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Front Page » September 28, 2004 » Opinion » Contrasting tragedies
Published 3,680 days ago

Contrasting tragedies


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By BEN COHEN
Minute Man Media

Anyone who wants to understand the real priorities of President George W. Bush should take a moment to compare the administration's response to the alleged crisis in Iraq and then, later, to the real crisis in the Sudan.

We all know that president Bush campaigned hard to invade Iraq. He lobbied Congress, the United Nations, and the American people. Bush traveled across the country and abroad, calling for military action and warning that Saddam posed an immediate threat to our own nation and the world.

After months of pressure, Congress eventually approved the war and wrote the president a blank check for it. Unable to convince the United Nations to help, Bush went to war anyway, leaving the rest of the world in disbelief and horror as the bombs began to drop on Baghdad.

By contrast, in the case of Sudan, instead of exaggerating bad intelligence (about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction) to justify doing what was wrong (invading Iraq), Mr. Bush has done exactly the opposite: trying to ignore solid evidence about the situation in Sudan (370,000 humans are dead or dying) to avoid doing what's right (taking whatever action is necessary to stop the genocide).

He now says the Iraq debacle was motivated by humanitarian concerns. Not only is the human crisis in Sudan far greater than anything faced in Iraq�and the evidence of the crisis indisputable�but the cost and risk of taking action is much, much lower than the cost and risk of invading Iraq, even if the war had gone smoothly.

Before the Iraq war, Mr. Bush's own analysts estimated that the invasion, occupation, and rebuilding would cost at least tens of billions of dollars. (It turns out it will cost more than $200 billion.)

Military analysts of all political stripes would certainly agree that, for a tiny fraction of the cost of the Iraq invasion, and little risk to our armed forces, America could stop the slaughter that's taking place in Sudan and make sure the people there receive the food and medicine that they need.

The Arab men on horseback that have been armed by the Sudanese government and are currently slaughtering the African population would be unable to hold a candle to Western military might. Unlike the Iraqi army and rebels, which amassed huge stockpiles of weapons from the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War, the Arab militias pose a minimal threat to U.S. troops.

And, it's a certainty that if the president crashed the world stage as he did prior to the Iraq invasion, and pleaded for the United Nations to join America in helping to save the 1,000 people per day who are dying in Sudan and the 1 million at risk, you can bet that he would quickly assemble a broad and proud world coalition to get the job done, as opposed to the embarrassing group of nations that we bribed to back the Iraq war.

And unlike Iraq, we'd have international law on our side. After World War II ended and the atrocities of Hitler's genocide were fully revealed, 130 counties promised to prevent genocide if it occurred anywhere in the world ever again.

Congress voted to call the Iraq situation "genocide" months ago, and the Bush administration�after months of unnecessary delay�finally got around to using the term for the first time last week, which is certainly a significant step forward. But the dying people in Sudan need more than election-year rhetoric.

The Arab horseback riders, called the janjaweed, that have been killing the black population in Sudan are also driving blacks from their homes and then preventing food from reaching them in refugee camps spread out across the desert.

In a matter of months, disease and starvation will kill hundreds of thousands of these refugees�unless we act now.

It's not too late for President Bush to do what any compassionate person, Republican or Democrat, would do given the facts about the desperate situation in Sudan.

Ben Cohen is co-founder of Ben and Jerry's and president of TrueMajority.org -- an online activist organization with 500,000 members.


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