Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity


"Until now, the world's peoples and governments have done little to prevent or stop mass murdering. Today, the world is not markedly better prepared to end this greatest scourge of humanity. The evidence of this failure is overwhelming. It is to be found in Tibet, North Korea, the former Yugoslavia, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Rwanda, southern Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Darfur.

Individuals, institutions, and governments, in every region of the world—we all have a ...

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Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity

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"Until now, the world's peoples and governments have done little to prevent or stop mass murdering. Today, the world is not markedly better prepared to end this greatest scourge of humanity. The evidence of this failure is overwhelming. It is to be found in Tibet, North Korea, the former Yugoslavia, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Rwanda, southern Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Darfur.

Individuals, institutions, and governments, in every region of the world—we all have a choice:

We can persist in our malign neglect that consists of three parts: failing to face the problem squarely and to understand the real nature of genocide; failing to recognize we can far more effectively protect hundreds of millions of people and radically reduce mass murder's incidence; and failing to choose to act on this knowledge.

Or we can focus onthis scourge; understand its causes, its nature and complexity, and its scope and systemic quality; and, building upon that understanding, craft institutions and policies that will save countless lives and also lift the lethal threat under which so many people live.

How can we not choose the second?"

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"Harry Truman, the thirty-third president of the United States, was a mass murderer." With these scorching words, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen begins his global tour of eliminationism, genocide, and other forms of mass slaughter. By exploring the nature and mechanism of these brutal acts, Worse than War exposes them as intended political acts, not merely rare aberrations. No stranger to controversy, the man who wrote Hitler's Willing Executioners approaches his subject with heartening seriousness, turning what could be a mere historical survey into a work of original analysis.
James Traub
…[a] magisterial and profoundly disturbing "natural history" of mass murder…As he did in his celebrated and controversial Hitler's Willing Executioners, Goldhagen insists that even the worst atrocities originate with, and are then propelled by, a series of quite conscious calculations by followers as much as by leaders. "We must stop detaching mass elimination and its mass-murder variant from our understanding of politics," Goldhagen writes. "Eliminationist politics, like the politics of war, is a politics of purposive acts to achieve political outcomes, often of ultimate ends and often of desired power redistribution." Worse Than War is, in effect, "Everyone's Willing Executioners."
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Goldhagen expands the controversial argument of his bestselling Hitler's Willing Executioners to indict the world in this relentless j'accuse. His comparative study surveys a panorama of modern atrocities, encompassing the Holocaust, the Soviet gulag, Cambodia, the Rwandan and Darfur genocides, and even Harry Truman, a “mass murderer” who “should be put in the dock no less than Stalin [and] Pol Pot” for the atomic bombing of Japan. Goldhagen's elaborate concept of “eliminationism,” complete with a two-dimensional matrix of “Types of Excess Cruelty” (is the action ordered or not? individually or collectively performed?) is similarly broad, comprising massacres along with nonlethal expulsions and repressions; in his hectoring, incantatory prose (“Think of hearing your victim's screams as you hack at or 'cut' her and then cut her again, and again and again”), it's less a theory than a nomenclature for cataloguing human devilry. As in Executioners, Goldhagen convincingly disparages bureaucratic “banality of evil” explanations of genocide and spotlights the ideologies of leaders who exploit ordinary citizens' hate-filled beliefs to instigate mass murder. It's not easy reading, but Goldhagen's vehemence and the sheer weight of horrors that he recounts move one's conscience. Photos. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
Grisly specifics share space with an insightful, often startling analysis of why mass murder occurs and how to stop it. Historian and journalist Goldhagen (Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, 1996) considers genocide the end point of eliminationism, a set of tactics that a dominant group uses against a detested minority. Eliminationism begins with repression (ghettos, apartheid, segregation) and moves on to transformation (obliterating culture, forbidding a minority's language, forcible religious conversion) and expulsion (deportation, "resettlement," ethnic cleansing). The author maintains that eliminationism never turns to genocide through mass hysteria, blind obedience or war. It is always a political decision requiring considerable planning, he writes, and "there is no mass murder of elimination that I know that could not have been avoided had one person or a few people decided to do otherwise, which they easily could have done." Most disturbing, once the political decision occurs, the slaughter proceeds with almost universal approval. Ordinary police, soldiers and civilians kill their victims face to face-this includes the Holocaust, despite the gruesome Nazi ovens-often preceded by humiliation, torture and mutilation. Goldhagen assembles interviews with perpetrators from Rwanda to Serbia to Argentina to Cambodia. All express regret, but the author points out that while they were killing all believed they were performing a necessary patriotic duty. The author makes a convincing case that preventing genocide requires only a modest effort by leaders of democratic nations and the United Nations, both of which are criminally negligent. The UN facilitatesgenocide by trumpeting its rule of noninterference in other nations' affairs. Our leaders are well informed of ongoing genocides but refuse to act unless pushed by public opinion-sadly, the media generally avoids the subject-or convinced that national interest is threatened. A significant achievement-rarely encouraging, but intensely researched and wholly original. Agent: Esther Newberg/ICM
From the Publisher
"[A] magisterial and profoundly disturbing 'natural history' of mass murder." —-The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586489007
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 10/5/2010
  • Pages: 672
  • Sales rank: 451,495
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick Lawlor has recorded over three hundred audiobooks in just about every genre. He has been an Audie Award finalist several times and has received several AudioFile Earphones Awards. He has won a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award, numerous Library Journal and Kirkus starred audio reviews, and multiple Editors' Picks, Top 10, and Year's Best lists.
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Table of Contents

Preface: The Choice

Introduction Clarifying the Issues

Ch. 1 Eliminationism, Not Genocide 3

Ch. 2 Worse Than War: Our Age of Suffering 33

Pt. I Explaining Eliminationist Assaults

Ch. 3 Why They Begin 59

Ch. 4 How They Are Implemented 85

Ch. 5 Why the Perpetrators Act 145

Ch. 6 Why They End 233

Pt. II Modern Eliminationist Politics

Ch. 7 Sources and Patterns 265

Ch. 8 Thinking and Acting 309

Ch. 9 Actual Minds, Actual Worlds 361

Pt. III Changing the Future

Ch. 10 Prologue to the Future 485

Ch. 11 What We Can Do 515

Notes 599

Credits 629

Thoughts and Thanks 631

Index 637

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 14, 2009

    Great Work About The Human Condition

    This book goes way beyond talking about numbers. It looks deep down into the heart of darkness. There have been many genocides. Goldhagen explains that they all share common elements. I read this book and came to a deeper understanding of the planet and the people on it. Ultimately this book is about the human condition. What's in people's hearts. What's it like to mobilize others to kill, what's it like to be a killer, to be a victim, to be a bystander. The book is breathtaking in its scope. Panoramic. It opened my eyes.

    This book makes the incomprehensible understandable -- that more people have died in genocides than in all military combat combined is breathtaking to think about, and is just the start. That huge, abstract number frames the book. To kill large numbers of people means large numbers of other people are mobilized to do the job. Goldhagen looks into the hands, the hearts and the minds of those who are pulling the triggers and holding the machetes. He examines the local and global conditions at the moment a man, a woman, or a child is felled. He makes it very real, very personal. At the very core of genocide is hate. The perpetrators hate their victims for reasons simple and complex, and the spark of killing is ignited time and again by a political decision, a political calculus, usually by a tyrant in one place or another to mobilize local hatreds for his own political purposes. The killing usually stops when all or substantially all of the victims are gone. The world watches. Time and again, it does nothing or not enough.

    This is a hugely important book. Because by reading it, you realize, it's not the world that's watching anymore. It's us. It is each one of us looking, knowing, understanding that somewhere not just one child is being killed, but ultimately millions. Goldhagen points out that if a child were killed on a suburban street in the United States or in England or in France there would be outrage, and a call for action. Good people do not want killing like this to happen. Yet no action is taken when it is half a world away. Nearly ALL the children, the men and the women of the targeted group die.

    This book is what happens in places far from our everyday lives. The sanctity of life. Of human suffering. Of the hate in people's hearts. Of the failure of good people and their institutions to protect the weak. After reading it, you can no longer say that you don't know, or don't understand. This book is a very important work that makes sense of the world. It looks evil in the eye and it makes you think.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Connects All The Dots

    I heard this book covers a lot of ground, when it comes to genocide. It does, for sure. I was surprised, but I shouldn't have been, that thematically, it's bigger than that. It goes deep into the human psyche and the way nations behave towards its citizens and each other.I've read a bit on the subject, and am something of an activist, and indeed there are many fine books out there. In general, they are very specific in the attention they give. Be it Bosnia, Cambodia, Armenia, or any of the other places or peoples that genocide has affected. It's quite remarkable that in this one volume, Goldhagen has connected all the dots. He looks at genocide as a phenomenon. Played out in one venue or another, they share common characteristics. Most important of all for all of us to remember that genocide is a hate crime. The UN calls it a crime against humanity. That it is. But on a personal level, it is brought about because one group of people hate another group of people so much -- that mass murder seems to the perpetrators logical and just. Lest not forget the governments that spur neighbor to kill neighbor and allow this to go on. The book looks at all of it. The beauty of this book is it's arranged thematically. An A to Z of genocide. Killers are examined, victim groups, the world at the moment killing is occurring, how all genocides come to end, the future. Even though I have read many books on the subject, this book helped me fill in the blanks, and make sense of it all. Because it's organized thematically, I didn't even have to read it in order. I read it one theme at a time, and the ones I wanted to cogitate on I re-read. This is a really great book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2010

    WHAT could have facilitated a different outcome for these people?

    Excellent and valuable work - Thank YOU!..

    Based on what you learned during this experience, in your opinion, would the outcome have been different IF these people had "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" (i.e., as in the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the States united in America)?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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