Discussion:
Why is the truth about Rwanda so elusive?
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Sid Shniad
2014-10-22 00:48:40 UTC
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*http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/why-is-the-truth-about-rwanda-so-elusive/#comment-6780
<http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/why-is-the-truth-about-rwanda-so-elusive/#comment-6780>*
*Z Communications October 6, 2014*
Why is the truth about Rwanda so elusive?
*By Jonathan Cook <http://zcomm.org/author/jonathancook/>*
* <http://zcomm.org/znetarticle/why-is-the-truth-about-rwanda-so-elusive/>*

It’s not often I praise the BBC for producing real journalism. Further, it
is with some disbelief that I find myself applauding Jane Corbin, who I
will struggle till my dying day to forgive for her despicable piece of
Israeli propaganda parading as reportage a few years back on the Israeli
navy’s attack on the Mavi Marmara aid ship to Gaza.

Nonetheless, Corbin has now fronted a truly disturbing revisionist
documentary on Rwanda, called Rwanda’s Untold Story. The programme’s
argument is that the official story about a straightforward genocide by the
Hutu majority of Rwanda’s Tutsis 20 years ago is highly selective and
entirely misleading. One scholar suggests that the narrative we have been
fed is the equivalent of reducing the Second World War to the Holocaust and
claiming nothing else of significance happened.

What the documentary demonstrates forcefully is that Paul Kagame, the hero
of the official story of Rwanda’s genocide, was almost certainly the
biggest war criminal to have emerged from those horrifying events. Kagame
led the Tutsis’ main militia, the RPF. He almost certainly ordered the
shooting down of the Rwandan president’s plane, the trigger for a civil war
that quickly escalated into a genocide; on the best estimates, his RPF was
responsible for killing 80% of the 1 million who died inside Rwanda, making
the Hutus, not the Tutsis, the chief victims; and his subsequent decision
to extend the civil war into neighbouring Congo, where many Hutu civilians
had fled to escape the RPF, led to the deaths of up to 5 million more.

Not surprising then that Kagame is championed by Britain’s own biggest war
criminal, Tony Blair. But the rot has spread much further. Rwanda, now
praised as a model democracy under Kagame, is in truth a police state,
where the president kills or locks up all opponents, fixes the elections,
and has made any questioning of the official story he created – that the
Tutsis were the exclusive victims of the genocide – a crime.

The BBC has not had to dig up any new information to make this programme.
It’s all been available for years. But no one apart from a few experts –
academics, UN military personnel who were there, UN investigators, and
Kagame’s former, and disillusioned, inner circle – have dared to speak out.

The real criminals, as ever, it seems, have been the western powers and the
UN. They have happily paraded their remorse at failing to intervene at the
time of the genocide (presumably because their self-confessed error helped
to justify the subsequent wave of bogus “humanitarian interventions” in the
Middle East). But what the documentary makes clear is that Blair, Bill
Clinton, Kofi Annan and many others have helped to whitewash Kagame’s
crimes against humanity and provide a veneer of legitimacy to his current
oppressive rule. Anyone who has threatened to blow the lid, like Carla del
Ponte, the chief prosecutor at the UN’s international tribunal on Rwanda,
has been forced out.

But as I watched the programme, one thing struck me forcefully in
particular, though it was not referred to by Corbin: what were
the journalists who crawled all over the Rwanda story for years doing? How
were Blair, Clinton and Annan allowed to forge the myth of a simple Hutu
genocide of Tutsis without serious challenge from serious reporters working
for serious newspapers that were supposed to be making sense of these
events for us?
From my own experience covering Israel-Palestine, I can guess what
happened. The reporters on the ground feared straying too far from the
consensus in their newsrooms. Rather than telling their editors what the
story was (the model of news production most people assume to be the case),
the editors were creating the framework of the story for the reporters,
based on the official narrative being promoted in political and diplomatic
circles. Correspondents who cared about their careers dared not
challenge the party line too strongly, even when they knew it to be a lie.

Rwanda also offers a telling example of how such group-think works, and how
a non-expert far from real events but schooled in a kind of London or
Washington consensus on foreign affairs ends up policing the limits of
possible thought in a way that strips us, his readers, of the right to hear
a counter-narrative.

The guilty party in this case was George Monbiot, often seen as one of the
most radical and original thinkers publishing in the British mainstream
liberal media. Two years ago he wrote an ugly attack, entitled “Naming the
Genocide Deniers
<http://www.monbiot.com/2011/06/13/naming-the-genocide-deniers/>“, on two
scholars, one of them the renowned Ed Herman. Monbiot eventually dragged in
<http://www.monbiot.com/2012/05/21/see-no-evil/> a host of other thinkers,
including Noam Chomsky, accusing them of being “genocide belittlers” for
not turning on the pair at his instigation.

The crime committed by this tiny group was that they had raised the
possibility that the official story of the genocide in Rwanda – as well as
of some of the massacres in the Balkans – might not be entirely
historically accurate, and that the accounts might have been distorted for
political advantage. Monbiot, uninterested in assessing their claims or
addressing the facts, abused them for straying from the official narrative.
Monbiot might like to reconsider his behaviour, for which I and others
criticised
<http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/09/28/the-dangerous-cult-of-the-guardian/>
him
at the time, and issue a long-overdue apology.

That aside, Monbiot’s disgraceful accusations are a useful illustration of
how powerful is the emotional, imaginative and possibly financial grip of
the mainstream media on journalists, even those feted for their
independence.

It is with that context in mind too that one should tip one’s hat to the
BBC and, reluctantly, to Jane Corbin for doing their jobs for once.
Rwanda’s Untold Story reminds us how rarely journalists actually engage in
the myth-busting, truth-telling work they claim to be bedrock of
their craft.

Sadly, the Youtube link I watched this on was quickly removed, on copyright
grounds. Those in the UK should be able to watch it on iPlayer for a while
longer. Others will need to keep their eyes open online or hope it is shown
on BBC World.
UPDATE:

For the time being, this link to the video seems to work:

http://vimeo.com/107867605
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