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By Cindy Saine
Washington
13 November 2007

A group of former U.S. officials and lawmakers has launched a task force to draw up a list of practical recommendations for responding to threats of genocide and mass killings. The group is headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Defense Secretary William Cohen. Both served under President Bill Clinton. VOA's Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Man at the
Man at the "genocide cemetary" of Kigali, Rwanda (file photo)
Secretary Albright and Secretary Cohen served in an administration that grappled with genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. At a news conference in Washington Tuesday, Ms. Albright said genocide cannot be stopped by simply pledging "never again."

"The world for a long time has said that genocide is unacceptable. And yet genocide continues, and mass killings continue. And our challenge basically is to match the words with deeds and actions to stop these kinds of unacceptable acts," she said.

The task force was formed by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy and the United States Institute of Peace. Members of the group also include former Republican Senator and Ambassador to the United Nations John Danforth, former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle, and former head of the U.S. Central Command, Retired General Anthony Zinni. The group plans to draw up a list of guidelines by December 2008 to present to the new U.S. administration that takes office in January 2009.

Secretary Albright said the task force was, in part, born out of frustration at the ongoing crisis in Sudan's Darfur region. "Watching Darfur, I think, is one of the things that has led us all to say, okay, let's give this another try to see if there are some guidelines. And if, speaking of the United States government, if there is some way to organize ourselves better to deal with it, in terms of early intelligence information, or the deployment of certain kinds of negotiators and diplomats," she said.

Former Defense Secretary William Cohen pointed out that modern technology prevents us from saying we are not aware of what is taking place. "Because we live in this age of information, we can no longer claim that we're in a state of bliss. Ignorance is not bliss. We can no longer live in a state of denial or willful indifference. And so the purpose of this task force is to look to the past to be sure, but to look forward to say what are the signs, what are the options that will be available to the United States as one of the leading forces to help shape multilateral action," he said.

Secretary Cohen said the U.S. failure to intervene in Rwanda was not a high point in the country's history. But he said he was proud to serve on the genocide prevention task force with Secretary Albright, because she took the lead in calling for U.S. intervention to stop the massacre of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

He said the task force will focus on the future to prevent atrocities from happening again.

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