I didn’t really say anything about the 67th anniversary of Kristallnacht, last Thursday. On that day, Nazi incitement of the German people resulted in a massive pogrom against Jewish people, businesses and worst of all, synagogues. The world protested, withdrew ambassadors, and chided the Nazis. While they realized they needed to be more subtle, that mild response was not enough to dissuade the Nazi leaders from moving on with their anti-Semitic program.
I was reminded of this by a press release from the Genocide Intervention Network about Assistant Secretary of State Robert Zoellick’s bone-headed comments on Darfur.
Zoellick’s comments, made to reporters in Khartoum on Nov. 9, asserted that the United States cannot “clean it up” in Darfur because Western peacekeepers would not want to “get in the middle of a tribal war of Sudanese.” Two days later he said, “If people are determined to kill each other there’s not a lot the United States can do.”
Of course, we’ll never know without trying. To show how serious he is about Darfur,
he noted that this was his fourth visit in the past seven months. “I haven’t been to any other country four times this year,” he said. “I haven’t even been to New York four times this year.”
Neither have I, but then, I don’t have my own airplane, the ear of the President, and through him the most powerful military in the history of the world. This sort of diplomacy is as toothless as withdrawing an ambassador so long as Khartoum and the Janjaweed hear Zoellick promising not to send troops.
It’s clear that the US is trying to change the dynamic in Darfur by pushing its weight around, and not by taking real action. Khartoum knows stern words from saber rattling, and can distinguish a real threat from a show. The AU peacekeepers need heavy lift, resupply and logistics support from the first world, and that’s precisely what we aren’t offering. We don’t need American peacekeepers on the ground.
GI-Net correctly notes that talk about tribal war is how the world avoided getting involved in Rwanda for as long as it did.
“The civilians of Darfur have not been fighting a two-sided tribal war,” GI-Net Education Director Rajaa Shakir said, “they have been fleeing a government-sponsored campaign to eliminate them.”
George Lakoff argues that people see government through the metaphor of family. The same is true of the world. Whether we see our government as a strong father or a nurturant parent, the United States is not a child among the family of nations, and no family would tolerate the brutality going on within Sudan. It’s time we took responsibility for bringing stability and safety to Darfur for our sake and theirs. It’s time that “Never again” meant something.