Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spreading Genocide

Nicholas Kristof (see article below) serves as our eyes and ears, and, like a bitter slap in the face, delivers another wakeup call--attention needs to be paid. More than that, action needs to be taken.

While we follow our 'turn-the-other-cheek,' 'close-your-eyes-and-it-will-go-away' policy, the genocide in Darfur has spread to neighboring Chad with growing devastation.

Where is America? Spreading "freedom," better known as death, destruction, corruption, and greed, throughout Iraq.

"Money, money, money," the theme song of Trump's morally impoverished, albeit mildly entertaining, "The Apprentice,"-- is the new American anthem, the very cornerstone of our foreign policy.

If only the Sudanese peasants had a big oil field or could put together a lucrative deal to, say, run our ports, America might be more interested in saving the day.

But, alas...in Bush World, your life worth is based on your net worth. And when your net worth happens to be on the low side--watch out.

Where Killers Roam, the Poison Spreads
By Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times

For more than two years, the world has pretty much ignored the genocide unfolding in the Darfur region of Sudan, just as it turned away from the slaughter of Armenians, Jews, Cambodians and Rwandans in earlier decades.

And now, apparently encouraged by the world's acquiescence, Sudan is sending its proxy forces to invade neighboring Chad and kill and rape members of the same African tribes that have already been ethnically cleansed in Darfur itself.

I've spent the last three days along the Chad-Sudan border, where this brutal war is unfolding. But "war" doesn't feel like the right term, for that implies combat between armies.

What is happening here is more like what happens in a stockyard. Militias backed by Sudan race on camels and pickup trucks into Chadian villages and use machine guns to mow down farming families, whose only offense is that they belong to the wrong tribes and have black skin.

I found it eerie to drive on the dirt track along the border because countless villages have been torched or abandoned. Many tens of thousands of peasants have fled their villages, and you can drive for mile after mile and see no sign of life — except for the smoke of the villages or fields being burned by the Sudan-armed janjaweed militia.

In some places the janjaweed, made up of nomadic Arab tribes that persecute several black African tribes, have turned villages into grazing lands for the livestock they have stolen. At one point, my vehicle got stuck in the sand, and a group of janjaweed children materialized and helped push me out. The children were watching a huge herd of cattle with many different brands. Their fathers were presumably off killing people.

This is my sixth trip to the Darfur region, and I've often seen burned villages within Darfur itself, but now the cancer has spread to Chad.

One young man, Haroun Ismael, returned with me — very nervously — to the edge of his village of Karmadodo, between the towns of Adré and Adé. Eleven days earlier, Sudanese military aircraft and a force of several hundred janjaweed had suddenly attacked the village. Mr. Haroun and his wife had run for their lives, with his wife carrying their 3-month-old baby, Ahmed.

The janjaweed raiders overtook Mr. Haroun's wife and beat her so badly that she is still unconscious. They also grabbed Ahmed from her arms.

"They looked at the baby," Mr. Haroun added, "and since he was a boy, they shot him."

Sudan is also arming and equipping a proxy army of Chadian rebels under a commander named Muhammad Nour. The rebels were repulsed when they tried to invade Chad in late December, and now they are regrouping for another attempt.

Sudan's aim seems to be to overthrow Chad's president and install a pawn in his place, in part because this would allow Sudan's Army to attack rebels in Darfur from both directions.

Regardless of whether the rebels succeed in overthrowing Chad's government, they could ignite a new civil war in Chad. Much will depend on whether the French will use their military base in Chad to fight any Sudanese-sponsored invasion; the French aren't saying what they'll do.

Chad's army is too small to defend its border, so it tries to defend potential invasion routes. That leaves villages in other areas defenseless.

"See that smoke over there?" asked Ali Muhammad in the market town of Borota. "The janjaweed are burning our fields today."

"Most people here have fled," he added, "but I have old family members to look after, so I can't leave."

These areas are too insecure for the United Nations and most international aid workers, who are already doing a heroic and dangerous job in Darfur and Chad. So Mr. Ali and others left behind get no food aid and go hungry.

In the last few weeks, President Bush has shown an increased willingness to address the slaughter in Darfur. He should now encourage the French to use their forces to defend Chad from proxy invasions, make a presidential speech to spotlight the issue, attend a donor conference for Darfur, encourage the use of a NATO bridging force until U.N. peacekeepers can arrive, enforce a no-fly zone and open a new initiative for peace talks among the sheiks of Darfur.

The present Western policy of playing down genocide and hoping it will peter out has proved to be bankrupt practically as well as morally. Granted, there are no neat solutions in Darfur. But ignoring brutality has only magnified it, and it's just shameful to pretend not to notice the terrified villagers here, huddling with their children each night and wondering when they are going to be massacred.

Photo credit: Nicholas D. Kristof. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

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