For the sake of the future it's worth noting that the issue of genocide was severely suppressed in the United States during and following the Vietnam conflict. Any attempt to apply the Convention on Genocide within the U.S. was impossible because the Convention hadn't been ratified by the U.S. or absorbed into its legal structure. But the Convention was at least signed and applicable to citizens, particularly outside territorial limits. So genocidal aspects of U.S. foreign policies required its maintenance of overwhelming military force, in peace or war, to avoid application of the Convention to its actions, and policies, or for example, to the complexity of Israel and Palestine.
A kind of national schizophrenia was created by the U.S. entertainment industry and intellectuals, which imbued post-World War II generations with sadness at the tragedies of the Holocaust while Chilean union leaders and other antifascists were being taken to the soccer stadium, and Communists in Indonesia listed for their eventual extermination. The terrifying results of the suppression of an International Treaty which supersedes all other laws and has no statute of limitations, can be found in what's missing, not only from Chile, from Indonesia, the countrysides of Central and South America, but from Iraq as well, from what was once Yugoslavia, and now from Afghanistan. These are all instances in which the U.S. has had at least a covert role, and in time one may have to add the example of Rwanda as well.
In 1989, from Maine, my wife and I published the Convention on Genocide with supporting United Nations Texts and with U.N. permission , exactly because it was out of print at the U.N. Usually our small press published her etchings and blockprints and my novels and poetry. It was hard to find any information about the Convention on Genocide. It wasn't available in the libraries. The internet wasn't available yet. The publication nearly put our small press out of business. We received no funding. The rare reviews were simply a listing of the book. Our ads were blanked out in several papers. Bookstores were nervous about carrying the work. Yet there was no other inexpensive edition available in the country. There was a deep need for the American people, in a democracy, to know the substance of the Convention and supporting texts. Afterwards, the U.N. sent me additional information showing that the U.S. ratified the Convention in 1988. The fact was never adequately reported to the American people.
At ratification, "reservations" and "declarations" included by the U.S. would allow U.S. policy makers to decide when and whether the Convention can be applied to the U.S. Several countries objected strongly. In 1996, from Canada, we published a Canadian edition, Common Rights & Expectations, with supportive treaties, noting the chilling North American "reservations" and "declarations" for public scrutiny. The work remains available for free online.
From the perspective of the Convention on Genocide, the Gulf war was and remains a nightmare. U.S. agression against a third world country in a unilateral action which pressed allies into its service, became the destruction of a civilian population and national group. Intent was made clear by the targeting of Iraq's civilian infrastructure.
Before the bombing started I signed with others a letter to the county paper, petitioning President Bush (whose summer White House was in the next town over), not to bomb because it would cause civilian casualties. We didn't like economic sanctions but found them preferable to saturation bombing. The argument between sanctions and bombing was short-lived. The bombing followed too soon for the letter to appear, and with such overwhelming devastation of civilian infrastructures that sanctions against the people which were applied subsequently added to the lethal effects of bombing. Together, they gave the civiliian population's infrastructures no way to recover, and have continued to destroy that national group for over a decade.
Having just published the Convention on Genocide, I couldn't avoid the obvious. The York County Coast Star, serving the lower coastal region of Maine, published my letter:
Wednesday, June 12, 1991
The York Country Coast Star, Kennebunk
To the Editor:
The Gulf war was without warning and then over and done with so fast, ruthlessly, with such cynicism, with no respect for our people's basic desire for peace, and with such an overwhelming manipulation of the public by political ploys, censorship and propaganda, that some simple things need to be said.
The U.S. was led into an unnecessary war. The war has not helped the American people. Nor has it changed the government of Iraq. Opportunities for peace negotiations were ignored. Opportunities for sanctions were ignored. U.S. Reserve and Guard units were called up and deployed abroad. Half a million American troops were sent to wage a high-tech slaughter against an inadequately armed and poorly defended third world country. That country was then bombed into the stone age. Destructive force of the bombing has been equated to five Hiroshimas.
The President's policy included invading a sovereign nation and a genocide of its people. Definitive casualty statistics of Iraqi deaths are hard to find, unwelcome as they are to both the Pentagon and the Iraqi government. The Pentagon estimates the deaths of possibly 100,000 Iraqi troops, most of whom could put up no resistance. No-one will admit how many Iraqi civilians were killed in 41 days and nights of bombing. People who have thought about it guess between 6,000 and 20,000.
The deaths of 170,000 Iraqi children under age five are predicted in the next year due to effects of the war. Civil war (encouraged by the president) has and may claim too many others. Masses of refugees who fled Iraq before the bombing have disappeared from the news. The destruction of so many people was accomplished with almost no American and Coalition casualties. It was a massacre.
A massacre is a terrible thing, and if massacres are not called crimes, they proliferate. What government orders the most terrifying bombardment in human history with any hope of making a lasting peace? What country of non-Nordic peoples comes next?
What the war has meant at home is that the U.S. people's momentum for peace, building steadily since Vietnam, was effectively ignored. Anti-war resistance continued, without much effect. The crime of Agent-Oranging Vietnam (and American troops) became simply another example of U.S. military thinking. The Gulf war enforces a fairly distinct pattern of White Supremacist policies, using the American military machine for expansion.
The freedom of the press has bowed to military censorship. Our people are to be kept increasingly in ignorance or fear. The deprivation of essential human rights to poor Americans and particularly women, has increased. I think that much of America is at this point terrorized by the Gulf war. We found that a democracy could be manipulated overnight into a genocidal war, and that there were no safeguards to stop the madness.
We need to build a much stronger American resistance. We need to assure our military, instruction in International law, if it is to be placed at risk by orders that involve crimes against humanity. We need to be able to apply under American law, prohibitions against genocide that are binding on our own country's leaders.
— John Bart Gerald, Moody, Maine
My developing essay, "On Confronting Genocide," which dealt directly with the Convention, and then the chilling message of the U.S. "reservations" and "declarations," was entirely shut out by U.S. media. My perseverance cost me most of my contacts as a freelance writer simply because I believed people had to be informed. If the Convention on Genocide carried more weight in the United States it might have helped deter the massacres in Rwanda, and the continuing unnecessary deaths due to sanctions (particularly among Iraq's children), NATO's ecocide in the Balkans, and the attacks in progress of the "war on terrorism." With modern weaponry the danger is that the future of entire populations will be denied. The U.S. media suppressed news concerning the Convention on Genocide when public awareness was most needed to prevent global crimes.
I began submitting the essay in 1992. Through thirty-five years of submitting my writings for publication, and often of controversial material, I was never treated as badly. Submissions were returned unacknowledged, or with undated form letters, or "lost" requiring re-submission, or my submission was ignored until I telephoned and pressed for some response. Sequential submissions require a rapid reading for timely issues. Submissions to Harper's, for example, where my writings had previously appeared, took nearly eight months before the piece was rejected. Beyond my own chances to put food on the table, the shut out suggested a wider policy that would attempt to ignore the Convention on Genocide and its applicability to American actions. Various forms of the essay were rejected again and again and again, along with any essay encouraging nonviolence. My "Essay against Genocide" was eventually published online from the Netherlands, then Switzerland where it remains available.
"Essay against Genocide," record of submissions
( ** marks outlets which previously published my work)
Sept. 1, 1992, submission to The Boston Globe, Op.Ed. page. "On Confronting Genocide" (short version). Sept. 23, 1992 rejection.
Sept. 24, 1992, submissioin to Op.Ed. page, New York Times, "On Confronting Genocide" (short verision). Oct. 5, 1992, returned without acknowledgement.
**Feb. 24, 1993, to Atlantic Monthly, "On Confronting Genocide," 14 pages. Mar. 2, 1993, rejection.
**Mar. 19, 1993 (certified mail 3/20/93), to Harper's Magazine,"On Confronting Genocide." No response for 3 months. I telephoned June 15, 1993. Manuscript to be looked for. June 15, 1993, letter from Harper's, "manuscript lost." Oct.7,1993, query re. submission of "In Defense of the Convention on Genocide" to Harper's Magazine. Oct. 21,1993, letter welcoming submission. Oct.31,1993, submission (express mail receipt, Nov.1,1993). Nov.17,1993, rejection.
**March 5, March 6, 1993, to Boston Globe Magazine, "On Confronting Genocide." March 19th, 1993, letter to Boston Globe editorial staff concerning submissions. April 28, 1993 (certified mail), Letter to Boston Globe editorial staff concerning lack of response and report of non-receipt of manuscript re. "On Confronting Genocide". April 30, 1993 (registered mail), resubmission of manuscripts, re. "On Confronting Genocide." May 5, 1993, rejections with return of all submissions.
May 12, 1993. to Z magazine, "On Confronting Genocide". June 21, 1993, letter to Z magazine stating need to include added material. June 26, 1993 rejection.
Oct. 5, 1993, request for reading to The Progressive. Oct. 7, 1993, refused.
**Oct.18,1993, to Commonweal, "In Defense of the Convention on Genocide." Nov. 16, 1993, rejection.
Oct. 25, 1994, submission to The New Yorker, "Against Genocide." Jan. 23, 1995, query. Feb. 24, 1995, rejection.
Jan. 19, 1994, to The Catholic Worker, "On Confronting Genocide." March 1, 1994, referred.
March 9, 1994, to The Nation, "On Confronting Genocide." April 14, 1994, my postcard asking what happened to the submission. May 3, 1994, telephone calls: manuscript said to have been returned March 28, not received. May 5, 1994, my letter wondering if the subject matter of the essay was being withheld from the people. May 9, 1994, return of the submitted article received; May 17, 1994, my letter protesting possible censorship of information re. genocide. May 19, 1994, denial from the acting editor.
**Aug. 19, 1994, to The New York Review of Books, "Against Genocide." Sept. 12, 1994, my query. October 15, 1994, my query. Nov.16, 1994, rejection.
March 14, 1995, to the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, "Why the Convention on Genocide Hasn't Worked." April 7, 1995, acknowledge and held for possible publication; no further word.
March 27, 1995, to Hungry Mind Review, "Why the Convention on Genocide Hasn't Worked." April 3, 1995, rejection.
March 27, 1995, to The New Republic "Why the Convention on Genocide Hasn't Worked." April 10, 1995, rejection.
Dec. 8, 1995, to Peace Media Service, Netherlands, "Essay against Genocide" ("Why the Convention against Genocide Hasn't Worked"). Dec. 28, 1995 , published in peacemedia.news (posted on U.S PeaceNet & Canada web.net). as "on preventing genocide."
Nov. 14, 1996, to Fellowship Magazine, "Why the Convention against Genocide Hasn't Worked." Held for possible reprint, but not heard from again.
June 1, 1997, reprinted, as "Is the U.S. Really a Signatory to the U.N. Convention on Genocide?" Serendipity, Switzerland.
April 3, 2000, reprinted, "An Essay against Genocide," National Library of Canada, electronic collection.
April 4, 2000, reprinted, "An Essay against Genocide," author's home page.
Copyright © 2001 by John Bart Gerald
Posted on Nightslantern, October 19, 2001
Gerald and Maas, Ottawa
Posted on Serendipity, November 2, 2001
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