Bush Averts His Eyes

With rape as an official weapon in Darfur, Sudan officials are now welcome here

Refugees fleeing . . . from a village called Saleya described how nine boys were seized by the janjaweed, stripped naked and tied up, their noses and ears cut off and their eyes gouged out. They were then shot dead and left near a public well. Nicholas Kristof, reporting from Sudan about the genocide in Darfur ("Uncover Your Eyes," The New York Times, June 7)


I took Nicholas D. Kristof's advice and wrote to both of my United States senators [Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton]. When I went to their Web sites, I was asked to pick from a drop-down list of about 50 topics. . . . Nowhere was there anything that would be a good category to address the genocide in Darfur. Eliav Bock of New York City in a letter to The New York Times, February 24

Women and children refugees from Darfur in neighboring Chad. Nearly all the elderly among them have died, as well as 23 children. Why, they ask, has no one come to help them?
photo: Konrad Fielder/The New York Sun
Women and children refugees from Darfur in neighboring Chad. Nearly all the elderly among them have died, as well as 23 children. Why, they ask, has no one come to help them?


When I was 12, in the Jewish ghetto of Boston—at the time, a chronically anti-Semitic city—I heard on the radio, to which I was addicted, about Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, when in Germany and Austria the windows of thousands of Jewish stores and homes were shattered; 100 Jews were murdered; 30,000 were arrested and were to end up in concentration camps. The Holocaust had begun.

I figured then that if I were a boy in Germany, I'd never be an adult. Years later, after that holocaust was over, Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Nazis' genocide, wrote in his memoir Night: "How could it be possible for them to burn people, children, and for the world to keep silent?" I had the same question, with no answer.

The question has often reverberated for me, particularly in 1994 when the world was silent as 800,000 were massacred in Rwanda because Kofi Annan, then head of the peacekeeping operations at the U.N., absolutely refused, though he had advance warning, to send more troops. And Clinton administration officials ordered the State Department, while that swift genocide was going on, not to use the word genocide, because then the United States would have to do something to stop it.

Unlike Rwanda, where the killing ended in 100 days, the world has known about Darfur for two years. More than 400,000 black Muslim Africans have been slaughtered or have died of disease. And as Eric Reeves, the premier historian of this genocide, wrote on June 1 (sudanreeves.org), "The case for international humanitarian intervention remains as clear as ever. Without such intervention, hundreds of thousands of Darfuris will die in the coming months and years, compounding the staggering catastrophe and moral failure to date." (Emphasis added.)

Khartoum insists it will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court's investigation of the war crimes in Darfur, and although there are purported "peace" negotiations under way between Sudan's government and Darfurian rebel groups, Khartoum has violated every agreement it has signed—while the killings go on.

Bush has lost interest in the relentless destruction of these black Africans because, as the June 7 Financial Timesreported, "US officials say Sudan is [now] a valuable partner [with the United States] in the 'global war on terror.' "

Accordingly, on June 4, Sudan's maximum murderer, President Omar Bashir, said on state-owned television (there's an independent channel?) that there has been "a positive change" in the American position on Darfur.

On the Sudan Tribune website, the same dispatch adds that when U.S. deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick met in Khartoum on June 3 with Sudan foreign minister Moustafa Osman Ismail, they "agreed for a Sudanese delegation to visit Washington soon to discuss bilateral relations in more detail in order to restore relations between the two countries." (Emphasis added.)

Franklin D. Roosevelt was far too slow to recognize and condemn Hitler's Holocaust—thereby having been complicit in the slaughter of many Jews and other "impure" victims—but at least FDR didn't warmly act "to restore relations" with Hitler.

Even now, with the comradely warm relationship between the CIA, Bush, and Khartoum, will Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, for so long indifferent to the genocide in Darfur, object? Will Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Howard Dean, and others in what passes for the Democratic leadership get themselves arrested at Washington's Sudanese embassy?

Nicholas Kristof, after showing grisly photographs of the genocide in the February 23 New York Times, wrote: "What will really stop this genocide is indignation." And he quoted the late Illinois senator Paul Simon after corpses had filled the rivers in Rwanda:

"If every member of the House and Senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda, when the crisis was first developing, then I think the response would have been different."

Now, as polarized as this nation is, if the evangelicals and other Christian activists in the Bush base were to join with George Soros and the other billionaires financing moveon.org and other such liberal engines of mass information, even the media—to which Darfur is not at all a priority—would also insistently spread the word of these horrors.

Eric Reeves, Nicholas Kristof, and others would be an invaluable source of specific information for them on these crimes against humanity, including what Kristof wrote in detail from Sudan on June 5 about Khartoum's "systematic campaign of rape to terrorize civilians and drive them from 'Arab lands'—a policy of rape" that includes banning rape kits.(Emphasis added.)

During the Nazi Holocaust, there were attempts to awaken this nation to those horrors, but though admirable, they were too little and too late. To hell with again lamenting "never again" when millions will have been destroyed in Darfur. George W. Bush should not be allowed to keep his eyes averted. The International Crisis Group's new Zogby poll reveals, says Kristof, that "Americans [by] six to one favor bolder action in Darfur." What are we waiting for?

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