Darfur/Darfur Exhibit
November 2, 2006 11:40 AM   Subscribe

"I couldn't face the prospect of my child growing up and asking me, years later, what I had done, and having to say: 'Nothing.'" Last spring Leslie Thomas, a Chicago-based architect, read a story detailing the fallout of hostilities between the Sudanese government and the rebels -- more than 200,000 dead, 2.5 million made homeless -- and decided to put together DARFUR/DARFUR: a traveling exhibit of digitally-projected changing images. The goal: to raise $1m with at least 24 venues in 24 months. The photographs have been taken in Darfur by photojournalists Lynsey Addario, Mark Brecke, Helene Caux, VII's Ron Haviv, Magnum Photos's Paolo Pellegrin, Ryan Spencer Reed, Michal Safdie, and former U.S. Marine Brian Steidle. On a sidenote, Pellegrin has just been awarded the W. Eugene Smith Grant.
posted by matteo (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I botched the Michal Safdie link: it's here
posted by matteo at 11:42 AM on November 2, 2006

and if you follow the "Brian Steidle" link, you can download several of his photos in hi-res for public use. If you do, please credit: Brian Steidle.
posted by matteo at 11:46 AM on November 2, 2006

Three girls search for firewood near a displaced persons camp.

that caption, with that photo, i just can't really express how effectively it impacted me.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:58 AM on November 2, 2006

I've been working with charities and causes for the Dafur crisis for some time, and what I consistently fail to understand is how the world can completely ignore what's going on there.

I mean, what the hell? Almost half a million people have been murdered. Hundreds of thousands of women and children have been raped...and then oft murdered.

Is it just because it's Africa? Is it because the victims and the aggressors are black? How is this not a bigger blip on the radar? Where's all the outrage about terrorists? How can anything be called terrorism if what is happening in Dafur isn't terror?

Sometimes, the world just breaks my heart.
posted by dejah420 at 12:27 PM on November 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

That's nice.

Too bad raisning money and actually DOING anything are two different things.
posted by HTuttle at 12:40 PM on November 2, 2006

Someone asked this of a journalist covering the Darfur region on NPR recently. I think the answer was, Public attention follows media attention, and media attention follows the government's attention.
posted by muddgirl at 12:41 PM on November 2, 2006

I think it boils down to: The U.S. cannot be the world's policeman volunteer fireman.
posted by gigawhat? at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2006

So I simply decided not to have any children.
posted by jouke at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2006

I hate to say it, Dejah, but I think I know the reason why this slides by so many people.

It's because Africa has stopped shocking us. The American public has been hearing about civil war, genocide, mass-murder, rape and destruction in Africa pretty much consistently for the last century and more and the obscenely horrible has become status-quo.

I think there's this unspoken belief among people that Africa is what it is and it shows no signs of ever changing. People in Africa like to murder and subjugate other people in Africa. It's a historical fact. And it's very easy to say, Hey, we can't fix these problems. They're too big, too expensive and can't be solved anyway since, inevitably, some new oppressive warlord/government/religious jihad will come along and undo all the good we've done.

This is not so say we shouldn't fight the good fight. I believe we should and that's the right thing to do and it's important.

But people have lost hope.
posted by Parannoyed at 12:52 PM on November 2, 2006

Parannoyed: the phenomenon you are experiencing is called "compassion fatigue," and also "Afro-pessimism."

I think intervention in Darfur is misguided because it reentrenches a) America's role as world policeman, as gigawhat? said, and b) the notion that Africa can't take care of itself. Promoting western intervention is addressing short-term problems at the expense of crippling long-term solutions. Yes, the stories of what's going on there are depressing and shocking. But the vividness of the scene doesn't at all invalidate a realistic view of what can be done. I can tell you a hundred stories that will shock you; the young man that was stabbed at a party, ran to outside of my apartment building (in Flatbush, Brooklyn) and vainly clutched his neck while screaming and bleeding to death. No one is suggesting that the National Guard be sent into Detroit or South Central.

Also, expecting the glorious arrival of the first-world cavalry to solve Darfur is self-delusion, since the United States has barely enough troops to hold the Green Zone. It also results in unexpected consequences; the last great liberal humanitarian crusade (in Kosovo) has led to the deliberate annihilation of the ancient Serbian cultural heritage in the province, as well as bloody and lawless government by organized crime elements (for example). The impulsive notion that we can "help these people" with our muscle is just a reverberation of the White Man's Burden.
posted by nasreddin at 1:27 PM on November 2, 2006

Kosovars are black?
posted by matteo at 1:32 PM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

A completely serious, hopeful, and non-rhetorical question:

What are the kinds of things that the average person can do to help? Every time I hear about Darfur, I want to know what can be done. What are good charities to get involved with? What are ways to enact the most direct change possible?

Maybe this is a question for AskMe.
posted by wander at 5:11 PM on November 2, 2006

The following is a long entry. I just want to address some of the previous comments---"We shouldn't intervene..."; "What should the people in power do?"; "What can ordinary citizens do?"---in a comprehensive way.

nasreddin: "The impulsive notion that we can "help these people" with our muscle is just a reverberation of the White Man's Burden."

This doesn't make any sense to me. When people read about the countless women and children gang-raped; when people realize that Khartoum has killed more than half a million Darfuris; when people read about the ethnic insults delivered to the victims as they are shot down ("We will kill all blacks---this is not your homeland")----when people attain even a basic understanding of this genocide, I don't think its fair to say that our concern is a manifestation of the White Man's Burden. Are we already too cynical?---Do we not believe anymore that this kind of violence is offensive to any person of good conscience?

wander: Every time I hear about Darfur, I want to know what can be done.

Just to put my cards on the table---I do a lot of Darfur advocacy work. One of the more frustrating things about talking Darfur with synagogues, churches, community centers, etc. is the the extent to which people bring up Iraq as the complete reason for why the U.S. can't possibly intervene to protect Western Sudan.

I'm not denying that Iraq has negatively affected Darfur. Samantha Power and other like minds argue as much. We've lost our standing at the Security Council. Diplomatically, then, the USG doesn't seem to have leverage to call out China and Russia for their direct funding of the current atrocities. The USG doesn't seem to have leverage to call out the Arab League, which has turned a blind eye to what is essentially Muslim-on-Muslim violence.

But re the "we're overstretched argument"---no one is talking about sending an American contingent to Western Sudan. In any case, American involvement in African peacekeeping died a long time ago. On the other hand, there are some definite intervention scenarios that the Bush administration needs to seriously consider. Here are two:

1) Targeted economic sanctions and a credible threat of intervention. So, the U.S., the EU, and the UN would impose financial, travel, and diplomatic sanctions against the Khartoum dictatorship. The U.S. would provide enough funding, training, and logistical support in order to equip a UN force with the capability to stage and effect a forced entry into Sudan. The hard part here is getting an adequate number of troop commitments, given that a forced entry into this hostile environment might require something on the order of 40,000 troops. Countries like Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Nigeria, however, have already promised their soliders.

2) NATO intervention. NATO has an existing sub-unit called the NATO Response Force (NRF). It is currently operational with 20,000+ troops, and can deploy to anywhere in the world after five days' notice. In this scenario, NATO would impose a no-fly zone over the Darfur region (to stop the flights of Khartoum's Antonov bombers and attack helicopters), and would enter Sudan in order to provide security perimeters around the IDP and refugee camps.

Of course, getting NATO into Africa is a tall, tall order. But the difficulty, I think, is largely one of political will. (I should say that the current deployments in Afghanistan and in Iraq do not prevent the formation of a NATO rapid-response force for Darfur.) From my contacts, I know that NATO's military staffers aren't afraid of getting "bogged down" in the region---they are confident that they can establish air supremacy over Sudan's jury-rigged planes, and they are confident that the NRF would be able to engage, if need be, hostile Janjaweed, the great majority of whom are bandits with camels, horses, and AK47s. Rather, what the Atlantic Council is afraid of is bad publicity---i.e., the prospect of explaining dead European peacekeepers to the citizens of the Western world. Ostensibly, it will be hard to prove that the sacrifice is worth it, that lives lost can be justified in a fight against GENOCIDE.

Three additional notes:
a) A no-fly zone can be imposed using just U.S. and French assets---France has an air base in Chad.
b) The threat of non-consensual intervention itself might be enough for Khartoum to let in multinational peacekeepers.
To explain: Security Council Resolution 1706 already authorizes 20,600 blue helmets for Darfur. But the UN has essentially and perversely said that it will not begin this deployment until Omar al-Bashir and company give their yes.
c) Would intervention threaten the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement? This question should take into account that the CPA has amounted to nothing. There is no true power-sharing arrangement between Khartoum and the SPLA, the Southern Sudanese rebel group. In any case, there is no doubt that the South will vote to secede in 2011.

So, intervention or no intervention in Darfur, there is an outstanding need to draft a second, more comprehensive peace settlement, one that takes into account the grievances of Darfur and Eastern Sudan in addition to the South. If such a thing does not happen, we'll just continue to witness massive counter-insurgency campaigns all across this country.

In any case, not intervening in Darfur will destabilize the region even more. Chad, the Central African Republic, Uganda---Darfur's violence will lead to, and is already leading to, increasing government-government & government-rebel violence.

What can U.S. citizens do? While it doesn't seem like it will have an effect, direct political advocacy is probably the best thing that we can do. I know for a fact that our Senators and Members of Congress aren't hearing enough about Darfur from their constituents---it's pathetic that the Capitol Hill phone-lines aren't ringing off the hook about this issue.

In terms about what exactly you should tell your Members of Congress to do, these policy recommendations relate to some of the intervention measures spelled out above.

You can go to www.OurPledge.org to start advocating---this site has email webforms, letter-writing templates, and call scripts for Congressional and Executive Advocacy.

Ideally, advocates for multinational protection in Darfur need Congress to pass a bill (not just resolutions) that authorizes intervention to the greatest extent possible (including U.S. military intervention, just in order to scare Khartoum). And ideally, another advocacy strategy would be to take to the streets in protest and in civil disobedience. Both items, new law and new kinds of protest, are currently on the to-do lists of the advocates.

I hope that everyone reading this will do some kind of political lobbying about Darfur. For God's sake, it only takes two minutes to leave voice messages with your Representatives.
posted by n_s_1 at 10:21 PM on November 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

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