Sunday, April 17, 2022

Cheapening the Concept of "Genocide"


Friends, first of all, Happy Easter!  I hope this day afforded you an opportunity to reflect on the singular demonstration of God's grace that Jesus's resurrection entails.  There's so much death and suffering in this world, and so it pays to remind ourselves that the Christian message represents, first and foremost, a victory over death -- and is there any victory more fundamental or transformative than that?

Speaking of Easter, you might enjoy this story about the discovery in modern Israel of the ruins of what is surely one of the first Christian churches:


You may also wish to read this ADVANCE COPY of my latest article, which revolves around President Biden's recent charge that Russia is guilty of genocide in Ukraine.  I object, as you know by now, for a number of reasons.  See if you agree with my take:


Genocide” is Not a Throwaway Term of Abuse, Mr. “President”

Soaring inflation of late has left the American people battered and bruised – but not just inflation in prices; inflation in rhetoric is also doing damage to the fabric of our Republic.

We've all seen it unfold with depressing regularity. President Trump was a “fascist dictator”. The Capitol riot was a “coup” and an “insurrection”. Climate change poses an “existential threat” to all life on earth. And, just this past week, Wisconsin's Democratic Governor Tony Evers declared, when he failed to get the legislative redistricting map he wanted from the state's Supreme Court, “At a time when our democracy is under near-constant attack, the judiciary has abandoned our democracy in our most dire hour”. Deary me! If you paid attention to the non-stop apocalypto-rama on CNN and MSNBC these days, in fact, you'd think American democracy was being dealt its deathblow more or less every hour of every day.

Such hyperbolic, scaremongering rhetoric is bad enough when it's used in the context of our toxic domestic politics, but when the same loose, inflammatory talk is injected into the practice of U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy, the stakes rise inexorably, as do the dangers.

A case in point: last week, our president (God help us!) accused Russia of committing "genocide" in Ukraine. He did so offhandedly, clumsily, and inarticulately, of course, but he did it all the same. After a brief mention in a speech about inflation, he clarified his position to reporters: “Yes, I called it genocide... It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.” Not for the first time, therefore, Biden thrust himself way out in front of his own administration, which has not accused Russia of genocide, perhaps because a) Russia isn't guilty of genocide in Ukraine, and b) charging a country with genocide has traditionally implied a moral and political imperative to intervene directly to stop the killing. U.S. and/or NATO intervention in Ukraine, however, would bring with it an extremely high likelihood of sparking World War III, and thus a nuclear holocaust.

Why do I say that Russia isn't guilty of genocide? Simple: Russia has killed thousands of civilians in Ukraine, yes, and it may well have committed war crimes, but that just isn't the same thing as "genocide". Genocide is the attempt to wipe out an entire ethnic group, and, frankly, if what's taking place in Ukraine now is "genocide", and the bar is henceforth to be set at any military campaign that kills thousands of civilians, then most of the wars that have been fought since 1945 were "genocides" -- and, arguably, the United States has committed genocide itself on numerous occasions. Of course, that notion is absurd.

Genocide is the most extreme, most debased, most barbaric crime that any nation can commit, and the only reason the word is being bandied about by Ukrainian leaders, and, now, by the U.S. president, is because of its propaganda effect.

Not that facts matter to Joe Biden, but, as a matter of fact, there is a much stronger case to be made that China is guilty of genocide than that Russia is. Remember China? The country that, by its negligence and dishonesty, has killed 1+ million Americans with a vicious, bioengineered disease? It's the same country that is killing and enslaving Uighurs on a vast scale and seems intent on, well, wiping them out as an ethnic group. Oh yeah: it's also the country that paid (indirectly, via Hunter Biden's dirty dealings) for Sleepy Joe's home improvements. So hey -- forget I said anything. All is forgiven.

Joking aside, Joe Biden hasn't just refused to punish China in any meaningful way for its tyrannical and genocidal policies. He's actually excused those policies, suggesting they were the result of “different norms” in our two countries, and he's bragged about his close relationship with China's dictator, President Xi. Quite a contrast!

The fact that Joe Biden has gotten the issue of Russia's “genocide” in Ukraine all wrong, though, isn't what should concern us. Biden gets things wrong more often than he gets things right. What's more worrying is the possibility that President Biden may believe his own irresponsible rhetoric. He may believe that Russia really is a genocidal, expansionist dictatorship – that there is no meaningful distinction between Putin and Hitler. If so, Americans should reflect on the possible consequences of those beliefs, because they could be earthshattering.

As mentioned before, when a nation is committing genocide, a very strong argument can be made that all major powers are obligated to intervene to stop it. Imagine if Russia really was massacring the Ukrainians en masse, perhaps herding them into death camps, and appeared to be working towards wiping them off the face of the earth. Does anyone believe that the proper response to that horror would be...economic sanctions (excluding oil and gas, which most of the West thinks it can't do without) and modest military aid (but no aircraft or heavy weapons) to the soon-to-be-obliterated? No! Of course not. Genocide calls for direct military action. Genocide calls for war. That's the implication of Biden's inflated and inflammatory rhetoric: that virtually any action, no matter how extreme, could be justified to combat the unparalleled evil of Putinism.

And, remember, this man, this buffoon, who is calling out the world's foremost nuclear power for "genocide", is himself the “leader of the free world”. Worse, he has sole control of America's "nuclear football". He's the guy who can start WWIII any old time he likes – perhaps when he's feeling ornery, which is most of the time!

Biden's lack of messaging discipline is scary enough. What's even scarier is that he may believe his own nonsense, and he may want to do something about it. And he can. He can attack Russia directly whenever he pleases. He might do so casually, thoughtlessly, impulsively, because that seems to be his M.O., but, once the trigger is pulled, it can't be unpulled.

So there you go: if you thought the world was on the brink before, Sleepy Joe just made the situation that much worse. And we've got three more years of his erratic leadership in store, folks. Yikes!

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: He appears on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480/106.9.




Finally, check out this summary of the latest developments in Ukraine.  President Zelensky is saying we ought to take seriously the possibility that Russia could use nuclear weapons.  I agree.  In fact, the worse the Russian army performs in the field, the greater the chance that Putin will use nukes.  It could be the only way to salvage the situation and avoid what could be a humiliating defeat for a former superpower.  Now, I don't claim that the nuclearization of the conflict is likely.  For one thing, I don't believe Ukraine will be able to defeat Russia on the battlefield.  Even if it could, though, Russia would have to weigh the benefits of obliterating their opponents once for all with the costs of fierce global condemnation, redoubled sanctions, and -- maybe -- a Western military response.  To me, it seems virtually inconceivable that the West would take any action that would lead to direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia.  And, to me, it seems even less conceivable that the West would use nukes against Russia, or against Russian forces, to support its Ukrainian clients.  Ergo, Putin might feel as though the West has already thrown everything it has the gumption to throw at him, and therefore there would be little to lose in going nuclear.  Then again, I could be reading the situation wrongly.  It wouldn't be the first time.  What do YOU think? 


  1. Dr.Waddy from Jack: Erased once, I'll try again. My brother, a Seminary (Rochester) tested graduate, told me the early history of the Christian Church greatly strengthened his faith. His long since proven devotion reinforces my belief.

  2. Dr.Waddy from Jack:Gads,we have been trained from the sixties on to confront mindless totalitarians! Whereever! What do you want of us now!?

  3. Dr.Waddy fromJack: I repudiate the immediately above absurdity. If I wrote it, it was " in vodka (not Russian) non veritas"!

  4. Dr. Waddy from Jack: I say this with a firm intention not to commit hyperbole: Your recent essays
    on the Ukraine crisis, including the above, approach the quality, on balance, of the Phillipics! I have not the linguistic learning to plausibly compare their eloquence to yours but of their verity I have no doubt in comparing to your assertions. This is a very critical time!

  5. That is very kind of you to say, Jack. I view the Russia-Ukraine conflict as a turning point for the world order (such as it is), and none of what I see encourages me. The West is and always has been very good at fighting itself, while external dangers loom and proliferate. But I suppose that isn't a Western failing so much as a human one. Thankfully, the East can be just as self-destructive. That may be our saving grace?

  6. I am having trouble believing all this is just Russia as I have been reading that Ukraine is also taking part in shall we say disposing of their own people and blaming Russia. All I know is, USA is complicit in this. Did Clinton and/or Obama not sign some sort of treaty with Ukraine stating if they laid down their arms, we would protect them? Nonetheless, both countries are suffering...oh if my memory serves me correctly, hasn't Ukraine attacked the Donbas before? Isn't that region Russian? Haven't they been trying to succeed from both? I readily admit my European History (especially Russian) is not up to par. I know more of the Georgia region then this.

  7. Linda, one question that occupies my mind is: how many of Russia's accusations about Ukrainian atrocities and oppression inside and outside of Donbas might be true? I mean, it's not COMPLETELY unbelievable that Ukrainian nationalists might mistreat ethnic Russians, is it? And, if was unbelievable two months ago, surely it has to be believable NOW!

    And, yes, we pressured Ukraine to give up its nukes back in the 90s, reasoning that a world with fewer nuclear powers would be more manageable. Always be careful what you wish for!