What a scoop! Shame of our nation

Lyssa Beyer

There have been an estimated 400,000 people who have died as a result of the war in the Sudan, according to the Coalition for International Justice. The Rwandan genocide claimed roughly 937,000 lives, according to a 2001 Rwandan government survey. An April 18 article in The New York Times reports more than 1,000 people have died in fighting and 300,000 displaced in Kenya since the disputed December elections.

And it’s all the American people’s fault.

Well, not completely our fault. We’re not the ones who arbitrarily drew the borders of our former colonies, who stifled any action from being passed on the UN Security Council or who used machetes to slash and carve through women and children. The blood of the slaughtered in the genocides is not on our hands – but it does lie at our feet.

Hogwash, some of you might be thinking. The American public is outraged by these atrocities; we do an incredible amount of charity work and awareness-raising for areas such as Rwanda and Darfur. Think of the TV specials, the concerts and the lobby groups, you might be thinking. To this, I concede – we do care people are dying in droves. But we don’t care enough to save them.

We’ll write our checks, we’ll buy the bumper stickers and we’ll even go into these regions to help with relief work. It’s all very commendable. Helping raise money for food and shelter for displaced people, building schools and fighting diseases are fantastic services being done for the people of these regions. If these were nations that only suffered from economic despair, then these actions would be enough to save all the lives we could. But this isn’t the only problem in the African continent and is not the central reason for the various instances of mass slaughtering.

We are merely treating the symptoms of these conflicts, not finding a cure. How does giving food and water stop the Sudanese government-sponsored Janjaweed tribesmen from slaughtering villages of black Muslims in Darfur? All the medicine, food and money in the world couldn’t have stopped the marauding bands of Hutus who dragged Tutsi families out into the streets to be killed. We are merely trimming the leaves of these wars rather than digging down to pull out the roots.

The clearest solution to stopping these massacres is to militarily protect the targeted innocents. I’m not talking about regime changes, but rather a military force that would guard the villages where these slaughters occur. There are UN peacekeepers in many of these regions when the killings happen, but they are woefully outnumbered and outgunned to protect anyone but themselves. Of the proposed 19,555 military personnel that were authorized by the UN to go to Darfur to keep the peace on July 31, 2007, only 9,213 have been deployed as of March 31. This shortage of manpower is leaving refugees and civilians to be slaughtered by government-sponsored bands of murderers.

To prevent wholesale killings of innocent people, there needs to be a peacekeeping force that can guard any targeted villages. The United States is wholly capable of providing this force; 20,000 U.S. troops working in tandem with the African Union would have easily prevented such massacres as in Musha, Rwanda, where 1,200 Tutsis were killed in one day. Also, sending troops to places such as Darfur to stop genocides would not make us the police force of the world because we are not interfering with the politics of these nations, only protecting those who have no hand in the conflict. In turn, this will allow for either peaceful negotiations to occur or, at worst, allow the clashing groups to settle their differences out on the battlefield as opposed to in the villages and refugee camps.

But we, the kind-hearted American people, don’t want to do this. We don’t want to put our troops in harm’s way as we did in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. And I don’t disagree that putting our soldiers in a dangerous situation is an unpleasant thought. But what we’re doing when we refuse substantial military aid for a country that has lost all order is saying an American life is, at the end of the day, worth more than a Darfurian, Rwandan or Kenyan’s life. That is truly a repulsive distinction to make.

We talk a big game about being a giving nation, but we are only generous when it requires little effort on our parts. Sending money to an African relief organization is much easier on us than demanding our politicians work to send U.S. troops to save the lives of innocent people in other nations. We don’t make this an issue come election time because that would require more of an effort than the swoop of a pen.

All the money, concerts and celebrity endorsements don’t amount to squat when creating lasting peace in regions drowning in ethnic conflict. Relief work is no more than pissing on the raging blazes of violence, expecting our dollars and volunteering to extinguish the flames of war.

We are becoming too focused on ourselves, we the people. We care for only people and places familiar to us, lacking empathy for those who are different and in need. Conflicts such as in Somalia and Iraq have made us weak-willed, afraid to do what we know is right. We just want our safety and our happiness, not that of families in Africa. We talk about wanting peace for troubled nations, but are unwilling to do what it would take to achieve it.

The only way to bring lasting peace to these regions is through military force that would protect the civilian populations and allow the political forces at war to work out their conflict. But the American public does not want to do this for fellow human beings who are being mowed down simply because of what tribe they belong to. We are afraid to do what must be done to save the lives of thousands of people, and it is truly shameful to behold.

Langton is a senior print journalism major and editorial editor of The Spectator. “What a Scoop!” appears every Thursday.