Reports that the White House will declare that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has committed genocide against Iraqi Yazidis, but not against Christians, are of grave concern. Omitting Christians would be a strategic mistake, because ISIS’ spiritual legitimacy depends on their promise to cleanse the “caliphate” of infidel Christians. The U.S. must name Christians in a genocide declaration in order to protect the innocent, to undermine ISIS’ ability to project strength through terror, and to weaken ISIS’ global recruiting efforts.

What is Genocide?

Genocide has two parts: the perpetrator’s mental state and the acts. According to the legal definition of genocide, the perpetrator(s) must have “special intent” (dolus specialis) to destroy a particular group, in whole or in part, and commit genocidal acts: (1) killing, (2) causing serious bodily or mental harm, (3) inflicting conditions of life to bring about physical destruction, (4) preventing births, and (5) forcibly transferring children.

The mental state of the perpetrator is extremely difficult to prove.

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