Monday, November 07, 2005

Bloodbaths and priorities

Darfur refugees
U.S. Envoy to Meet Darfur Rebels in Effort to Stem Violence - New York Times:
With the Bush administration's Sudan policy in disarray, Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick arrived here [Kenya] today for the first in a series of meetings intended to stanch the damage from the death of a Sudanese opposition leader and a surge of new violence in the Western province of Darfur.
A few weeks ago there were reports of the janjaweed attacking and overpowering Sudanese government troops, and the AU observers can't successfully intervene without the logistical support that only a first world power (read: US, Canada or EU) can offer.

Meanwhile, the killing, raping and destruction of homes, fields and livestock continue apace.

I know Sam Brownback talks the good talk on Darfur and Burma (Myanmar), but he seems more interested in beating up on the gays than actually saving lives.

A lot of people treat his human rights work as a sign that he's a moral politician, and damn the torpedos. But with Iowa and New Hampshire clogging his calendar, he has to make some choices. Does he define himself as a tough, hardline religious conservative by protecting hate crimes, going after the gays, defending the frozen balls of cells, etc., or does he define himself as a compassionate conservative, trying to help people around the world who desperately need a voice with influence.

A quick perusal of Google News will answer that question. Search for Brownback, and see how many stories about Darfur there are compared to stories about gay marriage, scuttling Harriet Miers for her failure to declare war on Roe v. Wade, or stem cells.

As the Times explains:
More than 200,000 people have died in Darfur since the violence began almost three years ago, and about two million people are housed in refugee camps, dependent on aid groups from around the world for their food and livelihood.
To put it the way our President might if some Senator explained this (perhaps using a map) "Wow! That's a lot." Maybe if a prominent Senator brought it up and raked Ambassador Bolton over the coals, he wouldn't obstruct the UN's attempt to get involved.

Brownback has a bully pulpit, and taking a strong stand on Darfur could even be good politics. It's an issue that transcends party lines and could actually make him seem more electable, and also a bit less like the stereotypical evil religious authoritarian.

But he has choices to make, and when there's a chance to fight about incinerating frozen lumps of cells or using them for medical research, those 2 million refugees just have to wait.

More on Darfur from the archives or at Passion of the Present.

"The Refugee" by U2 from the album War (1990, 3:41).