Open Letter on an Open Letter on Darfur
By David Peterson at Apr 18, 2007
Aside from Harold Pinter ("Art, Truth, and Politics"), how many of the
other nine leading figures of the contemporary European enlightenment
do you suppose would be willing to sign a comparable letter (mutatis
mutandis, of course) denouncing their home states, the 27 member states
of the European Union, and even the United Nations itself, over the
collective failure to lift so much as one little finger in opposition to the
mass deaths and the material and cultural destruction wrought by the
United States of America, as it embargoes, threatens, and militarily invades country after another -- most recently Afghanistan and Iraq?
I mean, between one and nine, and excluding Pinter, who most assuredly would. Take a guess.
Do you suppose that Jürgen Habermas, Václav Havel, or Bernard Henri-Levy would add his name to such a letter? Or Tom Stoppard? Maybe even all four?
What honest person could miss the fact that when this letter "To the leaders of the 27 nations of the EU" argues that the "Europe which allowed Auschwitz and failed in Bosnia must not tolerate the murder in Darfur," many of the very same EU member states happen to be engaged on the battlefields of Afghanistan (i.e., NATO), nor has a single one of them shown the independence to stand up to and opt-out of this truly global killing machine.
If not now, when? If not we, who?
You want to talk to me about the "futile posturings" of a "political class"? About the "inherited culture which sustains our shared belief in the value and dignity of the human being"? About courage versus cowardliness? Even about "European civilization"?
How about the utter cynicism of artists and intellectuals? After all, you guys seem to know a lot about it.
Instead why don't you try invoking the specter of real appeasement, train your epidemic of rage in a direction where it belongs, and call upon your 27 leaders to get off their duffs and do something about the Washington regime?
Another thing. -- In committing its supreme international crimes against other countries, is the Supreme International Criminal betraying "European civilization"? Or is it advancing "European civilization"?
I can hardly wait to hear your answer.
And what might the signatories to this open letter on Darfur be advancing? Does anybody suppose that it takes any courage at all to call for sanctions to be imposed upon the leadership in Khartoum?
My brave heroes!
"Let this action be our gift to ourselves and our proof of ourselves," these eminent witness-bearers and emotional tourists attest.
But in so publicly signing their celebrated names to this letter -- and nothing comparable urging action against Washington -- what kind of gift are they really giving?
And to whom, ultimately?
To the leaders of the 27 nations of the EU,
How dare we Europeans celebrate this weekend while on a continent some few miles south of us the most defenceless, dispossessed and weak are murdered in Sudan?
Has the European Union - born of atrocity to unite against further atrocity - no word to utter, no principle to act on, no action to take, in order to prevent these massacres in Darfur? Is the cowardliness over Srebrenica to be repeated? If so, what do we celebrate?
The thin skin of our political join?
The futile posturings of our political class?
The impotent nullities of our bureaucracies?
The Europe which allowed Auschwitz and failed in Bosnia must not tolerate the murder in Darfur. Europe is more than a network of the political classes, more than a first world economic club and a bureaucratic excrescence. It is an inherited culture which sustains our shared belief in the value and dignity of the human being. In the name of that common culture and those shared values, we call upon the 27 leaders to impose immediately the most stringent sanctions upon the leaders of the Sudanese regime.
Forbid them our shores, our health service and our luxury goods. Freeze their assets in our banks and move immediately to involve other concerned countries.
We must not once again betray our European civilization by watching and waiting while another civilization in Africa is destroyed.
Let this action be our gift to ourselves and our proof of ourselves. And when it is done, then let us celebrate together with pride.
"To the leaders of the 27 nations of the EU," The Independent, March 24, 2007
"The EU was formed in the shadow of Nazism. But, 50 years on, it should remember evil is still with us," Tom Stoppard, The Independent, March 24, 2007
"Writers attack EU failure to end Darfur violence," Cahal Milmo, The Independent, March 24, 2007
"How Geldof urged writers to go to war over Darfur," Mary Riddell, The Observer, March 25, 2007
"Darfur: Europe's leaders respond to demands for action to stop the genocide," Stephen Castle, The Independent, March 26, 2007
"We must speak up for the dead and dispossed in an epidemic of rage," Tom Stoppard, The Independent, March 26, 2007
Update (June 27): Get a load of this:
The first of these requires no comment: The right woman joins the right outfit. In the second, it's bad enough that Newsweek insults us by referring to Jolie as an "unprecedented 21st-century entity, a tabloid star with international credibility, a 'soft news' icon commanding respect in a hard-news world." But we also find the retired U.S. General and recent Secretary of State Colin Powell -- the infamous dissembler before the UN Security Council about Iraq's many "weapons of mass destruction" programs and the looming threat they pose to the world -- telling us that
"She's absolutely serious, absolutely informed," says former secretary of State Colin Powell. "Her work with refugees is not something to decorate herself. She studies the issues." Powell has spoken with Jolie several times over the years, and they've been honored together at benefits for refugee causes. There is, he says, no sanctimony about her. "For her, it's not about saving the world, it's about saving kids," he says. "She doesn't need this. This needed her."
Now. As someone pointed out to me, no matter how "hot" things become in certain spots in this world, there will be no mad rush among "humanitarian" intellectual- and celebrity-types to become crusading spokespeople for a Save Gaza campaign on the order of the several "Save Darfur" campaigns now underway (and the like).
Nor do we need to guess which prisons and refugee camps the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon or UN Goodwill Ambassador Jolie or their fellow traveller George Clooney ("If celebrity is a credit card, then I'm using it.") are likely to visit any time soon -- and which they won't.
But even less do we need to ponder whether these stars in the human rights firmament will shine their light upon a Save Iraq campaign. Or a Save Afghanistan.
Imagine a celebrity from the United States of America exploiting her star-power to raise the consciousnesses of people to human rights and wrongs around the world, imagine her writing on the op-ed page of the Washington Post that "What the worst people in the world fear most is justice. That's what we should deliver" -- but then imagine her directing her rhetoric at the government in Khartoum, rather than the one in Washington!
"Justice for Darfur," Angelina Jolie, Washington Post, February 28, 2007
But Goodwill Angelina is in.