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OpEdge: The Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act

Marc Jampole
March 2, 2016

by Marc Jampole

facebookShareQuote-2016Valentines-APBSTRANGE as it might seem, we can predict genocides and other atrocities committed against groups of our fellow humans with a certain degree of accuracy. Those who pursue genocides — be it a totalitarian ruler, army, political party, tribe, or nation — give off a lot of signs ahead of time. Harbingers include past ethnic tensions, persistent conflict, lawlessness, sporadic outbreaks, threats against groups, mass property confiscation, mass media campaigns, and displaced populations.

By intervening early, the nations of the world can prevent atrocities from occurring by using diplomatic, political, financial, and intelligence resources. The biggest impediment to precluding a mass murder or rape rampage before the shooting and herding begin is the difficulty in coordinating the various sources of information and aid needed to identify and then address the situations that could develop into genocides or other atrocities. As the world’s largest economy, second largest democracy (after India), and most powerful military machine, the United States could play a large role in preventing future atrocities.

That’s why we should all take time from wallowing in the presidential election follies to get behind the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016, recently introduced by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and co-sponsored by 13 other Democratic Senators.

As Senator’s Cardin’s news release announcing the bill details, if passed the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act would:

  • Authorize the establishment of a transparent and accountable Atrocity Prevention Board to advance an interagency effort to prevent mass atrocities and ensure a coordinated and effective response to emerging and ongoing atrocities.
  • Make permanent the Complex Crises Fund to support emergency efforts to prevent or respond to emerging or unforeseen complex crises overseas, including potential mass atrocities and conflict.
  • Mandate training in how to recognize patterns of escalation and early warning signs of potential atrocities or violence for Department of State and USAID Foreign Service officers at high risk posts.
  • Encourage the Director of National Intelligence to include a review of countries or regions at risk of mass atrocities or genocide in her-his annual testimony to Congress on threats to US national security

Besides the 15 Senators, more than 60 organizations support the legislation, including groups representing Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Africans, immigrants, refugees, Armenians, peaceniks and students. A petition that these groups have signed makes the case for the new law better than I ever could:

Preventing genocide and mass atrocities is…a core national security interest of the United States. Right now, over 60 million people have been displaced by conflict worldwide – the highest number since World War II. This has required growing expenditures to support life-saving humanitarian assistance and has led to other cost-intensive interventions. These crises have also resulted in increased instability with long-term consequences for countries and regions around the world, feeding into the possibility for repeated and expanded cycles of violence. These threats to U.S. security and interests can be mitigated with robust investments in early prevention.

The world sat by and watched Armenia, the Holocaust, Darfur, Bosnia, Rwanda, and other atrocities occur, to its shame. Early intervention might have stopped at least a few of these outbreaks of savagery.

What are you waiting for, dear readers! Email or contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives and tell them to actively support the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act.

While you’re at it, let Bernie and Hillary know that you want their active support of the bill. I would also ask readers to contact the Republican candidates, but the fact that they all support torture and conflict escalation suggests that none of the GOP candidates will make a bill that could forestall atrocities a very high priority.

Marc Jampole, a member of our editorial board, is a poet and writer who runs Jampole Communications, a public relations and communications firm in Pittsburgh. He blogs several times a week at OpEdge.