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Kerry on Syria: 'I Don't Want To Get Into the Definitions' of Genocide

12:32 PM, Feb 27, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
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In a Wednesday interview with Andrea Mitchell, Secretary of State John Kerry resisted Mitchell's assertion that "genocide" was taking place in Syria:

QUESTION: I want to ask you about Syria. For three years, we have watched horrific pictures. You spoke of this when you were a senator. Obviously, now you’ve got the lead role on it. Horrible pictures. I looked at video of a child weeping over his mother’s body after a barrel bomb was dropped on her and other civilians by the regime. Just today, this picture on the wires from Yarmouk, from the refugee camp in southern Damascus. Why isn’t this genocide? 

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Andrea, that gets into all kinds of definitions. What it is is wholesale killing of your own people. And -- 

QUESTION: But it’s killing of one or another ethnic group by a minority leadership. 

SECRETARY KERRY: Again, I don’t want to get into the definitions. What he is doing is outrageous, unconscionable, unacceptable, disgraceful, craven. It’s horrendous. And we all know that; everybody knows that. And President Obama has been deeply committed to trying to make a difference in ways that we have chosen within the law that we believe are appropriate and permissible...

In 2004, then-presidential candidate Kerry was not as reticent about defining the situation in Darfur as genocide during an address to the NAACP convention (via Bloomberg):

Senator Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president, said the Bush administration should stop ``equivocating'' and formally label as genocide the attacks in Darfur, which have killed up to 80,000 people and displaced more than 1 million. 

``These government sponsored atrocities should be called by their rightful name -- genocide,'' Kerry said in an address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People convention in Philadelphia. ``The government of Sudan and the people of Darfur must understand that America stands prepared to act, in concert with our allies and the UN, to prevent the further loss of innocent lives.''

Recent estimates of the conflict in Syria place the death toll around 140,000, with another half-million injured, and millions displaced.

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