NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
The New York Times
April 14, 2004
I can't get the kaleidoscope
of genocide out of my head since my trip last month to the Sudan-Chad
border: the fresh graves, especially the extra-small mounds for
children; the piles of branches on graves to keep wild animals
from digging up corpses; the tales of women being first raped
and then branded on the hand to stigmatize them forever; the isolated
peasants, unfamiliar with electricity, who suddenly encounter
the 21st century as helicopters machine-gun their children.
Then there were the
choices faced by the Sudanese refugees I interviewed. For example,
who should fetch water from the wells?
The Arab Janjaweed
militia, armed by Sudan's government, shoots tribal African men
and teenage boys who show up at the wells, and rapes women who
go. So parents described an anguished choice: Should they risk
their 7- or 8-year-old children by sending them to wells a mile
away, knowing that the children have the best prospect of returning?
And what should parents
do when the Janjaweed seize their children, or gang-rape their
daughters? Should they resist, knowing they will then be shot
at once in front of their children?
Or what about the
parents described by Human Rights Watch who were allowed by the
militia to choose how their children would die: burned alive or
shot to death?
Some 1,000 people
in Sudan's Darfur region are still dying each week. But at least
the world has finally begun to pay attention - and it's striking
how a hint of concern in the West has persuaded Sudan to reach
a cease-fire there.
President Bush finally
found his voice last week, protesting the "atrocities"
in Darfur. More forcefully, Kofi Annan warned on the day commemorating
the Rwandan genocide that reports about brutalities in Darfur
"leave me with a deep sense of foreboding. . . . The international
community cannot stand idle."
So far in Darfur,
thousands have been killed, and about one million black Africans
have been driven from their homes by the lighter-skinned Arabs
in the Janjaweed. Vast sections of Darfur, a region the size of
France, have been burned and emptied. The Janjaweed have also
destroyed wells, or fouled them by dumping corpses into them,
to keep villagers from ever returning.
"You can drive
for 100 kilometers and see nobody, no civilian," said Dr.
Mercedes Tatay, a physician with Doctors Without Borders who has
just spent a month in Darfur. "You pass through large villages,
completely burned or still burning, and you see nobody."
In the refugee camps
in Darfur, malnutrition and measles are claiming the survivors,
especially young children. Roger Winter, assistant administrator
of the U.S. Agency for International Development, estimates that
even if the fighting stops today, at least 100,000 are still likely
to die in coming months - of disease, malnutrition and other ailments.
Yet Sudan is still curbing access to Darfur by the U.N. and aid
I'm not suggesting
an invasion of Sudan. But it's a fallacy to think that just because
we can't do everything to stop genocide, we shouldn't do anything.
One of the lessons of the last week is how little it took - from
Washington, the U.N. and the African Union - to nudge Sudan into
accepting a cease-fire and pledging access for humanitarian workers.
Now we need more
arm-twisting to get Sudan to comply with the cease-fire (it marked
the first day, Monday, by bombing the town of Anka). The Sudanese
government is testing us, but so far the State Department has
shown a commendable willingness to stand up to it.
We can save many
tens of thousands of lives in the coming weeks - but only if Mr.
Bush and Mr. Annan speak out more boldly, if the U.N. Security
Council insists on humanitarian access to Darfur and if the aid
community mounts a huge effort before the rainy season makes roads
impassible beginning in late May.
In the last 100 years,
the United States has reacted to one genocide after another -
Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Bosnians - by making excuses at the
time, and then saying, too late, "Oh, if only we had known!"
Well, this time we know what is happening in Darfur: 110,000 refugees
have escaped into Chad and testify to the atrocities.
How many more parents
will be forced to choose whether their children are shot or burned
to death before we get serious?