For Dr. Gregory Stanton, Democracy Is Antidote to Genocide

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By Andy Turpin
Mirror-Spectator Staff

In every era there are those strident and resolute individuals who stand up to be counted with the number of those that defend the weak and the persecuted from injustice and harm.

In the last 30 years, Dr. Gregory Stanton has made a career of combating injustice and speaking out against the perpetuation of genocide around the globe, especially the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish state and its interest groups.

In a recent interview, Stanton, a previous president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) and current president of Genocide Watch, spoke about issues of comparative genocide and the current run-up in the US Congress and Senate to recognize the Armenian Genocide in 2010.

Stanton stated, “I think the default setting of tyrannies is that they will continue to resort to genocide. But well over half the countries in the world are democracies and that’s a huge step forward.”

“I think democracy is the best antidote to genocide. Democracies do not commit genocide against their own enfranchised populations. The more democracy spreads, the fewer genocides there will be in the twenty-first century,” he added.

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On March 7, 2009 the IAGS sent a letter to President Obama “for US Recognition of the Armenian Genocide.”

On October 8, 2009, IAGS President William Schabas addressed an open letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Armenian President Serge Sargisian stating, “Acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide must be the starting point of any ‘impartial historical commission,’ not one of its possible conclusions.”

Stanton recounted of the letter and the IAGS’s position that, “The IAGS has been uncompromising about the truth. We believe that the US should simply recognize the truth even if Turkey doesn’t like it. The Turks need the US as much as we need them.”

But Stanton said of his appraisal of the US’s possible acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide in 2010 that, “My guess is that the House leadership won’t let the resolution get to the House floor while the US is in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

As for his own view on the matter, Stanton said, “No foreign policy should ever be made out of fear. Fear leads to appeasement and the US has nobody to be afraid of.”

Speaking about the Armenian Genocide and his calls for its recognition by the US, Stanton said, “When I was first vice president of the IAGS, I was invited to Yerevan to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. That had a deep impact on me.”

“There’s nothing quite like waking up in your hotel and seeing Mount Ararat out your window and knowing that it used to be part of Armenia,” he said.

Stanton’s record as a defender of human rights runs long and deep. A descendent of American social reformer and suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Stanton began his own journey to helping change the world by serving as Peace Corp volunteer in the Ivory Coast before working at a vote-worker in Mississippi during the throes of the Civil Rights Movement.

By 1980 he was working as field director in Cambodia for the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE). From 1992 to 1999, Stanton served in the US State Department, where he was integral to helping write the resolutions that created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda following the genocide that occurred between Hutu and Tutsi tribes there until 1996.

Stanton was a hands-on oriented administrator as IAGS president and on conferences and speaking engagements for the organization traveled to Kurdistan (northern Iraq) twice, Sweden, Germany, the UK, Canada, France and Switzerland to talk on issues of genocide prevention and scholarship.

At the end of June he will go to Salzburg, Austria as part of the Salzburg Global Seminar to speak on genocide and mass violence prevention.

In November and December 2009 Stanton traveled to Cambodia to assist the Cambodian government’s genocide tribunal in its implementation of policies.

Regarding issues of genocide awareness and prevention worldwide, Stanton said, “I think there’s a lot more awareness in the world about the problem of genocide than there ever has been before.”
Though regarding genocide intervention, he noted, “It’s not yet an accepted international norm, but it’s an emerging norm.”

As an example, Stanton pointed to the recent case of the massacre in Jos, Nigeria in January and the Nigerian government’s follow up investigations into its causes and perpetrators.

“They were too slow to prevent the most recent killings, but they have now arrested many killers. It’s that sort of anti-genocidal response by a national government that’s the best hope for preventing genocide,” he said.

As April 24 approaches, Stanton is looking ahead to the future and already on the IAGS planning committee for the bi-annual conference location of the 2015 meeting of genocide scholars and advocates.

The gathering will be endowed with milestone importance given its one 100-year anniversary commemoration date of the Armenian Genocide.