March 05, 2005

Remembering Rwanda

Over at Tikun Olam, Richard Silverstein has a well-written and resource filled post about the lessons of Rwanda. As he says,

...Like any Jew who lives in the aftermath of Hitler's Holocaust, I've tried to come to terms with that greatest of genocides. One of the great questions we pondered in classes in Jewish theology at Camp Ramah when I was a teenager was: "can it happen again?" And the related questions, "is Hitler's Holocaust sui generis? and "could there be any crime that compares to it?" Alas, we now know the answer to all those questions and it is, yes. It certainly can happen again and has in Rwanda, the Sudan, Kosovo and Cambodia (among other places). While Hitler's men may've killed the most, these other genocides are all of the same type. No, our Jewish suffering was, unfortunately not unique.

In watching Ghosts of Rwanda and the other media featured here I've learned a few important lessons about the genocide against the Jews. The main lesson is that while genocide happens because of deep reservoirs of evil in human beings and nations riven by hatred, genocide cannot happen unless the internal and external forces that might stop it are immobilized by fear, inertia, blindness or distraction. ...

Along with a discussion of the genocide, and the nature of such crimes, Silverstein addresses the often ignored responsibility of those who allow such crimes to go on because of inaction. It's a good lesson, but will the world learn it in time to save the people of Darfur?

I hope so. China's growing power is obvious to even the most casual observer, and they're not known to even pretend to care about human rights. Their Xinhua press agency describes the complaint against the Sudanese government as a pretext, have been selling arms to Sudan for decades, while profiting from their oil reserves.

Pressure within China to attend to human rights concerns in international dealings is for all practical purposes nonexistant, and they have the power and influence to protect the Sudanese government from sanction and interference. Just like any other would-be superpower, their resource needs trump all other issues. The lesson is that there's no reason to think that they'll be any more restrained or compassionate to the US, and are eager to use US hypocrisy as an excuse to do whatever they want.

Rwanda could indeed happen again. And again, and again, and again if there's no strong voice in the world for justice. The promise of the US is that it's always had the potential to be that voice, and its tragedy is the recurrent failure to live up to that promise by acting like everybody else. But for a while, at least, this country has a big podium that could be used for better purposes, and US citizens do still have some say in what those purposes could be.

If we really want to remember this tragedy, or any other, the best memorial is to work to be a voice against letting it repeat itself while we could make a difference. The government of Rwanda has answered this tragedy by committing peacekeepers to UN efforts in the Sudan, should this country do less?

Posted by natasha at March 5, 2005 05:33 PM | International | Technorati links |

Amen to that. Thanks for linking & tracking back to my post on Rwanda. And thank you for explaining China's opposition to UN sanctions against Sudan. I knew of their opposition but couldn't fathom why they even cared. Now I know thanks to you.

Great blog, great writing...keep it up!

Posted by: Richard Silverstein at March 6, 2005 01:12 AM