It finally happened today. After months of calls by religious leaders and Mideast lfor the White House and State Department to call the ISIS slaughter of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis what it really is — genocide — the administration finally did so.
Now, of course, the question is: How serious is the administration going to be about crushing ISIS and stopping the genocide once and for all?
One step at a time, apparently.
“The Islamic State is committing genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry declared on Thursday, a historic announcement that nonetheless is unlikely to spur greater U.S. military action against the terrorist network,” Politico reported.
“The declaration is a rare one — the U.S. has a record of trying to avoid the term ‘genocide,’ which carries with it political, moral and some legal obligations,” the article noted. “The only other time the U.S. has used the term in an ongoing conflict was in 2004, when it described the atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region.”
The Islamic State “is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions, in what it says, what it believes and what it does,” Kerry said in an appearance before reporters on Thursday morning. “Naming these crimes is important, but what is essential is to stop them.”
Kerry’s decision was welcomed by lawmakers and faith-based advocacy groups who have lobbied for months to ensure that Christians would be included among the genocide victims of the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh. Kerry’s inclusion of Christians also defuses a potential Republican attack line during this year’s presidential campaign, even though Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has already declared she believes the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians.
Earlier this week, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a non-binding resolution declaring that the Islamic State was committing genocide against a range of groups including Christians. Congress had given Kerry until Thursday to make his determination, but on Wednesday, the State Department said he would need more time, making his announcement a bit of a surprise.
Still, administration officials have long warned that a declaration of genocide does not mean that the U.S. is legally obliged to step up its military involvement in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq or Syria. The U.S. already is leading a coalition of dozens of countries who are backing up Iraqi forces battling the jihadists. U.S. Special Forces also are on the ground in Syria carrying out operations against the group, whose members subscribe to a severe form of Sunni Islam.
Advocates of using the term genocide, however, insist that it is important because it could help galvanize the international fight against the terror network, possibly spur potential recruits to stay away from it, and in the long run help bring perpetrators to justice in international tribunals.