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Ignoring genocide

Matt Zalaznick

An uncle of mine who served in Pacific during World War II said he and his fellow sailors didn’t know the Nazis were wiping out the Jews of Europe. Nobody – at least no one who doesn’t live in a mass grave – can say the same thing today about genocide in Rwanda and Sudan. The murder is all over the TV. One of the reasons Jews say they remember the Holocaust so aggressively is to prevent such atrocities from happening again. Rwanda and Sudan are a stain on this legacy of the survivors of Auschwitz and the Warsaw ghetto. What was Bill Clinton’s excuse for ignoring the 800,000 Tutsis slaughtered in Rwanda in 1994? What’s George Bush’s excuse now for merely threatening sanctions against the Sudanese government, while African blacks in Darfur are burned, raped and chased from their obliterated villages?Clinton was supposedly gun shy after the “Black Hawk Down” fiasco in Somalia, when we saw black gunmen dragging dead American soldiers through dilapidated streets. And all of Bush’s Army men are in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they don’t have even enough armor or allies to fight those wars. America hasn’t been alone in tip-toeing around crimes against humanity. The French, for all their frothing about W.’s evil incursion into Iraq, backed the bad guys in Rwanda and were even implicated in some of the evil-doing. The upright Germans, beside themselves over the fall of Baghdad, haven’t been spotted fighting the good fight in western Sudan. And for all its preaching about tolerance and understanding, the United Nations, that bungler of human rights, failed with during both conflicts. Couldn’t a moderate NATO force have saved hundreds of thousands of Tutsis? Surely a battalion of U.S. Marines, with the help of some French and German troops, can stop the hideous Janjaweed in their murderous tracks. But the world prefers to dump sacks of grain off the backs of trucks and – what’s an even worse solution – set up miserable refugee camps. The Rwandan refugee camps in the Congo, where lots of the biggest Hutu criminals wound up after a moderate government came to power at home, tricked the world into thinking the bad guys were the good guys. The world felt sorry for the displaced Hutu gangsters who also used the camp to continue ethnic cleansing in the border lands. On the surface, there’s not much political will in Western capitals to interfere, to risk losing a few troops in some impoverrished backwater. What happens in Darfur matters only morally, if at all, in Paris, London and Berlin. And morals, despite W.’s jabbering about the “culture of life” and compassion and worldwide yearning for democracy, don’t sustain empires or keep mega-economies chugging. Death in Darfur doesn’t threaten homeland security or oil supplies. There’s not even an interest group, such as those Israelis and Palestinians have, to speak up for all those doomed Africans. But is this all the fault of politicians? Perhaps they don’t have the political will because the people who vote for them (Westerners, Americans, us) aren’t urging them to take action. We flag-waving freedom-lovers aren’t marching in the streets on behalf of the countless black Africans perishing in Darfur. We’ve been more worried about keeping alive a single Floridian woman who hadn’t had a conscious thought in a decade. Those worries electrified our politicians, who thought a righteous stance on behalf of “life” would be a boost next time their names are on a ballot. We were frightened after Sept. 11 and we bought a bogus war because dropping bombs made us feel tough rather than good. Wouldn’t it feel good to stop the slaughter in Darfur? What would Jesus do? So if Bill Frist, Tom DeLay and W. are so crazy about an endangered culture of life in the USA why are they ignoring a thriving culture of death in Africa? Because the rest of us are. City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at mzalaznick@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado


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