May 28, 2003
Rwanda Redux

Like we needed confirmation, nothing was learned from Rwanda. This time it's the Congo:

Accounts of the horror in Ituri have the quality of Hieronymus Bosch's grotesque tableaux of apocalypse: torched villages; macheted babies in the streets; stoned child warriors indulging in cannibalism and draping themselves with the entrails of their victims; peacekeepers--mostly Uruguayans--using their guns only to drive off waves of frantic civilians seeking refuge in their already overflowing compound; a quarter of a million people in frenzied flight from their homes. For nearly five years, such suffering has plagued much of the eastern Congo along the tangled battle lines of warring political and tribal factions, stirred up and spurred on by the occupying armies of neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Hundreds of thousands of Congolese have been killed in the fighting, and many more have died as a consequence of the displacement, disease, and hunger that attend it. By any measure, Congo is one of the most hellish places on earth, and of all the hells within that hell Ituri province has come to be known as the most infernal.


It is for such people and such places--places that nobody in what Kofi Annan likes to call "governments with capacity" can find any political grounds to care about--that the U.N.'s system of international humanitarian law matters most. The idea behind that system is that common humanity ought to be reason enough to take an interest in preventing such terrors as extermination campaigns. And the premise behind that idea is that, while action may be costly, the price of inaction must finally be greater. But is that really how the world works? What if the ultimate horror of the Congo nightmare is that there is no price for ignoring it?

Posted by Bill Stilwell at May 28, 2003 11:34 AM
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