Saturday, October 01, 2005

Sins of inaction

By Joshua Powers
Roughly one year ago, I wrote an article for a competing on-campus newspaper entitled “United Naïveté.” In this article, I described the worsening conditions in Sudan, particularly within the Darfur region, where a massive ethnic cleansing campaign was being conducted by government-assisted Janjaweed militias on a scale comparable to the genocides in Rwanda no more than a decade earlier. One year ago, these Janjaweed militias were responsible for carrying out a racial scorched-earth policy in which all non-Muslim as well as all non-Arab villages were burned to the ground and their inhabitants massacred. One year ago, the number of deaths resulting from this policy was put somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000. The International Crisis Group had warned that if the United Nations or any other power did not take action in Sudan, death tolls could easily reach 350,000 within one year’s time.

That was one year ago. Today, according to numerous sources, including the Coalition for International Justice, a non-governmental organization operating under the U.S. Agency for International Development, it is estimated that the death toll has climbed to 400,000. Studies done on refugees on the Chad-Darfur border indicate that over 60 percent of Sudanese refugees have witnessed the death of a family member. These statistics are not merely numbers; each number is a person who once existed, a person who suffered while the world turned a blind eye.

Holocaust survivors have always reiterated the sentiment of “never again.” But it has happened again and again. It happened in Cambodia, it happened in Rwanda and it has happened in Sudan. One year ago I wrote that article, outlining the expected future if my country and the free world chose not to take action. Now, after 400,000 people have been massacred, millions of Sudanese forced to become refugees living in appalling conditions, the world may begin to mourn their own indifference.

Recently, the rebel groups in the South and the government forces in the North have established peace in Sudan through a sharing of oil revenues and government positions. However, this push toward peace was only accomplished after the genocide had occurred; what punishment awaits those who have violated human rights? It seems that a mere 51 suspects will be put on trial before the International Criminal Court. The punishment of 51 senior officers is not nearly enough to bring justice after the death of 400,000 innocent men, women and children. Justice would have only been served had the United Nations quelled the genocide before it began.

Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but in this case, so was foresight. The United Nations saw the number of body bags they would need if no action was taken, and they made a choice to let this slaughter occur.

I have always advocated the presence of UN peacekeepers in the Darfur region. While medical and food supplies are urgently needed for the camps, so is stabilization. In March of this year, the United Nations voted to send 10,000 peacekeepers to the Darfur region. If the United Nations had simply taken this action when the genocide was in its infancy, with the intention of staying until the conflict had diminished, 400,000 lives would have been saved. Created in the aftermath of the worst genocide in Europe’s history, the United Nations was established for the purpose of preventing such carnage. Now it is at the epicenter of a sentiment of insouciance, withholding the resolve this world desires to do what is just.

I have come to believe that man’s foremost sins are apathy and inaction, committed by those who have the capacity to act and the cowardice not to.

Joshua Powers is a junior at the College. His views do not necessarily represent those of The Flat Hat.

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