Saturday, May 07, 2005

You Say Genocide, We Say (And Do) . . . Nothing

It seems that since Condoleeza Rice stepped in as Secretary of State, the U.S. has gotten a little squeamish about using the term "genocide" when referring to what's going on in Darfur, Sudan in Africa. That's understandable when even our President parses the meaning of the word "is," but in a century where we named the unspeakable and promised "never again," our words are erasing the reality of what's happening in Africa.

The atrocities of the Nazis left the world speechless and Winston Churchill called it "a crime that has no name." But by 1944, it did. The term 'genocide' was coined from the Greek ("genos" meaning race or tribe) and a Latin suffix ("cide" meaning 'to kill') specifically to define the Jewish Holocaust. The distinction is in the motivation. Genocide is considered different than general warfare because it is aimed at the destruction of an entire nation or ethnic group (good luck convincing the Brits that the Germans wanted something else during the Blitz). That distinction was clarified at Nuremburg when German leaders were found guilty of crimes against humanity.

But even before WWII, genocide existed. The Turks almost got away with it during The Great War when they tried it on the Armenians. It was one of the best kept international secrets for years (and an inspiration for Hitler). But in the minds of today's American and UN diplomats, if you don't call call a thing what it is, it doesn't really exist. If it doesn't exist, you don't have to commit troops or support and it might all just go away. It worked in 1994 in Rwanda. U.S. State Department officials hemmed and hawed and hesitated to use the "G" word and after 100 days, the Hutus made sure that more than 800,000 Rwandans went away.

We're almost halfway there in Darfur: over the past two years, 300,000 Sudanese have been killed through slaughter and starvation by their own government. Women are being raped, families are being displaced, and entire villages of farmers are being razed. Now that we seem to have an active policy of using military force against governments who terrorize their own citizens, why don't we lead some forces into Sudan?

Meanwhile, the international community is doing its usual shuffle-step, passing the problem from one to another. The UN wants the International Criminal Court to handle it, but the U.S. doesn't recognize the ICC, so that won't work. Egypt begrudgingly wants to hold a summit and the European Union and the U.S. say they will offer support in the form of "logistics and planning." God Bless Canada…they actually plan to send troops in at the end of the summer. For their protection, I hope they have the authorization to open fire if necessary. NATO troops in Rwanda were useless eunichs because they were never given the authorization to fight the Interhamwe guerrillas.

The most productive effort I have seen is happening in Newton, Massachusetts where a high school student is selling rubber bracelets to raise money for relief of the 1.6 million Sudanese refugees who have been forced from their homes and into camps. God love him. Condee…take a lesson from the kid in Newton, close the dictionary, stop flapping your gums, and take action before we have one more international humiliation to regret very soon.

See New Jersey Senator John Corzine's take on Darfur at The Huffington Post.


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