The Genocide Prevention Task Force issued a report Monday on Genocide prevention, which it hopes would be adopted as a blueprint on how to deal with current genocides and to prevent such events from taking place in the future.
The problem, however, is that the task force is being co-chaired by two individuals who have gone on record for denying the Armenian Genocide. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen both have, in the past, perpetuated Turkey’s denial campaign by opposing efforts to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
In the present as well, the two leaders of this task force went on record Monday to emphasize that their work did not aim at categorizing or characterizing past events but rather to look forward and prevent future atrocities and crimes.
Last year, both secretaries Cohen and Albright sent letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposing Congressional legislation (H.Res.106 / S.Res.106), aimed at ending U.S. complicity in Armenian Genocide denial through proper U.S. reaffirmation of that crime against humanity.
Secretary Cohen’s firm, the Cohen Group is a strategic partner with DLA / Piper, a registered foreign agent representing the Government of Turkey, paid $1.8 million a year to, among other things, lobby against Armenian Genocide recognition.
While the report offers worthwhile solutions to the problem of Genocide and aims to offer mechanism with which governmen’s–especially the US government–can deal with genocides and mass atrocities as they occur, it becomes slightly suspect when the individuals who are chairing the task force have and continue to actively oppose efforts to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
There is no question that the attention that the Darfur Genocide has received in the past several years has placed the issue of Genocide on the forefront of activism, policy making and even press coverage, making almost vogue to engage in efforts to speak out against Genocide and take an active role in pushing for government action on the matter.
What makes this report lose its legitimacy is the fact that the key figures who are proposing mechanisms to prevent future Genocides are themselves refusing to look at history and calling a spade a spade. This would be advisable not to simply appease the Armenian-American community but to actually grant the necessary legitimacy to the report.
During the presentation of the report on Monday, the two former secretaries talked in great length about past instances where proper response may have prevented the loss of millions of lives, but when directly asked about whether they’ve learned lessons from their experience on the task force that could prompt a change in their denial of past genocides–especially the Armenian Genocide–the two side-stepped the issue by professing their desire or intention to look forward and not back.
One is able to look forward and offer constructive solutions by looking at past mistakes and create mechanisms to impede the possibility of repeating them. Albright’s and Cohen’s approach, however, seems more an attempt to fulfill a task rather than to forthrightly put in place an approach that would truly prevent acts of Genocide or mass atrocities.