Expatica News - April 9, 2004

BRUSSELS - Belgian Defence Minister Andre Flahaut has come under heavy criticism for approving an official document that says the United States is responsible for the biggest genocide committed during the past 500 years.

The claim appeared in an official defence ministry magazine as part of a 16-page report on genocide around the world.

The report was published to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which left up to a million people dead.

According to the report, the worst genocide committed in the past 500 years has been the extermination of native Americans in what is today the US. The study said this mass killing began in 1492, when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, and that the genocide has claimed 15 million lives.

The report gave no clear end date for the US genocide, implying, said some analysts, that the extermination of native Americans is still continuing today.

Number two on the list of the world's greatest genocides was the extermination of native peoples in south America, the report continued.

Flemish newspaper De Standaard vehemently criticised Flahaut for allowing the study to be published. "This publication puts our relations with all north and south American Countries at risk," the paper said in an angry editorial, adding that it considered Flahaut to be "unfit or incompetent". Flahaut has already angered Washington in the past. Earlier this year he said in a magazine interview that he would vote Democrat if he were American. He was also a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq and briefly threatened to close Belgian airspace and the port of Antwerp to the American military ahead of last year's invasion of the middle eastern state.

The Belgian authorities have sought to play down the impact of the report. A government official quoted on the website of national broadcaster RT! BF calle d the furore surrounding the document "a storm in a teacup".

Despite this, sources say Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, who was in Rwanda to commemorate the victims of that country's genocide when the furore blew up, has already spoken to the US ambassador in Africa's great lakes region in a bid to head of an embarrassing diplomatic spat.

Michel was on Friday also set to discuss the affair with his US opposite number Colin Powell, sources added.

Before Flahaut's latest diplomatic gaffe, relations between Belgium and the US appeared to be improving after two decidedly frosty years.

Earlier this week it emerged that US President George W Bush had written to Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt to thank him for the role his country has played inside the Nato alliance and also for Brussels' efforts to tackle terrorism."

Although not mentioned, one cannot help but wonder what criticism was directed at Canada, after all, up until the late 1980s, its official policy was to exterminate First Nations by assimilation.

Click to read about American Indian Genocide