The Politics of Genocide
Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
Monthly Review Press, 2010
In 1895 novelist Anatole France – who in the same decade took up cudgels in defense of persecuted Armenians in the Ottoman Empire while also entering the lists on behalf of Alfred Dreyfus – wrote an essay in which he maintained that words are like coins. When freshly minted the images and inscriptions on them are clear. But by dint of constant circulation they become effaced until the outlines are blurred and the words unintelligible.
It is spell-binding to see how the U.S. establishment can inflate the threat of a target, no matter how tiny, remote, and (most often) non-existent that threat may be, and pretend that the real threat posed by its own behavior and policies is somehow defensive and related to that wondrously elastic thing called “national security.” We should recall that this establishment got quite hysterical over the completely non-existent threat from Guatemala in the years 1950-1954, a very small and very poor country, essentially disarmed, helped by a U.S. and “allied” arms boycott, quickly overthrown in June 1954 by a miniscule U.S.-organized proxy force invading from our ally Somoza’s Nicaragua. But a telegram drafted in the name of Eisenhower’s Secretary of State John Foster Dulles shortly before the 1954 regime change in Guatemala warned that this country had become a “challenge to Hemisphere security and peace” and was “increasingly [an] instrument of Soviet aggression in this hemisphere” and a “menace to [the] stability of strategic Central America and Caribbean area,” so that U.S. policy was “determined [to] prevent further substantial arms shipments from reaching Guatemala.”1 And the New York Times featured this terrible threat repeatedly (one favorite, the lying headline of Sidney Gruson’s “How Communists Won Control of Guatemala,” March 1, 1953), a propaganda campaign dating back to 1950 that extended throughout the media, even reaching The Nation magazine (Ellis Ogle, “Communism in the Caribbean?” March 18, 1950).