Tag archives: Iraq

Genocide in Iraq

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.

July 31, 2014

It is hard to ignore the disturbing reports emerging from Iraq which contribute to mounting evidence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) extermination of Christians and anything reflecting the Christian religion. Congressman Frank Wolf and others have spoken persuasively and forcefully on this tragedy. Yet judging by the actions (or lack thereof) of our president and the other leaders of the free world, one wouldn’t think much was going on in Iraq. However, the available evidence shows that ISIS’s extermination of Christians is one of the clearest cases of genocide since World War II.

What little President Obama has said about preventing atrocities in foreign lands has centered on the Responsibility to Protect – a relatively recent doctrine which is not clearly established or grounded in international law. While its validity can be debated, there exist clearer grounds on which to address the plight of Iraq’s Christians  – the obligation to prevent genocide contained in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.

After the horror of the Nazi ideology and ensuing Holocaust was fully realized, the nations of the world gathered together, formed the United Nations, and affirmed they would never let such horrors happen again. The Genocide Convention laid down into international law a binding treaty arrangement in which contracting nations agreed to “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide. As part of this obligation, parties could “call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action … as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.” Some argue that the “obligation to prevent” is not a clear, independent requirement of the treaty, but that argument is overcome by the clear language and purpose of the treaty, and a decision of the International Court of Justice holding that the treaty contains a clear, independent obligation to prevent genocide. Indeed, the whole point of the treaty was to prevent horrors like the Holocaust from happening again.

According to the Convention, genocide consists of “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” –

(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.

While only one of these acts is required to have genocide, ISIS clearly appears to have engaged in at least the first three acts listed above. It appears to have undertaken them with the “intent to destroy” Christians and Christian heritage in Iraq “in whole,” and at least “in part.” Christians are a “religious group.” If the elements of this crime are not met in this case, I’m not sure when they are.

The responsibility to prevent genocide contained in the Genocide Convention requires that the United States and other parties to the treaty act to prevent genocide when they recognize it is occurring. It is difficult to deny that genocide of Iraq’s Christians is currently underway. In other instances, nations have refrained from calling genocide “genocide” (such as in the Darfur region of Sudan several years ago, or in Rwanda in the early 1990s) out of fear of triggering their legal obligation to act to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention. Is this the effect the treaty was intended to have? It is inconceivable that a mechanism designed to prevent future atrocities would be used as a reason to avoid denouncing those atrocities. Yet there is reason to believe nations have and will continue to operate this way.

While governments may try to craft arguments against their obligation if they do not want to address the issue, that will become more difficult as more facts come to light. The evidence from Iraq is clear – ISIS’ stated intent is to target Christians, which is a classification based on religion, one of the requirements for genocide. No nation which is a party to the Genocide Convention should be able to escape its requirement to act to prevent what ISIS is now doing to Iraq’s Christians.

Over twenty years ago, President Clinton hesitated to take decisive action to stop genocide in Rwanda. He avoided calling it genocide precisely because of the concerns expressed here – the United States would be obligated to do something if genocide was recognized. As a result, over a million lives were lost. Several years later, President Clinton went to Rwanda and admitted his error.


Yet this is precisely the point of the binding legal “obligation to prevent” contained in the Genocide Convention – it should not be able to be manipulated according to the shifting winds of foreign policy. It was always understood that binding obligations were necessary to prevent nations from wavering in the future when memories of the Holocaust started to fade.

The Genocide Convention was designed to prevent future horrors. Yet the nations of the world now stand by as genocide of Christians occurs before their very eyes in Iraq. All the elements of this crime are met, and we have an obligation to prevent it. What are we waiting for? That same question, which was asked of Nazi appeasers in the 1930s and President Clinton in the 1990s, will someday be asked of us about Iraq.

Escaping History Not an Option

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 1, 2010

On the credenza behind his Oval Office desk, President Obama has placed a bust of Abraham Lincoln.

This is admirable, in that Lincoln represents the very definition of American greatness. Perhaps, though, Mr. Obama might take some time to ponder something the 16th President wrote in an 1862 message to Congress: We cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us.

That was true during the Civil War, and it remains true today, which is why the image Mr. Obama used last night that we have now turned a page in Iraq is unsettling.

In the sense that our combat operations have been completed, he is right. And as the President said, our Armed Forces have fought with valor and tenacity, and deserve the gratitude and honor of a proud and thankful nation.

However, it is noteworthy that President Obama opposed the war in Iraq from its inception and, as a Senator, voted against the surge that enabled American forces to quell the rising militancy of Iraqs Islamist terrorists.

This should be said, not to encourage contempt for the Commander in Chief but because it calls into question his strategic judgment. No one is right all the time, and Mr. Obamas placement of a major new combat force in Afghanistan under General Petraeus was a brave choice, one opposed by the Presidents left-wing base.

It is when his judgment is driven by his statist impulses that our eyebrows should raise. Mine did when, last night, Mr. Obama called upon America to tackle (our) challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.

This calling is wholly unrealistic domestic needs never animate national will with the same intensity as does a military crisis. Part of the reason is that we presume prosperity; for most Americans, its always just around the corner, and thus fighting for energy independence, as Mr. Obama called for last evening, will never produce a martial spirit.

Another reason is that a military adversary is tangible and visible. Our enemies have faces. Things like deflation, unemployment, energy production, and technological innovation do not. They are concepts, not targets.

No national calling can ever be created similar to that inspired by immediate and serious threats to our survival as a people threats like al-Qaeda and Nazism.

As troubling, if not more, was the Presidents inference that we can now afford the luxury of turning inward, as if the cessation of American combat operations in Iraq means we can shift our gaze more exclusively to our own economic needs.

Mr. Obamas penchant is to transform America, as he said repeatedly during his presidential campaign. Mr. Obama and his colleagues on the Left view the national landscape as a gigantic machine with which they can tinker and to which they can make whatever improvements they wish in some sort of domestic bubble. Make the World Go Away is, for them, less an Elvis Pressley anthem than a political demand.

Mr. Obama is bright and sophisticated. He is mindful of the realities of a grim world. Still, he seems dragged into global leadership with a grudging sense of duty, not a mature understanding that to be the American President is to lead freedoms march, not merely walk with it. He must remember, as Lincoln did, that we cannot escape history.

Another young President understood this well. Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither. We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with the other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities.

Theodore Roosevelt saw international leadership not as a burden to be born but an opportunity to be greeted with resolve and optimism. May Barack Obama learn from his example.

Theyll be Home for Christmas

by Robert Morrison

December 18, 2009

While the U.S. is drawing down forces in Iraq and building up, by some 30,000, our troops in Afghanistan, thousands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard are returning to the homeland. Thanks to Operation Welcome Home Maryland, those who come into Baltimore-Washington International airport will not come home alone.

Theyll be greeted by dozens of people from the local community, many of them former service members themselves. Some of these older veterans can tell sad stories of returning from Vietnam to a cold and sullen airport arrival. No more. Operation Welcome Home is determined to give our all-volunteer servicemen and women the homecoming they deserve.

Incoming flights are posted on the organizations website—-www.operationwelcomehomemd.org. Greeters are invited to bring goodie bags of food, water, and other favors from home. When the uniformed service members come through those arrival gates, many are stunned to see the reception committee yelling, cheering, applauding, and playing Im proud to be an American on iPods. To be hugged by total strangers is an unusual experience, to say the least.

But they are not total strangers. They cannot be total strangers. For those who have worn the uniform, no one in the military will ever again be a total stranger. Perhaps watching the made-for-TV series, Band of Brothers, can explain that all-too-bloodless term unit cohesion. It might better be called the Bond of Brothers.

The most shocking thing about Fort Hood is that an obvious traitor in our midst was allowed—for reasons of political correctness—to move freely among our troops. Someone at the highest levels should pay with his stars for allowing such a hostile environment to exist.

Our best young soldiers and sailors today say without hesitation Id take a bullet for my brother. Many of them, sadly, have done just that. No one should ever take a bullet from a traitor in the ranks.

This week, thankfully, hundreds of veterans from Iraq have passed through BWI. Theyre given special Christmas cheer as they come home in time for the holidays. They are all volunteers. And the ones who welcome them home are all volunteers, too. Its another reminder that Liberty is the most precious gift under our tree and that we are the land of the free because of the brave.