Editorial: Syria and Sudan: Does Anybody Care?

Nicholas D. Kristof, the courageous New York Times reporter who was the most persistent and forceful advocate for the innocents of Darfur in the Sudan where 300,000 were murdered, has been a lonely voice on behalf of two current groups of victims. In a wide-ranging piece in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times last week, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer said, “When a government devours its own people, as in Syria or Sudan, there are never easy solutions.” He goes on to say that the cautious approach by Washington and its allies has been “taking prudence to the point of paralysis.”

 Every day diplomats and media exhaust the synonyms for “outrage,” “slaughter of the innocents,” and “massacres,” in response to the ongoing carnage at the hands of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, where his forces are now reliably believed to have killed as many as 13,000 men, women and children—yes children; at least 1,000 have been killed to date, according to Richard Engel, the seasoned foreign correspondent for NBC News. As the U.N. “monitors” helplessly stand by, the slaughter continues in places like Houla, Homs and Hama, where mass killings of innocents continue, including the recent introduction of Russian-supplied helicopter gun ships by Assad’s forces. 

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has expressed extreme distress at the inability of the “international community” to take decisive action to stop the killings in Syria. Russia and China have vetoed two Security Council resolutions that threatened sanctions against Syria, and newly re-installed Russian President Vladimir Putin has made it absolutely clear that his regime is adamantly opposed to any foreign intervention to oust Assad from power or a “no-fly, no-drive” approach that had been used successfully to stop Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi from unleashing mass killings against rebel forces and innocent civilians in Behghazi.

 Meanwhile in Sudan, the regime of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, which was responsible for the genocidal mass murders in the Darfur region of that now divided nation, according to Kristof, “is dropping anti-personnel bombs full of ball bearings on farming villages” in the Nuba Mountains region, where “hundreds of thousands of Nubans are now living on tree leaves, roots and insects.

 Kristof has been the only major foreign affairs correspondent from a mainstream American medium to report from the scene of the carnage in the Nuba Mountain region. He is not reluctant to describe how the mass starvation he is witnessing there has affected him personally: “Nothing moved me more than watching a 6-year-old girl, Israh Jibrael, tenderly feed her starving 2-year-old sister, Nada, leaves from a branch. Isra looked hungrily at the leaves herself, and occasionally she took a few. But, mostly, she put them into her weak sister’s mouth. Both children were barefoot, clad in rags, and had hair that was turning brown from malnutrition.”

 Kristof could have been describing Anne Frank and her older sister Margot Frank at Buchenwald in 1945, where the two sisters eventually died of starvation and typhus shortly before the camp was liberated. Anne Frank’s immortal diary, “The Secret Annex,” was her eyewitness account of her family’s survival in Amsterdam by hiding in an attic until caught by the Gestapo and deported to the death camp. Israh Jibrael and her younger sister, Nada, would have died anonymously if it were not for Kristof’s extremely brave reporting.

 Incredibly, Sudanese dictator Omar Bashir has been strutting around Africa, attending international conferences years after the International Criminal Court indicted him for war crimes in connection with the Darfur genocide for which his troops and their Junjaweed surrogates are fully responsible.

 NATO should follow the template that worked so well in Libya — with no major losses of blood or treasure and the ouster of another brutal dictator, Qaddafi. 

The West, including the United States, is understandably weary of wars, especially in the Middle East, Southwest Asia and North Africa, and is distracted by the ongoing financial meltdown in Europe and political campaigns throughout the world.

 The carnage in both Syria and Sudan have long ago passed the “tipping point” where diplomacy has obviously failed and a humanitarian intervention to stop the killing and ease the ouster of those murderous regimes must be undertaken. The world must not stand idly by while another Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia or Cambodia unfolds before our very eyes, and then apologizes for not having done anything to stop it.

 The question about the murders in Sudan and Syria is contained in a familiar song, which applies to the civilized world: “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?” The time for the “paralysis” so vividly described by Nicholas D. Kristof to end has long past. The time for decisive action by the international community (specifically NATO) is now!