You've come to an old part of SW Online. We're still moving this and other older stories into our new format. In the meanwhile, click here to go to the current home page.
Asking a war criminal to stop war crimes

June 1, 2007 | Page 8

PAUL D'AMATO writes an open letter to Don Cheadle and other Hollywood figures who are concerned about Darfur.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dear Mr. Cheadle and Co.,
I am writing to you in response to your decision to throw your celebrity status behind the crusade to urge U.S. intervention to save the people of Darfur in the Sudan.

Your recent column, co-written with John Prendergast, "Never again--again," reminds us that "[a] brutal campaign of state-sponsored violence in Darfur has led to the deaths of up to 300,000 people, and the lives of about 2 million displaced people hang in the balance."

I would like to take this time to tell you about an even worse crisis that is being perpetrated by the very government you urge to act in Darfur--the U.S. government.

According to a report published last year in the British medical journal the Lancet, the U.S. war was responsible for 655,000 deaths in Iraq since the invasion--and by now, that figure is probably closer to 1 million. Some 3.7 million Iraqis are refugees, 1.7 of them internally displaced. The UNHCR estimates that another 300,000 will be internally displaced by the end of this year.

This devastation, moreover, comes on the heels of more than a decade of U.S./UN-imposed sanctions that wreaked havoc on Iraq's people. A review of UN Population Division statistics by an Australian doctor found that there were 1.7 million excess deaths in Iraq--the majority of them children--during the 1990-2003 sanctions era in Iraq.

A recent Save the Children study ranked Iraq worst in the world in child survival rates, finding that the likelihood of an Iraqi living past age 5 has dropped faster than anywhere else since 1990.

Iraq, which had a standard of living equivalent to Greece in the 1970s, now falls below Burundi as one of the poorest countries on the planet. And the country is coming apart under the stress of a civil war that the U.S. orchestrated, by pitting Sunnis, Shia and Kurds against one another.

In short, the government to which you appeal for redress in Darfur is responsible for destroying an entire nation and killing almost 3 million people in the process--not counting the number of Iraqis killed by U.S. forces in the first Gulf War in 1991.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

FORGIVE ME if I find it strange that you have failed to recognize the absurdity of your crusade--which is like asking the proverbial fox that, before your eyes, is busily tearing chickens apart in one henhouse, to stop what he is doing to rush over to "guard" another.

To put it another way: why ask war criminals to save others from war crimes? Doesn't it behoove you to focus your energy on the atrocities committed in your name by the country in which you live?

And yet, there are no letter-writing campaigns that I know of to get the U.S. out of Iraq and urge that the Bush regime be tried in the International Criminal Court (something that, in your article, you demand be the fate of the Sudanese government).

The record of the U.S. as a world economic and military power hardly recommends it as a savior of peoples in distress. To cite a few examples of U.S. crimes from a far longer litany, and in no particular order: the genocide against Native Americans; the killing of millions in Korea and Vietnam; the training of death squads in Latin America; the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear bombs; the internment of Japanese during the Second World War; the forced enslavement of millions of Africans; and the upholding of legal racial segregation until fairly recently.

Is it any wonder that Martin Luther King once called the U.S. the "greatest purveyor of violence" in the world? And should we be insisting that the "greatest purveyor of violence" intervene anywhere in the world to prevent violence?

It appears that cries for humanitarian intervention in Darfur, a region that is very important to the U.S., are meant to rehabilitate American global intervention at a time when its international credibility is at its lowest point since Vietnam. Whether or not some participants, like yourself, are conscious of this motive, all signs point in that direction.

The list of key players in the Save Darfur crusade reveals organizations and individuals that are not known for a principled stand against genocide. Among them are: the National Association of Evangelicals; several pro-Israeli Zionist organizations; former FBI Director Louis Freeh; former CIA Director James Woolsey; Republican right-wingers Newt Gingrich and Gary Bauer; as well as neoconservative luminaries like Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who once told a reporter that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children because of U.S. war and sanctions against Iraq were "worth it," was the keynote speaker at a Central Park rally last September calling for UN troops in Darfur.

Imperialism and colonial powers have a long history of cloaking their predatory aims in humanitarian garb. King Leopold of Belgium plundered the Congo of its rubber--and murdered, starved or worked to death millions of Africans in the process--while claiming that his true goal was to rid Africa of slavery and make a "lasting and disinterested service to the cause of progress."

If the "save Darfur" crusade has any success, it won't be so much to save Darfurians as to make a "lasting and disinterested service" to the cause of rehabilitating U.S. imperialism. This is not a noble cause.

Home page | Back to the top