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, simply milled about at the bottom of the hill, a bystander to injustice.
Of course, 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 a little more idealistic and a lot 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. Endemic violence and rampant 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, and problems there create massive ripple effects, reaching far distant shores. 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 in the Middle East.
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 report records hundreds of eyewitness accounts of bombings, forced evacuations, rape, torture and murder.
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 Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Syria.
The problem isn’t limited to just those two Middle Eastern countries. Nor is the Islamic State the only guilty party. Libya is a basket case. Bashar Assad’s hands have helped bloody Syria. The list goes on.
Yet the administration appears to have little interest in turning a spotlight on the region’s genocidal crisis.
Kerry dragged his feet in preparing a congressionally mandated report assessing the situation, waiting until the very last day to announce that it is, after all, genocide.
Here, the Oval Office is caught between Iraq and a hard spot. It has long been apparent that the administration is determined to actively disengage from the region as fully as possible.
Yet resolutions and reports highlighting 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.
A 25-year Army veteran, James Jay Carafano is vice president of defense and foreign policy studies for The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank on Capitol Hill. Readers may write him at Heritage, 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.