June 8, 2011
As I was doing research last week for a column on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I stumbled on a story in The New Republic titled “Darfur Is Getting Worse: Why Aren’t the U.N. and U.S. Pressuring Khartoum to Reverse This Horrific Trend?”
According to Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College and author of “A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide,” Darfur has become “all but invisible.” As he writes: “With fewer and fewer human rights reports, news dispatches, or even candid accounts from U.N. leaders, events in the region have dropped almost fully out of international view.”
This is the same region where, according to Jewish World Watch, 400,000 people have been killed and 3 million more have been displaced in the last decade. Sadly, Reeves says, the catastrophe there is deepening dramatically as they head into this season’s “hunger gap,” the dangerous rainy period beginning in October, when water-borne diseases become much more common.
Because of “increasing restrictions on travel imposed by the Khartoum regime,” Reeves says, “hundreds of thousands of lives are at acute risk.”
So, while human rights activists will be sailing their flotillas this month to protest Israel’s partial and defensive blockade against a terrorist regime in Gaza, thousands of Darfurians will continue to suffer and die — quietly — because not enough people are screaming for the murderous regime in Khartoum to ease the strangling of its people.
And this fall, while the eyes of the world will be fixated on the Palestinians’ diplomatic moves at the United Nations, don’t expect to hear much about the hundreds of thousands of Darfurians whose misery will be compounded by water-borne diseases and the cruel blockade of their oppressors.
Even in President Barack Obama’s speech of May 19, in which he used more than 5,000 words to discuss the ills of the Middle East and North Africa — including more than 1,000 words on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — not one word was spoken about the genocidal suffering of Darfurians in Sudan.
Why is that? Is Sudan not “north” enough for the president — even though it borders Egypt and Libya and even Kenya, where Obama’s father was born?
If Obama cares so much about the downtrodden, why is he giving so little public attention to the humanitarian disaster in Darfur?
Why has a Hollywood actor like George Clooney spoken out so loudly against this genocide, while the leader of the free world has kept relatively quiet?
As Reeves reminds us: “Darfur’s ongoing catastrophe is poised to result in even greater human destruction and suffering. The reports are endless. So too, evidently, is the capacity of the international community to pretend that none of this is happening, or to ignore it, or to not care enough to act.
“The world has all the evidence needed to know that this is so, but it lacks the resolve to bring to bear on Khartoum the pressure that will change the regime’s brutal ways.”
It’s a funny thing: When it comes to pressuring Israel, the world never seems to lack any resolve.
As far as pressuring Sudan, Reeves concludes that “the Obama administration should make clear that, unless Khartoum grants unfettered humanitarian access and freedom of movement for the U.N. peacekeeping mission, the regime will see no lifting of sanctions, no further discussion of removal from the list of terrorist-sponsoring nations, no further normalizing of relations, and robust U.S. opposition to debt relief for Khartoum at the World Bank and IMF [International Monetary Fund].”
Why couldn’t Obama say those simple words in his May 19 speech?
What I find most disheartening about the Darfur crisis is that the facts are so clear. There’s no torturous debate here about “two sides of the story.” Like a passionate American politician once said: “The government of Sudan has pursued a policy of genocide in Darfur. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have been killed in Darfur, and the killing continues to this very day.”
That passionate politician was candidate Barack Obama in 2008.
Three years and thousands of killings later, the tragedy continues. Where is Obama now? Sure, I know — he can’t tackle every crisis that comes along. But if the president can harp about the plight of the Palestinians — by far the most coddled victim group in history — why can’t he harp about a cause where 400,000 innocents have been slaughtered? If the “killing continues to this very day,” doesn’t that make the Darfurian cause at least as “urgent” as the Palestinian cause?
And where are all those human rights activists who’ve made a fetish out of bashing Israel but can’t seem to get agitated at the notion of murderous African dictators drowning their people in misery?
Are Darfurian victims not “cool” enough because they don’t throw rocks or look like Che Guevara? Are the bad guys not bad enough because they’re not Jews or Israelis?
Imagine being one of those African victims and watching the international news one night. Imagine how it must feel to see that your genocide is being virtually ignored, while the Palestinian cause has become the darling mission of the world and a media and U.N. obsession.
How can you not conclude that Darfurian blood is cheap?
How can one ever call that “progressive”?