Ferguson, Gaza, and Luhansk bleed all the time these days and the United States does nothing very useful for any of them. Not in out “national interest.” Simpler and easier to blame the victims. Can’t waste our precious resources.
Ferguson, Gaza, and Luhansk have been bleeding for days, for weeks, for years, forever in current and chronic crisis, and what does the United States do to help any of them?
Faced with these and other huge humanitarian challenges, the United States puts its big-hearted humanitarian effort into a renewed war in Iraq, acting as if it was only a mission to rescue Yazidis. To be sure, it’s a good thing to rescue Yazidis, even if the true U.S. motivation is only to prop up a quasi-legitimate Iraqi government that will still only pretend to love us a little for just a few more years, while continuing to oppress its own other minorities.
But keeping the world safe for Zoroastrianism is an inherently good thing. Such tolerance should be universally honored, though few actually see it that way. All heretics have a legitimate right to the free practice of their beliefs without harming others. That clearly leaves out the Islamic State jihadis as much as their zealous Christian American counterparts. Also omitted would be all those other places where people whose crazy obsessions even control states, sometimes states with nuclear weapons. So the U.S. defense of tolerance is honorable enough, but way too paltry.
What in the world is more important than rushing to rescue Yazidis?
This rushing to rescue Yazidis raises questions of priority and scale. THIS is the most valuable thing the United States can do in the world today? THIS is what matters most in a warming globe of seven billion people?
Rescuing 20,000 or so Yazidis matters more than bringing relief to millions of Ukrainian Slavs in cities under siege by a proto-fascist government bent on ethnic cleansing? Well, maybe that’s not exactly what Kiev is up to, but so far the pattern holds and the Kiev-inspired slaughter of innocents in Odessa offers a terrifying template. How is it better to wait and see whether greater atrocities occur when the alternative is supporting the Red Cross?
Rescuing 20,000 or so Yazidis matters more than bringing relief to almost two million Gazans in cities under siege by a relentlessly expansionist, right wing Israeli government bent on ethnic cleansing? Well, maybe that’s not exactly what Tel Aviv/Jerusalem is up to, but decades of repetitive behavior that includes repeated war crimes is anything but reassuring. How is it better to keep arming Israel, the better to kill Palestinians, or at least to kill those Palestinians who survive the lethal and illegal Israeli occupation and blockade, when the alternative is to support the United Nations and perhaps prevent more atrocities?
Rescuing 20,000 or so Yazidis matters more than protecting at least as many Americans in Ferguson, a city under siege by white privilege? Saving the Yazidis for now matters more than bringing justice to African-American Americans who have suffered their country’s crimes against their humanity for longer than the United States has existed? How is it better to arm local police with the weapons of international war in a country where police already commit the atrocity of killing a black man on average every 28 hours?
Is there any humane excuse for U.S. tolerance of extreme suffering in Luhansk, Gaza, or Ferguson? Confronted by a constellation of war crimes and crimes against humanity, is the best the U.S. government can do is rescue some Yazidis and give a great big political shrug to all the rest? Is Washington simply saying: you don’t really expect the U.S. to be principled in defense of the great values we so often trumpet, or trash, depending on the interests involved, do you?
Anyone here remember the principle of Responsibility to Protect?
Less than a year ago, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power was reminding the world of the importance of the Responsibility to Protect:
… in 2005 the nations of the world met in this Assembly and reached a consensus that the protection of civilians against the most horrific crimes known to man presents an urgent summons to each and all of us. All governments have a responsibility to protect their people from these crimes, and all nations have a stake in helping them meet that responsibility.
She was speaking in the context of trying to get someone to intervene in Syria, but she articulated the principle as a universal truth: “All attacks on civilians are an outrage that should shock the conscience.”
The point blank execution of a jaywalker in Ferguson on August 9 shocked a lot of consciences. But not many shocked consciences belonged to the local leadership, least of all to police and prosecutors. As a result, the country (and the world) got a good look at what militarization of the police looks like in the U.S. Now this decades-old process or arming police to the teeth is a hot button of the moment. Even the New York Times all of a sudden takes notices and has an interactive map showing how well armed your local police have become (the map shows St. Louis County getting 12 assault rifles, 6 pistols and 3 helicopters from the feds, but no MRAP armored vehicles are listed, even though they’ve shown up on the streets of Ferguson).
Will enough consciences remain shocked to keep this hot button hot? Will the political will to protect civilians and prevent atrocities actually emerge? Or will the permanent government in Washington be able to continue its bipartisan building of what looks and acts like an occupying army in its own country?