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The Genocide Prevention Task Force

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The Genocide Prevention Task Force: Legitimizing American

By Dimitri Oram

I came upon it by chance. Turning to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) website I discovered that the USHMM along with the US Institute for Peace and the American Academy of Diplomacy was sponsoring a joint Genocide Prevention Task Force. The November 13, press release states that the Task Force will generate practical recommendations to enhance the U.S. government's capacity to respond to emerging threats of genocide and mass atrocities.

The task force will give its report in December 2008. The task force is co-chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen. Who better to stop genocide than the woman who claimed the death of half a million Iraqi children was worth it on national television.(1) Who better to join her than the former head of the US military and participant in such actions as the US bombing of Iraq, the attack on Sudan's sole pharmaceutical plant, and NATO bombing of Yugoslavia among numerous other acts of

The alleged Beltway concern about genocide has been ongoing since the early 1990s when the Soviet Union ceased to be a serious global competitor. The claims of stopping genocide have become a powerful way to both delegitimize those out of favor with U.S. and to simultaneously hide and sanction atrocities committed by the U.S. and its clients, often against the party accused of genocide. To this effect, a variety of government connected institutions, non-governmental organizations, media, universities and powerful private interests have pushed the idea that a great problem in world affairs is alleged US inaction in order to stop genocide. This latest campaign is simply another example of the way in which the U.S. (and its allies) have co-opted the rhetoric of human rights in order to engage in massive human rights abuses.


Albright and Cohen are indicative of what the commission stands for. A look at members of the task force shows a bipartisan handful of players closely connected with the interventionist elite.

Members of the task force include:
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Vin Weber, Chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy, an institution set up to do overtly what the CIA once did covertly, interfere in the elections and internal affairs of other countries. Vin Weber is also a managing partner of Clark & Weinstock's Washington office.  Clark & Weinstock is essentially a PR firm with a client list of large corporations and Defense contractors including Lockheed Martin and CACI International, whose interrogators were involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Michael J. Gerson, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and former assistant to the president (George W. Bush) for policy and strategic planning (February 2005-June 2006).

Thomas Pickering, former US Undersecretary for Political Affairs, and a member of the Boeing Executive Council, vice chairman at Hills and Company a consultancy for the expansion of US free trade set up by former NAFTA negotiator Carla Hilla. He served as US ambassador to El Salvador (1983-85) at the height of US supported death squad killings and repression, played a key role in the overthrow of the governments of Rwanda (1990-1994) and
Congo (1996-97).

Retired US military general Anthony Zinni. Zinni led the US military's invasion of Somalia in 1992-3 among numerous other military adventures. Zinni is currently vice president of the private military contractor, Dyncorp. Dyncorp was caught running a child sex trafficking ring in Bosnia, sued for illegal spraying of herbicides in Ecuador, and alleged to have smuggled drugs from Colombia among other criminal actions. DynCorp is currently working in Sudan both in support of the AU mission in Darfur and in support of the North-South peace agreement.

Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, a former judge at the US/NATO power backed court- the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia- and formerly a director for mining giant Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., a company closely connected with the Indonesian army and guilty of serious human rights abuses. Currently she serves on the US-Iran claims court in the Hague, Netherlands.
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Jack Kemp, former Congressman, HUD secretary (1989-1993) and Republican vice-Presidential candidate (1996) who went on to found the free market advocacy group, Empower America. Kemp was a co-founder of the right wing corporate advocacy group, Freedom Works and he also serves or served on the board of Oracle Corporation, a big defense and intelligence contractor, telecommunications firm IDT and the Hawk Corporation.

By now even the staunchest progressive supporters of the more hyped stop the genocide campaigns should be seriously questioning the underlying motives and principles behind the western powers' sudden concern with stopping genocide since the end of the Cold War.

This latest campaign is simply another blatant example of the way in which theU.S. (and its allies) have co-opted the rhetoric of human rights in
order to engage in massive human rights abuses.

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Dimitri Oram is a writer and researcher based in western Massachusetts.

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