Thursday, November 29, 2007

Remember Darfur? Anyone?

Anyone? Bueller?

First, from Fortune magazine/CNN Money:

Good citizens speak out when they see injustice. Can good corporate citizens be expected to do the same?

That’s the uncomfortable question being raised by a human rights group called Dream for Darfur, which is asking sponsors of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing to voice their opposition to China’s support for the government of Sudan. The Sudanese government has been accused of waging a genocide against its own citizens in Darfur.

This week Dream for Darfur issued a length report as part of its challenge to 19 Olympic sponsors, including such well-known global brands as Coca-Cola, General Electric, Kodak, Microsoft and Visa, to press China, Sudan’s most important global ally, to use its influence to end the Darfur crisis. China buys oil from the Sudanese government, and sells weapons to the Khartoum regime. Since 2003, about 200,000 people have died and an estimated 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes in Darfur.

In a the report, Dream for Darfur asks: “Why are the major corporations sponsoring the Olympics - some of the most recognizable brands in the world - refusing to speak out against the world’s most wrenching humanitarian crisis?” “Sponsors are supporting China’s efforts to position itself in glowing terms on the world stage,” said Jill Savitt, director of Dream for Darfur. “But they are silent about China’s role in the Darfur genocide, and in their silence, they are complicit.”

The rest of the story is here. You can read Dream for Darfur’s report here.

I have to say that I do not support the “Dream for Darfur” effort. There is no “Olympic dream” for the people of Darfur. They can only “dream” about what might happen if the rest of the world - including the big multi-national corporations who are kowtowing to the Chinese in their support of the Beijing Olympics next year - would get off its collective behind and actually do something to force the Chinese to end its support of the murderous Khartoum regime. Something like pulling their sponsorship of the Games. Which they won’t do. Because no one is forcing them to. A complete boycott - which “Dream for Darfur” amazingly does not support - might actually cause this to happen. I cannot for the life of me figure out why there is no campaign by these folks to force these sponsors to yank the money rug out from under The Genocide Olympics. That would be the way to “voice their opposition.” Anything less - like asking pointless “questions” - is simply more empty words. And the suffering people of Darfur have had their fill of those. They won't shield them from the bullets of the janjaweed.

MY dream is that the United States would boycott the Beijing Olympics, and I wish they would tell the Chinese exactly why. I will not be watching, except to find out who is still sponsoring the Games and their television broadcast. And those companies will not be getting my family’s dollars.

Then there’s this column from Nat Hentoff, writing in The Village Voice:

It’s Only Black Muslims

Has anyone heard Darfur mentioned in the presidential debates? Or in Congress?

If you haven’t been thinking about Darfur lately — which would come as no surprise, given that the newspapers and television news shows are mostly silent about it — here’s a recent report by Eric Reeves, an international authority on the genocide going on there and a constant recorder of the death toll (now more than 450,000 and counting):

“Typically they begin very early in the morning, before people are awake. . . . A bomber flying at high altitudes will push out barrel bombs designed to terrorize and kill civilians. As the civilians flee from their huts the Janjaweed [the government’s Arab militia] will sweep in, killing all the men, raping women.

“We have many reports of babies, male babies being killed, sometimes having their penises sliced off so that they would bleed to death in their mothers’ arms. . . .”

Reeves, a professor of English at Smith College in Massachusetts, has leukemia, but that hasn’t stopped him from spending many long hours into the night helping to keep the world aware of its passive complicity in these ceaseless horrors (go to

The rest is here, if you can stomach it. Try. Please. And do bookmark Prof. Reeves’ site. It’s the best thing going out there to find out what’s going on in Darfur. And he is a genuine hero for the tireless work he has done, crying out as an almost lone voice in the media wilderness, taking his case for the people of Darfur to whomever will listen.

So, I wonder, will any of the endless, mindless, so-called debates touch on Darfur? Will any candidate be bold enough to mention it, unprompted? Doubtful. It’s a situation that seems to intractable, so without hope, that people seem to content to just let it drop off their radar screens. If we cover our eyes, and turn our heads away, and hold our noses so we can’t smell the rotting corpses, and stuff enough metaphorical cotton in our ears so we don’t hear the screaming and crying, and refuse to speak its name, maybe it’ll just disappear.

And then we don’t have to think about it. Or our own complicity. Because that is what our silence and inaction amount to. We are the bystanders here.

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