The Corner


‘Genocide’ Past or Present?

Last night, I wrote about a State Department statement to NR seeming to clean up U.N. ambassador-designate Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s remarks on the U.S. government’s Uyghur genocide determination.

One more nuance of the State Department’s language here is worth noting. In the statement, the department used the past tense:

As Secretary Blinken and Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield have made clear, genocide was committed against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

A former senior State Department official who reviewed the Thursday statement pointed out the strange syntax and the absence of the word “ongoing” to describe the atrocities. The January 19 announcement of the Pompeo team’s findings referred at three points to “ongoing” atrocities, which also include crimes against humanity.

In the grand scheme of things, what matters more than this apparent grammatical error is the administration’s commitment to calling out these crimes — and thus far, it has done a commendable job at this. Still, it’s a bizarre mistake to make on a statement about a topic with such weighty moral, diplomatic, and legal implications that was almost certainly reviewed by many officials in the department.


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