Thursday, March 02, 2006


Pitiful. Someone handed us a blueprint two months ago, explicit directions… and we ignored it.

I used to opine that the reason the blogosphere hasn’t been in a constant uproar about Darfur was our collective sense of utter helplessness. After all, if we can’t DO anything about it, there’s really not much more to be said than, “It’s an outrage! It’s HORRIBLE! Someone should DO Something!”

Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times, however, gave the lie to that. He put it down in black and white and we didn’t notice.

In 1915, Woodrow Wilson turned a blind eye to the Armenian genocide. In the 1940's, Franklin Roosevelt refused to bomb the rail lines leading to Auschwitz. In 1994, Bill Clinton turned away from the slaughter in Rwanda. And in 2005, President Bush is acquiescing in the first genocide of the 21st century, in Darfur.

Mr. Bush is paralyzed for the same reasons as his predecessors. There is no great public outcry, there are no neat solutions, we already have our hands full, and it all seems rather distant and hopeless.

But Darfur is not hopeless...


In early 2004, I heard both from Doctors Without Borders and the International Rescue Committee about a terrible situation brewing along the Sudan-Chad border. As it happened, there was another story I wanted to do in Chad, so I decided to look into this matter as well.  I should say that I tend to be suspicious of long-distance reports; they tend to be much more complicated than one expects.  In this case, it was just the opposite: when I arrived at the border, everyone I spoke with told me about how their villages were being destroyed by the Janjaweed and the Sudanese army, how men and boys were being killed and how women and girls were being raped.

What I found most powerful on that trip was a story that I heard from several people in hiding about their struggle to find drinkable water.  When men would go to the wells, the Janjaweed would shoot them; when women would go to the wells, the Janjaweed would rape them.  So they decided to send their young children, ages 6 or 7, to fetch water, hoping that the Janjaweed would ignore them.  It made me wonder what I would do as a parent of three young children—would I send my kids to these wells knowing they would be met by gunmen… but if I didn’t send them, how would we get water?  To this day, I do not have a clear answer. 


Under the first tree, I found a man who had been shot in the neck and the jaw; his brother, shot only in the foot, had carried him for forty-nine days to get to this oasis. Under the next tree was a widow whose parents had been killed and stuffed in the village well to poison the local water supply; then the Janjaweed had tracked down the rest of her family and killed her husband. Under the third tree was a four-year-old orphan girl carrying her one-year-old baby sister on her back; their parents had been killed. Under the fourth tree was a woman whose husband and children had been killed in front of her, and then she was gang-raped and left naked and mutilated in the desert.

The distilled facts are these: prior to the Indonesian tsunami, many eyes were focused on Darfur – and the killing and dying diminished. Noticeably. Then came the tsunami, and as our collective heads turned toward that catastrophe, the killing and dying in Darfur resumed its former frequency.

Is it that you can’t bear the thought of it, and so turn away, finding the unimaginable come to life too unbearably painful to witness? It’s true – it is the unimaginable sprung forth, AGAIN. Don’t fucking kid yourselves – this is a genocide no different than Rwanda’s. It’s just younger so the numbers haven’t reached that arbitrary level that makes the world take notice. Gotta get to half a million I guess, before it warrants more than 2 minutes a week on a network news program.

The time has come for me to step up and acknowledge MY culpability in this tragedy. I have wept and ranted, wrung my hands and howled at the moon… But I have DONE NOTHING. I can’t remember the last time I wrote about Darfur. I gave up, you see. Didn’t hit on the magic formula that would get enough people talking and raging and yelling loudly enough for long enough. No instant gratification, here, girlie, move along.

THIS SITUATION IS NOT HOPELESS. But we must DO something to fix it.

In case it’s just too painful to read Kristof’s entire article, let me summarise his MOST excellent observations about what needs to happen – and how WE can help MAKE it happen:

First: Financial support for the African Union peacekeeping

Second: Expanded U.N. security force in Sudan

Third: Create no fly zone. Sudan is bombing its own people. Make it a no fly zone and tell them if they violate it we’ll bomb the everloving SHIT out of their airplanes. Their AIR FORCE.

Fourth: The House should pass the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, which would impose sanctions and pressure on Sudan to stop the violence.

Fifth, Mr. Bush should use the bully pulpit. He should talk about Darfur in his speeches and invite survivors to the Oval Office. He should wear a green ''Save Darfur'' bracelet -- or how about getting a Darfur lawn sign for the White House? (Both are available, along with ideas for action, from He can call Hosni Mubarak and other Arab and African leaders and ask them to visit Darfur. He can call on China to stop underwriting this genocide.

Sixth, President Bush and Kofi Annan should jointly appoint a special envoy to negotiate with tribal sheiks. Colin Powell or James Baker III would be ideal in working with the sheiks and other parties to hammer out a peace deal. The envoy would choose a Sudanese chief of staff like Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a leading Sudanese human rights activist who has been pushing just such a plan with the help of Human Rights First.

Ordinary readers can push for all these moves. Before he died, Senator Paul Simon said that if only 100 people in each Congressional district had demanded a stop to the Rwandan genocide, that effort would have generated a determination to stop it. But Americans didn't write such letters to their members of Congress then, and they're not writing them now.

Finding the right policy tools to confront genocide is an excruciating challenge, but it's not the biggest problem. The hardest thing to find is the political will.

THIS SITUATION IS NOT HOPELESS. But we must DO something to fix it.

MAKE SOME NOISE. Call your Representatives in Congress and tell them you WANT THIS TO STOP. Tell them to get off their asses and pass the Darfur Peace & Accountability Act. Call the White House and tell the President you want the African Union and the U.N. empowered to STOP THIS OBSCENITY. Call the major media and tell them you want them to COVER this.

You don’t think you can do anything? ANYTHING? You’re right. YOU can’t do anything. But WE can. WE CAN, goddamnit. One phone call doesn’t mean a thing. But one phone call added to a hundred thousand OTHER phone calls sure the fuck adds UP.

We have seen it time and time again: when the American public actually DOES start screaming about something, ACTION IS TAKEN. You may rage and rail against the media for not covering Darfur, and you are right, they are derelict in their duty. But WE are derelict in OUR duty, as well.

MAKE SOME MOTHERFUCKING NOISE ABOUT DARFUR and you WILL be heard, and it WILL be addressed.

Keep silent… and none of your future “How could we let it happen” elegies will mean a good goddamn.