Tuesday, December 05, 2006

D.C. Fails the Genocide Test

First published on FrontPageMag.com

Even in today's extraordinarily polarized political climate, there is one stance regarding international affairs on which all the nation's political camps would presumably agree: Genocide is bad.

Yet American responses both to genocidal assaults on vulnerable groups in recent decades and to current threats of genocide suggest that the new political directions ascendant in Washington, with the Democratic victory in Congressional elections and the rise of the Iraq Study Group, do not bode well for those who are today targeted for mass murder.

Saddam Hussein's genocidal campaign against the Kurds, which reached its height in 1988 and took the lives of some 200,000 Iraqi Kurds, hardly dampened the enthusiasm of the Bush I administration, elected in November, 1988, for cultivating close ties to Saddam and abetting his military build-up. The pursuit of that policy, which included turning a blind eye to the illegal diversion of United States Commodity Credit Corporation funds to Iraqi military purchases, was led by the State Department under Secretary of State James Baker, now co-chair of the Iraq Study Group.

The embrace of Saddam ended only with the Iraqi dictator's invasion of Kuwait. Following the first Gulf War and Iraq's expulsion from Kuwait, President George H.W. Bush famously encouraged the Kurds in the north of Iraq and the Shia in the south to rise up and overthrow the Saddam regime. He then abandoned them when they did so, allowing Saddam to slaughter tens of thousands in both populations. Key figures in shaping this policy were Secretary of State Baker and then Deputy National Security Advisor Robert Gates, a recent member of the Iraq Study Group and now nominee to succeed the vilified Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

The indifference both to the slaughter of the Kurds in 1988 and to the massacre of Kurds and Shia in 1991 was defended as Realpolitik. The reintroduction of Realpolitik, and demise of the current President Bush's pro-democracy agenda, is now being eagerly promoted by those looking to the Congressional Democrats and to the Iraq Study Group for a change of direction in Middle East policies.

Also in the service of alleged Realpolitik are suggestions emanating from the Iraq Study Group and some leading Democrats that the nation ought to engage in dialogue with Iran and seek its "help" in trying to stabilize Iraq, abandoning the administration's efforts to isolate the Iranian theocrats. The Administration has, of course, tried at various points since 2003 to deal directly with Iran concerning Iraq. An example was current U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad’s meetings with Iranian officials about a year ago. Such contacts resulted in Iranian undertakings and subsequent reneging on those undertakings, as the regime has persisted in arming client Shia militias and others in Iraq for attacks both on Sunni civilians and American and British forces.

This experience has understandably dampened Administration enthusiasm for further engagement with Iran over Iraq. Other factors are the Iranian regime's dedication to the annihilation of Israel, declared explicitly again and again by President Ahmadinejad, and Iran's less explicit but nevertheless well-established determination to produce nuclear weapons to advance its genocidal objectives.

Repeated diplomatic efforts by the international community have failed to moderate these policies, and this record has driven the Administration’s seeking to isolate the Iranian regime and impose a partial trade boycott against it.

The Secretary Council’s failure to enact the embargo measures it threatened if Iran did not end its uranium enrichment program by last August 31 has reinforced the Iranian mullahs’ conviction of the toothlessness of the American tiger and emboldened it in its genocidal agenda. Adoption of the alternative path of "engagement" now being promoted by the rising stars in Washington will only serve to advance that agenda further.

Iran's proxy army in Lebanon, Hezbollah, which launched this past summer's war by shelling Israeli towns and killing and kidnapping Israeli soldiers, has stated its genocidal agenda even more explicitly than its sponsor. While some who call for the destruction of Israel try to claim that this is somehow different from supporting the mass murder of Jews, Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah is more straightforward. He told Beirut's Daily Star in 2002, "If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide." Hezbollah, has, however, also demonstrated its willingness to take the trouble, as when, according to Argentine authorities, it carried out, under Iranian sponsorship, the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 85 people.

Yet Nasrallah's genocidal intent does not particularly faze some who have won new powers in today's Washington. Michigan Democrat John Dingell, slated to be chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee in the next Congress, stated in a Detroit television interview during this summer's war, "I don't take sides for or against Hezbollah; I don't take sides for or against Israel."

Dingell’s view was not shared by many of his House colleagues. Also during the war, House resolution 921 supporting Israel in its fight against Hezbollah passed by a vote of 410 for, 8 against. But six of the 8 were Democrats, with three - Dingell, John Conyers and Nick Rahall - slated for committee chairmanships in the new Congress.

Syria, Hezbollah’s co-sponsor and key supplier of the rocket arsenal with which Nasrallah targeted Israel’s civilian populations, is, like Iran, being touted by the Iraq Study Group for "engagement" as a potential partner in stabilizing Iraq.

The Palestinians’ governing party, Hamas, emulates Hezbollah in not hiding its genocidal aim. And while Machmoud Abbas's Fatah party colleagues are more circumspect in statements in English, the media, mosques and schools that Fatah has controlled since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority have likewise promoted the message of Israel's illegitimacy and the goal of its annihilation. Yet leading Democrats like Carl Levin, soon to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have consistently faulted the Administration for not pressing for peace talks, even as no party is offering Israel genuine peace.

There have always been those in the Administration, particularly in the State Department, who have wanted to push Israel for concessions as a way to win greater Arab support for Administration policies. Now those voices will be joined by the chorus of some Congressional Democrats eager to see "peace talks" and "movement," even if it will inevitably be movement in the wrong direction, and Iraq Study Group members who want to press Israel as a quid pro quo for Syrian and broader Arab "help" in Iraq.

Recent weeks have also seen a reappearance on the policy stage of people who, during the Oslo years, were indifferent to Yasir Arafat's collusion in anti-Israel terror and his incessant incitement to pursuit of the Jewish state’s ultimate destruction. When Arafat arrived in the territories, in July, 1994, he was instrumental in unleashing, over the next 22 months, the most intense terror assault Israel had ever experienced to that point, with more than 150 dead.

One result was the election, in May, 1996, of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister. Netanyahu insisted there would be no more territorial concessions to Arafat until he lived up to his earlier Oslo commitments to end incitement, stop PLO involvement in terror and dismantle the Islamist terror organizations. In response, Netanyahu was attacked by Secretary of Defense designate Gates, who declared, in a 1998 New York Times op-ed, that those interested in "peace" must "not kowtow to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's obstructionism."

One line of criticism from Democrats and from Bush 41 "realists" against the current Bush Administration’s foreign policy is the complaint that the President has failed to work with the international community, most notably the United Nations, in addressing - particularly, but not exclusively - Iraq. John Kerry, as Democratic nominee for the Presidency in 2004, declared that American policy in the Middle East ought to be molded by international consensus and cooperation with the UN.

But with regard to genocide, the United Nations has largely become the monster it was created to fight. It has failed to address campaigns of mass murder and actually contributed to such horrors. In the Balkans, in 1993, the UN created a "safe haven" for Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica, leading thousands of Muslim refugees to flock to the town. But when challenged by Bosnian Serb troops, the Dutch UN forces in Srebrenica, with the support of UN authorities, abandoned the Muslims. Some 8,000 males were subsequently rounded up and slaughtered by the Serbs.

In Rwanda, members of the UN peacekeeping force (UNAMIR - UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda) essentially looked on as 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were murdered. For example, some 2,000 civilians sought shelter in a school protected by Belgian UNAMIR troops. But five days into the massacres the soldiers abandoned their wards and most of the 2,000 were butchered. Sixteen days into the killing, the Security Council voted to withdraw about 90% of the UNAMIR force from Rwanda. The murders went on for another twelve weeks.

The UN’s now defunct Commission on Human Rights consistently failed to address acts of genocide. This included what has been perhaps the worst episode of genocide since World War II, the Arab government in Khartoum's slaughter, over several decades, of some two million Christian and animist blacks in southern Sudan. The Commission likewise ignored Sudan’s ongoing genocidal campaign against the Muslim but black population of Darfur in eastern Sudan. Instead, it saw fit to elect Sudan to membership on the Commission, along with Saudi Arabia, the nation most prolific in disseminating religious and "educational" material promoting group hatred and demonization.

The Commission did sponsor, in September, 2001, a "World Conference Against Racism" in Durban, South Africa. But the conference degenerated into an orgy of anti-Jewish hatemongering of an order unseen since the Nazi Nuremberg rallies of the nineteen-thirties. A chief theme was demands for the annihilation of Israel.

The Commission has recently been replaced by the UN Human Rights Council, but the new body is following the same anti-human rights agenda as its predecessor.

Yet looking to internationalist bodies to solve the world’s conflicts has attained new heights of popularity on at least the ideological Left of the Democratic party, and enthusiasm for ascribing moral and political authority to the UN is substantial in the new Congress.

Another view popular among pacifists and internationalists within the Democratic party is that, whatever our differences with other states, and irrespective of those states’ policies, there is intrinsic virtue to talking to them, seeking accommodations of some sort, and avoiding armed conflict at all costs. In recent years, Democratic criticism of the Bush II Administration has often taken the form of complaining that an insufficient role has been given in policy-making to the State Department, where the stock in trade is "diplomacy," or talking to the leaders of other nations however much blood is on their hands. Republican champions of Realpolitik likewise support dealing with whatever the powers that be, and pursuing pragmatic agreements without looking too closely at the internal policies of our "partners."

These shared predilections are often cast as highly moral, because war is, of course, bad and talking is good.

But most genocides are carried out within states, and the victims are not typically sovereign groups that are part of the UN or party to the talk-fests and the deal-making.

Those whose highest moral imperative is to sit down, negotiate, and split differences have good reason to be cheered by recent developments in Washington. But those who are the targets of campaigns promoting mass murder and extermination have more reason than ever to be afraid.