While worldwide attention is being paid to rebuilding Kosovo, a civil war, beginning in 1983, has killed 2 million people in the Sudan. Most of the dead are black Christians and animists in the south of the country. They are victims of Sudan’s Arab Muslim government in the north.
As Aaron Brown reported on ABC-TV’s Nightline (July 5): “Just about every horror you can imagine thrives” in the south. “Starvation killed a quarter of a million people last year. There is disease—cholera, malaria, leprosy.” And, as I’ve often noted here, there is slavery—black women and children taken by Arab militias armed by the government.
Nightline focused on Susan Nagley, an American family physician who has been working to relieve the suffering there with extremely limited resources because the world, including this country, does not regard that form of ethnic cleansing to be worth its concern.
Yet, while 1.3 million people in Kosovo were displaced by the war, 4 million in
the Sudan are now homeless. Also, as Nightline revealed, while the infant mortality rate in Kosovo is 17 deaths per 1000, it is 72 per 1000 in the Sudan.
Why don’t we care? Dr. Susan Nagley keeps asking herself the same question: “People here see that the United States and the rest of the world are very concerned about the people in Kosovo. The Sudanese wonder, ‘Why isn’t anybody concerned about us here, too?”‘
Because they are black.
But as for Kosovo itself, there is another unanswered question. Was there another way to stop the killing except by our bombing, which increased the number of corpses on both sides?
In the spirit of Martin Luther King and other direct-action pacifists, James W. Doug lass has proposed another way in the June
18 Commonweal. It was developed by Nashville peace activists Karl Meyer, Pam Beziar, and Angela Schindler.
“As the conflict began to develop, the United Nations Security Council would define the principles for UN intervention and a just settlement.”
But words on paper would be the merest beginning. The secretary general would form a “nonviolent army” led by such “influential world figures” as:
“religious leaders, including bishops delegated by the pope, Orthodox patriarchs, Islamic and Jewish leaders;
“Nobel Peace winners, such as former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, the Dalai Lama, Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa;
“retired world leaders such as Jimmy Carter and Mikhail Gorbachev;
“diplomats from Russia and all other European neighbors of Yugoslavia;
“experienced activists trained in nonviolent tactics, such as veterans of the American civil rights movement and the Christian peacemaker teams that have worked in the West Bank and Haiti.”
I would also suggest Cardinal John
O’Connor of New York, who publicly opposed the NATO bombing; David McReynolds and his longtime colleagues in the War Resisters League; Joseph Zogby, founder of the Palestine Peace Project; Ginetta Sagan of Amnesty International, if her health permits; and a member of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights.
This nonviolent army would have divided into two units. “One,” as James Doug lass writes, “would have gone into Serbia to engage in dialogue with all sectors of civil society; the other would have gone to Kosovo to interpose itself between Serbian forces and the KLA and to begin dialogue and mediation between them.”
Pie in the sky? Well, as James Douglass says, this vision of peace created by people on the ground in the midst of the conflict is rooted in the conviction that “nonviolent resistance based on truth and supported by the world’s community can dislodge any unjust government’s popular support.”
And it should be remembered that “Milosevic’s hold on power was, in fact, shaky before the Dayton Agreement and the NATO bombing. The Serbian and Kosovar nonviolent movements were threatening his power.”
Remember the marches, strikes, and noncooperation of Albanian Kosovars during much of the 1990s? And the huge demonstrations in Yugoslavia—before the NATO bombings—by Serbian opponents of Milosevic’s regime? Our bombing paralyzed that resistance, turning many of its members into haters of NATO and us.
What if this nonviolent army had actually come into being? Would even Milosevic have fired on Mandela, O’Connor, Tutu, bishops, rabbis, Islamic religious leaders, Serbian Orthodox priests?
And if he had fired on them—with no NATO bombing or any other military actions against him—would he not have had to overcome immediate internal opposition to him that was rising before the bombing? And then, would his “cleansing” have had to stop so that that he could save himself? And would he actually have been able to save himself against a critical mass of his own people?
In 1962, anthropologist Loren Eiseley wrote in The New York Times: “In those great tribes which constitute modern nations…the aggressive and powerful threaten and contend, brandishing unheard of weapons against the breadth of seas. Still, the quiet go in fear of the violent, and women and children are afraid in the night.
“Our ways change but slowly, if at all.”
Martin Luther King knew that if our ways did not change, there would inevitably be more atrocities from the great tribes. Is it predestined that this dream of a nonviolent army will remain only a dream?
See you in a month.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 20, 1999