Saturday, September 27, 2008

Updates on Darfur and Campaign '08: the Good Storyteller vs. the Bad Storyteller; What Lehrer Didn't Ask About & Why

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Updates on Darfur and Campaign '08: the Good Storyteller vs. the Bad Storyteller; What Lehrer Didn't Ask About & Why

By Richard Power

Unfortunately, U.S. presidential debates are not teach-ins; they are auditions for story-teller-in-chief. The bedtime stories our presidents tell us are usually blends of truths, half-truths, untruths and omissions.

The first presidential debate of the general election campaign was dedicated to foreign policy and national security; and although the nation's financial meltdown (another bedtime story) led the participants on a brief detour, most of the 90 minute event was actually focused on foreign policy and national security.

Of course, Jim Lehrer of PBS, the moderator, asked the contenders about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia and Georgia, and yet each area of concern was discussed without any mention of oil fields or pipelines, only the convenient foils of terrorism, aggression and nuclear proliferation. Remember -- blends of truths, half-truths, untruths, omissions.

Don't misunderstand me. I do not fault Sen. Obama for his storytelling. For better and worse, it is the way nations are lead.

The question is always, "what kind of stories does a potential leader tell?"

In 2008, we have a clear choice between two very different storytellers: one storyteller is in the mold of Reagan and Bush, he only tell stories in which we are always right, we always win, and in which we have nothing to learn except that we are always right and we always win; the other storyteller is in the mold of Kennedy and Eisenhower, he tells stories that end with morals that show us how to become better and truer to ourselves.

Jim Lehrer asked nothing about the genocide in Darfur.

Why should he have?

Too few of us give a damn.

The US mainstream media has turned its back on the people of Darfur, so has the US political establishment.

And the US electorate?

Well, after decades of mind-numbing TV and toxic talk radio, too many of us are psychologically confused and informationally malnourished.

But here is an update for those who still have eyes to see and ears to hear.

On the ground in Darfur, the circumstances continue to deteriorate.

The people were driven from their villages into refuge camps.

Now those camps are under attack, and so are the supply lines that bring in the food.

Could it be any simpler to understand?

Meanwhile, too many of the world's diplomats are fretting over the push to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir, the head of the Sudanese thugocracy.

Darfur doesn't have oil. This conflict has more to do with water.

But Sudan does have oil, and China is Sudan's sugar daddy. That's why the Chinese protect the Sudanese thugocracy -- so that this oil will continue to flow.

And yes, China holds a great deal of our national debt, doesn't it?

Ah, full circle.

If the good storyteller is sworn into office, he will try to do something to protect the people of Darfur. But it is just as well Lehrer didn't ask him about it, because most of us really wouldn't want to hear it. Just drill, baby, drill.

Here are two important pieces, one is an LA Times story on the dire situation in the Kalma refugee camp; the other is an insightful op-ed piece from Richard Holbrooke, former Special Envoy to Bosnia and US Ambassador to the U.N., on the efficacy of pursuing Bashir.

Men have dug trenches and dragged tree trunks across dirt roads. Young lookouts, some armed with sticks and axes, scan the horizon for invaders. Even aid workers and United Nations peacekeepers are increasingly wary of Kalma's besieged and, at times, belligerent population.
Since a deadly standoff a month ago in which Sudanese government troops killed 31 people here, including 17 women and children, the sprawling camp has been on the brink of eruption.
"We are like people living inside a fire," said Ali Abdel Khaman Tahir, the camp's head sheik. "Our anger is stronger than ever." ...
Now the Aug. 25 attack, the most deadly clash in a camp since the early days of the conflict, is raising fear that the front lines of the rebellion are shifting from mountaintop rebel strongholds and remote desert villages to the displacement camps to which victims have fled to stay out of harm's way.
Edmund Sanders, Some see a time bomb ticking in Darfur camps, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, 9-25-08

The request from the International Criminal Court prosecutor for an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, caused much hand-wringing by diplomats and others who say the search for justice will derail peace negotiations or endanger humanitarian relief workers. Fearing that the crisis in Darfur will worsen if the prosecutor is allowed to proceed, they have launched an ill-considered campaign at the United Nations Security Council to delay the court’s proceedings, perhaps for a year. The very nations that created the ICC appear to be afraid to let it do its work. A vote for deferral might come as early as next month.
For me, this is familiar terrain. When Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb leaders, were indicted by the Yugoslav tribunal in July 1995 for orchestrating atrocities in Bosnia, the media and many diplomats lamented that we would be unable to negotiate peace for Bosnia. Less than five months later, an agreement was reached in Dayton to end the war.
What had seemed an insurmountable obstacle turned out to be an unexpected opportunity. ...
Mr Bashir is simply playing for time, offering nothing. Mr Milosevic did the same. Give Mr Bashir a year and he will take it – and ask for more.
The US and the EU must resist efforts to suspend ICC prosecutions. Peace negotiations have been stalled for nearly a year for reasons unrelated to a possible warrant against Mr Bashir. Suspension may seem a safer course to follow in the short run, but it will embolden him and other future suspected war criminals.
Bringing perpetrators of international crimes to justice is undeniably difficult when trying simultaneously to end a conflict, but it is the right choice. War criminals should know that they can run but – as the evil Mr Karadzic ultimately learnt – sooner or later they will be brought to justice.
Richard Holbrooke, The arrest of Sudan’s Bashir should proceed, Financial Times, 9-21-08

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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