US Opinion and Commentary

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For Europe, a Light of Truth in the Balkans

Posted March 30th, 2016 at 8:23 am (UTC-4)
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Europe is feeling low these days over its inability to deal with violence by both Muslim terrorists and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. It should take heart. Last week an international court sent a strong message of justice – and truth – about the last eruption of violence on the Continent, the Balkan Wars     […]

Justice in the Balkans: Too Little, Too Late?

Posted March 24th, 2016 at 4:03 pm (UTC-4)
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Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, infamously known as “the butcher of the Balkans,” was served up justice Thursday at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. He will serve 40 years in prison for his crimes, most notoriously for overseeing the 1995 execution of an estimated 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica, a Bosnian enclave that, at the time, was being “protected” by Dutch peacekeepers.About a month later came the brutal bombing of civilians shopping at a market in Sarajevo— an atrocity that brought the severity of the Balkan wars into clear focus and jump-started a harder line with its perpetrators. More than 20 years after the fact, Karadzic has been held accountable. But like the trials for the Nazis, the genocidaires of Rwanda, Liberia’s war president Charles Taylor and Cambodia’s killing machine known as the Khmer Rouge, this moment took a long to happen. A very long time. Does it make up for the pain? Does it heal the traumas, the losses, the daily lives that have been forever shattered? Grief is such a personal experience that it is nearly impossible to know. What history tells us is that justice does come, evil acts are acknowledged—even if at a hopelessly slow pace and, oft times, in the most shallow way.


Posted March 17th, 2016 at 5:06 pm (UTC-4)
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Critics of the Obama administration’s Mideast policy say the United States has waited far too long to use the word genocide to describe the brutality exacted by Islamic State militants against its perceived foes. Today, Secretary of State John Kerry satisfied the president’s opponents. “In my judgement Daesh (the Arabic acronym for ISIS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims,” said Kerry. Genocide is a legal—and loaded—term. In 1948, the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the U.N. Security Council. After Kerry’s statement, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner briefed the media:

REPORTER: “So if the Secretary was to decide what is going on is a genocide, that would have legal implications for policy, would it not? You’re obliged to do more about it?… ”

MR. TONER: “So, it’s a fair question. So acknowledging that genocide or crimes against humanity have taken place in another country would not necessarily result in any particular legal obligation for the United States. However, we have joined with the international community in recognizing the importance of protecting populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, war crimes.”

Therein lies the thorns of defining Islamic State’s brutality as genocide. As signatories, is the United States compelled to do more in Iraq and Syria to stop the genocide? Just think back to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the words of former President Bill Clinton: “If we’d gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost…it had an enduring impact on me.”

Remembering the Holocaust

Posted January 27th, 2016 at 1:38 pm (UTC-4)
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Six million Jews. That staggering estimate of Jewish people who died in the Holocaust, known as the Shoah in Hebrew, still boggles the human mind. And yet we know it happened during World War II, during the rise and rule of fascist German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. We have the photos. We have survivors’ stories. We have Hitler’s written words. We have toured the death camps in Europe. 71 years ago today, those imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the notorious Nazi camp in southern Poland, were liberated by Soviet Troops. In case we ever forget the potential of humans to commit such a genocide – it has happened since in Rwanda and Cambodia and some say, right now in Syria – we remember the victims of the Holocaust on January 27th.

Rwanda’s Leader Must Step Down

Posted December 18th, 2015 at 10:11 am (UTC-4)
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With this vote, Rwanda must decide whether it will create a political space in which contentious issues can be resolved peacefully, or continue the cycle of autocracy, repression and conflict in which it has been trapped since independence in 1962.

The Shame of Srebrenica

Posted July 10th, 2015 at 11:13 am (UTC-4)
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Like the failure to act in order to prevent the Rwandan genocide the year before in 1994, Srebrenica was a stain on America’s power and reputation … But it galvanized the United States to intervene in Bosnia, launching airstrikes and negotiations that led to the 1995 Dayton Accords.

Is Genocide Inevitable?

Posted June 15th, 2015 at 11:26 am (UTC-4)
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Mass violence in countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Mali, Chad and Uganda, let alone genocide in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Sudan, continue to influence sub-Saharan Africa’s image.