By Alyssa A. Lappen
Family Security Matters | May 25, 2010
Review: Daniel Goldhagen, Worse Than War:Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity
(New York: PublicAffairs, Oct. 6, 2009), 672 pp.
In his third book, former Harvard University associate professor Daniel Goldhagen promises a distinctive approach to genocide. He hopes to integrate “mass murder and elimination into our understanding of politics, and extend genocide’s definition to include many forms of “elimination.”
To this end, Goldhagen posits some painfully obvious points. Outright extermination — the final stage of genocide — “is one aspect of ‘eliminationism’,” but perpetrators also usually seek to totally erase identities, cultures, existence, history and philosophy of perceived enemies. Thus, they initiate genocidal campaigns via several repugnant measures: They “transform” groups with forced religious conversions, suppress languages or erase and falsify history — destroying “defining political, social or cultural identities [to neuter] members’ alleged noxious qualities.” They “repress” the “hated, deprecated or feared” minorities inside accessible areas that can be easily, violently dominated. They “expel” or deport victims in forced migrations beyond national borders or into mass camps. They forbid normal “reproduction,” mandate mass sterilization or incite mass rape. (Another principal extermination method Goldhagen neglects: purposeful mass starvation of victims).
Unfortunately, the author presumes to advance genocide studies beyond the accomplishments of most scholars who preceded him. “Studies of genocide either mainly restrict themselves to a subset of usually the most familiar and largest mass killings…,” Goldhagen complains. Or “they float above the material on a general level to offer conclusions without a solid and broad empirical foundation.” He points no fingers, but by default Goldhagen pompously insults such great historians, anthropologists, Holocaust and genocide scholars as Vahakan Dadrian, Lucy Dawidowicz, Yehuda Bauer, Walter Laqueur, Israel Gutman, David S. Wyman and many others.
Where Goldhagen claims that other scholars failed, he pretends to distinctively approach the topic and promises to derive and deliver “new understandings” — especially on the “neglected” political nature of “eliminationism” — and all of that by means “predicated upon an accurate view of our age’s mass slaughters.” (p. 32)
Yet the author presents so many inaccuracies and distortions in his 597page text, one hardly knows where to begin the catalog. In its primary meaning in Webster’s Dictionary, “empirical” studies make orderly and reasonable examinations of established facts and, or results from scientific experiments. Goldhagen’s work exemplifies the obverse, secondary meaning of “empirical” — i.e, “without the aid of science or a knowledge of principles; ignorant and unscientific practice; charlatanry; quackery.”
“In no previous era have political leaders dreamed of disposing of hundreds of thousands, millions, or tens of millions of people” as have modern political leaders like Hitler, Stalin and Mao — and not just those tyrants — Goldhagen claims (p. 23). Oh really?
But a few pages earlier, Goldhagen correctly observes that extermination (i.e., eliminationism in all imaginable forms) was “a staple of all eras and parts of the world.” Ancients often “slew those they conquered.” Right. Citing the Bible and the Illiad, Goldhagen nevertheless concludes that ancient (and presumably medieval) historical accounts are “often so sketchy” as to leave scholars uncertain if some “slaughters occurred [at all] or of the number of victims.” (p. 18)
Apparently, Goldhagen has not read sufficient primary ancient and medieval accounts, nor studied enough scholars — for example Edward Gibbon; Sir Henry Miers Elliot and John Dowson; and 20th century scholars like Giuseppe Ricciotti, Henri Pirenne, Spyros Vryonis, Will Durant, Bat Ye’or, K.S. Lal, Victor Davis Hanson, and many others — who examined wars and dominant cultures in those periods and prove the opposite. Otherwise, Goldhagen could not claim that the volume of 20th century mass slaughters (p. 56) made the modern age the bloodiest in all history, nor conclude that scholars lack enough details of early and medieval mass murders to know that hundreds of millions were murdered.
The stark figures on 20th century genocide — an estimated 127 million to 175 million people (p. 56), including victims of purposeful mass starvation — are indeed appalling. But such numbers mean most only against total populations in any given age. From 1900 to 2000, the world’s population more than tripled to nearly 6 billion. 1 At most, then, 20th century genocide eliminated perhaps 3% of the globe’s people.
As horrific as those numbers sound, history has witnessed much bloodier periods. According to Will Durant,
“The [Islamic] conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.” 2 (Story of Civilization, vol.1, Our Oriental Heritage, New York 1994, p.496)
Modern scholar of Islam Dr. Andrew Bostom observes, quoting the late Hindu historian K.S. Lal, that Muslim forces in the subcontinent murdered an estimated 80 million people from Mahmud of Ghazni in 1000 C.E. through the collapse of the Delhi Sultanate in 1525. The conquerors included Qutbuddin Aibak, Alauddin Khalji, Muhammad and Firoz Tughlaq, and Amir Timur (a.k.a. Tamerlane, 1336-1405) — all celebrated in Muslim accounts as “killers of lakhs,” with one lakh being 100,000 Hindus.3
In 1750, merely 791 million people populated the world — 500 million in Asia.4 By 1525, at most probably 250 to 300 million lived in India. Five hundred years earlier, India’s population would have been far smaller. Therefore, we may conservatively impute that Muslim invaders murdered wholesale some 18% to a third of the subcontinent’s Hindu and pagan people over 500 years of Islamic rule.
And this is to say nothing of the untold millions of Christians, Jews and pagans decimated by Islam’s extraordinarily violent conquests of the Middle East and North Africa from 632 through 750, 5 the mass slaughter perpetrated during the Islamic conquest and rule of Spain from 711 through the Moors’ final 1492 defeat, the deadly raids of Muslim seamen on Western Europe until the 732 battle of Poitiers, or millions destroyed by the Tatar heirs of Ghengis Khan (c. 1162-1227). The history of eliminationist Islamic campaigns is long and grisly.
What occurred in the Indian subcontinent, however, provides one of the best examples of the total cultural, historical and physical annihilation Islam inflicted on conquered nations throughout its 1,400 year history of jihad — which began when Mohammed in 627 initiated the genocidal tradition by beheading at least 600 men of Yathrib’s Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe and enslaving their wives and children.
Goldhagen limits his discussion mostly to 20th century genocide. Yet even within that frame, the above represent Worse than War’s most egregious oversights. It fails to achieve anything new or important. But most remarkably, while purporting to expose methods, institutions, logic, thinking, patterns and sources of 20th century genocide, Goldhagen entirely misses dozens of 20th century jihad genocides.
He mentions “jihad” only briefly (pp. 209-210) while discussing the Armenian genocide that, from the late 19th century through 1916 eliminated perhaps 2 million Armenian Christians. Goldhagen does give considerable space to these atrocities. Yet he inaccurately attributes motive to “nation building,” (p. 24) and virtually omits its Islamic origins. Ottoman Muslims — not irreligious or secular “Turks” — conceived and perpetrated the Armenian genocide, which in every respect was a classical jihad genocide. Muslim political leaders, moreover, were ably and copiously assisted, by clerical decrees (fatwas) inciting Muslims to eradicate Armenians via jihad.
In classical Islamic parlance, jihad is eliminationism. But while Goldhagen pretends to thoroughly cover eliminationism, readers of his latest endeavor will come away no more educated than they began on the jihad institution — a formalized Islamic system to eliminate non-Muslims (infidels) under their rule. Indeed, the Islamic legal code (sharia) strictly requires all Muslims to advance jihad warfare and includes many laws governing engagement with infidels. Non-Muslims must be forcibly converted (“invited”) to Islam; subdued, demeaned and levied an onerous annual head tax — or totally eliminated, that is, murdered.
Students of 20th century genocide, particularly those proposing strategies to avoid future mass bloodshed, should certainly understand the laws of jihad. More importantly, they should be able to objectively identify every instance of 20th and 21st century jihad genocide.
Alas, Goldhagen miserably fails both these tests. As with “jihad,” he mentions Islamic “holy war” but once, also in the context of the Armenian genocide, attributing it incorrectly and excluding it from the index.6 Despite frequent jihad genocides in the last 100 years, Goldhagen hardly refers to any of them, and incorrectly ascribes their cause when he does.
Herewith, a few more examples: Simultaneous with the Armenian genocide, Muslims also perpetrated jihad genocide against Iraq’s Chaldean, Assyrian and other Christian minorities. In 1933, they against struck Christians in at least 65 northern Iraqi villages. In June 1941, they murdered nearly 200 Baghdad Jews in a Farhud that also destroyed thousands of homes and shops. And so on. During the 20th century, Middle East Muslims — in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Turkey and Israel — perpetrated hundreds of massacres against Christians, Jews and other non-Muslim minorities, killing handfuls to several thousand in each attack or eliminationist war.
In 1955, Turkey’s government orchestrated a jihad campaign against Istanbul’s Greek Orthodox that destroyed 4,500 Greek homes, 3,500 business, 126 religious schools and institutions, and convinced most Greek Istanbul residents to flee. This came 23 years after 31 statutes intended to totally cripple the Greek community — and 14 years after Turkey deported from Istanbul every Greek man, aged 18 to 38. 7 Except in Israel, similar 20th century jihad campaigns including murder, intimidation, deprivation and deportation eliminated virtually all non-Muslim minorities from the Middle East. Elimination is jihad’s exact intent.
Concerning Nigeria, Goldhagen briefly mentions the 1967 “engineered starvation” of the Ibo people (p. 52), and elsewhere claims it resulted from “civil war” (pp. 272, 488). However, this was a jihad genocide specifically targeting Nigerian Christians. Lieut. Col. Murtala Mohammed declared in September 1967, “My destination is Onitsha, brothers and sisters. Let nobody stand on my way, for anything that stands on my way would be crushed.” In 1966, Nigerian troops slaughtered 50,000 “like cattle.” In 1968, they murdered every adult male in one village. In June 1969, Biafran Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu explained in his Ahiara Declaration, that the Ibo were threatened with “total destruction,” and wished to establish the Biafran nation specifically to resist “the Arab-Muslim expansionism which has menaced and ravaged the African continent for twelve centuries.” 8 Muslims intentionally starved to death at least one million Christian Ibos. As Karl Maier describes in This House Has Fallen (2000), Nigeria’s Islamization still continues. The Ibos are now deprecated as dhimmis — non-Muslims suffering under institutional eliminationist Islamic law.
The author also whitewashes Idi Amin’s 8-year reign of terror in Uganda. Amin “butchered” an estimated 300,000 Ugandans from 1971 to 1979, not simply to achieve status or ally with paramilitary forces. Goldhagen nowhere notes Amin’s motivations for mass murder — formal Islamic jihad doctrine. Uneducated except in a Bombo Islamic school, Amin was a devout jihadist Muslim famed for his Quran recitations. 9 He declared Islam Uganda’s state religion, hoped to convert the entire population, 10 and specifically targeted the predominantly Christian Acholi and Langi tribes for annihilation. 11 Even Goldhagen’s sections purportedly focused on “eliminationist institutions” (102-120) and “why perpetrators act” (pp. 145-231) do not discuss jihad. They merely rehash various deadly mechanisms (death marches, machetes, etc.), recount specific cases — and draw further obvious points. Yes, perpetrators lie to the world (p. 173).
The same aversions plague Goldhagen’s weak accounts of the Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sudan genocides. Pakistan murdered some 1 to 3 million in Bangladesh in 1971. Pakistan sent its Islamic Army to seceding East Pakistan with specific instructions to murder Bengali Hindus before secessionist Muslims. Victims were mostly Hindus. 12 Goldhagen merely blames this to Pakistan’s discrimination against Bengals and its wish to destroy Bengali intellectuals and political elites (pp. 212-213).
Indonesia’s 230 million people include the world’s largest concentration of Muslims — some 198 million. 13 East Timor seceded in 1975 due to religious persecution. Indonesia invaded and slaughtered 200,000, roughly a third of East Timor’s 97% Catholic population. 14 Here, Goldhagen blames mass murder on wanting to eliminate “communists and East Timorese” (p. 272). Neither does Goldhagen note Indonesia’s more recent jihad campaigns in Aceh or Papua. On the latter, Melanesians, Baptists, Christians and Catholics note religious intimidation and obvious eliminationist government plans. 15
Regarding Sudan Goldhagen mentions Islam, yet waters down reality. He discusses other faiths with no qualifiers. But Islam is always, and only, “political Islam” — notwithstanding pure jihad campaigns for two decades by which northern Sudanese Muslims exterminated, raped and enslaved millions of southern Sudanese Christians, animists and others, exhibiting jihad in its purest institutional form.
In his “Prologue to the future” Goldhagen at last cites jihadist incitements to genocide now appearing at rallies in every European capital. He notes genocidal inclinations of Muslim Brotherhood supreme leader Mohammed Mahdi Akef, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, Hamas deputy chief Musa Abu Marzook, among others. He readily admits, they “already have as followers a good portion of the more than 1.2 billion Muslims in the world….” He cites “political Islam” as the world’s most dangerous genocidal movement.
Yet we cannot face the jihadist enemy and succeed without accepting elemental facts. And Goldhagen lacks necessary understanding of essential Islamic doctrine and history — not “political Islam” — to offer genuine solutions.
Islamic texts include “straightforward calls for terror,” writes Danish linguist and Sorbonne PhD Tina Magaard, a textual and intercultural analyst who examined sacred texts of ten religions over three years after the 9/11 attacks. They “distinguish themselves from the texts of other religions by encouraging violence and aggression against people with other religious beliefs to a larger degree…. This has long been a taboo in the research into Islam, but it is a fact….” If many Muslims believe that God’s literal words appear in the Quran’s hundreds of calls to fight people of other faiths, words “which cannot be interpreted or rephrased, then we have a problem. It is indisputable that the texts encourage terror and violence.” 16
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributor Alyssa A. Lappen is a U.S.-based investigative journalist focusing on the Middle East and Islam. She is a former Senior Fellow for the American Center for Democracy (2005-2008); former Senior Editor of Institutional Investor (1993-1999), Working Woman (1991-1993) and Corporate Finance (1991).
1 Regional population from 1750 to 2050, GeoHive, http://www.xist.org/earth/his_history1.aspx (visited 3/23/2010).
2 Will Durant, cited in Koenraad Elst, Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam, chapter 2, published by Voice of India, undated, at http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books/negaind/ (visited 3/23/2010).
3 Andrew G. Bostom, “The global jihad,” FrontPage Magazine, Apr. 4, 2006, http://22.214.171.124/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=4737 and “Hindus, Jews and Jihad Terror in Mumbai,” American Thinker, Nov. 30, 2008, http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/11/hindus_jews_and_jihad_terror_i. html (visited 2/25/2010). See also Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (New York: Prometheus, 2006), pp. 77-85, 433-461, 631-653.
4 Regional population from 1750 to 2050, GeoHive, http://www.xist.org/earth/his_history1.aspx (visited 3/23/2010).
5 Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: from Jihad to Dhimmitude, (New Jersey: American University Press, 1996), pp. 43-68.
6 Goldhagen, p. 209; footnote 87, p. 611, incorrectly refers readers to p. 223 if Peter Balakian, Burning Tigress: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response, (New York: Harper Collins, 2003). The attributed quote actually appears on page 183.
7 Spyros Vryonis, The Mechanism of Catastrophe: The Turkish Pogrom Of September 6 – 7, 1955, And The Destruction Of The Greek Community Of Istanbul (New York, Greeworks.com, 2008), 659 pp.
8 Alyssa A. Lappen, “Enemy without a Human Face,” FrontPage Magazine, Sept. 2, 2003, citing the Ahiara Declaration of Jun. 1, 1969, http://126.96.36.199/Printable.aspx?ArtId=16623 (revisited 3/20/2010).
9 “Amin: the wild man of Africa,” Time, Mar. 3, 1977, http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,918762,00.html (visited 3/10/2010) and Prophet of Doom, http://prophetofdoom.net/Good_Muslims_Idi_Amin.Islam
10 “Idi Amin — the little big man — thoughts on his life and death,” African Insights blog, August 2003, http://kabiza.com/OutofAfrica-Too-MonthlyNewsletterAugust-2003-Idi-Ami n-Life-Death.htm (visited 3/23/2010).
11 “Amin: wild man of Africa,” ibid.
12 Koenraad Elst, “Was there an Islamic ‘Genocide’ of Hindus,” undated, http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/irin/genocide.html (visited 3/23/2010).
13 Indonesia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indonesia (visited 3/23/2010).
14 Amnesty International, “Power and impunity’: Human rights under the New Order,” Sept. 1994, http://web.archive.org/web/20061014150002/http://www.amnesty.org/ailib /intcam/indopub/indoint.htm (visited 3/23/2010).
15 “Indonesia: We are victims of genocide, says Papuan leader,” AKI, Mar. 9, 2007, http://doctorbulldog.wordpress.com/2007/03/09/indonesia-we-are-victims -of-genocide-says-papuan-leader/ (visited 3/23/2010).
16 Fjordman, “Islam is the most warlike religion,” Sept. 19, 2005, http://fjordman.blogspot.com/2005/09/islam-is-most-warlike-religion.ht m (visited 3/20/2010).
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