And to think I was worried that that supergroup he formed with Mandela might not be helpful.

“There is a legal definition of genocide and Darfur does not meet that legal standard. The atrocities were horrible but I don’t think it qualifies to be called genocide,” he said. Washington is almost alone in branding the 4 1/2 years of violence in Darfur genocide. Khartoum rejects the term, European governments are reluctant to use it and a U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry found no genocide, but that some individuals may have acted with genocidal intent. Carter, whose charitable foundation, the Carter Center, worked to establish the International Criminal Court (ICC), said: “If you read the law textbooks … you’ll see very clearly that it’s not genocide and to call it genocide falsely just to exaggerate a horrible situation I don’t think it helps.

The point here isn’t that he think Darfur fails to qualify as a textbook case of genocide; other international bodies agree, although most prominent American politicians do not. The point is that he’s resorting to a textbook definition in the first place. If you’re dealing with murder on a scale so massive that it might arguably constitute genocide, by what insane logic is it preferable to err on the side of saying that it isn’t genocide and thereby eschew the tremendous moral force that comes with that term? If it’s genocide then thoughts turn to the Holocaust and the world is compelled to intervene. If it isn’t then it’s a civil war gone bad that’ll work itself out — eventually. Jimmeh likes the latter approach because it appeases the Sudanese government and, theoretically, makes them more amenable to negotiations. After they’ve already killed 200,000 people.

That’s one reason why using the textbook definition is offensive. There’s another reason, too: namely, that Carter hasn’t always been such a stickler for precision when applying that vaunted moral yardstick of his. If it’s so desperately “unhelpful” to go throwing around the concept of genocide even when it arguably applies, explain this.