May 1, 2019 3:31PM

Sen. Rick Scott’s Venezuela “Genocide” Hype

In media interviews on April 30, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) accused Venezuela’s leftist regime of engaging in genocide. It was not merely a slip of the tongue; Scott used that inflammatory term repeatedly—as he had on previous occasions. Foreign policy hawks have resorted to similar tactics to arouse public opinion and generate support for U.S. military interventions in other conflicts, and Scott appears to have that objective in mind regarding Venezuela.

Nicolas Maduro’s government is indeed a corrupt, repressive regime that has turned what was once South America’s most prosperous society into a chamber of socialistic horrors. In an effort to suppress growing political opposition, Maduro also has jailed critics and tried to silence the country’s independent press. The brutality of his security forces was on graphic display during yesterday’s opposition demonstrations when an armored vehicle deliberately plowed into a crowd of protestors. Decent people around the world should erupt in vigorous cheers if the Maduro regime finally ends up on the ash heap of history.

Nevertheless, it is a gross misuse of the term genocide to describe what is currently taking place in Venezuela. The United Nations defines genocide as acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Venezuela’s mounting turmoil amounts to a mundane struggle for political power, not a campaign to slaughter a hated target group.

Unfortunately, advocates of U.S. military crusades have a nasty habit of hyping disorders in certain countries. That effort was evident during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, and the emotional lobbying effort succeeded in producing U.S.-led military campaigns. The absurdity of the genocide allegation was especially evident in Kosovo. Before the onset of NATO’s air war in the spring of 1999, the Albanian Kosovar insurrection against the Serbian government had resulted in barely 2,000 fatalities in nearly two years of warfare. At least half of that total consisted of military personnel, both rebels and government security forces. If that modest total constitutes genocide, then almost any conflict (however minor) meets that standard. Yet even some proponents of U.S. military intervention later conceded that the genocide allegation was inappropriate with respect to the Kosovo conflict.

A similar campaign occurred to exaggerate the humanitarian stakes involved in Libya during the 2011 revolt against longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Western politicians and their media allies contended that Qaddafi’s security forces would kill as many as 500,000 civilians. The U.S. led war, sold to the American people and the rest of the world as a humanitarian rescue mission, was a cynical cover for yet another regime-change war in the Middle East. The ouster of Qaddafi soon made the situation in Libya far more tragic, as the country became a chaotic arena for fighting among rival militias. That dreadful situation persists to this day.

Given that distressing track record, we should be doubly critical of Scott and other individuals who deploy the genocide label in a promiscuous manner. Indeed, using that term to describe garden-variety political conflicts is an insult to the victims of actual genocide, as in the Holocaust and the mass slaughters in such places as Cambodia and Rwanda. Above all, we must not allow proponents of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela to use such an emotionally laden term to generate public support for yet another unnecessary, ill-advised war.