Things I thought about the United States government when I was too young to even comprehend the difference between the three branches:

Rennie Pasquinelli

1. The president is always a white man (wrong).
2. The losing presidential candidate becomes the vice president (wrong).
3. Our country aids other countries because we fear fatalities amongst their innocent civilians (wrong).

Numbers one and two are objectively incorrect little kid theories. Number three, however, is not a definitive falsehood, but not hard to falsify due to current U.S. involvement in Iraq. On June 19, the Obama administration announced it would send 300 military advisers to assist the Iraqi government with Sunni extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Forty-nine days later, President Barack Obama authorized limited air strikes in retaliation against the group.

Thousands of non-Sunni Muslims and — more recently — Yazidis in Northern Iraq are being killed, forced to relocate, raped and sold into slavery. Even some Sunnis are being targeted. The Middle East is all too familiar with extreme civil conflicts stemming from religion. We aren’t too acquainted with that here at home, but our government tends to recognize that it’s an issue worth addressing. The American media is also doing a decent job with keeping the public updated about our activity in Iraq. Entering “Iraq” into the Google search bar can do wonders for a thirsty brain; at least 10 pages of recent stories are displayed subsequent to hitting the enter button. Media coverage and consistent updates are justified considering a great deal of people are in the process of being exterminated.

Iraq’s current crisis can be classified as genocide by factoring in executions, rapes and forced emigration. Rationally, I thought the Obama administration sent military advisers and airstrikes into Iraq this summer because of that reason. We’re buddies with the Kurds, anyway. But, if the United States jumped at every opportunity to support countries currently battling an oppressive group or government, news publications would be much busier than they presently are.

Four other places in the world are in surprisingly similar conditions to Iraq’s. There’s a good chance that the average U.S. citizen has no idea that such repressive regimes even existed in the following countries, let alone knows that some may consider these situations to be genocide. The Central African Republic, two distinct states in Burma (Rakhine and Kachin), and Nigeria are experiencing extermination of portions of their population.

The difference between other countries and Iraq? Americans are most fearful of ISIS because they’re a hazard to our country. Top officials have warned that ISIS is the “biggest threat” to the United States.

The Central African Republic, both states of Burma, and Nigeria are all experiencing genocides due to religious conflict. Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group in Nigeria, is violently targeting Christians in the region. This includes murder, rape and slave trade. The Nigerian Army and Air Force have killed more than 3,000 people through methods of “counter-insurgency.”

The U.N. has made attempts at assisting all of these countries, and Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged to try to find Boko Haram terrorists. But the U.N. is not part of the U.S. government, and Nigeria has been placed on the backburner. Several may believe it isn’t our job to intervene in other countries, but evidently that’s not the status quo’s workings. For example our heavy focus in Iraq, and even a bit of our attention in Nigeria.

We view ISIS and Boko Haram as direct threats to U.S. values and our economy. ISIS’s violence and ideology are not the only factors that frighten American politicians. Increased instability in Iraq threatens U.S. oil reserves, chiefly because ISIS generates funds from oil in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, where we get about 8 percent of our oil.

Similar to Iraq, Nigerian instability could also destabilize oil prices at home — we get about 5 percent of our oil from them — as well as threaten typical Christian values that our country tends to prioritize. The other countries’ conflicts do not pose even a slight threat to the United States, on the basis of values or economics.

So, is the United States an ethical actor that attempts to step in every time there is a seemingly alarming genocide? Three other countries besides Iraq prove the answer to that question to be a flat out “no.”

Rennie Pasquinelli can be reached at renpasq@umich.edu.

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