Chris Hedges: The Exterminators

Genocide lies at the core of Western imperialism. It is not unique to Israel. It is not unique to the Nazis. It is the building block of Western domination.

A Bird in the Hand – by Mr. Fish.

By Chris Hedges
Original to ScheerPost

During the siege in Sarajevo, when I was reporting for The New York Times, we never endured the level of saturation bombing and near total blockage of food, water, fuel and medicine that Israel has imposed on Gaza.

We never endured hundreds of dead and wounded a day. We never endured the complicity of the international community in the Serbian campaign of genocide. We never endured Washington intervening to block ceasefire resolutions. We never endured massive arms shipments from the U.S. and other Western countries to sustain the siege.

We never endured press reports from Sarajevo that were routinely discredited and dismissed by the international community, although 25 journalists were killed in the war by the besieging Serbian forces.

We never endured Western governments justifying the siege as the right of the Serbs to defend themselves, although the U.N. peacekeepers sent to Bosnia were largely a public relations gesture, ineffective in halting the slaughter until forced to respond following the massacres of 8,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica.

I don’t mean to minimize the horror of the siege of Sarajevo, which gives me nightmares nearly three decades later. But what we suffered – three to four hundred shells a day, four to five dead a day, and two dozen wounded a day – is a tiny fraction of the wholesale death and destruction in Gaza.

The Israeli siege of Gaza more resembles the Wehrmacht’s assault on Stalingrad, where over 90 percent of the city’s buildings were destroyed, than Sarajevo. 

The center of Stalingrad after liberation from the German occupation, February 1943. (RIA Novosti archive, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

On Friday the Gaza Strip had all its communications severed. No Internet. No phone service. No electricity. [They were restored on Monday.] Israel’s goal is the murder of tens, probably hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and the ethnic cleansing of those who survive into refugee camps in Egypt. It is an attempt by Israel to erase not only a people, but the idea of Palestine.

It is a carbon copy of the massive campaigns of racialized slaughter by other settler colonial projects who believed that indiscriminate and wholesale violence could make the aspirations of an oppressed people, whose land they stole, go away. And like other perpetrators of genocide, Israel intends to keep it hidden.

Israel’s bombing campaign, one of the heaviest of the 21st century, has killed more than 7,300 Palestinians, nearly half of them children, along with 26 journalists, medical workers, teachers and United Nations staff.

Some 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced and an estimated 600,000 are homeless. Mosques, 120 health facilities, ambulances, schools, apartment blocks, supermarkets, water and sewage treatment plants and power plants have been blasted into rubble. Hospitals and clinics, lacking fuel, medicine and electricity, have been bombed or are shutting down.

Clean water is running out. Gaza, by the end of Israel’s scorched earth campaign, will be uninhabitable, a tactic the Nazis regularly employed when facing armed resistance, including in the Warsaw Ghetto and later Warsaw itself. By the time Israel is done, Gaza, or at least Gaza as we knew it, will not exist.

[Related: New Document Leak on Plan to Expel Gaza Population]

Not only are the tactics the same, but so is the rhetoric. Palestinians are referred to as animals, beasts and Nazis. They have no right to exist. Their children have no right to exist. They must be cleansed from the earth. 

The ruins of Aklouk Tower on Oct. 8 after it was destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City. (Naaman Omar, Palestinian News & Information Agency, or Wafa, for APAimages, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The extermination of those whose land we steal, whose resources we plunder and whose labor we exploit is coded within our DNA. Ask Native Americans. Ask Indians. Ask the Congolese. Ask the Kikuyu in Kenya. Ask the Herero in Namibia who, like Palestinians in Gaza, were gunned down and driven into desert concentration camps where they died of starvation and disease. Eighty thousand of them. Ask Iraqis. Ask Afghans. Ask Syrians. Ask Kurds. Ask Libyans. Ask indigenous peoples across the globe. They know who we are.

Israel’s distorted, settler colonial visage is our own. We pretend otherwise. We ascribe to ourselves virtues and civilizing qualities that are, as in Israel, flimsy justifications for stripping an occupied and besieged people of their rights, seizing their land and using prolonged imprisonment, torture, humiliation, enforced poverty and murder to keep them subjugated.

Our past, including our recent past in the Middle East, is built on the idea of subduing or wiping out the “inferior” races of the earth. We give these “inferior” races names that embody evil. ISIS. Al Qaeda. Hezbollah. Hamas.

We use racist slurs to dehumanize them. “Haji” “Sand Nigger” “Camel Jockey” “Ali Baba” “Dung Shoveler” And then, because they embody evil, because they are less than human, we feel licensed, as Nissim Vaturi, a member of the Israeli parliament for the ruling Likud party said, to erase “the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth.” 

May 2002: “Die Arab Sand-Niggers!” graffiti sprayed on a Palestinian house by Israeli settlers in Hebron, West Bank, Palestine. (CPT-Hebron, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s former prime minister, in an interview on Sky News on Oct. 12 said, “We’re fighting Nazis,” in other words, absolute evil.

Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Hamas in a press conference with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, as “the new Nazis.”

Think about that. A people, imprisoned in the world’s largest concentration camp for 16 years, denied food, water, fuel and medicine, lacking an army, air force, navy, mechanized units, artillery, command and control and missile batteries, is being butchered and starved by one of the most advanced militaries on the planet, and they are the Nazis?

Israeli Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv, in 2014, during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. (DoD)

There is an historical analogy here. But it is not one that Bennett, Netanyahu or any other Israeli leader wants to acknowledge.

When those who are occupied refuse to submit, when they continue to resist, we drop all pretense of our “civilizing” mission and unleash, as in Gaza, an orgy of slaughter and destruction. We become drunk on violence. This violence makes us insane.

We kill with reckless ferocity. We become the beasts we accuse the oppressed of being. We expose the lie of our vaunted moral superiority.

We expose the fundamental truth about Western civilization — we are the most ruthless and efficient killers on the planet. This alone is why we dominate the “wretched of the earth.” It has nothing to do with democracy or freedom or liberty. These are rights we never intend to grant to the oppressed.

“Honor, justice, compassion and freedom are ideas that have no converts,” Joseph Conrad, who wrote Heart of Darkness, reminds us.

“There are only people, without knowing, understanding or feelings, who intoxicate themselves with words, repeat words, shout them out, imagining they believe them without believing in anything else but profit, personal advantage and their own satisfaction.”

Genocide lies at the core of Western imperialism. It is not unique to Israel. It is not unique to the Nazis. It is the building block of Western domination. 

The humanitarian interventionists who insist we should bomb and occupy other nations because we embody goodness — although they promote military intervention only when it is perceived to be in our national interest — are useful idiots of the war machine and global imperialists.

They live in an Alice-in-Wonderland fairytale where the rivers of blood we spawn make the world a happier and better place. They are the smiley faces of genocide. You can watch them on your screens. You can listen to them spout their pseudo-morality in the White House and in Congress. They are always wrong. And they never go away.

Maybe we are fooled by our own lies, but most of the world sees us, and Israel, clearly. They understand our genocidal proclivities, rank hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

They see that Palestinians, largely friendless, without power, forced to live in squalid refugee camps or the diaspora, denied their homeland and eternally persecuted, suffer the kind of fate once reserved for Jews.

This perhaps is the final tragic irony. Those who were once in need of protection from genocide now commit it.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor and NPR.  He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”

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19 comments for “Chris Hedges: The Exterminators

  1. Iris
    November 2, 2023 at 11:54

    It really has come down to humanitarians vs. the eugenicists, who cling to their discredited pseudoscience like a Palestinian mother clings to the blood-soaked remnants of her child. The mental degeneracy of eugenicists (and that’s the irony) has crept into every facet of industry… military, patentcare (health), food, economically-induced poverty, fascist privatization of every last thing. If only infantilized Israelis and their military would realize that their government and the corporate class they serve, like the US and abroad, are just as indifferent to them as the Palestinians.

  2. Paula
    November 1, 2023 at 15:08

    “The extermination of those whose land we steal, whose resources we plunder and whose labor we exploit is coded within our DNA.” Since I know well enough the history of the western world and their abhorrent treatment of the “other,” it occurred to me that there must be something in their DNA that makes them so murderous. Never heard anyone else say so tho. And I’ve often thought, with that history, the world would be a more peaceful place without people who carry coded DNA to exterminate others for their land, resources and labor.

    I can’t imagine 75 years of oppression, let alone behind a fence where my family is used for target practice. Anthony Bourdain said, “Today everything is made in China except for courage. Courage is made in Palestine.

    • Rafael
      November 1, 2023 at 23:10

      I think he meant that metaphorically, short for “coded within our cultural DNA.” At least I *hope* that’s what he meant!

  3. BettyK
    November 1, 2023 at 11:01

    I’ve been watching a Top Documentary “Mysteries of the Universe”. Discussed therein is how we are attempting to contact other entities – entities that are most likely more evolved. The conclusion they came to is that humans are not worthy of them contacting us. I agree that for the most part we are not. Your history of the genocides is a perfect example of why they would not want anything to do with us humans.

  4. Tom Partridge
    November 1, 2023 at 05:52

    Chris Hedges has managed, in this article, to capture in every word, a meaning, a reality so true that it would be impossible to imagine that any right thinking person would disagree. It is inconceivable that what’s happening today in Gaza could be justified under any circumstances. It is, also, impossible to believe that in real time we are witnessing the ethnic cleansing, a genocide against the Palestinian people and that not everyone is sufficiently horrified to cry stop, never again, not in our name.

  5. firstpersoninfinite
    November 1, 2023 at 00:17

    As it turns out, according to our leaders, genocide is now “a humanitarian crisis.” I don’t mind this Orwellian destruction of language, because I don’t listen to those seeking to use such weapons like those of loaded language. Such people are powerful, but enormously stupid. The fantasy they have that everyone is going to turn their backs on reality and accept their derelict reality as their own future proves their stupidity. I only fear the damage they may do in pursuit of this fantasy. Our rulers need only a slight increase in the angle of the door they already have shoved ajar to push us into Justinian Rome and hundreds of years of abject sterility. Great article and a welcome burst of fresh air from Chris Hedges.

  6. October 31, 2023 at 18:26

    “We never endured the complicity of the international community in the Serbian campaign of genocide. We never endured Washington intervening to block ceasefire resolutions. We never endured massive arms shipments from the U.S. and other Western countries to sustain the siege.”

    Rather, US National Security Advisor Anthony Lake assembled certain elements within the US State Department and other covert parties to coordinate with Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and several other Islamic countries to covertly pursue “lift and strike” policies, actions that were ostensibly opposed by even the top brass of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under James Woolsey of all people. These interests thereby acted to subvert and compromise the UNPROFOR arms blockade in order to support foreign mujahideen (El Mudžahid) aligned with Usama bin Laden’s close personal associate Alija Izetbegovi?’s Bosnia (to the consternation of even other NATO members attempting to enforce the blockade such as the United Kingdom and Norway – for instance, see transcript for “Allies & Lies,” which aired on BBC2’s Correspondent news program on June 22, 2001).

    This policy would later be replicated elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia to also support the heroin/organ-trafficking Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and aligned foreign mujahideen, including the likes of Muhammad al-Zawahiri (brother of the late Ayman al-Zawahiri). It was also similar to previous efforts carried out by Air America and Iran-Contra alumni including Richard Secord, Heinie Aderholt, and Ed Dearborn to facilitate regime change in Azerbaijan in 1993, which became a logistical base for foreign mujahideen from the early 1990s onward – see Thomas Goltz, “Azerbaijan Diary: A Rogue Reporter’s Adventures in an Oil-Rich, War-Torn, Post-Soviet Republic” (New York: Routledge, 1998), pp. 270-279, and Philip Giraldi, “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?,” The American Conservative, November 1, 2009.

    This was covered in real-time by journalists such as James Risen (then of the LA Times) and the Canadian correspondent Scott Taylor, and was subsequently documented in more detail by researchers and officials such as Sean Gervasi, Cees Wiebes, Richard Aldrich, Nafeez Ahmed, J. Michael Springmann, and even neoconservatives and Thatcherites such as Yossef Bodansky, Sir Alfred Sherman, and John R. Schindler. Richard Holbrooke would attempt to put a positive spin on the role of the 1995 Dayton Accords in stymieing al Qa’ida’s ability to use Bosnia as their base of operations while omitting much of the context for their presence there in the first place.

  7. Lois Gagnon
    October 31, 2023 at 17:14

    No one communicates righteous indignation better than Chris Hedges. How many US Americans could read these words and understand how accurate they are? The Western populations have been kept so far from the truth of US/Western global objectives carried out by their governments, the truth sounds bizarre to them. What a rude awakening awaits them. And soon.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      November 1, 2023 at 11:58

      You’re right, Lois. But most of ordinary U.S. citizens still trust the mainstream media, although that is changing. When I quote items from independent media articles, far too many of my friends have never heard of the independent outlets. It’s not entirely their fault. Mainstream media hypnotizes the majority of U.S. citizens with pabulum and lies 24/7. Television rots their brains. All the more reason for us to share all of the independent journalism we can, every single day.

      • Susan Siens
        November 3, 2023 at 14:27

        And what is amusing is the people who have never seen any independent media denying that it even exists! They eat the pablum and cannot believe that others are dining on four-course meals of actual news.

  8. Drew Hunkins
    October 31, 2023 at 17:02

    According to the Israel Democracy Institute, 83% of Israeli Jews do not think the Israeli government should take into consideration the suffering of the civilian population of Gaza.

    Certain Israeli officials are now advocating for the total ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians to the Sanai Desert, this being the case, it’s now time to give full throated support to Hamas and its liberation efforts, its slave revolt, if you will. Tel Aviv and Israel proper must be attacked with military force. Nothing else has worked to stave off the genocidal arrogance, racism and sadism emanating from the Zionist supremacists.

    To stop this gruesome display of bloodshed and utter depravity by the creepy land-grabbing usurper Zionists, an international coalition of various state militaries must fuse with Hamas and Hezbollah to at least neutralize this rabid Israeli beast. Iran, Syria, Turkey, and perhaps even Russia and Egypt must come to the aid of the Palestinians in Gaza. Pakistan could hold the nuclear deterrent against the Zionist sociopaths.

  9. Francis Lee
    October 31, 2023 at 16:52

    ”Christened the Congo Free State in 1885, King Leopold’s playground was an astonishing 76 times the size of Belgium. Comprised largely of unmapped jungle, it was initially a huge financial burden. But when worldwide demand for rubber boomed, Leopold cashed in. Congolese workers were sent out into the jungle to slash down vines and layer their bodies with rubber latex. Later they would scrape it off their skin – often taking flesh and hair with it. The work was labour-intensive and injurious to health; the only economical way to collect it was via the forced mobilisation of Congolese society. The Congo Free State evolved from a vanity possession into a slave plantation.

    Leopold’s hell operated by an insane logic. Villages were set quotas of rubber and the gendarmerie were sent in to collect it – a process that was sped up by looting, arson and rape. If a village failed to reach its quota hostages would be taken and shot. To ensure that the gendarmerie didn’t waste their bullets hunting for food, they were required to produce the severed hands of victims. As a consequence a trade in severed hands developed among the villagers and those police that couldn’t reach their quotas.”

    Just another story of imperial tyranny and its death machine. And of course it wasn’t alone. The British, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and even little Belgium all hankered after their piece of the turf in the great rush of unrestricted plunder. Any rectification of this outrage must involve a direct struggle by the peoples’ of the global south against the imperial hegemon. There is no other solution.

    • Rafael
      November 2, 2023 at 02:42

      Thanks for this. I knew that the Belgian colonizers were at least as evil as the others, but I didn’t know the details you provide. What is the source of your quotation?

      • Susan Siens
        November 3, 2023 at 14:29

        My understanding is that Belgium is / was the WORST. Forget all the PR the “Low Countries” have been piling on for decades; they are abysmally vicious.

  10. Susan Siens
    October 31, 2023 at 16:39

    I’m not going to read an essay by someone who goes on and on and on about his time in Yugoslavia. He really needs to read Diana Johnstone’s Fool’s Crusade and stop yapping about “Serbian genocide.” As she pointed out, the only “genocide” where the women and children were permitted to leave the city while the Serbs went on to attack SOLDIERS. Attacking soldiers, Chris, is not genocide, and it’s time you grew up and left that dirty rag the NYT behind.

    • Howard
      November 1, 2023 at 11:53

      Also Michael Parenti’s “To Kill a Nation.” It seems if anything, the Serbs were more the VICTIMS of the toxic Western military/cultural hammer he talks about. The U.S./NATO were THE war criminals. In a probably less extreme way, it seems the Serbs are treated like “Palestinians” of Europe.

      • Rafael
        November 2, 2023 at 03:24

        I agree with both comments. Chris Hedges really needs to stop promoting mendacious US/Nato justifications of their conscious destruction of Yugoslavia. It was the Germans, incidentally, who during WW2 publicly hanged ten Serbs for every German killed by the resistance. In this sense the description, “Palestinians of Europe”, rings very true.

        Despite this false note, however, Chris’s main point that:

        “Genocide lies at the core of Western imperialism. It is not unique to Israel. It is not unique to the Nazis.”

        remains valid. It is important and needs repeating.

        It also needs to be said over and over that “Western imperialism” (which includes Japan) cannot be divorced from the capitalist world-system, of which it is a primary foundation. This relationship is well brought out in a long train of articles appearing in Monthly Review. (I wish CN could find some authors who would write about this relationship.)

      • Susan Siens
        November 3, 2023 at 14:24

        I haven’t read Parenti’s book, Howard, and I appreciate the reference. Blum also wrote about the destruction of Yugoslavia. Johnstone’s book is very detailed, very complex, but I also found it very readable.

    • lidia
      November 1, 2023 at 13:38

      I agree. Even the best of journalist in the West often repeat NATO propaganda, and not only journalists.

Comments are closed.