On Darfur and Sudan: Labels do matter. We need to trigger a positive cascade by recognizing our genocide for what it is.
1. The last few days have seen new and powerful political
communities joining the fight for Darfur and Sudan. MoveOn.org
has mobilized its mailing list. The Congressional Black Caucus
has become much more visible and intent, and Nancy Pelosi and the DCCC
are taking action. This is good, and they join the long-time
coalition of communities that have kept Sudan alive–African-American
leaders, midwestern and western conservative Christians, and Jews who
have a deep concern for stopping Holocaust-like genocides.
We are now seeing a coalition the likes of which seldom emerge.
Friends are being made across traditional political lines. This
is good for Darfur and Sudan and, if I may say so, this sort of thing
is good for America and the American political culture. It
happens too rarely. We need to keep it up. We are tackling
a task so difficult that we need all the power of shared purpose we can
2. In biology and complexity theory there is great power in
“cascades.” Cascades are actions that if taken trigger others,
which in turn trigger more, and so on. Some of the most advanced
work in drug evaluation is in modeling drug-induced cascades.
Epidemiology is essentially the practive of anticipating and
intervening to stop epidemics cascading through societies.
Genocide is a cascade. As Samantha Power wrote in her book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide
(which won the Pullitzer Prize for non-fiction this year), Samantha
explains that genocide is a cascade–where the hate crimes based in racism and ethnocentrism, fed by political
leadership, take on societal scale. America has never intervened
to stop a genocide.
I would like this time, our time, “our genocide”–the Darfur genocide
of 2004–to be the first time America intervenes. This would be a
historic accomplishment for the people of the world. Intervention
can be triggered by a single event: the labeling of the Darfur
situation a genocide. Colin Powell and Kofi Annan both keep
saying “we will take care of the problem and worry about labels later”
as if the label doesn’t matter. But under international law the
label does matter. If this is a genocide, most of the world’s
major nations are bound by treaty to protect the innocents–bound by
treaty to intervene with whatever means are necessary.
This is why we need to insist that “our genocide” be called what it
is. The Darfur genocide needs to be recognized as such now;
not–like the genocide in Rwanda–only in retrospect.
[More information is available at http://passionofthepresent.org]