Oppression, persecution, even genocide – such is the heartbreaking experience of minority communities in the greater Middle East.
Rather than seize the moral high ground, the Obama administration has, for the most part, been a bystander to injustice.
America is not the world’s conscience. Nor is it responsible for righting every wrong. But there are practical reasons why the U.S. ought to be more active in its response to the mistreatment of minorities, particularly Christians and Jews, in the Middle East.
The Middle East is spinning out of control. Violence and terrorism have left regimes wobbly and sent refugees flooding across the hemisphere.
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In a ranking, Freedom House, a watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, assigned the Middle East and North Africa with the lowest scores in the world for overall freedom.
Chaos there is never just a local problem. The Middle East is an epicenter of global trade, transport, financial services, energy, and migration flows. American shores are by no means untouched.
Chaos always brings suffering but it does not always spawn that most monstrous of horrors: genocide. Yet that is what we have now.
Earlier this month, Douglas al-Bazi, a Catholic priest in Iraq who has been tortured by terrorists, unveiled a 278-page report documenting the extent of the Islamist persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
A joint project of Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus and advocacy group In Defense of Christians, the report was prepared at the request of State Department officials seeking evidence of genocide in the region.
The gruesome persecution documented helps explain why Iraq’s Christian population has cratered from about 1.4 million a dozen years ago to only 275,000 today.
Days after al-Bazi presented the report, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution declaring the Islamic State guilty of genocide. Secretary of State John Kerry followed suit, stating that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims in Iraq and Syria.
The problem isn’t limited to those two Middle Eastern countries. Nor is the Islamic State the only guilty party.
Yet the administration appears to have little interest in turning a spotlight on the genocidal crisis. Kerry dragged his feet in preparing a congressionally mandated report assessing the situation, waiting until the last day to announce that it is genocide.
It has long been apparent that the administration is determined to actively disengage from the region.Yet resolutions and reports on these horrific human rights abuses increase pressure on the White House to respond to the situation with greater urgency and force.
As Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, noted at the press conference with al-Bazi, “History will record the recent atrocities committed against religious minorities in the Middle East as genocide. The question is whether America will be remembered as courageous, as in the case of Darfur, or as something much less so, as in the case of Rwanda.”
America has now officially identified the shame of the Middle East by its rightful name: genocide. Yet the administration appears unlikely to do anything more about it.
After all, it has just rubber-stamped entering peace negotiations with the mass-murdering president of Syria. That’s sad. You can’t stand on high ground when you’re swimming with the bottom-feeders.
James Jay Carafano is vice president of defense and foreign policy studies for The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank on Capitol Hill.