Two vignettes: 1) American troops abuse a few prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, and the international media erupt in a feeding frenzy. 2) A bloody Arab militia slaughters 50,000 innocent civilians, including women and children, in the remote Darfur province of Sudan, and hardly anyone notices.
I'd say a double standard is at work in the international media. How about you?
Whereas the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was on front pages around the world for weeks on end, the genocide in Sudan proceeds apace as intrepid journalists and United Nations bureaucrats sit on the sidelines and wring their hands.
How can we explain the startling contrast in reactions to these two tragic events? I didn't have an answer to that question until I read a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post by international affairs scholar Morton Abramowitz and author Samantha Power, who writes about genocide.
Part of the answer to my question is that journalists pay much more attention to the U.S. adventure in Iraq than they do to humanitarian disasters in the Third World. Abramowitz and Ms. Power provided the rest of the answer: "Major and minor powers alike are committed only to stopping killing that harms their national interests. Why take political, financial and potential military risks when there is no strategic or domestic cost to remaining on the sidelines?" Why indeed?
It's troubling to talk about national interests when it comes to stopping genocide or alleviating humanitarian disasters, but that's simply life in the real world. After all, if the U.S. and other U.N. member nations weren't so worried about their national interests or otherwise preoccupied, we'd be focused on disaster relief efforts in the wake of Caribbean hurricanes that killed more than 100,000 Haitians and destroyed more than half of the flimsy structures on the island of Grenada.
Darfur is a truly heart-wrenching story. According to Time magazine, at least 50,000 people have died, and more than 1 million people have lost their homes in faraway Sudan. Human-rights groups estimate that thousands more are displaced every week. In addition, "Hundreds of women have been raped, including 41 in a single episode of gang rape in the town of Tawila." Time blames these atrocities on the Janjaweed, an ethnically Arab militia that receives financial and military support from the Sudanese government, which is attempting to put down a rebellion by the region's non-Arab Muslims.
And what is the United Nations doing about this dire situation? They've been talking about it for about a year and a half. "The United Nations has proceeded at a glacial pace, thanks to China and its fellow foot-draggers," the Washington Post opined in an editorial last week. "On Sept. 18, the Security Council passed another Darfur resolution, its threat of sanctions so diluted as to be almost meaningless." So while U.N. members argue over meaningless resolutions, the World Health Organization estimates that hundreds of Darfur residents are dying of disease each day and tens of thousands more are likely to die by the end of the year.
Abramowitz and Ms. Power say the UN response to the Darfur disaster is evidence of a "broken system," which they blame on three facets of the problem:
-- "Not enough people are dying. The estimated 50,000 deaths are far fewer than the predictions, which ranged from 300,000 to 500,000. ... And in Rwanda ... 800,000 were murdered and nothing was done."
-- "The delivery of humanitarian aid lets us off the hook. After an unpardonable delay, the world overcame Sudan's obstructionism to get food, medicine and plastic sheeting into Darfur."
-- "The existence of the U.N. Security Council hides the crux of the problem. Countries do not want to do what is necessary to prevent large-scale loss of life in Africa."
As I was saying, Darfur is a sad-but-true story, and it gets worse with each passing day. Abramowitz and Power say the killing will continue "unless politicians in democratic states are persuaded ... to take domestic political risks in pursuit of policies that do not serve their immediate interests, that can be financially costly and that provide no clear-cut exit strategies." Dream on!
GOV. GUINN is right. State Controller Kathy Augustine should resign, and the sooner the better. Her willful violations of state ethics laws demonstrate that she is unfit for office. Goodbye, Kathy!
Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, lives in Carson City.