After a massacre, when the bodies are long buried it is usually with omissions or frightful disgust that mass murderers are remembered. Those who would commit genocide and atrocities when death is wholesale tend to be viewed as pariah extremists, radicals and sociopaths. The uncommon people of humanity who are never short of moments in history or eager legions of killers, are imagined as being the rarity. To hear them in their own words we see the irrationality and fear that is seemingly common, for it to be to generate hatred and the will to kill. To kill them all regardless of individual guilt or innocence. The centrally planned thinking so often found in utopian visions, welfare, economic egalitarianism, nationalism, racist anti-racism or gender class distinctions all share a generalised approach with those who would kill, murder and rape thousands or millions of innocent strangers. Collectivism.
Whether one group of people see themselves as civilised and entitled to an entire continent, or if society is understood by class distinctions. The individual is lost beneath the weight of collectivist thinking and solutions. Solutions that tend to lean into mass punishment, even genocide. The sense of Manifest Destiny can drive policy with determination to cleanse and ‘improve’ a land. Those already living on it to be conquered. The nature of a settler colonial nation is to exist at the expense of the original people, in order to replace them violence, betrayed treaties and re-settlement is required. Inevitably the original people are weakened and placed into constricted reservations or communities and made dependent upon the lands new masters.
“Their disappearance from the human family would be no great loss to the world.” – Henry Clay, US statesman and lawyer on the American Indian.
Men of vision will look to the map and declare it a possession for their own people or civilisation itself. They will send armed and willing killers along with those who grow reluctant after seeing the violence. A sense of individual morality and understanding of justice to be washed away before the importance of great men, history and collectivist inertia. Men of honour, often doing the dishonourable to satisfy glory and destiny,
“…it was hard to see little children on their knees have their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized. … I saw two Indians hold one of another’s hands, chased until they were exhausted, when they kneeled down, and clasped each other around the neck and were both shot together. They were all scalped, and as high as half a dozen taken from one head. They were all horribly mutilated. One woman was cut open and a child taken out of her, and scalped. … Squaw’s snatches were cut out for trophies. You would think it impossible for white men to butcher and mutilate human beings as they did there.” – Captain Silas Soule, US Army on witnessing soldiers murder unarmed natives at the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864.
The United States history expanded as a continental republic-empire, native nations wiped out, the survivors forced into dependency. Permanent prisoners of war, the conquered. Much like Australia, Canada and South Africa. In order for colonial expansion and aggressive imperialism to function the aggressor needs to hold a supremacist view, one of racialist or cultural importance. The ‘savage’ is a threat, the barbarian always on the border despite the borders expanding at their expense. The duality of killing conquest in conjunction with missionary benevolence can often confuse the narrative of history, though the disregard of any individuals rights, to instead view humans as a member of a collective mob, allowing for injustices, even slavery or genocide.
“To open to civilization the only part of the globe not yet explored, to penetrate the shadows that envelope its entire population; This is, I make bold to say a crusade worthy of this century of progress, and i am happy to note that public opinion is favorable to its undertaking.” King Leopold II of Belgian.
In the late nineteenth and into parts of the twentieth century the Belgian ruled Congo was stained by a colonial legacy defined by brutal genocide. A ruled of rape and mutilation. The severed hands of Congolese becoming a currency for the imperial masters and their proxies. With the European and Christian fervour to civilise the frontiers of Africa, while exploiting it, Belgian had its prize. In the Congo the precious nectar of rubber, so valuable that slavery and deadly quotas were set. Many who witnessed the horrors spoke up, the Belgian king and his government retained their empire and dignity among their peers of other civilised states. The mentality prevailing that, what needed to be done was oftentimes unpleasant though necessary. The rubber supply continued into the European market via Belgian, so in some eyes, the mass murder, severed limbs and scarred bodies of the Congolese was worth it in the end.
“Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate (grundlich aufzaumen) its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians, without being thereby disturbed by foreign intervention. What on earth do you want? The question is settled. There are no more Armenians.” –
Talat Pasha, Minister of the Interior, in a conversation with Dr. Mordtmann of the German Embassy1915
“In its attempt to carry out its purpose to resolve the Armenian question by the destruction of the Armenian race, the Turkish government has refused to be deterred neither by our representations, nor by those of the American Embassy, nor by the delegate of the Pope, nor by the threats of the Allied Powers, nor in deference to the public opinion of the West representing one-half of the world.” – Count Wolff-Metternich, German Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, cable to the German Chancellor, 1916.
Despite international awareness of the hundreds of thousands of Armenian and Greeks massacred by the Turkish government at the wars end, no justice was found for the victims. Even to this day the Turkish government denies the genocide. All Armenians were seen as a threat to Ottoman rule and as subjects they were liquidated. Even while waging a war governments will spend resources rounding up and exterminating large amounts of innocent parties. Paranoia and a desire to be active in the destruction of an enemy, the real and imagined, is crucial to certain types of rule. From Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union or Indonesia, individuals defined as being of an undesirable race or class have been eliminated with horrific scale.
“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” – Adolf Hitler. Who indeed? But a few. Turkey is after all an important NATO nation. And such an example of genocide is a testament in realpolitik when a nation like Turkey is seen as a potential bulwark against the emerging Bolshevik threat following the first world war. If the West and wider world does not care about the Armenians, then why would they about the Jews, Gypsies and political radicals when already pogroms exist and hatred for those groups is widespread? The confidence to do mass harm grows with precedent and collectivist hubris, the Nazi Germans where just the enemy of the victors in a great war.
“World Jewry will suffer a great catastrophe at the same time as Bolshevism. The Fuhrer once more expressed his determination to clean up the Jews in Europe pitilessly. There must be no squeamish sentimentalism about it. The Jews have deserved the catastrophe that has now overtaken them. Their destruction will now go hand in hand with the destruction of our enemies. We must hasten this process with cold ruthlessness. “ – Joseph Goebbels, German Propaganda Minister from his diary 1942.
Millions would die, the racialist supremacist ideology attached to a national socialist economic political system united millions of complicit killers into a genocide machine. A war machine and mass murder system that used legalese and civil institutions with such brutal ferocity. With calculation and an open language ruled by confidence to kill, what must be done by a people who only a decade before were free of such ambitions and destiny. The idea that one must kill a group in order to survive is an ideal that permeates all through history and remains today.
Government under most ideological systems has been responsible for mass murder of ‘it’s own people’ and those outside of its rule. Revolutionaries seeking to commandeer government have also committed acts of mass murder in pursuit of their political ambitions. Kill squads terrorising regions as they claim political ideology as justification compete against the state in their ability to murder innocent and unarmed people. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin put it, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” The forgotten fallen are often meaningless numbers when crunched by history or beneath the righteous boots of the victor, they only seem to matter when a need to point out great evil is required for conflict. Evil that does not reflect back in any mirror for the revolutionary and statesman a like.
In the years since the second world war, humanity it was assumed was to learn. To no longer march down the path of empires and genocide. Instead in the prevailing period of ‘peace’, empires may have crumbled but in many ways they have remained. Genocides have also occurred, mass murder of those deemed ideologically compromised to those of race or faith. Here remains some of the words from those who have killed or seek bloodshed. The certainty and uncertainty to take life, the righteousness and blatant blood lust at times, does not reveal monsters but very human beings.
“I probably bayoneted 30-odd hateful Chinese soldiers. Climbing up on a heap of dead bodies and bayoneting them gave me a courage., which made me feel I could even vanquish ogres. I stabbed them with all my might while hearing them groan. There were some old ones and kids. I killed them all. I even borrowed a sword and severed a head. It was the most unusual experience I’ve ever had.” – From a Japanese soldiers diary of his experience during the ‘Rape of Nangking’, 1937.
“We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo – men, women and children. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?“ – Robert McNamara, US Secretary of Defence 1960s, from ‘The Fog of War’ interview 2003
“I was afraid that I would be considered a coward… that it would harm me somehow in the future, if I would show myself as being too weak. I did not want L. (my superior) and others to have the impression that I was not as hard as an SS man was supposed to be.”- German SS Policeman on killing unarmed civilians from. ‘How was it Humanly Possible?’
“They are all enemy fighters and they are all bleeding in their heads. Now it already includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They have to follow in their footsteps, there is nothing (unjust) about that. They have to go, and so does the physical house where they raised the snake. Otherwise more small snakes will grow there.” – Uri Elitzur Schengen, Israeli settler leader from 2009 Facebook statement, “The Palestinian People Have Declared War on Us, and We Must Fight Back.”statemen
“Israel’s actions enhance our determination to pursue the path of resistance through all means available. … [Israel is] committing a holocaust as the whole world watches and doesn’t lift a finger to stop it” – Hamas Spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, 2008
“I picked up a stick and said: ‘Tutsis must die!’. Then I hit one of them and the the other one…I was one of the killers.” “I am a mother. I killed some children’s parents.” – Fortunate Mukankuranga, one of the 96,000 women convicted for their involvement in the Rwandan genocide. BBC interview, 2020.
“To spare you is no profit. To destroy you is no loss.” – The chant of Khmer Rouge killers as they rounded up and guarded their victims, 1975.
“It’s up to history to judge.” – Pol Pot. Brother Number One of the Khmer Rouge, leader of the Cambodian genocide.