On Monday, we may formally declare that ISIS is engaged in genocide

In breaking news of congressional action which doesn’t do much beyond clarifying our position, Congress is poised to pass a resolution accusing ISIS of genocide against Christians and other groups on Monday. In a rather rare moment of bipartisan unity, the motion is drawing support from both sides of the aisle. (Politico)

House Republicans will bring to the floor on Monday a resolution that declares that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minorities, congressional aides told POLITICO.

The resolution, which has more than 200 co-sponsors from both parties, is expected to pass. It will raise the already intense pressure on the Obama administration to make its own declaration that the Islamic State is committing genocide — including against Christians — ahead of a congressionally mandated deadline next Thursday.

It’s rare that lawmakers take up measures alleging genocide in an ongoing conflict. The term itself is loaded with political, moral and some legal implications, and the U.S. has a history of trying to avoid it.

In terms of Politico’s editorial notes, it’s true that it’s hard to get Congress to play the genocide card on anyone with current political power on the international stage. Examples of that abound, but one of the more hotly contested ones in recent years was the declaration that Turkey engaged in genocide against the Armenians. When the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed such a resolution in 2014 it brought swift condemnation and threats of reprisal from the Turks. It’s a motion which has been kicked around in various forms for a long time, but always runs into trouble when some of our allies condemn it and other world powers (such as Russia in this case) support it.

But ISIS isn’t a nation for all they might wish they were. They have no standing with anyone of influence in official terms and are pretty much globally recognized as a terrorist organization. What’s the harm in saying that their efforts to wipe out all non-Muslims is genocidal in nature? There doesn’t seem to be any, but the next step after such a vote would land the question in John Kerry’s lap and he’s being rather non-committal about it.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who technically has the final say on whether the U.S. considers what the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh, is doing is genocide, told Congress in February that he will make a judgment “soon.” But the administration has been non-committal when asked if it would meet next week’s congressional deadline, which lawmakers tucked into last year’s omnibus spending bill.

I suppose the real question is where the President stands. In recent months there have been multiple rumors that Barack Obama was close to calling out ISIS for genocide against the Yazidis, but not Christians in general. Why? I don’t think anyone is arguing the point about the Yazidis, but they’re also wantonly slaughtering Christians along with anyone else who can’t answer a pop quiz on the Quran when they take over a town. It certainly looks like ethnic cleansing at a minimum and who are we worried about offending here?


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