And in Other News, Darfur

By Leonard Fein

Published December 23, 2005, issue of December 23, 2005.
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Suddenly, overload.

Here, the president permits spying on American citizens. In the West Bank, Hamas scores big in local elections.

Here, the prospect of a major shift in the Supreme Court. In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls the Holocaust “a myth,” says that Israel is “a tumor” that “must be wiped off the map.”

Here, the ripples of l’Affaire Abramoff have already reached into Congress and may coalesce into a tsunami before the matter is concluded. In Turkey, a popular writer is arrested for having referred in a newspaper interview in Switzerland to Turkey’s genocide of the Armenians in 1915, the beginning of a process that lasted eight years and in which over a million, perhaps as many as a million and a half, Armenians were killed.

Here, the president, trying desperately to make lemonade of the bitter lemon he raised up from a seed, tells us we are winning his war. In Australia, mobs of whites attack people who “look” Lebanese.

Here, the state of Kansas mandates the teaching of “intelligent design” and a “reader beware” addendum to Darwinian evolution. In Lebanon, still more assassinations.

And in Israel, Ariel Sharon has a stroke.

Too much. What’s a body to do? For that matter, what are a soul and a heart to do?

Little wonder that fake reality shows — “fake” even when real, reality with makeup and a thousand grains of salt, reality minus plague and pestilence, no death of the first born, the second born, the born, no child soldiers, no trafficked children, no sudden disappearance of people’s pensions, no suicide bombers, no failing school systems — are so popular, newspapers in such radical decline. Who needs the daily reminder, page after page, of our inadequacy? Too much.

And always, scarlet mark of our failure, Darfur.

It is already clear that Darfur is to be added to the litany — the Armenians, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo. Every time, when it is over, we wonder how it could have happened, how the world could crumple so impotently.

Yet with few exceptions — Kofi Annan, and the indefatigable folks at Human Rights Watch, and Ruth Messinger of the American Jewish World Service — Darfur bleeds along, no J’Accuse seems sufficient to put an end to the slaughter, to the crimes against humanity.

More than a year ago, the House of Representatives voted unanimously for a resolution that called the killings in Darfur “genocide” and urged the Bush administration to consider intervening in the conflict. But this week, Congress seems disposed to ignore Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s urgent request for $50 million in support of the paltry African Union force — 7,000 soldiers for a region larger than France — that offers at least some minimal protection in an area where more than 2 million people have been made into refugees and more than 400,000 have been killed.

On December 12, Human Rights Watch released an 85-page report that documents the role of more than a dozen named civilian and military officials in the use and coordination of Janjaweed militias and the Sudanese armed forces to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur since mid-2003. The report finds that the looting and destruction of villages in Darfur is not just condoned by Sudanese government officials, but that it has been methodically organized, with troops and militia members permitted to take land, livestock and other civilian property. Senior Sudanese officials have played a direct role coordinating the offensives, and particularly the aerial bombing campaign, from Khartoum.

And so it goes. The Iranian outrage is a different kind of scandal. On the one hand, Iran’s information minister contends that Ahmadinejad was misunderstood. What he really meant was only that “if others harmed the Jewish community and created problems for the Jewish community, they have to pay the price themselves. People like the Palestinian people or other nations should not pay the price.” At the same time, a leading Iranian cleric defended Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust revisionism. Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, who heads the Assembly of Experts, said to worshippers at Friday prayers in the clerical epicenter of Qom that “After World War II the Jews and Zionists spread a false rumor that Hitler, Austria and Germany had burned more than 6 million Jews in the furnaces.” All this from people who lead a potential nuclear power.

The good news is that, along with the European nations, the United Nations and the United Nations, which vigorously condemned the Holocaust denial, the Saudis weighed in quite powerfully. “As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, [the Holocaust] is a historical fact, you cannot deny that, and people should move forward from that,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador in Washington, told T he Washington Post.

He went on to say that Arab states have “made our peace” with the creation of Israel. He spoke of the Saudi peace plan adopted by the Arab League in 2002, committing Arab nations to peace with Israel and normalization of relations if, and as, Israel relinquishes the land it captured during the 1967 war and agrees to the creation of the Palestinian state. “It is a done deal for us,” he said. “We are not going to go back on that.”

Good news, bad news, too much news — and always, Darfur.

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