Asked in February why the Obama administration refuses to call the Islamic State’s targeted campaign against Christians “genocide,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest cited “legal ramifications” and blandly assured us “there are lawyers that are considering whether or not that term can be properly applied.” These empty words are especially jarring coming from the Obama White House. After all, it was President Obama who declared in 2012, “Too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale. And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save…‘Never again’ is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security…‘Never again’ is a challenge to nations.”
“Never again” is what the world said after Hitler and his death cult tried to murder Europe’s entire Jewish population. In response, the United Nations in 1948 declared “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” genocide: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of one group to another group.
Much of what ISIS has done in its rampage through Syria and Iraq is too gruesome to describe in this venue. But here’s the R-rated version (there’s no way to make it PG-13). You be the judge of whether it amounts to genocide:
The European Union reports that Christians and Yazidis (a Kurdish religious tradition that blends elements of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam) “have been killed, slaughtered, beaten, subjected to extortion, abducted and tortured” by the Islamic State’s coordinated campaign of butchery and brutality.
ISIS has orchestrated mass-beheadings of Egyptian Christians; razed, desecrated and plundered ancient Christian churches; targeted Assyrian Christians for abduction; and crucified Christian children as young as 12.
As it carries out what the Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea rightly describes as “religious genocide,” ISIS has given Christians a choice to convert to Islam, pay extortion to remain Christian or face execution. In a haunting echo of how the Nazis branded Jews, ISIS marks Christian-owned properties with the Arabic equivalent of the letter “N,” for “Nazarene.”
ISIS has kidnapped and murdered 1,000 Christians in the Syrian city of Aleppo. The Iraqi city of Mosul has been emptied of Christians.
As proof of its savage piety, ISIS has murdered 5,000 Yazidis; forced 2,000 Yazidi women into marriage and sex-trafficking; conducted a systematic campaign of rape against Christian and Yazidi women; imprisoned Christian and Yazidi children as young as eight; sold children into slavery; and perhaps most shocking and shameful of all, used “mentally challenged” children as suicide bombers, according to the United Nations.
An estimated 700,000 Syrian Christians have fled the ISIS onslaught and the wider civil war in Syria. On a single night in August 2014, ISIS forced more than 150,000 Iraqi Christians from their homes and into hiding. All told, “More than 1 million Christians have fled the terror of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the remaining populations are a small remnant (250,000 in Iraq and 200,000 in Syria),” according to one expert in international human rights law.
None of this should come as a surprise. ISIS leaders have openly declared, “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses and enslave your women.” And ISIS materials openly call for “jihad against the Jews, the Christians, the Rafida [Shiite Muslims] and the proponents of democracy.”
All of this explains why the European Parliament last month declared ISIS guilty of “committing genocide against Christians and Yazidis.” What’s difficult to explain is why the White House hasn’t come to a similar conclusion—and why it hasn’t done more to defend U.S. interests and ideals in this struggle between civilization and barbarism.
For the growing chorus of Americans who demand that U.S. intervention be limited only to places and purposes that directly impact U.S. interests, this is one of those unique instances where humanitarian ideals and national interests overlap.
If the preceding litany assaults America’s conscience, the following illustrates how ISIS represents a clear and present danger to America’s interests:
The FBI has 900 ISIS-related investigations underway in all 50 states.
According to The New York Times, ISIS has “manufactured rudimentary chemical warfare shells” and is aggressively pursuing a chemical-weapons capability.
In control of some 26,000 square-miles of Iraq and Syria, ISIS is threatening U.S. strategic allies and treaty allies in Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia; using its Iraq-Syria beachhead to spread into Europe, Africa and Afghanistan; inspiring and commanding fighters around the world; and attracting footsoldiers to its cause. In fact, the number of foreigner fighters aligned with ISIS in Iraq and Syria has doubled, with as many as 31,000 people from 86 countries now fighting under the ISIS banner.
ISIS has declared provinces in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Since October 2015, ISIS has been responsible for at least 582 murders in nine countries outside its self-styled caliphate: The Brussels bombings (31 killed), Paris siege (130 killed), bombing in Ankara (102 killed), takedown of a Russian airliner over the Sinai (224 killed), bombing of a Beirut market (43 killed), bombing of a bus in Tunis (12 killed), San Bernardino massacre (14 killed), Jakarta bombing (seven killed), suicide bombing of an Istanbul tourism center (10 killed), car-bombing in Aden (nine killed).
Calling ISIS “the most immediate threat to U.S. national interests,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter emphatically concludes, “We’re at war.”
Add it all up, and ISIS is “more powerful now than al Qaeda was on 9/11,” according to Rep. Peter King, chairman of a key House committee focusing on counterterrorism and intelligence.
President Theodore Roosevelt challenged America in 1897 to resist “cold-blooded indifference to the misery of the oppressed.” Even when “our own interests are not greatly involved,” he declared a few years later, there are “occasional crimes committed on so vast a scale and of such peculiar horror” that “action may be justifiable and proper” “in the interest of humanity at large.”
This is one of those times.