A leading expert on genocide told an audience at Drew University that “we are not going to defeat genocide in war until women are empowered.”
Speaking at the university’s library on Sept. 12 on “ISIS and Genocide,” Gregory Stanton told an audience of 100, “Women have an entirely different way of dealing with conflict than men. When men have conflicts, they fight. When women have conflicts, they talk. It is a lot more civilized and it doesn’t lead to war. If more women are involved in policy making, I think we are going to be better off for it.”
The program was presented by the Drew University Center for Holocaust/Genocide Study with the following sponsors: the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, the Jacqueline Berke Program Fund, Dr. Paul Drucker, Dr. Ellen Roth, and Dr. Barbara and Robert Starr.
Stanton, research professor of genocide studies and prevention at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., founded the nongovernment organization Genocide Watch in 1999 after visiting open graves in the killing fields of Cambodia in the 1980s.
Accusing Islamic State fighters of committing and advocating mass murder of their opponents, Stanton said, “Even if we defeat ISIS militarily we haven’t really defeated ISIS because they will come back in a different form with a different name.
“Until we defeat ISIS in an ideological sense and undercut the entire basis on which ISIS builds its recruitment we will not be able to win this war,” he said. “Ideology is central to the attraction of ISIS. They are a religious movement which appeals to people who want a perfect world.”
He said the terrorist group is seeking a return to a caliphate, a religious state governed by strict Islamic law with little or no tolerance for non-believers. Trying to undercut that ideology is a difficult task “in a world where so many young people are looking for hope and something they can give their lives for,” he said. “We will not win until we can persuade them that this is not worth giving their lives for.”
A Peace Corps veteran and follower of Dr. Martin Luther King, Stanton said that despite his strong belief in nonviolence, “we must defeat [terrorist armies] militarily…. Military involvement in this case should not involve U.S. troops…because one thing we should have learned from the Iraq intervention and the war in Vietnam is we can often make it worse.” Instead, he suggested that the American government should aid pro-democratic forces when possible.
He urged the United States to bomb the runways used by the Syrian government’s air force. “We are letting [President Bashar Hafez al-Assad] get away with barrel bombing his own people. Sure, they can repair the runway overnight. Then we can bomb it again.
“But force is not going to be enough,” Stanton declared. “We have to use our intelligence, too. We have to discredit their ideology and bring justice to the perpetrators.” He said 600 ISIS members are currently imprisoned in Iraq, and he would rather see them face a tribunal than execution.
In Stanton’s opinion, “Saudi Arabia is a promoter of terrorism,” and its strict Wahhabi Muslim state religion “is a terrorist ideology that believes in one way to look at the world, and anybody who doesn’t look at the world that way is an enemy.”
He accused the Saudis of “committing huge war crimes in Yemen” and said they should be put on trial. “I don’t know that any of our leaders have the courage to face the Saudis yet, but I’d like to think that somebody does.”
To Stanton, “the real problem is political will. Leaders have to understand they have to stop genocide or they are going to get voted out of office.” He suggested both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are avoiding any discussion of genocide in their political campaigns “because they know it is a really hard question.” He said both candidates should be asked about the issue at the upcoming debates, “but I don’t know if you’re going to get really good answers.”
Despite the pessimistic tone of many of his remarks, Stanton said, “I actually do believe we can win.” He urged people to practice empathy and to “think about individual persons,” saying Dr. King’s “emphasis on personalizing injustice is so important in making it clear that genocide affects persons.”
In a question-and-answer period following his 40-minute speech, Stanton was asked how to dissuade young Muslims who are tempted to enlist in ISIS and other terrorist groups.
“I think the best antidote to ideology is a better ideology. The best way is to get religious leaders, especially Muslims, to say, ‘This is a heresy. This is wrong. This is not Islam.’ And in fact, Islam has never believed that killing people is what you should do in order to get to heaven. This whole idea of murderous ideology is a violation of Islamic law, I think. We have got to get our allies in the Islamic world to speak out against this.
“When you use the word ‘genocide’ it demands action,” he said. “Until you do use the ‘G word’ people won’t use force. But once you do, then action becomes possible.”