With genocide occurring again in an area of the world separated far from the United States by distance, media coverage and culture, it is necessary to ask why we should care. There is much about Darfur that makes it easy to ignore. It is an area about which we have heard very little there has been fighting in Sudan for a long time, the situation doesn’t sound as horrific as the Holocaust and America has little to lose from what is happening.
We cannot judge Darfur by other genocides, even the Holocaust (News Editor Emily Lange’s Oct. 5 article, “Students recognize genocide”). Just because the numbers killed or displaced are not as great, just because the methods employed do not have that machine-like quality and precision, just because it is a Third World country is no reason that the horror of genocide should be diminished. More than 400,000 people have died since the conflict began in early 2003, with 3.5 million driven to hunger and 2.5 million displaced. Rape, one of the weapons in this genocide, is becoming more widespread because 90 percent of the villages have been destroyed and many of the male members of the families have been killed.
This crime is doubly abhorrent for women of this culture, which demands that they remain silent in the face of rape and not be allowed to marry if they become pregnant. Due to infection and physical damage, many of these women will never be able to have children again. It is true that individuals and groups in Darfur are fighting against the government, but this certainly does not mean that civilians should be targeted, or that the government should arm and aid those who kill and rape their neighbors.
The phrases “Never again” and “Not on my watch” have become empty cliches due to America’s lack of attention to global problems during the last century. Now we have an opportunity to put meaning back into those well-intentioned phrases.
The United States, the only government to have called the situation in Darfur a genocide, is currently heading the U.N. Security Council and recently led the adoption of a statement on Darfur. The African Union’s under-equipped and undermanned forces have been trying to monitor the situation, but their resources will run out in March and they have not had international support for their mandate.
The United Nations, with growing support from around the world, has indicated support for a peacekeeping mission to relieve the African Union. Nonetheless, firm action still has not been taken.
United States action in Darfur would benefit our image in the world, especially among Muslims. The conflict in Darfur is between Muslims and makes it an ideal opportunity for the United States to show that it is not anti-Muslim, but rather stands against governments that consciously and effectively terrorize their own citizens. It is true that our conduct in other times and places does not match this image, but we can change that now. Our non-action in the past have had grievous effects on the path of genocide. At all times, perpetrators of genocide work with an eye on the West. They have learned that the West is likely to do little to deter them. Although it is late in the game, Darfur offers America the opportunity to indicate the type of actions we are willing to take against genocidal regimes. There are always excuses about what we didn’t know or the dangers of intervention, but since perpetrators of genocide work with presumptions about what the West won’t do, earlier and harsher intervention is likely not to be dangerous, but to be effective.
As students, we are in a unique position to make our voices heard. Already students across the country have led their universities to reject contracts with businesses tied to Sudan. They have pressured the media to pay more attention. They have lobbied government leaders to speak up and take action. And, maybe most importantly, they have let their friends and neighbors know what is happening and why something has to be done in an innovative way.
Obviously, we cannot simply hope that genocide will never happen again purely because it is so horrible. This century alone has demonstrated that there will always be the possibility for genocide to occur, and to occur in unique ways – wishful thinking isn’t an option. This is certainly not just America’s responsibility; the people of Darfur need help, and America has a duty as a world leader.
Americans like to talk about freedom and rights. But is it just empty talk? Here is a clear case of freedom, rights, culture and life being erased. If we take a clear stand here, it not only indicates America’s words and dreams are not hollow, it says we will support the dignity and rights of all people and giving greater impetus to support such freedom among our own citizens where it is lacking.
Martin Nord,graduate student, public history]]>