Humanitarian Crisis

In 1994, to the everlasting shame of the Clinton administration and the then-Democratic congress (which would be replaced later that year), the United States stood by and watched as three-quarters of a million people were killed during a three-month period in Rwanda. After the fact, the whole world was willing to call this an act of genocide, but while the killing was actually taking place, we did nothing to stop it.

A similar tragedy is taking place today, a decade later, in the Darfur region of Sudan. It is being brilliantly documented by New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof, whose columns focus on individuals who have suffered horribly, being displaced, raped, and mutilated, watching their families killed. The most optimistic statistics are that 30,000 people have been killed and a million displaced thus far, and that by year-end, an additional 300,000 will have been killed. More pessimistic statistics suggest up to a million dead by year-end.

President Bush, understandably wary of another foreign humanitarian situation since taking heat from the Democrats over Iraq, has thus far declined to call Darfur an instance of genocide. (President Bush has, to his credit, been instrumental in brokering a peace accord that ended another destructive civil war in Sudan).

Which brings us to our Senators, some of whom are Mormon, and seventy-nine of whom could use a good, swift kick in the pants over this.

The Senate and House have already passed a bill “condemning the Government of the Republic of the Sudan for its participation and complicity in the attacks against innocent civilians in the impoverished Darfur region of western Sudan.” This bill has had no real effect that I’m aware of.

Recently, Senator Brownback introduced proposed legislation to declare Darfur as an area of genocide. (For the bill text, including a brief synopsis of the problems in Darfur, see here). This would have important consequences for the United States and the United Nations, because there are existing treaties which require signatories not to tolerate acts of genocide. In other words, this legislation has “teeth” (thus far, President Bush has declined to call the Darfur situation genocide for just this reason, despite reported pressure to do so from Colin Powell). This bill currently has 21 co-sponsors. I’m a little embarrassed to notice that none of the five Mormon senators (Hatch, Bennett, Crapo, Reid, Smith) (Nate: am I leaving out anyone?) are among them.

I’m going to write my senator about this (Mrs. Clinton, that is; Mr. Schumer is a co-sponsor at the moment — and does ignoring genocide run in the Clinton family? Just asking). I’m also going to drop notes to each of the five Mormon senators, but I’ll probably be ignored because I’m not a constituent.

If you would like to see action from Mormon senators, and/or your own state’s senators, on this issue, I encourage you to write them a web message. The central site with Senate contact information can be found at this link. You just go to that site, select your state, and the Senator’s names will show up, along with the link for sending them a web message. (The web forms will typically ask for some contact information, such as name and address, as well as your message; it’s the equivalent of a letter to the Senator, but much easier). If you’re sending to LDS Senators, they are in Utah (Hatch and Bennett), Idaho (Crapo), Nevada (Reid) and Oregon (Smith, and no, he’s not the same Gordon Smith as we have here on the blog).

Finally, according to Kristof, several faith-based relief organizations are providing aid in the area. I can’t find any indication of LDS involvement on the church web site. I don’t know who is the best person to discuss the church humanitarian side of it with, but I’m going to chat with my stake president next time I see him; he may be able to give me some ideas of who to talk to, to encourage church aid in this area. (Or maybe I’ll try making some church contributions earmarked for Darfur — that might work, right? Any other ideas?)

25 comments for “Humanitarian Crisis

  1. July 21, 2004 at 11:59 am

    Sudan is only beginning to get the attention it needs. For a long time Sudan has been another backwater (similar to how Afgahnistan was) where people could do just about whatever they wanted and the world simply ignored what was going on. It’s telling that it was one of the countries where Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda have sheltered themselves and established themselves in the past.

    In recent weeks it’s been nice to see that the news is focusing more and more on what is happening there — perhaps in reaction to governments and agencies giving Sudan more attention.

    I’ve met Sudanese refugees (both Muslims and Christians) here in Utah and they are wonderful people. I had known that Arabic was spoken in Sudan but was pleasantly surprised that I could understand quite a bit of the Arabic being used by one Sudanese man I met. I had assumed it would be a dialect that would be impossible for me to understand.

    The word “Sudan”, by the way, if I understand correctly, is derived somehow from the same root as the Arabic word “iswid” which means “black.”

  2. Nate Oman
    July 21, 2004 at 12:03 pm

    The Economist has also had some great articles on the Sudan, for those who have understandable intestinal issues with the NYT…

  3. Hellmut Lotz
    July 21, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    Even if Bush wanted to intervene he would be hard pressed to find the troops and transportation resources. Everything is committed in Iraq. But there are other ways to resolve the issue.

    We should consider arming the victims so that they can protect themselves. Together with the French the United States can enforce a no-fly zone from Chad. That should take care of the problem.

    Darfur is an opporunity for the United States to demonstrate that it cares about the welfare of Muslims, not just Christians. It is foolish to placate the Sudanese government because of its late concessions to African Christian tribes. Obviously, the Khartoum government is pursuing a divide and conquer strategy. Talk about appeasing tyrants . . .

  4. July 21, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    Thanks for bringing this up. I had heard about some Represenatatives getting arrested at the Sudan embassy but had not realized the situation was so dire. The suggestion to contact Senators is a good one and really does have an impact.

  5. July 21, 2004 at 12:17 pm

    Droooool …. I love the Economist. I think it has about the best international news analysis a civilian can get. Someday I’ll have to get myself a subscription (it’s a bit pricey, if I recall … been awhile since I checked).

  6. Nate Oman
    July 21, 2004 at 12:31 pm

    Hellmut: My understanding is that those doing the massacring in Danfur are Arabic speaking Muslims and those getting massacred are black animists. There are lots of good reasons for intervening to stop this problem, but demonstrating love for Muslims is alas not one of them.

  7. Nate Oman
    July 21, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    danithew: IMHO, The Economist is simply the best news magazine in the world. Their international coverage is superb, and frankly I think that there coverage of U.S. politics is MUCH better than any of the American weeklies. Lexington provides some of the best analysis of American politics anywhere.

  8. July 21, 2004 at 1:02 pm

    Great idea. I wrote Hatch and Bennett. Kristof deserves sainthood for keeping this issue at the fore. It amazes and saddens me that the media, the politicians, and the public have failed to learn the lessons of Rwanda. How quickly we forget.

  9. July 21, 2004 at 1:23 pm


    I agree with you entirely on the Economist comments you made. I just think it’s amazing. I used to purchase it each week years ago. It’s been awhile but like I said, that’s a subscription I would have at the top of my wish list.

    Lexington is a publication I’m not familiar with but I’ll definitely be checking it out now.

  10. Nate Oman
    July 21, 2004 at 1:30 pm

    Lexington is the anonymous Economist collumn on U.S. politics…

  11. July 21, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    Lol … whoops. Thanks Nate for helping me understand what you were talking about. :)

  12. Aaron Brown
    July 21, 2004 at 2:45 pm

    “Darfur is an opporunity for the United States to demonstrate that it cares about the welfare of Muslims, not just Christians.

    Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia … The United States has demonstrated this time and time again. The opportunity provided by Darfur is for those ideologically predisposed not to see this to acknowledge that the United States has cared about the welfare of Muslims for a long time.

    “My understanding is that those doing the massacring in Danfur are Arabic speaking Muslims and those getting massacred are black animists.”

    Nate, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the Muslim v. Animist (and Christian) struggle was taking place between Khartoum and the inhabitants of southern Sudan. The massacres in Darfur are being committed by Arabic Muslims against Black Muslims.

    Finally, for those inclined to label this or that war as “racist”, you’ve finally really got yourselves a real “Racist War”!

    Aaron B

  13. Kaimi
    July 21, 2004 at 2:47 pm


    Do your intestinal issues extend to Kristof? I can understand an aversion to Dowd; Krugman has gone over to the dark side; and Herbert is a clumsy writer (though sincere).

    Kristof seems to be a pretty easy guy to like — a genuine humanitarian foreign-affairs kind of guy who actually goes to the third-world countries and tries to find ways to help people. He’s the one who did several pieces on sex slavery in Southeast Asia, and who took some heat because he bought the freedom of some of the slaves he met.

  14. July 21, 2004 at 3:02 pm

    France has blocked a lot of US action in the UN. The problem is that the US is overextended in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is very limited in what it can do and is more or less limited to diplomacy. However that didn’t really go anywhere, once again in large measure due to France. Not so coincidentally France has a lot of oil interests there…

  15. July 21, 2004 at 3:03 pm

    Anyone who buys slaves and then sets them free is on my list of good people. But maybe I need to read more about that story.

  16. Nate Oman
    July 21, 2004 at 3:48 pm

    Aaron: You are probably right about the religious make up of Danfur. I thought that the victims were black animists rather than Muslims…

  17. Geoff B
    July 21, 2004 at 4:14 pm

    Kaimi, kudos to you for bringing this up. No person of conscience can ignore these types of crises.

    The following link has a good story on the crisis:

    It is interesting to note that many “liberals” oppose the Iraq war despite the fact that the United States stopped the slow genocide of Saddam Hussein killing his own people. Back when I was a liberal in the early 1980s, we believed in helping people in the Third World, especially those who were suffering under fascist tyrants (perhaps those of us over 40 remember the outrage about Somoza in Nicaragua, Pinochet, Marcos, South Africa, etc, etc.) It seems that “liberal” now means opposing President Bush, regardless of whether the cause is right.

    For the record, I believe the best use of the U.S. military is to prevent humanitarian crises like those in Rwanda and the Sudan and, yes, in Afghanistan and Iraq. I believed the same thing when I was a “liberal” and I believe the same thing now that I am a “conservative.” Of course, you need to pick your battles, based on strategic importance, effectiveness, relevance to the war on terror and a myriad of other military factors.

    Does the Bush administration deserve some credit in Sudan? Yes. Could it do more? Yes. Thus, my praise for Kaimi’s post.

  18. Rob
    July 21, 2004 at 4:40 pm

    I’d be interested to know if anyone has looked at how a U.S. or U.N. led operation that killed Muslims in Sudan might play into the hands of Osama’s recruiting strategy. Has anyone here read Imperial Hubris by Anonymous yet? Very strong words for anyone contemplating our policies with Muslim countries. Also strong advice to “just stand back” and watch other countries brutalize their population without feeling like we need to step in. Some seriously troubling words there from the CIA’s top Osama analyst.

  19. Ben Huff
    July 21, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    I would support the US intervening, if it could be done effectively, but now isn’t the greatest time for military intervention, not only because of Iraq and Afghanistan (and I hear the upcoming elections in Afghanistan really need more peacekeepers), but also because of heightened tensions around Korea and Taiwan, where stability seems to depend on the presumption that the US would intervene if conflict flared.

    Why does it have to be the US that leads something like this? How does that work? I don’t mean this as a rhetorical question; I’d like to understand what’s behind this dynamic.

    As for arming the oppressed in Darfur, that might work for the immediate problem, but wouldn’t it be far more controversial, leading to all kinds of unforeseen consequences, than intervention by a third-party force?

  20. Ben Huff
    July 21, 2004 at 8:07 pm

    On the BBC recently they interviewed a guy involved with delivering aid. He made it sound like though there was a chunk of work to do, still, food and medical supplies for the next few months were going to arrive okay. This buys some time, though it does little more than that.

    Could it be that people are unwilling to formally declare it genocide until they have a fairly good idea of how intervention should work?

  21. July 21, 2004 at 8:11 pm

    I believe one reason many governments weren’t calling it genocide was because they felt that once they started labeling the Sudanese government with genocide the Sudanese government wouldn’t want to listen to them. I think everyone *thinks* it is genocide, but differ over the role of diplomacy to coax the Sudanese government to act. Of course after a few weeks of diplomacy now it seems business as usual in Sudan. (i.e. systemaic genocide, rape, and so forth)

  22. Kaimi
    July 23, 2004 at 7:08 pm

    A few quick follow-ups:

    The New York Times has an article on the political developments, including passage of the Senate resolution urging Bush to use the term “genocide”:

    See also

    A report on the situation, from Senator Brownback and Rep. Wolf:

  23. Lew Jeppson
    August 13, 2004 at 1:29 am

    The United States can do anything short of sending troops as far as I am concerned, but we have no business asking our soldiers to risk their lives unless Sudan or one of its constituent parts has invaded the U S or threatens to invade. I oppose the Iraq invasion for the same reason. I am sick of neocon theory. BTW, I can’t get the Deseret Morning News to even say “neocon.” Why is this subject so taboo at Church-owned media?

  24. August 13, 2004 at 2:13 am

    Just got a response to my letter (inspired by this post) from Hatch’s office. Blah blah blah.

  25. Kaimi
    August 13, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    I just noticed a CNN story on food aid now being airlifted in:

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