Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why Hasn't Bill Clinton Been Arrested Yet; OK, I Will Rephrase the Question, Why Hasn't Bill Clinton Had Himself Arrested Yet (Darfur Crisis Update)

There is debate about whether we had genocide in Darfur or not, but certainly in my mind, and the mind of many, many people, I think there is very little doubt that what went on in Darfur in 2003 and the early part of 2004 was certainly genocide. We can argue the words, but that would be no consolation to those people who are affected. So I subsequently went on to speak about it publicly, having tried the various diplomatic routes and avenues, and I soon found myself hauled onto a plane out of Khartoum. And as I reflected back on it, I thought to myself that there I was presiding over the first genocide of the 21st century – it is a place in history you don’t wish to have. Dr. Mukesh Kapila, Moving from Words to Action: The Responsibility to Protect, Aegis Trust, 1-25-06

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, visiting a Rwandan genocide memorial on Saturday, expressed regret for his "personal failure" to prevent the 1994 slaughter of 800,000 people. Reuters, 7-23-05

Why Hasn't Bill Clinton Been Arrested Yet; OK, I Will Rephrase the Question, Why Hasn't Bill Clinton Had Himself Arrested Yet (Darfur Crisis Update)

By Richard Power

Calm down. I spent the 1990s as ardent defender of Bill Clinton. I recall that grim period, in the dark stench of the Starr Chamber, before the tide turned against the Federalist Society's Inquisitor, when there were very few die-hards left who were not members of the Congressional Black Caucus, but I was among them. And although I am under no illusions about the impact of bad policy choices such as the Telecommunications Act of 1996, I admire what Bill Clinton did with the hand life dealt him, I have respect for his political brilliance, and I feel empathy for his human foibles.

But by his own confession, Bill Clinton fell gravely short as a leader on Rwanda. You can read about it in his large as life autobiography, aptly titled My Life. You can read about it in a merciless account written by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Clinton Kept Hotel Rwanda Open. You can read about it in a grotesque "dialogue" between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush held in Toronto earlier this year. And you can read about it in Samantha Power's A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.

Indeed, in Samantha's book you will learn that Wes Clarke was a voice in crying in the wilderness for humanitarian intervention concerning Rwanda. (Yes, there are reasons that neither Wes Clarke nor Howard Dean are in the Obama administration; and although I strongly support the Obama administration, none of those reasons are good.)

But I digress, the point is that 800,000 Rwandans died in the genocide of 1994. And in the fourteen years since then, Bill Clinton, may the Goddess bless him, has made a loud noise about his "personal failure" in that crisis. And yet, since 2003, at least 300,000 Darfuris have died in a genocide. So where has he been?

Somehow we are supposed to conclude that the difference between 800,000 in one year, and 300,000 people (at least) in five years is the difference between genocide and something less than genocide. Such rationalizations would be laughable if they were not so incredibly insensitive.

Furthermore, I noticed that President Clinton was recently appointed a special UN envoy to Haiti. Now, the people of Haiti have suffered terribly -- for centuries (and if you don't know much about their plight, Noam Chomsky would be happy to bring you up to speed). I hope he is of help to the Haitians, BUT I have to ask this question, why has President Clinton avoided the opportunity find a way to do in his personal life, what he could not do in the highest office in the land, i.e., make a stand, even if simply symbolic, for the people of Darfur, who are struggling against a genocide in plain sight of all the great nations? "If Clinton could not do anything from the Oval Office," you might ask, "what do you expect him to do as a private citizen?" Well, he is not a "private citizen," he is a very public citizen. And as such he has more freedom than he had in the Oval Office, even if his wife is Secretary of State.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Bill Clinton got himself arrested in protest of this government's lack of action on the genocide in Darfur? (Five members of the U.S. House of Representatives did just that in April of this year.) What a story it would be. Vernon Jordan and him could go together. His Secret Service detail could work out an appropriate protocol. And Chelsea could bail him out. It would be a powerful statement, an extraordinary piece of theater, and a platform, which, however fleeting, would be more persuasive than even the bully pulpit itself.

I know it won't happen. But it should. It would raise awareness. And I know people's minds don't work that way. But it would do him good. I dare say it would unleash something in his soul.

So you and I slog on ...

About 15% of Words of Power posts to this point (not counting those with embedded code for You Tube music) have related to the Crisis in Darfur. About 30% of Words of Power posts to this point have focused on Climate Crisis; and another 30% addressed the Bush-Cheney abomination. The balance of my posts so far sort out into other human rights crises (e.g., Burma, Congo, Tibet, etc.) and other sustainability issues (e.g., water, food, UN Millennium Goals, etc.)

If you had asked me in 2005, I would not have expected Darfur to be such a major aspect of this on-line project. I would have thought my long-held (and very personal) concern for child soldiers throughout the world should occupy more of this space.

But to my surprise all of Darfur forced itself on me, not just its child soldiers, all of it, particularly its women and girls. All of Darfur strode out of the core of my psyche, and stood erect on the high ground of my conscience; and this suffering multitude refuses to leave me alone.

I write to you about Darfur not as a "bleeding heart" or a "do-gooder" or a dreamy-eyed idealist; quite the contrary, I write to you about Darfur because of what it tells me about the prospects for our own survival, both physically and psychologically.

If we fail the test of Darfur, and believe me friend, as a great nation, as an alliance of great nations, and as a species, we are, indeed, failing it, then our own options dwindle and our own odds diminish.

Of course, with a political establishment that has its head so far up the wallet of the health insurance lobby that it cannot rescue its own people from a bottomless pit, and a mainstream news media so beholden to the interests of big business that it cannot discern between science and pseudo-science enough to carry out its role in informing the citizenry of the looming potential for planetary catastrophe, why should I look for anything more?

Well, where there is life there is hope.

Have I been arrested in protest of the genocide in Darfur? No. If I were to cross that threshold I would probably make more of an impact by fasting, as Mia Farrow and others have done, and I would have to get pretty close to death before I got any ink at all. I will just continue doing what I do on the inner and outer planes. Can Bill Clinton say the Crisis in Darfur accounts for 15% of his awareness-raising work over the past three years? I know he has been working on his Global Initiative, which is an umbrella for a lot of worthy projects, but considering what he himself perceives as his own "personal failure" in Rwanda, he might have been more out front and unrestrained on Darfur specifically.

Meanwhile, if you have been reading the Words of Power Crisis in Darfur Updates, you probably know the name of Dr. Mukesh Kapila, the former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan.

Participating on UN Watch panel concerning “Women in Conflict and the Human Rights Situation in Sudan," organized along side a session of the "UN Human Rights Council" (yes, I put it in quotes to indicate its lack of credibility), Dr. Kapila made a powerful statement articulating "Seven Excuses for Inaction" and "Two False Dichotomies" about the Crisis in Darfur.

It is a must read, but I have excerpted the lead points here, and provided a link to the full text:

The Seven Excuses of Inaction for Darfur
1. Cynicism ... a general feeling that, sure, Sudan has got many troubles, it’s a country in conflict, a country that has always been in conflict, a conflict of many decades, and what do you expect in a place like that? ...
2. Denial ... “Surely the situation is not as bad as you make it out to be,” they argue. “You’re exaggerating to gain attention.” ...
3. Prevarication ... “You have to be patient, it takes time, these are complicated matters, and in any case it’s best if the people of Sudan, the people of Darfur find their own solution to their own problems.”
4. Caution ... “Sudan is not a small country, it’s got a very complex past, a very complicated political and social dynamic. If we intervene it will only make matters worse; let us think carefully and long before we actually do anything.”
5. Distraction ... You know, we have many other things to do. There is the Middle East, there is Iraq, there in North Korea, there is Iran, there is Myanmar, there is climate change, there is HIV and AIDS, there are Millenium Development Goals, there are cyclones, there is a financial crisis ...
6. Buck Passing ... you go to London, you go to Washington, you go to the Security Council, you go to Brussels, you go wherever you like, and they say, “But you know, why is it that we always have to deal with these sort of issues? ...
7. Evasion of Responsibility ... “Oh, we have brought this to the attention of the Security Council, the President, the Prime Minister, the Pope, the Commission, the Council, the Committee, the whatever-you-like ... So let’s see what they decide.”
So, ladies and gentlemen, my message to you, to UN Watch, to Human Rights Watch, to any other Watches that there are, is that watching is not enough. That actually unless you have some practical ways to address these seven reasons-cynicism, denial, prevarication, caution, distraction, buck-passing and evasion of responsibility-then I’m afraid we will continue to be a side event, we will continue to be tolerated in the margins ...

False Dichotomy 1: Human Rights vs. Humanitarianism ... What is a true humanitarian? Is a humanitarian simply one who, when someone is suffering, hands out a piece of bread, as an act of charity, or is a true humanitarian one who asks the question, why are the people suffering?
If you go back to the original roots of humanitarianism, the issue of dignity far overrides the issue of charity. And if that’s the case, then it is true that people who want to achieve their rights have to fight for them. I’m not here to make any political statement about fighting in the armed conflict sense of the term, but I do mean fighting for the rights of people all over the world, for their economic and social and cultural rights.
So you see where I stand. I would say that if there’s a debate between the humanitarians or the human-rightists, then it must be the human-rightists that must prevail. Otherwise, the suffering of Darfur will simply go on ...

False Dichotomy 2: Justice vs. Peace ... Not a single peace agreement has ever succeeded unless there has been a foundation addressing the issue of accountability. So I would say to watchers generally that one has to bring these issues together: the human rights issue, the humanitarian issue, the justice issue, and systematically address the obstacles and excuses people give. And to do that in a forensic and decisive manner. Only by doing that in a very targeted manner will we actually make progress against the vast forces and the resources that are aligned together against the cause of peace, justice and human rights in Darfur.

Seven Excuses of Inaction for Darfur, UN Watch, 7-14-09

As always, 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.

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

Here are some other sites of importance:

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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