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meanwhile in the congo
May 26, 2003 3:07 PM   Subscribe

"We can only watch the slaughter, say UN troops" in the Congo - where machetes are turned into weapons of mass destruction - the hobbled UN presses for action, and the US and Major US Media outlets take no notice.
posted by specialk420 (51 comments total)

 
Pygmies beg UN for aid to save them from Congo cannibals
posted by homunculus at 3:28 PM on May 26, 2003


and Major US Media outlets take no notice.
posted by homunculus at 3:31 PM on May 26, 2003


when they start signing up recruits to protect the congo's jungles and people and animals that call it home - id consider joining up. until then ill be sending some dough.
posted by specialk420 at 3:59 PM on May 26, 2003


It makes me proud to be born on American soil when I think that the US gets really, really upset over Africa not really digging the idea of GMO crops, but looks the other way when people are getting slaughtered.

I'm glad the government that I give money to every year has their priorities straight, y'know?
posted by cmonkey at 4:17 PM on May 26, 2003


Someone better find oil there, then they'll get some help.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:24 PM on May 26, 2003


Hi, Somalia!
posted by techgnollogic at 5:39 PM on May 26, 2003


Should we do something? YES!!
What should we do? ummm....

The article says there are "maybe six armies" fighting each other.. so who do we attack? Who do we defend? Do we simply occupy the entire region.. and then transfer control over to....? the same factions responsible in the first place?
This sounds like a real mess to jump into.
I mean, I'd love to be able to endorse some sort of help here, and I admit that I'm really clueless about the situation as a whole, but does anyone who is appauled at what is going on understand it well enough to recommend a specific action to fix it?
posted by Wingy at 5:43 PM on May 26, 2003


Surely there's some way that the white armies of the west can step in between these warring factions and enforce a lasting peace with little or no lingering problems left to fester into global catastrophes 30 years down the line.

After all, we're so good at that.
posted by techgnollogic at 5:48 PM on May 26, 2003


Wingy:
Damn fine question (the last one). As a quick brainstorm: how about amplifying the approach that many are now (retrospect) saying should have been used to protect Iraqi museums. Only we pretend that people are art, and herd them into "safe" areas. Ultimately, people get to fight whatever wars they want, but protecting civillians from crossfire need not be wedded to intervention in the conflict itself.

That aside, I know that I have seen some "hindsight" scenarios drawn up for Rwanda. I'm a-googlin' for 'em, in the hopes that there is some obvious parellel in Congo through which they could be adapted.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 5:53 PM on May 26, 2003


After all, we're so good at that.

Point noted. But, perhaps we could step in and do something to stop them from killing and eating each other, for the time being.
posted by pemulis at 5:53 PM on May 26, 2003


Stopping them for the time being is all you'd do, too.
posted by techgnollogic at 5:57 PM on May 26, 2003


I'm not advocating doing nothing either. I just don't think the tone of the original post is appropriate in this situation. The US is not responsible for the situation and if all the Iraq war protestors who claimed that we had no right to interfere with the sovereignty of that nation start saying we're heartless devils if we don't interfere in this one, my head is going to explode.
posted by techgnollogic at 6:08 PM on May 26, 2003


This sounds like a real mess to jump into.

Not like that cut-and-dry Middle East region. Sounds like what we need is a roadmap.
posted by Hildago at 6:13 PM on May 26, 2003


> "We can only watch the slaughter, say UN troops"

Well, they could go out there and get between the combatants and die doing their duty. But then they're only UN troops, which is to say multinational Cub Scouts.

I say the US should invade with real guns--the very instant the UN Security Council says it's OK.
posted by jfuller at 6:23 PM on May 26, 2003


the US gets really, really upset over Africa not really digging the idea of GMO crops, but looks the other way when people are getting slaughtered.

But there's that 15 billion that the Little Bastard pledged in the SOTU address for fighting AIDS in Africa right?

Oh, well, maybe not.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:38 PM on May 26, 2003


Ah, you mean this part:

"Another area of serious concern appeared when the US Senate passed a bill tying assistance on AIDS to acceptance of GMOs on May 15th. The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003, passed in May, allows the US authorities to apply pressure on African states to accept GM food aid before releasing support for the AIDS/HIV and related illnesses alleviation programmes."

That George, he's such a compassionate conservative! He's very caring about Monsanto, for one thing.

The leading edge of Monsanto's new work is not the production of food, but the production of feed: crops ... not for humans but for animals. ..."The opportunity is just enormous," Monsanto's president announced, "We see the value that we can create as several billion dollars."

Feed production ... is also one of the engines of African famine, as land previously devoted to meeting local people's necessities has been expropriated

It's a great development for Monsanto, but disastrous news for farmers, especially the one billion small farmers who produce most of the Third World's staple crops for local markets.

Monsanto, in other words, threatens to become the hunger merchant of the third millennium. Where it goes, famine will follow."


There is, naturally, a fair movement against Monsanto in Africa. Hence the US government's tying of humanitarian aide to the financial well-being of one of its biggest corporations.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:55 PM on May 26, 2003


Only we pretend that people are art, and herd them into "safe" areas.

That's a great idea.
posted by EObbS at 7:07 PM on May 26, 2003


I mean, I'd love to be able to endorse some sort of help here, and I admit that I'm really clueless about the situation as a whole

sound like anyone else we know?

one senegalese soldier with a single gun, a lot of balls, and a hell of a big heart, single-handedly saved hundreds of rawandan lives 1994 - this article should provide plenty to help you out of your state of confusion wingy. any bets on whether asshat has read it?
posted by specialk420 at 7:21 PM on May 26, 2003


EObbs:
Those people were fleeing, which would sort of imply that they were not being protected at home. I am failing desperately at finding the sort pf after-the-fact Rwanda scenarios I was talking about, so I'll shut up about that. What would you have them do, EObbs? Personally, I think that the earlier international intervention occurs, the fewer people would have to flee to unsafe situations such as the one you describe.

To extend the museum analogy: most of the critics of that policy stated that it would have been easy to park a tank and some troops outside. Would it work the same way (though on a larger scale) for a neighborhood? A hospital? I don't know, but it seems possible.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:22 PM on May 26, 2003


Well, they could go out there and get between the combatants and die doing their duty. But then they're only UN troops, which is to say multinational Cub Scouts.
The fact of the matter is that it's their duty not to intervene, since their current rules of engagement don't allow them too (and, if they did, they'd be terribly outgunned). There's no reason I see that a more substantial UN force couldn't change the situation dramatically, by being able to actually secure certain areas and protect civilians. There's no reason the peacekeepers need to be outmanned and outgunned.

Further, I, for one, would like to see the US swallow some of its pride, its evil and its stupidity, and send some troops along, even if the coalition is French-led. For once, at least, we could have a was that's legitimately about helping the oppressed.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:47 PM on May 26, 2003


I saw a BBC documentary on the Congolese civil war a number of months ago... Apparently, three of the Congo's neighboring countries were (at least at one time) sponsoring different armies within the civil war in order to keep fighting going and drive down the price of diamonds. Congo is rich in diamonds, and the armies are known to kidnap and enslave civilians, forcing them to gather diamonds which will later be traded to extranationals for weapons. Whee. I think the faction has since faded, but there was a particular army at one point known for kidnapping and training children as young as 8 years old for combat, using a combination of drugs and torture to bring them into a murderous loyalty to the officers.

As usual, my love of free trade knows no bounds.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:27 PM on May 26, 2003


I'm with techgnollogic, explain how intervention is okay now and not in Iraq, and with Wingy on what we should do. I mean, if you guys think the sectarian violence is old in Europe, it's beyond ancient in Africa. They just keep killing (and eating!) each other no matter what, and I just see little that outsiders can do. Perhaps erect huge (and I mean hundreds of feet tall) barriers around each tribal area?
posted by billsaysthis at 9:10 PM on May 26, 2003


It amazes me that the same metafilterians who decry the US involvement in Iraq call so resolutely for the same involvement in the Congo. If I was the cynical type, I'd assume that the flood of hysterical pussifying around here is spurred more by an apparently uncontrollable urge for self-flagellation than any coherent political agenda.

If there's a mefi scorecard of which countries deserve our intercession and those for which said intercession is just imperialistic bloodthirtiness, could some please send me a link? I hate being out of the loop on these sorts of things.
posted by UncleFes at 9:22 PM on May 26, 2003


perhaps you could give us a link of some sort for these alleged resolute calls to war?
posted by mcsweetie at 9:41 PM on May 26, 2003


Ignatius J. Reilly:

Sadly, I don't have an answer to the question of how to help the Congolese people. I think the situation is much like the Balkans. Do we repeat what we did there and wage a racist and imperialistic war designed to fragment the country because we don't want black people to have any power? Do we not intervene and let them slaughter each other because we're racist, inhumane bastards who are only looking out for our business interests? Do we protect the people who aren't fighting by positioning armed guards around their towns and cities, and how long do we keep these people in these concentration camps?
posted by EObbS at 9:57 PM on May 26, 2003



It amazes me that the same metafilterians who decry the US involvement in Iraq call so resolutely for the same involvement in the Congo.


Without wanting to advocate for intervention in either case, I think there's a pretty clear difference between starting a fight and trying to stop one.
posted by electro at 10:10 PM on May 26, 2003


techgnollogic, UncleFes: I see what you're saying about the seeming inconsistencies between people's attitude toward military intervention in Iraq and involvement in a situation like this. Well, being one of those people, here's a quick rundown on the reasons why I didn't support a war against Iraq but would support getting involved in this situation.

One, as horrible as life was under Saddam, it was fairly stable and orderly for the average person. Police policed, teachers taught, doctors doctored, etc. - one was rightfully afraid of Saddam's goons but really didn't have to fear that marauding, looting mobs were going to pillage their house, rape their daughters, and kill them all with a machete. The Congo sitch, on the other hand, is total fucking chaos. People can't farm their land, tend to flocks or even forage for food without being killed.

Secondly, I can't find any reason to be involved other than for humanitarian reasons. With Iraq, however, there were so much murkiness and many ulterior motives - we armed and aided Sadddam and turned a blind eye to his crimes against his own people and neighbors for 20 years. Even after the first Gulf War, American companies were doing business with his regime with no interference from our goverment. This while were were supposed to be holding sanctions against Iraq. Toss in the financial incentive to get at the huge reserves of oil and the sweetheart deals that Haliburton, Bechtel and their ilk are getting from their pals in Washington and all the cries about liberating the downtrodden Iraqis start to seem pretty fishy. I'm sure we could find a financial reason to get involved in the Congo, but the overwhelming factor here is saving civillans from marauding hordes of machete wielding guerilla soldiers.

Actually, what I had hoped would happen in Iraq is what I want to see happen here - America providing material, logistical, and humanitarian support to the white hats with minimal involvement of our troops. Give the UN troops the hardware and a good kick in the ass, while we make sure that the civilians are fed, sheltered and given medical treatment.

I hate to say it, but I'm beginning to see what the righties were saying about the UN forces being completely useless. Send troops in without guns and then pull them out when things get hairly - how in the fuck is that supposed to keep the peace when the barbarians are at the gate?
posted by echolalia67 at 10:23 PM on May 26, 2003


That is, hairy not hairly.
posted by echolalia67 at 10:25 PM on May 26, 2003


Regardless of the different opinions on how this matter should be dealt with, can we not all agree that the world is doomed?
posted by pemulis at 10:36 PM on May 26, 2003


Yeah, pretty much.
posted by Hildago at 11:16 PM on May 26, 2003


Do we protect the people who aren't fighting by positioning armed guards around their towns and cities, and how long do we keep these people in these concentration camps?

Yes. For as little time as possible.

Now, as for the difference between intervening to prevent massive slaughter of civilians caught in a civil war and starting a war of our own. Well, the former won't involve dismantling a state and installing and entirely new political system designed by us and headed by someone who is too untrustworthy for the CIA (Chalabi). Ooh, ooh, one is a lie, and one isn't. That's compelling for me.

If you cannot see the difference between two separate situations and sets of alternatives, than you must be simply in favor of war in general. If I support one use (or even deployment) of force, I must support them all? Fucking bizarre. Why even have decision-makers, and not just legions of autopilot robot flamethrowers?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:13 AM on May 27, 2003


Odd, I've heard reports and listened to countless talking heads and debates on cable news channels about the situation over there.

* Reality / perception disconnect detected on Metafilter *
posted by ZupanGOD at 1:12 AM on May 27, 2003


*kaibutsu starts to wonder when the main stream media started reading metafilter to figure out what to run.*
posted by kaibutsu at 2:16 AM on May 27, 2003


ZupanGOD, perhaps you'd care to elaborate a little on this perceived 'disconnect'. I'd be inclined to take more seriously the Telegraph and theatlantic.com articles linked above than the ultra top line examinations that tend to dominate broadcast media.

On a side note, do be careful basing your assumptions of reality disconnects on the mass media, it's not always telling you the (whole) truth!! Here's a good place to start unpacking this one...
posted by dmt at 2:17 AM on May 27, 2003


But then they're only UN troops, which is to say multinational Cub Scouts.

Hey, don't be comparing them. At least the Cub Scouts have adult leadership.
posted by alumshubby at 3:50 AM on May 27, 2003


this is clearly a job well-suited to the Canadians and South Koreans. They've got the caring power, no doubt.
posted by shoos at 4:48 AM on May 27, 2003


The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a lot of natural resources, including oil. While I was against attacking Iraq and think there should be some kind of international intervention in the Congo, I'm not sure American troops should be involved. It would only allow groups like International A.N.S.W.E.R. to obfuscate the issues by staging "No War For Coltan" protests.
posted by EObbS at 4:50 AM on May 27, 2003


But then they're only UN troops, which is to say multinational Cub Scouts.

Hey, don't be comparing them. At least the Cub Scouts have adult leadership.


Disrespectful to say the least.


About the US intervening again in the Congo: last time it did it started this mess. Believe it or not, only serious diplomatic effort and a local peacekeeping force mandated by the UN can have any lasting effect in the region. This has been recently suggested. Also, strong warnings and/or diplomatic measures against Uganda and Rwanda if they don't stop their intervention through support of paramilitaries. Incentives for those two countries to "convince" their client armies to negotiate.
Background:Monde Diplomatique articles about the Congo (Kinsasha) from 1999 and 2001.
Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo: "Rights organisations estimate that 2.5 million people have been killed, either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition... Fighting was fuelled by the country's vast mineral wealth, with all sides taking advantage of the anarchy to plunder its natural resources."
Useful map: The coveted riches of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
posted by talos at 5:16 AM on May 27, 2003


Jesus guys, you can't have it both ways. Either you want the US to be active policemen for the world, or you don't.

You complain when they are, and you complain when they aren't.

Sheesh.
posted by eas98 at 7:37 AM on May 27, 2003


eas98: You complain when they are, and you complain when they aren't.
I never complain when they aren't. Only the UN has a right to intervene or order troops deployed. Period.
Who is complaining exactly? I second mcsweetie's call.
Note also that humanitarian intervention in general != bombing a country to smithereens and/or foreign troops occupying a country.
posted by talos at 7:59 AM on May 27, 2003


Yeah..the bithcing here about no intervention in Congo is really frustrating me.

First, there is no nation other than the US that could effectively mount a huge peacekeeping mission in DRC. No one else has the logistical capacity and C4I to mount a mission of this type. Unfortunately EObbs, if there was to be an intervention, then it would have to be US.

Secondly, as has been pointed out here, Iraq has maintained itself as a state for its entire existence. DRC has been in a state of almost continual anarchy for most of its existance. If the West (or UN, or NATO, or US...however you want to define it) were to put troops on the ground to attempt to stop the fighting, what would come next? Who would govern the country? Who would police the local population. Think of all the problems establishing order and operating services in Iraq. Compound this by a 1000 and you begin to get a picture of Congo. This is a country that has no operational national road network. To get around the country you have to travel by boat or plane, there are no roads. Think of that.

There has been development in Congo. There is no national economy. Their are astoundingly low levels of education. Who would provide the trained workforce necessary to help rebuild this country, a task that would fall on occupying powers.

What is the solution here? I don't know. But difficulties faced in Iraq would only be magnified in Congo.
posted by pjgulliver at 8:05 AM on May 27, 2003


A few questions:

1) Where are the Anti-War protestors? There's a war, people are dying at near-genocide levels, and not a single one of the righteously indignant has so much as painted a sign or thought up a catchy slogan in the defense of the Pygmies.

2) Why is it in America's interest to get in the middle of a six-way-war? Make no mistake - Iraq was about protecting America. Why is that bad? America shouldn't clean up its mess in Iraq but should in Congo?
posted by swerdloff at 8:11 AM on May 27, 2003


sheesh!
No American troops requested.
From the linked Telegraph story::
North of Uvira, beyond Rwandan-controlled territory and into Uganda's sphere of influence, lies Bunia, where Britain is considering sending several hundred troops to bolster a promised French mission under the auspices of the United Nations.

On Friday, Canada, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa all signalled that they, too, might send in forces following the appeal by the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, for a "coalition of the willing" to create a rapid reaction force for the Congo.
(Emphasis mine - note: rapid reaction force != invading force)

Actual developments in the DRC: MONUC, UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
posted by talos at 8:52 AM on May 27, 2003


Make no mistake - Iraq was about protecting America.

What colour is the sky in your world, bubba? Protecting America from what? Saudi terrorists? Imaginary WMDs? Sweet fuck-all?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:02 AM on May 27, 2003



2) Why is it in America's interest to get in the middle of a six-way-war? Make no mistake - Iraq was about protecting America. Why is that bad? America shouldn't clean up its mess in Iraq but should in Congo?


American troops do not belong in Iraq or Congo. Neat enough for you?
posted by thirteen at 9:45 AM on May 27, 2003


Why is it in America's interest to get in the middle of a six-way-war? Make no mistake - Iraq was about protecting America. Why is that bad?

It's bad in that those who supported the Iraq war on the basis of those rumored WMDs and that nebulous connection between Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center are now saying, en masse, that the war was worth it solely on the basis of humanitarian reasons. The Iraqi people endured such a horrendous existence it was up to us to put an end to their suffereing.

You see where this goes.

So what, are advocates of the Iraq war now advocating that humanitarian intervention is only desirable when it's politically expedient? Because by any yardstick, if it was worth sending troops solely to end the suffering of the Iraqi people, we'd be in the Congo by now. That we're not and that there is no drumbeat for this can only lead me to believe that the line about the poor, suffing people of Iraq was merely a dodge - like the WMDs and the Al Qaeda connection.

Ah the compassion of the American people, when it's convenient to be compassionate.
posted by kgasmart at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2003


The color of the sky in my world right now is blue, although there are annoying persistent clouds.

Have you ever faced anyone with a gun? If so - did you know whether the gun was loaded when he told you he was going to kill you unless you gave him your money? No?

Sorta the same with the WMDs in Iraq. We know that they _had_ them and a UN resolution directed them to explain to the rest of the world what they did to get rid of them. They failed to comply. How could we know there were no WMDs? There was no accounting for the destruction of the ones we knew they had. So, let's do a little math (I know you can do simple math, you're smart people.)

What is 1 minus 0? Still 1, right?

So - 1 WMD minus 0 explanation of where it went or how it was destroy yields what, exactly? I'll leave you to figure it out.

And no, taking out Iraq isn't about Saudi terrorists - it's partly about Palestinian ones. Iraq under Hussein sponsored Palestinian terrorists at $25,000 a body.

Are you really naive enough to think that he wouldn't then turn to the US? That his pioneering effort hadn't helped spawn Al Qaeda? Or are you just so short sighted that you think the war on terror is only about Al Qaeda?
posted by swerdloff at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2003


How could we know there were no WMDs?

Support the UN inspectors while they did their thing.

Are you really naive enough to think that he wouldn't then turn to the US? That his pioneering effort hadn't helped spawn Al Qaeda? Or are you just so short sighted that you think the war on terror is only about Al Qaeda?

Are you naive enough to think that the war in Iraq helped us win the War on Terror? [Ad hominem attacks work both ways].
posted by moonbiter at 12:28 PM on May 27, 2003


So - 1 WMD minus 0 explanation of where it went or how it was destroy yields what, exactly? I'll leave you to figure it out.

you are quite good at your bill oreilly impression swerdloff. well done. any plans to cough up the apology you (or your ventriloquist) promised?
posted by specialk420 at 12:41 PM on May 27, 2003


Iraq under Hussein sponsored Palestinian terrorists at $25,000 a body. Are you really naive enough to think that he wouldn't then turn to the US?

He gave Hamas and Isalmic Jihad money, but he didn't give them WMD. He knew that if he did, Isreal would have incinerated him, as we would have too. He was detered. And if he wasn't willing to give WMD to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two groups he had a good relationship with, he was even less likely to give them to al Qaeda, a group he didn't trust at all.
posted by homunculus at 1:27 PM on May 27, 2003


Why is it that every time I hear the phrase "make no mistake", I have the knee-jerk reaction to assume that the words following that phrase are a load of horseshit?

Saddam "helped spawn" AQ? pshsssht! The 25k for families of palestinian suicide bombers was, indeed, a bounty Saddam offered. However, what, besides methods, do the Palestinian terrorists and AQ have in common? (Hint: they're not nearly so closely tied as our administration and certain large corporations).
Then: why bother bringing up AQ and its (tenuous at best) relationship to Saddam, if the war on terror not only about AQ?
What moonbiter said, on preview.
posted by notsnot at 1:34 PM on May 27, 2003


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