Friday, July 30, 2004

I must say that I agree with Andrew Sullivan about Kerry's speech last night. I was dismayed by what he said both about the war in Iraq and the war against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism -- as Sullivan says, "not good enough." Edwards the night before gave me the feeling that the Democratic Party gets it about the war on terrorism -- but I did not get the same feeling from Kerry. I will vote for him - but with the anxiety that if he is elected, he will in fact not go after the terrorists with the same passion that President Bush expresses. It seems to me that if this election is really about national security, then Kerry did himself and the Democrats a disservice last night by not making the same strong statement as Edwards did the night before.
Jim Moore at Sudan: The Passion of the Present argues that the closed society of Sudan breeds terrorism as well as genocide. He points out that Osama bin Laden was headquartered in Sudan from 1991 to 1994, and argues that bin Laden's businesses and other organizations are still operating there. He says, "Sudan has become a kind of low-tech Swiss-banking center for criminal organizations, including Al Qaeda. For example, in September of 2002 the Washington Post reported that large quantities of gold had been transferred from Pakistan to Sudan by Al Qaeda."

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

And in case you still don't believe it's genocide in Darfur -- Villagers burned alive in Sudan atrocity
A great editorial in today's Washington Post, asking How Many More Deaths in Darfur? The editorial criticized the European Union for a weak and reluctant response.

The Europeans know that the killings in Darfur probably constitute genocide, as Congress recognized last week, but they shrank from calling it that. They suggested they might increase their support for the African Union's cease-fire monitors in Darfur, but stopped short of calling for a force large enough to protect civilians from the government-backed militia. They declared qualified support for "imminent" sanctions, but assigned responsibility for imposing these to the U.N. Security Council, which is hamstrung by the threat of a Chinese veto. They advertised the aid that they have given, but they failed to note that the U.N. relief appeal is less than 50 percent funded and made no mention of the detailed request for helicopters that the U.N. staff had presented to them the previous week. More than 30,000 people are thought to have died in Darfur already. How many deaths will it take?


When will we start actually helping the people of Darfur, rather than just talking about it?
Sheik Zayed's gift for a chair in Islamic studies at Harvard Divinity School has been withdrawn.

Students and Jewish organizations had criticized the Harvard Divinity School for accepting the donation, which was made in 2000, because they objected to the sheik's support for a policy research organization, the Zayed International Center for Coordination and Follow-Up in Abu Dhabi, one of the seven states in the United Arab Emirates.

Speakers at the center had included an Arab scholar who has written that Jews use human blood to make pastries and a French author who claims that Israel masterminded the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as well as American officials like former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Vice President Al Gore. It was closed last summer by the government of the United Arab Emirates, which said that the center had engaged in a discourse that "contradicted the principles of interfaith tolerance" espoused by Sheik Zayed.

Visit to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

As it happens, I did not go to the "die-in" on Thursday at noon, but instead spent the day at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Museum website has a page devoted to Darfur. They have declared a "genocide emergency" in Darfur and will be opening a special exhibit on Darfur on August 2. Given the large number of visitors who come to the museum every day, I think this will be a very effective educational and political statement.

I was very impressed by the museum. I have been to other museums that tell the story of the Holocaust -- Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, in New York City, which has an excellent permanent exhibit on Jewish life in Europe before the Second World War, as well as exhibits on Jewish life since 1945. One of the interesting aspects of the museum was the attempt to go beyond the impact on the Jewish community and show how the Holocaust affected other people -- for example, homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses.

There is currently a temporary exhibit called Deadly Medicine, which traces the history of Nazi eugenics, forced sterilization, and the T4 program to kill handicapped people, men, women, and children, including the retarded and mentally ill. This program was the first to use gassing of victims and served as the prototype for the extermination camps. I had read about this history, but walking through the exhibit, seeing the devices used to measure people and place them into separate "races," and then going through a tiled room with photographs of children killed by the T4 program was chilling. I remember reading one quote from a man who had worked in one of the children's homes where they were not sent to be gassed, but instead were starved to death or injected with fatal substances. He called the place a "concentration camp for children." I must say that I find this incomprehensible. I know how people rationalized to themselves that what they were doing was for the sake of "racial hygiene" -- but I don't understand how they could face the children whom they were torturing or killing and go through with their actions. It seems to me that it goes against a deeply-seated human instinct to protect children.

After going to that exhibit, I went to the permanent exhibit, which traces the history of the Holocaust from the Nazi assumption to power to the liberation from the death camps. I could have spent the entire day in the exhibit, if I had had enough time, but instead I was able to watch and read only some of the information. For example, the exhibit on the Warsaw Ghetto had a video loop that showed both still pictures and film of the ghetto. I kept looking at people's faces. In the section on the mobile killing units -- the Einsatzgruppen that followed the German army in the invasion of the Soviet Union -- there was a video made from film of the shootings. Who would film mass murder? I don't even understand why footage like this exists.

In the section of the exhibit devoted to the death camps, there were several unnerving and deeply chilling artifacts -- for example, a railway car of the same type used to transport prisoners to the death camps. The exhibit was set up to permit one to walk through the car -- I could not. I put my head in from both sides, instead. It was much smaller than I had expected, and if the doors had been closed, there would have been very little light, or even air coming in. There was a pile of shoes taken from prisoners at the Majdanek camp. There was the inside of barracks taken from Auschwitz. I remember reading when the Museum was being designed, that the intention was to find actual artifacts from that time and place. When I heard about this, the idea repelled me. It seemed to me that this meant that the museum visitors would be having some kind of vicarious experience of the Holocaust -- something both impossible and voyeuristic. However, I did not have that feeling in the museum -- instead, it seemed to me that the intention was to give Americans a fragment of the sense they would have if they visited the sites of the concentration camps in Europe: to visit a memory, not to re-enact it, even in imagination.

Monday, July 19, 2004

For a vacation from our otherwise serious concerns, I recommend this op-ed piece in yesterday's New York Times about Harry Potter: Harry Potter, Market Wiz. For an English fisking of this oh-so-French analysis of Harry Potter, see Steve Sachs'Harry Potter and the Running Dogs of Capitalism. And then, after that heavy lifting, I definitely recommend the latest Harry Potter movie, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," which is the best of three thus made.
For those of you who will be in Washington, D.C., this Thursday, there will be a die-in in front of the White House to protest the genocide in Darfur. Information from the flyer:

STOP THE GENOCIDE
A CALL FOR HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION IN SUDAN

1,000 dying each day in Sudan
Rally and 1,000 person “die-in” to symbolize their tragic deaths

WHEN: THURSDAY, JULY 22, 2004, NOON-1:30 PM

WHERE: LAFAYETTE PARK (ACROSS THE STREET
FROM THE WHITE HOUSE)

The demonstration is being organized by a coalition of religious and human rights leaders, including political conservatives and progressives. Some of the leaders include Rev. Walter Fauntroy, Rev. Joe Madison, Rabbi Jack Moline, Rev. Bob Edgar, Rev. Mark Thompson, Rep. Charlie Rangel, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover and Ben Cohen.

Sponsoring organizations include Res Publica, faithfulamerica.org, Sojourners, the National Council of Churches, TrueMajority.org and The Sudan Campaign, which includes groups such as Phillip Randolph Institute, American Anti-Slavery Group, American Jewish Committee (DC Chapter), Christian Solidarity International, Congress on Modern Pan-African Slavery, Institute on Religion and Democracy, Institute on Religion and Public Policy, National Black Leadership Roundtable, Salvation Army and Southern Sudanese Voice for Freedom.

I will be in Washington later this week and will try to get to this protest.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

How to send a letter to the President and other public officials about Darfur, from the AJWS Action Center. AJWS is the American Jewish World Service.
I just had a strange blogging experience. I was checking my referrer logs, and found two Google searches for "Caffit Jerusalem" and "Caffit cafe," and also "Emek Refaim Caffit" -- all within the last few hours. I wondered why this had happened -- I wrote about Caffit in December, 2003, when I was visiting Israel, but not since then. It then occurred to me wonder if something had happened in Caffit, and when I turned to Ha'aretz, I learned that Would-be bomber turned back just before blowing up cafe.

A Hamas man intending to shoot his way into a popular Jerusalem cafe and then detonate a suicide bomb, stood before the popular restaurant last week wearing a gun and a explosive belt, then reconsidered and returned to the West Bank, it was revealed Sunday.

. . .Two days after the aborted Tuesday attempt, IDF troops killed the would-be bomber, Malek Nasser a-Din, in a gun battle at his home in Hebron.

Nasser a-Din reached Jerusalem's German Colony Tuesday afternoon after entering Israel through a breach in the separation fence in the Jerusalem region. He intended to shoot the restaurant's guards, then enter and blow himself up inside. But he reconsidered, and returned to the West Bank.

"The attempted suicide bombing was made possible by the fact that the potential bomber was able to enter the city in a spot where the security fence hasn't been built yet," Zalman Shoval, a foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told Haaretz. "It was for different reasons, including luck, that he decided at the last moment not to blow himself up, but of course, Israel cannot rely on such fortuitous occurrences in the future."

Security forces have detained a number of others involved in planning the attack. Investigations revealed that Nasser a-Din picked up the explosive belt in Abu Dis, a village on Jerusalem's eastern border. He and an accomplice traveled together to the German Colony, where the bomber received the order to attack Caffit. He was seen throwing out an unidentified object on Tuesday afternoon, which initially raised suspicions.

For reasons not yet known, Nasser a-Din decided not to carry out the attack and threw away the explosive belt, which has not been found.

. . . This was not the first suicide bombing to target Caffit. Cafe staff foiled a prior incident when they overpowered another would-be bomber whose bomb failed to explode.


I had read in Ha'aretz last week that there had been a high security alert in German Colony neighborhood in Jerusalem, but they hadn't said why. Very scary.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has taken up the issue of Darfur at Staring Genocide in the Face. As Jerry Fowler said on June 24, 2004, "The time to act in Darfur is now. It’s now. The obligation to prevent genocide is a legal one and a moral one. Too often in the past, as this Museum starkly illustrates, warnings have been received and ignored and the result has been death and suffering on a massive scale. It’s time for us to stop saying “never again,” and start saying, “not this time.”
Once again, I recommend reading Sudan: The Passion of the Present to learn what is happening in Darfur and what we may possibly do to stop the genocide. They point to John Kerry's speech at the NAACP convention, where Kerry "called for the United States, with the United Nations, to lead an 'international humanitarian intervention' in the troubled region of Darfur, in the Sudan, where Arab militias have been killing and displacing villagers, driving some into neighboring Chad. 'This administration must stop equivocating. Those government-sponsored atrocities should be called by their rightful name - genocide,' Kerry said to cheers. 'That is a lesson of Rwanda. That is a lesson of World War II. That is a lesson of time.'"

Congressman Charles Rangel was arrested in front of the Sudanese embassy in Washington on July 13 protesting the genocide in Sudan. He writes: "There's no reason the international community can't find the $350 million the UN needs to ship aid to Sudan. Surely, saving a million lives is worth more than the $89 million the U.S. has committed so far. Let's declare the situation the genocide that it is. We have to avert what threatens to become one of history's greatest catastrophes. What's happening is an atrocity, a crime and a sin. There can be no more excuses."

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Here is another devastating account of what is happening in Darfur, this time from an activist who traveled to the rebel-held areas of Sudan, where no aid is reaching hundreds of thousands of displaced people. John Prendergast, the author of Sudan's Ravines of Death, also provides evidence of mass graves of young men.

I was not prepared for the far more sinister scene I encountered in a ravine deep in the Darfur desert. Bodies of young men were lined up in ditches, eerily preserved by the 130-degree desert heat. The story the rebels told us seemed plausible: the dead were civilians who had been marched up a hill and executed by the Arab-led government before its troops abandoned the area the previous month. The rebels assert that there were many other such scenes.


The article ends by saying, "There has been a great deal of tough talk since the visits of Mr. Powell, Mr. Annan and others, but the United Nations Security Council so far has failed to act decisively. It is time to move directly against regime officials who are responsible for the killing. Accountability for crimes against humanity is imperative, as is the deployment of sufficient force to ensure disarmament and arrangements to deliver emergency aid. The sands of the Sahara should not be allowed to swallow the evidence of what will probably go down as one of the greatest crimes in our lifetimes."

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A quick Google search found this speech, Homosexual Marriage?, that Senator Byrd made in 1996, during the debate over the Defense of Marriage Act. His speech ends with these words: "I say to my colleagues, let us take our stand. The time is now. The subject is relevant. Let us defend the oldest institution, the institution of marriage between male and female, as set forth in the Holy Bible. Else we, too, will be weighed in the balances and found wanting."

But on the other hand, to be fair to Senator Byrd, both John Kerry and John Edwards, who would vote against the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages, say that they are opposed to gay marriage -- but that it should be left to the individual states, not to the federal government. I doubt, however, that they would invoke the authority of the Bible to oppose gay marriage.
Ah, I should have read Sullivan first -- many of those senators who voted for cloture were nonetheless opposed to the amendment. According to his reporting of the Log Cabin Republicans' analysis -- Senators Warner, Gregg, Hagel, and Specter, who all voted for cloture, are against the amendment. I still wonder about Byrd -- I'll have to find out more about his position on this issue.
I was just taking a look at how the Senate voted on the marriage amendment -- for a complete list, see U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote. There were a number of senators who surprised me -- and mostly disappointed me. Senator Specter of Pennsylvania voted to cut off debate (which would then lead to a vote on the amendment itself). I had thought he was more liberal than that. Senator Byrd of West Virginia also voted to cut off debate -- so much for his "liberal" credentials for opposing the war in Iraq. The two other Democrats who voted for cloture were Miller of Georgia and Nelson of Nebraska. On the other hand, there were a number of Republicans who voted against the motion, including John McCain of Arizona, the two senators from Maine, Collins and Snowe. The vote was 48 yes votes and 50 no votes because Edwards and Kerry were off campaigning. They had said they would go back to Washington to vote only if the amendment itself were coming up for a vote.
I'm happy to see that the anti-gay amendment to the constitution has failed in the Senate on a procedural vote to cut off debate. As CNN reports, "Efforts to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage foundered Wednesday afternoon in the Senate when the proposal failed to garner enough votes to stay alive. After final arguments by the leaders of each party, the Republicans mustered 48 votes, 12 short of the 60 they needed to overcome a procedural hurdle and move the proposed amendment to the floor."

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Amazingly enough, the French government is opposing UN sanctions against Sudan over Darfur.

"In Darfur, it would be better to help the Sudanese get over the crisis so their country is pacified rather than sanctions which would push them back to their misdeeds of old," junior Foreign Minister Renaud Muselier told French radio. France led opposition to US moves at the UN over Iraq. As was the case in Iraq, France also has significant oil interests in Sudan.

Mr Muselier also dismissed claims of "ethnic cleansing" or genocide in Darfur. "I firmly believe it is a civil war and as they are little villages of 30, 40, 50, there is nothing easier than for a few armed horsemen to burn things down, to kill the men and drive out the women," he said.

Human rights activists say the Janjaweed are conducting a genocide against Darfur's black African population. Those who have fled their homes say the Janjaweed ride on horses and camels into villages which have just been bombed by government aircraft, killing the men and raping the women.


(Full story at France opposes UN Sudan sanctions).

(Via Gary Farber at Winds of Change.
This very interesting article by Sefi Rachalevsky, called "Dangerous Judaism" discusses the halakhic ruling of "din rodef" and how certain right wing rabbis have applied it to those who would withdraw from Gaza or the West Bank. This is the same halakhic excuse that Yigal Amir used in killing Yitzhak Rabin.

. . .the execution of din rodef is mostly in the province of the individual rather than that of rabbinic rulings. The rulings provide the principle, but the individual is the one who conducts the execution in din rodef, not the court. Din rodef deals with a man chasing after another man and trying to kill him. Anyone who is capable thus has an obligation to intervene, without waiting for a specific ruling that goes beyond the declaration of principle. The pursuer must be stopped with a minimal amount of harm. As the halakha puts it: If the pursuer can be stopped by cutting off his hand, good. But if there is no choice and the only way to stop him is to kill him, then kill him. That is why it was so important for Rabin's assassin to explain that he had considered whether it would be enough to "merely" paralyze Rabin, but reached the conclusion that it would not be enough for the purpose.


Rachalevsky discusses the roots of din rodef as it applies to relations between Jews and Gentiles (rather than, say, to the case of seeing one person about to murder another and stepping to try to stop it).

The problem is that Rabbi Nebenzahl [the rabbi of the Old City, who ruled that "anyone who hands over parts of the Land of Israel to gentiles will be punished according to din rodef"] is correct in saying that the view that din rodef applies to those who give away parts of the Land to non-Jews - or to anyone else who wishes to harm Israel - is well-grounded in the halakhic literature. It is impossible to sweep this viewpoint away with the statement "a Jew doesn't murder another Jew," as people did before the Rabin assassination. Rabbi Nebenzahl's correctness is just the tip of the iceberg, so anyone who tries to bypass him and not deal with the sources will crash into his argument and be shattered.

The root of the matter is the long years of exile and suffering that the Jews underwent at the hands of non-Jews. Those years gave birth to extensive halakhic and kabbalist writings. Central portions of those writings turned the pain into secret vengeance that could not be actualized. Protected by their inability to take practical action for revenge, the great rabbis of Israel let loose with detailed descriptions of the inferiority of the "goyim" (non-Jews), the vengeance they deserve and what would be done both to them and to Jews who collaborate with them after the Messiah's arrival.


Rachalevsky calls for a revision of the halakhah in this matter out of the recognition that Jews are no longer powerless, but dwell in a sovereign country of their own with a powerful army. He says, "The Diaspora is not protecting us anymore. Everything in our time has become practical, programmatic, possible. Those who do not dare to conduct a thorough reform of holy Jewish texts,* out of an understanding of the enormity of the revolution in which the Jews have become masters of military might and sovereignty over their lives, will not survive."

*the original translation was "of the Jewish liturgy," which is not an accurate translation of the Hebrew original -- כתבים היהודיים המקודשים.

Friday, July 09, 2004

This article, from the June 11, 2004 issue of the Forward, reports that Jewish Groups Step Up Efforts To Help Sudanese.

The Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, an umbrella organization of 40 Jewish associations that meets on an ad hoc basis to address humanitarian crises worldwide, decided last week to create a new 11-agency coalition to focus exclusively on Sudan. Dubbed the Coalition for Sudan Relief, the new entity has began to lobby Congress and the Bush administration to put pressure on the Sudanese government to allow access for relief shipments and personnel to the western Sudanese province of Darfur.

....The driving force behind the stepped-up activism has been the American Jewish World Service, a Peace Corps-style aid group that is supplying assistance to the refugees. In an effort to alert the public, the organization is launching what insiders describe as its first-ever advertising campaign in the national media. The campaign will focus on the plight of Sudanese refugees.

....On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement urging the Sudanese government to grant full access to "aid organizations, human rights investigators, and international monitors" and urged America to take all steps to avoid genocide.


This JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) story from July 6 reports on more Jewish activity and mentions that Elie Wiesel for several years has been trying to "place the Sudan violence on the public agenda." The story, however, begins with a rather stupid and flippant line: "It seems the phrase 'never again' isn’t just for the Holocaust anymore."
The folks at Sudan: The Passion of the Present argue why Labels do matter: Call Darfur a "genocide".

They say: "Both Kofi Annan and Colin Powell—as well as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International—are ducking the use of the term 'genocide.' They prefer not to venture into uncharted waters of international law and intervention. They prefer the status quo of slow diplomacy and UN Security Council resolutions—and perhaps eventual UN peacekeeping forces. Unfortunately, the past shows clearly what happens under the status quo: nothing."

They quote from an excellent editorial article at The Scotsman, How many deaths to make it 'genocide'?

You get the drift. But the one word not being used is 'genocide', despite the confident assertion by Andrew Natsios, director of the US Agency for International Development, that a minimum of 300,000 black African Darfurians, at best, and more than a million at worst, will die as a result of the attacks on them by Sudan’s Arab, Islamic fundamentalist government, its armed forces and Janjaweed militias.


And why is the word "genocide" not being used? Because it would require us to DO SOMETHING to stop genocide. And that something would probably involve the use of force, to stop the Sudanese government from sending troops and Janjaweed militia to drive people from their homes, kill the men, rape the women, and send them to die in the desert.

The lesson is that words do matter - very much. But the international community does not want to take ultimate action over Darfur, so the top men studiously avoid the word genocide. Do you remember Tony Blair’s hubristic speech to the Labour Party conference three years ago in which he trumpeted: "I tell you, if Rwanda happened again, we would have a moral duty to act." Well it’s happening again. Mr Blair will not bring himself to say "genocide" and, while the people of Darfur die, his 2001 speech will go down in history for hypocrisy and platitude dressed up as morality on a grand scale.


The question I'm starting to ask myself is: why is this issue not being raised by Jewish organizations? Why is Elie Wiesel not speaking up in every available forum? Why are Jewish newspapers not raising this as their main editorial every week? Why are synagogues not organizing information sessions and fundraisers for the humanitarian organizations? If any of this is going on, please let me know. I'm not aware of anything.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Despite Kofi Annan's and Colin Powell's visits to Sudan last week, Sudan Interior Minister says there is no intention to disarm Janjaweed militias in Darfur. It's important to keep U.S. attention focused on the ongoing genocide in Sudan, and not get fooled by the Sudanese government's lying to us.

This story Killing goes on as Sudan lies to world and defies UN shows that even when Annan and Powell were in Sudan, the Janjaweed and government attacks in Darfur were continuing.

SUDANESE government forces and Arab militia have launched a fresh wave of murderous attacks on black African villagers in Darfur in defiance of demands from the United Nations and the United States for an end to the fighting.

Fleeing refugees have described how villages in south eastern Darfur were bombed by Antonov aircraft and helicopter gunships before Janjaweed militia men in pick-up trucks and riding horses and camels swarmed into the villages, killing men, women and children, raping women, stealing property and animals, and setting houses alight.

Survivors say that the attacks took place last week, while Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, and Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, were visiting the country to demand an end to the genocide which aid workers have warned could result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

The UN High Commission for Refugees said more than 100 desperate people had fled the latest killings and braved heavy fighting to make it to a refugee camp at Kalma, near Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

At least 40,000 people are living in the camp and aid agencies say they are struggling to provide food, water and medical care to the displaced people, who include many severely malnourished babies.

A UN spokeswoman said that the latest attacks on villages came as the Sudanese government and Janjaweed militia launched a fresh offensive against two rebel groups in breach of a cease-fire agreement signed in April. Rebel groups have warned that they will retaliate if the Khartoum regime continues to break the cease-fire.

She said: "Despite a cease-fire signed in April between the Sudanese government and two rebel groups, fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region continues to displace civilians who say they are innocent victims."

The UNHCR also released details of an attack on aid workers inside nearby Chad, where tens of thousands of refugees have fled.

On Sunday a group from Norwegian Church Aid, which is based in Iriba about 50km from the Chad-Sudan border, were kidnapped by armed men as they drove from the nearby Touloum camp to Iridimi camp a short distance from the town. They were later released and their vehicle stolen. The identity of the attackers is not known.


For more information on Darfur, see this web site, Darfur Information Center.

It's not only Westerners who refuse to call what's going on in Darfur genocide. In this story, the African Union "sees no genocide" in Darfur. According to this article, the Sudanese foreign minister said "The decision showed quite clearly that there is no genocide. We are happy about it, although we admit that there is a desperate humanitarian need." The African Union was not even willing to call what's going on in Darfur "ethnic cleansing."

Friday, July 02, 2004

Is this not genocide? Brave women tell how their Janjaweed rapists told them 'We Want to Make a Light Baby'.
Once again, the Sudanese government is trying to pretend that nothing is happening in Darfur. When Kofi Annan went to visit a refugee camp, Sudan Camp Is Moved Before U.N. Visit.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

I'm sitting here listening to Democracy Now with Amy Goodman (which a local college station airs right after Morning Edition on NPR) and there's no notice of what's going on in Darfur -- while there is plenty of notice of other things that the U.S. has done wrong (or supposedly done wrong). I am curious about her priorities. She calls her program the "War and Peace Report" and calls for "Resistance to the Rulers" -- doesn't what's going on in Darfur qualify as part of the "War" report? Or is it less important because it doesn't involve the United States government doing anything? There's always plenty on her program about Iraq, or about injustices done in the United States. To continue in this line of thought -- why hasn't MoveOn.org taken up the cause of Darfur? Why is there no sustained action on the left about Darfur? I signed up on Meetup.com for the Sudanese Peace meetup, coming up this Monday, July 5 -- but in this area it was cancelled because not enough people signed up.

I remember the civil war and massive starvation in Biafra, Nigeria in the late 1960s -- it was the first genocide that I was aware of when I was a child. My elementary school raised over $1,000 to send to help starving refugees in Biafra. As I recall, there was much press coverage at the time about what was going on in Biafra. I remember reading about the Ibo, who had rebelled against the central government in Nigeria. Have we simply gotten tired of thinking about starving people in Africa -- who in most cases are starving not because of a genuine lack of food, but because of war or deliberate ethnic cleansing?
This article from the Washington Post demonstrates in an unusually sharp fashion how the Sudanese government's denial of famine among the refugees is part of the strategy of genocide -- In Sudan, Death and Denial.
Physicians for Human Rights says that it has "gathered compelling information indicating that a genocidal process is unfolding in Darfur, Sudan." One hopes that they can get through to Secretary Powell and Kofi Annan. The page also has a lot of good information and links on the situation in Sudan.
Well, at least this is happening in regard to Darfur: Powell and Annan See Hints of Disaster in Sudan. The Bush Administration is now circulating a draft of a Security Council resolution on Darfur:

To push Khartoum, the Bush administration began circulating a proposed resolution among members of the Security Council on Wednesday, calling for a travel ban and an arms embargo on the Janjaweed. American diplomats said that, for the moment, the resolution was the subject of informal consultation aimed at producing final language next week. The draft calls on member states to prevent any military equipment or arms from reaching the Janjaweed and to make sure that no militia members enter or travel through other countries. It calls on the government to fulfill commitments it has made to stop all military attacks in Darfur; "disarm and neutralize" the Janjaweed; protect civilians, particularly those in camps for the displaced; end restrictions on the access of aid to the area and begin investigating violations of international humanitarian law.


According to an NPR report I heard earlier this day, the Sudanese government is denying that there is the threat of widespread famine in Darfur. When questioned by the NPR reporter, Secretary Powell danced around the issue of whether to call what is happening there "genocide."

So is any of this going to do any good?