Averting Genocide

There are few words that possess both the magnitude and the ugliness of genocide. Similar to its paler cousin, terrorism, it is not a word to be uttered lightly or recklessly. And, when perchance it is spoken, it ought demand attention and action. Strangely, though, such is not always the case, as evidenced by the fairly limited international response to the ongoing atrocities occurring in the Sudanese region of Darfur, where—by many estimates—more than 400,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced. It is a tragedy of almost unimaginable scope and horror, a tragedy to which we cannot remain disinterested bystanders. As Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Darfur, said in an op-ed piece last November entitled A Tolerable Genocide, “the essential starting point is outrage: a recognition that countering genocide must be a global priority.� He went on to say:

“It’s true that a few hundred thousand deaths in Darfur—a good guess of the toll so far—might not amount to much in a world where two million a year die of malaria. But there is something special about genocide. When humans deliberately wipe out others because of their tribe or skin color, when babies succumb not to diarrhea but to bayonets and bonfires, that is not just one more tragedy. It is a monstrosity that demands a response from other humans. We demean our own humanity, and that of the victims, when we avert our eyes.â€?

Consider the photograph above, taken by Brian Steidle, a former U.S. Marine who served as a member of the African Union team monitoring the conflict in Darfur. The man in the photo—or perhaps he is just a boy—was killed in a helicopter gunship attack. Many would naturally wish to avert their eyes from this horrific image. Consider other images, as seen through Steidle’s eyes: “men castrated and left to bleed to death, huts set on fire with people locked inside, children with their faces smashed in, men with their ears cut off and eyes plucked out, and the corpses of people who had been executed with gunshots to the head.� Imagine, if you dare, hundreds of thousand of such images.

However strong may be the desire to avert one’s eyes, the need to avert genocide and other such atrocities must be stronger. On April 30, in Washington, DC, there will be a Rally To Stop Genocide sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition, which describes itself as “an alliance of over 100 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations.� (Click here for more information on the rally.) If you cannot attend, MoveOn is recruiting “virtual marchers� who are willing to declare their support for the cause. (Click here to do so.) Similarly, you can visit the website, Million Voices For Darfur, and sign an e-postcard that will be forwarded to President Bush. Please consider taking action in any way that you can. I also encourage you to check out some of the links below (and above) which may further enlighten you on the crisis in Darfur. Thank you.

On Our Watch – A Documentary About Genocide In Darfur. A 10 minute video produced by Refugees International.

Q & A: Crisis In Darfur. Questions and answers on the issue, from the organization, Human Rights Watch.

What To Do About Darfur? A recent article by Amitabh Pal, published in The Progressive.


4 thoughts on “Averting Genocide

  1. So when all those supporting our presence in Iraq purport to do so for humanitarian reasons, where’s the call for invasion in Sudan?

    It’s shameful. Globally we have the ability to end this type of suffering and cruelty, but not the resolve as depersonalized nation-states.

    They’re fellow human beings and for the most devout this is a group as much deserving if not more for Judeo-Christian-Islamic grace and intervention.

  2. Thanks for this post, David, and thank you to RI Law Journal for linking to it. I signed up for the “virtual march” and hope others will do the same. It’s important to stand against this and call on our leaders to do more to stop the genocide in Darfur.

  3. Carl Sheeler,
    I actually look at it the other way around. You want to do something about this in Darfur, but not Iraq?
    Did you ever stop and think that complaining from the likes of you may make future administrations reluctant to get involved in a meaningful way in these types of situations? You are very selective about where you wnat to impose American will. Quite candidly, I don’t know where you are coming from. Or, for that matter most liberal minded people. I can’t see how you want to get involved here but not Iraq. And that, my friend, is a problem that liberal Democrats must deal with on a national basis. Nobody can read you, understand you, or trust you people with our national security.

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