June 22, 2021


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Review of a book.  Dirk Musa “The Problems of Genocide” - Culture

Review of a book. Dirk Musa “The Problems of Genocide” – Culture

In light of the still controversial question in Germany of how to adequately speak of colonial crimes without belittling the Holocaust, either implicitly or explicitly, it is worth taking a look at the new book by Australian historian A. Dirk Musa. His pioneering study, “Genocide Problems,” shows that the German public would be wise to pay more attention to global historical genocide research than before, even if they were primarily interested in the history of their country. In essence, Musa’s highly political and soon-to-be controversial book makes three important contributions to the debate.

First of all, it is a critical story of the concept of genocide coined by Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in the first half of the twentieth century. Genocide was defined in the United Nations Convention in 1948 as an act “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group,” and has since become the most stringent criteria for stigmatization and, if possible, the legal prosecution of civilians for mass violence. The horrors of the Holocaust contributed to the fact that the international community decided to criminalize such violence.

In addition, the book provides a broader cultural and conceptual history of state violence (or violence committed on its behalf), which dates back to the late fifteenth century and is a convincing reminder of just how narrowly conquering the world was. Before European powers had their followers a history of violence and oppression.

There is much to suggest that Murder, which was organized in part as a factory, penetrated a new dimension of what people could do to each other in the twentieth century. The Holocaust, Thomas Schmid recently wrote a sharp response to articles by Michael Rothberg and Jürgen Zimmer on time It is unique, he explains, because the perpetrators were concerned with “destruction in order to destroy.” Musa chronicles this polemical figure with a view to its emergence in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It does not in any way deny the uniqueness of the Holocaust, but affirms that its “non-politicization” as a racist hate crime has since contributed to the fact that violence against civilians in civil wars or in anti-colonial conflicts can only be classified as genocide consistent with this. Archetype.

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The term genocide is only used to stigmatize violence against civilians when the state considers it appropriate

Third, this means that the moral discourse around the concept of genocide that is amplified, especially in the north of the globe and deprives the victims of any authority to act, only causes a problematic part of the actual violence against civilians. This exclusion was not an accident, but was forced by Western powers in the era of decolonization and the Cold War in the second half of the twentieth century. In this way, the focus is not placed on the policies of modern states that are ultimately unachievable, and hence all the more serious promise of “lasting security”.

Pursuit of this goal inevitably leads to civilian casualties. Many of the violence against civilians – remotely controlled drone attacks, as well as the embargo on essential goods – are largely ignored by the global public. The term genocide is only used to stigmatize such violence against civilians if it appears to be politically appropriate for a state or coalition of states – it is currently discussed using the example of the systematic violence perpetrated against the Uyghur ethnic group in China or against civilians in Syria.

The solution suggested by Moussa Asli: Civilian lives can best be protected if the utopian state’s goal of “permanent security” is itself to punish. This argument is discussed in the book using many historical examples. Indeed, since the systematic expulsion and killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during World War I, mass violence has been systematically justified by reference to the alleged threat that subsequent victims pose to state security. But how to achieve the rejection of “permanent security” that Moussa requested, remains a mystery. His analysis does not spread optimism. In the foreseeable future, state or quasi-state violence is likely to increase.

a. Dirk Musa: The Problems of Genocide. Permanent security and the language of aggression. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2021.598 Seiten, 34 Euro.

Moses is a moral man who wants to trouble himself. Under no circumstances will the justification for killing civilians be accepted. His rhetorical question goes to what is the difference in experience between a victim of genocide and a victim of “collateral damage” in an airstrike? Even the various motives of the perpetrators did not alter the fact that both victims were equally innocent. Anyone who justifies the killing of civilians by referring to the predominant political security interests is committing the crime of “permanent security,” whereby Musa distinguishes between two subcategories: “permanent illiberal security” as a crime against a specific ethnic, national, or religious group (i.e., very similar to the concept. The United Nations Genocide of 1948), and “liberal durable security” as a crime for those who justify violence against civilians with reference to higher humanitarian goals. Military strikes in the name of human rights, progress and democracy are part of a new “civilizing mission” for the north of the world, which, as it was 500 years ago, must continue to enable “robbery, occupation, settlement and exploitation of raw materials.” At best, there is a “human rights revolution” on paper.

The crimes of the National Socialists and their accomplices feature prominently in the book. The European “empire” of National Socialists, as Moses continually argues by following his general line in the book, was built for lasting security. Statements by Hitler and other Nazi perpetrators who declared that the danger allegedly posed by Jews to the “millennial reich” that would be established could only be permanently avoided through their physical extermination, despite their apparent megalomaniac character, it provides an indication of the accounts followed as killers . In this way, Moses distinguishes himself from scholars who cite racial hatred and anti-Semitism that radicalizes itself to the point of physical annihilation as the main cause of the Holocaust, and from those who see a continuation of colonial violence abroad. For Europe to be decisive.

The murder of European Jews, according to Musa, was the embodiment of the crime of “permanent illiberal security.” However, the term genocide, which has been prevalent in the Western world for more than 70 years and shaped by this traumatic experience, is not appropriate as the sole criterion for assessing a state’s violence against civilians. Mercy does not necessarily lead to justice.