This past week was a remarkable learning experience. I met fascinating people doing fascinating work on various aspects of genocide. I realize that there is much I have yet to learn but I walk away with one overriding conviction.
Scholars must do scholarship. Politicians and ideologues can do ideology and politics, but scholars must concentrate on scholarship and let the facts lead them where they may.
This is true whether it is in reference to the Holocaust, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia among a myriad of other places. Scholars must be allowed to ask tough questions and to follow the facts. There will always be differences of opinion on how the facts should be interpreted but the facts must never be shaped to fit a particular outcome.
Sometimes scholars might ask questions which seem to suggest that they are diminishing the suffering of a particular group or are suggesting that it was the group's "fault." In fact, they might be doing what scholars do: asking uncomfortable questions.
For example, let's say a genocide occures in the wake of a group declaring its independence when the group in question did not have the power to protect its people. In response to its declaration of independence it's people get massacred and genocide is committed against them.
The group which declared its independence explains that it thought the world would not let such a thing happen and expected the world organizations [e.g UN and NATO] to come to their defense. The organizations, not surprisingly, fail to do so and genocide occurs.
Who's at fault?
I don't think such a scenario in any manner, shape, or form diminishes the horror of genocide or the complete guilt of those who committed the act. They have done something for which they carry full responsibility and should be punished accordingly.
However it does leave open the quesion: does the independence declaring group carry some responsibility? Can we fault the leaders who acted in this manner without sounding as if we are in some way condoning the genocide?
Nor should scholarly findings be determined by vote. That's just nuts.