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Monday, February 27, 2006

A Moral Obligation Exists to Stop Genocide

180,000 people have been killed in a massive genocide. You wouldn't know it from looking at the news. Among the top 5 stories on Yahoo News today: Microsoft Plans New Windows Products. That's not news; that's a press release. At best, it's technology news ; it's not a top 5 news story. Drivel like this gets top billing by a corporate media that is increasingly clueless about what actually constitutes news.

The #1 story should be the genocide in Darfur. 180,000 people have died since early 2003 as Janjaweed militas protected by the Sudanese government attack African Sudanese villages. When these villages began rebeling in a quest for more autonomy, the government launched the genocide. Meanwhile, our government has been too distracted by the fraudulent war in Iraq to address this pressing need. Sadaam may have gassed "his people," but the horror in Iraq pre-invasion failed to be as problematic as the massacre in Darfur. Worse, more people are dying than ever in Iraq as an inevitable civil war begins.

The media had other priorities. When they weren't releasing Bush administration press releases as actual news, they were busy covering Nick and Jessica or Brad and Angelina. Oprah's berating of an author made top headlines while the killings in Darfur were ignored. Bush made the destruction of Social Security a top agenda in 2005 instead of trying to push the end of violence in Darfur. No legitimate Christian could stand by and ignore this massive human rights violation. But Bush had no problem doing so.

Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times, has been the media's #1 voice bringing attention to the catastrophe in Darfur. He recently told a group at Yale University how the militias use wells as mechanisms of disaster. They poison the wells to kill the villagers and lie in wait nearby to attack people looking for a drink of water. Kristof has been pushing the media to address the issue more. He's engaged in a very public drive to get Bill O'Reilly to take a trip with him to Darfur.
He's already raised over $700,000 to gather money so that O'Reilly can take the trip and do his "news analysis" from the country. O'Reilly early protested that he wouldn't go to Darfur because his commitments to Faux News prevented him from doing so. Kristof proposes raising money to buy satellite phones that would allow O'Reilly to shovel his load of crap on the American people from abroad. While some might claim this is all a waste of money, it's not. Kristof has raised public awareness with his campaign against O'Reilly and helped push our leaders to take action.

I don't know enough about this highly complex situation to propose a reasonable solution. If I were in a position for power, I would order experts to conduct studies proposing the best way to end the killings. The United States is morally required to address this problem. If we want to make the world "love freedom" and support our efforts, we need to start doing some good things instead of starting illegal wars. Perhaps the Bush administration realizes this, if only from a PR standpoint and not a moral one.

Led by the U.S., the United Nations has recently began to push for action in Darfur. On Feb. 3, the Security Council called for the UN to take over peacekeeping operations in the region. The Council has already authorized sanctions but those have yet to take effect. On Feb. 17, our president -- that's right, George W. Bush -- finally spoke out on the topic after completely ignoring it in his State of the Union address. After a visit with UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Bush announced his support for a peacekeeping mission twice the size of the current one handled by the weak African Union. UN Ambassador John Bolton, a man notorious for his conflicts of interests and bizarre demeanor, is actively pushing for the UN to enact a resolution creating the peacekeeping force. All this is a great sign from the normally inept Bush administration. Still, not much has happened yet. Although Bush has turned it around in the last few weeks, his administration has been criminally negligent in the past 3 years. Our nation can no longer deal with actual threats to world security because they are too involved in a war of choice.

Nicholas Kristof has a laundry list of suggestions for what we could do in Iraq. Considering his expertise on the issue, I'm inclined to listen. Kristof posits that President Bush could:

...enforce a no-fly zone to stop air attacks on civilians in Darfur, lobby Arab leaders to become involved, call President Hu Jintao and ask China to stop protecting Sudan, invite Darfur refugees to a photo op at the White House, attend a coming donor conference for Darfur, visit Darfur or the refugee camps next door in Chad, push France and other allies for a NATO bridging force to provide protection until United Nations troops arrive, offer to support the United Nations force with American military airlift and logistical support (though not ground troops, which would help Sudan's hard-liners by allowing them to claim that the United States was starting a new invasion of the Arab world), make a major speech about Darfur, and arrange for Colin Powell to be appointed a United Nations special envoy to seek peace among Darfur's tribal sheiks.

We can't ignore this issue any longer. It is simply immoral to continue to allow people to be massacred in droves. We aren't the world policemen, but we should work to be the world's moral compass. The time to act was 3 years ago, but we'll have to settle for now.

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