Secretary of State John F. Kerry, following the pattern of administration spokespeople, refuses to say whether the slaughter of more than 130,000 Syrians by Bashar al-Assad is “genocide.” Why all the hemming and hawing, and isn’t this in fact genocide?
Taking the latter question first, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide defines genocide as:
Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
It is noteworthy that regardless of “the motive for the crime (land expropriation, national security, territorial integrity, etc.,) if the perpetrators commit acts intended to destroy a group, even part of a group, it is genocide.” The group must be one that is national, ethnic, racial or religious.
In other words, Assad’s purpose may be to stay in power, but he and all those assisting him are committing genocide if they are committing acts intend to destroy a group or even part of a group. The group in this case would be non-Alawite Syrians.
Is there a defense Assad might raise if captured and sent to the Hague? Let him try. In the meantime, why in the world would we not want to use the threat of prosecution of war crimes against him and more important his forces who are complicit in the genocide? It is one of the few points of leverage we might have, and it seems bizarre that we should not use it.
The head of a human rights organization agrees with this analysis, e-mailing Right Turn “I agree 100% that we not reassure Assad either way. We keep removing doubts he may have about us — in the wrong direction.”
So now to the question as to why Kerry and the rest of the administration is vacillating so much. We can only conclude that the moral and geopolitical position of doing nothing would be harder to maintain in their eyes (they are all about international law, don’t you know) if what they were ignoring was “genocide.” All of this simply goes to the utterly hypocritical posturing by the Obama administration. President Obama and his advisers bristle at the notion they are doing nothing on Syria. The president set up an Atrocities Prevention Board (what they possibly do, I can’t imagine) and yet he takes no serious steps over three years to halt the bloodbath. He proclaims himself “frustrated,” which roughly translates to “I’m very upset and am getting pestered that I can’t get this to stop by doing nothing effective.”
Whatever Obama, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, national security adviser Susan Rice, and United Nations representative Samantha Power do, the stain of inaction in the face of genocide (or if you refer, the killing of over 100,000 of Assad’s fellow countryman) is one, like Lady Macbeth’s, that simply won’t come out.