NYT Columnist Pushes For Action On Darfur: Time To Stop The Shooting

By Paul Haist

Jewish Review, OR
Aug 2 2007


At least 1,000 people filled the sweltering sanctuary at Temple Beth
Israel July 22 to hear Oregon’s own two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning
New York Times columnist make yet another pitch for action on the
continuing genocide in Darfur.

Nicholas D. Kristof grew up on a cherry farm in Yamhill where he
graduated from high school before going on to graduate as a Phi Beta
Kappa from Harvard University, after which he earned a law degree at
Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Regarding America’s reaction to the Darfur genocide Kristof said,
"There is a history of Washington ignoring genocides." He pointed to
Armenia, the Holocaust, Bosnia and now Darfur.

"Bush did aspire to do better than Clinton had (on Darfur)," he said,
"but that has not been the case."

Kristof recounted many of his own often harrowing and deeply moving
experiences on eight visits to Darfur. He accompanied these remarks
with a slide presentation of graphically explicit victim images
from Darfur.

"You see incredible brutality there," he said, "but also incredible

Kristof took time to clarify that the conflict there, unlike in
many other venues in the world today, is not between Muslims and

"Darfur is all Muslim; there is no tension there," he said. The
violence, he explained, is "between Arab and non-Arab," between the
Janjaweed militia and African tribesman, with the former receiving
support from the Sudanese government.

Kristof largely dismissed the belief fashionable in some quarters
that the violence in Darfur is the first conflict to arise from
global warming.

He noted that Arab tribes of the region tend to be nomadic herders,
while the African tribes tend to be farmers and that some disputes
arise between the two groups because of this difference.

But as for the conflicts arising from that difference owing to
declining rainfall totals, which negatively affect both groups,
Kristof looked to Darfur’s neighbors where similar climatic and
cultural conditions exist.

"It hasn’t happened in neighboring states," he said, referring to
the violence.

Kristof believes it has more to do with the government of Sudanese
President Omar Hasan al-Bashir.

"Sudan brought in the Janjaweed to put down a rebellion," he said,
explaining that Bashir’s Khartoum government opted for the private
militias instead of its army because the army includes non-Arab
Africans whose loyalty to their own could be problematic in quelling
a rebellion.

Kristof harbored no doubt of the government’s complicity in the
violence by the Janjaweed. He reported having witnessed highway
checkpoints manned by government troops allowing Janjaweed militias
to pass unquestioned, while he and his Sudanese interpreter were
arrested and interrogated.

Kristof elaborated on the use of rape as a weapon in Darfur.

"Rape was a central part of this," he said. "This is very much a
policy of rape, often by security forces in uniform."

One of the reasons for the use of rape, Kristof explained, is that
that it engenders less public condemnation.

"Because of the stigma, women don’t talk about it," he said." It
doesn’t bring the opprobrium that a pile of bodies does."

The fact that the government often arrests women who do come forward
with charges of rape, he added, further discourages others from doing
the same, which helps to maintain a low public profile for the atrocity
while its effectiveness as a tool of coercion is undiminished.

A policy of rape, he added further, helps to undermine the authority
of local sheiks or chieftains, who are seen as unable to protect
their women.

While Kristof believes "we’ve done a pretty good job of providing aid"
to Darfur’s victims, he also believes that it’s past time for more.

"After four years of this, it seems so incredibly inadequate,"
he said. "It seems at this point the need is to stand up and stop
the shooting."

One of Kristof’s top concerns is stopping the spread of the violence.

"Eastern Chad is now in complete disarray," he said. "The Janjaweed
are doing this; (they’re) being directed by Sudanese security." He
added the Central African Republic was similarly threatened now.

"If we allow it to go on, Chad and CAR will fall apart and the
north-south war (in Sudan) will reignite," said Kristof.

He suggested that America call on other nations to join the effort
to resolve the crisis.

"We have to work more closely with other countries in the area,"
he said. "We don’t have much credibility in the area after Iraq."

He looked to China to bring its "great deal of influence" to bear.

"Those who have been shot there (Darfur) were shot with Chinese
AK-47s," he said. China is a major source of income and aid for Sudan,
which sells much of its oil to China.

Kristof encouraged using the forthcoming Beijing Olympics for leverage
with China, while he urged caution not to alienate China.

"Call on China to suspend all military transfers to Sudan until the
violence ends," he said. "Use the Olympics, but keep them on our side."

Kristof believes that sending U.S. troops to Darfur may not be a good
idea, although he did call for a no-fly zone to be enforced over
Darfur and suggested that U.S. planes might take part in that. He
suggested what he believed would be a less costly alternatives for
enforcing a no-fly zone than was used in Iraq, one in which it would
not be necessary to keep planes aloft around the clock.

Individuals can take action on their own to help end the violence in
Darfur, said Kristof. He called on all present to make their opinion
known in Washington and elsewhere.

"Stay involved," he said. "Sign up. It won’t be solved this week
or this month. The real pressure point in this country is the White

Allowing that "President Bush is embarrassable," Kristof said,
"When there is enough outrage out there, the White House will respond."

Kristof’s appearance was cosponsored by Amnesty International USA Group
48 (Oregon), the Oregon Chapter of the American Jewish Committee,
Congregation Beth Israel, the Portland Coalition for Genocide
Awareness, the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation
of Greater Portland, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and
the World Affairs Council of Oregon.