Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Stop the Killing Now

David Bosco is a senior editor at Foreign Policy magazine. He wrote an article in the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post on March 6 that deserves your attention.

The principle point Bosco makes is that the ongoing tragedy in Sudan, where an estimated 1.5 million people have been driven from their homes and 300,000 already murdered in Darfur, is not being adequately addressed by the world community partly because of an issue of semantics. While President Bush and Congress have clearly stated the view of the United States that this is genocide, the UN has decided that it is not genocide. This is important because of the special meaning of genocide in international law and the obligation placed on the international community to take action to stop genocide.

Bosco explains the definition of genocide, then suggests that it has such powerful meaning that the time spent trying to decide whether to use the term simply results in more death. He proposes the more practical term "crimes against humanity." It's been useful since early in the last century and was the ultimate charge against Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.

I wonder if the debate on semantics means one damn thing to the miserable, starved, tortured, and raped human beings in Darfur? If people have souls, and if souls hang around for a while as their earthly host decomposes, do you suppose they just sigh in resignation and mutter to themselves, "Ah well, at least it wasn't genocide."?

Bosco makes important points and valuable suggestions:

In international law, genocide is a crime of specific intent -- it requires that the guilty parties intended to destroy all or part of an ethnic, racial, national or religious community. Identifying that intent can be a difficult struggle. ...

Documenting genocidal intent and determining whether the victims are part of a protected group eats up time when time is of the essence; a few weeks of concentrated violence killed more than 800,000 people in Rwanda. Waiting for the lawyers to decide is perilous, as became apparent once again when the [UN] Sudan commission released its report. To many observers, it appeared that the U.N. experts were downgrading the Darfur crisis when it was really struggling -- in good lawyerly fashion -- to meet a high evidentiary burden. ...

The United States has been the leading player in diplomatic efforts in the Sudan, but has not pushed as aggressively as it could for sanctions. Europe -- and France, in particular -- has talked a good game but done little. Russia and China, both U.N. Security Council members, have made only the weakest gestures of concern. ...

The Darfur Accountability Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate last week, calls for increased aid to the A.U. [African Union] force, as well as a military no-fly zone and a tight arms embargo. It's a start. If the government in Khartoum gets in the way, the Security Council should impose tough and targeted sanctions. And if China and Russia get in the way of the Council, the United States and Europe should act without it. The United States and Britain (which has gone furthest in discussing a deployment) should send their own small tripwire force to accompany the African monitors.

Some of these measures may require a U.S. policy that borders on unilateralism. But this administration has not shown undue patience with or deference to the often dysfunctional and amoral U.N. Security Council -- and there's no reason to start now. ...

Realities, not labels, should define our response. The word genocide, rightly, has a unique moral impact. But the concept -- and the interminable debate about its boundaries -- must not become the issue. When the world chooses to immerse itself in terminology rather than take action, it does today's very real victims no good at all.

Amen, brother. It's time to kick some butt.


Blogger Gindy said...

The efinition of genocide is just a straw man agrument. An excuse for the United Nations to do nothing. Thus, once again showing the true value of the U.N.

11:15 AM, March 09, 2005  
Blogger Esther said...

It is mind blowing and vile that the UN can continue to be on the wrong side of every argument and yet we still let them have not only a voice but apparently the last word. It's disgusting. Never mind that our tax dollars, via the govt, are funding that travesty.

8:14 PM, March 09, 2005  
Blogger XBIP said...

We can't get rid of the UN. Where would all the terrorists and despots go for protection?

We should just pay to have the UN moved to France and cut all ties in the deal.

8:48 PM, March 09, 2005  
Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

Tom, I have to agree. The Darfur Accountability Act looks like it does some of what Dingo thought was needed.

Thanks very much for the heads up. I will contact Congress on this one.

6:30 PM, March 10, 2005  

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