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The ethical import of delay: Kobani and Srebrenica

How many must be massacred before the US understands the consequences of too little and too late?

In early July, The Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention (JC4GP) met with leaders of the Kurdish community who visited Jerusalem. They told us how many of them lost family and friends during the 1988 Al-Anfal gassing campaign and the forced mass-expulsions that followed. They sought Israel’s help. In their words, air is all that separates Kurdistan and Jerusalem.

Shortly thereafter, I met some of their leaders at a conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars in Winnipeg. Little did we know that soon after that Mosul would fall, and their people would be subject to mass murder, executions, mass rape, pillage and expulsions. In Kobani, possibly thousands face the threat of mass murder by Islamic State terrorists, who by now have seized some half of the city. Kobani is surrounded on all sides. Turkish tanks have their turrets turned away from the city.

If Baghdad is today’s Sarajevo, Kobani is in danger of becoming today’s Srebrenica massacre. In Srebrenica, 8,000 Bosniaks were massacred in a period of 3-4 days as UN Dutch troops stood by.

We at the JC4GP reiterate our condemnation of the mass atrocities perpetrated in northern Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) genocidal terrorists. Islamic State militants are now subjecting the Kurdish city of Kobani to siege and mass murder. There have been reports of ISIS threats to cut off water flow from the Tigris and Euphrates to cities not under its control, and the possible destruction of the dam in Mosul, which could produce massive flooding and a disaster of unspeakable proportions. In the last 45 days, Islamic State terrorists have seized large areas of Syria and Iraq. At the time of writing, the Islamic State is only a few miles from Baghdad, reportedly with the potential to shoot down aircraft approaching the city’s airport.

The Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention updates our previous recommendations and proposes what we suggest is a coherent, and practical set of recommendations for defeating the butchery by the Islamic State.

Recent statements made by the Obama Administration that the fall of the Kurdish Syrian city of Kobani has no strategic significance recall the bystanderism leading up to the Srebrenica massacre.

Failure to protect Kobani could result in another Srebrenica. We ask: How many must be raped, tortured, crucified, beheaded or massacred before the US Administration understands the consequences of too little and too late.

The need to defeat and destroy the Islamic State should not divert attention from the global scope of jihadist totalitarianism: the mass murders perpetrated by the Syrian government and its enemies, (200,000 dead and 2.5 million displaced), the genocide in Darfur (400,000 dead and millions displaced), Iran’ s high execution toll, (564 by July 2014) suppression of human rights, and support of terror, as well as the atrocities perpetrated by the Boko Haram in Nigeria. All are actors in the pandemic of Jihadist genocidal terror worldwide.

In this update, we suggest a long-term set of countermeasures targeted at winning the war for the minds of young people to defeat the perpetrators of a jihadist and genocidal totalitarianism in all its forms. However, most importantly, the need for emergency action to protect Kobani is imperative.

We strongly reiterate our call to the Obama Administration and the European Union to provide whatever it takes to protect the tens of thousands subject to genocidal threats of IS. The Peshmerga have shown courage and will in fighting the Islamic State terrorists. but are outgunned and underequipped. Kurdistan is an open free society and does not persecute ethnic and religious minorities

Genocide results from human choice and bystander indifference. Whether Kobani will be another Srebrenica will be determined by the decisions of the President of the United States, Barak Obama.

So far, approximately 200,000 people have fled their homes in northwest Iraq after the Islamic State terrorists publicly issued an ultimatum to the minority religious and ethnic communities: convert to Sunni Islam, pay a special tax, or be killed. Shia Muslims, Assyrian/Chaldean/Syrian and Armenian Christians, Yazidis, Druze, Savakis and Maddens have all been subject to kidnapping, beheadings, rape and forced expulsions (‘ethnic cleansing’) and genocidal massacres in recent months, nearly emptying northwestern Iraq of its minority populations. The Yazidi community in particular has faced the brunt of the savage advance of Islamic State militants, causing some 40,000 people to flee the Sinjar province into the nearby mountains. Kurds are now subject to threats from well organized, well-funded and well-armed terrorist forces in Syria and Iraq.

Massacres of ethnic minorities by Sunni Muslims in Iraq are nothing new. Saddam Hussein’s military carried out the Al-Anfal massacres in 1987, killing an estimated 180,000 and forcibly displacing close to a million people.

So far, the use of air strikes and emergency humanitarian aid provided by the US has been too little and too late, suggesting a response bordering on willful ignorance. Providing humanitarian aid to those threatened by genocide is not a substitute for confronting the perpetrators of the butchery –but not when it is too late.

There comes a time when the consequences of not using military force to protect threatened populations is far greater than using such force. There are times when pacifism encourages genocide and its advocates become complicit bystanders to horrific atrocities.

In Srbenica, where in a three-day period in Serb soldiers butchered more than 8,000 Bosniaks, while Dutch peacekeeping forces stood by and did nothing. Should there be a massacre in Kobani, history will hold decision makers in the UN, the EU, and especially Turkey and the US administration acceptable, in the same way the Dutch government was judged responsible for its role as a bystander in 1995. Kobani, like Srbenica, is important in itself, but should not distract our attention from the fact that throughout Iraq and Syria, most of the mass butchering has been away from the public eye.

The Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention calls attention to the ethical import of delay when life and its protection is the concern. The consequences of inaction are far more dangerous than the consequences of action.

We recommend the following:

a. Stop shadowboxing: The US, as the world’s strongest free nation, should lead the way in giving the Peshmerga whatever they need military, logistical, financial or otherwise. Kurdish forces shown the will and ability to take responsibility for protecting its people against the genocidal threats of the Islamic State terrorists. It has offered shelter to other persecuted minorities. The Pershmerga reject Islamist genocidal agendas.

b. Reject the principle that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, i.e. Assad’s Syria and Khamenei’s Iran. Assad’s Syria has killed more than 100,000, deliberately targeted children, used gas warfare, Khamenei’s regime leads the world in per captia execution rates, (564 in 2014), persecutes minorities, aids genocidal terrorists (i.e. Hezbuolloh) and incites to genocide. Operationaizing ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ leads to the next genocide— as when Saddam’s Iraq—equipped by the US- –i.e. the enemy of Iran–gassed the Kurds in the 1980’s.

c. Investigate and prosecute all the perpetrators for their crimes against humanity, including exposing the financial networks that support and enable the Islamic State.

d. Use positive role models for promoting life and respect for life. The messages must be authoritative, authentic, coherent, and unambiguous and followed up by mass education. The recent open letter to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi signed by 120 Muslim scholars, including the Grand Mufti of Egypt, condemned the actions of the Islamic State. It proclaimed the rights of religious mnoerirties to protection from persecution and coercion. The letter could be a welcome Islamic answer to Islamism. But it must be followed up with a cradle-to grave mass education program.

e. Recognize that the minds of the young are the battlefields for the war against pandemic incitement to Islamist Jihadist Terror TV screens, websites and smartphones propagate the toxic messages via the airwaves—immediately, to millions, resulting in their spread faster than microbial epidemics In Kenya and the Ivovy Coast, authorities used SMS texting of positive messages to counter SMS texting of hate messages. Defeating Jihadist Islamist totalitarianism means using these same media to promote values of peace and tolerance.

The content of these messages is simple: Love life, not death; respect for life and dignity for all, and do not be a bystander.

About the Author
Dr. Elihu D Richter is a founder of the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention
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