ASMarques wrote:Playwright, I agree with most of your statement, with some marginal disagreement on one account: I've read a good deal about the supposed Congo genocide by Leopold's Belgians, including the tract by Mark Twain and a few historical pieces from the larger campaign behind it, mentioning the evidence (a large part of it anecdotal in nature) brought out by a very few individuals -- such as Roger Casement [*], well-intended but very likely prone to exaggeration -- and I believe the whole thing was, and continues to be, blown out of all proportion.
Indeed, there were no genocidal aspects to the Congo Corvee - Leopold and his crew weren't trying to exterminate the natives, just exploit them.
But while all massacres are exaggerated - have you noticed the claimed death toll from the Tutsi massacre a few years ago has been quietly dropping? - I have to wonder if the Corvee is really "blown all out of proportion". Leopold and Company had 30 some years to engage in their crimes, which must have resulted in a colossal death toll. Whole villages on the Congo River were cleared of males by Leopold's press gangs, which means that deaths by slave labor have to have been compounded by deaths from starvation, what with the prime breadwinners out digging Leopold's rocks.
I haven't read Casement, and Mark Twain's accounts reflect his usual flair for hyperbole. But with three decades of slave labor, and not too much changed afterwards (remember the uranium ore slave camps of the 1940's), I just have a gut feeling that this time the exaggerations may be closer to the mark than usual.