Genocide: The Problem
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Don’t remain silent. Don’t sit back, leaving it for others to do. Join in the mass mobilization organized by High Road for Human Rights and contribute toward compassionate change to help our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
When we know that others are suffering and we have the means to help, our moral instincts, as well as our religious and humanitarian traditions, lead us to do what we can to stop the suffering and to promote healing and happiness.
“Compassion is one of the principal things that make our lives meaningful. It is the source of all lasting happiness and joy. And it is the foundation of a good heart, the heart of one who acts out of a desire to help others. . . . Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity; no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need.” -His Holiness the Dalai Lama - Ethics for the New Millenium.
During the Holocaust, the American public expressed pity, but almost nothing was heard from the grassroots levelregarding a change in US national policy. As a result, our nation abandoned millions of people to their horrific fate at the hands of the Nazis.
After the Holocaust, The world agreed: "Never Again" ... Never Again would we fail to act to prevent such atrocities to men, women, and children, anywhere in the world.
Romeo Dallaire knew he could have stopped the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda. As the United Nations Military Commander in Rwanda at the time, he said he needed only 5,500 United Nations troops to stop the horrendous violence and nationwide terror. The United States could have made the difference, working with the UN to do exactly what the UN was intended to do, rather than pull UN peacekeepers out, thereby abandoning 800,000 Rwandans and their loved ones to their tragic, brutal deaths, maiming, and unspeakable horror.
“[T]he international community, through an inept UN mandate and what can only be described as indifference, self-interest and racism, aided and abetted these crimes against humanity.” - Roméo Dallaire
Dallaire is clear: the genocide could have been prevented if the UN operation had received the modest increase of troops and capabilities he requested. Could we have stopped the killings? Dallaire answers, “Yes, absolutely.”
“Could we have prevented the resumption of the civil war and the genocide? The short answer is yes. If UNAMIR had received the modest increase of troops and capabilities we requested in the first week, could we have stopped the killings? Yes, absolutely.” - Roméo Dallaire
As Dallaire explains, “There is no doubt that [the United States and France] possessed the solution to the Rwandan crisis.
It happened again in Bosnia, where, for several years, neither the United States nor the international community did anything to stop the brutal “ethnic cleansing” campaign of Serb nationalists. Some 200,000 Bosnians were killed and more than two million were forced to leave their homes.
Among the many long-time foreign policy experts who resigned from the State Department in protest of US complacency in the face of mass atrocities in Bosnia was Marshall Harris, the Bosnia desk officer...
“I can no longer serve in a Department of State that . . . will not act against genocide and the Serbian officials who perpetrate it.” -Marshall Harris, Bosnia Desk Officer, US State Department
Let us learn from earlier, tragic lessons. Two weeks after the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda: National Security Advisor Anthony Lake stated that if United States officials were to support effective action to stop the mass atrocities, Americans must make it clear that’s what they want. He urged human rights advocates to “make more noise” and to change public opinion.
“If you want to make this move, you will have to change public opinion. You must make more noise.” -Anthony Lake, Former National Security Advisor
But hardly any noise was made, and the US stood by while the massacres continued. The American public expressed no interest in Rwanda. That failure on the part of the American people led US officials to inaction. Had there been a nation-wide organization like the one High Road for Human Rights will build, with thousands of people organized to demand action, the Rwandan genocide could have been stopped.
Samantha Power notes that “No group or groups in the United States made Clinton administration decisionmakers feel or fear that they would pay a political price for doing nothing to save Rwandans.”
“[A]s was true with previous genocides, these U.S. officials were making potent political calculations about what the U.S. public would abide. . . . [T]hey looked to op-ed pages of elite journals, popular protest, and congressional noise to gauge public interest. No group or groups in the United States made Clinton administration decisionmakers feel or fear that they would pay a political price for doing nothing to save Rwandans.”-Samantha Power, author of “ A Problem From Hell”
The missing link in achieving effective action to stop the atrocities was a grassroots organizing effort, like the one High Road for Human Rights is working to create.
No organization was in place to elicit a public call for support to stop the massacres. Power notes that “Although Human Rights Watch supplied exemplary intelligence to the U.S. government and lobbied in one-on-one meetings, it lacked the grassroots base from which it might have mobilized the crucial domestic pressure everyone agreed was missing.”
As you read this, a genocide is in its seventh year in the Darfur region of Sudan. Once again, the United States and the international community have failed to take effective action to stop the killing, raping, and maiming of hundreds of thousands of people, and the displacement of approximately two-and-a-half-million men, women, and children.
No one in Congress or in the White House should ever again be able to say that the people back home don’t care. Let us do all we can to assure that mass atrocities are never again condoned because of a perception of public apathy in the United States – and to do all we can, consistent with our moral values, to express our concern, compassion, and insistence on constructive action in the clearest, most powerful possible terms. Together, through High Road for Human Rights, we can change the wind. We can increase awareness about preventable suffering and work together, through focused organizing, to effectively push for change that will bring about a safer, kinder, more just world.