Archive - March 2016

Kerry Designates Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims as Genocide Victims
Memo to State: Christians are Suffering Genocide, Too
Donald the Dictator: Take Note, Catholics
A Trumped up Dictatorship

Kerry Designates Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims as Genocide Victims

Today Secretary of State John Kerry designated ISIS’s violence against Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims as genocide.  Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute captures it well:

Secretary of State John Kerry officially recognized that ISIS is waging genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and Shiites in the areas under its control. This is only the second time the U.S. government has condemned an ongoing genocide: In 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell designated what was going in Darfur as genocide. And today’s declaration, as I wrote yesterday, almost didn’t happen — owing to resistance from some quarters. Kerry’s announcement was a surprise, one that defied deliberately lowered expectations. There was a State Department notice just yesterday that any such designation required longer deliberation and wouldn’t be made in time to meet the March 17 congressionally mandated deadline. But at 9 a.m. Eastern, Secretary of State Kerry took to the podium and asserted: “In my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions — in what it says, what it believes, and what it does.” This official American genocide designation is a critically important step. Genocide is internationally recognized as the most heinous human-rights offense. Legally, it is known as the “crime of crimes.” And while the Genocide Convention does not prescribe specific action to “prevent and protect” against genocide, the conscience does. RELATED: Witnessing the Genocide in Iraq This designation will not only lift the morale of these shattered religious groups, it also has the potential of serving justice through the prosecution of those who aid and abet ISIS as fighters, cyber recruiters, financiers, arms suppliers, and artifact smugglers.

Other good pieces on why the designation is rightly deserved have come out in the past couple of days by Anne Corkery and Kirsten Powers.

Memo to State: Christians are Suffering Genocide, Too

Christians in the Middle East are suffering genocide.  This is the compelling conclusion of a report issued this past Thursday by the Knights of Columbus, written in collaboration with In Defense of Christians.  The report arrives on the eve of a deadline for the U.S. State Department to issue a finding about whether ISIS is committing genocide and which groups are victims.  This past October, officials at State suggested that their department might make a genocide determination on behalf of Yazidis but not of Christians.

Yazidis are suffering genocide, no doubt about it.  So are Christians, though: the Knights report leaves little doubt about this.  Intrepid journalist John Allen agrees.  The same conclusion has been voiced by Pope Francis, the United States Commission on Religious Freedom, the European Parliament, the Government of Iraq, the governing authority of Kurdistan, German Chancellor Angela Merkl, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Let’s hope Secretary of State John Kerry joins his voice to this chorus.

But would a genocide determination change U.S. policy?  Would a resolution declaring genocide being passed by the House of Representatives make a difference?  John Allen posts again today on what real hope for genocide victims would look like.



Donald the Dictator: Take Note, Catholics

Following up on my last post on Donald Trump’s dictatorial inclination, I appreciated The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank’s piece voicing the same theme.  I was also happy to see a common letter signed by prominent Catholics urging Catholics not to vote for Trump, citing his promises to carry our torture and reprisals against terrorists’ families.  But a poll of Michigan voters, where primaries are being held today, shows Catholic Republicans favoring Trump disproportionately.  Let’s hope they will read the letter and listen to their church.

A Trumped up Dictatorship

Of all Donald Trump’s calculated braggadocio, the part that most augurs his presidential lawlessness are his words on torture, which he restated starkly in last night’s Republican debate in Detroit. When asked to comment on CIA Director Michael Hayden’s averral that members of the military could defy orders asking them to commit unlawful acts like killing civilians and torture, Trump had this to say:

[Waterboarding is] fine, and if we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger too. Because frankly, that’s the way I feel. Can you imagine these people, these animals, over in the Middle East that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we’re having a hard problem with waterboarding? We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding.

He insisted that members of the military would have to obey his orders as president and that he also supported killing members of terrorists’ families.

Torture blatantly contradicts both the domestic law and the international treaty commitments of the United States. While waterboarding was used during the administration of President George W. Bush, it elicited great controversy and was argued widely to constitute torture. That Trump would “go stronger” shows that he is perfectly willing to engage in methods that unambiguously constitute torture and that he has little regard for the law.

Today, he clarified that he would obey the laws as president. But how can we trust that?  He has made so many reckless statements, performed so many reversals, and ranted so often about undertaking lawless acts that his backtracking can be regarded as little more than another ephemeral zig zag.

To break international and domestic law with abandon, to order subordinates to carry out crimes, to carry out torture and crimes of war – these are the quintessential deeds of a dictator. All those who would vote for Trump and who simultaneously exude their love for American democracy will have no excuse for not having known better should Trump be elected and disregard the law flagrantly.

Not least among the culpable are Christians who vote for Trump. He is polling strong among evangelicals regardless of the National Association of Evangelicals’ denunciation of torture as incompatible with the gospel. Likewise, the Catholic Church teaches that torture is an intrinsic evil – not to be done under any circumstances. Christians – and all people of good will – not only ought not to countenance voting for Trump but are compelled to raise their voice against him.

© Daniel Philpott The views expressed in this forum are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent those of Daniel Philpott, CCHR, or the University of Notre Dame.