Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Smoking the Janja

Go out in the street today, or take a tour of the office and ask a few people what Janjaweed is, and you might hear people say, "oh, I don't smoke that stuff—but I like Bob Marley."

Well, maybe the question itself is not quite precise enough: it's not what Janjaweed is, but who. Though once you understand what the Janjaweed have done, you would be tempted to ask, "what kind of hell-demons are these?"

The Janjaweed, of course, are the brigands who have robbed, raped, starved, displaced, and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocents in Darfur. Indeed, the numbers I give may be too low, but it doesn't matter: when it comes to genocide, the statistics don't matter very much except to network news anchors. And since the mass media has joined the U.S. government in turning their collective backs on this situation, the exact numbers matter even less.

Suffice it to say that both the statistics and the horror of this hell-on-earth surpass the death and devastation wrought by the Asian tsunami of 2004. To even take a cursory overview of the carnage numbs the mind and crushes the soul. I realize I've brought this up a few times before in this blog, but as long as it keeps up, and as long as the networks think that Jen's Vanity Fair cover shot rates top billing, we have to keep talking about Darfur and continue to demand justice and healing in Sudan. And we have to continue doing the mass media's work for it, while also insisting that they wake up and do their jobs (watch the video on this link).

After all, it's not that we the people of America are ignorant or hard-hearted about this stuff. According to the Zogby poll quoted at ICG's site, we are an overwhelming—and bipartisan—majority when it comes to this issue:

• 80% agreed that the Janjaweed attacks on civilian populations in Darfur can accurately be called "genocide" or "crimes against humanity", with response higher among Republicans (82%) than Democrats (79%);

• 84% said the U.S. should not tolerate an extremist government committing such attacks and should use its military assets, short of putting U.S. troops on the ground, to help stop them.

Obviously, I have to add that dropping bombs on the crazy bastards is simply going to create more mayhem, just as it has done in Iraq. So what's the solution? A bigger U.N. police force to protect the villages that are most at risk for future depredations? Maybe. Diplomatic pressure applied to other nations in the region, or to our international allies? Perhaps, though there aren't very many bastions of political stability on that entire continent right now, and other countries such as Niger are struggling with crises of nearly equal proportions to that in Sudan.

Clearly, if you have the cash to give to international aid organizations such as the Genocide Intervention Fund, that can only help (the link to their site should be spread far and wide, if only for the compelling video in the opening).

But perhaps as urgent as anything is the simple matter of raising awareness. The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has kept a running timeline on the number of days between mentions of Darfur from 8-handicap Flash of Crawford, TX. We have to let every politician within shouting range know that the Bushies' idea of international justice—bombing foreign nations that present no threat to the U.S. while turning a blind eye to genocide the next continent over from where our soldiers are dying for no good reason—is not what we-the-people want to endorse with our votes or fund with our tax dollars.

Next come the media: we have to be the dog at the pantlegs of the mass media, and we might have to keep biting for a long time to come. Get used to it, have fun with it, and make a total pest of yourself. Start with the recommendations here, and then add your own creative touches.

We are better than our government. We are stronger; we are wiser; we are braver; we are sure as hell smarter. Let this be your motto—if you will, your mantra—as you continue to strike one match after another at the iron foot of Power. If you have more ideas on how to awaken the world and its purblind governments to the continuing hell of genocide, send them in and I'll post them.

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