Candidate positions on genocide

With the primary season in full swing, I thought it might be helpful to revisit the various candidates and see what they have to say about Darfur, genocide, and Africa.





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Giuliani has said the United States should focus its policy toward Africa on increases in trade. “U.S. government aid is important, but aid not linked to reform perpetuates bad policies and poverty,” he wrote in a September 2007 Foreign Affairs article. In that article, Giuliani also said the next president “should continue the Bush administration’s effort to help Africa overcome AIDS and malaria.”

In May 2007, Giuliani was informed that he held between $500,000 and $1 million in investments in companies that work in Sudan. His campaign spokesperson did not say whether he would be divesting (AP) from those companies.

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Huckabee has not made many public statements relating to U.S. policy toward Africa. His stance on U.S.action in Darfur is unknown. He has said foreign aid (Time) “should be limited to purely humanitarian efforts.”

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Romney’s positions on policy issues toward African countries are not well known. In a July 2007 Foreign Affairs article, Romney praised U2 singer Bono and other activists for their efforts to raise awareness of poverty in Africa and elsewhere. Romney said U.S. efforts to bolster the standing of moderate Muslims abroad by combating poverty and underdevelopment should be focused in Africa as well as the Middle East.

The Los Angeles Times reported on August 14, 2007, that Romney has investments in an oil company tied to the Sudanese government, which is accused of being partially responsible for the massacres in Darfur. Romney’s campaign spokesman told the Times that Romney’s attorney controls his investments and that he “had no influence over how his investments were handled.” His spokesman did not say whether Romney would divest these funds.

All position statements were drawn from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Of foxes and henhouses

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Former Secretary of Defense Willian Cohen will be co-chairing a new task force to develop guidelines to prevent future genocides. Referred to as the Genocide Prevention Task Force, the group is being implemented by the U.S. Institute for Peace, the United States Holocaust Museum and the American Academy of Diplomacy.

“Because we live in this age of information … we can no longer live in a state of denial or willful indifference,” he said. “And so the purpose of this task force is to look to the past, to be sure, but to look forward to say, ‘What are the signs, what are the options that will be available to the United States as one of the leading forces to help shape multilateral action, to energize people of conscience, to say that this cannot happen, this is not tolerable?’ ”

The international community heaped a lot of criticism on the United States for not becoming involved in Rwanda’s 1994 internecine war and for again reacting too late to Sudan in 2004, when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell labeled the situation there a genocide. The Sudanese government has denied that label is accurate.

“Things haven’t worked,” Albright said. “And watching Darfur [Sudan], I think, is one of the things that has led us all to say, ‘OK, let’s give this all another try to see if there are some guidelines and if — speaking of the United States government — if there is some way to organize ourselves better to deal with it.’ ”

She said the idea for the task force came from the unfortunate history of failure of efforts to prevent genocide around the world.

“I would frankly say that this is as a result of frustration,” she said. “That no matter what we say, there are mass killings and genocide. And we want to see what we can do to make some reality to the words ‘never again’.”

At the time of the Rwandan genocide, Albright was serving as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. She argued in a PBS interview (years later), that “in retrospect, it all looks very clear. But when you were [there] at the time, it was unclear about what was happening in Rwanda.” Later, as she served as Secretary of State, she was largely responsible for the United States position in the Balkans.

In addition, Albright and Cohen were both signers of a letter discouraging a U.S. declaration of genocide in Armenia, a fact that was the center of the Genocide Prevention Task Force’s first news conference:

Albright and Cohen spent much of the news conference’s question-and-answer session defending a letter they sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, earlier this year, in which they spoke against a House resolution that would have labeled as genocide the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 by what is now Turkey. The letter, signed by eight former Cabinet secretaries, including Albright, Cohen and Powell, stated that discussion of the bill on the floor could “strain our [United States] relations with Turkey, and would endanger our national security interests in the region, including the safety of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

All of which opens the question, can officials trained in a climate of ignoring genocide for political reasons come together to create future policy that may impact nations in a positive way?

Holocaust descendants experience trauma

It’s fairly well known that I’m hoping to eventually complete a PhD in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. While talking with a co-worker about this a few months back, I mentioned that it would be interesting to study how the survivors of the Holocaust coped with their ordeal versus the survivors of modern genocides.

In a not dissimilar line of thinking, Janine Beck, a PhD student at Queensland University of Technology, conducted a study that revealed that depression, anxiety, and trust issues were all elevated in descendants of Holocaust survivors.

The children and grandchildren of survivors experienced depression and anxiety at a higher rate than the general population, Ms Beck said.

They also had more difficulty trusting others, which leads to difficulties in relationships.

The researcher said the traumatic after-effects of the Holocaust flowed to subsequent generations through the way survivors interacted with their children.

“Survivors were either over-protective or clingy because they were fearful that something would happen to their children or they were dismissive and pushed their children away in an attempt to prevent any future hurt,” Ms Beck said.

“These parenting patterns are highly likely to be repeated, so the cycle of trauma transmission continues.”

The study showed that the most affected survivors – those who spent time in concentration camps or were the sole survivor in their family – had children who were the most affected.

“In addition, survivors from Hungary and Eastern European countries appear to have suffered from higher symptom levels than those from Western European countries,” Ms Beck said.

I imagine that Beck’s findings would translate fairly uniformly to places such as Rwanda and Darfur. I do wonder, however, if the availability of mental health services wouldn’t factor into the outcome, leaving impoverished countries with greater suffering and a more prolonged impact.

I was particularly grateful to see Beck’s study as the question I had originally asked was one that I would never actually get around to answering myself. I’m interested to see if she goes on to do similar studies with different conflicts.

Congress calls for charges against Ahmadinejad

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution that calls on the United Nations to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with genocide. The bill states that:

…on October 27, 2005, at the World Without Zionism Conference in Tehran, Iran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” described Israel as “a disgraceful blot [on] the face of the Islamic world,” and declared that “[a]nybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury”

…on December 12, 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed a conference in Tehran questioning the history of the Holocaust and said that Israel would “soon be wiped out”

…on August 3, 2006, in a speech during an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that the Middle East would be better off “without the existence of the Zionist regime,” called Israel an “illegitimate regime” with “no legal basis for its existence,” and accused the United States of using Israel as a proxy to control the region and its oil resources

The resolution passed the House with 411 votes and has been forwarded to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. You can read the entire resolution here.

I find it both sad and ironic that Congress is so easily moved to action against rhetoric, but lacks any strength of resolve to fight actual acts of genocide.

RIP Kurt

“I have wanted to give Iraq a lesson in democracy—because we’re experienced with it, you know. And, in democracy, after a hundred years, you have to let your slaves go. And, after a hundred and fifty years, you have to let your women vote. And, at the beginning of democracy, is that quite a bit of genocide and ethnic cleansing is quite okay. And that’s what’s going on now.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

Genocide Accountability Act

Since the end of World War II, the United States Department of Justice has actively pursued the prosecution of Nazi war criminals living within our borders through the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). Because of existing laws, the Justice Department doesn’t have the authority to try fugitives for genocide crimes, and instead deports them to their home country for prosecution.

However, a new bill that’s about to move before the full Senate would undo the precedent that keeps non-citizens from being charged with genocide in the United States.

Under current law, genocide is only considered a crime if it is committed within the United States or by a U.S. national outside the United States. The Genocide Accountability Act would close the current loophole by amending the Genocide Convention Implementation Act to allow prosecution of non-U.S. citizens for genocide committed outside the United States.

The Justice Department has identified individuals who participated in the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides and who are living in the United States under false pretenses. Under current law, these individuals cannot be arrested or prosecuted for genocide, because they are not U.S. nationals and the acts in which they were involved did not take place in the United States. In contrast, the laws on torture, material support for terrorism, terrorism financing, hostage taking, and many other federal crimes are still considered crimes when committed outside the United States by non-U.S. nationals.

Salah Abdallah Gosh, the head of security in the Sudanese government, has reportedly played a key role in the government’s genocidal campaign in Darfur. In 2005, Gosh came to Washington to meet with senior Administration officials. Under current law, the FBI could not even interview Gosh about his involvement in the Darfur genocide, much less charge him with a crime.

This is the first bill to be introduced by the subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, which was officially established at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s first business meeting of the 110th Congress. The Human Rights subcommittee’s first hearing was held in February and focused on the genocide in Darfur and other parts of the world.

Even though the bill will likely aid in the prosecution of Sudanese and Rwandan ex-pats, there’s little doubt that cases like John Demjanjuk’s would have been better served if this loophole had been closed earlier. In fact, this will hopefully give the OSI the teeth it needs to pursue fugitive war criminals with greater effectiveness.

Genocide conviction rates

genocide convictionsThe UN recently put out a nice graphic (pictured to the right) that shows the conviction rate for genocides in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Not surprisingly, it’s fairly difficult to prosecute criminals for genocide as it’s extremely tricky to prove intent. Keep in mind these numbers are for those individuals who have been arrested and prosecuted for genocide and doesn’t include the charges for crimes against humanity or war crimes.

UN court to rule on Serbia

The UN’s highest court is preparing to rule on whether the nation of Serbia was complicit in the 1990 slaughter and displacement of Bosnian Muslims. The trial is complex for several reasons, but perhaps the most daunting of arguments is whether the court has jurisdiction to hand down a ruling.

The key is whether the judges are persuaded that the Bosnian Serbs were under the control of the Serb government – an issue that might have been resolved had the Milosevic trial reached its conclusion. It was stopped when he died, and the massive amount of evidence it heard is now legally worthless.

The Yugoslav tribunal “has not been successful in establishing a proven link between the paramilitaries who did the killing and the government in Belgrade,” said Johannes Houwink ten Cate, a historian at the Netherlands War Documentation Centre and a professor of genocide studies.

By contrast, he said, the Nuremberg trial of Nazi war criminals found a clear chain of command to the Holocaust.

The Bosnia-Serbia dispute is not a criminal case, and the standards of proof are lower than required for a criminal conviction. It is enough that a majority of judges find on a “balance of probabilities” that Serbia was responsible.

However, before the judges even address Serbian responsibility, they must first rule on whether they have jurisdiction – a tricky question on which the same court has contradicted itself in the past.

Serbia argues it was not a UN member when the murders happened, and therefore cannot be judged by the UN court. Yugoslavia’s UN membership was suspended in 1992, and Belgrade was only readmitted as Serbia and Montenegro in 2001. Montenegro split from Serbia last year, and has asked the court to remove its name from the case.

As much of international law has yet to be written, it will be interesting to follow the court’s ruling, as it will likely have huge ramifications for future trials. The most immediate of which is the beleaguered Darfur region of Sudan, where 1.5 million displaced people will hopefully one day have their day in court.

Long Bets and genocide

For quite some time I’ve been fascinated by a website called Long Bets. Essentially, it’s a site devoted to predicting, arguing, and betting on scientific and socially impacting events.

The idea is rather simple and comes with an attractive ending. People place bets on events they expect to see happen (or not), provide a certain amount of reasoning for their predicted outcome, and then open it up for debate. Others are free to add their opinions, and if so inclined, can bet against the stated prediction. Only, the winner doesn’t get to keep the money generated from the bet rather it is donated to a charity.

Of course, the real kicker is that some of the predictions are as far away as one-hundred years (see bet 137). A few of the more interesting ones include:

8: The US men’s soccer team will win the World Cup before the Red Sox win the World Series.

9: By 2020, bioterror or bioerror will lead to one million casualties in a single event.

10: By 2050, we will receive intelligent signals from outside our solar system.

11: At least one human alive in the year 2000 will still be alive in 2150.

22: By 2100 a world government will be in place and in control of: business law, environmental law, and weapons of mass destruction.

76: By the year 2020 solar electricity will be as cheap or cheaper than that produced by fossil fuels.

105: As of March 7th, 2005, Osama bin Laden is dead.

177: By 2010 more than 50 percent of books sold worldwide will be printed on demand at the point of sale in the form of library-quality paperbacks.

196: global warming denialists will be shown to be wrong over the next 20 years.

207: By 2150 faster than light propulsion theory will become realized, but not implemented, either through black holes, worm holes or space time warping.

214: The People’s Republic of China will successfully place a living human on the surface of Mars before any other nation.

252: By year 2036, there will be at least 1 man alive in the U.S. who has fathered 150 children.

284: By 2025, the very first human being will be cloned and this event will be accepted by the most people.

I’m always surprised that I see so little from my own field. That’s why I plan to throw out the following grim prediction in the near future:

By 2045, a genocide equalling or exceeding the Holocaust will occur somewhere in the Middle East.

Honestly, the fires of genocide are already burning throughout this region, and it’s going to be even odds to see where it starts. Feel free to bet against me if you want, but be prepared to lose the debate and your money.


Iranian president charged?

John Bolton, the outgoing US ambassador to the United Nations, will be joining the call to bring charges against Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad for inciting genocide. The idea of charging Ahmadi-Nejad arises on the heels of the Iranian Holocaust conference, which has been drawing huge complaints internationally. A study produced by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists concluded that the President of Iran was promoting a campaign of hate against Israel and the Jewish people.

A series of remarks by Mr Ahmadi-Nejad, including one in which he reportedly questioned whether Zionists were human beings, “constitute direct and public incitement to genocide”, the study alleges. While reminiscent of incitement before the Rwanda genocide, “the critical difference is that while the Hutus in Rwanda were equipped with machetes, Iran, should the international community do nothing to prevent it, will soon acquire nuclear weapons,” it says.

Even as the Iranian Mission to the UN countered that the international court should be looking at the genocide of Palestinian people by the Israeli government, the lack of movement to “prevent” a genocide from occurring in parts of the world where “vulnerable populations [can’t] defend themselves” continues to be an enduring problem.