To Prevent Genocide, the U.S. Needs to Intervene in Sri Lanka's War

Sunday, May 17, 2009

After the latest bloodbath in Sri Lanka [World Digest, May 12; "Hundreds Are Killed in Sri Lanka Attack," news story, May 11], it seems increasingly clear that we are witnessing an attempt at genocide.

Against all evidence, the Sri Lankan government claims that the shelling in which as many as 1,000 ethnic Tamil civilians have died is not even occurring. Fleeing Tamils who escape "safe zones" are placed in military-run camps where they face food shortages and systematic sexual abuse. In the past two weeks, the Sri Lankan government -- one of the world's most hostile where journalists are concerned -- has expelled a British news team that reported on the abysmal camp conditions and the abuse of Tamil women fleeing the war zone.

The U.N. Security Council's suggestion that the Tamil rebels simply surrender is neither realistic nor helpful. Rather, the United Nations should invoke the "responsibility to protect" doctrine and deploy an international monitoring group with the aim of creating conditions in which both sides would be forced to agree to a cease-fire.

Former president Bill Clinton has said that, when she was first lady, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wanted the United States to intervene in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and that his administration's failure to act was one of his biggest regrets. Today, President Obama and Ms. Clinton can help restore our international reputation as a peacemaker by intervening in a similar conflict before it reaches the same magnitude.

BRAD OREMLAND

Rockville


© 2009 The Washington Post Company