Darfur Q&A (#1)

Yesterday, I was asked to help field a bunch of questions about Darfur and genocide for Richmond.com. Not surprisingly, the questions ranged from background questions to the much tougher ideological questions.

My responses to the questions I received will be showing up on their site in the next day or two and I plan on answering another batch here at geistweg † genocide. In the meantime, I thought I’d share one of the questions here, with a less philosophical answer than I originally gave.

I’ve heard that a while back, people were saying Darfur would be the next Rwanda. So where’s the next Darfur?

The next Darfur will be in Iraq.

Regardless of whether the US pulls out of Iraq, as a new government takes hold and feuding factions attempt to express their disillusion for (or against) the new regime, violence will boil up until it erupts into an all out conflagration. Whichever faction winds up holding the reigns of power will then pick up the machete (or AK-47) and march against the opposing sectarian, religious, or ethnic groups.

What’s worse is that unlike similar conflicts in Africa, where refugees spill across borders in order to find safety, those who are fleeing the violence in Iraq will be boxed into the country, unable to escape to Iran or Turkey without meeting further violence. This will create a situation where rebellions will appear and disappear, shadowing the movements of a civil war, while the controlling faction(s) refine their execution by either legislation or force.

To further exacerbate the problem, humanitarian groups won’t be allowed to enter the country and sanctions will be all but untenable against a nation with immense oil reserves. The military, if they’re still in the country (as we don’t deploy troops to stop genocides), will find themselves unable to cope with such a conflict, for which they have no training, or will be unable to act on the violence because they have no mandate.

Either way, the next (big) genocide is bound for the Middle East.

Genocide trials go unnoticed

If you only watch the mainstream media, you might think that Saddam Hussein’s trial is not only unique because of the defendant, but also because of the charges. After all, how often do you hear of someone facing genocide and crimes against humanity charges?

Like much of the media in this country, however, the approach to journalism has less to do with informing and more to do with selling papers — Saddam is a sensational character that repeatedly defies judges in headline grabbing ways. It also gives a slight nod of accomplishment to our failed policies in Iraq (a dim happy note behind the cacophony of disgust).

Yet, throughout Saddam’s trial, there have been dozens of verdicts against genocide perpetrators and accomplishes that have gone completely unreported.

Aloys Simba (Oct 2, 2006)
Found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.

Paul Bisengimana (Oct 1, 2006)
Sentenced to 15 years of prison after having pleaded guilty.

Momcilo Krajisnik (Sept 27, 2006)
Sentenced to 27 years imprisonment.

Biljana Plavsic (Sept 27, 2006)
Biljana Plavsic was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment and is serving her sentence in Sweden.

Tharcisse Muvunyi (Sept 12, 2006)
Muvunyi was sentenced to 25 years in prison for genocide.

Radislav Krstic (June 22, 2006)
Sentenced to 35 years imprisonment.

Mikaeli Muhimana (April 28, 2006)
Sentenced to life in prison.

Elizaphan Ntakirutimana (April 27, 2006)
Sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for genocide. Ntakirutimana was a pastor with the Seventh Day Adventists and was arrested in Texas and extradited in 1996.

Keep in mind this is a mere snapshot from two of the busiest tribunals (Rwanda and Yugoslavia), neither of which are receiving even a tenth of the press coverage that Saddam’s trial is currently fueling.

Did Saddam commit acts (or an act) of genocide? Sure he did. We don’t even need to ask, cause he was our ally against Iran when he did it, and we gladly sold him arms throughout the entire campaign (not unlike France did in Rwanda). The point is, genocidal leaders have been on trial continuously throughout Saddam’s trial, without so much as a mumble from the press.

In fact, key architects in the Rwandan and Yugoslavian genocides (eighteen and six respectively) remain at large today. The press doesn’t cover that either.

Our history of genocide

Today, we stand in the middle of what history will record as the first genocide of the 21st Century. The African Union, who have been providing a tenuous string of peacekeeping forces to the border area of Darfur, are preparing to leave the country after the Sudanese government announced that they would not allow United Nations forces to replace their mission.

Even as President Bush addressed the nation about the memory of 9/11 and claimed that “we must put aside our differences, and work together to meet the test that history has given us,” he once again shows that his focus lies in ideological struggles and not humanitarian ones. Clearly, this administration like others before it, are blind to the implications that yet another genocide will have on the global community.

As Romeo Dallaire (Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda) wrote in a letter to the CBC:

This nation, without any hesitation nor doubt, is capable and even expected by the less fortunate of this globe to lead the developed countries beyond self-interest, strategic advantages, and isolationism, and raise their sights to the realm of the pre-eminence of humanism and freedom.

The nation he was referring to was his own – Canada – but his words are even more apropos for the United States. Not only do we have the strength and finances to intervene in times of crises, we have the humanitarian services to aid those who need it. The only thing we lack is a will of leadership.

Wilson — The Armenian Genocide (1.5 million)
Roosevelt — The Holocaust (11 million)
Nixon — The Burundi Genocide (150,000)
Ford/Carter — The Cambodian Genocide (1.7 million)
Reagan — The Kurdish Genocide (50,000)
Bush/Clinton — Bosnian Genocide (8000 +)
Clinton — Rwandan Genocide (937,000)

In a memo detailing Clinton’s lack of response to the genocide in Rwanda, President Bush wrote a (now famous) message in the margins that said: “NOT ON MY WATCH.” To which I feel compelled to reply, “Welcome to the club, Mr. President.”

Bush — Darfur (400,000 and climbing)