Towards Inclusive Multi-Massacre Memorials to Victims of Conflict
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 18 Apr 2022
Interrelating the Opponents, Perpetrators and Victims of Human Tragedy — Known and Unknown
18 Apr 2022 – There is currently much discussion of the massacre in Bucha (Ukraine) and the possibility of convicting those responsible for war crimes and/or crimes against humanity — as these have been defined by international conventions. However there has been virtually no comparison with the massacre in Fallujah (Iraq) or with the possibility of the conviction of those responsible. Indeed there is a fundamental difficulty in naming “massacres” and “genocides“, since those in any way complicit lobby intensively to reframe such events as legitimate in some way — perhaps as being morally consistent with just war theory.
Curiously a “massacre” tends not to be recognized as such — once it is framed within a just war by the righteous. By contrast, Japan remembers use of the atomic bomb as a massacre by the USA (Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Worst massacre in the history of Mankind, Pravda, 10 August 2012). Similarly it is questionable whether the Allies perceive the carpet bombing of Dresden to be a war crime, despite its proscription by international law (Allied bombing of Dresden: legitimate target or war crime? DW News 13 February 2020; Is Carpet Bombing A War Crime? LecisesterVillages, 2 December 2021). Carpet bombing was also a feature of the Vietnam war.
The point is well made by the case of Fallujah, which does not feature in the List of massacres in Iraq (below), even though it has been the subject of a documentary (Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre, 2005). There is only a passing reference in the Wikipedia article on Fallujah to that documentary. The current enthusiasm for indicting those respomsible for the massacre in Bucha is in no way comparable to the total lack of interest with regard to the potential conviction of those complicit in the massacre of Fallujah — or others which feature in the lists below. On the contrary, it is striking to note the manner in which the key figures in massacres are variously esteemed and rewarded by positions of authority, knighthoods, Nobel Peace Prizes, or otherwise — despite extensive documentation regarding their complicity.
It is somewhat tragic to note efforts to distinguish between “war crimes” and “crimes against hmanity” (Guénaél Mettraux, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, Oxford Scholarship Online, 2006; Ajeet Kumar, What Is The Difference Between Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes? Republic World, 14 April, 2022; Difference Between War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, Difference Between, 21 January 2011; Difference Between War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity (With Table), Ask Any Difference).
There is little recognition that war itself merits consideration as a crime against humanity (Butler Shaffer, War as a Crime Against Civilization, Ron Paul Institute, 9 March 2015; Phillip Michaels, The Dawn of Treating War as a Crime, OpEdNews, 4 April 2022). Possibilities have been variously argued by David Swanson (How It Could Finally Be Possible to Prosecute War as a Crime, Information Clearing House, 28 December 2017; The ICC Just Announced It Will Treat War As A Crime, Popular Resistance, 3 January 2018).
More generally it is important to recognize that memorials associated with mass killing in warfare are typically dedicated to honouring the military — especially the unknown soldiers — who participated in the process. It is relatively rare to discover memorials to genocides, and to the innocent victims of conflict in which the military may have been variously complicit. The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience is exceptional in this respect. Other exceptional examples include:
- Memorial Museums Database (Beyond Genocide)
- Genocide Memorials and Museums (Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem)
- Museums and Memorials (International Association of Genocide Scholars): on the history, legacy and impact of genocide and crimes against humanity
- Genocide Memorial Project (A project of the Lick-Wilmerding High School)
- Monuments and Memorials within Australia associated with Genocide (Monument Australia)
With the focus of war memorrials too readily focused on the military participants, there is therefore a case for exploring the need for memorials to the civilian victims — instigated by Wikipedia (Category: Monuments and memorials to victims of massacres). The case is all the stronger in the light of the number of massacres which occur during armed conflict — or otherwise. The following arrangement is entirely derived from entries in Wikipedia — to which all links refer — and notably:
- List of events named massacres (a list of events for which one of the commonly accepted names includes the word “massacre“)
- List of lists of massacres by country (not to be confused with any list of massacres elsewhere for which another country is held responsible)
- Massacres by year
- List of genocides by death toll
Given the controversy surrounding definitions of “massacre”, “genocide” and “unlawful killing“, it is to be expected that the lists below will include items for which lobbies against the mention of such events have not had sufficient influence to ensure their exclusion. On the other hand, as with Fallujah, clearly there will be many events which do not feature in such lists because of the success of such lobies in ensuring their exclusion. Some events may only be recognized as “massacres” or “genocides” many decades after the events in question — and that recognition may well remain highly controversial, as with the massacres of indigenous peoples. Some may be cynically reframed as legitimate as an unfortunate feature of warfare — collateral damage.
The purpose of presenting the following listing is to suggest that there is a case for establishing single memorials to multiple massacres with which parties in potentially latent coflict have been complicit. A Bucha-Fallujah memorial would be one “simple” example.
Again, in contrast to the prevailing focus on military war graves, the proposal emphasizes the victims — rather than only those who may have been complicit in engendering the fatalities. Clearly “bipartisan” memorials could be envisaged, or memorials by region. Why do bodies like the Council of Europe not give consideration to such possibilities — especially in the light of the history of conflict, massacre and genocide in some regions? Why the focus on single past events — where such memorials are indeed officially supported, thereby denying complicity in otherr such events, possibly ongoing? Is there a case for a multi-facetted global memorial to such human tragedy — rather than any worthy focus on evocation of peace, potentially to be “re-cognized” as “unmemorable” and exercises in avoidance?
More controversially, the proposal could evoke discussion of the possibility of “repurposing” the existing memorials to soldiers — known and unknown — to provide a focus on the victims (known and unknown) and the complicit (unknown and unconvicted). The military war grave memorials, under the auspices of exclusive bodies such as the Commonealth War Graves Commission, merit reframing to include opponents and the civilian victims buried elsewhere — even in unknown graves. The phrase “Lest We Forget“, widely associated with such memorials, merits a challenge — especially if it is only selected soldiers (of the victors) whom it is believed should be honoured and not forgotten.
The questionable restriction in framing who should be honoured and commeorated deliberately forgets the civilian victims on either side of any conflict — as well as the perpetrators of either side, whether victorious or defeated. As a form of conceptual gerrymandering and definitional game-playing, this undermines the human values with which honour is associated (Towards a generic model of definitional game-playing? 2004; Honour Essential to Psycho-social Integrity: challenge to the nameless of dishonourable leadership, 2005). Unfortunately war memorials can therefore serve the purpose of eroding collective memory in a dubious exercise in virtue signalling through which degrees of complicity in slaughter are effectively denied.
As noted below, especially sensitive and controversial is the complicity of the nation states of today in the unacknowledged massacre of indigenous peoples in times past. In distinacing themselves in this manner, this failure can be seen as a primary characteristic of virtue signalling — and the hypocriscy associated with their current protests against current evidence of mass slaughter. Controverdsially again, the hypocrisy may be all the greater given similarities in the mindset justifying massacre of the indigenous with that justifying the massive slaughter of animals — especially when indigenous peoples have been framed as animals.
In this argument for memorials to commemorate multiple massacres — in which opposing parties have been variously and controversially complicit — a key question for an information-focused global civilization is the form of any such monument. The design challenge could be compared to the iconic painting of Guernica by Pablo Picasso in reaction to one such massacre, as discussed below and separately (Reimagining Guernica to Engage the Antitheses of a Cancel Culture, 2022).
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