The first question people ask about my book A Little Matter of Genocide1 is where it came from or why I wrote it. My purpose was to be able to really stretch out, explain, and fully contextualize my use of the term genocide and the appropriateness of its application to the question of what happened—and is still happening—to American Indians over the past five centuries. And part of my objective is always to bring consideration of American Indians into the main currents of global intellectual discourse, rather than playing to the idea that we’re an exotic sideline, of relevance only to “specialists” of one sort or another.
This brings up a personal hook in addition to my intellectual motives. It comes with the fact that I am myself of Muscogee and Creek descent on my father’s side, Cherokee on my mother’s, and am an enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. I’m also married to an Ojibwe woman of the Lynx clan, from the Onegaming Reserve in Northwestern Ontario. The truth is, although I’m best known by my colonial name, Ward Churchill, the name I prefer is Kenis, an Ojibwe name bestowed by my wife’s uncle. So there’s that, and I suppose it speaks for itself.
There were also a few galvanizing experiences which help explain what propelled this particular book into being. The first was something that happened during the run-up to the 1992 Columbian Quincentennial Celebration—to use the official designator—while I was working as a visiting professor at Alfred University. I wrote a little op-ed piece for the campus newspaper that was picked up by the paper in Rochester, in which I made a comparison between Columbus and Heinrich Himmler,2 and received two very interesting responses on the same morning. One came by mail from an official of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith in Rochester. The other was by telephone from a visiting faculty member from Germany. Both individuals were absolutely livid and wanted to stand me corrected with regard to the comparison I’d made.
The letter argued that the comparison was invalid since Himmler was in a position of power, a highly placed official with policy-making prerogatives who implemented that policy with catastrophic results for a targeted group of human beings, while Columbus—as we all know—was merely an adventurous explorer, a common seaman who happened upon the so-called New World. While the results of his “discovery” may well have proven catastrophic for those discovered, the results themselves were not personally attributable to Columbus. The German, who at an earlier stage of his career had been a member of Rudi Dutschke’s SDS, said virtually the same thing. So basically we have a politically conservative Jewish individual and a radical-liberal German expressing a precise confluence of opinion on this particular question. And I had to stop myself and, since they are not only both wrong but wrong in exactly the same way, I had to ask “why?” So there’s one catalyst.
Another came with the publication in 1993 of a book by Deborah Lipstadt, a fairly prominent Judaic scholar at Emory University, entitled Denying the Holocaust.3 It deals with Holocaust deniers of the neonazi persuasion. I found two things especially striking about the book. One was the system of classification Lipstadt uses. I found that very useful, and entirely applicable to the context with which I deal. So, if that’s all there were to it, I’d have relied upon her method with thanks and attribution, and that would’ve been the end of it. In the second half of the book, however, she goes into a sort of extended polemic having to do with the inappropriateness of suggesting that there might be other peoples who have suffered experiences in any way comparable to that of her own during the nazi genocide.
Here, she focuses on denouncing Afrocentrism, including, presumably, its characterizations of the effects of the transatlantic slave trade on American blacks as genocidal4—interestingly, she fails to discuss the impact on the societies of subsaharan Africa5—and repudiating the idea that the camps in which the U.S. placed Japanese Americans during World War II might be comparable to some of the nazi concentration camps. A couple of points are worth highlighting here, beginning with the fact that a page after they’re first mentioned the Japanese Americans have somehow been transformed into “Japanese.” From there, they quickly mutate into a sort of “racial fifth column,” real or potential, at least in the quite reasonable perception of U.S. policymakers, and thus their mass internment is presented as an “unfortunate” but entirely justifiable national security measure.6 Unfortunately for Lipstadt, the nazis often used an identical rationalization, picked up by postwar deniers like Harry Elmer Barnes, to explain why it was “necessary” to intern the Jews.7 At another level, she appears to deliberately conflate concentration camps and death camps, thus setting up a straw man to rebut. It’s true, as she implies, that comparing Manzanar to Auschwitz would be absurd. But I’m unaware—and she offers no examples—of anyone who’s actually made such a comparison. To compare Manzanar and Dachau, on the other hand, which several serious scholars have done,8 is another matter entirely.
What to make of this? One is left to conclude either that Lipstadt is abjectly ill-versed in her subject matter—a possibility the quality of her performance in the first half of the book renders utterly implausible—or that she’s quite consciously engaging in exactly the same pattern of obfuscation, distortion and outright deception she so ably exposes, and quite rightly reviles, as the stuff of neonazi pseudoscholarship. In other words, it wasn’t accidental or mere sloppy scholarship. She knew what she was doing. Her goal, of course, is different from that of the neonazis. Where they deny that the Holocaust occurred at all, she wants people to believe that it happened, but that it happened only to Jews, “uniquely” so, and that for any other people to contend that any aspect of their historical experience is in any way genuinely comparable, is to degrade and dishonor the memory of the nazis’ Jewish victims, and thus to be objectively guilty of antisemitism, and thus on the same moral footing as the neonazis. 9 Wow!
What I’ve found is that this is very much a standard theme in “responsible” or “respectable” Holocaust scholarship. Where the neonazis deny a single genocide, those embracing the exclusivist posture of “Jewish uniqueness” deny many. Indeed, they deny everybody’s holocaust but their own. With this in mind, I couldn’t wait to see how Lipstadt dealt with the destruction of indigenous peoples which attended the U.S. exercise in “nation-building.” I mean, she had to deal with it, right? She’s an American scholar purporting to explain why the concept of genocide is inapplicable to the understanding of American history. So, you’ll understand why, when I reached the end of Denying the Holocaust, I thought maybe I’d been too eager, that I’d read too fast and somehow missed the part about the campaigns of “extermination”—that’s an official term, not something I made up for effect—conducted against American Indians. I didn’t want to go back and reread the whole second half of the thing, so I flipped through the index, trying to figure out where I should look. Nothing under “American Indians.” Nothing under “Native Americans.” We’re never dignified with so much as a passing reference anywhere in the book’s 250-odd pages. We’re treated as if we’re either nonexistent or utterly irrelevant. I’m not sure which, and I really don’t care, because I submit to you that, either way, it’s impossible to conceive of being any more denied than that.
A third galvanizer was Steven Katz’s Holocaust in Historical Context,10 which was published a year earlier than Lipstadt’s, but I didn’t get into it until after I’d read hers. I think it’s both fair and accurate to describe this tome—it comes to about 600 oversize pages of dense-packed prose—as the definitive formulation of the Jewish exclusivist position. All 600 pages are devoted to elaborating in excruciating detail exactly why we’re supposed to conclude that there has been one, and only one, “true” genocide in all of human history, that it was inflicted by the nazis upon the Jews during the period 1941-45,11 and that while other peoples have suffered horrendous persecution from time to time—he runs down a whole series of examples, from Carthage to Cambodia, and, yes, he does stop off to “visit” the fate of American Indians12—the conclusion in each case is that whatever happened was something other than genocide, per se. In substance, Katz’s bottom line—like Lipstadt’s, and using the same methods, only much more so—is that if you weren’t at Auschwitz, you didn’t suffer genocide. Of course, in order to make it appear that his thesis holds up, he has to radically—and, given the way he does it, one dares say duplicitously—alter the definition of the word itself (he calls it a “phenomenological” definition).13
Finally, there’s a statement by Edward Alexander which snapped the whole thing into focus for me. Sufferance of genocide, he said, can be considered as “moral capital” in the political arena.14 His implication is that there is only a certain amount of this “moral capital,” and that sharing the fact of genocidal suffering with anyone else would thus correspondingly diminish the quantity of this capital available to Jews. You have to admire his honesty in a way. His is a “make no bones about it” articulation of the motives underlying “uniqueness” scholarship—that is, the insistence that the Holocaust was the only “real” genocide, and that the Holocaust happened only to Jews—and the quasi-official adoption of this “historical interpretation” by the State of Israel.15 Alexander, by the way, is none too shy about equating Jews to Israel, so there’s a great deal of consistency in his position.
I’m going to challenge this “the Holocaust happened only to Jews” business right now. You see, there’s this little matter of the Gypsies (Sinti and Roma—or Romani—as they call themselves). Katz and Yehuda Bauer—an acknowledged dean of Israeli Holocaust scholars—and others have spent quite a lot of time and energy trying to explain why the Gypsies, who were exterminated by the nazis in numbers proportionally as great or greater than the Jews, usually in the same camps and by the same methods, should not be viewed as coequal victims of the Holocaust. Their arguments are truly arcane: The Gypsies were not defined in precisely the same way as the Jews (of course not, they were Gypsies), not slated for total extermination (actually certain groups of Jews—the Karaimes and Tats, for example, and there were others—were exempted as well),16 and so on. You really have to read this stuff to believe it, and even then it’s hard to wrap your mind around the idea that “respectable” scholars are producing it. The punctuation mark on this is that it’s all and patently false. There’s a 1938 Himmler decree placing the Gypsies on precisely the same legal footing as the Jews, to be “processed” by the SS in precisely the same way.17 End of distinction.
There is something else that needs saying in this regard. Every Gypsy who turns to a standard reference work like Louis Snyder’s Encyclopedia of the Third Reich must feel just like I felt when I finished Lipstadt’s book, because there’s not a single mention of Gypsies, Sinti, Roma, Romani or anything remotely related to them.18 The same is true in cinematic depictions. Take Escape from Sobibór, for example. That’s a death camp in which thousands upon thousands of Gypsies, as well as Jews, were exterminated. Yet, in the movie, the inmate population is composed exclusively of Jews. The only reference to a Gypsy is the name of a dog.19 An entry on Gypsies is included in The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, but Yehuda Bauer was selected to write it, and it’s devoted mainly to explaining why Gypsy victims shouldn’t be seen as genuine counterparts to Jewish victims.20 Small wonder, given this sensibility, that when it came time to conduct the official Israeli/Polish commemoration of the Holocaust at Auschwitz in January 1995, a group of Gypsies whose ancestors had died there, and who therefore wished to participate, were actually locked out.21
Obviously, Holocaust denial takes a few forms Deborah Lipstadt neglected to mention. Maybe that’s why there’s no more reference to Gypsies than there is to Indians in Denying the Holocaust. The point is that the neonazis hold no monopoly on Holocaust denial. The sort of Holocaust scholarship I’ve been talking about, and it’s the predominating mode, also comprises a form of denial. And it’s an especially ugly and insidious form, consciously undertaken by one people victimized by genocide at the direct expense of another, a smaller, weaker people victimized in the same genocide. If you’re gathering the impression that I feel a great deal of affinity for the Gypsies, you’re correct. I do. And that’s true not only on the basis of what I’ve been saying, which is I suppose rather academic, but also on the basis of direct experience.
I was in Germany in 1994, along with another AIM member, Bob Robideau, when the Germans set out to deport the Sinti and Roma, en masse, to Romania. To make a long story short, Bob and I ended up standing with a caravan of Gypsies—men, women, babies, old people, little kids—in the pouring rain on a blacktop road outside the Neuengamme concentration camp, near Hamburg. Neuengamme was the camp where the nazis sent Gypsies for transshipment to Auschwitz and Sobibór and Chelmno.22 Now, 50 years later, these people we were with were trying to find sanctuary inside the same camp, to use the symbolism of it in a desperate effort to forestall deportation as “social undesirables.” And, of course, the Germans locked them out. Posted guards, in fact. I’ll never forget the look in one little boy’s eyes as he sat there shivering in the rain. Such deep hurt. Anguish. Bewilderment. I’ve seen that same look in so many of our own kids’ eyes. It haunts me. And then, a year later, having been locked out of Neuengamme by the Germans, the same people were locked out of Auschwitz… by Jews, for god’s sake. Can you imagine how that felt?
At this point, the meaning of the confluent views expressed by the German and the Jew with regard to my Himmler/Columbus comparison??and by extension to the idea that there was an American holocaust— starts to reveal itself. But first you need to understand why, beyond the obvious reasons, the Gypsies were trying so hard to resist deportation. I mentioned that they were being sent to Romania. Actually, Germany was paying Romania to take them. Part of a nice little ethnic cleansing program they were conducting in Germany at the time, and, for that matter, still are.23 You had gangs of skinheads running around all over the place, beating up immigrant workers, Kurds and such, torching worker housing complexes, burning a few people alive, “sending the message” that Germany is for “Racial Germans” only, and the fact of the matter is that the government wasn’t doing much to stop them because the government itself was busily passing laws and implementing policies—removing Gypsies being only one part of it—going in exactly the same direction.24 Any of this sounding familiar?
Anyway, bad as things were, and are in—can I start to call this “the Reich” now?—they were at the time much worse in Romania, where what amounted to a nationwide anitigypsy pogrom was going on. So, the Gypsies were being put on trains in Germany, whole trainloads of them, and shipped to Romania where—and everybody knew this, not least the Gypsies—they were being met at the stations by large groups of men armed with axe-handles and such. And, from there, they were funneled into prearranged ghettos or “Gypsy camps,” where, presumably, they remain.25 All this was common knowledge, but nobody much was talking about it. The U.S. raised no protests, nor did Israel, nor did the Jewish organizations, many of them with offices in Berlin, that are ostensibly guided by the principle of “never again.” About the only serious attempt to oppose what was going on came from a fairly narrow sector of the radical German left taking antifascism/antiracism as its paramount concern.26 Everybody else pretty much just yawned and looked away while the trains rolled.
This is not all that’s going on in post-unification Germany. There’s a generalized desire, and it’s important to emphasize that this isn’t some weird nostalgic fantasy on the part of the radical right, to recreate what the nazis called “Grossdeutschland,” the “Greater Germany.” That is, to merge Austria into Germany, and to reacquire the “Ostmark” in Poland—mainly Silesia and contiguous areas—as well as the portions of Prussia lost at the end of World War II.27 And it should be clear from what I’ve already said that they see Germany, in whatever configuration, as being ethnically cleansed. So you end up with this massive and thoroughly aryanized geopolitical bloc in Central Europe. They actually believe—this is usually not stated openly, but it comes through clearly enough in casual conversation—that this is their “destiny as a people,” that the obvious superiority of their culture, their economy and so on entitles them to territories and assets belonging to peoples who failed to utilize them “properly.”28 Rhetorical trappings aside, the substance is no different from what was espoused not-so-long ago by Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank and Adolf Hitler himself.29
Everything is articulated by way of euphemism, couched in terms of “progress” and “democratic ideals,” and under a veneer of false humility. Skinheads notwithstanding, you don’t have brownshirts as a literal arm of the government out there terrorizing nonaryans these days, or the SS herding them into camps and ghettos. Instead, Berlin pays the Romanians to do it for them.30 And they’re not going to invade Poland with panzers and Stukas. The takeover, which has already begun, will be undertaken in a much more insidious manner, using checkbooks instead of cannons, asserting hegemony through investment. That way, they can pursue what to all intents and purposes are nazi policies—some of the recent legislation concerning immigrant labor and the like reads almost like a recapitulation of the Nuremberg Laws31—while pretending that the opposite is true.
The differences really boil down to matters of style, not substance. I don’t say this to diminish the importance of style. Quite the reverse. Style is absolutely essential. It serves as the mask behind which substance is disguised and thus concretized to general applause, or at least without significant opposition. But for this stylistic subterfuge to work, there has to be a very clear benchmark against which the “differences” can be discerned, even measured. And, for a lot of reasons having to do with the all but universal revulsion with which it has been perceived since the Second World War, that benchmark is nazism, or rather nazism in the specific form of its practice during the period of the Third Reich. The premise is that unless you’re doing whatever you’re doing in exactly the same way the nazis did it during the 1930s and ‘40s, you must be doing something else. So the Nuremberg Laws aren’t “really” the Nuremberg Laws unless there’s literally an SA, an SS and a Gestapo there to enforce them. And racial resettlement isn’t “really” racial resettlement, unless the trains are dumping people in the Warsaw and Lódz ghettos. Dumping them in Bucharest “must” be something else. So much for “never again”!
The key to the whole enterprise concerns the casting of that aspect of the Hitlerian version of nazism which is deemed most evil and repugnant, its “defining characteristic,” so to speak. And here, unquestionably we’re now talking about the Holocaust.32 On this, there is consensus, although there probably shouldn’t be, given that the Holocaust itself couldn’t have happened minus the nazis’ ideological apparatus as a whole, and the entire sweep of nazi policy formation/implementation from the early-30s onward. In other words, that which is most evil and repugnant about nazism is nazism itself, in all its guises, not one particular aspect of it. Be that as it may, however, you’ll not get an argument from the direction of Deborah Lipstadt, Steven Katz and Edward Alexander if you state that the Holocaust was far and away the most awful and unforgivable crime the nazis committed. And, irony of ironies, the same view is held by the neonazi Holocaust deniers. That’s why they’re deniers. They’re accused of being antisemitic, and that’s probably a correct assessment, at least in most cases, but it’s not their primary motivator. They’re neonazis, after all. What they want most is to be able to rehabilitate the public perception of nazism in its most overt form. And they can’t do it without “debunking” the knowledge that nazism produced the Holocaust.33
David Irving, who, along with Ernst Nolte,34 stands out as one of the most sophisticated and accomplished of all the neonazi “scholars”—Irving’s a Brit who’s long been considered a leading “respectable” World War II historian?has recently laid things out very clearly. Everything about nazism was pretty much A-okay, he says, except the Holocaust. But, of course, the Holocaust didn’t happen. So, we’re all kind of morally-bound to reconsider our views of Hitler and his projects, giving the guy proper credit for his many accomplishments. You know the rap: Hitler pulled off an “economic miracle” by lifting Germany out of the Great Depression, reinstilling pride and bringing the German people together at a time when it seemed Germany might come completely apart; without him, we’d not have expressways or Volkswagens, and just look at all those advances in genetics and rocket science he instigated, etc. etc.35
Irving and his ilk are irrelevant for our purposes other than to demonstrate a bizarre kind of agreement joining the two most extreme poles of what we can call, for lack of a better designator, “the Holocaust debate.” And from there it becomes unsurprising to find that agreement prevails at every point along the continuum from pole to pole. Now, inject the rest of the logic we’ve been discussing. After accepting that genocide (the Holocaust) was definitive of nazism in its Hitlerian form, everybody can claim one or another level of moral high ground by the vociferousness with which they condemn Hitlerism and, it follows, genocide. But, and here’s where the really slippery part comes in again: genocide and the particular mode of genocide embodied in the Holocaust end up being treated as synonyms.36 That’s why so much Holocaust scholarship ends up being devoted to listing the criteria of what constitutes an “actual” genocide. To be considered such, so it is argued by people like Katz, a process of group eradication must devolve upon killing, not other methods. And the killing must be done systematically, on a certain scale, affecting a certain proportion of the target group, and pursued with an express intent to annihilate every last member of it.37 Often, the question of “killing techniques” is also introduced, which is why Holocaust deniers like Arthur Butz and Robert Faurisson expend so much effort trying to prove that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz.38 I’ve even seen the argument advanced, apparently in all seriousness, that genocide is genocide only if the victims fail to physically resist their victimization.39
Maybe it’s time we took a deep breath, because we’ve plainly ventured a long way into the domain of lunatic discourse. And, as should be patently obvious, that’s true on both sides of the equation. On each side, the lunacy has a purpose, but one side is plainly ascendant over the other, and, equally plainly, the ascendant side is not that of the Irvings and the Faurissons who seek to rehabilitate nazism by denying the Holocaust (no matter how greatly their influence may exceed their minuscule number40). Nope. Such laurels go to their opponents; that is, to those who discredit nazism by their totalizing focus on the Holocaust, thereby narrowing the definitional parameters of the word itself to the point where it can be asserted in all seriousness, and popularly believed, that genocide isn’t “really” genocide unless it’s a veritable duplicate of the Holocaust. And, since there are no exact duplicates of the Holocaust…
Lipstadt can relax. The votes are in, long since, and her side won by a margin so decisive that she needn’t lose another moment’s sleep over the largely imaginary inroads made on her turf by the likes of David Irving. The whole world has bought into the twin-track paradigm of Holocaust uniqueness and Jewish exclusivism. The official view is pretty much the way Steven Katz and Yehuda Bauer have formulated it, in close paraphrase: “genocide has happened only once in history, and to only one people.”41 How neat. How tidy. How utterly self-serving.
It’s time to examine who benefits from this absurdity, and how they do so. For Jews who identify with Israel—let’s take them at their word and call them zionists, shall we?—the answer’s easy, bound up as it is in Edward Alexander’s notion of “moral capital.” For Germans, as we’ve already discussed, there’s the clear advantage of being able to resurrect nazi attitudes and policies more-or-less at will, so long as they’re scrupulous about maintaining a requisite stylistic distance from the Third Reich, a matter signified in catechistic expressions of repentance for nazism’s “incomparable crime.” This is not to say that there aren’t other complexities involved. There are antizionist Jews, for starters, and antifascist Germans. It’s also true that the very fact of the Holocaust, like any genocide, generated layers of genuinely traumatized people among victims and victimizers alike, who retain an obsessive preoccupation with the source of their trauma.42 Pathologies and opposition politics aside, however, the more cynical motives of monopolizing moral capital and maintaining stylistic subterfuge unquestionably predominate.
As for everybody else, well, at one level they can be viewed as a sort of chorus backing up the German lead. By offering the example of Hitlerian nazism and its Holocaust as a singularity—the proverbial “epitome of evil,” or “novum,” as Steven Katz would have it43—they’ve been able to mask the bedrock realities attending their own outlooks, policies, and actions, many of which have been far more extreme than anything exhibited by Germany over the past half-century. It helps that a number of the major players in this regard—the United States, for instance—can rightly claim to have had significant roles in militarily crushing Hitlerism during the 1940s, thus bringing the nazis’ extermination of Jews to a halt (usually omitted from the narrative is the fact that this last result was entirely collateral; the Allies’ motives in waging war against the Third Reich had nothing at all to do with ending the Holocaust44).
The result, staying with the U.S. example, has been the ability of federal policymakers and their counterparts in the American propaganda industry—oops, I meant to say “news media”—to continuously play both ends against the middle. On the one hand, they habitually tout the noble legal principles laid down and enforced by the United States at Nuremberg, and quote the lofty rhetoric of Justice Jackson to the effect that the U.S. would never hold the nazis accountable to a standard of law with which it would not itself comply.45 On the other hand, they just as habitually dodge the bullet of these very principles and pronouncements—especially the part about how the Germans were guilty of complicity in the crimes of the nazis because of their collective failure to do whatever was necessary to bring the Hitler government to heel, a principle holding considerable implication for any polity, including the U.S., whose government engages in a fundamentally criminal course of action46—by holding up the popular image of the Holocaust peddled by “uniqueness” scholars. Whatever else can be said about U.S. policy, the story goes, it’s never been exactly like that.
Thus, the U.S. could engage in a 10-year “war of attrition” in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, slaughtering something on the order of three million Indochinese, the vast majority of them civilians, meanwhile suffering fewer than 60,000 fatalities itself, while the New York Times and Washington Post editorialized that the convening of a Nuremberg-type tribunal would be “counterproductive” in terms of changing what they’d finally admitted was America’s “misguided” policy in Southeast Asia.47 Less were they prepared to admit that, given what the U.S. was doing to the Indochinese, a fullfledged violent overthrow of the government was not so much morally warranted as it was the legal obligation of American citizens under provision of the Nuremberg Doctrine.48 Their main line of defense on this score? That, contrary to all appearances, U.S. leaders were not “really” nazis, as evidenced by the “fact” that they “weren’t really” committing genocide. This assertion, in turn, was always anchored, usually implicitly but sometimes quite explicitly, in the observation that the U.S. had constructed no Auschwitz-like “death factory” in Indochina.49
They weren’t completely successful in selling this bill of goods, of course, but it was enough to truly confuse the issue. There were those in the antiwar movement of the late-60s, Sartre being a prime example, who were quite willing to call genocide by its right name.50 But the truth is that even within the antiwar movement, there was an abiding attitude that such clinically-accurate descriptions of what was going on were somehow “overstated,” “exaggerated” or “hyperbolic.” Witness Chomsky, who’s as astute and tough a critic of U.S. policy as you could name. He’s been very careful never to just come right out and call what the U.S. did in Indochina a genocide; it’s always this “genocidal” policy and that “near-genocide” —whatever that’s supposed to mean—never genocide, as such.51 One upshot of such equivocation was the inculcation of a false conscious- ness among those who opposed the war that allowed them to define “success” in the rather limited terms of policy reform—”Stop the War,” for example, or, far worse, “Stop the Draft”—rather than as fulfillment of the imperative to destroy any regime or system which proves itself capable of “the ultimate crime.”52
The difference may seem subtle, but it’s not. The mass mobilization against the war in Vietnam destabilized the U.S. status quo considerably. The movement actually held the potential to “bring the whole motherfucker down,” as the saying went in those days. But to do so, the opposition as a whole would have had to be imbued with a genuine comprehension of the real nature and consequent meaning of the war, and thus that it was up against something absolutely intolerable and utterly unreformable, something truly “just as bad as”—although not interchangeable with—Hitlerian nazism, something just as necessary to altogether abolish as nazism in its “pure” form. The movement, apart from a few Maoist fringe groups that were increasingly isolated as the years wore on, stopped well short of achieving that level of consciousness.53 Indeed, there was a profound resistance to it.54 And this allowed those in power to cut their losses, to withdraw from the war in fairly good order and then undertake a period of reorganization—this includes what Chomsky himself has described as a “reconstruction of imperial ideology”—and end up in a stronger position than ever.55
The benefits to U.S. elites resulting from this elemental misapprehension of reality on the part of their purportedly radical opponents were quite evident during the so-called Gulf War. To put it another way, the costs are glaringly apparent in the quarter-million Iraqis butchered with virtual impunity. What casualties did the U.S. sustain during the “war”?56 Less than 300, total? Worse is what has happened since the war supposedly ended in 1991. As of 1996, the United Nations was estimating that well over 500,000 Iraqi kids under the age of 12 had died as a direct result of a U.S.-imposed and militarily-enforced embargo on things like food, medicine and the materiél necessary to repair the country’s war-ravaged sanitation infrastructure.57 There’s no way to contend that the figures are exaggerated, since no less authoritative and official a spokesperson than Madeleine Albright went on 60 Minutes and confirmed their accuracy, observing that she and her colleagues in the U.S. foreign policy establishment had decided it was “worth the price” in someone else’s children to impress upon their government that there’s a “New World Order” in which “what we say goes.”58 Could Goebbels have put it any more plainly? Could Hitler himself?
Actually, approximately the same number of Iraqi adults and children have died as a result of the embargo over the past five years. So, you add it all up and you’ve got well over a million dead—only a couple hundred thousand of whom were military personnel—in a country with a population of 18-20 million, a toll quite deliberately, or at least knowingly inflicted by the United States as a matter of policy.59 The general public has been aware of this for three years, and yet there’s not been a whisper of popular outrage, much less mass protest. Frankly, I attribute a lot of this moral/legal default to the unforgivably self-indulgent approach to issue-framing and organizing adopted by America’s “peace movement” during the 1960s and early-70s.60 But, then, I attribute quite a lot of that to the blinders imposed by their indoctrination in the “one people, one genocide” paradigm which prevented the vast majority from seeing things clearly, and thus from responding appropriately.
There are plenty of other recent examples of genocide being met by silence in this country: East Timor, Rwanda, Bosnia,61 and, oh yeah, how about Palestine? The 1948 massacre of Palestinian villagers at Deir-Yassin was perpetrated by members of Lehi, usually known as the “Stern Gang,” as well as the Irgun.62 Both Lehi and Irgun were straight-up zionist terrorist organizations, and officially classified as such by the British authorities in Palestine from the mid-30s onward.63 These zionist terrorist groups greatly predate the emergence of any others in the area, so those of you inclined to cut some slack to Israel because of “the threat of Arab terrorism” would do well to remember where the Arabs got the idea.64 Hardline zionists like Avraham Stern—he was a fascist, really, enthralled by Mussolini65 —established the template.
Of course, it’s always pointed out that Stern’s group, Lehi, was tiny. From that, we’re to adduce that it was unrepresentative of zionism. But, if it was really so unrepresentative, how did one of its leading members, Yitzhak Shamir, end up being elected prime minister of Israel?66 Not much “marginalization” there, obviously. Same with the Irgun. Menachem Begin, who was its head at the very time of Deir-Yassin, was, as we all know, later elected prime minister.67 Far from being unrepresentative of zionism, then or now, these guys—not just the top dogs like Begin and Shamir but the member-ship as well—have been integrated into Israel’s dominant rightwing party, the Likud, since day one.68 You don’t suppose their “terrorist background” might have anything to do with the nature of Israeli policy, do you? Aside from having everything to do with founding the state, I mean.
I’ll give one example and then move on. Ariel Sharon, the man most responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacres, is also a prominent Likud member. His background is a bit different from those of Shamir and Begin in that he was too young to serve in their organizations during the pre-1948 “years of struggle.” He’s a military man in the more formal sense; made his career in the army as a paratroop officer. He didn’t work his way up by excelling at regular military duties, however. His area was “special operations.” He “made his bones,” so to speak, commanding Unit 101, a commando outfit, when it massacred the inhabitants of Qibya, a Jordanian village, in October 1953. That was to “send a message” to the Arabs during a water dispute. In early-54—a time when Israel was supposedly “at peace” with its neighbors—he led the so-called Gaza Raid into acknowledged Egyptian territory, destroying a military installation and murdering about 50 soldiers.69 This was to prompt a response from Egypt that would serve as the pretext for a war in which then-Prime Minister David Ben Gurion was sure Israel would prevail and thereby extend its southern border all the way down to Sharm el-Sheik, on the Red Sea.70 Sharon’s whole background consists of things like this. Like Begin and Shamir, he’s a world class terrorist. So what he did in Lebanon—Sabra and Shatila are only the tip of the iceberg—was right in character.71 There were no surprises there for anyone who knew his history, and how it conforms to the contours of zionist history—or Israeli history—more generally. Only by knowing that history can you be in any position to assess the current relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.
The principle, of course, extends far more broadly. It works like this: the ruling elite in every country in the world aspires to maintain the order upon which its own power and privilege depends by continuously pumping up “national morale,” inculcating among the citizenry a triumphalist notion of what they’ve achieved and the process through which, over time, they’ve achieved it. It’s more complex than what’s usually referred to, wrongly, as “nationalism.” The idea of “patriotism” comes closer, although there are almost always hefty doses of cultural chauvinism—eurocentrism, for instance—and racialist ingredients like white supremacy mixed in. Social constructions of sexual domination, articulated as “virility” or “machismo,” also play a role. In any event, the goal is to always have a critical mass of the population feeling proud of itself in a way that’s at once abstract and deeply personalized, because—this one’s a no brainer—people don’t tend to rebel against the source of their pride.72 This remains true, as a lot of marxist organizers in the U.S. have discovered, much to their dismay, even if the source of pride is objectively the source of things like class oppression. The end product here is by design a public consciousness that is neither objective nor particularly rational.
What we’re talking about is what Antonio Gramsci termed “hegemony,” or, more accurately, creation of a “hegemonic bloc.”73 And establishing the hegemonic bloc requires that there be a “master narrative” of history, into which these triumphalist subsets of national narrative can fit.74 Well, it’s a little difficult to construct a triumphalist narrative of a national history that includes commission of the crime of genocide. So genocide must be denied. But how? I mean, it might be plausible to simply expunge the record in certain instances, but overall? Too many facts are known, so denial in its crudest sense, that of simply asserting that “nothing happened,” is unworkable. The trick is therefore to come up with a means of accounting for these inconvenient facts, conceding that “things happened,” but interpreting the “things” themselves as “unfortunate incidents” or “regrettable events”—the word “tragedy” comes up a lot—rather than as genocides.75
This is where the concept of Holocaust uniqueness comes into play for real. The “one genocide, one people” thesis that Jewish exclusivists have done the major work in crafting affords everyone but the Germans the service of taking them off the hook. The Germans must bear “the burden of guilt,” not only for their perpetration of the Holocaust, but for all genocide.76 That’s a heavy load, and an obviously unfair one, although I personally have a hard time feeling sorry for them on this score since they’ve done and are still doing so much to deserve the weight they’re carrying. Besides, they’re compensated rather well for carrying it. So it’s not unfairness to Germany that’s problematic; it’s the exemption of other perpetrator countries from bearing the same burden. And that’s exactly why Holocaust uniqueness/Jewish exclusivism has found such resonance among the world’s ruling elites that it has been embraced as a matter of Official Truth.
Official Truth. Once again, I should note that I’m not overstating things for effect. Consider the arrangement between the governments of Israel and Turkey, wherein the Turks will deliver in their schools a curriculum in which children are instructed that the Holocaust, or the Jewish aspect of it at any rate, was history’s only “true” genocide. In exchange, Israeli school children are instructed to believe that the Turkish extermination campaign directed against Armenians from 1914 through 1918 was not genocide. When Armenian Americans approached the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum with the idea of observing a day of commemoration for the million-plus victims of the Armenian genocide, both governments, Turkish and Israeli, intervened with the board to protest.77 And so, of course, the commemoration—which is to say, the public education aspects of any such proceeding—never occurred. Now that’s pretty damned official, wouldn’t you say?
So was the policy of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1990-91, when it was soliciting proposals for public education projects it could fund as part of the planned national celebration of the Columbian Quincentennial in the U.S. The evaluation procedure began with a screening where any proposal in which the word “genocide” appeared was simply removed from further consideration. There’s a delicious little irony involved in this one because it turned out that a bunch of proposals for projects designed to prove that genocide is not an appropriate descriptor of either the “initial encounter” or “Columbian legacy” were arbitrarily weeded out, merely for having mentioned the word. People are always shocked when I mention this one, but I don’t know why. The NEH policy in this case wasn’t especially different from that embodied in the accreditation “standards” imposed with respect to the teaching of history in every public school in the United States. Japan notoriously excludes information concerning its atrocities in China and elsewhere during the 1930s and ‘40s from its public school curricula,78 but, in that, one can find little difference from how the U.S. excludes information about what was and is being done to American Indians.
While we’re on the topic of official truth, has anyone considered the implications of there being a museum memorializing the Holocaust in Washington, D.C., and none for the American Indians who were by all accounts eradicated as part of the process of forming this country? And none memorializing the institution of slavery? I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a Holocaust museum. Actually, I think there should, and that it should include Gypsies on an absolutely equal footing with Jews,79 that Slavs should be included as well, and that it should serve as the sponsoring vehicle for commemorating genocides other than the Holocaust (that of the Armenians being only one example).80 But my point is that an institutionalized focusing of the public gaze on a genocide or genocides occurring half-a-world away, meanwhile remaining silent about the holocausts that occurred here, adds up to a calculated diversion of attention. And it doesn’t redeem the situation a bit to observe that the Holocaust museum is only quasi-official. The vacuum against which it’s balanced is very official.
I don’t want to be accused of leftwing bias here, especially since I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a leftist, so I’ll note that the record in the socialist countries has been no better. Not “worse,” mind you, but no better. The Large Soviet Encyclopedia, for instance, defined genocide as “an offshoot of decaying capitalism.”81 All the stuff Stalin did to the Ukrainians and others during the collectivization drives of the 1930s was officially described as “criminal”—Khrushchev announced it as such during the mid-50s—but never as genocide.82 That remained by official designation a peculiarly nazi crime. And China? I’ve got a hot news flash for anybody who’s sporting a “Free Tibet” sticker on your bumper. There are a few dozen other nationalities subsumed in what used to be called “Red China,” all of whom are in as bad or worse shape than the Tibetans, and the fact that none of them happens to have developed a spiritual tradition appealing to the Naropa Institute doesn’t make them any less worthy of notice.83
I’d like to build on Santayana a bit. If “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it,” as he observed, then what are we to say of those who are prevented from learning it in the first place? Worse still, how about those force-fed a false history? Being denied the ability to recognize genocides past translates into an inability to recognize genocides present. Inability to recognize the phenomenon for what it is precludes the ability to combat it effectively, and that, in turn, paves the way for future perpetration.84 So, the official silencing and deformation of history we’ve been discussing is not motivated simply by elite desires to infuse the body politic with properly triumphalist outlooks. It’s motivated even more strongly by the desire of those same elites to preserve genocide as a viable policy option, even while they outlaw it in a formal sense and indulge in the loftiest rhetoric condemning it. The way in which the United States recently purported to have finally ratified the 1948 Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, meanwhile attaching a “sovereignty package” in which it claimed the “right” to be self-exempting from compliance, is a perfect illustration.85
I want to return to Deborah Lipstadt’s book, or at least the first half of it, the part I said I considered in some respects brilliant. Early on, she makes the point that Holocaust denial does not begin with denial, per se. Rather, she says, it begins with what she refers to as “minimization.” The minimizers’ strategy is based on three main considerations. First, quantity counts, in terms of psychological impact. It’s irrational but true that the larger the scale of an atrocity, the greater its effect on public consciousness, even though, qualitatively, it may be identical to things that happen on a smaller scale. The second point is that the minimization strategy is gradual. By taking things a step at a time, you can lead people along at a manageable pace, planting doubts about the accuracy and integrity of standard data, undermining the basis of responsible Holocaust interpretation and thereby creating a certain receptivity to “alternative interpretations.” Now combine these two things?a greatly reduced bodycount and the space in which to advance interpretations ?and you end up with the third, which is a basis upon which to try and explain the whole thing away. In other words, as they put it in U.S. foreign policy circles, “plausible denial.”
Now let me pose a question. How many Indians were there in North America the day that lost Italian seaman washed up on a beach in the Caribbean, half a world away from where he thought he was, and got himself known as the “Great Navigator” ever since? What I was taught is that in the whole continent north of the Río Grande, including Greenland, there were one million people in 1492.86 It’s worth noting that the official estimate was doubled a few years ago, and that there are a few daring souls in the Smithsonian-sanctioned milieu of “responsible” scholars who are even hinting that there were as many as three million,87 but the one million figure constituted Official Truth from the early-30s till the mid-80s, and, needless to say, there are a lot of “experts” out there who cling to it still.88
A word about why I connect the Smithsonian Institution to Official Truth. Let’s begin with the fact that it’s a taxpayer-funded enterprise administered under the central government of the United States. Its purpose is to serve as the ultimate authority on historical/anthropological matters. It’s the source to which the government itself turns when questions come up along this line; it maintains the database from which all accredited school texts derive; it’s the most convenient locus of information for reporters and other media “researchers” to turn to when they need quick, succinct answers (which is the only variety they’re ever interested in anyway). Ask a question, get an instant answer: How many Indians were there?—One million; Where did they come from?—Across the Bering Strait land bridge; When did they come?—15,000 years ago (plus or minus 15 minutes); How did they live?—They were squalid Stone Age hunter-gatherers wandering nomadically about the landscape at the bare margins of subsistence, waiting hopefully, millennium after millennium, for Europeans to show up and improve their quality of life.89
The main reason Smithsonian interpretations are touted as being so credible is that they are supposed to be completely science-driven.90 With that in mind, we’d do well to interrogate the sort of science underpinning the famous one million estimate of precolumbian population in North America. I’m going to cut to the chase right now. There is none. For those of you interested in the details, see the chapter titled “Widowed Land” in Francis Jennings’ The Invasion of America.91 He runs it down in excruciating detail. But, basically the story is that the first wave of Euroamerican historians sanitized the record by halving the total numbers of Indians initially reported by the incoming settlers in each of the Atlantic Coast colonies. The next wave then cut the “estimates” of their predecessors, and so on. This had happened five times, I think, by the late 19th century, so that if the original reports were that the colonists had counted, say, 200,000 Indians in the area of Massachusetts in 1620, that count had been arbitrarily cut to 100,000 a generation later, and 50,000 a generation after that. By the time you arrive at the end of the process, you’re measuring Indians by the handful.91
Enter now American anthropology in the form of James Mooney, who sets out at the turn of the century to make an overall estimate of the number of Indians living in North America in 1492. How does he go about it? He extracts the demographic estimates from each of the then-current U.S. regional histories, arranges them in a neat little column, and adds them up. The sum came to a little over one million, so that’s what he advanced as his estimate.92 Mooney then died, and Alfred Kroeber, heir apparent as dean of Americanist anthropologists, took issue with the estimate because he considered it too high. Kroeber very publicly insisted that Mooney’s numbers should be reduced by ten percent across the board, to total a little under a million,93 and this presented the Smithsonian with a dilemma. Here they had a much-revered and recently-deceased anthropological “giant” positing one number, and his replacement positing another. How untidy. So the institution resolved the matter by simply splitting the difference between the two.94 Scientific?
Now let’s have a look at the results that accrue when somebody does adhere to a scientific approach. First, here’s the method. It was developed during the early-60s by a group of nonanthropologists at U/Cal Berkeley—mainly Woodrow Borah and Sherburne Cook, but Carl Sauer weighed in as well—who were interested in the size of the Mesoamerican population at the time Cortés showed up. They took the Spanish records concerning the amount of acreage the native people had under cultivation at the time the first conquistador arrived, and combined that with crop types, which were also recorded. Then they added meteorological records over a ten-year period, and from that they computed an average gross annual yield of agricultural foodstuffs. Since the quantity of those foodstuffs necessary to sustain an average human being for a year is known, all they had to do then was divide the gross yield by the individual nutritional requirement, and they had a pretty solid estimate of agricultural carrying capacity. Expand that by the quantitative protein inputs from livestock, fishing, hunting, aquaculture, and so on, and you have a reasonable population estimate.95 It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s obviously a lot more scientific than arbitrarily slicing archival estimates in half time after time, until they “sound right.”
In fact, Borah and Cook correlated the results of their computations with the relevant archival documents in central Mexico—mission records concerning births, deaths and baptisms, for example—and determined that their estimates were much closer to the counts discernible in the original material than to what was being put out as Official Truth, circa 1970. What was their estimate? That there were about 25 million Mesoamerican Indians in 1530, which is about five times what the Smithsonian was claiming as a “maximum.”96 It’s worth noting that they followed up by using the same methods to recompute the estimates of the indigenous population of Española in 1492—the Smithsonian had it pegged at some ridiculous number like 45,000—and came up with as many as 8 million people on that one island.97 During the ‘70s, Henry Dobyns applied the Borah/Cook method to analyzing the Timucuan population of the Florida panhandle region. What he came up with was around 800,000 people for the year 1500.98 He then started crunching numbers for other regions. In his book, Their Number Become Thinned (1983), he advanced a “maximal population estimate” for preinvasion North America of 18.5 million.99
There’s one more researcher worth mentioning here, a Cherokee demographer named Russell Thornton. He looked at Dobyns’ estimates and more-or-less said, “Great. That’s how many people could have been here, but I’m more interested in how many people there most likely were.” So, beginning in the mid-80s, he reworked Dobyns’ calculations, using “mediators”—his operating assumption was that cultural factors would have served in virtually every case to keep native population at a level well below carrying capacity—and ended up with a “probable” preinvasion population for North America of 12.5 million.100 Anyway, where we end up here is with a science-driven set of estimates ranging from 12.5 to 18.5 million.
I’m not really in a position to determine, between Dobyns and Thornton, who’s closer to correct. But I do have a pretty solid precedent for how you’re supposed to go about resolving such questions in the United States. Let’s just split the difference and call it “science.” Absent a lot more evidentiary material, or access to H.G. Wells’ time machine so that we can go back and do a headcount, that’s probably as close as we can come to accuracy. This is why I use 15 million as a working number these days, along with David Stannard, Kirkpatrick Sale and others.101 The Smithsonian of course describes such estimates as “controversial”102—unlike the vacuousness of its own preposterously low count—but it’s precisely the weight of evidence deployed by the “dissidents” that has finally forced first a doubling, and now apparently an incipient tripling, in the number conceded as Official Truth.
The implications of this should be rather obvious, but let’s break a few things out anyway, just to make sure they’re clear. In 1890, the U.S. conducted a complete census of American Indians for the first time. I can take issue with the way the count was made because the U.S. rather than Indians decided who qualified as an Indian, but for our purposes here we can simply accept the total, which came to a little over 237,000, as correct.103 And, for reasons of arithmetical convenience, let’s round the number upwards to a quarter-million. Now, take the standard one million estimate of preinvasion native population size and juxtapose it to the quarter-million survivors, and what do you get? A population decline of 75 percent?staggering in its own right. There was a poster, popular in the mid-60s, pointing out that that’s a reduction as severe as even the highest estimate of Jewish population loss during the Holocaust.104 By Hilberg’s calculation, the loss to European Jews was more like two-thirds of their population, or about half the worldwide Jewish population.105 With North American Indians, it’s important to remember that what we’re talking about is the worldwide population, and 75 percent is an absolute low estimate.
What happens when you shift to the Smithsonian’s newly- proffered estimate of two million? The percentage of decline, measured against the 1890 census count, goes up to 87.5. At three million, which is the estimate presently being enshrined as Official Truth, it reaches the low-90s. By the time you get into the science-driven stuff, it doesn’t really matter whose data you use, you still end up in the upper 90th percentile range. If you go with Dobyns’ maximal estimate, the population reduction is 99 percent. If you go with Thornton’s much more conservative number, it’s 96 percent. If you’re a nice middle of the road kind of guy like myself and elect to split the difference, you end up with a reduction of 97.5 percent. I find this last number very instructive, and obviously not just because I prefer moderation in all things. No, it’s because there’s a caveat in the 1890 census report, observing that within the U.S. portion of North America, all of which was in the possession of native people when the invasion began, circa 1600, only about 2.5 percent of the land remained in Indian hands as of the time the report was prepared.106 So, there you have: 97.5 percent of the native population is gone and 97.5 percent of the native land went right along with it. I submit that it’s impossible to attain a closer statistical correlation than that.
I think the correlation has remarkable explanatory power because of the way it connects effect and cause in relation to the American Indian population collapse. It goes like this: People weren’t getting on boats in Liverpool and Bristol and wherever else they were coming from for the specific purpose of killing Indians. Oh, there may have been a few who did—there’s a certain number of outright psychopaths in any group—but the vast majority were coming for land, or in some cases the resources in the land—gold, silver and such—which amounts to the same thing, because you’ve got to have the land in order to get to the resources within it. And it didn’t take them long to figure out that, contrary to the myth of terra nullius—the fable that North America mostly consisted of “vacant land” open for harmless taking—there were a lot of Indians here.107 So, to get the land, they had to get rid of the Indians. It was really that simple.
Various expedients were attempted towards this end. Indians were forever being pushed “beyond the frontier” into areas the incoming settlers… You know, I’m tired of that euphemism when it’s used in this context; these people weren’t settlers, they were invaders, pure and simple. I mean, they weren’t “settling” anything because the land was already settled. They came in and set up shop on preexisting native town sites, took over fields already under cultivation, utilized preexisting native road networks… The nazis’ Office of Race and Resettlement—that’s actually what they called it—employed exactly the same euphemism—”settlers”—to describe the “ethnic Germans” who took over Polish farmsteads during World War II.108 The U.S. had a formal policy during the 1830s to “remove” all Indians east of the Mississippi and dump them in the West, in what Zebulon Pike had described as a “Great American Desert,” land at the time deemed useless to “civilized” people. It’s interesting, given the rationale employed, that the people thus disposed of consisted mainly of members of the so-called Five Civilized Tribes—Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws and Seminoles—of the Southeast.109
So forced relocation was tried on a mass scale, and other means were tried, but the upshot was that the rapaciousness for land on the part of the invaders was such that, in the end, there was no place left to push the Indians. The invaders, in effect, wanted it all, announcing in fact that it was their “Manifest Destiny”—a divine right, in other words—to possess it.110 And so the native population had to be drastically reduced; Indians had to be liquidated. I’ve radically altered the chronology here—liquidation was occurring right along—but I’ve done so in order to emphasize a direct correspondence between U.S. Indian policy during the 19th century and nazi policy in eastern Europe a half-century later.111
The nazis’ “Generalplan Ost,” as they termed it, called for the “clearing” of vast expanses of the western USSR—primarily the Ukrainian “breadbasket,” but most of Byelorussia as well—of its resident Slavic population, and “resettlement” of the whole area with ethnic Germans. “Superior breeding stock,” as the latter were sometimes described in internal documents. As for the Slavs, as many as 30 million were to be pushed beyond the furthest boundary of German expansion. Another 30 million or so were to be liquidated, a lot of them by a combination of wartime attrition and direct killing, the remainder through a combination of slave labor, starvation and epidemic disease.112 Raphaël Lemkin described this last as the imposition of “slow death measures,” no different in their effect from the direct killing methods applied by the nazis’ Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units) against the Jews and Gypsies.113 So much for the distinction Steven Katz, Yehuda Bauer and other exclusivists have sought to draw (in trying to disallow the Slavs from sufferance of genocide) between being pressed into slave labor and being killed immediately. A lot of Jews were worked to death,114 while whole Slavic peoples—the Slovenes, for example—were marked for more immediate and direct means of eradication.115 Far more important than the techniques employed in accomplishing the goal, is the fact that the nazis intended all their victims to end up in the same place: Gone.
What I’m driving at, though, is that the whole process—using a combination of mass relocation and liquidation to clear conquered territory of its presumptively inferior population so that it can be completely repopulated by the presumptively superior conquerors— undertaken by the nazis in eastern Europe was, taking into account differences in the technology available to carry it out, pretty much identical to that undertaken by the U.S. with regard to American Indians. And this was no accident or coincidence. U.S. Indian policy and the concomitant articulation of Manifest Destiny doctrine served as templates upon which the Hitlerian “Lebensraumpolitik” was set forth and the Ostplan formulated. Think I’m exaggerating? Ask Adolf Hitler. It’s right there in Mein Kampf, when he discusses the need for Germany to have an empire and then rejects each of the “overseas” models developed by other European powers as being inappropriate for the new Reich he has in mind. He’s pretty explicit about his desire to create a copy of the “continental bloc” established by the U.S.116 He said to all intents and purposes that he viewed the Jews, the Gypsies and the Slavs as being just so many Indians, subject to extermination in the name of progress. Is there a reason not to believe he knew his own mind on the matter, and thus not to take him at his word?
It’s argued that the virulence of Hitler’s antisemitism, and that of the nazis more generally, was such that it stands apart from anything else in history. On what basis? Because Hitler referred to Jews as “filth”? Because Himmler referred to Jews as “lice,” and Goebbels commissioned films depicting Jews as rats and other vermin?117 All of that’s true, certainly, and the implications speak for themselves. But does anybody really believe it’s unique? Does anyone really want to try and explain to me—or better yet, a 6-year-old little Indian girl—how Hitler’s reference to Jewish “filth” is different from the scene in John Huston’s The Unforgiven, where the mother of Natalie Wood’s fiancé, upon discovering that Natalie may be of Kiowa “blood,” starts screaming at her that she’s a “squaw” because of the “red filth” flowing in her veins?118 You know what “squaw” means? Well, the little girl is apt to. It’s the Mohawk word for female genitalia.119 There’s an inventory of 2,000 Hollywood westerns and about 10,000 TV segments to work with here.120 It’s true that John Huston wasn’t head of state when he made The Unforgiven, and neither was John Ford when he made The Searchers, but I seem to recall that both films won Academy Awards for best picture in the years they were released.121
You’d think, in the face of what I’ve been laying out, that somewhere along the line at least one of the major Jewish exclusivists might have had a revelatory experience and come to the conclusion that, “Oh my god, I’ve been wrong, we’ve got a lot in common with American Indians, and it would be in everybody’s interest, my own people’s most of all, if I were to use my standing as a recognized Holocaust scholar to point it out.” But it’s never happened. Not once, that I’m aware of. Quite the opposite. I was talking about silence a few minutes ago, and Lipstadt is a good example of it, but it’s more than that. Steven Katz, for instance, actually took time out from his busy schedule preparing The Holocaust in Historical Context to write a side essay, “The Pequot War Revisited,” in which he contended that the Pequot people of present-day Connecticut suffered “at most, cultural genocide,” because only half of them were physically exterminated during the 1637 “war” conducted against them. Moreover, he concludes, there are still a few people of Pequot descent alive today, so what happened “couldn’t” have added up to genocide.122
No, I’m not kidding. I really wish I were.
Katz was way low on the proportion of Pequots killed—Connec- ticut colony declared them officially extinct after the Mystic Massacre, in which about 800 were slaughtered in a single night123—but even if he weren’t, by his own estimate they suffered a proportional fatality rate only ten percent less than that of the Jews during the Holocaust. Should we therefore adduce that Jews, too, experienced “at most, cultural genocide”? That the Holocaust didn’t “really” add up to genocide because there are still “Jewish-descended individuals” like Katz himself living in places like Israel and New York? I’ll spare you my usual commentary about insanity, while nonetheless pointing out that this is an example of holocaust denial, actively so, no less callous than that spewed by the worst of the neonazis.
I want to move beyond the exclusivists themselves because in this connection they’re just support troops. The main weight of denial where Indians are concerned is carried by mainstream American historians, like James Axtell at the College of William and Mary, who’s considered the dean of U.S. “ethnohistorians.”124 He’s our David Irving, so to speak. Actually, we’ve got a bunch of Irving look-alikes operating in this area—try Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., managing to win a Pulitzer Prize with a biography of Andrew Jackson that never once mentions the “Trail of Tears,” that is, removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from the Southeast, which I highlighted earlier and which Jackson was instrumental in initiating;125 or Patricia Nelson Limerick’s writing a new, revised and very popular “history of the West” that avoids all reference to such uncomfortable events as major massacres.126 But I want to use Axtell as exemplar, partly because he is, and partly because I can do it anecdotally.
Before I go into the anecdote, however, I want to ask what an “ethnohistorian” is supposed to be. I mean what is “ethnohistory”? Sounds kind of exotic doesn’t it? But how do you distinguish it from “history,” per se? History, “real” history, is the history of Europe and its offshoots; white people’s history, as it were. “Ethnohistory,” then, is all the sideline stuff concerning everybody else. But, then, what does that imply? That white folks have no ethnicity? That the term “ethnicity” itself applies only to people with a certain melanin content, and is thus being used as a euphemism for “race”? If so, isn’t the whole procedure of prefixing certain disciplinary subparts with “ethno-” a covert racialist construction, and isn’t “racialist” just a polite way of saying “racist”?127 As for myself, I figure all history is ethnically-oriented, so, either you call the whole field “ethnohistory,” or none of it.
Anyway, Axtell is quite happy being described as an “ethnohistorical” heavy-hitter, and, it follows perhaps, he’s always been avid to utilize that peculiar standing in defense of orthodoxy, no matter how illogically. He ran around all over the country during the prelude to the Quin- centennial publicly bashing graduate students for using the term “genocidal” to describe the Columbian legacy, although he himself had already acknowledged five separate genocides as occurring in North America between 1630 and 1765. He was also prone to railing against comparisons of conquistadors to nazis because, in his words, “after all, the conquistadors were human beings and we need to understand them as such.”128 One can only wonder what he thinks the nazis were. Space men? Anyhow, needless to say, there were a few of us out there who were gunning for him in return, and Don Grinde, the Yamasee historian, and I finally caught up with him in public at the American Historical Association conference in 1993.
He was conducting a workshop for high school history teachers, running his usual line, when Grinde and I sauntered in and started popping inconvenient questions. Pretty soon, his face looked like a beet and we were embroiled in a demographic argument and the high school teachers’ eyes were getting real big. Finally, in sheer exasperation, he threw up his hands and said something to the effect of, “Fine. Just to end this damned argument, let’s say I accept your contention that there were 15 million people here when the first European arrived. It doesn’t matter. It still wasn’t genocide.” When I asked why, he replied, and this one I can quote verbatim, “Because no matter how many there were, 75 percent of them still died of disease.”129 Now, there’s Smithsonian-style “science” at its finest. He can’t tell you with any certainty how many there were, but he can tell you with precision what proportion died of what cause. This is the cornerstone denier’s position with regard to what I’m going to follow David Stannard and call the American Holocaust.130
Well, Grinde and I just glanced at each other and smiled, because we knew we had him. And Don says, “Okay Jim, just to be fair, let us accept that. So what?” Axtell gets all puffed up like he’s ready to accept another award and delivers his “crushing” blow, speaking as if he’s delivering a lecture to 4-year-olds. “Because nobody can be held responsible for the deaths attributable to disease,” he replies. Now’s my chance, so I say, “That’s funny. Something like half the victims of the Holocaust died of disease, and the Nuremberg Tribunal held that the nazis were as guilty in relation to those deaths as they were for those they shot, gassed and burned alive.”131 Now, he looks a little flustered. “That’s true,” he says, “and I agree with the decision, but you’re comparing apples and oranges.” He got a chorus on that one, not just Grinde and I, but some of the teachers joining in: “How’s that, Jim?”
“Because,” he responds, “whatever else can be said of the nazis, they were 20th century men. Even the guards in the camps, who were mostly uneducated, were aware of how disease is communicated. They knew they were forcing people to live under conditions where epidemics would run rampant, and so they were properly held accountable for the deaths that resulted. You simply can’t apply that standard to Columbus, or the conquistadors, or anyone, really, until the end of the 19th century. They had no idea what a microbe was, no scientific understanding of what was happening to the Indians. So, even though they brought in the microbes that caused mass death, they can’t be held accountable for it.132 And to argue otherwise, as you two are doing for your own obviously political reasons, is not to further historical understanding but to preclude it altogether.”
There it is in all its glory. The whole rap, succinctly framed, by which American historical orthodoxy has sought to make the virtual disappearance of North America’s indigenous population seem benign. An “inadvertent tragedy,” is the usual term deployed.133 Can you really buy that? Well, let’s interrogate it a little. Did Columbus, and the conquistadors, and the other Europeans importing pathogens to the New World understand the cause/effect relationship of their conduct, and can they therefore be legitimately seen as culpable? The answer is “absolutely.” How can I know this? Because, as any specialist like James Axtell knows perfectly well, they wrote it down, not once or twice or on occasion, but more-or-less continuously. It’s there in ships’ logs and the reports of expeditionary leaders, in official correspondence and private diaries, in clerical documents and published travelogues. Some bemoan it, others celebrate it, and most attribute it to intervention of the “Hand of God”; but they all agree on one thing: “We come, they die in huge numbers.”134 And what was their collective response to this understanding? Did they recoil in horror and say, “Wait a minute, we’ve got to halt the process, or at least slow it down until we can get a handle on how to prevent these effects”? Nope. Their response pretty much across-the-board was to accelerate their rate of arrival, and to spread out as much as was humanly possible.135
For anyone who might still find the situation too “ambiguous,” I’ll hand you the smoking gun. It comes in the form of an order written in 1763 by Lord Jeffrey Amherst, a ranking official in North America, to a colonel named Henry Bouquet. In it, Amherst instructs Bouquet to invite representatives of a multinational military alliance assembled by the Ottawa leader Pontiac to a peace parlay in the Ohio River Valley. Since the English were doing the asking, Amherst observed, frontier diplomatic protocol required that they bestow gifts upon the Indians who showed up. “Make these,” he instructed, “items taken from a small pox infirmary, in order”—and I’m quoting him directly—”in order that we may extirpate this execrable race.” A couple of weeks later, Bouquet writes back, saying that he’d done as he was instructed, distributing blankets, handkerchiefs and “other sundry items,” and that “hopefully, this will obtain the desired result.”136 It did. Even by the Smithsonian’s low count, somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 Indians died of smallpox over the next six months.137
There are a few items worthy of mention in this connection. First, Howard Peckham, longtime president of the American Historical Association, discovered the documents I’m referring to in the British Royal Archive during the mid-1930s, but then proceeded to sit on them for years.138 Second, the “incident” has been described as “history’s first documented instance of biological warfare.” That’s wrong on two counts. On the one hand, it’s well documented that Tamerlane was catapulting the bodies of plague victims into besieged cities in order to spread disease a full century before Columbus (which means that Columbus and his peers weren’t quite so ignorant of how disease is communicated as Axtell would have it).139 On the other, “war” is directed against combatants. Amherst said in so many words that his goal was to “extirpate the race .” So, what we actually have here is history’s first documented instance of genocide attempted by bacteriological means.
It’s important not to view what Amherst did as an isolated matter. It wasn’t. It’s simply the best documented. There are several earlier cases, one involving Captain John Smith of Pocahontas fame. There’s some pretty strong circumstantial evidence that Smith introduced smallpox among the Wampanoags as a means of clearing the way for the invaders.140 Over the next century, both the Pequot War and what’s called King Philip’s War were fought in the same area, at least in part because the Indians had become convinced—and, again, there’s evidence to support it—that the colonists were deliberately infecting them, using contaminated trade goods for the purpose.141
I don’t want to leave the impression that this sort of thing happened only in the Northeast, or only at the hands of the English. In 1836, at Fort Clark, on the upper Missouri River, the U.S. Army did the same thing as Amherst. It was considered desirable to eliminate the Mandans, who were serving as middlemen in the regional fur trade, and, by claiming a share of the profits in the process, diminishing the take of John Jacob Astor and other American businessmen. So the commander of Fort Clark had a boatload of blankets shipped upriver from a smallpox infirmary in St. Louis, with the idea of distributing them during a “friendship” parlay with the Mandans. There’s a bit of confusion as to whether they actually started passing them out, or whether some young Indian men “stole” a couple of blankets, but it really doesn’t matter, because the army was planning on distributing them anyway. Irrespective of the particulars in this regard, when the first Mandans began to display symptoms of the disease, they went straight to the post surgeon. They knew nothing about treating smallpox, but they’d heard about it and were terrified of it, and, since it was a white man’s disease, they went to the white doctor to find out what to do. What did he tell them? To scatter, to run for their lives, to seek shelter in the villages of healthy relatives as far away as possible.142
It follows that what might have been a localized epidemic—the Mandans were pretty much doomed the moment the smallpox broke out among them, but it might have ended with them—ends up a pandemic that rages for 15 years, from the Blackfeet confederation in southern Canada all the way down into Texas, killing who knows how many people. The Smithsonian acknowledges about 100,000 fatalities. Thornton suggests it may have been as many as 400,000.143 Whatever the number, it made the subsequent U.S. military conquest of the Great Plains region, which began in earnest about the time the pandemic was ending, a whole lot easier than it would otherwise have been. Of this, there can be no doubt. The fact that the army still had a tough time subduing the Lakotas, Cheyennes, Comanches and other peoples of the Plains is simply a testimony to how hard those peoples fought to preserve their ways of life, not that the effects of the disease were less than they were.144
The “Fort Clark episode,” as it’s often called, has always been passed off by mainstream historians as just another one of those “inadvertent tragedies.” There aren’t any documents as explicit in their expression of intent as there are in the Amherst case, so they very conveniently chalk it up to “ignorance” on the part of the officers involved, including the post surgeon. And it’s of course true that they weren’t yet acquainted with microbes, but let’s consider what they did know. Lady Mary Wortley Montague had introduced the principle of vaccination to England somewhere around 1715. By about 1750, the whole English army had been inoculated against smallpox—that’s what allowed Amherst to do what he did—and, by 1780, George Washington had ordered that his Continental Army be inoculated as well.145 So, unquestionably, the surgeon at Fort Clark was aware of the procedure. It had long since become standard. Indeed, a whole supply of vaccine, designated for inoculating Indians, was sitting in his store-room when the disease broke out. It had been there for several months, and there is no evidence that he’d ever tried to use it for its intended purpose.146 Both the surgeon and the post commander were also quite aware of the principle of quarantine. Quarantining people who’d come down with the pox had been standard medical practice for the better part of 50 years. All things considered, then, it seems to me you’d have to have undergone a lobotomy to actually believe that the surgeon’s telling the Mandans to “scatter” and “run for their lives” was either “accidental” or an “honest mistake.”
And this isn’t the end of it. Items appeared in the San Francisco press in the early 1850s indicating that the pox had been deliberately introduced among the Indians of northern California, and a decade later the papers in that city were still discussing the efficacy of “exterminating” Indians by disease.147 It’s their word, not mine. Later in the 19th century, there seems little question but that a group of traders did the same with the Carriers and other peoples in northern British Columbia.148 It continues right on into the early 20th century when it’s fairly clear that an epidemic was unleashed among the Dene of the Northwest Territories. At least no particular effort was made to provide medical treatment once the disease took hold.149 So what’s that come to? A dozen instances, including three that were hugely lethal, where it is either known, or where there’s very good reason to suspect, that disease was consciously and intentionally used to destroy native populations.150 There’s also a whole backdrop of discourse in which newspaper editors and the like are both celebrating what’s been done and arguing that there should be more of it. It’s in the face of this record—which is quite preliminary, very little research has been done as yet—that people like James Axtell persist in asserting that the erosion of native population through disease was “benign,” free of perpetrators, and that it “precludes proper historical understanding” to so much as suggest anything else.151 I don’t know how you define denial, but this works pretty well for me.
To understand why disease took such a toll, you really do have to look at the context, and that’s not just a matter of John Smith and Jeffrey Amherst and the officers at Fort Clark purposefully infecting Indians with deadly diseases. What happens when the Spanish open missions along the California coast and impress the local Indians to labor in the fields, working them 12, 14, sometimes 16 hours a day, six days a week—really grueling labor—and provide them a daily caloric intake about one-eighth that fed the average African chattel slave?152 No big surprise. The Indians weaken, sicken, and die. Just like the Jews who were used as slave laborers at the Dora plant, for example.153 Well, there is a difference: the Jewish dead get tallied into the toll of the Holocaust while the Indians get counted as part of the “inadvertent” toll attributed to disease and their own failure to have developed an immunity to it. What happens when the first batch of Indian slave laborers in the missions are dead? The priests send out the military to round up another batch, and the process is repeated. Just like the Jews, only for Indians it lasts, not for three or four years, but for generations.
What happens when you take an entire population—babies, old people, pregnant women, everybody—and force-march them at bayonet-point for about 1,500 miles, part of it in the dead of winter, without providing anything resembling adequate food, shelter, or medical support? That’s what they did to my mother’s people, the Cherokees, during the 1830s. A little over half of all Cherokees died during or as a direct result of the Trail of Tears, and all of those fatalities are chalked up to the supposedly “benign” categories of exposure and disease.154 Same for my father’s people, the Creeks, and the Seminoles as well; about half those who began the Trail never finished it. Choctaws and Chickasaws, died in a lesser proportions, but the principle was no different.155
Then there are the concentration camps into which Indians were herded for years on end. Hitler is supposed to have gotten the idea from British practice during the Boer War, but I’m not sure that that was his only source of inspiration. He was familiar with the main contours of U.S. Indian policy, after all, so it’s entirely possible he was aware of things like the Navajo experience at Bosque Redondo.156 It’s not much talked about in polite histories of the United States, but that was where the army interned the entire Navajo population for four years, from 1864 to 1868, right alongside old Fort Sumner, in New Mexico. The Navajos were literally living in holes in the ground. They were trying to subsist on the little bit of flour the army issued them, mixing it with water and making “soup” because they were completely unfamiliar with it. About half of all Navajos died during those four years, deaths for which I guess I’m supposed to conclude nobody was responsible because they’re attributable to disease.157 It’s worth mentioning in this connection that the death rates in some of the more notorious nazi camps like Dachau and Buchenwald were much lower than that prevailing at Bosque Redondo. Probably the worst of the nazi concentration camps—I’m talking about concentration camps, not extermination centers like Auschwitz and Sobibór, which comprise an entirely different category—was Mauthausen, and the rate there was less than 60 percent.158 In other words, the worst the nazis had to offer was no worse than what the U.S. did to the Navajos, and the Navajo example is hardly unique.
The point is, that the entire history of European/Euroamerican expansion in North America is made up of a process in which native peoples are systematically dislocated from their land bases, their economies obliterated, people continuously scattered as refugees, living under extreme stress and anxiety, hiding in the most barren regions or force-marched into internment centers, and on and on.
Now that we’ve disposed of the myth that the eradication of native population was all some sort of centuries-long “inadvertent tragedy,” a few words are in order about what it’s used by its proponents to divert attention away from. And that, sticking to Axtell’s premise that 75 percent of everybody who disappeared died of disease, is the one-quarter of those 15 million people who, even he concedes, died in other ways. That’s roughly 3.5 million corpses that have to be accounted for. And when you force the debate into this area, it’s pretty much agreed that they didn’t just die, they were killed outright and in some truly ugly ways. But still it’s argued that genocide is not an accurate word by which to describe what happened to them. Why? Because, it’s claimed, the killing did not occur within the framework of any officially-articulated policy of extermination.159 Can you believe it?
Well, on this score, let me start by saying just two words: “scalp bounties.” Every U.S. state and territory in the “Lower 48,” and every antecedent colony, whether it was English, French, Spanish or Dutch, had in place at one time or another, and usually for a very long time, an official policy whereby a bounty would be paid for proof of death of an Indian—any Indian—in the form of his or her scalp or, in some cases, their “bloody red skin.”160 That’s the origin of the term “redskin,” by the way—it’s not about complexion—so you can imagine how we feel—and, more importantly, how our kids feel—about the Washington “Redskins” football team.161
The way the bounties worked, generally speaking, was that you’d be paid a certain rate for the scalp of an adult male Indian, half that rate for the scalp of an adult female, and half that for the scalp of a child of either sex. A child was usually defined as an Indian under 10 years of age, including fetuses.162 Around 1700, Massachusetts Colony was paying £100 Sterling for the scalp of an adult male, and that was four times the annual income of an average farmer. So you end up with farmers shooting random Indians whenever they happen to pass by. And you also end up with a whole milieu of professional scalp hunters. The record is absolutely riddled with this sort of thing: John Sullivan’s troops returning from their 1779 campaign against the Senecas wearing Indian-skin leggings,163 William Henry Harrison’s men skinning Tecumseh to make “souvenirs” after they killed him at Tippecanoe in 1811,164 Andrew Jackson’s cutting off the noses of the dead at Horseshoe Bend,165 Chivington’s volunteers returning to Denver from Sand Creek with female genitalia stretched over their hats in 1864.166 The bounty on Indian scalps in Minnesota was $200 in 1863.167 In Texas, a bounty was first offered by the Spanish, then continued by Mexico, then continued by first the Republic, then the State of Texas, and not discontinued until the 1880s, when the legislature determined that there were no longer enough Indians left to warrant its continuation.168 In California, private citizens continued the bounty even after the state legislature repealed it.169
The bottom line isn’t how grisly it all was; it’s that the payment of scalp bounties conforms to even the most restrictive definition of genocidal policy, and that the policy was unequivocally official. The most unabashed deniers—and, again, James Axtell is one of them—have claimed that it still doesn’t add up to genocide because a bounty was never formally proclaimed by the central government in Washington, and because payment of the bounties wasn’t made from the federal treasury, but, even apart from the obvious “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” properties of the argument, it’s a pure subterfuge.170 The feds were in a lot of cases reimbursing the states for their expenditures in this connection, so it’s simply an accounting issue.171 Not only are the scalp bounties clinical proof that genocide was at the core U.S. Indian policy, the history they embody demonstrates rather compellingly that the Germans were by no means “unique” in treating genocide as a business.172
This, I think, is enough to make the case. But, if you need more, go back to Svaldi’s Sand Creek and the Rhetoric of Extermination. You’ll find that that particular massacre occurred in the context of an overall exterminatory policy publicly enunciated by Colorado Governor David Evans and parroted by every official and newspaper editor in the territory.173 You’ll also find ranking military commanders like successive Generals of the Army William Tecumseh Sherman and Phil Sheridan proclaiming “extermination” as the principle guiding their operations against Indians.174 And you’ll find an endless corroborating background chatter. These were the people in charge and their subordinates, so it’s fair to say that their utterances establish the policy framework in which we must understand the slaughters of native people at places like Sand Creek and the Bad Axe, Bear River, Horseshoe Bend, Blue River and the Washita and the Marias, Camp Robinson and Wounded Knee…175
Finally, those who wish to seek refuge from the truth in the fact that the de facto U.S. policy of genocide against Indians was never enshrined in a single, absolutely unambiguous policy statement by an American head of state, should be advised that Hitler never made one with regard to the Jews either.176 True, he alluded to it often enough, and in hindsight there’s no mistaking his meaning, but the fact is that there are a number of U.S. presidents who made statements much more straightforward than his. In truth, there is not one nazi policy or planning document which articulates the regime’s intent to physically exterminate the Jews. Not one. Not even the record of the famous Wannsee Conference in which it was decided to undertake “the final solution of the Jewish question.” Everything is couched in euphemisms like “resettlement” and “special treatment” and the like.177 It follows that if the evidentiary standard for assessing nazi culpability were set at the same level orthodox American historians have fixed it with regard to the U.S., nazi culpability would be equally “impossible to prove.” Perhaps more so. Yet, simply by juxtaposing their actions and their statements, anybody capable of tying their shoes without an instruction manual can decipher that what happened to the Jews at the hands of the nazis was genocide. It’s no different here.
I’m not saying that the historical genocide of American Indians was somehow “worse” than that of the Jews. I could, simply by turning the “logic” of Jewish exclusivist arguments around on them: Indians died in vastly greater numbers, our proportionate population loss was far more severe, the extermination processes to which we were subjected were much more sustained, and so on.178 But that would be as absurd as it would be insensitive and counterproductive. One genocide is neither worse nor “better” than another. And so I say only that the American Holocaust must be seen as occupying the same footing as the Jewish Holocaust, that it must be accorded equal weight, standing and significance.179 It’s the same argument I make with regard to the Gypsy Porrajmos. In neither case, Indians or Gypsies, do I request such recognition. I demand it. And, by the same token, I demand that those who deny genocide, whether it be the genocide of American Indians, or the genocide of the Gypsies, or the genocide of anyone else, be called by their right name. They are liars—holocaust deniers—nothing else, and they must be treated accordingly.
Why is this so important? I’d hope it were obvious, but let me spell it out. What is the phenomenon at issue here? Genocide. I think it’s safe to say that we all want it to stop. To stop it, we must first be able to define it, accurately and comprehensively. Denial serves to preclude, or at least retard, our collective ability to achieve either accuracy or comprehensiveness of definition. So, it’s part and parcel of what Eric Markusen and Robert Jay Lifton termed “the genocidal mentality,” that is, the attitude or complex of attitudes that makes genocide possible.180 To combat holocaust denial in any and all its myriad forms is thus to combat a concrete manifestation of genocide itself. And I can think of no more worthy effort than that. Can you?
1. Ward Churchill, A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present (San Francisco: City Lights, 1997).
2. An expanded version of the editorial appears under the title “Deconstructing the Columbus Myth: Was the ‘Great Discoverer’ Spanish or Italian, Nazi or Jew?” in A Little Matter of Genocide at pp. 81-96.
3. Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (New York: Free Press, 1993).
4. Ibid., p. 19. Lipstadt’s colleague, Lucy Dawidowicz, has described such comparisons as “vicious anti-Americanism”; Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The Holocaust and the Historians (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981) p. 17. For excellent summaries of the position thus described, see S.E. Anderson, The Black Holocaust for Beginners (New York: Writers & Readers, 1995); Seymour Drescher, “The Atlantic Slave Trade and the Holocaust: A Comparative Analysis, in Alan S. Rosenbaum, ed., Is the Holocaust Unique? Perspectives on Comparative Genocide (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996), pp. 65-85.
5. For a snapshot of what is being obscured, see Patrick Manning, “The Slave Trade: The Formal Demography of a Global System,” in Joseph E. Inikori and Stanley L. Engerman, eds., The Atlantic Slave Trade: Effects on Economies, Societies, and Peoples in Africa, the Americas, and Europe (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992), pp. 117-41.
6. Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust, pp. 213-4. For the actual argument advanced by those making the case on the implications of the U.S. internment program, see Roger Daniels, Concentration Camps USA: Japanese Americans and World War II (Hinsdale, IL: Dryden Press, 1971).
7. As SS General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski put it, “The fight against partisans was gradually used as an excuse to carry out other measures, such as the extermination of Jews and Gypsies”; quoted in Matthew Cooper, The Phantom War: The German Struggle Against Soviet Partisans, 1941-1944 (London: MacDonald & Janes, 1979), p. 57. Ironically, Lipstadt herself quotes Barnes to the same effect; Denying the Holocaust, pp. 78-9.
8. For comparisons, see as examples Richard Drinnon, Keeper of Concentration Camps: Dillon S. Myer and American Racism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), esp. pp. 6, 157, 273; Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, Inside and American Concentration Camp: Japanese American Resistance at Poston, Arizona (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1995), pp. xxi-xxiii. For a handy typology of camps, see Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Meridian Books, 1958), p. 445.
9. “[E]quivalent [to] being David Duke without his robes,” as she puts it; Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust, p. 215.
10. Steven T. Katz, The Holocaust in Historical Context, Vol. 1: The Holocaust and Mass Death Before the Modern Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
11. Katz claims that his “argument…disconfirms assertions [apparently including those of Raphaël Lemkin, who coined the term] that genocide was a common phenomenon in the ancient and medieval world. Judged against the major instances of oppression, violence, and mass murder in these earlier periods, the uniqueness of the Sho’ah [Holocaust] seems clearly established”; p. 20.
12. “The…now widespread…rewriting of American history as an instance of genocide” is covered at pp. 18, 20-1, 87-91.
13. “DEFINITION: The Holocaust is phenomenologically unique by virtue of the fact that never before has a state set out, as a matter of principle and actualized policy, to annihilate physically every man, woman, and child belonging to a specific people,” p. 29. Also see the section entitled “A Definition of Phenomenological Uniqueness”; pp. 58-62.
14. To Alexander, the Holocaust affords “a Jewish claim to a specific suffering that [is] of the ‘highest,’ the most distinguished grade available”; for others to compare their sufferings to those endured during the Holocaust is, he says, “to plunder the moral capital of the Jewish people”; Edward Alexander, “Stealing the Holocaust,” Midstream, Vol. 26, No. 9, 1980, p. 47; The Holocaust and the War of Ideas (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1994), p. 195. On the idea that this amounts to a sort of “extermination pride” translating into “privileged nation status” for Israel, see Phillip Lopate, “Resistance to the Holocaust,” in David Rosenberg, ed., Testimony: Contemporary Writers Make the Holocaust Personal (New York: Times Books, 1989), pp. 299-300.
15. Alexander’s position is consistent not only with Katz’s “phenomenological definition of genocide,” but also with Yehuda Bauer’s assertion that “to date,” actual genocide “has happened once, to the Jews under Nazism”; Bauer, The Holocaust in Historical Perspective (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978), p. 38.
16. Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia, 1941-1945 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1957), p. 247; Karl Dietrich Bracher, The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure and Effect of National Socialism (London: Thomson International, 1972), p. 424. More broadly, see Bryan Mark Rigg, Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002).
17. Documentary and Cultural Centre for Sintis and Roma, State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Memorial Book: The Gypsies at Auschwitz-Birkenau (Munich: K.G. Saur, 1993), p. xiv. An even clearer directive was issued in 1939 by Johannes Behrendt of the nazi Office of Racial Hygiene to the effect that, “all Gypsies should be treated as hereditarily sick: the only solution is elimination. The aim should therefore be the elimination without hesitation of this defective element of the population”; quoted in Bruno Müller-Hill, Murderous Science: Elimination by Scientific Selection of Jews, Gypsies, and Others, 1933-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 58.
18. Louis Snyder, Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (New York: Paragon House, 1989).
19. Ian Hancock, “Responses to the Porrajmos: The Romani Holocaust,” in Rosenbaum, Is the Holocaust Unique?, p. 59.
20. The inclusion of Bauer’s 3.5 pages on Gypsies in the 2-volume, 2,000 page encyclopedia—devoted as they are to “proving” that “the fate of Gypsies was in line with Nazi thought as a whole; Gypsies were not Jews, and therefore it was not necessary to kill all of them”—comes to less than a quarter of one percent of the total; Israel Gutman, ed., Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (New York: Macmillan, 1990).
21. Margaret Stapinska, “Nameless, Stateless, Endless Victims,” Yorkshire Post, Jan. 25, 1995.
22. See generally, Donald Kendrick and Grattan Puxton, Gypsies under the Swastika (Hatfield, UK: Gypsy Research Centre/University of Hertfordshire Press, 1995).
23. Steven Kinzer, “Germany Cracks Down: Gypsies Come First,” New York Times, Sept. 27, 1992.
24. Martin A. Lee, The Beast Reawakens (Boston: Little, Brown, 1997), esp. pp. 272-81.
25. Sandor Balogh, “Following in the Footsteps of the Ku Klux Klan: Anti-Gypsy Organization in Romania,” Nemzetközi Cigány Szövetség Bulletin, No. 5, 1993; Louise Branson, “Romanian Gypsies Being Terrorized,” San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 19, 1993. More broadly, see Paul Hockenos, Free to Hate: The Rise of the Right in Post-Communist Eastern Europe (New York: Routledge, 1993); on Gypsies, see esp. pp. 150-8, 201-7, 214-23, 227-8.
26. See Eva von Hase-Mihalik and Doris Kreuzkamp, Du kriegst auch einen schönen Wohnwagen: Zwangslager für Sinti und Roma während des National-Sozialismus in Frankfurt am Main (Frankfurt: Brandes & Apsel, 1990).
27. Lee, Beast Reawakens, pp. 290-6.
28. For background, see Michael Burleigh, Germany Turns Eastwards: A Study of Ostforschung in the Third Reich (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988).
29. A good overview is provided in Robert Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi Ideology (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1972).
30. Kinzer, “Germany Cracks Down” (n. 23).
31. See Moshe Zimmermann’s “Foreword” in Michael Stoelleis, The Law Under the Swastika: Studies on the Legal History of Nazi Germany (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), esp. pp. ix-x.
32. “[T]he novum that is the Endlösung [Final Solution] reveals the dark, eccentric essence of Nazism—its singularity as an historical phenomenon—as nothing else does”; Katz, Holocaust in Historical Context, p. 3.
33. This is readily evident in their choice of titles. As examples, see Paul Rassinier, Debunking the Holocaust Myth: A Study of the Nazi Concentration Camps and the Alleged Extermination of European Jewry (Torrance, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1978); Austin App, The Six Million Swindle: Blackmailing the German People for Hard Marks with Fabricated Corpses (Tacoma Park, MD: Noontide Press, 1974); Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry (Torrance, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1976).
34. On Nolte, see Charles S. Maier, The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust, and German National Identity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), esp. pp. 25-33; Richard J. Evans, In Hitler’s Shadow: West German Historians and the Attempt to Escape from the Nazi Past (New York: Pantheon, 1989), pp. 27-39, 80-9.
35. Christof Friedrich (Ernst Zundel) and Eric Thompson, The Hitler We Loved and Why (Reedy, WV: White Power Publications, 1978). David Irving’s major work is Hitler’s War (New York: Viking, 1977).
36. See, e.g., Katz, Holocaust in Historical Context, p. 131.
37. The arguments are summed by David Stannard in his “Uniqueness as Denial: The Politics of Holocaust Scholarship,” in Rosenbaum, Is the Holocaust Unique?, p. 190.
38. Butz, Hoax of the Twentieth Century; Robert Faurisson, “The Problem of the Gas Chambers,” Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1980.
39. “We emphasize [that genocidal killing is] one-sided to indicate that we are dealing with cases in which there is no reciprocity [emphasis original]”; Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn, History and Sociology of Genocide: Analyses and Case Studies (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990), p. 23. The absurdity of such a definition is evidenced by the fact that it would exclude even the Jews, insofar as they sometimes reciprocated nazi violence, from having suffered genocide; see Yehuda Bauer, “Jewish Resistance and Passivity in the Face of the Holocaust,” in François Furet, ed., Unanswered Questions: Nazi Germany and the Genocide of the Jews (New York: Schocken Books, 1989); Hermann Langbein, Against All Hope: Resistance in the Nazi Concentration Camps, 1938-1945 (New York: Continuum, 1996).
40. An Italian opinion poll conducted in 1992 revealed that 10 percent of the population believed the Holocaust never happened; Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Nov. 2, 4, 1992. See also Fritz Karmasin, Austrian Attitudes Towards Jews, Israel and the Holocaust (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1992).
41. See note 15.
42. This principle was famously explored by Frantz Fanon in the clinical reports appended to his Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1966). For a succinct summary of effects on Holocaust survivors, see Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (New York: Basic Books, 1997), pp. 84-95. Interesting parallels will be found in Ron Eyerman’s Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American Identity (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
43. One assumes that by choosing this obscure word, Katz means to convey the idea that the Holocaust, as he represents it, was something “new” and “singular,” e.g.: “This long and complex peregrination…allows me to conclude that the Sho’ah does represent a phenomenological and historical novum”; Holocaust in Historical Context , p. 24. His propensity to lard the vacuousness of his thesis with overblown and exotic vernacular may have undone him on this occasion, however, since the sole—singular?—definition of “novum” offered by the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language is, “An old game at dice played by five or six persons, the two principal throws being nine and five.”
44. Quite the contrary may be true. The Allied powers maintained notoriously strict barriers against Jewish immigration, before, during and after the Holocaust; see, e.g., Arthur D. Morse, While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy (New York: Random House, 1968); David S. Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945 (New York: Pantheon, 1984). Another strong indicator is that even though they were aware of the genocide being conducted there, neither Britain nor the U.S. was willing to “divert” so much as a single bomber to the task of impeding the delivery of Jews to Auschwitz or damaging the extermination facility itself. This remained true despite the fact that the RAF overflew both the railroad tracks leading to the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, and the death camp itself, en route to bombing the buna plant and other manufacturing facilities at Birkenau; see Martin Gilbert, “The Contemporary Case for the Feasibility of Bombing Auschwitz,” in Michael J. Neufeld and Michael Berenbaum, eds., The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It? (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), pp. 65-75.
45. “If certain acts and violations of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or Germany does them. We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we are not willing to have invoked against us”; quoted in Bertrand Russell, War Crimes in Vietnam (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1967), p. 125.
46. See Karl Jaspers, E.B. Ashton and Joseph W. Koterski, The Question of German Guilt (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002); Jörg Friedrich, “Nuremberg and the Germans,” in Belinda Cooper, ed., War Crimes: The Legacy of Nuremberg (New York: TV Books, 1999), pp. 87-106.
47. On Indochinese fatalities, see H. Bruce Franklin, Vietnam and Other American Fantasies (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000), p. 111. For a representative editorial—in which it is argued with astonishing frankness that “war crimes tribunals would be the worst thing that could happen, [because] they would amount to…a system of legal guilt for top [U.S.] officials” who violated international law—see Townsend Hoopes, “The Nuremberg Suggestion,” Washington Monthly, Jan. 1970.
48. With regard to American endorsement of such obligations for other people, consider the postwar valorization of the German officers who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler in June 1944; see, e.g., Giles MacDonogh, A Good German: A Biography of Adam von Trott zu Solz (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1992).
49. See, e.g., Telford Taylor, Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy (Chicago: Quadrangle, 1970). Also see Lawrence J. LeBlanc, The United States and the Genocide Convention (Chapel Hill, NC: Duke University Press, 1991), pp. 92-6, 182-3.
50. Jean-Paul Sartre, “On Genocide,” Ramparts, Feb. 1968.
51. For such qualified usage, see Chomsky’s For Reasons of State (New York: Vintage, 1973), among others.
52. Nothing demonstrates the self-serving nature of the antiwar movement better than the fact that. once military conscription of Americans was ended, mass opposition to what was happening in Indochina abated very rapidly. This is “explained” in a standard text as follows: “The decline of the movement was logical. The one focal point of [the late-60s]—the war—was over in 1973”; Terry H. Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties: Protest in America from Greensboro to Wounded Knee (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 409. The fact is, however, that the war did not “end in 1973,” but rather continued into 1975 on the basis of U.S. weapons, munitions and air support, claiming an ever-greater toll of Indochinese.
53. Max Elbaum, Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals turn to Lenin, Mao and Che (London: Verso, 2002).
54. See, e.g., Michael Albert’s What Is To Be Undone: A Modern Revolutionary Discussion of Classical Left Ideologies (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1974), esp. pp. 26-9.
55. Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman’s The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vol. II: After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology (Boston: South End Press, 1979).
56. Middle East Watch, Needless Deaths in the Gulf War: Civilian Casualties During the Air Campaign and Violations of the Laws of War (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991); Ramsey Clark and Others, War Crimes: A Report on U.S. War Crimes Against Iraq (Washington, D.C.: Maisonneuve Press, 1992).
57. Ramsey Clark, ed., The Impact of Sanctions on Iraq: The Children are Dying (Washington, D.C.: Maisonneuve Press, 1996);
58. Albright’s “worth the price” statement was aired on May 12, 1996; quoted in William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000), pp. 5-6. For other phrases used, see Noam Chomsky, “‘What We Say Goes’: The Middle East in the New World Order,” in Cynthia Peters, ed., Collateral Damage: The “New World Order” at Home and Abroad (Boston: South End Press, 1992), pp. 49-92.
59. Ramsey Clark et al., Challenge to Genocide: Let Iraq Live (Washington, D.C.: International Action Center, 1998).
60. See note 52.
61. John G. Taylor, Indonesia’s Forgotten War: The Hidden History of East Timor (London: Zed Books, 1991); Gérard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995); David Rieff, Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (New York: Touchstone, 1995). It should be noted that Steven Katz has gone on record dismissing the Bosnian genocide as a mere “population transfer supported by violence,” and that in Rwanda as simply a struggle for “tribal domination”; quoted in Liz McMillen, “The Uniqueness of the Holocaust,” Chronicle of Higher Education, June 22, 1994.
62. On the massacre of 240 Palestinians at the village of Deir-Yassin on Apr. 7, 1948, see Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 113-5.
63. See generally, J. Bowyer Bell, Terror Out of Zion: Irgun Zvai Leumi, Lehi, and the Palestine Underground, 1929-1949 (New York: Discus, 1977).
64. For a good chronology, see Kameel B. Nasr, Arab and Israeli Terrorism (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1997).
65. On Stern’s desire for an alliance with Italian fascism, see Joseph Heller, The Stern Gang: Ideology, Politics and Terror, 1940-1949 (London: Frank Cass, 1995), pp. 77-80. Also see the document reproduced in A. Amichal-Yeivin, In Purple: The Life of Yair—Avraham Stern (Tel Aviv: Hebrew University Press, 1968), p. 313.
66. On Shamir’s prominence in Lehi, see Heller, Stern Gang, esp. pp. 271-9.
67. On Begin’s role as head of Irgun after the death of the organization’s founder, David Raziel, see Saul Zadka, Blood in Zion: How the Jewish Guerrillas Drove the British Out of Palestine (London: Brassey’s, 1995).
68. On the founding of Likud, see Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000), p. 323.
69. Much of Sharon’s sordid history is proudly recounted in his memoirs, ghosted by David Chanoff; Warrior: The Autobiography of Ariel Sharon (London: Macdonald, 1989). See also Shlaim, Iron Wall.
70. On Ben Gurion’s territorial ambitions, see Avi Shlaim, “The Protocol of Sèvres, 1956: Anatomy of a War Plot,” International Affairs, Vol. 73, No. 3, 1997.
71. On Sharon’s overall performance in what he called his “big plan” for Lebanon—the military operation itself was dubbed “Peace for Galilee”—see Shlaim, Iron Wall, pp. 395-417.
72. For an unintended stirring of the U.S. version of this unsavory stew, see Deborah L. Madsen, American Exceptionalism (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1998).
73. Walter L. Adamson, Hegemony and Revolution: A Study of Antonio Gramsci’s Political and Cultural Theory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), pp. 170-9.
74. See the essay entitled “Cowboys and…” in Durham’s A Certain Lack of Coherence: Writings on Art and Cultural Politics (London: Kala Press, 1993), pp. 170-87. On the Lyotardian variants, see Bill Readings, Introducing Lyotard: Art and Politics (New York: Routledge, 1991), pp. 100, 117.
75. Even this is often not enough. Consider the subtitle of Taylor’s Nuremberg and Vietnam, in which the U.S. perpetration of genocide against the Indochinese is cast as a “tragedy” for the perpetrators rather than their victims.
76. Hannah Vogt, The Burden of Guilt: A Short History of Germany, 1914-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985).
77. Roger W. Smith, “Denial of the Armenian Genocide,” in Israel Charny, ed., Genocide: A Critical Biographic Review, 2 vols. (New York & London: Facts on File/Mansell, 1988) Vol. 2, pp. 63-85; Roger W. Smith, Eric Markusen and Robert Jay Lifton, “Professional Ethics and the Denial of the Armenian Genocide,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, No. 9, 1995, pp. 1-22; Yair Auron, The Banality of Indifference: Zionism and the Armenian Genocide (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2002), pp. 351-68.
78. Yuki Tanaka, Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998).
79. Hancock, “Responses to the Porrajmos” (n. 19), p. 55.
80. That museum officials are aware that inclusion of these other groups is warranted is evidenced in the nature of director Michael Berenbaum’s edited volume, A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis (New York: New York University Press, 1990), the content of which should be compared to that of his subsequent The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told by the American Holocaust Memorial Museum (Boston: Little, Brown, 1993).
81. The Large Soviet Encyclopedia (Moscow: State Publishing House, 1952), pp. 440-1.
82. Nicholai K. Deker and Andrei Lebed, Genocide in the USSR: Studies in Group Destruction (New York: Scarecrow Press, 1958).
83. Walker Connor, The National Question in Marxist-Leninist Theory and Strategy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), pp. 67-100.
84. This argument is made very well by the late Leo Kuper in his The Prevention of Genocide (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985).
85. See LeBlanc, United Sates and the Genocide Convention, pp. 222-34; the so-called Sovereignty Package appears as Appendix C, pp. 253-4.
86. A.L. Kroeber, Cultural and Natural Areas of Native North America (Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology XXXVIII, 1939), pp. 148-9.
87. The new orthodoxy was first enunciated by Douglas H. Ubelaker in his “Prehistoric New World Population Size: Historical Review and Current Appraisal of North American Estimates,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, No. 45, 1976. The number he eventually arrives at is precisely 2,171,125. The more daring 3 million estimate will be found in William H. Deneven’s “North American Indian Population Size: Changing Perspectives,” in John W. Verano and Douglas H. Ubelaker, eds., Disease and Demography in the Americas (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1992).
88. For a strong advocacy of the reactionary position, see David Henige, Numbers from Nowhere: The American Indian Contact Population Debate (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998).
89. For background, see David Hurst Thomas, Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Battle for Native American Identity (New York: Basic Books, 2000).
90. For critique, see Vine Deloria, Jr., Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact (New York: Scribner, 1995).
91. Francis Jennings assigns blame to the effects of “racist pseudoscience”; Jennings, The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism and the Cant of Conquest (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975), pp. 17-9.
92. James M. Mooney, The Aboriginal Population of America North of Mexico (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections LXXX, No. 7, Smithsonian Institution, 1928).
93. A.L. Kroeber, “Native American Population,” American Anthropologist, N.S., XXXVI, 1934.
94. Jennings, The Invasion of America, p. 19. See also Wilber R. Jacobs, “The Tip of the Iceberg: Precolumbian Demography and Some Implications for Revisionism,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., No. 31, 1974.
95. The method is explained most thoroughly in Henry F. Dobyns, “Estimating Aboriginal American Population: An Appraisal of Techniques and a New Hemispheric Estimate,” Current Anthropology, No. 7, 1966.
96. Sherburne F. Cook and Leslie B. Simpson, The Population of Mexico in the Sixteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Ibero-Americana, No. 31, 1948); Woodrow W. Borah and Sherburne F. Cook, The Aboriginal Population of Central Mexico on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest (Berkeley: University of California Ibero-American No. 43, 1963); Woodrow W. Borah and Sherburne F. Cook, “Conquest and Population: A Demographic Approach to Mexican History,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society , CXIII, 1969.
97. The estimate was included in Woodrow W. Borah, “America as Model: The Impact of European Expansion on the Non-European World,” Actas y Memorias, XXXV Congreso Internacional de Americanistas, Mexico, 1962: Vol. III (Mexico City: Editorial Libros de Mexico, 1964).
98. Dobyns’ adaptation of the Borah/Cook method is explained in his “Estimating Aboriginal American Population: An Appraisal of Techniques and a New Hemispheric Estimate,” Current Anthropology , No. 7, 1966.
99. Henry F. Dobyns, Their Number Become Thinned: Native American Population Dynamics in Eastern North America (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1983), pp. 34-45.
100. Thornton cites a figure of “at least” 9 million in his American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), pp. xvii, 242. The higher estimate is offered in his “American Indian Historical Demography: A Review essay with Suggestions for the Future,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, No. 3, 1979.
101. See, e.g., Kirkpatrick Sale, The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 316.
102. David Henige, “Their Numbers Become Thick: Native American Historical Demography as Expiation,” in James A. Clifford, ed., The Invented Indian: Cultural Fictions and Government Policies (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1990), pp. 169-91.
103. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930: The Indian Population of the United States and Alaska (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1937), esp. Table II, “Indian Population by Divisions and States, 1890-1930,” p. 3.
104. George Machiunas, “U.S.A. Surpasses All the Genocide Records!” in National Collection of Fine Arts, Images of an Era: The American Poster, 1945-75 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1975), p. 110.
105. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 3 vols. (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985), Vol. 3, pp. 1047-8, 1220.
106. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Report on Indians Taxed and Not Taxed (1890) (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1894), p. 17.
107. For explication of the myth and its effects, see Boyce Richardson, People of Terra Nullius: Betrayal and Rebirth of Aboriginal Canada (Vancouver/Seattle: Douglas & McIntyre/University of Washington Press, 1993). On the attendant legal doctrine of territorium res nullius, see the essay entitled “The Tragedy and the Travesty: The Subversion of Indigenous Sovereignty in North America,” in my Struggle for the Land: Native North American Resistance to Genocide, Ecocide and Colonization (Winnipeg: Arbiter Ring, [2nd ed.] 1999), pp. 45-50.
108. Probably the best overall study of nazi resettlement operations is Götz Aly’s “Final Solution”: Nazi Population Policy and the Murder of European Jews (London: Arnold, 1999).
109. Grant Foreman, Indian Removal: The Immigration of the Five Civilized Tribes (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953); Gloria Jahoda, The Trail of Tears: The Story of the Indian Removals (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1975).
110. Frederick Merk, Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History: A Reinterpretation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963); Reginald Horsman Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981).
111. This conjuncture of U.S. and nazi policy has occasionally been the topic of serious study; see, e.g., Frank Parella, Lebensraum and Manifest Destiny: A Comparative Study in the Justification of Expansionism (Washington, D.C.: M.A. Thesis, Dept. of International Affairs, Georgetown University, 1950).
112. According to 1941 nazi policy guidelines: “Many tens of millions of people will become superfluous in [the western USSR] and will die or have to immigrate to Siberia.” Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring summed this up as meaning that “This year, 20 to 30 million people in Russia will starve. Maybe this is a good thing, as certain peoples must be decimated”; quotes in Aly, “Final Solution,” p. 186. A detailed discussion will be found in “Der Generalplan Ost,” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, No. 6, 1958. More accessibly, see Dallin, German Rule in Russia, pp. 282-8.
113. Yitzak Arad et al., eds., The Einsatzgruppen Reports: Selections from the Dispatches of the Nazi Death Squads’ Campaign Against the Jews in Occupied Territories of the Soviet Union, July 1941-January 1943 (New York: Holocaust Library, 1989).
114. See generally, Peter Black, “Forced Labor in the Concentration Camps, 1942-1944,” in Berenbaum, Mosaic of Victims, pp. 46-63.
115. Raphaël Lemkin, in Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944), p. 82, quotes Hitler (Mein Kampf, p. 590) to the effect that the Poles, Slovenes and Serbs are to be totally eradicated. On the fate of the Serbs, see Christopher R. Browning, “Germans and Serbs: The Emergence of Antipartisan Operations in 1941,” and Menachem Shelah, “Genocide in Satellite Croatia during the Second World War,” both in Berenbaum, Mosaic of Victims, pp. 64-73, 74-9. On the Poles, see Richard C. Lukas, Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under Nazi Occupation, 1939-1944 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1986).
116. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939), pp. 403, 591; see also Hitler’s Secret Book (New York: Grove Press, 1961), pp. 46-52.
117. For the Himmler quote, see Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 1986) p. 477. On Goebbels’ production of such films as Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew) see David Stewart Hull, Film in the Third Reich (New York: Touchstone Books, 1973), esp. pp. 172-4.
118. The film is a somewhat sanitized rendering of a frankly genocidal novel, The Unforgiven (New York: Harper & Bros., 1957) by Alan LeMay.
119. Barbara Alice Mann, Iroqouian Women: The Gantowisas (New York: Peter Lang, 2000), p. 364.
120. See the essay entitled “Fantasies of the Master Race: The Stereotyping of American Indians in Film,” in my Fantasies of the Master Race: Literature, Cinema and the Colonization of American Indians (San Francisco: City Lights, [2nd ed.] 1998), pp. 167-224.
121. Interestingly, like The Unforgiven, John Ford’s The Searchers was based on an Alan LeMay novel of the same title (New York: Harper & Row, 1954).
122. Steven T. Katz, “The Pequot War Reconsidered,” New England Quarterly , No. 64, 1991.
123. See Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980), pp. 35-45.
124. Axtell’s books include The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnohistory of North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), After Columbus: Essays in the Ethnohistory of North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), and Beyond 1492: Encounters in Colonial North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). Washburn’s include The Indian in America (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1975), and Red Man’s Land. White Man’s Law: The Past and Present Status of the American Indian (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, [2nd ed.] 1995). He also edited the Handbook of the North American Indians, Vol. 4: History of Indian-White Relations (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988).
125. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Jackson (Boston: Little, Brown, 1988). This is roughly the equivalent of writing a biography of Adolf Hitler in which the Holocaust is never so much as passingly noted.
126. Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (New York: W.W. Norton, 1987).
127. Useful readings in these connections will be found in Ivan Hannaford’s Race: The History of an Idea in the West (Baltimore/Washington, D.C.: Johns Hopkins University Press/Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1996); John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith, eds., Ethnicity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
128. Lecture at the University of Florida, Apr. 1, 1991. The genocides acknowledged by Axtell include those of the Pequots (1637), the Mesquaki (otherwise known as the Fox; 1712-30), the Natchez and Yazoos (1729) and Jeffrey Amherst’s “extirpation” of the Ottawas and other peoples in the Ohio River Valley (1763). Indeed, he has recognized that “campaigns of genocide” were “frequent” in Europe’s American colonies; Axtell, After Columbus, p. 243.
129. This is standard; see Ann F. Ramenofsky, Vectors of Death: The Archaeology of European Contact (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987); Daniel T. Reff, Disease, Depopulation, and Culture Change in New Spain, 1518-1764 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1991); John W. Verano and Douglas H. Ubelaker, Disease and Demography in the Americas (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1992).
130. David E. Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).
131. To be accurate, culpability was assigned under the rubric of “crimes against humanity” rather than genocide. For delineation of the classifications of criminal activity under which the Nuremberg defendants were tried, see Agreement for the Prosecution and Punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European Axis Powers and Charter of the International Military Tribunal (“Four Power Agreement,” 59 Stat. 1544, 82 U.N.T.S. 279, Sept. 10, 1945) in Burns H. Weston et al., eds., Basic Documents in International Law and World Order (St. Paul, MN: West, 1990), pp. 138-9.
132. It is precisely this line of reasoning that allows Katz to argue that, “The native peoples died primarily because of pandemics against which there was no protection. Nature, not malice, was the main cause of the massive, incomprehensible devastation”; Holocaust in Historical Context, p. 20.
133. “Very probably the greatest demographic disaster in history, the depopulation of the New World, for all its terror and death, was largely an unintended tragedy, a tragedy that occurred despite the sincere and indisputable desire of the Europeans to keep the Indian population alive [emphasis original]”; Katz, Holocaust in Historical Context, p. 20.
134. See, e.g., Nobel David Cook, and W. George Lovell, eds., “Secret Judgements of God”: Old World Disease in Colonial Spanish America (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992).
135. For a good overview, see J.H. Parry, The Age of Reconnaissance: Discovery, Exploration and Settlement, 1450-1650 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963).
136. The quotes will be found in E. Wagner Stearn and Allen E. Stearn, The Effects of Smallpox on the Destiny of the American Indian (Boston: Bruce Humphries, 1945), pp. 44-5.
137. Ibid., p. 49.
138. According to Donald Grinde, Peckham revealed the existence of the Amherst documents only when they were independently discovered by Allen Stearn. At that, the implications are noticeably downplayed in Peckham’s Pontiac and the Indian Uprising (New York: Russell & Russell, 1970).
139. Robert O’Connell, Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons, and Aggression (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 171.
140. Neal Salisbury, Manitou and Providence: Europeans, Indians and the Making of New England, 1500-1643 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 96-101.
141. Jennings, Invasion of America, pp. 207-8, 298-302.
142. Stearn and Stearn, Effects of Smallpox, pp. 89-94.
143. Thornton, American Indian Holocaust and Survival, pp. 94-5.
144. For background, see Ralph K. Andrist, The Long Death: The Last Days of the Plains Indian (New York: Macmillan, 1964); Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970).
145. Jonathan B. Tucker, Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001), pp. 16-22.
146. Evan S. Connell, Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Big Horn (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1984), pp. 15-6. The matter of the vaccine’s being readily available but not administered is doubly important since, true to form, Katz has used the 1833 announcement of a federal policy “requiring” inoculation of Indians as “proof” that, far from using bacteriological means to destroy them, the U.S. was doing everything possible to prevent the outbreak of epidemics; Steven T. Katz, “The Uniqueness of the Holocaust: The Historical Dimension,” in Rosenbaum, Is the Holocaust Unique?, p. 21.
147. “Exciting News From Tehema—Indian Thefts—Terrible Vengeance of the Whites,” Daily Alta California, Mar. 6, 1853; “Indian Butcheries in California,” San Francisco Bulletin, July 10, 1860; both excerpted in Robert F. Heizer, ed., The Destruction of California Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993),
pp. 251, 253-5.
148. Peter McNair et al., The Legacy: Tradition and Innovation in Northwest Coast Indian Art (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1984), p. 24.
149. Verbal account by Sharon H. Venne, chief negotiator for the Dene.
150. Even some rather staunch apologists for the status quo have lately begun to admit that “the history of the western hemisphere has a few examples of whites deliberately releasing the [smallpox] virus among Indians”; R.G. Robertson, Rotting Face: Smallpox and the American Indian (Caldwell, ID: Caxton, 2001),
151. “The…problem with ‘genocide’ as a description of, or even analogy to, the post-Columbian loss of Indian life is that the moral onus it tries to place on European colonists, equating them with the Nazi S.S., is largely misdirected and inappropriate… [We] make a hash of our historical judgements because we continue to feel guilty about the real or imagined sins of our fathers and forefathers and people to whom we have no relation whatsoever… [We] can stop flogging ourselves with our ‘imperialistic’ origins and tarring ourselves with the broad brush of ‘genocide.’ As a huge nation of law and order and increasingly refined sensibility, we are not guilty of murdering Indian women and babies, of branding slaves on the forehead, or of claiming any real estate in the world we happen to fancy”; Axtell, Beyond 1492, pp. 262-3.
152. On the caloric allotment to Indians in the missions—from 700 to 1000 per day—see Sherburne F. Cook, Indians versus the Spanish Mission (Berkeley: University of California Ibero-American No. 21, 1943), p. 37, Table 2. On African chattel slaves—4200 to 5400 per day for field hands—see Richard Sutch, “The Care and Feeding of Slaves,” in Paul A. David et al., Reckoning with Slavery: A Critical Study in the Quantitative History of American Negro Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976). It should be noted that about 700 calories per day, about the same as that received by “missionized” Indians, were allotted to prisoners in the nazis’ notorious Buchenwald concentration camp; David Hurst Hackett, ed., The Buchenwald Report (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995), p. 7.
153. On Dora, see Black, “Forced Labor in the Concentration Camps” (n. 114), p. 57.
154. Russell Thornton, The Cherokees: A Population History (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), pp. 75-7. Also see Jahoda, Trail of Tears; Thurman Wilkins, Cherokee Tragedy: The Ridge Family and the Destruction of a People (New York: Macmillan, 1970).
155. Russell Thornton, “Cherokee Population Losses During the Trail of Tears: A New Perspective and a New Estimate,” Ethnohistory, No. 31, 1984, p. 293. Also see Arthur H. DeRosier, Jr., The Removal of the Choctaw Indians (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1970); Michael D. Green, The Politics of Indian Removal: Creek Government and Society in Crisis (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982).
156. “Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he said, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for Indians in the Wild West; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination—by starvation and uneven combat—of the red savages”; John Toland, Adolf Hitler (New York: Doubleday, 1976), p. 802.
157. Roberto Mario Salmon, “The Disease Complaint at Bosque Redondo (1864-1868),” Indian Historian, No. 9, 1976; Gerald Thompson, The Army and the Navajo: The Bosque Redondo Reservation Experiment, 1863-1868 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1982).
158. The actual rates were 58% at Mauthausen, 36% at Dachau, and 19% at Buchenwald; Michael Burleigh, Ethics and Extermination: Reflections on the Nazi Genocide (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 210-1.
159. “[T]he U.S. government never undertook a general campaign, never articulated a comprehensive policy, aimed at the eradication of the Indian [emphasis original]”; Katz, Holocaust in Historical Context , p. 21.
160. The term “redskin” comes from a 1755 proclamation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony wherein a bounty was offered for proof-of-death of Indians in the form of their heads, scalps or “bloody red skins”; Susan Lobos and Steve Talbot, eds., Native American Voices: A Reader (New York: Longman, 1998), p. 176.
161. See C. Richard King and Charles Fruehling Springwood, eds., Team Spirits: The Native American Mascots Controversy (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001).
162. Henry J. Young, “A Note on Scalp Bounties in Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvanian History, No. 24, 1957. The actual rate paid in Massachusetts was £100 for a man’s scalp, £40 for a woman’s and £20 for a child’s, so the tally on scalping a pregnant woman and her fetus came to £60; Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, 21 vols. (Boston: State of Massachusetts Historical Society, 1869-1922), Vol. 1, pp. 175-6, 594. See also Ian K. Steele, Warpaths: Invasions of North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), p 142.
163. Anthony Wallace, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970), pp. 141-4. The same practice prevailed among the rangers fighting Shawnees and other peoples in Ohio; Allan W. Eckert, That Dark and Bloody River: Chronicles of the Ohio River Valley (New York: Bantam, 1995), p. 359.
164. John Sugden, Tecumseh’s Last Stand (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), p. 180.
165. Stannard, American Holocaust, p. 121.
166. See the appendix to Stan Hoig, The Sand Creek Massacre (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961).
167. Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, pp. 63-4. The same premium prevailed in the Dakota Territory, where General Alfred Sully had his headquarters decorated with the skulls of slain Lakotas; Edward Lazarus, Black Hills, White Justice: The Sioux Nation versus The United States, 1775 to the Present (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), p. 29.
168. Texas paid more than 8,000 scalp bounties between 1858 and 1878 alone; W.W. Newcomb, Jr., The Indians of Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961).
169. “A new plan has been adopted by our neighbors to chastise the Indians… Some men have been hired to hunt them, who are to be compensated by receiving so much for each scalp… The money has been made up by subscription”; Maryville (CA) Weekly Express, Apr. 16, 1859.
170. Axtell’s tactic is to divert attention from the issue of scalp bounties altogether, seeking instead to “prove” that Indians invented the practice and therefore bear responsibility for it; see the essays entitled “The Unkindest Cut, or Who Invented Scalping?” and “Scalping: The Ethnohistory of a Moral Question,” both in his The European and the Indian, pp. 16-35, 207-41.
171. This was readily encompassed within the arrangement by which the federal government subsidized the states for purposes of their maintaining local militias; see, e.g., Henry Knox, “A Plan for the General Arrangement of the Militia of the United States” (1790), in Walter Lowrie and Matthew Clarke, eds., American State Papers: Military Affairs (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1832), pp. 6-13.
172. For critique of the notion that the “industrial” nature of the nazi approach to extermination renders it unique, see the chapter entitled “A ‘political economy of the Final Solution’? Reflections on Modernity, Historians and the Holocaust,” in Burleigh, Ethics and Extermination, pp. 169-82.
173. The title of an editorial written by Rocky Mountain News publisher William N. Byers on Apr. 1, 1864 was simply “Exterminate Them”; he therein advocated “extermination of the Indian…as the most effective method for life and security.” There is much more; David Svaldi, Sand Creek and the Rhetoric of Extermination: A Case Study in Indian-White Relations (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1989).
174. Sheridan’s 1869 observation that the only good Indians he’d encountered were dead ones, enshrined in Americana as “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” speaks for itself. So should Sherman’s view, expressed in 1866, that his troops should “act with vindictive earnestness against the [Indians], even to their extermination, men, women, and children.” On Sheridan’s statement, see Paul Andrew Hutton, Phil Sheridan and His Army (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985), p. 180; on Sherman’s, see Alan Axelrod, Chronicle of the Indian Wars from Colonial Times to Wounded Knee (New York: Prentice Hall, 1993), p. 203.
175. For full documentation on these and other massacres, see A Little Matter of Genocide, pp. 129-288.
176. “There are no written records of what took place between Hitler, Himmler, and Heydrich concerning the Final Solution, and none of them survived to testify after the war. Therefore, the decision-making process at the center must be reconstructed by the historian, who extrapolates from events, documents, and testimony originating outside the inner circle; Christopher R. Browning, The Fateful Months: Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985), pp. 13-4. Also see Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982).
177. A reproduction and translation of the Wannsee Protocol appears in John Mendelson and Donald S. Detwiler, eds., The Holocaust: Selected Documents (New York: Garland, 1982), pp. 22-5. There is no reference to killing, extermination, or anything comparable. For a carefully argued assessment of the implications, see Browning, Fateful Months, pp. 8-38.
178. David Moshman makes this point rather solidly in his essay, “Conceptual Restraints on Thinking About Genocide,” Journal of Genocide Research, Vol. 3, No. 3, 2001, at p. 436.
179. In this sense, my position is quite similar to that taken by nonexclusivist Jewish scholars such as Israel Charny, Phillip Lopate and Arno J. Mayer. See, e.g., Charny’s “Toward a Generic Definition of Genocide,” in George J. Andreopoulos, ed., Genocide: Conceptual and Historical Dimensions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), esp. pp. 72, 91-2; Lopate’s “Resistance to the Holocaust” (n. 14), esp. p. 292; and Mayer’s Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? The “Final Solution” in History (New York: Pantheon, [2nd ed.] 1990), esp. pp. 6, 17.
180. Robert Jay Lifton and Eric Markusen, The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocaust and Nuclear Threat (New York: Basic Books, 1988).