Unless you’ve really been staying away from the news, you probably know that there is another genocide going on in Africa, this time in Darfur, where the Islamic government has decided to take a hardline stance against anti-government rebels by essentially embarking on a campaign of murder, rape, and destruction of entire villages to “suppress” the uprising. Of the approximately 40 million citizens of the Sudan, the majority are Sunni Muslim, while the rest are comprised of believers of indigenous religions and another very small number of Christians. A little background on the Sudan:
Military dictatorships favoring an Islamic-oriented government have dominated national politics since independence from the UK in 1956. Sudan has been embroiled in a civil war for all but 10 years of this period (1972-82). Since 1983, the war and war- and famine-related effects have led to more than 2 million deaths and over 4 million people displaced. The war pits the Arab/Muslim majority in Khartoum against the non-Muslim African rebels in the south. Since 1989, traditional northern Muslim parties have made common cause with the southern rebels and entered the war as a part of an anti-government alliance.
So civil war is nothing new to the country. What is different this time is that certain external governments are providing funds to the Sudanese government in return for access to its rich oil reserves, which only ensures that the Sudan has more resources to conduct the mass killing. Additionally, the genocide in Darfur has apparently been accelerated, with “U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland report[ing] an organized, ‘scorched-earth’ policy of ethnic cleansing in Darfur” as of April 2004. Continued reports from the region provide more evidence that we have another Bosnia on our hands.
After all the talk about how “Saddam gassed his own people,” an occurrence that happened over fifteen years ago, and with chemicals that the United States furnished him, shouldn’t this Bush administration — an administration that “values life” so much — be a little more concerned about what is going on in Darfur right now? Salon.com today references an ICG/Zogby poll that shows “over 80 percent of respondents said the U.S. should use its military assets to bolster African Union troops on the ground in Darfur,” proving once again that Americans are willing to sacrifice when there is a good reason to do so. The entire report can be found on www.crisisgroup.org. Among the most interesting findings:
Understandably, there was decidedly less support for putting U.S. combat troops on the ground, but the fact that almost 40 percent of respondents favoured this option at a time when the war in Iraq continues to rage and when no U.S. officials have advocated such an option, suggests a widespread belief among the American public that the United States has a fundamental responsibility to directly help protect civilian populations.
So what about it, Mr. Bush? Does your administration really value life? Or is that just lip service you pay to the religious right? It’s too bad we’re so committed militarily to what is now known to be an “optional” war, when our resources could be so much better spent actually protecting our own country, and bringing real help to those around the world who are looking to some major power in the world to pay attention and do something to stop the killing.
Oh, and one more thing Mr. Bush. I know you said you don’t read the newspapers, so you might not know what’s really going on over there. So just for you, here are some pictures. They’re not as nice and friendly as the illustrations in “My Pet Goat,” but I’m hoping you’ll look at them all the same.