Most jarring visuals of the week: Steny Hoyer hugging Nancy Pelosi? Hardly. George Bush standing in front of a bust of Ho Chi Minh? Close. But a photograph of a young woman at the top of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s column today truly grabbed my attention. “The Face of Genocide” was the headline, and his commentary recounted the misery and sheer horror of this young woman’s life at the hands of the janjaweed, the state-sponsored militias in Sudan who have been raping and killing black Africans in Darfur for more than three years.
What is it about the photo of Halima, 20, a member of the Dajo tribe that stopped me as I flipped through the “Week in Review” and drew me into the Kristof column? She appeared to be like so many young women I have come to know — face both youthful and aging, the seriousness and worry piercing through her clear young eyes and line-less brow. She is young enough to be a sophomore or junior worrying about impending exams; she is ancient enough to know the unspeakable horror of seeing the janjaweed rape and kill her 10 year-old sister before they raped her.
The United States willingly intervenes in the internal affairs of many other nations, sometimes upon invitation, sometimes in a ‘pre-emptive strike’ against unknowable, unproven threats. Why has the United States been so silent about the 21st century’s first great genocide, the killing of black Africans in Darfur?
Writer John Prendergast asked this very question in his article “So How Come We Haven’t Stopped it?” in today’s Washington Post. I urge everyone to read this article.
The world cannot afford two years with the United States preoccupied with petty “in” and “out” lists of party politics, and various minor figures planning their campaigns or retirements. The United States must regain some of its moral leadership in the world by acting immediately to address the Darfur crisis. This is not about the current president or past president or future president — this is about the lives of women like Halima and their children and families, citizens of this earth who are suffering state-sponsored oppression in the hundreds of thousands. This is a cause where justice demands U.S. intervention — now.