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GENOCIDE IN DARFUR — THE SHAME OF AMERICA AND THE WORLD

A little over a decade ago, the United Nations, the United States and the great powers of Europe, Asia and the Americas watched passively as a genocide that claimed close to a million lives swept the Central African nation of Rwanda in a few short weeks. There was one exception to that inaction – France – which intervened in a way that did nothing to end the genocide, but rather aided the escape of many of those who had perpetrated it. When the killing was going on, no one in a position of governmental responsibility, here in the United States or elsewhere, would even call it by its proper name, genocide. Under international law, the nations of the world have a legal responsibility to intervene in a nation where genocide is taking place in order to bring it to a halt, so speaking the simple truth would have been an act of self-condemnation, an admission of governmental complicity by inaction in the face of genocide. It was only when the genocide was finished, and the authors of the genocide driven from power by Rwandan rebels, that the government of the United States finally acknowledged that genocide had taken place. Contrite, the United Nations and the government of the United States declared that they would never again allow genocide to go unchecked.

Yet as you read these words, an ongoing genocide is taking place against people of African descent in the western Darfur region of the North African nation, the Sudan. For the better part of the last three years, the National Islamic Front regime of the Sudan has waged a campaign of mass murder, mass rape, mass destruction and mass pillaging against the Fur, the Masseleit, the Zaghawa, the Birgid, the Tunjur, the Dajo and other African ethnic groups in Darfur. It is estimated that 80% to 90% of the African villages in the region have been destroyed, and that over 400,000 Darfuri Sudanese have been killed. If the current campaign continues unchecked, it is thought that untold hundreds of thousands more could die in the next months. Detailed reports documenting the atrocities and crimes in Darfur have been produced by Amnesty International, Coalition for International Justice, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, Physicians for Human Rights, a Parliamentary Brief in the United Kingdom, and the World Health Organization. Even the US Department of State under Secretary Colin Powell is on the record.

The Sudan regime is among the greatest violators of human rights in the world today. For two decades, Sudan has fought a genocidal war, with as many as three million victims, against the African peoples in the south of the country. It is one of the few nations which still has a thriving slave trade, and which has widespread forced conscription of children into armed forces. Human rights group have documented the use of torture against children, and the practice of crucifixions.

And yet the United Nations Security Council, the United States government and the governments of other great powers remain inactive in the face of the genocide in Darfur. Indeed, American foreign policy on the Sudan has changed for the worse, toward a policy of appeasement of the NIF regime, an article in the current issue of the New Republic reports. [Registration required.] It is remarkable how quickly governments can break their promises, even vows as solemn as declaring that they would never again be complicit in genocide through silence and inaction.

Read the words of Eric Reeves, in his essay Darfur in the Deepening Shadow of Auschwitz, Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda:

A series of extraordinarily dire warnings have recently been issued by various UN officials, a last desperate attempt to force the international community to take urgent cognizance of Darfur’s deepening crisis. Full-scale catastrophe and a massive increase in genocidal destruction are imminent, and there is as yet no evidence that the world is listening seriously. The US in particular seems intent on taking an expediently blinkered view of the crisis. But European countries and other international actors with the power to speak the truth are little better; the absence of an effective voice emerging from the Blair government is especially dismaying in light of British willingness to intervene in Iraq.

Even so, there is no possible escape from the most basic truth in
Darfur: Khartoum’s National Islamic Front, ever more dominant in the new “Government of National Unity,” is deliberately escalating the level of violence and insecurity as a form of “counter-insurgency” warfare, with the clear goal of accelerating human destruction among the African tribal populations of the region.

In failing to respond to this conspicuous and now fully articulated truth, the world is yet again knowingly acquiescing in genocide. But as the shadows of Auschwitz and Treblinka, Bosnia, Cambodia, and Rwanda fall more heavily over Darfur, we cannot evade this most shameful truth: we know – as events steadily, remorselessly unfold – more about the realities of ethnically-targeted human destruction in Darfur than on any other previous such occasion in history. So much the greater is our moral disgrace.

When the history of the genocide in Darfur is finally written, Eric Reeves will be one of its heros. A Professor of English Literature at Smith College in Massachusetts, Reeves has taken leave after leave to dedicate himself to full-time work as an advocate for the peoples of Darfur. His web site is the most complete and thorough collection of documents and materials on the genocide in Darfur, and you should read his latest analysis of the conditions in Darfur in the Winter 2005 issue of Dissent. [He is also the author of the New Republic piece cited above.]

The UFT’s national affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers, has passed a convention resolution condemning the human rights violations in Darfur.

As citizens, we must do what our government has so far failed to do – say ‘NO MORE,’ in word and in deed, to the genocide in Darfur. Here are two concrete steps you can take…

Africa Action has organized a major Internet petition to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice urging the US government to work through the United Nations Security Council to end the genocide in the Sudan [1] by mandating an armed international intervention force, and [2] by deploying that force in support of the efforts of African Union in the Sudan. You can sign this petition, and sign up for future action notices here. Note that this petition does not ask for the use of American troops, but for American financial and material support for an international force convened under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union.

A major corporate divestment campaign has begun, and you can find a great deal of information on it at Sudan Divestment Campaign website. It is important to put mass pressure on corporations and countries [most notably China] which continue to do business with the NIF regime in the Sudan. We can work to pass state laws requiring divestment of state funds, and work to have our own pension funds divest.

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31 Comments:

  • 1 northbrooklyn
    · Oct 28, 2005 at 9:54 pm

    Leo-
    *please create your own website/blog and
    write about the issues of the day that
    concern you,
    *when you write something for this site
    make sure it has some connection to
    education in NYC,
    *if this is a column about our pensions
    or tda investing in morally upright
    companies, then start there in your
    complaint,
    *get involved in something other than
    this site. this is a wonderful city. be
    part of it.

  • 2 DJHarkavy
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 3:12 am

    I agree with northbrooklyn.

    While the situation in Darfur is very bad, and to some extent an indictment of both the current and previous administration (who were willing to invade other places for lesser reasons) it is not really relevant to teaching or our working conditions.

  • 3 Leo Casey
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 12:41 pm

    Both the AFT and NYSUT have passed resolutions on the situation in Darfur. The representative bodies of our union understand that genocide in this world is very much an issue about which teachers should be and are concerned. And the UFT blog will reflect this concern.

  • 4 Chaz
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 4:12 pm

    Mr. Casey,

    You should only be so moved by the attack on the classroom teacher that the proposed contract will cause, which you are not!

    You should spend more time working on improving teaching conditions in the schools. That is where our dues are expected to be used.

  • 5 Peter Lang
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 6:24 pm

    You know I always suspected that most of those who arued so vociferously against this contract were completely selfish and self-centered, but I can’t say that I ever expected to see such a crude expression of it as the comments in this thread. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

  • 6 Peter Lang
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 6:40 pm

    You know I always suspected that most of those who argued so vociferously against this contract were completely selfish and self-centered, but I can’t say that I ever expected to see such a crude expression of it as the comments in this thread. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

  • 7 DJHarkavy
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    Mr. Casey pointed out that both the AFT and NYSUT have passed resolutions on Darfur, and that we as educators should be concerned about it.

    I agree that we, AS HUMAN BEINGS, should be concerned about it. But as an educators union, our resolutions on foreign policy are worthless, and the fact that we refer to them, instead of to educational matters is a diversion of resources away from what the Union is supposed to be doing.

    Isn’t that what we pay our dues for?

  • 8 northbrooklyn
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 8:10 pm

    Peter and Leo-how dare you insult me. This is an opportunity for teachers to discuss issues that concern us in our classrooms…not any other political or terribly sad situation the world is now experiencing. Do not use your political power [which I understand to be considerable] to bambozzle us into listening to every personal or political issue you deem to be of importance.
    Just because the management of this union believes it is important to comment on an issue-which by the way the uft/aft has no intention of really doing anything about-there is no reason for us to have space taken up on the horrible events in Dafour.
    The uft/aft vote was an exercise in ‘feel good-ism’. If you want to do something about it then do it. Not here. You want to be effective, then be effective. Go to Dafour; but do not insult me and those who are interested in developing forum for teachers in NYC. Do not come up with intellectually lazy comments with the intention of wrapping yourselves in some kind of hypocritical moral correctness.

  • 9 Chaz
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 9:23 pm

    I guess the real classroom teachers have hit a nerve. Leo & his lap dog cannot stand the fact that the UFT should be working to improve the teaching profession. God forbid that our dues should go to the teachers they are supposed to represent.

    I have an idea. Let’s send Leo & his lap dog to Dafur and have them tell the Sudanese how to teach toleraance, respect, and understanding. That is if they can remember what it was like to be in a classroom?

  • 10 HS SHOP TEACHER
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 9:53 pm

    As educators, we have a responsibility to educate our students about what is happening in the world, and as a teachers’ union we have a responsibility to hold our government accountable when it turns a blind eye to genocide. So, NorthBrooklyn, Chaz, if you don’t want to be part of a discussion on Darfur, then leave — no one is forcing you to stay here and participate in this thread, or on this blog, for that matter. If you can’t find it in yourself to care about what is happening in Darfur, then just go away. But don’t you dare tell the rest of us what we can and can not care about, and what we as teachers can and can not do.

  • 11 Chaz
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 10:28 pm

    HS Shop Teacher,

    I have always been taught that you get your own house in order before you comment on others.

    The UFT was organized to help the classroom teacher gain respect, a competitive salary, and decent working conditions. Until the UFT achieves that goal, my union dues should not go to people who need to comment about issues that are not relevent to teaching.

  • 12 SOC ST TEACHER
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 10:45 pm

    Chaz:

    Go do James Eterno’s hatchet work somewhere else.

  • 13 northbrooklyn
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 10:52 pm

    HS Shop Teacher-you need to re-read what I and Chaz have written before you get your knickers in such a twist. This blog is suppose to be about the teachers union and not about every burden this planet has to suffer under. There are many fine organizations, websites and blogs that we can participate in-this website is not about every problem in the world. It is about teaching.
    Again, do not insult me because I question the relevance of this subject in this blog. The inclusion of this subject and other non-teacher subjects on this blog is at best an example of poor judgement.
    I question the relevance and the necessity of passing a resolution for anything we have no intention of rectifying. If we as a union believe strongly in resolving a particular problem then we have to be prepared to roll up our sleeves and do something about it. To do anything less is wrong.
    Voting on a piece of paper is just silly. It demeans us and those who do need our help.

  • 14 Chaz
    · Oct 29, 2005 at 10:57 pm

    SOC ST TEACHER,

    In this case I am proud to be on the side of James Eterno if he stands for the UFT mission to MAKE THE CLASSROOM TEACHER’S LIFE BETTER.

    However, I guess your more interested in protecting the UFT educrats and their save the world but screw the classroom teacher program. in other words, when Leo Casey tells you to jump, you must say how high?

  • 15 Kombiz
    · Oct 30, 2005 at 12:53 am

    Leo is right to discuss Darfur, and point readers who are interested to websites where they can read more about the issue. People who aren’t interested can skip the thread, Leo cut the thread off on the front page so only people interested would continue to read the thread. There have been join resolutions from the UFT/NYSUT.

    When we set out to set up a blog, it was meant to be a place for wide ranging discussions. If you have complaints or suggestions, I’ve always made my email open to people, it’s blog@uft.org. Please be civil to each other.

  • 16 DJHarkavy
    · Oct 30, 2005 at 9:52 am

    It has little to do with Leo, and much to do with what the purpose of the union is. Why does the UFT have any sort of resolution on Darfur? Does the UFT (or NYSUT, or the AFT) have any influence on foreign policy? Are they considered credible by leaders on this issue, so far out of their purview?

    Seems to me that this is an important issue, but not an educator issue.

  • 17 Chaz
    · Oct 30, 2005 at 12:53 pm

    Kombiz,

    In Cool Hand Luke the statement “what we got here is a failure to communicate” is what we have here. As a classroom teacher I expect this website to discuss education-related issues and if you did a poll you would find my view is a majority view. When the UFT educrats forget their main mission it is up to us to remind the educrats of that.

    You may disagree with me but that is how I feel. Non-educational politics and policies have no right being on Edwiz.

    PS. Kombiz, you are doing a great job on this website wexcept for allowing non-educational issues.

  • 18 jd2718
    · Oct 30, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    “Disclaimer: EdWize is sponsored by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) as a place where members, public education advocates and others can express opinions in an effort to establish an agora of informed commentary on public education and labor issues.”

    Not to say other stuff isn’t important, but…

  • 19 northbrooklyn
    · Oct 30, 2005 at 7:17 pm

    Please excuse my ignorance, but how does one get to start the topic, as Leo so freely does?

  • 20 Jackie Bennett
    · Oct 30, 2005 at 9:38 pm

    It seems to me that unions are the right place to discuss social issues so long as the particular social issue doesn’t wind up dividing the union. I think they are proper because unions are one of the few collective voices out there. Collective voices carry weight. Also, I don’t know, it just seems like people who espouse worker rights usually believe in basic human rights for all people. So, human rights issues just seem like an appropriate fit for us.

    And this is doubly so where the rights of children are involved. Teaching unions have a long history of championing the rights of children. Children in Africa are being exploited, and they are dying because of the political situation. That is of vital interest to many of our members who care about children and look for ways to make their lives better. If that weren’t the case, then our members wouldn’t bother giving to the occasional drives the union does (for example after the tidal wave last year). Why should raising the public (or even the members’) awareness of the plight of exploited children in Africa somehow preclude our advocating for things much closer to home. I’d say our hearts and minds are mostly big enough for both.

    My only caveat is that the union shouldn’t take a position on non-core, controversial issues that could divide the members, thereby undermining our core mission. Unless there is broad concurrence on controversial issues, the UFT probably ought to remain silent. Or, I guess to put it another way, the more significant the resolution is to the members, the more important that there be very broad agreement that we ought to adopt it.

    So, for example, though I strongly opposed the war in Iraq, I didn’t think the UFT ought to take a stand on it. Why? Because even if the resolution carried, it wouldn’t have been by a great majority, and thus would have been divisive.

    But on some issues there is much broader concurrence. I don’t know if we’ve passed a resolution on Darfur at DA, but it is hard to imagine (for me, at least) that condemnation of the situation in Africa would divide our members. So, if that’s the case, I’d support such a resolution.

    As far as whether this site is an appropriate place to post on current political events, why not? One thing doesn’t exclude the other. The bits and bytes and gigabytes are infinite. There are hundreds – -maybe thousands of comments on this site about core union issues. I think we can spare a little space for Africa and its kids.

  • 21 jd2718
    · Oct 30, 2005 at 10:22 pm

    northbrooklyn asked:

    “how does one get to start the topic, as Leo so freely does?”

    It seems that this blog is open to writers for the New York Teacher, and some invited guests. Beyond that, perhaps “Kombiz,” the site administrator, would accept articles e-mailed to him (or her). I don’t know if that would have been the case on the contract ratification debate, but I assume, and kombiz can jump in and correct me, that they would at least consider publishing other stuff.

    Personally, I think the new teacher topic is so important that if it dies down, I would want to see a fresh post, and might submit something. If we lose and the give-back contract is ratified, I could see offering posts on how we deal with some of the new provisions.

    Strip away the current debate, and I can see this space functioning as an adjunct to the discussions we have in our DR’s meetings (those are, for my money, the most informative meetings I attend, with the greatest amount of useful information from central reaching us, and the greatest amount of useful information from other chapters being shared). By adding EdWize to our places for talking about our day to day union business, we increase the flow of useful information, which can only benefit us as UFTers, chapter leaders, etc.

    So, if you have something of value for the rest of us, you could send it to:

    blog@uft.org

    (that’s kombiz)

    Jonathan

  • 22 jd2718
    · Oct 31, 2005 at 1:23 am

    Since I am in here anyway,

    ” Yet as you read these words, an ongoing genocide is taking place against people of African descent in the western Darfur region of the North African nation, the Sudan.”

    “For two decades, Sudan has fought a genocidal war, with as many as three million victims, against the African peoples in the south of the country. ”

    I am quite certain you don’t really mean “people of African descent” or “African peoples.”

    All of Sudan’s people, ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ black and white, christian and muslim, are Africans and are “of African descent.”

    Are you just trying to avoid the word “Black?”

  • 23 Leo Casey
    · Oct 31, 2005 at 10:11 am

    What I was trying to do, Jonathan, was properly reflect a difference between the campaigns, both of which have been classified as genocidal at times, that have been conducted by the NIF regime in the south and the west of the Sudan.

    The war in the South of the Sudan, which seems to be abated in a tenuous armistice at the moment, is long-standing, going back decades, and has claimed more than a million people. It was conducted by a regime which is both fundamentalist Islamic of a Taliban sort in its religious make-up [bin Laden actually fought on behalf of the NIF regime for a number of years] and Arabic or Semitic in its ethnic/racial character. The peoples of the South were either animist or Christian in their religious outlook and African in their ethnic/racial character. By contrast, the ongoing genocide in the west of the Sudan, or Darfur, is being conducted against Islamic but African peoples, and with the support of Islamic and Arabic/Semitic militias.

    Since the peoples of the South included Christians, they received a lot of support for fundamentalist Christians in the US. The Islamic peoples of the West, who clearly are being targetted on the basis of race/ethnicity, are not receiving that support.

  • 24 jd2718
    · Oct 31, 2005 at 1:06 pm

    Leo,

    the people in the north of the Sudan are just as African as the people in the south, who are just as African as the people in Darfur and the west. That was all I meant to say. There is no good served in denying the Africanness of the “bad guys” in this story, which your post inadvertently did by using “African” to mean “Black.”

    I am familiar with the rest of the history.

    Jonathan

  • 25 Leo Casey
    · Oct 31, 2005 at 2:56 pm

    Jonathan:

    Not for a Social Studies teacher — you Math teachers are always too literal in your approach {-;]. Yes, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, etc, are all located on the African continent, but they do not think of themselves as Africans, but as Arabs. And certainly their cultural traditions, starting with their language, belongs to the Arabic traditions. And sub-Saharan Africans don’t view them as part of Africa, or in the African traditions. When we teach global studies, we teach the Maghreb as part of the Middle East, not Africa.

    This distinction is important not just for the sake of social scientific accuracy, but also because some of the very few places in the world to still have slavery today sit on the border between the Arabic world and sub-Saharan Africa [in addition to the Sudan, the other major area of slavery runs through the Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania area at the northeastern end of the continent], and have a distinctly ethnic component to them.

    I see that you would prefer that I use terms like white and black, but those are not the terms the people in these areas have chosen for themselves, and not the terms through which they understand these conflicts. Terms such as African and Arabic properly describe the cultural background of the different peoples, and the way in which the people understand themselves.

  • 26 northbrooklyn
    · Oct 31, 2005 at 9:19 pm

    I have to be invited? I have to fit someone else’s philosophy? Well folks I guess that means that I will say what I need to say regardless of the post because there is no way that my point of view will be accepted. I invite others to do the same.

  • 27 jd2718
    · Oct 31, 2005 at 9:29 pm

    Leo,

    I have started checking usage. The US and British media agree with you, but in the spirit of “the terms the people in these areas have chosen for themselves” I have thrown the question to a reference librarian.

    I would have called speakers of Nilo-Khardofian languages black, and speakers of Arabic semitic. I would leave aside African for one and not the other, since 100,000 years of African descent would seemingly qualify all groups to be considered African, but I will dig for an answer supported by more than my supposition.

    I am asking. And in the meantime, I withdraw my previous comments.

    Asking is not very hard, but I notice that it is rarely done. I know that no one asked the black and caribbean kids in my school if they would prefer to be considered african-american, but members of my faculty (and administration) have chosen to refer to them as such. (I’m lying. I’ve asked some of my students. They generally prefer black.)

    And as I wait for my librarian to answer, how do you know how people in the Sudan consider themselves? I am finding it hard to find a reasonable source.

  • 28 Kombiz
    · Oct 31, 2005 at 11:04 pm

    Chaz, I appreciate your vote of confidence. In Leo’s defense, and in answer to your other point about polling, this site really isn’t visited by that many people, yet. There was a good click through rate on Leo’s links from this post, which tells me that, a good percent of the people who come to this site visited the links. Secondly, this may be a reaction to the fact that I grew up in post-revolution Iran, but I find it appealing that the UFT, and the AFT are involved in the human rights, and labor movements abroad. Besides the fact that people followed the links to learn more about what was going on in Darfur, I think inserting some posts on these issues is a good thing.

    Finally, Jonathan is right, you’re welcome to email me about topics, or essays you may have. We’ve been in the process of ways of expanding the writers who write regularly, and those who write on a one shot basis. I’ve been working on bringing on at least one more new teacher, and on some other projects for the blog. Stay tuned on that end. I should say, I can’t guarentee everything would go up, immediately, or later.

  • 29 Frank48
    · Nov 1, 2005 at 7:11 am

    Agreed – this Leo guy could care less about his JOB – protecting the contract for everyday people in the trenches. THIS is FAR too mundane for this fellow. It’s better to masquerade as some union hero, while pontificating politically about Africa. He gets such self satisfaction from his own flapping lips !

  • 30 Leo Casey
    · Nov 1, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    Jonathan:

    I am basing my judgments on having done a fair amount of reading on the subject, and having talked to folks like Eric Reeves, who know this subject as well as any living individual. From those sources, I would say that the African peoples of the Darfur would identify themselves two ways — by their ethnic group identity [Fur, Masseleit, Zaghawa, Birgid, etc.] and by what they have in common vis-a-vis the NIF regime in Khartoum and the Arabic Janjaweed militias which attack them, their African cultural traditions. There is a national liberation movement/organization in Darfur, and it organizes itself around the notion of African peoples.

    Leo

  • 31 northbrooklyn
    · Nov 1, 2005 at 8:05 pm

    Kombiz-are you the guy who runs this?
    First of all-be serious about your job. The horrible situation in Dafour has a long history and the uft/aft could care less about the people there. Have we pledged money? personnel? supplies? No. We expressed our concern. If you were raised in post revolutionary Iran you would know that the lazy concern of american unions is cold comfort when your brains are being beaten out of you.
    Second, I don’t need you to vet what I write. I’ll write what I want whether it it is ‘relevant’ to the pet topic of a New York Teacher writer or not.