Sunday, March 11, 2007

Century of Humanity

I dreamed last night that it was 2058, and the world was a strange place. In fact, it was on the road to ethnic cleansing. Actually, the whole world wasn't 2058, just when I climbed a mountain there happened to be a futuristic civilization up there. Must be due to general relativity or something.

I finally finished Shake Hands With The Devil, which every human should read. Here are some quotations from it:

"In the aisles and on the pews were the bodies of hundreds of men, women and children. At least fifteen of them were still alive but in a terrible state. The priests were applying first aid to the survivors. A baby cried as it tried to feed on the breast of its dead mother... The night before, [two Polish MILOBs] said, the RGF had cordoned off the area, and then the Gendarmerie had gone door to door checking identity cards. All Tutsi men, women and children were rounded up and moved to the church. ... the gendarmes collected the adults' identity cards and burned them. Then the gendarmes welcomed in a large number of civilian militiamen with machetes and handed over the victims to their killers. ... By the destruction of their cards, and of their records at the local commune office, these human beings were erased from humanity. They simply never existed. Before the genocide ended, hundreds of thousands of others would be erased." (280-81)

"I had long been arguing with New York that RTLM had to be shut down, as it was a direct instrument in promoting genocide. The UN did not have the means to stop the broadcasts, either through jamming, a direct air strike on the transmitter, or covert operations, but it made a formal request of the United States, which had the means to try all three. The issue was studied by the Pentagon, which in due course recommended against conducting the operation because of the cost—$8,500 an hour for jamming aircraft over the country—and the legal dilemma. Bandwidth within a nation is owned by the nation, and jamming a national radio station would violate international convention on national sovereignty. The Pentagon judged that the lives of the estimated 8,000-10,000 Rwandans being killed each day in the genocide were not worth the cost of fuel or the violation of Rwandan airwaves. The death toll, which was estimated at 200,000 by the end of April, reached 500,000 by the end of May and 800,000 by the last day of June." (375)

"There were remnants of a barrier here, and many people had been killed and thrown in the ditches and on the sides of the road. As I got out to wait, I looked at the bodies, which seemed relatively fresh. Just as I glimpsed the body of a child, it moved. I wasn't sure if it was my imagination, but I saw the twitching of the child and wanted to help. I leaned down to pick the child up, and suddenly I was holding a little body that was both tingling and mushy in my hands. In a second I realized that the movement was not the child but the action of maggots." (401)

"'The Interahamwe made a habit of killing young Tutsi children, in front of their parents, by first cutting off one arm, then the other. They would then gash the neck with a machete to bleed the child slowly to death but, when they were still alive, they would cut off the private parts and throw them at the faces of the terrified parents, who would then be murdered with slightly greater dispatch.' Khan [Shaharyar M. Khan, appointed SRSG June '94] was wrong when he wrote that the veterans of the genocide had become hardened to such things. We were simply putting off our feelings until later." (462)

"...the U.S. 'has taken a leading role in efforts to protect the Rwandan people and ensure humanitarian assistance. ... [It has] provided $9 million in relief, flown about 100 Defense Department missions... strongly supported an expanded UNAMIR, air-lifting 50 armoured personnel carriers to Kampala ... [and is] equipping the UN's Ghanian peacekeeping battalion.' Clinton's fibbing dumbfounded me. The DPKO was still fighting for the Pentagon for military cargo planes to move materiel. The Pentagon had actually refused to equip the Ghanaians as they felt the bill was too high and that Ghana was trying to gouge them. And who exactly got the $9 million?"

[Many, many times throughout the book, the US blocked all efforts to reinforce UNAMIR (the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda) and was the constant frustration of UNAMIR. You can't help but feel outraged at the US, who had so much potential to help and not only did nothing, but actually prohibited efforts to help.]

"... during those last weeks, we received a shocking call from an American staffer, whose name I have long forgotten. He was engaged in some sort of planning exercise and wanted to know how many Rwandans had died, how many were refugees, and how many were internally displaced. He told me that his estimates indicated that it would take the deaths of 85,000 Rwandans to justify the risking of the life of one American soldier." (498-99)

"In the last decades of the twentieth century, self-interest, sovereignty and taking care of number one became the primary criteria for any serious provision of support or resources to the globe's trouble spots. If the country in question is of any possible strategic value to the world powers, then it seems that everything from covert operations to the outright use of overwhelming force is fair game. If it is not, indifference is the order of the day." (519-20)

I wish I could find the part about how many tens of thousands of bodies had been pulled out of Lake Victoria.

Many times throughout the book I had to stop and just be incredulous and outraged at what had happened. We always think, "How can such things happen in the world?" Well, because we rarely do anything other than just be outraged. Outrage is not enough. But what the hell, I don't know where to start.

I apologize for only giving these various quotations without my opinion on them. I used to routinely get flack about not having coherent arguments or opinions, but my method of thinking is somewhat Impressionistic: I hold all these disparate images in my mind, and come out with an overall picture that isn't defined in very fine lines, but is there nonetheless. I can't put my thoughts to words like other people can, and I can't explain myself very easily. But I hope you share my feelings about things like Rwanda.

"In the future we must be prepared to move beyond national self-interest to spend our resources and spill our blood for humanity. We have lived through centuries of enlightenment, reason, revolution, industrialization, and globalization. No matter how idealistic the aim sounds, this new century must become the Century of Humanity, when we as human beings rise above race, creed, colour, religion and national self-interest and put the good of humanity above the good of our own tribe." (522)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Outrage is enough if you tell other people and elected government officials about it.