Emergency! Genocide alert! An entire
civilian population is being massacred. Defenseless women are being
raped and slain. A generation of innocent babies, many now orphans,
are being murdered. Men are being castrated. Villages have been set
ablaze and bombed. More than one million have fled for their lives
in hope of safety, only to encounter famine, disease, malnutrition
and more death. This is what is taking place in the Darfur region
of Sudan right now. Perpetuated by a militia group known as the
Janjaweed, a group of nomadic Arab herdsmen sponsored by the Arab
government of Sudan, the violence is aimed toward suppressing the
rebellious sentiments of a population of African farmers. In the
month of September alone, 10,000 more of these African civilians
will lose their lives. Yet, nations across the globe are delaying
their efforts to condemn these occurrences and bring peace and
stability to the region.

Jasmine Clair

Due to the oil industry in Sudan, it remains doubtful that the
United Nations will impose any type of economic sanction on the
Sudanese government. Countries such as China, Pakistan and Russia,
which exploit Sudan’s 320,000-barrel-a-day oil industry, are
voicing strong objections to any U.N. action that could potentially
jeopardize Sudan’s ability to export oil. Hence, after
finally becoming a known international crisis, countries will
knowingly pay for their oil at the expense of thousands of Sudanese
lives. Fortunately, the Clinton administration severed oil ties
with Sudan in 1997 after finding that they were housing such
terrorists as the infamous Osama bin Laden. If not, America may
have also been one of these countries sacrificing humanity for
oil.

Perhaps we need to bring the Bush administration to the
University for a history lesson on what happens when the United
States and the United Nations take passive action against
genocides. It seems as though they have forgotten about the recent
events in Rwanda and the Balkans, both examples of genocide, in
which the U.S. administration delayed its response, costing
hundreds of thousands of lives. Specifically in Rwanda, the United
Nations lacked sufficient power to protect civilians. In the
Balkans, the world stumbled over ignorance as it tried to figure
out why ethnic cleansing was taking place. Meanwhile, thousands
more died.

President Clinton expressed deep regret for his failure to
respond promptly on both occasions. Under the Bush administration,
this lane of memories is being revisited. However, the bloodshed of
the ’90s was not enough to remind Bush about the consequences
of delayed action. After visiting Sudan and witnessing first hand
the great number of rapes and killings that were taking place,
Secretary of State Colin Powell took well over a month after his
visit to declare that genocide has now persisted for over 18
months. Despite knowing that the death toll is rising very quickly,
U.S. action will remain limited to American dollars and attempts at
diplomacy.

Money is nice. It feeds the starving and shelters the homeless.
But what good is money to the mother trying to awaken her dead
baby, or to the man staring at his severed genitalia on the ground
before him? The violence must be stopped. Monetary aid is needed,
but will not end this civil war. Powell also advocated allowing the
African Union to “monitor” the region. Translated: More
spectators will be invited. When did genocide become a spectator
sport? How many more people have to die before this crisis is
adequately addressed?

Admitting that diplomacy often fails, Senator Richard Lugar
(R-Ind.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, stated that
the United States could not get involved militarily because it
gives the Arab community reason to believe that the United States
is deliberately waging war against it. Apparently, the senator
ignored the memos telling him that the United States is currently
occupying a country with a 75 percent Arab population (Iraq) in a
war termed “the war on terror.” Perhaps what the
senator should have said was that America will only make
humanitarian efforts to fight hostile Arab states when our oil is
at stake.

The Sudan crisis continues to be the most obvious and pressing
display of human rights violations in occurrence today. Taking
action should not be a question of economics, ethnicity or
partisanship. This is not an issue of one’s support for Bush
or allegiance to this nation. This is a matter of humanity crying
out to the world and as a country that proclaims its liberties,
morals and values all across the globe, America has a moral
imperative to respond. If we can derail dictators simply because we
don’t want to be their friends anymore, the United States can
do more than send aid and diluted U.N. resolutions to end genocide.
America is strong, but what use is strength if it can’t
protect the weak? And as the lone superpower, what good is power if
it can’t be used to defend the powerless?

 

Clair can be reached at
“mailto:jclair@umich.edu”>jclair@umich.edu.

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