More than two years after ISIS began its sweep across Iraq and into Syria, massacring thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands more, the US finally declared ISIS guilty of genocides. Secretary of State John Kerry made that declaration earlier today, according to the Associated Press, after first hinting he would miss today’s deadline on that determination. Kerry refers to ISIS as “Daesh” in his statement this morning:
— CBSN (@CBSNLive) March 17, 2016
U.S. officials say Secretary of State John Kerry has determined that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.
The officials say Kerry will announce his finding on Thursday, meeting a congressional deadline just a day after the State Department said he would miss it.
Congress acted earlier this week, passing a resolution nearly unanimously (393-3) that declared ISIS’ actions against Assyrian Christians, Yazidis, and some Shi’ite communities as genocides. “What is happening in Iraq and Syria is a deliberate, systematic targeting of religious and ethnic minorities,” Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted afterward. “Today, the House unanimously voted to call ISIS’s atrocities what they are: a genocide.”
What took so long? It’s not as if this costs the US anything. It doesn’t even bind us to action to stop recognized genocides:
The finding will not obligate the United States to take additional action against ISIS militants, according to the officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly preview Kerry’s decision.
The most shameful part of this failure to engage on genocide is that it has been clear from the outset that ISIS made this a specific and explicit goal from its inception. The eradication of these communities was no accident, and not collateral damage as a sideline to a traditional civil war. ISIS intended to wipe Christians off the map in Iraq and Syria despite their nearly two-millennium history in that region, as well as the Yazidis and Islamic sects that don’t meet muster with ISIS’ extremist take. Genocide is ISIS’ raison d’être. In fact, we had to intervene militarily to rescue thousands of Yazidis in danger of starving to death or worse on Mount Sinjar, or worse.
That, by the way, was nineteen months ago.
So yes, it’s good that the US is finally getting around to calling these genocides. But it’s akin to having the NFL now call a penalty on a play in the Super Bowl of February 2015. For an administration that preened about fighting genocides with the inclusion of Samantha Power and Susan Rice, the long wait to acknowledge the obvious is nothing short of shameful.