t always wrong, and it often, if not always, came from good intentions, but the result was that when we needed to be able to believe in them and their stories, we couldn’t, and their response was to increase the blather. They seriously hurt themselves and their cause. It is a tough lesson to learn, but instant gratification is most damaging in politics and the advance of civilization. Even more that law, stare decisis administers history. Precedent rules.

Some of the ease with which people use those two words "holocaust" and "genocide" way too often comes from a hidden, but definite, anti-Semitism. They resent the Jews having cornered the sympathy market for so long. If they denigrate the words by applying them to far lesser events, they denigrate the actual Holocaust.

This happens a lot in the American Indian community and their flacks, like Ward Churchill. They pretend that there is no difference between, say, the US government wanting the Black Hills and sending in the troops to force the Sioux to peaceful collapse or kill those who fought back down to women and children. The term “genocide” is applied to what was, God forgive me, mere mass murder.

But that isn’t at all the same thing as what happened in Europe. The Jews in Europe weren’t killed because of what they owned, or what they had done, or what they would do. They were killed because they were Jews if they owned nothing – which was mostly the case – and had provided lick spittle service to the state that hated them. Same with gypsies, gays, others. It wasn’t what you could do, it was what you were born regardless. Big, big difference, and the same word cannot apply to both horrors, and one is far worse than the other.

But General Grant had a full blooded Cherokee, Ely Parker, on his staff of closest advisors, and General Sherman was named for one of the great patriots and most competent politicos of the native American world, Tecumseh. Secret and honored societies were named for Indians, states and cities, ships and children. This was never a nation remotely bent on genocide. To compare this to Hitler’s work, you have to imagine Goebel’s children playing soccer on a team called the Munich Zealots, or Hitler proudly displaying his membership card in something called the Cohen Society or giving a public speech of appreciation on the first day of Passover. That’s the difference. As awful as mass murder is, it doesn’t rise to the standard of genocide the Jews underwent. Nothing approaching the mindset for genocide took root here, notwithstanding the fact that there were always individuals who wanted it.

So while we wait for Churchill’s defense to be made public, and we wait for actual figures to arise from Darfur as to how many are dead, wounded, captured, or missing – all four of which should be included in the word “casualty” – it would help if we all insisted our Media announce an agreed upon glossary of terminology and be held to it. So that when the terms genocide, casualty, expert, are used, we all know what they mean. Because right now? We don’t, and that’s the way some want it.