Saturday, July 12, 2008

Darfur Crisis Update: If You Have Ever Held the Door Between Life & Death Open for a Loved One, then You Should Stand Behind Luis Moreno Ocampo

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Darfur Crisis Update: If You Have Ever Held the Door Between Life & Death Open for a Loved One, then You Should Stand Behind Luis Moreno Ocampo

By Richard Power

What is the worth of the world's conscience?

Well, apparently less than 26 helicopters. Because the UN Peacekeepers in Darfur have needed them for months. (The G-8 leaders could manage a 18 course meal for themselves, but they just can't seem to scrounge up those helicopters.)

We also know that the worth of the world's conscience is apparently a lot less than the profits to be realized through the sponsorship of the Beijing Olympics. (None of the corporations involved have forsaken their opportunity to reach the couch-potatoes among us.)

Yes, it has gone from bad to worse.

On the eve of the G-8 meeting, George W. Bush -- ever wrong, ever insipid -- cavalierly announced he is going to the opening of the Beijing Olympics, and thus gave Karthoum’s protectors something for nothing.

On Hokkaido, the G-8 once again failed to meet the challenge of the Darfur genocide. The leaders of the great nations said nothing new, promised nothing new, and did nothing new for the terrorized people of Darfur.

Meanwhile on the threshing floor in the Sudan, seven more UN peacekeepers have been killed by Karthoum’s thugs.

While all of this was going on I was experiencing something familiar in my heart, in my bones, along in my spine, in my eyes, and reverberating through my psyche.

I asked myself, “What is this sensation?” "Where, when," I wondered aloud, "have I felt this way before?" Ah yes, at those times in my life when I took on the vigil over a loved one who was dying to live or living to die.

It is a long hard tour of duty when you stand at the doorway of death and hold it open for a loved one, waiting to see if the suffering person will come back into life or leave the body behind and move on.

Those of you who have experienced this vigil in one way or another in your life know exactly what I am talking about. Time seems to suspend. Life itself seems to suspend. Well, actually, it goes on all around you, but you slip out of it into a shadowy, chimerical netherworld between life and death, where a cold compress is a sacrament and a glimpse of recognition is a symphony.

As you drift in the neither here nor there place with the one you love, whether it is a parent, or a teacher, or a friend, or a lover, or a child, or even a stranger, you do not know if the ordeal will ever end, or how you can continue much longer in that stifling air, or if you will ever again feel the sun or hear the ocean.

Yes, you know this place if you have loved and served personally.

And you also know this place if in your life and your consciousness you live and serve the planet itself.

Those of us who will not rationalize away what is happening in Darfur live in this netherworld.

Mia Farrow lives in it.

Shame on us all ... Major Jill Rutaremara, a Rwandan military spokesman, condemned this week's devastating Janjaweed/government attack on UN peacekeepers. He also blamed the high level of causalities on the poor equipment of the forces. "Our peacekeepers are ill equipped in a situation where they come under attack from heavily armed people,"
Though UNAMID force is supposed to have 26,000 members, only about 9,000 troops are on the ground now. The Sudanese government continues to block an effective deployment of the force and the international community has acquiesced . We have failed to support the peacekeeping mission in every essential way. If the peacekeepers had had appropriate intelligence capacity and equipment this tragedy almost certainly would have been avoided. The peacekeepers have been pleading for 26 helicopters. No nation has offered even a single helicopter.
Mia Farrow, 7-12-08

Nicolas Kristof knows that place.

... there is a serious argument to be made that genocide is overrated as an international concern. The G-8 leaders implicitly accept that argument, which goes like this:
Genocide is regrettable, but don’t lose perspective. It is simply one of many tragedies in the world today — and a fairly modest one in terms of lives lost.
All the genocides of the last 100 years have cost only 10 million to 12 million lives. In contrast, every year we lose almost 10 million children under the age of 5 from diseases and malnutrition attributable to poverty. Make that the priority, not Darfur. ...
I tilt obsessively at the windmills of Darfur because, quite simply, its people haunt me: the young woman who deliberately made a diversion of herself so the janjaweed would gang-rape her and miss her little sister running in the opposite direction; the man whose eyes were gouged out with a bayonet; the group of women beaten with their own babies until the children were dead.
Yes, genocide truly is “that bad.”
Nicholas D. Kristof, “Is genocide really that bad? The Pain of the G-8’s Big Shrug,” New York Times, 7-10-08

Thom Hartmann knows that place.

Offering tangible evidence that, as Shakespeare promised, the "gentle rain" of mercy is "twice-blessed," Hartmann recently took his radio show to the threshing floor itself. (Click here.)

Those of us who taken on the vigil for Darfur, who stand here day after night after day, holding open the door between this world and the next, understand what International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is going to do in the Hague.

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court announced his intent to ask for an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, which the United Nations worries may prompt a violent response by the Sudanese government against peacekeepers stationed there.
The Washington Post reports that ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will put forth his case against Mr. Bashir on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity on Monday. The Post writes that Mr. Moreno-Ocampo's action would be "first time that the tribunal in The Hague charges a sitting head of state with such crimes, and represents a major step by the court to implicate the highest levels of the Sudanese government for the atrocities in Darfur." …
The news of Moreno-Ocampo's impending request has put the UN on edge, reports The Times of London, as it could prompt a violent response from Bashir's regime ...
Arthur Bright, ICC prosecutor to seek arrest of Sudan's president for genocide, Christian Science Monitor, 7-11-08

Luis Moreno-Ocampo is right in what he is going to do.

Because it is not just Darfur that is dying a slow, agonizing death, it is the conscience of the world that is terminally ill. But it does not have to end this way.

Whatever flag they wrap themselves in, however high and mighty they are, they should be hunted down -- like Augusto Pinochet and Byron de la Beckwith (the murderer of Medgar Evers) -- even into their old age. Whatever flag they wrap themselves in, however high and mighty they are, you should leave them nowhere to turn.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center understands this spiritual imperative.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has strong evidence the leader of their list of most-wanted Nazi war criminals is still alive and residing in southern Chile or Argentina.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Latin America director, Sergio Widder have been dispatched to Argentina to track SS doctor Aribert Heim, known as 'Dr. Death'. Heim murdered and committed experimental medical atrocities on hundreds of inmates at Mauthausen concentration camp where he was the camp doctor during WWII.
Media Advisory-Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center: Hunt for the World's Leading Nazi War Criminal Leads to South America, 7-10-08

And yes, Philippe Sands and Vincent Bugliosi understand it as well.

I do not know if Moreno-Ocampo will make it to the Hague on Monday. I do not know if he will name Bashir and thus set an important new precedent, by naming a sitting head of state. But I hope he does.

Many obstructionists and denialists will attempt to block his way and then attempt to block his forward journey afterward.

Some voices have risen up in a cacophony of fretting and second-guessing.

Here are some excerpts from the dauntless Eric Reeves' brilliant refutation of the two of the most prominent of the denialists:

Are peace and justice incompatible pursuits in responding to the Darfur crisis? Do efforts by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute atrocity crimes in Darfur deserve robust international support or exhortations of caution? Is justice fundamental to a resolution of the crisis? Or is it a luxury too costly, too threatening to the chances for peace? Would senior officials in the Khartoum regime be more or less likely to engage in meaningful peace talks if they faced forceful and compellingly researched indictments from the ICC? Would international support for the Court and for justice lead Khartoum to retaliate against civilians and humanitarians? Answers to these questions depend upon which of Darfur’s historical realities are accepted, which are denied or ignored. ...
Let us first of all be clear what de Waal and Flint are urging: it doesn’t matter whether Moreno Ocampo has overwhelming evidence of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity committed by Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Mohamed Hussein (also former Minister of the Interior during the most violent years of the genocide)---the senior NIF official most likely to be indicted. The ICC Prosecutor should simply sit on this evidence, no matter how compelling, and allow Khartoum to contend only with the April 2007 indictments of junior interior minister Ahmed Haroun and Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb (the “colonel of colonels”). ...
What we see here---and in the argument de Waal and Flint offer---is not a serious pressuring of Khartoum, but rather forms of accommodation. In the sixth year of unfathomable violence, destruction, and displacement, “urging” Khartoum to “cooperate” seems little more than a cruel sop thrown to the people of Darfur. In the case of de Waal and Flint, such accommodation of Khartoum extends to an expedient abandonment of justice in the interest of rendering Darfur somehow manageable, a situation requiring certain forms of acquiescence---at the very least not the site of ongoing genocidal destruction. ...
The status quo in Darfur is simply unacceptable; monstrous crimes against humanity are perpetuated amidst a climate of impunity that is acknowledged by all. The question is not whether indictment of a senior National Islamic Front official will provoke retaliation against humanitarians or further obstruction of UNAMID. The real question is what the international community---and in particular specific member states of the UN, and most particularly of the Security Council---will do to forestall not just immediate or short-term retaliatory responses by Khartoum, but to secure long-term security for all Darfuris.
Eric Reeves, Pursuing Peace and Justice in Darfur: The Role of the ICC, 6-30-08

I encourage you to follow events in Darfur on Mia Farrow's site, it is the real-time journal of a humanitarian at work; the content is compelling, insightful and fiercely independent.

Click here to sign the TURN OFF/TUNE IN Pledge.

For a Words of Power Archive of posts on the Crisis in Darfur, click here.

Here are other sites of importance:

Dream for Darfur

Enough: The Project to End Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Genocide Intervention Network

Divest for Darfur.

Save Darfur!

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

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