About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Why isn't anybody paying attention to Darfur?

It is rather puzzling that there is a clear case of genocide going on in the world, motivated – as usual – both by ethnic hatred and political insanity (with an unhealthy mix of local economic reasons), and few people seem to be paying attention. New York Times' reported Nicholas Kristof keeps filing pieces from Sudan, documenting in writing, photos, and videos the horrors down there, and yet the rest of the world, United Nations and United States chief and foremost, just don't seem to be able to muster much more than bland and ineffective condemnations of the Sudanese government.

Could it be that the inaction is somehow connected with the lack of strategic interest (for the US) of the region, or perhaps with the fact that the local populations being persecuted are black? Wait, isn't this exactly what happened in Rwanda? I knew that history has a tendency to repeat itself, because we have a tendency not to learn its lessons, but the two genocides are ridiculously close in time for anybody to have forgotten about!

You can help. There is a web site called “Save Darfur” where we can take action now. They are also organizing a rally in Washington, DC for April 30, just to remind George W. that when he got a report on Rwanda he wrote on the margins: “Not on my watch.” Well, Mr. President, this one actually is on your watch, what are you doing about it?


  1. GW is doing nothing. Why? There are many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the US is seriously bogged down in Iraq. The military is overextended, and committing to a new mission abroad (one which has every indication of quickly becoming a similar morass, given that Sudan has been in a near-constant state of war since the 1950's) would make it nearly impossible to maintain an all-volunteer military force. There is no way that GW is going to support any action that might pave the way towards a draft.

    I'm sure that inherent racism is also a contributing factor, as is the fact that Sudan has little interest to the US or the UN from a strategic perspective. A free, open Sudan gains the Western world little in terms of potential military advantages in the event of broad-scale war, and Sudan is neither a valued exporter to the West nor an important consumer base for Western products.

    Compared to strategic defense/offense and trade, humanitarianism does not rank especially high in the current administration's rationale for intervention.

  2. The US has been reluctant to do something about Darfur for several factors, not least of which is that the Khartoum gov't (the one that sponsors the janjaweed militia responsible for genocide) is considered a valued ally against terrorism.

    The UN was reluctant to do anything because:
    1. US wanted immunity from the ICC
    2. Russia wanted to continue selling Sudan weapons.
    3. China wanted to protect their oil interests.

    The American people don't do anything because they don't know about it. We have a media that will give us 24 hour coverage for months at a time of a single missing attractive female, yet doesn't find the systematic rape and mutilation of an entire people to be newsworthy.

    Its sad really. Do you what the only place that I've seen anyone talk about the *Lord's Resistance Army other than in The Economist is? Pat Robertson's 700 Club.

    *Unrelated to Darfur, but similarly horrific

  3. Oh, and I forgot. The Khartoum gov't has a lobbyst in Washington. That's right, for $530,000 dollars a year you can represent genocide in our capital.

  4. That's a rhetorical question, right? The reason no one is paying attention to Darfur is exactly the same reason that no one paid attention to Rwanda. If you'd like a good (though wrenching)overview, you can rent the excellent 2004 PBS documentary "Ghosts of Rwanda" (which is far more telling than the Hollywood version that came afterwards)..

    - John

  5. re:"for $530,000 dollars a year you can represent genocide in our capital."

    Where do I sign up?

    On a lighter note, the answer to MP's question is answered with six letters: A F R I C A

  6. Hey guys, at what point does the rest of the world have to take some responsibilty? When the US goes in, we are the bad guys. We simply don't have the resources to be the cop for the entire world.

  7. at what point does the rest of the world have to take some responsibilty?

    They should take responsiblity to the extent that they are capable of doing something about it. The US, by way of being the world's only true superpower, simply is in a position to do more than most nations.

    But make no mistake, the failure in the last 60 years to respond and mitigate genocides around the world is a collective failure. The whole world has broken its promise of "never again."

    We simply don't have the resources to be the cop for the entire world.

    I agree. Its a terrible shame that the neoconservatives who have taken control of our foreign policy feel differently.

  8. at what point does the rest of the world have to take some responsibilty?

    That's right, the whole world should - and Massimo did cite the UN there as one of those at fault (although he did focus on the US). And sure, the US is not all powerful as some people seem to think - being in Iraq takes all the resources and there's no way to get into another war. Or so they say.

    But the issue, really, is hypocrisy: US rushed to "free" Iraq (and the world) from an unexisting threat (the miserables did not even have war airplanes at the time anymore). Basically, a huge spending (of lives and money) based on a lie. And I think it's not hard to argue that Iraq was "less bad" under Saddam than now, under... er... which terrorist organization is in charge of exploding people there today?

    Now, when there IS someone to free, but your corporate buddies don't care, not even all resources in the world help... And no mistake, it's not just the US who behave that way, and not just the Republicans either.



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