Worse Than War

February 8, 2010
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“Why couldn’t I just wear jeans?” I asked, slipping on my sport jacket. Mom gave me a look, and I knew immediately I was better off dropping the subject. We walked into The Center for Jewish History where my senses were quickly awakened; it was definitely loud. The hustle and bustle of New York City was the essence of the room, buzzing with talk of Lemkin, Genocide, the Holocaust, and several other morally devastating events.
After a brief review of the Lemkin exhibit, the crowd was moved to a dinner reception of which the details were more trivial. The premiere of an abridged genocide video was my main interest, which quickly followed dinner.
The lights dimmed, the screen flashed, the crowd hushed, and the show began. Daniel Goldhagen, writer of the documentary, Worse Than War, and author of the recently released book, narrates the film as he travels to over eight countries around the world, examining acts of genocide in the modern world and interviewing murderers, survivors, and political leaders and including footage never seen before in the U.S.
Goldhagen is not afraid to ask tough questions and dig into the moral dilemmas our world faces now. In one clip, he meets with a Rwandan prisoner who speaks about his involvement in the genocide during the 1990s. The prisoner tells how every citizen was involved, whether it by witnessing or murdering. The Hutus, now prisoners, would run towards Tutsis and cut them up into pieces with machettes or other farm tools. The prisonor describes with little emotion the difference between chopping a tree branch, which is hard and a human limb, which has soft flesh. Goldhagen explains that even now, many show no remorse. He also speaks with a Holocaust Survivor, Lilli Silbiger. With much difficulty, she tries to talk of the past and the death marches she had to endure. These are only a few of the many people he meets and interviews.
I was particularly disturbed when Goldhagen confronted the dictator, José Efraín Ríos Montt, and asked about his role in the genocide of the Mayan people. Unbelievably, Ríos Montt claimed that if it were genocide, he would be in jail. Therefore, according to the dictator, since he was a free man and remained an active politician, it was not genocide. Goldhagen was in utter shock by the response, but he continued to push for the truth.
Goldhagen offers suggestions to prevent future genocide. He strongly advocates that reaction to mass killing is not enough. Since Goldhagen believes leaders carry out genocide by carefully weighing the costs versus benefits, he thinks it can be stopped by making sure the negatives always outweigh the positives. He suggests an International Bounty similar to the program the United States has in place for terrorists. In his opinion, the United Nations cannot properly handle genocide as it stands. His interview with Madeline Albright, the former U.S. ambassador of the United Nations at the time of the Rwanda genocide, clearly illustrates the point. The former ambassador claims that the government did not know Rwanda was experiencing genocide at the time. However, Goldhagen counters her comments by shoeing media and newpaper articles that were widely circulated at the time.
Goldhagen’s opinions are controversal; but regardless, the documentary is worth seeing. It gives an intellectual, emotional, and analytical perspective of genocide. Goldhagen gives a new, profound solution for genocide prevention. Watch for Worse Than War, airing on PBS, April 7th, 2010 at 9pm EST. It should definitely not be missed!





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Modrockerhippie said...
Feb. 11, 2010 at 6:38 pm
Nice writing. Can't wait for this movie.
 
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