The Washington-Israel Brouhaha

The Washington-Israel Brouhaha

Part I: The Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

A brouhahah is building up steam as we approach Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled 3rd of March address to both houses of Congress in response to the 21 January invitation of U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader, John Boehner (with the concurrence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but NOT the Democrats in either the House or Senate, who were not informed about the invitation). Bibi is scheduled to address Capitol Hill in a joint session of Congress on the subject of Iran. Boehner did not coordinate the visit with the White House in an alleged breach of protocol. On the basis of separation of powers, Boehner denied any protocol breach. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador, argued that proper protocol required Boehner to inform the White House, not Israel, and that is why he did not raise the issue with John Kerry in their two-hour meeting; that, he argued, would be truly “inappropriate.”

However, he said nothing about the accusation that he set in motion a precedent in inviting a foreign leader to interfere in American decision-making or in making Israel a partisan issue for the first time. As the debate over the invitation continues in Washington, the focus of the debate is really in Jerusalem over, in the first place, the impact of this dispute with Obama on the Israeli election, the impact of the dispute on Jerusalem-White House relations, the impact on relations with the American Jewish diaspora, which remains largely liberal but generally loyal, even if somewhat critical, of recent right-wing leaders in Israel, and, on a much deeper level, the extent to which Iran poses an existential threat for Israel, and, correspondingly, the way the Washington-Tehran nuclear negotiations will impact on Iran as a threat to Israel.

A parallel and seemingly unrelated imbroglio is taking place over the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman on 18 January in his Buenos Aires apartment. Nisman was the prosecutor who had been investigating the 1994 bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 people dead. At first reported as a suicide, that belief was undermined with the passing of each day. Iran is involved because Iran had not only been accused of orchestrating the bombing, but of seducing the current Argentinian government into a trade pact that entailed setting up a Truth Commission on the 1994 bombing, but doing so, not to uncover the truth, but to shunt it aside as well as the Interpol arrest warrants for those Iranians viewed as responsible for the attack. Iran is the lynch pin between the two controversies.

The impetus for the first controversy above is a deep division over President Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with Tehran and the negotiations over Iran’s capacity to build nuclear weapons. Bibi is being invited to undercut Obama’s Iran initiative and, explicitly, criticize the President’s major strategic initiative. Trying to go over the head of the president to influence U.S. foreign policy is a no-no for many, even those who do not support Obama’s outreach to Iran. Would you not be furious if you worked in the White House and once again be willing to depict Bibi as “chickenshit”? The Republicans have been determined to introduce and pass new sanctions on Iran. In his State of the Union address in January, Obama promised to veto the proposed Congressional sanctions legislation. One day after Obama’s State of the Union address, Boehmer issued the invitation to Bibi. Among the anti-Iran pieces of legislation being forged in Congress is at least one that is intended to be veto-proof in instigating further promised sanctions if Washington cannot reach an agreement with Tehran before the end of June. So the Bibi-Obama dispute is merely a proxy for the conflict over the negotiations with Iran.

This is the first of a four-part series of blogs dealing with the Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran quadrangle. It will focus on the U.S.-Israeli axis and be centered in Jerusalem. I will discuss the Iran-Argentina axis centered in Buenos Aries next followed by the seemingly unrelated Argentinian-Israeli axis. I will end with the Tehran-Washington axis focused specifically on the nuclear negotiations that will be used to resolve the conundrums raised in the previous three analyses.

Iran ———2———–Argentina

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-4-                                   -3-

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U.S ———-1———–Israel

A central issue in Washington is how Bibi’s visit and how the Republican initiative will affect the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, though Obama offered as his reason for his unwillingness to meet with Netanyahu the proximity of the impending Israeli elections scheduled for 17 March. For Boehner, “There’s a message that the American people need to hear and I think he (Netanyahu) is the perfect person to deliver it…The threat of radical Islamic terrorism is a real threat. The threat of Iran to the region and the rest of the world is a real threat and I believe the American people are interested in hearing this.”

But that is not the primary issue for Israelis. In the opening to his blog yesterday morning, Rabbi Dow Marmur posed the question in a way that gave his position away. “Iran does indeed constitute a major threat to the existence of Israel. Both the pronouncements of many of its leaders and the actions of its stooges Hezbollah and Hamas point to it. It’s, therefore, not surprising that Prime Minister Netanyahu should want to alert the world to that danger and, at the same time, rightly stress that Israel is by no means the only country at risk from Iran. But a much greater threat than Iran is a rupture in the relationship between the United States of America and the State of Israel.” (my italics)

If Iran is only a major threat, then the relationship between Jerusalem and the White House ranks higher than depicting that existential threat. Further, a deep breach with Washington is “the much greater threat” for it could lead to a rupture in U.S.-Israeli relations. Of course, liberals and Democrats see the acceptance of the invitation as prioritizing Netanyahu’s domestic political interests over Israel’s relationship with the United States. Most Democrats, even Nancy Pelosi, will not boycott the speech lest they undercut even in a small way their domestic supporters, but their resentment will remain palpable.

Dow omitted, probably because he rations his words in his blogs, the consequences on Jewish diaspora-Israeli relations, for, as the Israeli consul generals in the U.S. all warned the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, fierce negative reactions can be expected to the speech from U.S. Jewish communities and many Israeli allies, including even right-wing Republicans who may agree with Bibi’s take on Iran, but are upset about the intervention of a foreign political leader in American debates over policy.

Israel has been warned of this danger by the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, by many American Jews, including 7 Jewish members of Congress, and by other Israelis. On the one hand, it is totally apparent that the Iran engagement by the White House is the central plank in Obama’s foreign policy during his second term. In the fading hope that Netanyahu will change his mind about visiting Washington, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador in Washington, and the casino tycoon, Sheldon Adelson, are painted as the two evil masterminds “misleading” Netanyahu. (Dow’s words) This is only slightly different than Tom Friedman’s portrait of the four horseman of the apocalypse – Boehner, Bibi, Dermer and Adelson – as equally insensitive and mindblind, though not villainous. “Netanyahu; his ambassador; the pro-Israel lobby Aipac; Sheldon Adelson, the huge donor to Bibi and the G.O.P.; and Boehner all live in their own self-contained bubble.” Dow Marmur reduced Natenyahu’s status in service to his own hopes.

This portrait is consistent with American public opinion that 59% of voters expect little from the Republican-dominated Congress. Dow, by contrast, paints Netanyahu as a patsy in the hands of the partnership of an Israeli diplomat and an American tycoon. Netanyahu is not only a patsy, but a cynic willing to sell his country’s future relations with Washington down the drain just to win an election: “not losing the election may be more important to him than the future of the country and the wellbeing of its citizens.” As Nancy Pelosi suggested, the exploitation of congress as a political tool for Israeli domestic politics is scandalous. This interpretation is consistent with Michael Oren’s, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington and no bleeding-heart liberal. Thus, Dow can only fall back on his old bromide of “hope” to save the situation.

But what if Bibi’s effort is his last hurrah, his final effort to sabotage the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations that he deeply believes will endanger the future of Israel? It may be an exercise in courage – or, perhaps, rashness – in his willingness to face the stormy blowback from his decision to come and refusal to back off. Such an approach is consistent with an ambition to win the next election on 17 March because he also believes he is the only one with the talent, experience and commitment to ensure Israel’s survival in the face of its greatest danger. He needs desperately to outshine his rivals on the right. One does not have to agree with either Netanyahu’s self-appraisal or his depiction of the danger facing Israel to suggest his actions may not be that of a cynic. His position may be incorrect, but it does reverberate with many Israelis who share his fear of Tehran. Further, this self-portrayal, sincere I believe, may have the added value of distracting voters from his inadequacies as a Prime Minister.

I contend that the issue of Netanyahu’s visit is ultimately a distraction and side issue, hence the choice of the word “brouhaha” instead of “imbroglio.” It is a failure to analyze the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations correctly. For the Iranians and the White House are another duo married at the hip, with Iran determined not to provoke further sanctions from Washington while tamping down on any domestic opposition while Obama needs a deal, with Iran as his own (and only???) foreign policy legacy. If the Republicans torpedo the negotiations, then both Iran and Obama may fail, but both can blame Congress for that failure. And Netanyahu will rejoice in a victory that will be pyrrhic, since Israel will have to endure a very deep rupture with Washington. This is the gospel according to my rabbi and my dear friend.

In fact, the rupture is only really with the Obama administration. The schism has been very deep for a long time. The central issue, which Dow did not raise, is whether Bibi’s intention is to torpedo the deal (which is what I will suggest) or whether Bibi is merely trying to stiffen Obama’s spine so that the White House maintains a tough line in the negotiations. Dow’s analysis is incorrect because the diagnosis is inadequate. I will follow a circuitous route to establish that beginning with the characterization of Iran and its historic involvement in Argentina and the deep-seated anti-Semitism of the ayatollahs.

Let me make my position clear up front rather than forcing you to wait for the conclusion to know where I stand.

  1. Netanyahu may be a pragmatist, but he is not a cynic in this case; he sincerely believes that Iran is and will remain an existential threat to Israel; he sincerely believes that a negotiated nuclear deal is only of use to Iran as a mask for its strategic plans and intentions in the Middle East.
  2. Given that conviction, which runs contrary to the analyses of a great many current and retired major Israeli intelligence and military officers, any effort to disrupt the process, however much it may appear as irresponsible and disrespectful (Herzog’s depiction) of the American president, if not churlish, inappropriate, reckless and dangerous, is worth it no matter how much it ruffles the feathers of the White House.
  3. The relationship with the White House is a brouhaha rather than an imbroglio, a subtle but important distinction suggesting a temporary deepening of the rift between Netanyahu and Obama rather than a deep fissure between the American polity and Israel because of Israeli interference in American affairs; The issue, though certainly more serious, is more akin to disputes over Israeli-sponsored junkets for rabid gay-bashing evangelical Christians and democratic supporters of Israel. Though I agree that it would be preferable on a number of grounds that Netanyahu NOT go to Washington, I do not believe one whit in the thesis that Netanyahu’s initiative will seriously jeopardize U.S. long term support, goodwill and readiness to stand by Israel. As Nancy Pelosi herself said, all members of Congress place ties with Israel above any political differences of opinion, based on the two countries’ mutual respect for democratic values and the national security interests of the two. More specifically, the U.S. will continue in its efforts to stymie Palestinian initiatives at the UN and the ICC.
  4. There are many other countries with a deep interest in the outcome of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, not just Israel and Saudi Arabia, but the European states – Britain, France, Germany and Russia – that have been sponsors of the negotiations, but, for very different reasons, even countries like China, another sponsor, which has a strategic interest in Middle East stability as it strives to develop a 21st century Maritime Silk Road conjoined with a Silk Road economic belt in the region to create an economic corridor across Eurasia as a main objective in its One Belt, One Road strategy.
  5. Though initially I not only supported the effort of a breakout with Iran and thought there was more than a 50/50 chance the negotiations could succeed, now I am very dubious that a positive agreement will result. This will not be because of Republican sabotage but because the differences between Iran and the U.S. over the terms of the deal run too deep.

In summary, the term “brouhaha” is rooted in the French brouhaha, a corruption of Hebrew בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא; barúkh habá, “blessed is he who comes,” a greeting of welcome in Israel. A brouhaha is welcome rather than an imbroglio because it is only a state of social agitation in which a relatively minor incident has grown out of all proportion and articulated in a hysterical fashion. It is not a very difficult and possibly irresolvable imbroglio. The controversy and fuss will eventually prove to have been a tempest in a teapot, but a cover for the very serious issue that underlies it.

And it is to that very serious issue I must now turn, even if it is by a very circuitous route.

The BBC Documentary – Genocide Denial

The Rwandan Genocide Revisited:

Part V The BBC Documentary – Genocide Denial B

by

Howard Adelman

The BBC video is available at http://vimeo.com/107867605

Since genocide means the intention to wipe out and exterminate a specific group, if a very low calculation of the number of Tutsi who lived in Rwanda before the genocide is used as a base line, if only 40% of those were murdered, if only half or about 100,000 had been targeted specifically because they were Tutsi, if the killers themselves were motivated by retribution or pre-emptive actions to prevent their own slaughter, and if a far larger number of Hutu had been killed, especially if the numbers killed in the Congo are folded into the calculation, what justification can there be for labeling the slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda as genocide? This is the implication behind the calculation used in the documentary, even if no explicit denial of genocide was ever made by either the makers of the BBC documentary or the American academics. In fact, both affirmed that a genocide took place. But with such a low proportion of those killed were targeted Tutsi by executioners with extermination intent, if the killers targeted the significantly reduced numbers for other reasons than to engage in exterminating them all, what justification can there be for labeling the slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda as genocide? What rationale can there be for the concentrated attention the Rwanda genocide has received?

The BBC defended itself against the charge of genocide denial, not by any review of the evidence used in the documentary or any of the explicit and implicit argumentation, but by an insistence that the broadcaster had a duty and mandate “to investigate difficult and challenging subjects”. Their program, they argued, “was a valuable contribution to the understanding of the tragic history of the country and the region”.

I argue it was not a valuable contribution, if only because the investigation left out any of the evidence and arguments that could falsify its major thesis. As Karl Popper had argued, a proper investigation entails the appropriate effort to falsify one’s own proposition and not the singular advocacy of one interpretation. The program was an exercise in disinformation and a contribution to misunderstanding. Using the difficulty of the subject matter as a cover for a terribly flawed process is no excuse. Freedom of inquiry does not account for terribly sloppy research. The presentation was a travesty against objectivity. But did it constitute genocide-denial?

What are the characteristics of a genocide denier? I suggest at least the following two clear categories. There are those who deny the genocide took place at all, for example, the supporters of the Hutu extremists and their johnny-come-lately partners who argue that the genocide is a myth perpetrated by Paul Kagame and his acolytes in search of international sympathy to cover up their own crimes against humanity, and/or to solidify the power of and to acquire wealth for the RPF. There is a second category. Genocide deniers also include those who agree that Tutsi were targeted for killing, but argue so were Hutu, and many more of them; further the Tutsi who were killed were not murdered because of an intention to eliminate all Tutsi, but because those Tutsi were believed to be supporters of the enemy invading Tutsi-led fighting force at war with their own government and as a pre-emptive measure in the belief that, if the RPF won, they themselves would be slaughtered. Further, RPF troops were targeting Hutu and systematically slaughtering them.

Genocide deniers usually undercut their case by a number of conspiracy theories and blame the war in Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo as a plot of the American CIA in partnership with big capital like Barrick Gold and specific Israeli billionaires using America’s ally, President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda and his satrap, the Tutsi RPF, to gain control of the vast mineral wealth of the Congo. (See Robin Philpot’s book, Rwanda 94: Colonialism Dies Hard). Whatever the ills attributed to the so called genocidaires – such as calling the Tutsi inyenzi (cockroaches) – these are all libels and are really the creation of the Tutsi-led RPF.

One example of genocide denial in Toronto is allegedly the broadcast Rwanda 94 by the University of Toronto student radio station in April of 2013 of an interview with Robin Philpot. (Philpot was a graduate in English and History from the university.) Robin’s brother John Philpot, a Montreal lawyer, defended Jean-Paul Akayesu who had been accused of the crime of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda based in Arusha, Tanzania. When Robin Philpot ran for the Parti Québécois in the 2007 federal election, he was quoted in Le Devoir as saying, “In none of my writings have I denied that there were mass killings, some even of an ethnic character. However, I categorically reject the abusive use of the expression ‘genocide’.”

What about the category of those who concur that a significant number of those murdered, but still a very small minority, were Tutsi, and those Tutsi were deliberately targeted for murder because they were Tutsi, but the number killed was relatively small compared to the number of Hutu killed. This is the position of Robin Philpot. It happens also to be the position of the producer and director of the BBC documentary and the two American academics used in the program, Allan Stam and Christian Davenport. They affirm that a genocide took place. If they make such an affirmation, how can they be classified as deniers? It appears illogical. However, both the BBC director and host, as well as Stam and Davenport, minimize the numbers of Tutsi killed, especially in comparison to the very large numbers of Hutu killed by the Tutsi-led RPF and the current government of Rwanda.

The BBC broadcasters and American academics do not appear to be genocide deniers, but they are, at the very least, genocide minimalizers. And they put their position forth by using many of the same arguments, the same type of evidence, the same approach and the same illogic of the deniers. Like Philip Taylor who hosted Robin Philpot on his weekly University of Toronto radio show on CUIT, overwhelmingly, only people who support the denial thesis were used. In the Toronto case, direct witnesses, easily available in Toronto, were NOT interviewed, including General Romeo Dallaire, Major Brent Beardsley and Dr. James Orbinski. Nor were many others who were on the scene at the time or very soon after. Scholars – the vast majority critical of the BBC/Stam/Davenport thesis – were not interviewed in the BBC production, or, if interviewed, were excluded from the final product.

Even some of those interviewed, who are very critical of Paul Kagame and were recognized authorities on Rwanda, were not asked questions that could have queried the major thesis, or, if asked, their answers were not included in the broadcast. But Stam, and presumably Davenport, alluded to a prominent thesis of genocide deniers. Behind the war in Rwanda and then in the Congo is to be found the partnership of American and British imperial interests. The story of the genocide of a large number of Tutsi dead was a result of a cover-up that had been plotted by the Americans, allied with Uganda and Rwanda, in the determination to replace the French culture and French economic domination with an English-speaking American influenced culture. According to some genocide-deniers, General Romeo Dallaire was a CIA operative.

However, overlaps with deniers, revisionism, very questionable research and non-detached journalism does not constitute genocide denial. Nor are personal associations with figures accused of genocide denial. Stam and Davenport worked with Peter Erlinder (The Accidental Genocide, 2013), Director of the International Humanitarian Law Institute, who had been arrested and charged with genocide denial in Kigali. Erlinder was the defence attorney for a client accused of genocide. Erlinder’s help was used by Stam and Davenport to obtain maps showing the RPF and FAR positions during the war. With Erlinder’s aid, the American academics also obtained 12,000 witness statements. From that information they concluded that the FAR (presumably with the help of the Interahamwe) was responsible for most of those killed. “Our research showed the vast majority of the 1994 killing had been conducted by the FAR, the Interahamwe and their associates.” Could these be the words of a genocide denier?

However, they minimize the numbers of Tutsi killed for genocidal motives and maximize the numbers killed by the RPF. The evidence may be weak. The arguments may be illogical and fallacious. The presumptions may be false. And they may overlap with many of the propositions of deniers in arguing that the RPF played a significant “role” in the mass murders. But does that make them deniers?

Before I examine in detail the propositions, inferences, interpretations and evidence Stam and Davenport put forth for their case, I want to first examine the arguments for and against their being genocide deniers.
Neither Allan Stam nor Christian Davenport fit the general profile of a denier. They are not academic pretenders, but significant fixtures in the academic establishment. They are not zealots. They are much more careful than a Holocaust denier such as David Irving in their use of figures and use of words. They are certainly much more personable. Nor is there a record of either of them having associations with racists, anti-Semites or others guilty of group hatred. They have no known associations with extreme right-wing groups. They do not deny that a large number of Rwandans were killed or even that Tutsi were targeted in that killing. In fact, their research proves that the total numbers of those killed were larger than the original estimate of 800,000. They simply argue that most, indeed, the vast majority, of those murdered in Rwanda were Hutu. They have never been convicted of defaming the memory of the dead in Rwanda as David Irving, the most high profile Holocaust denier, was by Germany.

However, David Irving has been pronounced a Holocaust denier even though he is on record as saying, “I am absolutely without doubt that the Holocaust took place.” Similarly, Stam and Davenport are both adamant that a genocide took place in Rwanda, that is, that Tutsi were systematically slaughtered by extremist elements in Rwanda simply because they were Tutsi in an effort to exterminate all Tutsi in Rwanda, though that number is significantly reduced by subtracting the large number of Tutsi killed for other motives and fades into obscurity and significance relative to the large number of Hutu deaths. However, unlike David Irving who was barred from entering Australia, Austria, Canada and Germany, Stam and Davenport have only been barred from entry into Rwanda.

Tomorrow, I will deal with the question of whether Stam and Davenport are as guilty as David Irving was found to be by a British court, that is, of egregious inaccuracies, omissions, distortions and manipulating and misrepresenting historical and statistical data. But, for now, it is worthy to note that, in spite of significant differences, there are parallels between David Irving and the far more sophisticated, astute and persuasive American academics. David Irving, for example, pointed to an alliance of Winston Churchill and Chaim Weizmann in helping create the myth of the six million dead to cover up British crimes in places like Dresden and Zionist crimes in Palestine. The BBC documentary highlighted the friendship between British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Paul Kagame. Allan Stam implies that Samantha Power, Obama’s ambassador to the UN, and Susan Rice, his top security advisor in the current administration, were apologists for the RPF. Kagame was hailed by them as “the man who ended the Rwandan Genocide.”

In that revisionist version, President Bill Clinton did not send American troops to Rwanda to stop the genocide either because of a direct request or because of a threat to attack American peacekeepers if he did. Since our research, and that of many other scholars, dealt specifically with the motives for America’s wariness about intervening in Rwanda, I find this charge to be particularly offensive, not simply because it lies well outside of the overwhelming concentration of Stam/Davenport on the numbers killed in Rwanda and the way they were killed, but because they ignore all the arguments and evidence to the contrary that Astri Suhrke and I originally revealed. There is absolutely no indication that they even read that research. Stam and Davenport claim they went into their research with the conventional wisdom that there was a genocide in which the majority of those killed in Rwanda were Tutsi who were targeted in a genocidal operation. They claim that the evidence they collected forced that shift.

However, the shift is suspect on other grounds. David Irving was never a diehard Holocaust denier until 1988. His position also evolved. The real issue is whether the evidence collected forced the shift or whether the way they collected and analyzed the evidence was determined by a prior conviction. Certainly, like David Irving, they do present their case more as advocates for a particular position rather than as detached examiners of all the evidence, but that may be because presentations at such conferences require both terseness and comprehensiveness. (See the presentation Allan Stam gave entitled, “Coming to a New Understanding of the Rwanda Genocide,” at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, 18 February (2009 http://www.fordschool.umich.edu/news/evets/?event_id=154))

What surprised me most other than the sparse attendance was for his lecture – he is a marvelous presenter – is that no scholars were invited who could challenge his position, except perhaps Filip Reyntjens. But Reyntjens was invited to slam Paul Kagame and not to offer a critique of the Stam/Davenport thesis of which Reyntjens is very critical. Otherwise, other presenters, widely considered by many to be Rwanda genocide deniers without similar academic credentials, were invited to offer presentations.

I referred above to David Irving’s evolution into an absolute Holocaust denier in 1988. Irving then testified that only about 100,000 Jews had been killed as a result of genocidal action at the Ernst Zundel trial in Canada for disseminating neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial materials. Irving previously speculated in an interview in Australia just two years earlier that the number of Jewish victims could have been in the millions or just in the hundreds of thousands. So Stam and Davenport have, over the years, consistently revised their figures downward from 300,000-500,000 Tutsi killed in the Rwanda genocide, to 300,000, and then to 200,0000 of which only one hundred thousand or more (the same phrase Irving used) were killed as a result of genocidal targeted murders.

Just as David Irving made wide use of the totally discredited Leuchter Report, Stam and Davenport made use of the Gersony Report that they claim was suppressed by the UN (though very widely available) which the UN refused to allow to be formally published let alone with its stamp of approval. Again, like David Irving in his charges against Zionists and Jews, Stam and Davenport join with genocide deniers in the conviction that the myth of the 800,000 Tutsi killed along with moderate Hutu in the Rwanda genocide has been the result of a very well financed and brilliantly executed public relations campaign by the Kagame regime, even though Paul Kagame was only Vice-President of Rwanda when the very large team of which I was a member did our research. Stam and Davenport not only ignore all that research, but make assertions that are precisely contrary, libeling all of us, in the process, as lackeys of the Kagame publicity machine.

Further, just as David Irving argues that the courts after WWII represented victor’s justice rather than the detached and unbiased dispensation of international criminal law, the justice delivered by both the International Tribunal at Arusha in Tanzania and in the Gacaca courts within Rwanda stank of victor’s justice rather than impartial hearings of all those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In this narrative, the courts are simply the instruments of the dominant new powers in the area, America and Britain. These powers in concert with the government of Rwanda sought to perpetuate the myth of Paul Kagame as the country’s and the Tutsi’s savior. Kagame, in this narrative, was the one who finally stopped the genocide.

Some would argue that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. However, in spite of the large number of similarities with the best-known Holocaust denier, there are too many significant differences. An adjudication as to whether Stam and Davenport are genocide deniers must await my analysis of the conceptions, analogies, misrepresentation of the recent history of Rwanda and misuse of the data on the Rwandan genocide to allow us to better assess whether Allan Stam and Christian Davenport are genocide deniers or simply genocide minimizers.

The BBC Report: Genocide Denial – A

The Rwandan Genocide Revisited:
Part IV: The BBC Report – Genocide Denial – A

by

Howard Adelman

The BBC video is available at http://vimeo.com/107867605.

In a rare joint sitting of Rwanda’s two houses of parliament this past Thursday (23 October 2014), the legislators condemned the BBC for broadcasting the documentary accusing Kagame of both being a major cause of the Rwanda genocide and for being responsible for downing President Juvenal Habyarimana’s aircraft on 6 April 1994 when he was returning from the Tanzanian peace talks with the Tutsi RPF rebels. There, Habyarimana had finally agreed to implement the Arusha Peace Accords.

Parliament banned the BBC from Rwanda and accused the documentary makers of genocide denial, a charge which BBC, as expected, denied. Interestingly, Paul Kagame in an interview, at Chatham House after the BBC program was broadcast, did not at first appear to call for censorship of the BBC for its broadcast. Kagame said, “The BBC can say whatever they want to say. They don’t have to say or do, whatever they do or say, because that is right. They say or do whatever they say and do because they can.” Though to some he appeared to be defending BBC’s right to broadcast, he was actually asserting that what BBC broadcast was not right and the BBC only broadcast what it did because it could get away with it – with the implication that such behaviuor would not have been permitted in Rwanda.

While I am very critical of the documentary and see it as a very well-made piece of schlock with some very interesting interview segments, the producer and director are not guilty of genocide denial. But they come very close. A genuine case can be made that they crossed the line. It is not because of the accusations leveled against Paul Kagame. It is because of the way the program played with numbers.

Those killed in the genocide are generally believed to have been mostly members of the minority ethnic Tutsi group, though the slaughter included the killing of moderate Hutus as well as random killings for an assortment of reasons. The documentary, The Untold Story, interviews and endorses the views of a pair of US academics, Dr. Allan Stam, currently Dean at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, and Dr. Christian Davenport of the University of Michigan. (See their web site: http://genodynamics.weebly.com/) Stam was previously Director and a Professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Both are reputable and widely recognized as scholars.

That does not mean that all their work is excellent, though some certainly has been highly regarded. I met Allan Stam at the International Studies Association meeting in 2004 when he was awarded the Karl Deutsch Award for his scholarly contributions to that date on the origins of war and on democracies at war. The body of work did not include his research with Davenport on the Rwandan genocide, though his work had begun before that date and the year before he had received a National Science Foundation Grant to undertake research on “Mass Killing and Oases of Humanity: Understanding Rwandan Genocide and Resistance”. Thus far, none of the results have been published in either an academic journal or as a book, though publication in the near future has been promised. Given the sensation aroused by the BBC documentary, such a book could garner high sales as a trade rather than an academic publication.

Though not yet published, the data gathered and a number of relevant references, including criticisms of their work for the BBC and on the BBC documentary, have been included on their web site. They offer three reasons for their failure to publish after 14 years of work on the topic: 1) Their attempt to be as accurate as possible; 2) criticisms they encountered surprised them and set them back; 3) the fact that, nevertheless, they have posted their research online and in a transparent way. They should be congratulated for the latter; it makes it much easier to offer a critique. They include a very useful list of a large number of commentaries on the BBC broadcast. They do not offer the explanation offered by Filip Reyntjens (who is also used in the BBC documentary) that the research was too inadequate to be worthy of scholarly publication.

As far as the killers, Stam and Davenport reiterate that the murderers “were a group of extremist Hutu members of the Rwandan Armed Forces [the FAR], the Presidential Guard, national police, the ‘Zero Network death squads’ as well as affiliated militias: the Interahamwe and Impuzamuga.” Because I and most other scholars contend that the militias were primarily responsible for most of the actual killing, I use the simpler designation, the FAR and the Interahamwe militias whereas they refer to FAR+. The killers targeted Tutsi to exterminate them.

In the BBC documentary, and in their research, the controversy is about those killed not about the killers. The pair claimed that most of those killed were not Tutsi but Hutu. “(O)ur best estimate of who died during the 1994 massacre was, really, an educated guess based on an estimate of the number of Tutsi in the country at the outset of the war and the number who survived the war. Using a simple method —subtracting the survivors from the number of Tutsi residents at the outset of the violence — we arrived at an estimated total of somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 Tutsi victims. If we believe the estimate of close to 1 million total civilian deaths in the war and genocide, we are then left with between 500,000 and 700,000 Hutu deaths, and a best guess that the majority of victims were in fact Hutu, not Tutsi.”

If the hundreds of thousands of Hutu allegedly slaughtered by Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) which won the civil war both in Rwanda and, after the war, in the Congo, the implication is that the Akazu, the party intent on the extermination of the Tutsi, were but a pinprick in their slaughter of Tutsis compared to the massacres of Hutu committed by both the extremist Hutu Akazu and the predominantly Tutsi RPF. As Stam and Davenport claim. “there was clearly a genocidal campaign, directed to some degree by the Hutu government, resulting directly on the deaths of some 100,000 or more Tutsi.” (my italics)
The number of Tutsi was first said to be 300,000 to 500,000, then reduced to 300,000, and then to 200,000. Then the number of those deliberately killed by the Akazu was reduced to a guess of approximately 100,000. The last figure was offered without explanation, without an examination of the mass graves, without an examination of all the evidence that countered such a claim. This may not be genocide denial, but it is on the same plain as those who whittle the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust down to 1,000,000 to 1,200,000.
This is when the scholarship could be accused of crossing the line into denial. Over 460 graves with more than 20 in each grave does not support a thesis that 90% of those killed were not products of genocide. Stam and Davenport insist that the correct comparison is not the Holocaust but the civil wars in England, Greece, China and Russia where civil order broke down and ethnic-based violence took place combined with random rather than intentional slaughter. However, unlike those civil wars, and characteristic of Rwandan society in general, and in spite of the presence of extremism, civil order did not break down, even in the refugee camps.

The authors make numerous errors in their account, some of which I will enumerate at greater length tomorrow and the next day. As a single example of error, they are just incorrect that Romeo Dallaire claimed that the plan to exterminate the Tutsis had been hatched in 1988. No source is cited for such a claim. For good reason. Dallaire claimed that the genocide was planned two years before the actual mass slaughters occurred in 1994 and not two years before the invasion began in 1990. Trial runs of mass killings averaging 300 Tutsi took place over that two-year period. There is no evidence presented that the planning started six years before or that Dallaire made such a claim.
While Stam and Davenport may be stars in the quantitative world of current American political science, they are terribly inaccurate in their specific citations. Further, for those who claim that their research is “evidence-based”, where is the evidence that approximately 100,000 Tutsi were killed for genocidal reasons. That is not even a best or an educated guess. It is speculation based on whimsy. I cannot find a reasonable basis for such a calculation after several reviews of their documentation on their site.
Even Filip Reyntjens, who defended the BBC program in which he appeared and criticized its critics, wrote, “I do not need to dwell on the second claim considered untenable by the signatories (in a letter written by many experts criticizing the program). I agree with them that the figures provided by Professors Stam and Davenport on Tutsi and Hutu killed in 1994 do not appear to be based on solid research. At least the data they have published (not in a scientific journal or book, but merely on their website http://genodynamics.weebly.com) are insufficient to support their claim, which flirts with genocide minimisation or denial.”

However, let’s first examine the case they make. I will save the systematic rebuttal for two subsequent blogs. Stam and Davenport followed the lead of Alan Kuperman (now at the University of Texas in Austin who first gave his provocative paper as a young scholar at the 1998 or 1999 International Studies Association conference). Kuperman made a name for himself by attacking the position that the intervention of a peace force could have stopped the genocide. He did so by tracking the battles and showing that Tutsis were mostly slaughtered just before the RPF made significant advances. (See Alan Kuperman (2000) “Rwanda in Retrospect,” Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb.) As he wrote, “even a massive Western intervention could have saved only a quarter (around 125,000) of the Tutsi lives lost in the massacres.”

Note that he had concluded that 500,000 Tutsi had been killed in the genocide. But, as he argued, “Intervention may be better late than never, but it requires military effort on a scale and for a length of time that will make most developed countries’ military staffs and politicians blanch.” (See Alan Kuperman’s book published in 2001, Genocide in Rwanda; another scholar, Jeffrey Herbst in his essay “The Unanswered Question: Attempting to Explain the Rwandan Genocide,” used the same figure of 500,000 as the number of Tutsi killed by the genocidaires.)

Countering the claim that 5,000 U.N. troops could have halted the Rwandan genocide in its tracks is one thing. Alison Des Forges vigorously attacked Kuperman for his thesis in a subsequent issue of Foreign Affairs. She also challenged Kuperman’s claim that Clinton not only did not know of the genocide until two weeks later, but that he could not have known, a nonsensical claim as Des Forges made very clear. Such a mistake is common among academics. However, the Stam/Davenport claim that only about 100,000 Tutsi were targeted and killed for genocidal reasons is another order of error altogether.
The two American scholars do not use the usual tactic that the numbers slaughtered totaled far less. Even Alison Des Forges, one of the very early and extremely reputable scholars who documented the genocide, had insisted that the total number was 540,000 of whom an estimated 500,000 were Tutsi. However, at a meeting in Geneva attended by a number of scholars on the genocide, we reviewed the various figures and the evidence for them. We agreed at that time to use a figure of 800,000 as the most reasonable estimate of those killed. We did not distinguish between Tutsi and Hutu killed, but presumed from all our studies that the vast majority were Tutsi, the product of mixed marriages or moderate Hutu. The American scholars insisted that the overall number killed was slightly over a million, not 800,000. Further, and this is the controversial part, the vast majority were Hutu. Only 200,000 (at most 300,000, though at another point they said at most 500,000) of the one million death toll in Rwanda had been Tutsi and only half of that 200,000 had been killed in genocidal motivated slaughters.

The vast majority of Stam and Davenport’s statistical work was used to aggregate the total of one million and not disaggregate that total. The Rwandan government, as well as myself, agree with Stam and Davenport with the revision of the total upward. Subsequent to the Geneva meeting, Astri Suhrke and I reviewed our figures. Our estimates were based on mass grave sites and sample reviews of three sites and a very detailed counting at one site, the technical school in Butare where all those gathered at the school to flee the massacres were gathered, then slaughtered over a 3-4 day period. Over 17,000 killed were buried in one mass grave which had been dug by a contractor three weeks before the genocide commenced on 6 April 1994. The bodies were unearthed from that one mass grave not long before we visited the site and were laid out on the benches and tables of the school.

The most searing experience I had in conducting our study of the involvement of non-Rwandans in the killing was confirming the count. Because the bodies had been packed together so densely, they still had most of their flesh. The smell was overwhelming. A half-crazed woman wandered around the site, but at that time it was only managed by one person. An observer could even see how some were killed, especially women; long wooden spears had been stuck up their vaginas to penetrate their hearts.

I, for one, audited the official count of the bodies unearthed in that one grave by counting the bodies in four different school buildings. The official figures provided were accurate. When we audited two other killing sites, we came to concur with the government figure that over a million had been killed and began to use the figure of 800,000 to 1,000,000 as the number that were slaughtered. Fearing accusations of exaggeration, given the agreement we had made in Geneva, we did not simply use the one million figure. Further, we had never properly audited the total. But I was convinced that the revised government figure of over a million was the accurate one. The two Americans scholars agree. So I am pleased that Stam and Davenport concur that the total figure of those killed was over one million.

However, I am not pleased or at all persuaded by their disaggregation of that figure. Stam and Davenport claim that, “Essentially, research on the topic of Rwandan casualties has relied upon eye-witness testimony via survey, census and interviews.” What about the data from the mass grave counts? Even in the documentary, Jane Corbin uses the figure of 15,000 killed in the massacres at the school Murambi though official figures are much higher with estimates of 40,000 to 65,000. Wikipedia uses the highest figure. “On April 16, 1994, some 65,000 Tutsis ran to the school. After the victims were told to gather there, water was cut off and no food was available, so that the people were too weak to resist. After defending themselves for a few days using stones, the Tutsi were overrun on April 21. The French soldiers disappeared and the school was attacked by Hutu Interahamwe militiamen. Some 45,000 Tutsi were murdered at the school, and almost all of those who managed to escape were killed the next day when they tried to hide in a nearby church.”

It is not very important that Stam and Davenport ignore our scholarship since Astri and I were far more focused on the role of external actors. However, American anthropologists specializing on Rwanda, numerous historians and political scientists, particularly European ones, who are recognized authorities on Rwanda, are never cited and not even listed in their bibliography. But even if one simply adds up a few mass graves, the total easily far exceed a figure of 100,000 Tutsi killed through genocidal actions. Adding them all up leads to a figure of at least 500,000-700,000 Tutsi killed.

The Americans argued that large numbers of Hutu killed had been murdered for six different reasons. First, many members of the killing militias were non-locals who could not distinguish in many cases between a Hutu and a Tutsi, even if in his own district he could identify who was either a Tutsi, a Hutu, or, for that matter, a Twa, the tiny minority descended from the original inhabitants of the area. Secondly, the cover of war was used systematically using the mass killing to settle political, economic and personal scores. “(T)here was a large degree of random political violence taking place or what is referred to as ‘wilding’ (Fujii; Hatzfield). In this situation, ordinary/non-government affiliated Rwandans (both Hutu and Tutsi) squared off against other Rwandans (both Hutu and Tutsi) in an attempt to exact revenge for personal wrongs, financial gain or collective hatred – some ethnic, some political and some idiosyncratic in nature.” Third, many Hutu were killed who tried to protect or hide neighbours. In one case that I personally investigated, the body of a Tutsi killed by the militias had lain in the middle of the road for several days. A neighbour of the individual killed eventually went out to cover the body with an old coat. A member of the Interahamwe militia spotted him. That Hutu, appalled at the indignity of his neighbour left to rot in the middle of the road, was instantly killed. Fourth, many Hutu were simply killed in the fog of war. Fifth, moderate Hutus who were charged with supporting the RPF (and hence Tutsi rule according to the extremist ideology) were deliberately killed. Finally, the American scholars charged the RPF with killing large numbers of Hutu after they conquered a territory to impose their rule. This does not even include the number of Hutu killed in the Congo in the war that broke out there in 1996. Those estimates vary from 20,000 to 60,000.

I do not think that anyone disagrees with the classification of the reasons for those killed, but simply the distribution of the total numbers among those classes. The distribution Stam and Davenport arrived at just does not fit with what we observed, what we counted and what the vast majority of scholars have concluded who have studied the genocide. Their failure to question their own calculations adequately, their consistent insistence that is blind to their own fundamental errors, their seemingly unshakable belief that, through their quantitative analysis, they were correcting the errors of previous scholars, ended up producing results that were derided as genocide denial. Though that derision may be undeserved, it is understandable given the falsifications of the record resulting from their quantitative studies, about the disaggregation of those totals arrived at through inference, illogic and very questionable assumptions.

Part III The BBC Report – The Downing of Habyarimana’s Plane

The Rwandan Genocide Revisited:

Part III The BBC Report – The Downing of Habyarimana’s Plane

by

Howard Adelman

The BBC video is available at http://vimeo.com/107867605.

One of the most important parts of the BBC documentary is its account of the shooting down of President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane that triggered the genocide and massacres. The most outrageous claim that Jane Corbin makes in her BBC documentary on the Rwanda genocide is that President Paul Kagame of Rwanda was guilty of ordering the plane of President Habyarimana shot down on 6 April 1994 when the plane was returning to Kigali and on a flight path to land at the international airport. The plane was downed by two surface-to-air missiles. Since the downing of the plane triggered the killing of at least 800,000 moderate Hutus and Tutsis, therefore Kagame has to assume a good part of the responsibility for the genocide according to Kagame’s critics, who accuse him of responsibility for ordering the firing of the surface-to-air missiles. Even if Kagame did shoot down the plane, it is a very large and questionable leap to conclude that he shares a major responsibility for the genocide. I will deal with this extension of the accountability issue after I examine Jane Corbin’s evidence for and the evidence against her thesis that Kagame shot the plane down.

The claim is outrageous, not because it has not been made many times before, but, after all this time, the charges are repeated with precisely the same kind of slim evidence relying almost entirely on the testimony of dissident Rwandans, more recently by those who were once prominent in Kagame’s entourage and carry considerably more credibility. They include: key former high officials from Rwanda: General Déogratias Nsabimana, Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Defence Forces (the FAR), the head of the President’s personal security, Major Thaddée Bagaragaza, the key adviser to the President’s military cabinet, Colonel Elie Sagatwa, and the foreign affairs advisor to the President, Juvénal Renaho.

Further, the charge is made without any consideration of the overwhelming evidence supporting the predominant hypothesis that the plane was shot down by missiles launched by the Rwandan Presidential Guard under the control of Hutu extremists.

There is consensus on some items:

  1. The plane was shot down at about 8:30 p.m. by two surface-to -air missiles that hit the wing and tail of the French Dassault Falcon and the plane crashed into the garden of the Presidential Palace;
  2. The RPF, to UNAMIR’s knowledge, did not have surface-to-air missiles;
  3. The Rwandan army did have surface-to-air missiles of the type believed to have downed the plane, but no definitive proof has been found to equate the missile fragments with those missiles, particularly since the crash site was scoured by the Presidential Guard;
  4. Radio Mille Collines, the propaganda radio outlet for the extremist Akazu, stopped broadcasting its program as soon as the announcer reported the plane was coming in for a landing, and before it was hit by missiles; the radio station started to broadcast classical music;
  5. No sooner had the plane crashed than a bugle sounded mustering the Rwandan army soldiers to battle dress;
  6. Within minutes of the downing of the plane, military roadblocks went up all over Kigali, many if not most, manned by Interahamwe militias;
  7. About an hour after the crash, gunfire and explosions were heard at the Rwandan army military camp, but neither the source nor the target of the explosions were identified, though the soldiers generally believed that they were being attacked by RPF troops stationed in Kigali; no evidence has been found of an attack at that time;
  8. It was not clear and understood by the vast majority of residents of Kigali until about an hour after the crash that the President and the military chief of staff had been killed;
  9. When the officers met to consider a successor to the Chief of Staff, instead of selecting from the order of command, a relatively junior officer, Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, was found by General Dallaire already to be in charge;

In addition to the items above, the BBC documentary omits the following vital information:

  1. President Habyarimana in Tanzania had finally agreed to a process for implementing the August 1993 Arusha Accords that would bring about a coalition government on very favourable terms to the RPF;
  2. The Akazu, or the extremist racist Hutu Power faction in the dominant ruling MRND party, adamantly opposed implementing the Arusha Accords as the Accords would entirely deprive the faction of power since the Akazu faction had not been allocated any cabinet positions and had sworn it would take any measures needed to prevent the RPF from sharing political power in Rwanda;
  3. No mention was made of the 11 January 1994 cable in which General Romeo Dallaire, head of the UNAMIR peacekeeping force, warned that a massive slaughter by extremist Hutu elements had been planned, and that there were secret weapons caches to be made available to extremist militias, the infamou;
  4. Luc Marchal, commander of the Belgian battalion in UNAMIR, and interviewed in the documentary, was not asked in that documentary about the refusal of Rwandan soldiers to allow him to recover the flight recorder; the flight recorder was never recovered and made available to any independent body;
  5. Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, though an opponent of the RPF but not part of the Akazu, as well as almost all the other moderate Hutus in the cabinet, were slaughtered overnight in their homes after the downing of the plane;
  6. Ten Belgian peacekeepers guarding her were also killed;
  7. The right wing Hutu members of the cabinet could not be located on the evening of the crash by Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana who was trying to call an emergency cabinet meeting; nor could they be located during the night but only emerged unharmed the next day;
  8. When General Dallaire later that evening sought to meet with the military heads about the Belgian soldiers who had been arrested by the Presidential Guard to discuss the crisis, he found Col. Théoneste Bagosora, the director of the office of the Minister of Defence, and well known as an extremist, in charge.
  9. Several witnesses, including a Belgian military officer, identified the approximate origin of the two missiles as a government military base;

All this lead to initial and continuing suspicion that the Hutu extremists had downed the plane. After all, only the extremists seemed prepared to respond to the news and seemed to have known what happened instantly, while the government was caught by surprise and responded initially in a totally confused way. In Jane Corbin’s indictment of Paul Kagame as responsible for the downing of the plane, she claimed that the RPF had smuggled the surface-to-air missiles into their military camp in Kigali, but offers no evidence for this, no hypothesis of how they could accomplish that given the weight of the missiles and the security on all roads leading to the capital. Nor does Jane Corbin ever say that the proposition that the RPF had downed the plane has been around since very soon after 6 April 1994. Nor does she report that all the American agencies – the CIA, military intelligence, etc. – all put the blame on the extremists and dismissed the RPF hypothesis as far-fetched.

The extremists had a motive. The RPF did not. The timing of events, following the downing of the plane, supports the contention that a plan was simply unfolding. On the other hand, definitive evidence is unavailable to support blaming the catastrophe on Hutu extremists. When a French magistrate, Jean-Louis Brugière, in 2004 conducted his own investigation, he argued that the RPF had been behind the assassinations, basing his conclusion, as the BBC did, on dissident military officers who had fled Rwanda. The magistrate used the testimony of a lieutenant who claimed he was part of the team ordered to fire the missile. Former senior military officers claim in the documentary that they were in the room when Paume gave his orders.

The rumours of RPF responsibility could possibly be true – after all, Paul Resesabanga, the manager of Hotel Milles Collines and the hero of the Hollywood film, Hotel Rwanda, believes that it was Kagame who was responsible. Kagame could, in some way, have smuggled his missiles into the RPF camp, but someone would have to explain how the location of the site of the missile launch was pinpointed as Camp Kanobe, a camp controlled by the FAR and the home base of the Presidential Guard. According to most eye-witness testimony, the launch location was nowhere near the RPF military compound, and the RPF soldiers were confined in Kigali to their quarters.

Red Cross officials did, however, testify that RPF forces were on alert and in motion very soon after the plane went down. But RPF intelligence had expected a possible extremist putsch and knew the precarious position of the battalion. Plans had been prepared well in advance to respond quickly to any scenario that indicated a right wing attempt to seize power. Given the dangerous position to the battalion in Kigali surrounded by enemies, why would Kagame have not insured the safety of the battalion earlier if he planned and gave the order to shoot down the plane?

In spite of the overwhelming amount of evidence supporting the extremists thesis, and though any defence attorney could punch huge holes in the hypothesis blaming Paul Kagame, nevertheless a reputable broadcaster, without a fair examination of all the evidence, endorses a thesis that shifts blame for the genocide away from the genocidaires to Paul Kagame. Dissenters who escaped Rwanda were the ones who fingered Kagame. They had every reason to blacken his name, including doing so to help insure their own safety because Kagame would then be embarrassed to have them assassinated. Further, almost all the other soldiers and officers who pointed an accusatory finger at Kagame subsequently offered sworn testimony that retracted their charges. Why did they make those charges? Why were the charges subsequently retracted? Why was the hard evidence for the hypothesis so meagre? Given any reasonable weighing of the evidence, why do people give the Kagame guilt thesis credence, including, in this case, Jane Corbin, an experienced journalist?

The assassination of President Habyarimana by means of the missile attack upon his plane set off a round of killing of opposition political figures by elements of Habyarimana’s Presidential Guard. Why does Corbin claim that killings of members of the former ruling party were carried out by the RPF? ALL the evidence is to the contrary. Corbin offers no evidence to support her assertion. Massacres of Hutu moderates and Tutsi civilians by Hutu militias soon followed in Kigali, and then spread across the country.

Every attempt to initiate a new investigation has been shot down by responsible parties because the basis for opening an investigation was so flimsy. That is the typical logic of conspiracy theorists. Jane Corbin never even entertains the possibility that all of these bodies in weighing the evidence, found the case against Kagame to be very slim and the case for the other hypothesis to be overwhelming, though none of these official bodies ever came down on one side or the other. All the bodies adamantly refused to open an inquiry into Kagame’s involvement.

What about the charge that Paul Kagame is a factor in the Tutsi genocide if indeed he is the main culprit in shooting down the plane? When Herschel Grynszpan assassinated Ernst vom Rath, a Nazi diplomat, in Paris on 7 November 1938, a murder which was used by Hitler to instigate Kristallnacht and the Holocaust, was Grynszpan largely to blame for the Holocaust or even the night of the breaking glass when Jewish synagogues, community centres, businesses and even cemeteries, were vandalized? The illogic of such a claim astounds one. Why would the BBC not catch such outlandish propositional reasoning, especially since logic of the argument undercuts the Jane Corbin thesis so deeply?

But what do conspiracy theorists know of logic, let alone a balanced weighing of evidence!

The BBC Documentary; Pre-Genocide Rwanda

The Rwanda Genocide Revisited: Part II – The BBC Documentary; Pre-Genocide Rwanda

by

Howard Adelman

I know it is hard to read this material. Not because of the subject matter – horrific as it is. But because this is an exercise in historical knit-picking. The vast majority of my readers simply will not. I totally understand and sympathize. However, it I much harder to write precisely because of the subject matter. Revisiting means literally that – going back to visit the horrors and re-experience them once again. Yet I am compelled. I simply cannot accept distortions about this genocide – especially when the distortion is the result of the techniques of academia or is packaged in the form of skillful journalistic persuasion.

Yesterday was about advertising. This morning it is about the content of that advertising.  The 2014 BBC documentary narrated and produced by Jane Corbin on the Rwanda genocide was publicized as a never before revelation about Paul Kagame, the current President of Rwanda for the last nineteen years, and the commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) before, during and after the Rwanda genocide. Yesterday, I argued that the claim about the account offered was totally incorrect. The insistence that the documentary constituted “Rwanda’s Untold Story” was belied by the large number of stories of the same ilk that preceded the BBC narrative.

That same story has been repeated time and again since the Rwanda genocide in 1994. One additional example only! Barry Collins wrote an article on 13 August 2008 entitled, “Rwanda: Obscuring the Truth About the Genocide,” which, along with this BBC documentary and many other writings before it, sums up a thesis that argues that previously the truth had been deliberately repressed in the past; for the first time, the author of this explosive revelation is telling the truth which is precisely opposite to the one that has been handed down, a version that has brainwashed almost everyone.

“We think we know the story,” Jane intones. “But do we?” Then her favourite academic cited in the story says on the screen: “What the world believes and what actually happened are quite different.” Then a Hollywood film on Hotel Mille Collines (Hotel Rwanda) is cited as evidence, even though the film made no great pronouncements one way or the other on any of the contrary positions that Jane puts forth. The implication is that this film suggests that Paul Kagame stopped the genocide when it did no such thing. The film was an excellent Hollywood tear-jerker that arouses our horror and anger, and even contains its own distortions about General Dallaire. But Jane Corbin says nothing about Dallaire. The film itself, in any case and like most movies, is not about truth. It is certainly not about the large issues of historical veracity that Jane Corbin raises.

However, choosing to cite the film as an illustration is significant. There have been a plethora of articles, books, documentaries and films on the Rwanda genocide. Shere Razack argues that many of these, like Hotel Rwanda, are emotional roller-coasters intended to invoke horror in the viewer at the tale of the genocide, noting that we did nothing to stop it. (CF. her 2007 article “Stealing the Pain of Others: Reflections on Canadian Humanitarian Responses,” Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies: 29:4) Viewers or readers are, as a result, resolved to never forget and to never allow it to happen again. But we do forget. We do allow it to happen again. Razack argues that this is because the film is a form of emotional consumption, an exercise in horror consumption and not a transformative experience.

It should be no surprise that Jane Corbin starts her documentary with a ceremony in Rwanda re-enacting the Rwanda genocide in front of an audience of Rwandans and foreign dignitaries. That ceremony is intended to reinforce the lesson – “Never again”. Whether or not he had Israel in mind, Paul Kagame offers a tale of death and resurrection about Rwanda. Jane Corbin does not challenge the resurrection portion of the narrative, but argues that the same man who invokes the image of resurrection in 2014 is the one who lit the match originally. Corbin shifts the focus of outrage from the genocide to Kagame. The reality is that, although she clothes her documentary in the formal dress of a quest for the truth, she is even less concerned with truth than Hotel Rwanda.

The vast majority of the world has no opinion about the genocide. They barely know any version of the story except perhaps that a large atrocity took place. The cause of the genocide is of little or no interest. So it is easy to offer, indeed repeat, a claim of originality in the face of alleged conventional wisdom and to further suggest that she is the goddess that has delivered this new resurrection. Jane simply offers a different tale of death and resurrection, as contrived and ritualistic as the one performed in the Kigali arena. Jane Corbin wants to bury what she argues is an erroneous tale of death and substitute her own. The claim is made to establish this interpreter of the Rwanda genocide as an outsider to established thought. It is the modern day version of the Protestant Reformation with many claimants to the throne as the original protestor. Not only is it an old story repackaged as a new revelation, but the documentary uses the same techniques as all those other repetitions of the narrators of the converse tale. It interviews and presents only the evidence that it claims supports its thesis and omits any experts who would challenge its contentions.

Another technique common to these narratives is to make the argument an ad hominem account focused on Kagame personally as the villain of the tale. Further, the case usually argues guilt by association and makes Tony Blair and Bill Clinton guilty for befriending and supporting Kagame and Kagame guilty because he is supported by powerful people. It is the fallacy of being bad – in this case in two directions – because of the bad company you keep. There is a third dimension to this fallacy of association. Kagame may, in fact, be, as Filip Reyntjens, author of Political Government in Post-Genocide Rwanda, declares, the worst war criminal in office today – I think he is not the worst (look at Assad in Syria, the religious leaders in Iran, the military junta in Burma) – but even if he is the worst, one cannot establish Kagame’s guilt in the past because of his current guilt, though admittedly conduct in the present may suggest equivalent ruthlessness in the past. In fact, Reytjens’ book argues that Kagame and the ruling party’s authoritarian streak has evolved since the RPF took power. Kagame has increasingly perpetuated human rights abuses, rigged elections, repressed the opposition, engaged in wide scale retributive justice and even employed terrorism as distinct from Kagame’s and the party’s original puritanism.

Today I want to begin to examine the substantive claims made in the BBC documentary and not the spin about it, and put the position of the other side alongside the claims of the documentary. This is not the place nor is there space to also cite the lode of evidence. In doing so, I want to be clear that I am not accusing Jane of genocide denial. Her documentary makes clear that she accepts the reality of the genocide and that Hutu extremists were the main perpetrators. Nor is she even guilty of claiming that there was a double genocide, one committed by Kagame as well. But she does indict Kagame on a number of other charges as a prosecutor without allowing time for a defence attorney.

The BBC video is available at http://vimeo.com/107867605

The BBC documentary, as would be expected, has been expertly produced and narrated by Corbin. It is well worth watching, not only for its techniques, but for the position it puts forth as indicated above. Not the validity of the position, but the arguments for it should be considered, however repetitive, tiring (and painful) that may be, and however many times one has to refute its position.

The documentary, though far from original in its thesis, nevertheless, true to the corporation that produced such blockbusters as Sherlock or Planet Earth, offers a powerful indictment of Kagame’s dictatorial rule in Rwanda in spite of the economic success of Rwanda and the relative stability Kagame brought to the country. Jane Corbin endorses the truth of both of these latter two assessments.

To reinforce Corbin’s indictment of Kagame, however, there has been considerable evidence that Kagame has fallen out with a number of his former inner circle.

General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former Chief of Staff of the Rwandan army, a former intelligence chief and a former ambassador to India, joined Colonel Patrick Karegeya, a former spy chief, Dr Theogene Rudasingwa, a former chief of staff to Kagame and ambassador to the USA, and Dr Gerald Gahima, a former prosecutor general in Rwanda, to form the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) in opposition to Kagame’s rule. General Nyamwasa is Jane’s star witness.

Nowhere does Jane report the failure of the RNC to hold a significant founding congress (perhaps because of money shortages, fear of reprisals, including assassination ordered by Kagame, political pressure from the African National Congress in South Africa, and inadequate political support from Rwandans). Nor does Carbin probe the widespread rumours, following the failure of the RNC congress, that Nyamwasa has since appealed to Kagame to allow his return and offered a public ereapology if he were allowed to come home, promising to retract the accusations he leveled at Kagame. (There are no rumours that I know of that Dr Theogene Rudasingwa, another star witness in the documentary, tried to make a deal with Paul Kagame to allow him to return home.) There have been at least two assassination attempts on Nyamwasa’s life. About a dozen dissidents in exile have been assassinated or disappeared in the last twelve years, including Col. Patrick Karegeya who was murdered at the end of December 2013. (Cf. the 16 March 2014 BBC Report, “Patrick Karegeya: Mysterious death of a Rwandan exile”.) Most finger pointing is directed at Kagame.

I have not undertaken the research to offer my version of Kagame’s rule over the last decade and a half. I will focus my criticisms of the documentary on the following substantive stated or implied claims:

  1. Kagame was chosen by America and backed by Uganda;
  2. Kagame led the Rwandan invasion from Uganda.
  3. By 1993, Kagame threatened to capture Kigali, the capital
  4. Paul Kagame was insincere in signing the Accords and was simply using the year between the signing and the outbreak of the genocide to prepare to seize power.

Tomorrow I will deal with the period of the genocide itself and the following:

  1. The charge that Paul Kagame personally ordered and was responsible for the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane that instigated the genocide;
  2. The claim that most of those killed within Rwanda were Hutu and not Tutsi;
  3. The claim that Kagame did not stop the genocide.
  4. The charge that the Kagame regime slaughtered thousands of Hutu civilians at the Kibeho Internally Displaced Persons camp in Rwanda in 1995.
  1. Misrepresentations of the situation prior to the RPF invasion

Corbin makes two claims that are part of established lore and not part of this genre of critical accounts. She argues that the RPF was an offshoot of Museveni and that Museveni supported the invasion of Rwanda by the RPF in 1990. In our study, we argued that the overwhelming evidence suggested that Museveni knew about the impending invasion and did not try to stop it because, as advocates taking Corbin’s position have argued, that initiative rid Museveni of the Tutsi refugee problem within Uganda after he had been unsuccessful in getting Parliament to grant them citizenship. But we could not find evidence that the invasion was part of Museveni’s expansionist foreign policy and that the RPF was an extension of Museveni’s military apparatus. Corbin makes that claim without presenting any evidence to back it up and without mentioning a possible alternative narrative.

Second, Corbin suggests that the US picked Kagame for military training in the US because they spotted his potential, presumably as a future leader of Rwanda and possible satrap. Again there is no evidence offered. Paul Kagame certainly went to obtain advanced military training in the USA but as part of America’s agreement with Uganda to upgrade its officers. There is no indication or evidence that I know of that, in doing so, America did so because it had major future plans for Paul Kagame. In fact I find the suggestion that the United State was so far-sighted to be incredible.

  1. Historical Omissions re the invasion of Rwanda

Corbin omits to say that Kagame opposed invading Rwanda in 1990, was not in Africa when the RPF invasion took place. He was only called back from America to lead the RPF when the invasion had been repulsed and when the two RPF commanders were killed by President Habyarimana’s RPA — with assistance from the French military and some rear guard support by the Belgian military.

  1. The RPF threat to Kigali

By 1993, under Kagame’s leadership, the RPF was only 15 miles from the capital and since the RPF had the RPA on the run, questions have been raised about why Kagame stopped his army from taking the capital and why he agreed to the power sharing agreement with Habyarimana’s government, though that agreement was on very favourable terms for the RPF. The suggestion by Corbin is that this was a ruse until Kagame was in a better military position.

However, Kagame was in an excellent military position to advance at the time. Corbin does not mention let alone take Kagame’s own position into account. Further, Corbin makes a common error in insisting that the RPF was only Tutsi, whereas the RPF at the time consisted of some Hutu representation even though the military force was predominantly Tutsi. Finally, Filip Reyntjens, one of Corbin’s star witnesses against Kagame, describes how Kagame was not always as bad a guy as he came to be. Reyntjens argues that the RPF only decided it would have to rely on its military rather than on diplomacy near the end of 1993 and only when it became clear that the extremists within Rwanda would not allow a peaceful resolution. The fact that one of her star witnesses refutes her contention of consistent and high level evil is omitted.

Instead, Corbin interviews Marie, a twelve year old Hutu at the time, who says that her family, and Hutus in general, regarded the RPF, not as militant returning Rwandan refugees, but as foreign enemies. Hutus feared what the RPF would do to the Hutu population. There is no suggestion in the documentary that this was the party line of the Habyarimana government and one hysterically reinforced by extremist Hutus. The population indeed was indoctrinated to believe precisely that. Instead, the tale is told as if this was a fact. The RPF was the repository of evil. There is no mention of the Akazu, the small extremist Hutu faction that perpetrated the genocide. There is no explanation of why Hutus accepted that belief. There is only the implication that the belief was valid.

The documentary also explicitly states that President Habyarimana only signed the Arusha Accords because he was pressured to do by the West, the precise line that Collins took in 2008. There is no examination or even presentation of the preponderant scholarly opinion that Habyarimana signed the accords because there was by then a multi-party government committed to democracy. Domestic pressure combined with his own weak military position induced Habyarimana to sign.

Finally, Corbin suggests that it was the overthrow of the government in Burundi and the persecution of Hutus there that instigated the widespread fear and set the country on a course of genocide. Certainly the Burundi coup served as a catalyst to the impending resumption of the war and the genocide, but it was not the sole or even major cause of Hutu extremism. It was a late-comer. Hutu extremism was formalized after the invasion of Rwanda by the refugee Tutsi ex-pats and their Hutu allies. The extremists practiced Tutsi extermination long before the Burundi coup. Plans were developed much earlier. The Akazu was founded in 1991 and had been training small groups of Hutu to enable them to commit genocide since that time.

These omissions, distortions and misrepresentations during the pre-genocide period are relatively minor compared to her claims about Rwanda and the instigation and progress of the genocide itself.

 

Tomorrow: Part III: The Instigation and Progress of the Rwandan Genocide

The Rwandan Genocide Revisited: Part I The Context of a Recent BBC Report

The Rwandan Genocide Revisited: Part I The Context of a Recent BBC Report
by
Howard Adelman

In 1995, I and a Norwegian colleague, Astri Suhrke from the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Bergen, wrote an international report on the international response to the Rwandan genocide. The research and report were sponsored by a coalition of 19 international agencies and 18 governments. The second of four parts of the investigation that we wrote was called “Early Warning and Conflict Management re the Rwanda Genocide” and the whole report was published in 1996. A copy of the synthesis of the whole report can be found at: http://www.oecd.org/derec/50189495.pdf.

The report was cited in a number of articles and books, including our own edited book, The Path of a Genocide. The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire (London: Transaction Publishers) in which we published the infamous cable by General Romeo Dallaire (11 January 1994) warning of an impending mass slaughter, and in a much more recent 2009 article, “The Rwandan Genocide: Why Early Warning Failed,” by Gregory Stanton in the Journal of African Conflicts and Peace Studies 1:2, September (6-25).

There have been a number of academic disputes about the genocide, though no scholarly denials that the genocide took place. One dispute is over the numbers killed by an extremist Hutu group called the Akazu, and the make-up of those numbers, namely how many of the victims were Tutsi and how many were Hutu. To what degree was Kagame, and his overwhelmingly Tutsi fighting force, which had invaded Rwanda and was engaged in a civil war with the regime, responsible, first, for not preventing many deaths and, second, for committing atrocities on their own account? To what degree and in what ways were external actors – the UN itself, the US, Belgium, France – responsible for failing to prevent or mitigate the genocide?

This year on the twentieth anniversary of the genocide, the BBC, a highly respected and very responsible player in the media world, published a revisionist review of the Rwanda genocide
http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/The-BBC-and-the-Rwandan-Genocide-20141011-0029.html. The headline summary read: “The untold story is that of the crimes committed by the winners in the Rwandan civil war, and especially the crimes committed by the biggest winner who took all, Kagame, Rwanda’s president for the past 20 years.” This immediately made me suspicious, in spite of BBC’s renown for its objective journalism and the reputation of Jane Corbin, the producer and presenter, who individually possessed impeccable credentials as a journalist.
First, that story of Kagame and his troops performing atrocities, had not been unreported, but, in fact, had been a constant charge from the time we did our research until the contemporary period. If that was the main charge, then the BBC story, whether accurate or not in the body of the piece, was not accurate in entitling the narrative, “Rwanda: The Untold Story”. Our book documented those charges of atrocities committed by Kagame; Astri Suhrke and I found them to be true but very grossly exaggerated.

Further, the BBC Report said that, “Up until now, in Western media, scholarship, and commentary, the Hutus as a community have been held solely responsible for the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and Kagame held up as Rwanda’s saviour.” Neither we, nor any of the scholars with which I was associated, held that the Hutus as a community were responsible for the genocide. Rather, we all insisted that it was an extremist group of Hutus and definitely not the Hutu community as a whole. Further, Astri and I were focused on disproving the charge that the Hutu extremists were solely responsible. We documented the errors, failures and willful stubbornness and mindblindness that made various international actors complicit in what occurred. Third, we never – nor did any one of a number of first class scholars involved in the study of the genocide – called Kagame Rwanda’s saviour. Astri and I did say that Kagame and his troops brought the Rwandan genocide within Rwanda to a stop with the victory in the civil war. Whether Kagame back then or since was the saviour of Rwanda is a very different claim and one which neither I nor most of my esteemed colleagues ever made, though there were a plethora of disputes over his ruling style and the consequences.

For example, the BBC documentary claims that many of Kagame’s allies were subsequently driven out of the country by the regime and many were assassinated. Though Kagame initially drove defectors from the regime into exile, subsequent to that period, many assassinations have been documented, though not by Astri and myself at that time or since. However, we did deal in detail at the time with the charge that Kagame and his troops killed 600,000 Hutus who had fled to the Congo following his victory in July 1994 after Kagame invaded the Congo in 1996. The BBC report cites with approval the charge of Marie, a Hutu survivor whose family she claims sheltered Tutsis (possibly true), that Kagame and his forces indiscriminately hunted her family and the hundreds of thousands of those Hutu civilians who had not participated in the genocide in the jungles of the Congo.

In our report, we claimed that Kagame’s forces were focused, not on the killing of civilians, but on uprooting and destroying the remnants of the former Hutu Rwandan army and of the interhamwe militias which had also fled to the Congo. In the process, they did indiscriminately kill troops in the military that had not participated in the genocide. More importantly, they did kill a large number of civilians, We concluded from our examination that the number killed was 60,000, a very large number indeed, but not comparable to the 600,000 that Kagame was charged with killing at the time.

Perhaps our numbers were wrong. Perhaps our analysis had been wrong. Perhaps evidence subsequently emerged that the numbers were, in fact, higher. However, that requires research and evidence. Claiming that the tale of civilian atrocities in Congo by the Kagame regime was an untold story when, in fact, the charge of 600,000 deaths by the Kagame regime was the dominant claim, especially by a large number of NGOs, at the time. Our position was the minority one. The untold story was too frequently told without adequate evidence, documentation or analysis.

The BBC documentary claimed that the Gersony Report on these atrocities was suppressed. Certainly, it was never officially published. But if it was suppressed, how did we come to read and criticize it? The report circulated unofficially very widely. Working for the UNHCR, Robert Gersony, who initially had been sympathetic to the Kagame rebellion, a position that subsequently lent more credibility to his claims, in his draft report repeated and endorsed claims by many NGOs that Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (the RPF) had been responsible for mass indiscriminate killings both within post-genocide Rwanda and in the Congo after Kagame came to power. The issue was whether the report was NOT officially published because of repression of the findings or because the methodology and results were found to be wanting.

We argued that large scale atrocities of women and children, the sick and the elderly, did take place, but not nearly on the scale that NGOs consistently reported. The claim was made that within Rwanda, local Hutu residents and entire families were gathered in community meetings on one pretense or other and then locked in, assaulted and killed in large numbers. (The Report, 118-124) When the Gersony team visited 41 communes and 9 refugee camps, they concluded that within Rwanda in Kibungo, Butare and Kigale, the regime had killed between 25,000 and 40,000 Hutu and Tutsi. We examined in detail one of those assaults and we concluded that, although a large number of civilians were killed when Kagame’s forces repressed a rebellion during heavy rain, and that the control of the rebellion had been poorly handled, the claims that 800 civilians had been killed in that assault were grossly exaggerated.

Further, those stories eerily mirrored the tales of Hutu extremist atrocities in the genocide. We could not find evidence that the round-ups of civilians had taken place. Further, though we criticized some of the methods used in the process of re-education and rehabilitation of returning Hutus from the Congo, the conduct of these meetings and of the Rwandan community trials – the gachacha courts – further belied most of the charges. The conclusions of the Gersony Report of occurrences within Rwanda could possibly have been true, but the evidence we examined undermined the credibility of those conclusions and fit in too well with the Hutu revisionist claim that, on the one hand, denied the genocide, and, on the other hand, claimed that it was Kagame that had perpetuated a genocide.

We did find evidence that civilians had been killed in large numbers in the Congo, but again, not nearly to the degree claimed and not in this manner. The civilians were being “protected” by the ex-FAR and the former militias. In assaults on the former Rwandan army and on the militias, Kagame’s troops did not pay much attention to discriminating between civilians and militants. Many civilians died and to the extent that discrimination was not practiced between civilians and military, these deaths were indeed indiscriminate. That is not the same as an indiscriminate attack that is directed solely at civilians.
In my work on the numbers displaced and made homeless in Lebanon following the Israeli invasion in 1982, I found the OXFAM claim that 600,000 had been made homeless to be preposterous. The number is southern Lebanon, excluding Beirut, was 40,000, a number we established by auditing twelve different collections of data. That number of 40,000 was accepted by all sides. In many humanitarian crises we have found that numbers are often grossly exaggerated. NGOs – with perhaps the exception of the ICRC and Doctors Without Borders. Most NGOs do not have a record of accurate demographic reporting. After all, demography is not their prime mission and they have a strong interest in enhancing the numbers in distress. This does not take away from the excellent work they do, but skepticism needs to be brought into play about numbers generally released by many humanitarian agencies.

Reports on numbers based solely on interviews with those affected reveal an adequate way to determine numbers killed or displaced or the motives for that killing and displacement. Victims, or those who feel themselves victimized, are not the best source for objective information, though victims’ organizations often produce very accurate information when specifically set up and tasked to do so – as was the case with the Palestinian teachers in Lebanon gathering figures of the numbers made homeless in Lebanon in 1982. But all evidence from interviews must be corroborated by various sources of objective evidence from number counts in graves to conducting an actual census of survivors. Nevertheless, I do admit that colleagues, whom I enormously respect – Alison des Forges and Gerard Prunier – lent considerable credence to the findings of the Gersony Report at the time. But it is not clear why the BBC twenty years later does, especially when virtually no hard evidence has emerged to corroborate Robert Gersony’s initial findings.

Since 1994, organizations, such as the BBC in 2014, claim to have discovered, uncovered or unearthed the long repressed Gersony Report – see for example ProxyLake in 2010 – “Unearthed ‘Gersony Report’ the UN said never existed”. And it never did exist as a UN document. For Gersony had not insisted as part of his contract that anything he wrote that he would be free to publish as we had insisted given standing academic norms. The UN could have distanced itself from the report and refused to publish it but given Gersony permission to publish it independently and, therefore leave it open to public criticism. By not permitting the Gersony Report to be published at all, and while many actually read it and the report circulated widely, this process merely lent the report a mythic quality to its findings that I believe was totally undeserved.

Tomorrow, I will turn my attention to the BBC Report itself.

In 1995, I and a Norwegian colleague, Astri Suhrke from the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Bergen, wrote an international report on the international response to the Rwandan genocide. The research and report were sponsored by a coalition of 19 international agencies and 18 governments. The second of four parts of the investigation that we wrote was called “Early Warning and Conflict Management re the Rwanda Genocide” and the whole report was published in 1996. A copy of the synthesis of the whole report can be found at: http://www.oecd.org/derec/50189495.pdf.

The report was cited in a number of articles and books, including our own edited book, The Path of a Genocide. The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire (London: Transaction Publishers) in which we published the infamous cable by General Romeo Dallaire (11 January 2014) warning of an impending mass slaughter, and in a much more recent 2009 article, “The Rwandan Genocide: Why Early Warning Failed,” by Gregory Stanton in the Journal of African Conflicts and Peace Studies 1:2, September (6-25).

There have been a number of academic disputes about the genocide, though no scholarly denials that the genocide took place. One dispute is over the numbers killed by an extremist Hutu group called the Akazu, and the make-up of those numbers, namely how many of the victims were Tutsi and how many were Hutu. To what degree was Kagame, and his overwhelmingly Tutsi fighting force, which had invaded Rwanda and was engaged in a civil war with the regime, responsible, first, for not preventing many deaths and, second, for committing atrocities on their own account? To what degree and in what ways were external actors – the UN itself, the US, Belgium, France – responsible for failing to prevent or mitigate the genocide?

This year on the twentieth anniversary of the genocide, the BBC, a highly respected and very responsible player in the media world, published a revisionist review of the Rwanda genocide
http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/The-BBC-and-the-Rwandan-Genocide-20141011-0029.html. The headline summary read: “The untold story is that of the crimes committed by the winners in the Rwandan civil war, and especially the crimes committed by the biggest winner who took all, Kagame, Rwanda’s president for the past 20 years.” This immediately made me suspicious, in spite of BBC’s renown for its objective journalism and the reputation of Jane Corbin, the producer and presenter, who individually possessed impeccable credentials as a journalist.
First, that story of Kagame and his troops performing atrocities, had not been unreported, but, in fact, had been a constant charge from the time we did our research until the contemporary period. If that was the main charge, then the BBC story, whether accurate or not in the body of the piece, was not accurate in entitling the narrative, “Rwanda: The Untold Story”. Our book documented those charges of atrocities committed by Kagame; Astri Suhrke and I found them to be true but very grossly exaggerated.

Further, the BBC Report said that, “Up until now, in Western media, scholarship, and commentary, the Hutus as a community have been held solely responsible for the Rwandan genocide of 1994, and Kagame held up as Rwanda’s savior.” Neither we, nor any of the scholars with which I was associated, held that the Hutus as a community were responsible for the genocide. Rather, we all insisted that it was an extremist group of Hutus and definitely not the Hutu community as a whole. Further, Astri and I were focused on disproving the charge that the Hutu extremists were solely responsible. We documented the errors, failures and willful stubbornness and mindblindness that made various international actors complicit in what occurred. Third, we never – nor did any one of a number of first class scholars involved in the study of the genocide – called Kagame Rwanda’s savior. Astri and I did say that Kagame and his troops brought the Rwandan genocide within Rwanda to a stop with the victory in the civil war. Whether Kagame back then or since was the savior of Rwanda is a very different claim and one which neither I nor most of my esteemed colleagues ever made, though there were a plethora of disputes over his ruling style and the consequences.

For example, the BBC documentary claims that many of Kagame’s allies were subsequently driven out of the country by the regime and many were assassinated. Though Kagame initially drove defectors from the regime into exile, subsequent to that period, many assassinations have been documented, though not by Astri and myself at that time or since. However, we did deal in detail at the time with the charge that Kagame and his troops killed 600,000 Hutus who had fled to the Congo following his victory in July 1994 after Kagame invaded the Congo in 1996. The BBC report cites with approval the charge of Marie, a Hutu survivor whose family she claims sheltered Tutsis (possibly true), that Kagame and his forces indiscriminately hunted her family and the hundreds of thousands of those Hutu civilians who had not participated in the genocide in the jungles of the Congo.

In our report, we claimed that Kagame’s forces were focused, not on the killing of civilians, but on uprooting and destroying the remnants of the former Hutu Rwandan army and of the interhamwe militias which had also fled to the Congo. In the process, they did indiscriminately kill troops in the military that had not participated in the genocide. More importantly, they did kill a large number of civilians. We concluded from our examination that the number killed was 60,000, a very large number indeed, but not comparable to the 600,000 that Kagame was charged with killing at the time.

Perhaps our numbers were wrong. Perhaps our analysis had been wrong. Perhaps evidence subsequently emerged that the numbers were, in fact, higher. However, that requires research and evidence. Claiming that the tale of civilian atrocities in Congo by the Kagame regime was an untold story when, in fact, the charge of 600,000 deaths by the Kagame regime was the dominant claim, especially by a large number of NGOs, at the time. Our position was the minority one. The untold story was too frequently told without adequate evidence, documentation or analysis.

The BBC documentary claimed that the Gersony Report on these atrocities was suppressed. Certainly, it was never officially published. But if it was suppressed, how did we come to read and criticize it? The report circulated unofficially very widely. Working for the UNHCR, Robert Gersony, who initially had been sympathetic to the Kagame rebellion, a position that subsequently lent more credibility to his claims, in his draft report repeated and endorsed claims by many NGOs that Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (the RPF) had been responsible for mass indiscriminate killings both within post-genocide Rwanda and in the Congo after Kagame came to power. The issue was whether the report was NOT officially published because of repression of the findings or because the methodology and results were found to be wanting.

We argued that large scale atrocities of women and children, the sick and the elderly did take place, but not nearly on the scale that NGOs consistently reported. The claim was made that within Rwanda, local Hutu residents and entire families were gathered in community meetings on one pretense or other and then locked in, assaulted and killed in large numbers. (The Report, 118-124) When the Gersony team visited 41 communes and 9 refugee camps, they concluded that within Rwanda in Kibungo, Butare and Kigale, the regime had killed between 25,000 and 40,000 Hutu and Tutsi. We examined in detail one of those assaults and we concluded that, although a large number of civilians were killed when Kagame’s forces repressed a rebellion during heavy rain, and that the control of the rebellion had been poorly handled, the claims that 800 civilians had been killed in that assault were grossly exaggerated.

Further, those stories eerily mirrored the tales of Hutu extremist atrocities in the genocide. We could not find evidence that the round-ups of civilians had taken place. Further, though we criticized some of the methods used in the process of re-education and rehabilitation of returning Hutus from the Congo, the conduct of these meetings and of the Rwandan community trials – the gachacha courts – further belied most of the charges. The conclusions of the Gersony Report of occurrences within Rwanda could possibly have been true, but the evidence we examined undermined the credibility of those conclusions and fit in too well with the Hutu revisionist claim that, on the one hand, denied the genocide, and, on the other hand, claimed that it was Kagame that had perpetuated a genocide.

We did find evidence that civilians had been killed in large numbers in the Congo, but again, not nearly to the degree claimed and not in this manner. The civilians were being “protected” by the ex-FAR and the former militias. In assaults on the former Rwandan army and on the militias, Kagame’s troops did not pay much attention to discriminating between civilians and militants. Many civilians died and to the extent that discrimination was not practiced between civilians and military, these deaths were indeed indiscriminate. That is not the same as an indiscriminate attack that is directed solely at civilians.
In my work on the numbers displaced and made homeless in Lebanon following the Israeli invasion in 1982, I found the OXFAM claim that 600,000 had been made homeless to be preposterous. The number in southern Lebanon, excluding Beirut, was 40,000, a number we established by auditing twelve different collections of data. That number of 40,000 was accepted by all sides. In many humanitarian crises we have found that numbers are often grossly exaggerated by NGOs – with perhaps the exception of the ICRC and Doctors Without Borders. Most NGOs do not have a record of accurate demographic reporting. After all, demography is not their prime mission and they have a strong interest in enhancing the numbers in distress. This does not take away from the excellent work they do, but skepticism needs to be brought into play about numbers generally released by many humanitarian agencies.

Reports on numbers based solely on interviews with those affected reveal an adequate way to determine numbers killed or displaced or the motives for that killing and displacement. Victims, or those who feel themselves victimized, are not the best source for objective information, though victims’ organizations often produce very accurate information when specifically set up and tasked to do so – as was the case with the Palestinian teachers in Lebanon gathering figures of the numbers made homeless in Lebanon in 1982. But all evidence from interviews must be corroborated by various sources of objective evidence from number counts in graves to conducting an actual census of survivors. Nevertheless, I do admit that colleagues, whom I enormously respect – Alison des Forges and Gerard Prunier – lent considerable credence to the findings of the Gersony Report at the time. But it is not clear why the BBC twenty years later does, especially when virtually no hard evidence has emerged to corroborate Robert Gersony’s initial findings.

Since 1994, organizations, such as the BBC in 2014, claim to have discovered, uncovered or unearthed the long repressed Gersony Report – see for example ProxyLake in 2010 – “Unearthed ‘Gersony Report’ the UN said never existed”. And it never did exist as a UN document. For Gersony had not insisted as part of his contract that anything he wrote that he would be free to publish as we had insisted given standing academic norms. The UN could have distanced itself from the report and refused to publish it but given Gersony permission to publish it independently and, therefore leave it open to public criticism. By not permitting the Gersony Report to be published at all, and while many actually read it and the report circulated widely, this process merely lent the report a mythic quality to its findings that I believe was totally undeserved.