Genocide. It’s an ugly word with ugly baggage. The 20th century witnessed many genocidal events; leaving one to wonder how it could ever happen again. Racism, injustice, oppression, intolerance, prejudice are only a few of the causes which lead a society from a small spot fire to a situation that grows out of control.
Genocide is the act of mass murder, deliberate, planned and carried out by individuals either through orders given, or by those willingly participating. It’s important to remember that genocide occurs through individuals performing the act.
The term genocide, according to the Oxford dictionary is “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.”
The Free Dictionary extends the meaning to include “national, racial, religious or ethnic group.”
International law deems genocide during war or peace, a crime. Under the United Nations Convention on Genocide, 1948, those found committing genocide of any form will be punished – though they rarely are.
The Holocaust, from which the term genocide was coined is only one of many mass murders of ethnic groups. We’re all familiar with Rwanda (1994) and Bosnia (1995). Armenia, where hundreds of thousands were either marched into the desert where they died, or massacred in 1915, is little talked about. The Ukraine’s genocide started in 1932 and saw an estimated 7 million dead.
By 1907, the German Emperor had all but wiped out tribes in Namibia. Cambodia’s 1975 slaughterhouse is still fresh in the minds of many, after the Khmer Rouge didn’t even spare new born babies. Estimated deaths: 2 million men, women and children murdered out of racism-born hate.
But in 1982’s genocide in Guatemala it only gets worse. The world has yet to learn from the deaths already tainting 20th century history.
At the height of Cold War tensions, the Guatemalan government and its army and counter-insurgency force began their brutal 2-year campaign against the Mayan Indians. Fearing the Mayan Indians were “working towards a communist coup” the paramilitary teams systematically attacked 626 villages. They rounded up their communities and brutally tortured, raped, burnt alive, amputated limbs (of children) impaled, disembowelled and cut open the wombs of pregnant women before burning their villages to the ground. Their ‘scorched earth’ policy left slaughtered livestock, tainted water supplies, and destroyed crops to ensure mass devastation.
The rampage spared no child nor the elderly. The URNG guerrillas the Mayan Indians were allegedly orchestrating a communist coup with, were responsible for 3 percent of the human rights violations recorded during that time. They were simply too small to help the Mayans or be of any consequence to the government. The Guatemalan Army was responsible for 93 percent of the violations, the UN found.
Throughout the genocide, the Guatemalan Army received continual United States and CIA support. They provided the weapons and equipment that assisted in the torturing and beating of children. The CIA worked with intelligence officers within the Guatemalan Army, “some of whom were on the CIA payroll.” ‘The Silent Holocaust’ was all about stemming the spread of communism.
One sole survivor of a village massacre said: “After having killed our wives, they brought out our children. They grabbed their feet and beat their heads against the house posts. I had six children. They all died, and my wife as well. All my life my heart will cry because of it.”
But what do we learn from this? That human nature is inherently flawed? Yemen will be the next statistic, Syria, others. And then the Muslims…and then maybe us.
At the end of the Second World War when they cleaned out the concentration camps in Germany, a Lutheran Minister said:
“When they came for the Jews
I wasn’t Jewish so I did nothing;
When they came for the Homosexuals
I wasn’t Homosexual so I did nothing;
When they came for the Gypsy
I wasn’t a Gypsy so I did nothing;
When they came for me…
There was no one left to do anything.”
Think about it.
Footnote: Under Articles 2 and 3 of the UN General Assembly, what constitutes genocide is outlined:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The following acts shall be punishable:
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.
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