Since beginning its campaign of terror in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has targeted religious minorities, including Yazidis, Christians, and Shi’a Muslims. But designating the nature of those attacks has proved somewhat more complicated.
According to a mid-November report by Michael Isikoff, the State Department is currently considering designating ISIS’s destruction of the Yazidi community as a genocide. But Isikoff also noted that there has been internal disagreement over whether or not to apply the same designation to ISIS attacks on Christians.
“Another complicating factor in the administration deliberations is what the government says, if anything, about IS atrocities aimed at Christians and other small minorities,” he wrote, adding that “officials counter that IS attacks on those groups, while likely ‘crimes against humanity,’ do not appear to meet the high bar set out in the genocide treaty...”
Since then, the classification of ISIS attacks on Christians as genocide has become a kind of culture war touchstone, with conservatives accusing the Obama administration of “a familiar pattern ... of a politically correct bias that views Christians...never as victims but always as Inquisition-style oppressors.” Candidates like Ted Cruz have been emphatic that Christians in Syria and Iraq are facing genocide, and other organizations have called on the Obama administration to include Christians in any recognition of the same.
Now, by telling a New Hampshire crowd that she will classify ISIS attacks on Christians as genocide, in spite of the Obama administration’s hesitation, Clinton has transcended a tense cultural boundary in our national interpretation of ISIS’s atrocities abroad.