Thursday, May 05, 2005

 

"Never Again"

Genocide - The deliberate killing of people based on their ethnicity, nationality, race, religion, or (sometimes) politics, as well as other deliberate actions leading to the physical elimination of any of the above categories.

Since February 2003, the Sudanese Government, using Arab "Janjaweed" militias, its air force, and organized starvation, has killed more than 400,000, displaced almost 3 million, and continues to kill at least 15,000 Darfurians each month. The UN Secretary-General has called it "little short of hell on earth." (Source: Genocide Intervention Fund)

I want to step out of the realm of theoretical discussion for a moment and talk reality. I watched Hotel Rwanda last night, and I was devastated. Not only was I crushed because the world let this happen in the first place, but even worse is that we didn’t learn from what happened there ten years ago.

The sick atrocities documented in that film may as well have been a news bulletin. If any news programs actually bothered to report the atrocities going on in Darfur right now, that is.

From the Human Rights Watch:

"On mission along the border of Chad and Darfur, Human Rights Watch researchers gave children notebooks and crayons to keep them occupied while they spoke with the children’s parents. Without any instruction or guidance, the children drew scenes from their experiences of the war in Darfur: the attacks by the Janjaweed, the bombings by Sudanese government forces, the shootings, the burning of entire villages, and the flight to Chad."

Look here to see the children’s photos. The phrase “scarred for life” seems apropos.

Which brings to mind the “Not in My Backyard” sloganeering in America. Apparently, the corollary to that is that if it is not occurring in our backyards (or in a country in which we have a strategic interest), we pretty much do not care.

I know many will say the U.S. should not be the “policemen of the world.” And to some extent, I’ll buy into that. But at some point, we have an obligation to get angry and morally indignant enough to rise up and say “enough is enough” and take action. And call it what it is: Genocide. Catchy slogans do not absolve us from taking responsibility and intervening in order to stop the slaughter of innocent people.

In particular, I would assert that anyone who calls him/herself a Christian has a responsibility to speak up on this matter. But it can’t stop there. Unfortunately, words do not always resolve real-life conflicts. The answer is not pacifism.

We need Reagan-esque leadership on this human rights debacle. Reagan had immense influence because there was meaning behind his words. Jimmy Carter could have commanded Mr. Gorbachev to “Tear Down this Wall,” and the Soviets would have laughed. Reagan may have been ridiculed, but he was no joke. There was always a real, nasty threat of consequence behind his words.

Taking a strong, principled stance is necessary at times. And leaders need to lead, particularly in the face of genocide. That’s why I’m deeply disappointed to learn about the Bush's administration's recent policies, or lack thereof, on this issue.

The U.N. bureaucrats in their blue hats and diplomatic niceties and political correctness are not going to solve this problem. Morally depraved murderers do not answer to the smurfs. At least, Kofi Annan is starting to own up to how impotent his organization has become…

Sometimes there is good reason to be mad as hell. Sometimes, we need to care about the plight of those outside of our own secluded worlds; our safe little bubbles here in the states. Unfortunately, too many people (whether they admit it or not) could give a crap about Africa. It’s the forgotten continent.

There does seem to be a glimmer of hope that NATO will finally get involved here - if France does not prevent it. As for this bleeding heart conservative, I will cling to the possibility that someone cares enough to actually do something.

And to all those people who look at hideous massacres of the past and, with a false and blind sense of assurance, say “Never Again,” WAKE UP.

UPDATE: One thing I failed to point out in the post above is the sad irony that we are recognizing Holocaust Remembrance Day this weekend. Passion of the Present notes these thoughts from a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp now ruminating on the situation in Darfur:

"My heart goes out to these human beings who are being attacked because of who they are. It brings back awful memories of the attacks on the Jews during the Holocaust just because of who they were.

Virtually every day, soldiers of the government of Sudan and its allied militias rape, burn villages and kill people of so-called "African" ethnic groups because of their identity. Families that have done nothing wrong bear the weight of the violence."


How many people do not even know what is going on in the Sudan, and yet are dismissively asserting that they are glad "this will never happen again"?

Comments:
You posted this twice, for some reason.

Chad, if we hadn't invaded Iraq, we'd have the troops and $$$ to help. But the Bush Administration chose to destroy our ability to respond to other problems, like this one, or India/Pakistan, China/Taiwan, or N Kor/S Kor. So really, Bush supporters have only themselves to blame.

Infidel in Exile
 
Blogger's giving me some serious stress today in trying to get this one posted. Anyway, it should be fixed now.

I pointed out my frustration with the Bush Administration on this one, but I really don't want to open the whole Iraq can of worms at this point.

Anyway, I think it's easy to point the finger, but the problem is there is a whole lot of reluctance from both parties to exhibit any leadership concerning the African atrocities. Clinton doesn't have much to be proud of either given the debacle in Rwanda.

I really think the other side (regardless of which party that is) will demonize any leader that takes action here. The same, tired old B.S. will be trotted out that we could have opened up 'X' number of schools or helped cause 'Y' here in the U.S. instead.

Bottom line: it's a political loser of an issue, as is properly addressing the AIDS crisis in Africa. We need someone who will be willing to take action even though they are losing causes politically. That would be real leadership.
 
Well said, Chad. I too think politicizing the issue only helps to further paralyze any kind of response (I personally agree w/ Infidel, but I agree it's also beside the point right now). Interestingly, I watched Hotel Rwanda myself last night and the same thoughts are going through my head this morning.
 
After all of the war & genocide that has transpired in Africa over the last couple of decades, it's time to stop choosing not to see the misery & death, it's time to stand up and demand something be done about the Sudan.

Recently (right before seeing "Hotel Rwanda"), I heard a critic claim that (quote) "this movie is an important film for our time". It's only becomes important if it motivates this generation to DO something about new human tragedies, to ensure that we make our politicians understand that we want to help end the suffering & death in Africa.

Just because it isn't happening in our country doesn't mean that it isn't tragic and wrong. Every person in the Sudan has families, friends, and loved ones...many of whom are being tortured, starved or killed.
When I think of any one of the people I care about being harmed or killed, it compels a reaction so strong that it keeps me up at night. It is difficult to imagine in our world of SUV's, movie stars & rap gods, and Saturday's at the mall, that the sort of life portrayed in "Hotel Rwanda" has really existed. It did and it still does. As humans and a Christians, it's up to us to do something about it (and not just give lip service to how sad & wrong it is...which I've been guilty of myself for some months now).

As far as what the Infidel in Exile said, I also have some issues with Iraq & the money spent, the reasons we got involved, etc. However, after examining historic actions on our part in situations like this, I don't think we'd be doing much even if we weren't currently involved in the conflict in Iraq.

I hesitate to assert that we should be the world's policemen, but if we are going to posture ourselves as such, it's time to "step up" and show strength where it really counts, and not just where there is profit to be made.

So the challenge is, how to proceed with real actions on a personal level, to see real results on a national level?
 
Chad, great post. i absolutely agree with you that we desperately need leadership. while the rwanda genocide was transpiring, both boutros boutros ghali and clinton were paralyzed by fear and desperation to avoid another somalia. it's ironic that W prides himself on making the difficult decision, no matter how unpopular, and yet he's unwilling to raise his presidential voice to end the genocide (see Nicholas Kristof's recent NYT column).
chad is right that this a is fundamentally a lack of political will... not a lack of resources. the odds that we would actually send peacekeepers into sudan even if we could are highly unlikely. in a place where there is a raging civil war in one region and a fragile peace agreement pausing the other war, it's hard to imagine the presence of american troops adding to the stability level.
until we bring great pressure to bear on the sudanese government, president bush will bear the stain of hypocrisy. he speaks of having intolerance for tyranny and oppression, insisting that liberty is a universal value that we must affirm everywhere (and i am in agreement with him). in his inaugural speech he addressed those who resist political tyranny and oppression- "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you." that speech gave me goosebumps. but it turns out it may have been very empty rhetoric. mr. president, it's time to put your money where your mouth is and it's not too late.
 
but it turns out it may have been very empty rhetoric. mr. president, it's time to put your money where your mouth is and it's not too late.

The White House is not only not doing anything, it is trying to thwart passage of the Darfur Accountability Act that would an act which "would accelerate AU deployment, authorize an expansion of the UN peacekeeping force, slap sanctions on Khartoum, and use international airpower to enforce a no-fly zone over Darfur and prevent Sudanese gunships from strafing villages" (according to Mojo).

I doubt we'd be doing much either. the West's neglect of Africa is a stain. But it is pure hypocrisy to say that it is bad for the Sudanese militias to do what US troops are doing in Iraq (been to Fallujah lately, anyone?). I guess I have a strong visceral response that says get out of Iraq first. I don't like the way our ongoing hypocrisy there cripples our moral authority to badger others into responding.

Clinton's non-action in Rwanda did nothing to that authority -- in fact, his failure created a greater urgency to make sure there was no next time. By contrast Bush's Iraq invasion has split the west and destroyed our moral leadership. The result is that there is no one who is willing to intervene in Darfur, and we lack the power to bully them.

And of course, there are the underlying oil issues. The reef from Saudi Arabia extends under the Red Sea to Sudan and into N. Kenya. The whole area is extremely sensitive, internationally. There has been an ongoing guerilla war/banditry in northern Kenya (the so-called shiftas) and other security problems (northeastern Uganda and Ethiopia) that complicate intervention. There is also the problem of logistics. And of course, the massive failure in Somalia, where we went around blowing up peace meetings, kidnapping aid personnel by accident, and at one point, destroyed our rep there when US troops defended themselves by using women and children as shields (Black Hawk Down is a pleasant fantasy).

Hence, another thing to think about is the likely consequences and fallout from US intervention. It would be better if it were a NATO intervention headed by a nuetral, like Denmark or Norway, with long experience in Africa. The US is simply too incompetent and too arrogant to solve problems like this, IMHO. Further, any commitment of US troops to the Sudan hampers our ability to prevent a killing in Korea or Taiwan, as well as intervene credibly in the India-Pakistan rivalry.

One could make a case for intervention, certainly. But we should think about our own role, and what limits we can place on it and who we can get to help us.

Infidel in Exile
 
Chad,

I had very similar thoughts after seeing Hotel Rwanda. Here is what I wrote:

http://expatteacher.blogspot.com/2005/03/hotel-rwanda-darfur.html

Infidel in Exile has a good grasp of the situation in Africa, but I am pleased to see the AU doubling its troop strength in the region. However, without American or NATO logistical support that won't do a lot of good.

Why doesn't America impose a no-fly zone on Sudan? That would keep the helicopters grounded and deny the Janjaweed precious intelligence. This could be done at a small cost and a small troop deployment. Get NATO onboard and our committment is even less.

Genocide should never be tolerated. I'm calling my Senators and Congressman tomorrow to let them know that. Why don't we all?
 
For a well put together post on the options in Sudan head here:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_05/006280.php
 
America's institutional aversion to intervention in African conflicts can be traced back to Pres. Clinton’s response to the losses incurred in Somalia after a raid went awry. Even though the military was telling the president the militias were nearly out of ammo and losing the capability to put up an effective defense, Clinton decided to cut tail and run. He did the same thing in Haiti when the regime (along with every other oppressive regime in the world that noticed Clinton’s fear of casualties in Somalia and beyond) sent a gang of thugs to present a menacing threat to the arriving crew of the USS Harlan County, which in true Clinton fashion, was ordered to turn around and go back to the US. The military won’t be stopping genocide anytime soon until the ghosts and betrayals of the past are banished for good.

This doesn’t mean America doesn’t have boots on the ground in Africa, it does in places like Djibouti, Niger and Tanzania, where they train and support national forces waging war against terrorist groups and militias. If the debate about Sudan can be shaped into one about jihad and Islamic aggression, then perhaps progress could be made. The best role I could envision the US military having would be training and supporting the militias in the south and in Darfur to defend themselves, something that unfortunately is highly doubtful at this point. Just remember the Marines, Navy and Air Force are not by any means overextended, and the Army isn’t in that bad shape either. The next year in Iraq will be difficult for them as a force, but after that, expect a recovery.

The political will exists on both sides in Congress and in the country to do something about Darfur, along the lines of taking a more strident stand against the genocide and supporting the AU with whatever it requests. Pres. Bush just refuses to harness this will, for reasons that boggle the mind and escape public understanding at this point.

The most important question for now: how can we help?

Effective lobbying efforts have thus far come from the Genocide Intervention Fund (www.genocideinterventionfund.org), which raises money to support the AU mission there and help it find funding to expand and be equipped, among other noble and realistic goals they have.

You can join the Coalition For Darfur (www.coalitionfordarfur.blogspot.com) which is an excellent group of blogs that raise awareness about what’s happening in Darfur.

The best clearinghouse for information is Passion of the Present (www.passionofthepresent.org), lots of breaking news, analysis and updates that are highly useful.

The best analysis is from columnist Nicholas Kristof (NY Times), reporter Emily Wax (Washington Post) and professor/activist/leukemia patient Eric Reeves.

I would like to say I have pretty good analysis and ideas, but I’m getting deployed in another week or so and will be out to sea unable to say much of anything about this tragedy anymore for the next few months. I wish anyone that hopes to help raise awareness and do their best to stop the slaughter in Darfur the very best.
 
Hi Chad,
I can't find an email address for you so hope this is ok.I am going to host a collection of posts on the Darfur-Sudan situation next week, and am inviting all bloggers to submit posts.

Here is a link to my post with the submission details:

The Darfur Collection
 
Well the movie has clearly had a profound impact on a lot of people and it is heartening to see that so many of you obviously care about this issue and want to take action.

Eddie and Expat, Thanks so much for the links to those organizations offering help in this area. Everyone is clearly echoing the same sentiment here, which is the need to get on board with the most effective plan to help with this cause and really put an end to the genocide over there.

Thanks for the link to your blog symposium, Catez. I think that's a great idea. I, for one, will be very interested to check out what other bloggers are saying and, more importantly, what ideas others have as to what path(s) should be taken to most effectively have our voices heard.
 
America's institutional aversion to intervention in African conflicts can be traced back to Pres. Clinton’s response to the losses incurred in Somalia after a raid went awry. Even though the military was telling the president the militias were nearly out of ammo and losing the capability to put up an effective defense, Clinton decided to cut tail and run.

ROFL. As Monbiot pointed out in an excellent article on this several years ago, US troops had long ceased to be useful, had blown up peace meetings and used woman and children as shields, and had to be rescued in the end by Malaysian rangers. The fact is that, in the usual fashion, the Pentagon did not train its troops properly, did not have a clear mission, did not have good intelligence, and then blamed the civilians for their failure.
 
Trackback from Allthings2all:
The Darfur Collection

Excerpt: The Darfur Collection brings together various writers who share a common concern for the people of Darfur and a desire to see an end to the suffering and genocide in Sudan. The contributions here are diverse...
 
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