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Too Little, too late? The Dutch, French "apologize" for massacres

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  • Too Little, too late? The Dutch, French "apologize" for massacres

    http://www.english.rfi.fr/africa/201...chives-senegal


    http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/...=9781137274960


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-16114789


    http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2...-massacre.html


    Seems this is fairly typical for former colonial empires these days: wait about sixty or seventy years (long enough for anyone who could potentially be held personally accountable to be likely dead and gone, for one thing) and then acknowledge and / or "apologize. Usually only after having been successfully found to be responsible by their own courts.

    Both the Rawagede incident and the Westerling campaign, by the way, are inaccurately referred to as "tragedies" in the JakPost article. People doing brutal and terrible things to other people, for their own purposes, does not constitute tragedy.

    In the Thiaroye massacre, young men from French colonies such as Senegal, Cameroon and other West African countries were taken into the French army, some as volunteers, some as conscripts (essentially, slaves), and sent to fight for "their country". These particular soldiers had all been captured adn held as POW's by the German armies.

    Before being shipped back to Dakar, the tirailleurs , as they were called, were given only a fraction of the pay due them, and when, upon arrival in Senegal, they essentially began a strike in protest, the French decided to massacre them in cold blood and then claim they had been putting down a "mutiny". (Note: though the wikipedia article says that the soldiers did in fact "mutiny", a non-violent demonstration / protest / strike and a violent mutiny are two different things.

    Around half of the men (between 28 and 35, roughly) were killed in the massacre. Those who survived were imprisoned as traitors to France, and some remained so until their deaths.

    Now, here's the "funny" bit:

    "After World War II ended, the French argued that the tirailleurs were particularly prone to revolt. The French based this claim in the notion that German soldiers, in an attempt to thwart France’s colonial goals in Africa, had treated the tirailleurs well as prisoners of war. This ostensibly good treatment of tirailleurs in prisoner of war camps is not, however, based in fact, ultimately rendering French attempts at positioning the tirailleurs as enemies false."

    Essentially, "They went bad-boy and turned against us because, unlike ourselves, the Germans actually treated them well."
    Last edited by Mister Bule; 27-11-14, 21:26.
    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Warden: "What we got here ... is failure to communicate."

    The Dude: "Oh yeah? Well that's just, like, your opinion, man."[/FONT]

  • #2
    Those articles are not very accurate. In 1966 (and again in 2011) the Dutch government apologized for the Rawagede killings and made a (very small) contribution of NLG 850.000. The recent issue has been more the financial compensation of the remaining widows. The Dutch public opinion has always been rather strong and clear on this issue btw; let's take our responsibility and compensate those people. Unlike in Indonesia, it has been an item of great interest over there.

    Two Dutch ladies with 'boter op hun hoofd' as we say in Dutch: First of all queen Wilhelmina who proclaimed 'this is all ours' when talking about Aceh and the resistance. 'We' was not so much the Dutch people but more the royalty and the interest of the predecessor of Royal Shell (sounds a bit like Leopold in his private property Congo). Secondly lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld who makes it a personal hobby to piss everybody off by creating vendettas and actively searches for victims of 'war' crimes by the Dutch government. Now she even represents the family of the Moluccan train hijackers looking for compensation.
    Last edited by jstar; 04-12-14, 14:40. Reason: Typos in names
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    • #3
      It's one thing to learn about history, and to learn from history. I struggle though with the concept of today's generations being expected to apologise and compensate for "wrongs" committed sometimes centuries ago. Sure these events shaped histories, nations and people - sometimes not for the better, but really - were they "wrongs" at the time? No - that was how life was lived! Conquer or be conquered! (Remains somewhat true today really)

      Also, these are not our "wrongs" done by "us" - so how can today's population say sorry for it?

      By all means acknowledge it happened, acknowledge the impact of the event...but really, we would all be so much better just accepting that and moving forward!
      Things happen for a reason...

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Michelle O'Brien View Post
        It's one thing to learn about history, and to learn from history. I struggle though with the concept of today's generations being expected to apologise and compensate for "wrongs" committed sometimes centuries ago. Sure these events shaped histories, nations and people - sometimes not for the better, but really - were they "wrongs" at the time? No - that was how life was lived! Conquer or be conquered! (Remains somewhat true today really)

        Also, these are not our "wrongs" done by "us" - so how can today's population say sorry for it?

        By all means acknowledge it happened, acknowledge the impact of the event...but really, we would all be so much better just accepting that and moving forward!
        I agree with this. You can't really apologize for something you did not (personally) do. All you can do is say that you believe you would have done differently, or damn the people who did it. Unless the actual victim is still around, it doesn't seem to be a matter of great importance to do so.

        Let me ask this: 1 To the best of your knowledge, have any of your ancestors ever been unjustly killed by others? 2 Are you personally still pissed off about or effected by it? 3 If you answered yes to number 2, is there some loss other than that of life involved (land, for example)?
        I'd bet you won't get many people answering yes to 2 without answering yes to 3, unless we are talking about something that happened in living memory.

        Compensation is also problematic. If the wronged group is local, you'll be taxing their neighbors so you can pay them. That seems like it would be a problem.
        If the wronged group is foreign, you should rightly be talking about reimbursing the whole of the group, rather than some particular sub-set with a compelling story. Way I see it, topic is "Compensating all of Cameroon and Senegal", rather than just the few mentioned above. How ya gonna do that? (actually, preferential trade status or large scale public works comes to mind) And, sorry, but why would you (if this is something that happened at the far reaches of living memory)?

        I don't think you'll find a single historically significant group that cannot claim to have been wronged by some other group in the past. I would rather know who the people who are pressing these issues at the national level are, and why they feel compelled to do it.

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        • #5
          The apologies were made on behalf of the government, not the people. Those are two different things like what happened at Ferguson
          "The Beauty of Indonesia is located outside Jakarta"

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          • #6
            I disagree.

            The people ARE the government.

            Ferguson is happening today. No comparison at all to apologising for historical events which was what was being discussed.
            Things happen for a reason...

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            • #7
              Nope,
              Are you saying that it is the people of USA that approved all those wars at middle east and launched wars on terror everywhere against Moslem, in general ?

              Back then in the history of Indonesia
              There quite few names of Dutchmen who assisted Indonesia against their own country such as Dr Douwes Dekker and Jan Visser. The time of Indonesian Independent was close to the time when the world, especially European continent, had this popular issue against the imperialism/colonialism . The Dutch govt later on returned with the Allies under the name of NICA, for trying to take over Indonesia back. NICA or VOC, I believe, are not representative of The Dutch people
              "The Beauty of Indonesia is located outside Jakarta"

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Abook looty View Post
                Nope,
                Are you saying that it is the people of USA that approved all those wars at middle east and launched wars on terror everywhere against Moslem, in general ?

                Back then in the history of Indonesia
                There quite few names of Dutchmen who assisted Indonesia against their own country such as Dr Douwes Dekker and Jan Visser. The time of Indonesian Independent was close to the time when the world, especially European continent, had this popular issue against the imperialism/colonialism . The Dutch govt later on returned with the Allies under the name of NICA, for trying to take over Indonesia back. NICA or VOC, I believe, are not representative of The Dutch people
                Yep. By the "people" electing their government, they give them the mandate to make those and other hard decisions for them - including going to war. In a democracy, the people are their government. In a democracy. That's the definition of a democracy!

                There will always be dissenters - some people who disagree, but usually a majority of people will have voted that government in.

                I'm not familiar with your acronyms.

                Whatever the event you are talking about, I gather it happened long ago...so today can never be representative of the Dutch people.
                Things happen for a reason...

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Michelle O'Brien View Post
                  It's one thing to learn about history, and to learn from history. I struggle though with the concept of today's generations being expected to apologise and compensate for "wrongs" committed sometimes centuries ago. Sure these events shaped histories, nations and people - sometimes not for the better, but really - were they "wrongs" at the time? No - that was how life was lived! Conquer or be conquered! (Remains somewhat true today really)

                  Also, these are not our "wrongs" done by "us" - so how can today's population say sorry for it?

                  By all means acknowledge it happened, acknowledge the impact of the event...but really, we would all be so much better just accepting that and moving forward!
                  Some countries are largely unrepentant for their past atrocities. Consider Japan as a terrific example; Japan consistently refuses to apologize for crimes committed by the Empire of Japan during the Second World War. And in general, it's not usually asked for when the nation isn't white people. America apologized for using nuclear weapons. Why? I don't know. If I had a do over and I was Harry Truman, I'd do it again.

                  Nobody is asking Mongolia to apologize for the crimes of the Mongol Empire and its various spin-offs. Nobody is asking South Africa's unity government to apologize for Shaka's paranoid, genocidal reign. Nobody is asking China to apologize for multiple iterations of invasion and colonization of Vietnam. No one is asking Vietnam to apologize for nearly exterminating the people of Champa 500 years ago. Hardly anyone is asking for Turkey to apologize for the Armenian Genocide, other than Armenians.

                  The polities that committed most of these atrocities simply don't exist in that form any more. There's no more Dutch or British Empire just as there is no longer an Ottoman Empire or Empire of Japan or Mongol Empire.

                  The truth is that white people love to beat themselves up for this stuff. We can draw from nearly countless examples from every corner of the globe, but the only people who seriously lose sleep over this crap are white people.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Abook looty View Post
                    The apologies were made on behalf of the government, not the people. Those are two different things like what happened at Ferguson
                    What does Ferguson have to do with anything other than being another iteration of "white people gotta pay?"

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Michelle O'Brien View Post
                      It's one thing to learn about history, and to learn from history. I struggle though with the concept of today's generations being expected to apologise and compensate for "wrongs" committed sometimes centuries ago. Sure these events shaped histories, nations and people - sometimes not for the better, but really - were they "wrongs" at the time? No - that was how life was lived! Conquer or be conquered! (Remains somewhat true today really)

                      Also, these are not our "wrongs" done by "us" - so how can today's population say sorry for it?

                      By all means acknowledge it happened, acknowledge the impact of the event...but really, we would all be so much better just accepting that and moving forward!
                      Wow. I am familiar with the concept of moral relativism, but this is a pretty broad statement, MOB.


                      Based on your reasoning, there have never been any war crimes, any unjust massacres of innocents (or even of not-so-innocents) ... just people reacting to their contemporary expediencies and urgent circumstances. I mean, sometimes in the moment, people just need to get things done, get the problem out of the way, get from point A to point B, so they do what they have to do, right? That means that any judgments about any past actions by governments or individuals being right or wrong are a waste of bother. This is what you are saying, right?

                      I can tell you that some of the widows of victims of the Rawagede incident are still alive, as are many of their children and grandchildren (for those who had been old enough to have had children by the time they were killed). Regardless of any paltry payments made by the Dutch government to some of the families (which probably cause more harm than good), regardless of any official apologies, their pain will be with them to their last breath, don't you think?

                      The (Dutch, in this case) government, representing the people, shouldn't bother apologizing for something done under its predecessor, just because it's "been awhile"? Well, I agree, they should have done so well good and truly a long time before sixty-plus years, but of course they didn't (jstar says otherwise, but I haven't seen a link) ... they generally don't, except after the case is pursued in their own courts, and the former government or individuals within it are found to be responsible (leading to a wave of publicity at home and abroad about the long-ago incident).
                      [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Warden: "What we got here ... is failure to communicate."

                      The Dude: "Oh yeah? Well that's just, like, your opinion, man."[/FONT]

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                      • #12
                        Whomever made the decisions and whomever gave the orders, hold them responsible. Not their children, relatives, friends, passers by on the streets, or any person that came after them unless they continued giving the orders.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Happyman View Post
                          I agree with this. You can't really apologize for something you did not (personally) do. All you can do is say that you believe you would have done differently, or damn the people who did it.
                          Those are a lot of "you"'s there, I'm not sure to whom they refer ... but I will assume that "you" (Happyman) mean the current government of any country faced with owning up to an atrocity committed in its name or under its aegis or direction in the past.

                          I believe that you are wrong. I, personally, as an individual, have no apology to make for any injustices done by my government or its representatives, as I personally played no part in them, true. Neither did my ancestors personally participate in such injustices, to the best of my knowledge (with the exception of black slavery, because many of my ancestors did own slaves).

                          Our country's government, on the other hand, is in a direct line of descent from those preceding it: essentially, it is the same government ("of the people, by the people, and for the people") just another in the lineage of administrations which may or may not face the same circumstances of past times, or enact the same or similar policies. Our government certainly CAN apologize for actions taken by previous administrations, for unjust policies which caused great harm, for specific instances of wrongdoing or evil acts committed by its representatives and / or in its name (of which there have been a good many).

                          "Damning the people who did it" would be a damn good start, and quite possibly all that is practically possible in terms of redressing the injustice, other than committing to more fair policies and treatment of others going forward.


                          Unless the actual victim is still around, it doesn't seem to be a matter of great importance to do so.
                          Really? Doesn't seem important to whom? Who are the "actual" victims? The widows and descendants of those killed at Rawagede, for example, are "actual victims", are they not?

                          I mean, if you wife was murdered, and you lived another seventy years after that brutal fact, would there be a point at which you would stop being an "actual victim" of the crime? It wouldn't affect you for the rest of your life? Probably, if you personally cared much for your wife and / or the commitment made to your marriage with her, it would.


                          Let me ask this: 1 To the best of your knowledge, have any of your ancestors ever been unjustly killed by others? 2 Are you personally still pissed off about or effected by it? 3 If you answered yes to number 2, is there some loss other than that of life involved (land, for example)?
                          I'd bet you won't get many people answering yes to 2 without answering yes to 3, unless we are talking about something that happened in living memory.
                          Again, I'm not sure who the "you" is addressed to, but:

                          1) I'm sure there is a good probability of it, but I can't speak to knowledge of the fact. A good number of my ancestors were killed in the American Civil War and others that followed (as well as preceded) it, but none of my ancestors have been outright murdered or massacred, that I have direct information about.

                          Your point is that people only remain concerned about their ancestors or family members being killed, if there was land or something else of material value lost in the process? Are you sure about that? Can you prove it?


                          Compensation is also problematic. If the wronged group is local, you'll be taxing their neighbors so you can pay them. That seems like it would be a problem.
                          If the wronged group is foreign, you should rightly be talking about reimbursing the whole of the group, rather than some particular sub-set with a compelling story. Way I see it, topic is "Compensating all of Cameroon and Senegal", rather than just the few mentioned above. How ya gonna do that? (actually, preferential trade status or large scale public works comes to mind) And, sorry, but why would you (if this is something that happened at the far reaches of living memory)?
                          Personally, I'm not so much interested in the subject of monetary compensation as in the 'polorgizin' / acknowledging bit ... tangible compensation is certainly a tricky issue. I don't think throwing a few thousand dollars / sheckels / rubles / whatever at a victim's feet is really the answer, but (other than "admit no wrong, pay nothing, do nothing") pay-outs are a convenient way of managing PR / smoothing over the problem (leaving lots of ugly and noticeable bumps under the rug, even so). It's worked well for the U.S. in Afghanistan, for example, after our drones or fighter jets mistakenly (?) take out a wedding party or two.

                          In terms of addressing colonial exploitation, in general, on a national scale, I take that as a separate issue. I think the Dutch and the British, for the most part, have just gone home and let the former "children" fend for themselves, while the French continue to exploit large parts of Africa through the Francafrique agenda, which continues to this day, in spite of Monsieur Hollande's recent protestation to the contrary.


                          I don't think you'll find a single historically significant group that cannot claim to have been wronged by some other group in the past. .
                          So ... fraekin' ... what ? What has that got to do with addressing specific criminal or unjust acts?

                          We should just forge about each and every one of them (immediately, or after ... what? five minutes? two weeks? six months? ten years? one hundred?) , otherwise we won't have time to ... grow rice? Make babies? Watch tv? Trade stocks? What?
                          [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Warden: "What we got here ... is failure to communicate."

                          The Dude: "Oh yeah? Well that's just, like, your opinion, man."[/FONT]

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                          • #14
                            Question is
                            Should Japan apologize for what they did at Nanking back then ? It was called a rape of Nanking, what they did, they isolate the city, rape all the females, kill all the babies, or everyone inside that cities. So after all of those, they have never apologise, yet regretted such thing to happen. Shouldnt/Should they apologize as a nation now ?
                            "The Beauty of Indonesia is located outside Jakarta"

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                            • #15
                              Of course they should. By not doing so, every Japanese government since the end of the war (on behalf of every Japanese citizen, taking Michelle's point) has or is saying that there was nothing wrong in these actions, that they were justified acts under wartime (or denying they ever happened).
                              [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Warden: "What we got here ... is failure to communicate."

                              The Dude: "Oh yeah? Well that's just, like, your opinion, man."[/FONT]

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