Column: Where is the ‘kind’ in ‘mankind?’
Where is the humanity in humanity? With what is going on in today’s world, it really makes you wonder. Bashar al-Assad and ISIS are responsible for the deaths of more than a quarter million civilians, the destruction of entire cities and the displacement of over 4 million innocent people in Syria and Iraq, creating a wave of hundreds of thousands of desperate men, women and children, risking their lives seeking asylum in Europe. When they get there they find Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia turning a deaf ear to their pitiful condition and closing their borders.
It is not that these kinds of atrocities haven’t occurred in the past, but after the horrors perpetrated by Germany and Japan in World War II, the rest of the world created the United Nations and resolved “never again.” But that never again is going on today, and little is being done to about it.
After World War II, many of those responsible for war crimes against humanity were arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to death or long prison terms. But that was after the damage had already been done. How much better it would be to prevent these atrocities from occurring instead of punishing the guilty afterward. There are some examples to be learned from.
Here in the United States we have experienced a number of major race riots: Detroit and Newark in 1967 (69 killed and 3,500 injured); and Los Angeles in 1965 and 1992 (87 killed, 3,000 injured and nearly $1 billion in property damage). Without police and military intervention, the toll would have been much higher. In Ferguson, Missouri, last year, due to a quick response by police and a more reasonable crowd, there were no deaths and only 16 injured.
In 1995, after three years of ethnic cleansing efforts by the Serbians against Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, culminating in the destructive siege of Sarajevo and the massacres in Srebrenica, at U.S. prompting, NATO finally interceded and put an end to the killing. And again in 1999, NATO intervened in Kosovo to end Serbian atrocities, which had caused a major portion of the population to flee the country. The Serb leaders responsible for those actions were captured (two after a decade in hiding) and charged by the U.N. with genocide.
But again, the question is why it took so long for the international community to take action. Years of suffering by millions of people, the killing of hundreds of thousands, and untold billions of dollars in damages to cities could have, and should have, been prevented.
What is sorely needed is an immediate forceful U.N. response to these internal conflicts, just like U.N. intervention in the Suez Crisis/Sinai War between Egypt and Israel in 1956 and the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1991 minimized the extent of those international conflicts.
A forceful response need not involve military action, but should employ sanctions designed to cripple the nation’s economy, including an iron-clad embargo shutting off all imports and exports and freezing all financial resources throughout the world. These sanctions should be lifted immediately as soon as the protagonists agree to cease hostilities, which would encourage people on both sides to put pressure on their leaders to resolve their differences peacefully. And individuals on both sides responsible for any violence should know that they will be held accountable for their actions, hunted down, arrested, tried and if convicted, subject to severe sentences, potentially death or life imprisonment. This should induce them to consider the effect of their actions on their futures.
But there are a couple of immense obstacles to such a plan — Russia and China, which are two of the five members of the U.N. Security Council, and as such, have veto power over any of its actions. Both are autocratic oppressive and corrupt regimes fearful of any potential uprisings of their own people. The only way around this obstacle is to form a new organization of those nations willing to unite to work for a humanitarian world.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Hal Sundin’s “As I See It” column appears on the first Thursday of the month.
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