Sunday, July 10, 2005

Why 'never again' keeps happening

I was interested to read this essay by the BBC's Fergal Keane entitled 'Why "never again" keeps happening.'

Keane was the BBC's reporter in Rwanda during that country's genocide, an experience harrowingly recounted in his book Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey.

He wrote the essay based on his trip to Darfur, where another genocide is going on.

He explains some of his frustrations:

I gave up having any faith in the phrase "never again" after Rwanda.

I now add another verbal formulation to the list of redundant phrases.

It is the sentence "We must learn the lessons."

It is of course invariably the precursor to the words "never again."

"We must learn the lessons of the Holocaust, or of Cambodia, or of Bosnia, or of Rwanda... and make sure that things like this..." and you know how this sentence ends, ..."things like this never happen again."

The teaser describes the essay as a reflection on how the international community fails to learn lessons when it comes to reacting to genocide and crimes against humanity.

In reality, this misstates the problem. What Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur have shown is that the international community doesn't want to react to genocide and crimes against humanity. At least not with anything more than endless and empty warnings. It's not that the rest of the world actively wants genocide to occur, but there is no pressure for it to act. What government was defeated at the ballot box because of inaction regarding Rwanda? What government faces massive street protests against inaction regarding Darfur? What government tried to drum up public support for action in Bosnia? None did.

Governments DID learn lessons, just not the lessons human rights groups wanted them to learn.

Ultimately, such inaction in the face of inhumanity's worst atrocities is not a failure of learning lessons. It's a failure of political leadership. It's a failure of will.


At 6:43 AM, Blogger Black River Eagle said...

It's great that you picked up this article Brian. What readers really should do is download the MP3 podcast file of the program or at least bookmark and link to the transcript of the BBC Panorama TV special broadcast (in Europe) July 3rd and July 10th. Here is the URL to the Panorama programme transcript:

The Panorama programme "Why never again keeps happening" featured interviews with Tony Blair, Kofi Annan, John Danforth, Captain Brian Steidle (former U.S. Marine Corps officer and AU Monitor in Darfur) and others involved with the crisis in Darfur, including the testimony of a Darfurian woman whose family was massacred before her eyes by the Khartoum Regime's soldiers and their Janjaweed militias.

It was an excellent and riveting broadcast especially for viewers of the program to be able to see the failure and resignation in the eyes and faces of Kofi Annan and Brian Steidle and Danforth et. al. as they attempted to explain the positions of their respective governments and organizations in regards to the crisis in Darfur and the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

This is another "Must See" program for anyone seriously interested in crisis resolution on the African continent. I came away from the viewing with similar feelings that I had after watching the award-winning BBC Panorama piece on Darfur broadcast back in November 2004: "The New Killing Fields".

The promise of "Never Again" is a freakin' lie and it only applies to people who are capable of defending themselves against those that wish to do them harm, independent of any outside help from anyone. End of story!


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