The dictionary definition for genocide is: the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group. Raphael Lemkin coined the term which comes from the Greek word “genos” (race or tribe) and the Latin word “cide” (to kill).
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was established in 1948, defines genocide in Article Two as:
Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Today there are over 149 nations that have ratified the Genocide Convention. In 1948 President Truman signed the treaty for the Genocide Convention on behalf of the United States. About six months later he sent the treaty to the United States Senate to consent ratification. But it wasn’t until forty years later in 1988 that the United States actually ratified it.
During that forty-year delay many senators were hesitant to approve a treaty that could possibly infringe on U.S. national sovereignty. During the Korean War and Vietnam War especially, some were worried that U.S. officials might be accused of genocide. Some were also concerned that the government would be forced to send the military to other countries to enforce it.
Given the broad definition as well as the definition stated in the Genocide Convention, did the United States commit an act of genocide in the Korean War and Vietnam War? What about the atrocities against Native Americans that started hundreds of years ago?