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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media


There are two separate groups in the Darfur region of western Sudan, non-Arabs and Arabs. Both groups are primarily Muslim. In early 2003, the non-Arabs formed militias and began a local uprising against the Sudanese government. The government, not trusting its own soldiers as many of them were from Darfur, responded with a tactical aerial campaign and recruited its own militias from among the Arab tribes. Three years later we have a six-figure body count and nearly two million refugees.

It is a war on top of a war. For the last two decades, Sudan has been torn north and south by civil war between the Sudan Liberation Movement Army and the Khartoum government. The two wars are connected, of course. The Janjaweed, Arab, militia are paid by the Khartoum government to exterminate the western tribesmen, who are intensely resentful toward the government as a result of its actions during the ongoing civil war. The tribes unleash their own atrocities in response, butchering anyone they think guilty of colluding with the central government.

Does this sound familiar? If it doesn’t, it should. The situation in Sudan has long been considered the world’s gravest humanitarian crisis, but due either to politics or pragmatism the international community has been loathe to enter into the conflict. For most Americans it hasn’t even been on the radar. So when George Clooney spoke out about the situation, it wasn’t too soon. He was very right to, and his motives are unimpeachable; save Darfur.

Is anyone listening? These humanitarian crises are wearying, ever-present; if it’s not Darfur, it’s Rwanda, if not Rwanda, Kosovo. If not Kosovo, Columbia. And on and on. The civil wars are all around us, the war machine grinds onward always, fueled on flesh, annihilating anything in its path. We sit here in our bubbles, in America, thinking about how divided our country is between “red” states and “blue” states, but we have no child soldiers, we have no nationwide terrorist movements sending our government into a state of red alert, we can step outside without arming ourselves with Kalashnikovs.

We have it pretty good, don’t we, everything else being equal? Sure. So why don’t we use our power and prestige to step in and stop the situation in Sudan? There are a few reasons. First of all, it wouldn’t be politically expedient. Americans want America to be the world’s superpower, but not the world’s policeman. We want great power, but great responsibility? Not so much. We do give generously in foreign aid, but historically we’ve been loathe to apply military force when it doesn’t directly serve our interests. Cynical? Sure. Realpolitik? Probably. There is reason to this stance, though; America can’t defend itself from attack if it’s spread thin in every ethnic skirmish the globe over.

This is partially the reasoning that kept us from stopping the Killing Fields in Cambodia. “We didn’t know enough about it”, not our problem. While we were fighting the Cold War, Pol Pot’s hardline Communist regime was forcing every single city dweller in the country into forced work camps and executing them to the tune of two million souls. We stood by and watched it happen. We had Russia to worry about. It wasn’t in our interests at the time to stop the slaughter.

Years later, in Yugoslavia, President Slobodan Milosevic was similarly wiping out the Kosovars. In response, the international community finally acted in 1999. President Clinton got the United States military involved. How many combat casualties, one may ask, did the United States suffer as a result of this intervention? How many American lives were lost to put a stop to a war we had nothing to do with, that Congressional Republicans stated was irresponsible warmongering on Clinton’s part, “wagging the dog”?

Zero. Not a one. The war was over by the end of the year. Milosevic has since died in prison. The former Yugoslavia is now peaceful. We put a stop to one senseless bloodbath, and we will put a stop to many more before our time as the light of the world has expired. We may have troops deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the world over, but we cannot let another massacre occur while we sit idly by and watch. Whether the solution comes by way of direct military intervention on our part or by the international community, whether it comes through peace talks or sanctions, however it comes, we must put a stop to the tragedy in Darfur while there is some life left in the land.