Is Genocide Predictable? Researchers Say Absolutely

Is Genocide Predictable? Researchers Say Absolutely

History unfortunately does repeat itself.

Two thousand years ago the Romans laid siege to Carthage, killing more than half of the city’s residents and enslaving the rest.

Hitler attempted to annihilate the Jews in Europe. In 1994 the Hutus turned on the Tutsis in Rwanda. The Khmer Rouge killed a quarter of Cambodia’s population. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbs slaughtered thousands of Bosnians at Srebrenica in July of 1995.

Last year when Buddhists attacked Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, many people were shocked to hear that mass killings still occur in the 21st century. But they do – and there’s growing evidence that these events follow familiar patterns. And if they do, we should be able to see them coming.

“Genocides are not spontaneous,” says Jill Savitt, acting director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. “In the lead-up to these types of crimes we do see a consistent set of things happening.”

Since 2014, the Holocaust Museum and scholars from Dartmouth have mapped the conditions that precede a genocide. They built a database of every mass killing since World War II. Then they went back and looked at the conditions in the countries where the killings occurred just prior to the attacks. And now they use that computer model to analyze which nations currently are at greatest risk.

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“We’re not forecasting with precision. That’s not the intention of the tool,” Savitt says. “What we’re doing is trying to alert policymakers that here’s a situation that is ripe for horrors to happen and give them a heads up that there are actions that can be taken to avert it.”

In the three years prior to the attacks on the Rohingya, Myanmar ranked as the country most likely to have a mass killing for two of those years and ranked No. 3 the other year.

The museum’s computer model analyzes statistics that you might think have nothing to do with genocide — fluctuations in per capita gross domestic product, infant mortality rates, overall population. Such factors, they believe, are indicators of inequality, poverty and economic instability.

They also plug in data about recent coup attempts, levels of authoritarianism, civil rights, political killings and ethnic polarization.

Lawrence Woocher, the research director at the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, has worked on the Early Warning Project since 2014. He says that the form of government is one of the key data points in their computer model. The most dangerous appears to be a regime that’s not a full dictatorship but also not a full democracy.

“The prevailing view about why mass atrocities occur is that they tend to be decisions by political elites when they feel under threat and in a condition of instability,” Woocher says. “And there’s lots of analysis that suggests that these middle regime types are less stable than full democracies or full autocracies.”

The Early Warning Project ranks 162 countries by their potential for a new mass killing to erupt in the coming year. They define a “mass killing” as more than 1,000 people being killed by soldiers, a militia or some other armed group. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is currently the most at risk followed by Afghanistan.

Egypt is No. 3 on the list. The researchers note that Egypt was ranked so high because of a variety of factors including a lack of freedom of movement of men, a history of mass killings and a recent coup d’etat. They add that Egypt faces multiple security threats and that “there have been reports of large-scale attacks by extremist groups, including IS [Islamic State], on Christians and Sufi Muslims, and violence against civilians perpetrated by both insurgents and government forces in the Sinai Peninsula.”

War-torn South Sudan is No. 4 on the list. Its incredibly brutal civil war is expected to get even worse.

Greg Stanton, a professor at George Mason University and the president of Genocide Watch, agrees with the goal of the Early Warning Project rankings but disagrees with their methods. Stanton says the Holocaust Museum’s model is overly dependent on national data that’s often released only once a year.

“They tend to notice that there is a risk of genocide too late,” Stanton says.

Rather than looking at statistics to try to predict mass killings, he argues that you should look at events.

“In other words, it’s not enough to know that you have an authoritarian regime,” he says. “It’s important to know what that authoritarian regime is doing.”

Stanton has come up with a genocide prediction model based on 10 stages of genocide. His model starts with classification of people by ethnicity, race or religion, moves through dehumanization, persecution and extermination before stage 10 — denial during and immediately after a genocidal act.

Interestingly, the U.S. currently ticks off many of the early stages of a country headed for a bloodbath, according to Stanton. There’s polarization, discrimination, dehumanization. But strong legal and government institutions in the U.S. are likely to block such a disaster from happening, he says.

The information that Genocide Watch and the Holocaust Museum are sifting through has been available to national security agencies for decades. The big question is what to do with this information. At the time of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Stanton was working in the State Department; he says top government officials knew that the violence was about to begin.

“When President Clinton said after the Rwandan genocide, ‘We really didn’t know.’ I’ll be direct. He was lying. He did know,” Stanton says. “I’ve read the confidential cables that came in from Rwanda from our ambassador there months before that genocide. And they knew it was coming.”

Stanton’s 10 stages of genocide and the Holocaust Museum’s Early Warning Project are both attempts to spread information more widely about the early rumblings of a genocide so that world leaders and others might be able to stop it.


Unspoken Story of Indian Holocaust


While London has rushed to point the accusing finger at Serbs for the Srebrenica tragedy, the British have apparently forgotten their own shameful history of the genocide of the people of India, Rakesh Krishnan Simha told Sputnik.

While British policy makers are expressing their “righteous” anger over Russia’s decision to veto their resolution on the Srebrenica “genocide” of 1995 discussed by the UN Security Council earlier this month, London should obviously look in the mirror and recall its own colonial past, New Zealand-based journalist and foreign affairs analyst Rakesh Krishnan Simha told Sputnik.There is no need to delve deep into history, the analyst noted, referring to the infamous Bengal Famine of 1943-44 that can be classified as the greatest disaster in the subcontinent in the 20th century.

Citing Australian biochemist Dr. Gideon Polya, Simha underscored that the Bengal Famine was a “manmade holocaust” directly caused by UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s policies.

“Bengal had a bountiful harvest in 1942, but the British started diverting vast quantities of food grain from India to Britain, contributing to a massive food shortage in the areas comprising present-day West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Bangladesh,” the foreign affairs analyst narrated in his article “Remembering India’s Forgotten Holocaust” in 2014.

Just in a year, the manmade famine had claimed the lives of over 3 million Indians.

The Famine in India: Natives Waiting for Relief at Bangalore
The Famine in India: Natives Waiting for Relief at Bangalore

“Winston Churchill was just the last of the many murderous despots who presided over India’s fate during the over 200 years of British rule. He said, “I hate Indians. They are beastly people with a beastly religion”,” Simha told Sputnik.

Can We Classify the Bengal Famine as Genocide? 

Can we classify the Bengal Famine as genocide? Genocide is a systematic killing of a people in great numbers and Churchill intentionally, and with open malice towards Indians, diverted grain from India to Europe, the analyst pointed out. He added that even when desperate pleas came from the administration in Bengal, Churchill refused to dispatch emergency food supplies. The UK prime minister even went so far as to blame Indians for the famine, saying that they “breed like rabbits.”

“When the British representatives in India asked Churchill to stop diverting Indian food grains to Europe and to supply India with wheat from Australia, he replied: “If there is famine in India, then why is Gandhi still alive?”” the analyst remarked bitterly.

The Bengal Famine happened despite India being a food-surplus country with a bumper harvest that year, he stressed. And that had not been the first time when the British rulers facilitated food shortages in India.

Photograph of a South India family in 1878 by W.W. Hooper
Photograph of a South India family in 1878 by W.W. Hooper

Simha stressed that during over 200 years of British rule, India saw at least two dozen major famines, which collectively killed 60 million people. The journalist added that the figure is based on numbers collated by British officials and economists and in reality it is significantly higher.

The analyst pointed out that during the 1877 famine in India, the only acquire to get some food was to work in the British labor camps. Within those camps, starving Indians received only 16 ounces of rice per day — less than the Jewish inmates of Buchenwald, the Nazi concentration camp of the Second World War.One would say that India had faced famines even before the British colonial rule. However, “in the past 2000 years of Indian history, there were very few famine deaths because the Indian rulers ensured the well-being of the people through emergency food supplies and field kitchens,” the journalist underscored.

India’s Forgotten Holocaust 

The history of manmade famines in India under the British rule can be obviously compared to the Jewish Holocaust of the Second World War, according to Rakesh Krishnan Simha.

“Hitler’s hatred for Jews led to the Holocaust and Britain’s malice towards Indians caused the deaths of at least 60 million Indians, including three million people during the Bengal Famine. Proportionately, the Bengal Famine was a holocaust on a bigger scale than the Jewish Holocaust. It took Hitler 12 years to murder 6 million Jews, but the British starved at least 3 million Indians to death in a 15 month period from 1943 to 1944. Indian estimates put the toll at 7 million,” the journalist told Sputnik.

Simha pointed out that Hitler wanted to destroy the entire Jewish population of Europe because of race and religious reasons; furthermore, Hitler saw Jews as competitors in the German economy.

“Hitler also wanted to create Lebensraum in Europe for pure Germans. If you look at the history of English colonialism, they have created their own versions of Lebensraum in Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand after the genocide of native populations,” the analyst underscored.

“They [the British] may have wanted to do the same in India. But the British couldn’t replicate armed genocide in India because Indians put up a ferocious counter attack and defeated the British in several wars. So the British may have decided to systematically eradicate Indians through famines. In fact, Churchill’s scorched earth policy was intended to enfeeble the Indian population so the Japanese-armed Indian National Army which was planning to liberate India from the east would not find able bodied men in Bengal,” he elaborated.

Why Does the Story of the Indian Genocide Remain Unspoken?

So, why does the story of the Indian genocide still remain unspoken? Why does the West that has recently rushed to blame Serbs for “genocide” of Bosnian Muslims remains suspiciously silent about its own hideous atrocities?

“First up, why would the US, UK, Spain or France admit at all to genocides they have committed? It is precisely because the scale of their own crimes is so staggering that they quickly latch on to other countries’ internal problems. For instance, after an alleged 100,000 East Timorese were killed by the Indonesians, the West suddenly adopted the role of savior, conscience keeper and protector. It then invaded East Timor and illegally made it an independent country. It did the same in Kosovo,” Rakesh Krishnan Simha elaborated.

“The UK and British immigrants in America wiped out Native Indians by the tens of millions. In Africa, the British massacred Kenyans,” he added.According to the journalist, considering the scale of the atrocities, the international community should conduct an official investigation into the Indian genocide.

“If the US Congress can condemn the Turkish genocide of Armenians a 100 years ago, then they can also censure Britain for even bigger holocausts in India. For this to happen, private Indian individuals must come forward to demand apology and reparations. There are a number of Indians who remember the holocaust and were affected by it,” the analyst pointed out.

And there is a precedent, he stressed: “Kenya has asked Britain for an apology, and the British have rendered one.”However, there are a number of obstacles in the way of restoring justice. First of all it is not in the British interests to recognize such a hideous crime. Furthermore, the Indian elite have already established close ties with the British nobilities. Many of them have their children studying in American and British colleges, or have business connections, or have family living in Britain, Simha noted. Maybe that is why most Indians have no memory of these holocausts because they are not taught in Indian schools, the foreign affairs analyst emphasized.