September 11, 2004
New York Times Op-Ed
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
On my last visit to the Darfur area in
Sudan, in June, I found a man groaning under a tree. He had been
shot in the neck and jaw and left for dead in a pile of corpses.
Seeking shelter under the very next tree were a pair of widows
whose husbands had both been shot to death. Under the next tree
I found a 4-year-old orphan girl caring for her starving 1-year-old
brother. And under the tree next to that was a woman whose husband
had been killed, along with her 7- and 4-year-old sons, before
she was gang-raped and mutilated.
Those were the refugees sheltering under
just four adjacent trees. Thousands of other victims with similar
stories stretched as far as the eye could see.
So I salute the Bush administration for
formally declaring on Thursday that the slaughter is a genocide.
But as we commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, let's remember
that almost as many people are still dying in Darfur every week
as died in the World Trade Center attack.
"There's kind of a reign of terror
that exists," said Kenny Gluck, director of operations for
Doctors Without Borders in the Netherlands.
Even in the camps where Doctors Without
Borders is present, he says, Janjaweed gunmen often rape women
or execute men who go off to seek firewood. So now, he said, many
families are making an agonizing choice: they are sending their
small children out at night to gather wood because small children
are less likely to be murdered or raped.
So I've got some questions.
For President Bush Why don't you turn up
the heat on Sudan? How about consulting urgently with the leaders
of our allies about how to exert more pressure on Sudan? How about
inviting victims to the White House and denouncing the genocide
from the Rose Garden? How about threatening a no-flight zone in
Darfur unless Sudan cooperates?
For France and Germany I sympathized with
your opposition to the war in Iraq. But are you really now so
petty and anti-Bush that you refuse to stand with the U.S. against
the slaughter in Darfur, or even to contribute significant sums
to ease the suffering?
Does the Chirac government really want
to show the moral blindness to Sudan's genocide that the Vichy
regime did to Hitler's?
For the Islamic world You're absolutely
right to hold Israel's feet to the fire over its often brutal
treatment of Palestinians, but why don't you also care about dead
Sudanese? In August, according to a human rights monitoring group,
Israel killed 42 Palestinians, including fighters. In the same
period, according to the World Health Organization, more than
10,000 people died in Darfur - virtually all of them Muslim.
Islamic Relief is doing an excellent job,
but the Muslim victims of Darfur are getting far more help from
Jewish and Christian aid groups than from Islamic charities.
For the United Nations Agencies like the
U.N. World Food Program are working heroically to keep the victims
alive, but the U.N. as a whole has failed to respond to Sudanese
atrocities. Mostly that's because of the failure of member states,
but I'm afraid that some of the responsibility has to be charged
to a man I like and respect: Kofi Annan.
I hate to say it, but the way things are
going, when he dies his obituary will begin: "Kofi Annan,
the former U.N. secretary general who at various points in his
career presided ineffectually over the failure to stop genocide,
first in Rwanda and then in Sudan, died today. "
One of the people I met on my last trip
to Darfur was Hatum Atraman Bashir, who was pregnant with the
baby of one of the 20 Janjaweed raiders who murdered her husband
and gang-raped her. A few days ago, I received an e-mail note
from an aid worker in the International Rescue Committee, which
is assisting Ms. Bashir, saying that she had given birth but could
not produce milk for the baby - a common problem because of malnutrition.
The lives of Ms. Bashir, her new baby and
about one million others are at stake as we dither over how to
respond to the genocide. And so far we've failed them.
In Wednesday's column quoting Bob Mintz,
who was at the Alabama National Guard base where George W. Bush
apparently wasn't, I bragged that my interview was his first with
a national news organization. It turns out that he spoke to CBS
in February. Mea culpa.