Gabriel turns Two: Happy Birthday Sweet Boy

Thursday, December 06, 2007

America, Genocide and a Haunting Echo of "Once Again"

I just began a book -- which happens far more frequently than the event of actually finishing one -- called Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.

The book got a Pulitzer, and a well-earned one. This is a thick, heartbreaking, yet objective read that you cannot absorb without feeling shocked to the point of confusion. Over and over the signs are clear: large scale human slaughter based on being one kind of people and not another is about to happen, and it's not even news until everyone is dead. Yet however depressing, this book is readable and captivating, as good journalistic writing is, and I'm going to see if I can open my eyes and get a better look at the picture, however gruesome or complex.

In the preface, author Samantha Power makes the point that "It is in the realm of domestic politics that the battle to stop genocide is lost...No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and No U.S. president has ever suffered politically for this indifference to its occurrence."

As human beings, why on earth isn't genocide one of the top issues in the campaign climate these weeks and months? Can we make it important enough to get the matter of large scale human slaughter boosted above tax tug-of-wars and terrorism?

Can we make it important to intervene in genocide when we aren't sniffing after foreign oil?

A little piece of hope: I found this press release on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website:

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen today announced that they will co-chair a Genocide Prevention Task Force jointly convened by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the United States Institute of Peace. The Task Force will generate practical recommendations to enhance the U.S. government's capacity to respond to emerging threats of genocide and mass atrocities."We have a duty to find the answer before the vow of 'never again' is once again betrayed," said Secretary Albright.

The "once again" buzzes in my hear, hauntingly.


Pistol Pete said...

No doubt we need to address the evil reality of genocide. The question is - how? At times, the US has gone into nations to restore order, backed forces that seemed to be the most stable and democratic, only to watch them be transformed into even greater killing machines than their predecessors.

I was alarmed to hear we're now considering arming Afghan tribal leaders to prevent terrorist attacks. How do we know they're only going to shoot the terrorists?

I'm not sure what we could best do as a nation. As Christians, though, we certainly need to be reach out to persecuted peoples wherever they are, in whatever way we can.

Jemila Kwon said...

I am not very educated -- yet -- but I think the problem becomes arming a minority faction, (they are already angry and this seems to lead to civil war and endless retaliation) rather than disarming the aggressors and sending in nuetral forces with authorization to use to force if necessary to stem the killings. But on a deeper, and perhaps more Christian level, we need to get at the root causes -- the old angers and resentments that fester in pain and begin finding new ways to bring people together for honesty and healing, along the lines of the South Africa's Truth & Reconciliation Commission.

keywork said...

Pete: What's really disturbing is that we have had Syrians on our payroll for a while now to help police the Iraqi borders.
Jemila: you've been added, prepare for things to get strange.

Jemila Kwon said...

Keywork -- thanks for adding me :) I am prepared for strange.

keywork said...

that's good to hear.

Pistol Pete said...

Jemila, you are right about the Christian response. And, it requires a long-term presence and sustained commitment - not just a load of cash sent in when the things reach a crisis proportion.

Keywork, I'm sure Syrians are on our payroll. I read once that the vast majority (60% or more) of international aid is provided not in monetary loans or humanitarian services, but in weapons. Scary!

Jemila Kwon said...

Pete that's a scary aid statistic. Yes, there is a big difference between supplying weapons and providing a strong peacekeeping presence (that is able to use force when necessary but is designed to dissolve conflict and heal grievances rather than escalate violence. In many cases we have done nothing. Yet when we stand to gain oil, we get on our moral high horses all of a sudden and I wish good-hearted conservatives would call out their own people on this issue when it comes to, say why we are in Iraq and not Sudan.

Pistol Pete said...

I love the new pic. You look very motherly.