Monday, April 7, 2008

14 years ago...

I found the video above on Youtube, and I thought it put things into perspective pretty well.

14 years ago, in April of 1994, the tragedy that would become the Rwandan Genocide was underway. In the end, it would become the most efficient killing spree in human history, with some 1,070,000 people killed by the ruthless Hutu militiamen roaming across the countryside. The UN ran away and the international community did nothing. It gave the world yet another opportunity to mumble the phrase "Never Again" after the killings were over. Basically, we said we would do better next time.

But Rwanda was that "next time". Before Rwanda, there was Cambodia, where Pol Pot's reign of terror wiped out a portion of the country's population. And of course, after Rwanda, there was Eastern Congo, which would basically become a sequel to what had happened in Rwanda several years earlier, this time leaving even more bodies in its wake. Today, the people of Darfur find themselves at the mercy of a genocidal madman barking orders to a band of thugs and militiamen from his palace in Khartoum. Somalia is being overrun by fanatical Islamic insurgents who are driving tens of thousands of people from their homes each month and killing anyone who gets in their way, and Iraq is under siege by Iranian-backed militiamen and the murderous force that is Al-Qaeda.

Most of these conflicts we choose to ignore..Darfur, Somalia, and Congo are the best examples. Then in the case of Iraq, we have people who march through the streets waving signs and calling on the US to simply pack up and go home, even though a sudden withdrawal would lead to chaos that would threaten the lives of millions and could very well find a way to follow us back home. I'm not trying to make this a right-wing conservative post, but if we learned anything from 9/11, Al-Qaeda, and Afghanistan, it proved to us that events happening on the other side of the world in some desolate, forgotten region can affect our homeland in ways we never thought possible. It's not only the antiwar (so-called) movement and the American far-left that embrace the "get out now" approach, but the isolationist right as well--the Pat Buchannans and Ron Pauls of the conservative movement who believe that simply building a wall around the country and only focusing on what's happening inside our borders will somehow prevent conflict.

One of my fellow bloggers just recently wrote a great post about the poor decision made by the United States to simply pull back and give up in Vietnam, and I must say, he summed it up pretty good. The sad thing is, its not the only time we made that mistake. Had we finished the Gulf War in 1991 by helping the Kurds and the Shiites like we said we would, there's a very real chance that we never would have had to go back into Iraq in 2003. Instead, we decided it would not be worth it, and we pulled back as Saddam Hussein unleashed his fury on Southern Iraq and the Kurdish north. Two years later, after the infamous "Blackhawk Down" incident in the Somali Capital, Mogadishu, we packed up and went home. We did so to prevent the further loss of American life, but ironically, we gave the extremists and the insurgents of that country a training grounds to coordinate future attacks...and a chance to direct their attacks against the civilian population on a daily basis, although the odds are you are not hearing about this on the Nightly News. In the end, Somalia will not be on the minds of most voters who will be heading to the polls this November.

An old phrase comes to mind: If you do not learn from history, you are destined to repeat it. Well, we've been down that road several times now, and still we have not learned from history. As the world marks the anniversary of one of the greatest human tragedies in history, maybe its time we do so.

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