CNN Genocide Series: The courageous few who saw evil and tried to stop the killing

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[This week: Richard Holbrooke.]

Richard Holbrooke first visited Bosnia in 1992 as a private citizen.

Three years later, he would become one of the most influential U.S. figures working to end a war that had introduced a new euphemism for genocide: ethnic cleansing.

Holbrooke, who had worked as a diplomat, journalist and investment banker, was intrigued, disgusted and challenged by what he saw in the early days of the war in Bosnia.

A month before his first visit, reporters had learned of Bosnian Serb concentration camps where Muslim prisoners were tortured, sexually mutilated and executed. The news photographs and footage seemed like an echo of the Holocaust.

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James W Loewen - 12/5/2008

Ethnic cleansing is not a synonym for genocide. Ethnic cleansing does not necessarily imply that a group has been killed. Driving out is a form of ethnic cleansing; indeed, it, not genocide, is what happened to most minority groups in most places where conflict occurred in former Yugoslavia.
This confusion of terms is why my publisher persuaded me not to subtitle SUNDOWN TOWNS as "The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America," my preference. My editor in chief convinced me that many people would interpret this to mean that blacks had been wiped out, rather than "merely" driven out. This story shows she had a point.