By JONATHAN GURWITZ
Salt Lake Tribune
Last December's tsunami may have killed as many as 300,000 people. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita took more than 1,000 lives. One thousand more died in Central America as a result of Hurricane Stan. And perhaps 80,000 perished in the earthquake that recently leveled portions of Pakistan and India.
Combined, these tragedies have exacted a human toll in excess of 380,000 lives. And each incident precipitated the mobilization of significant humanitarian relief efforts in the international community.
The death toll in Darfur, after nearly two years of violence, is approaching 400,000. Two million black Africans now live in squalid refugee camps, driven from their homes by the Sudanese military and its Arab Janjaweed proxies. At the Web site of the U.S. Agency for International Development, you can view satellite photos showing a swath of scorched earth where their villages once stood.
Yet the international response to this man-made humanitarian tragedy - which in human terms exceeds all the natural disasters of the past year combined - has been inconsequential.
Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College and an expert on the situation in Sudan, calls what's happening in Darfur 'a genocide by attrition.''
At best, the international community, the United Nations and the United States are silently acquiescing in this genocide. At worst, they're helping sustain it by allowing the actions and statements of the Sudanese government to go unchallenged.
In a recent op-ed in the Washington Times, Khidir Haroun Ahmed, the Sudanese ambassador to the United States, claimed 'the situation has stabilized'' in Darfur. Sudan, he wrote, is emerging from decades of religious and ethnic conflict as a peaceful, unified nation. Ahmed, however, is a liar, a diplomatic delivery boy for the butchers in Khartoum.
Sadly, Ahmed's message is not appreciably different from ones I heard six months ago in briefings from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Charles Snyder, the U.S. senior representative for Sudan.
In one sense, things have stabilized. 'They've run out of villages to burn,'' Brian Steidle, a Marine Corps veteran, told me. Earlier this year, Steidle completed six months as a cease-fire monitor with the African Union force in Sudan.
In every other sense, the violence and depredations in Darfur are getting worse.
Juan Mendez, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special adviser on the prevention of genocide, tried to provide details about the deteriorating situation to the Security Council earlier this month. 'Until last week,'' the Washington Post quotes him as saying, 'there have never been concerted, massive attacks of an indiscriminate nature against civilians'' in the refugee camps.
The United Nations, in fact, ordered all its non-essential personnel out of West Darfur due to the intensified attacks.
Russia, China and Algeria, however, blocked Mendez from addressing the Security Council. Russia and China, permanent members of the council, have important commercial interests in Sudan. Algeria, a temporary member, routinely defends the Khartoum regime out of Arab solidarity.
Inexplicably and shamefully, the United States joined with Khartoum's genocidal consorts to silence Mendez's testimony.
Earlier this year, Steidle wrote an account of his experience as a cease-fire monitor for the Washington Post:
'Every day we observed evidence of killings: men castrated and left to bleed to death, huts set on fire with people locked inside, children with their faces smashed in. We spoke with thousands of witnesses - women who had been gang-raped and families that had lost fathers, people who plainly and soberly gave us their accounts of the slaughter.''
This is what the world's silence and inaction is protecting.