Can we stop or prevent genocide?

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

crossposted from dailykos at the suggestion of Jay Elias

The second paragraph of Nick Kristof’s piece, after recognizing Condoleeza Rice’s correct observation that we cannot simply invade a 3rd Muslim country, reads as follows:

But this week marks the 14th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide – the last time we said “never again.” And while Ms. Rice is right that we can’t send in American ground troops, there are concrete steps that President Bush can take if he wants to end his shameful passivity

I am no expert in this part of the world, nor in military and diplomatic affairs.  I am also a Quaker, and prefer the use of diplomacy to that of force.  But I also refuse to stand silently by in the face of slaughter.  And I think Kristof’s Memo to Bush on Darfur should be mandatory reading, and the starting point of serious discussions.   Let me explain why.

I would go back further than Rwanda, whose anniversary should shame the entire world.  And in a time when we are seeing the possibility of ethnic obliteration of Tibet, genocide of a culture if you will, the unwillingness of the world to intervene raise the real possibility of yet another group abusive treatment of whom can have catastrophic consequences.

In the context of the current presidential campaign, we need to remember the failure of the world to act when cultural genocide and mass slaughter was taking place in Europe, in Bosnia.  Srbenica by itself should be a stain on the moral conscience of the civilized world, one only exacerbated by Rwanda.  

Kristof has been a consistent albeit almost solitary voice attempting to rouse the world on what has been happening in Darfur.   And given his dedication to this cause, his travels to the region, his extensive conversations with experts, I am inclined to give great weight to his suggestions.

There are 8.  Each of the sentences after the numbers will be quotes from Kristof, even though I will not place in blockquotes, only in bold.  The rest of the words will be mine.

1. Work with France to end the proxy war between Sudan and Chad and to keep Sudan from invading Chad and toppling its government.  We cannot afford to see the disruption in the Darfur region spread, nor can we afford to see the Sudanese government extending its brutal reach outside of its own borders, lest we see other brutal regimes – and not just in Africa – see this as an example for them to follow.  And we should remember that Chad has itself been through turmoil and disruption with tragic consequences.  Now that Chad is semi-stable, we would not want the gains and stability that ahve been achieved to be destroyed as quickly as they would by Sudanese incursions across their border, perhaps even before a bull-blown invasion.  The tragic humanitarian consequences, starting with the thousands of refugees who would die, are something the world should contemplate only as movivation to act now to prevent such from happening.

2. Broaden the focus from “save Darfur” to “save Sudan.”  Darfur is part of a larger conflict between the northern and southern parts of Sudan, and while one can argue whether the national boundaries make any more sense than many of the other artificial boundaries left in Africa and the Middle East by the former colonial powers, for now maintaining a civilly united  nation may be the only means of preventing an ongoing conflict that would not only kill thens of thousands but also prevent humanitarian aid from alleviating the extant suffering.

3. Right before or after this summer’s G-8 summit, President Bush should convene an international conference on Sudan, inviting among others Mr. Sarkozy, Gordon Brown of Britain, Hu Jintao of China, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Sudanese leaders themselves. The conference should be convened in Kigali, Rwanda, so that participants can reflect on the historical resonance of genocide.  I can see how touchy this might be, but I also see the wisdom of including China.  They hae more leverage on Sudan than any major power. And perhaps if they see the world’s willingness to act in cases of genocide, it might be possible to persuade them to be somewhat less chauvinistic in their treatment of their own ethnic groups on the fringes of their nation – Tibetans are not the only group who have been repressed and suppressed by the Han Chinese.  

But I would caution that any Western leader entering into such discussions had better be prepared to acknowledge the historical misdeeds of his own nation – in our case of the Native American nations – lset we be accused of hypocrisy.  We should be prepared to say we understand the damage such things can do to the soul of a nation.  And I would remind the President that as he sought the office he now holds he promised a foreign policy that had some humility to it.  That might include some acknowledgment that our judgment as a nation has not always been perfect.

4. The conference should aim to restart a Darfur peace process, because the only way the slaughter will truly end is with a peace agreement.  Kristof suggest a figure of stature such as Kofi Annan to lead such a process.  While I am not committed to any one person, whoever assumes such a responsibility will need to devote full time to the endeavor.  here I think of the kinds of shuttle diplomacy that Ralph Bunche did to help end a conflict in the former Palestine in the 1940’s.  After he replaced his assassinated superior, Count Bernadotte of Sweden, Bunche’s efforts succeeded in obtaining an armistice between Israel and its neighbors, a achievement so monumental he was awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize.

5. The U.N. and U.S. should take South Sudan up on its offers in 2004 and 2005 to provide up to 10,000 peacekeepers for Darfur. South Sudanese peacekeepers wouldn’t need visas or interpreters.  Of course, even though such peacekeepers could walk into Darfur, this could represent a tilt in the N-S conflict withing Sudan, but it is also necessary to provide some level of ethnic and linguistic comfort for those who have been under such attack.

6. The U.S. should impose a no-fly zone over Darfur from the air base in Abeche, Chad (or even from our existing base in Djibouti).  Kristof is not expecting aircraft constantly in the air.  Rather, if the no-fly zone is violated, we should take out a Sudanese bomber on the ground.  He acknowledges that this potentially could pose some risk to the current humanitarian efforts, with the Sudanese cutting off access.  He thinks a follow-up warning that any attempt to restrict access for humanitarian relief efforts would result in the destruction of further aircraft, and this might be a sufficient warning to the Khartoum government.

7. We should warn Sudan that if it provokes a war with the South, attacks camps for displaced people or invades a neighboring country, we will destroy its air force.  There are those who believe that the Sudanese are responsive to CREDIBLE threats.

8. The central reason for our failure in Sudan is that we haven’t proffered meaningful sticks or carrots.   The no-fly zone is the stick.  And the carrot, offered when Sudan is totally responsive to what the world must demand, is to normalize relations, to lift sanctions and to remove Sudan from the list of nations sponsoring terrorism.

I would hope that people with access to all three presidential campaigns would ensure that they are made aware of Kristof’s “Memo.” Too often we talk about the horrors in the world, but that is all we do – talk – and maybe again wring our hands and bewail the cruelty we observe.

Many of our young people do not understand how we can not intervene and then claim to be moral as a nation and a society.  And when that issue comes up, as it sometimes does, with my students, I cannot adequately answer them, not when yet again we stand by and do nothing meaningful.

My last name is Bernstein.  I had cousins in Bialystok when the ghetto in that city was liquidated.  The world knew what was happening, but did not intervene in a meaningful way in the buildup to the Holocaust.  Despite clear voices on the left – Joan Baez – and the right – Bill Buckley – we sat by as the Khmer Rouge murdered millions of its own people, a slaughter stopped only when the Vietnamese intervened with force.

There are many things about which we need to be concerned.  if we claim that part of the reason we have to remain in Iraq is stop the possibility of genocide, how can this administration remain passive in the face of actual genocidal action?

Let me end with Kristof’s final words:

If President Bush takes all these steps, will they succeed in ending the genocide? We don’t know, but pretending that there is nothing more that we can do is as dishonest as it is disgraceful.



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  1. I will not be able to monitor this closely, but will check back when I can


  2. but my question is this… why should we think Bush would care to stop genocide?

    what in the last seven plus god forsaken years makes us think any politician has the balls to stand up and really do something…

    because genocide is more than just military action against one specific group. the whole policy being pursued by BushCo types of resource rape in third world countries… has the same impact. the damage to ecosystems and environment. has the same impact.

    these people are not going to spend their time or money helping powerless people. when their policies do nothing but exploit them and leave them broken.

  3. that through that WE can stop it… by finding those among us to send to congress and parliaments in the industrialized world whose primary interest is in fair governance and restoring some kind of balance to this world…

    • Robyn on April 10, 2008 at 15:20

    …requires words, a concerted worldwide education effort the likes of which the world has never seen.

    Unfortunately, we get armies instead, which encourages genocide.

  4. Rwanda ain’t got nuttin we need (oil).

  5. more sane this should be the place for global action. this could be a real coalition. I do not trust the corporate, immoral government of this country to stop genocide. If the US   was able to work with others to stop rogue wars and work for human rights then we could with the help of other nations. As it stands were the last ones who could or would stop a genocide.

    The only way we would is if there was a profit or we coveted their resources. Why is the UN so disregarded and scorned by our government? Hillary said that one of the reasons she signed the AUFM was that she didn’t want the UN to make decisions about OUR security or ‘interests’. Perhaps if we get out of the evil empire stance we could actually help stop this. Until our only motivation ceases to be ‘geopolitical’ for world domination of the world I can’t sadly see how this will change    

  6. As for myself, I do not see why the Bush administration would stop the genocide in Darfur when I think it is becoming apparent that the Bush administration is advocating genocide in Iraq to pacify the country. I think genocide is an unofficial official policy of the Bush administration, just like torture.

  7. but a very busy day, and I am heading out of town tomorrow for a conference, so still lots to do.

    Too often our government tries to avoid having atrocities labeled as genocide because then, given our status as a signer of the convention on genocide, we would be obligated to act.  

    This is not just a Republican problem.  Remember, both Srebenica and Rwanda happened on the watch of William Jefferson Clinton.  

  8. The UN should be ready there NOW. I can think of no better cause to muster force than its potential to stop violence before it even begins.

  9. why would we get involved in a country that offers us nothing? Iraq is long-term…..a chance to reconstruct a nation in totally our own idea of our image of what democracy should be….if Bush/Cheney were defining it. With an added plus of introducing America’s version of Christianity….don’t forget all those Bibles they printed up for them.  

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