Opinion: Never say never again

When Justice Robert Jackson opened the trials at Nuremberg to try the leaders of Nazi Germany for crimes against humanity and the holocaust, he said the following:

“The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

This statement is often echoed by another one, that we can never let something like this happen again. That we will never forget, that ‘never again’ will the savage impulses of man not be tempered by logic, rationalism and civilization. That it is the duty of the free world to stop genocide whenever and wherever it occurs.

Yet our vigilance has not always been complete and politics oftentimes gets in the way of doing the right thing. We have had mass ethnic killings and genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, the Balkans and Myanmar.

But so far, the factory-like destruction of a race has not been replicated, the mass concentration camps and wholesale slaughter involving trains, mechanization and government departments have been avoided.

Until now.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin (R) listens to a description by Dr Robert Rozett of a photo of Jewish prisoners at the Buchenwald concentration camp during WWII, as he tours Israel’s Holocaust memorial of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, 13 April 2000. Jiang is on the second day of an official visit to Israel, the first ever by a Chinese president. (Photo by JACQUELINE LARMA / AP POOL / AFP)

Reports out of China’s Xinjiang Province points to mass concentration camps where upwards of a million Uighur Muslim Minority are incarcerated.

Rights activists have revealed programs of reeducation, forced-sterilization and family separation. Those not in concentration camps are forced to live in Orwellian-like conditions where facial recognition technologies and spies make freedom of though and movement impossible.

Those that have escaped this hellish prison to the West face reprisal from authorities on family members who are sent away to camps never to return.

Scenes which we said would never happen again are happening. Those bleak black and white photos of families being herded into windowless trains by Nazi criminals have been emulated only now the Jews are Muslims and the Gestapo are Chinese CCP members.

Of course politics, once again, prevents us from speaking out about what is right. China owns too much, invests in too much.

Our heroes of today, our athletes, our superheroes, our cartoon champions, are too indebted to the CCP to speak out about what is right.

Our governments from Washington to London to Brussels fear Chinese divestment and embargoes. Realpolitik has gotten in the way of keeping the promises we made at Nuremberg in 1945.

Even small countries like ours here in Thailand could step up and do the right thing and condemn something so clearly evil and wrong.

But we will not, so petrified are we that China might stop its tourists from filling our coffers or withdraw investment deals. If the Chinese are mad at us, where will we get our submarines?

So, let’s stop pretending and making empty gestures and condemnation at China when every country is too afraid to take the steps necessary to end what is going on in Xinjiang.

Because once we do we can finally admit that we are all moral cowards when our self interests are at risk.

Because once we stop pretending, we can finally stop being hypocrites and admit that we should never say never again.

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