Letter: Names for genocide

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Alex Callinicos (letter, 23 April) states that the comparison between Hitler and Milosevic, made by Ken Livingstone and others, is unsustainable and that the word "genocide" has been wrongly used to describe the actions of Milosevic in Kosovo. He also claims we have a duty to make moral distinctions.

So let us not call these actions genocide. Let us call them what they are: mass murder, rape, theft, destruction of property and the eviction of tens of thousand of citizens from their homes on the basis of their ethnic origins. Having got the terms right, it now becomes clearer that Nato's attempts to rectify this are totally wrong and that Milosevic is not in any sense to be compared to Hitler but is just a single-minded ruler doing a necessary job that unfortunately involves committing "atrocities" that are "undeniably wicked and barbarous" (Professor Callinicos's words).

But as these atrocities fall short of genocide, Nato's war is "futile and foolish". If they could be classed as genocide, Nato's war presumably would be sensible and just. It is not Ken Livingstone's logic that has been exposed by Professor Callinicos's letter, but his own.

Jewish survivors of the Holocaust must be viewing the events unfolding in Kosovo with horror and many will be appalled at the attempts of academics such as Professor Callinicos to invoke the uniqueness of their terror as a means of somehow downgrading the plight of the Kosovan Albanians into a less extreme form of human suffering, thereby questioning the morality of their would-be liberators and giving succour to the perpetrator of the atrocities.

There may well be a moral distinction between the two acts of barbarism, as Professor Callinicos claims. There are times, however, when we should be more aware of moral similarities.