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The Killings in Kyrgyzstan

Author: Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy
June 18, 2010
American Interest


The grim news from Kyrgyzstan continues to roll in.  Hundreds and possibly thousands are dead; up to 400,000, half the Uzbek population in Krygyzstan, have been driven from their homes; like so many millions of victims of ethnic violence before them, they are frightened, terrified, suddenly destitute, separated from loved ones whose fates they do not know, and living in improvised camps.  Women have been raped, children mutilated, homes burned and neighbor has turned on neighbor in an orgy of violence.

It is, in other words, another day on Planet Earth.  The international community is wringing its hands from a great distance; nearby countries and local warlords are scheming to make the most of the situation; evidence accumulates that dark political forces may have planned the massacre in cold blood.

Modern history is littered with tragedies like this, many much larger and even more violent than the horror in Osh, the city in southern Kyrgyzstan where the worst of the violence took place.  Each act of violence, each rape, each murder, each act of pillage and arson is an incomprehensible horror, but the last two centuries have been piled high with atrocities — like the skulls of their victims that the Mongols once heaped into ghastly pyramids outside the cities they sacked.  Darfur, Chechnya, Rwanda, Bosnia, the gassing of the Iraqi Kurds: and that is only taking us back to the Clinton administration.  The ethnic and ethnically-tinged religious massacres and ‘cleansings' of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Europe and the Middle East alone are too numerous to list.

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