Feb 20, 2005 10:07 pm


Yes, I admit it. I am a news junky. Moreover, I like to watch and read analysts. Their moment of truth comes when things do not turn out as they had assumed. For those who supported the Iraq war, the such moments included the failure to find WMD and the ruthlessness of Saddam's supporters, the viciousness of Jihadists and the support these destructive forces received from the liberal-left both in and out of the Arab world. Thus, for months it was the : Anti-war versus Anti-genocide with anti-war trumping anti-genocide leading to the most pertinent question (do read the whole article):

So what is it about war that trumps genocide in capturing the hearts and minds of most activists? It could not be a concern for the loss of innocent life. Consider Rwanda, and ponder the casualties from US Apache helicopters engaging machete-wielding Hutus, and weigh the number of innocent lives that would have been saved and lost from such a confrontation. In a nutshell, far more activists show up at a Washington, DC protest against war than a protest against genocide because most people ignore the gravity of the sin of omission.

Take the current Iraq war as a case in point. Anti-war activists have loudly and persistently pointed to an estimated 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed, hospitals being closed, children being maimed, sharpshooters targeting civilians, not to mention the growing number of Americans killed in action - now around 700 - all as a result of the US invasion, the sin of commission.

But contrast that with the anti-genocide outlook which does not consider the sin of commission to be the end all guide to moral prohibitions. As Johann Hari cites, the Iraqi-based Human Rights Centre in Kadhimiya found - based on government archives - that if the invasion had not happened,"Saddam would have killed 70,000 people in the past year. Not sanctions: Saddam's tyranny alone."

In short, there is blood on both sides' hands; and the sooner anti-war activists can recognize that fact, the sooner we may see the number of anti-genocide protestors increase.

The parallel here to North Korea is obvious if not more complicated by the fact that a war on the Korean peninsula would result in far more lives being lost than is now the case with Iraq or would have been the case with military intervention for Rwanda. To even contemplate what North Korea's 13,000 artillery and multiple rocket launcher systems would do to Seoul's population of 10 million in the first hour terrifies the heart. Can one really blame the majority of South Korean people who choose to appease and prop up Kim Jong Il's regime rather than face his wrath?

But then there are the anti-genocide activists who cannot help but feel responsibility for the twenty million oppressed North Koreans, the two million starved to death by Kim Jong Il's regime in the past decade alone, the 250,000 family members now dying in gulags, and the 250,000 being exploited in China. The responsibility felt by South Korean anti-genocide activists is particularly acute because they know that their government and society are primary reasons Kim Jong Il is allowed to perpetuate this cycle of systemic violence. The South Korean people may not be the ones guarding concentration camps and doing the actual killings, but financially and politically supporting those that do is no less troubling for these activists.

Recently there was a mission conference on North Korea held in Southern California. One of the leaders stated,"A sudden regime change in North Korea is not the best solution because it would create havoc in the South as well as in the North." Most anti-war activists would find nothing wrong with such a comment because most would not feel the effect that such a view would have on the mother or son languishing in the dark in one of the North Korean gulags.

Perhaps therein lies the fundamental difference between anti-war and anti-genocide activists. In order to be an anti-genocide activist, one must fundamentally be on the side of the oppressed, which means, inter alia, affirming that"justice delayed is justice denied". That is not necessarily the case for anti-war activists as the unmarked graves of 800,000 Rwandans and 6 million Jews can show, if one allows for the sin of omission to weigh heavily on one's heart long enough to see."

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Judith Apter Klinghoffer - 2/24/2005

This is how the article I posted starts -
"Why do anti-war protestors not take up anti-genocide efforts with the same zeal, even when the number of lives lost may be much greater in genocide than in war? It need not be an either/or choice between being anti-war and anti-genocide, but based on the numbers of protestors in both venues, it seems to turn out that way."
You are right. It should not be either/or and it would not be if the anti-war advocates did not all too often provide a cover for those intent on genocide.
In other words, we are on the same page. I hope timely shaming, not war, will help prevent holocausts. Unfortunately, I doubt if it will work against Kim and Albright's courtship, not to mention the current South Korean cover-up, almost insures it not working.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/22/2005

I think you misread Klinghoffer: she's on your side.

Personally, I think that the either-or nature of the argument is silly, as I've been advocating creative and non-violent (and multilateral) means of engagement and change-promotion for some time now, but nobody listens....

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 2/22/2005

... that to saddle up your military and kick the hell out of a Saddam Heussein IS to act in support of "the oppressed." You cite 10,000 Iraqis as having been killed (when--in the last year or three years?), but when one takes the total victims of Saddam and divides by the number of years he was in power the figure is five times greater than 10,000.