Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Iraq is the New Rwanda: An End to Hypocrisy

Only a fool would deny at this point that Iraq is about to be plunged into a full-scale humanitarian catastrophe. Colin Powell says it's a civil war. Bush's meeting with Maliki has been postponed due to a crisis of confidence in Maliki's leadership. Iraq's government is in the midst of sectarian purges and the killing continues unabated.

It is impossible to overstate the gravity of the calamity we are facing here. If Iraq slips into full-scale civil war, the death toll could easily reach the high millions. The time has come for a complete paradigm shift.

The same forces that were at play in Rwanda are at play currently in Iraq. It is the perfect powderkeg. The ingredients that make up this witch's brew of genocide are similar in both:

1) Long-standing religious/ethnic feuds held in check for decades by authoritarian government;

2) The rise to power of government of the popular majority, ready to backlash against the longtime rule of a popular minority.

In Rwanda, it was the majority Hutus making reprisals on the minority Tutsis.

In Iraq, it is now the Shi'ites who hold control of the reins of power, making the same reprisals on the minority Sunnis who had long held power under Saddam's authoritarian regime--and the out-of-power Sunnis using all their might to make violence on the Shi'ites as well. And there is no one who can stop it at this point. Heck, there's nobody even trying to stop it.

The difference is that Rwanda's population is 8.5 million. Iraq's is 26 million. Even if the Sunni-Shi'a conflict does not spread into a wider sectarian war across the middle east, we are looking right down the barrel of a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions.

And that's a big, big deal not just for the people of Iraq, but for how we as Americans both Democrat and Republican relate to the situation. In the context of sheer humanitarian disasters, politics--and even accountability--becomes largely irrelevant. The only thing that matters is ACTION.

But action is a double-edged sword. The fact of humanitarian catastrophe and genocide in Iraq poses quandary and conundrum for BOTH political parties, who will be forced in this context to rethink and reshape their views either about their stances to the current conflict, or to their longtime ideological stances with regard to foreign policy.

For Democrats and Progressives, the problem is obvious. We were extremely upset when Clinton did nothing to stop the Rwanda genocide; we (mostly) cheered the efforts to stop the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; we insist on the U.S. increasing its involvement in stopping the genocide in Darfur.

For Democrats, to insist that the U.S. pull all forces out of Iraq now is essentially to abandon the Iraqi people to yet another genocide while we sit on our hands.

For Republicans, the problem is also obvious. With sectarian violence spiraling out of control, they can no longer claim that the violence is due to terrorists or insurgents, even to their base. Republicans will have to talk about the issue in the language of humanitarian benevolence if they want to "stay the course". The big problem is, of course, that Republicans by and large have done NOTHING to quell genocides overseas, have dropped the ball on Darfur, and have railed against Democratic attempts to do so in Somalia and Kosovo.

Those Republicans who have refused to act on Darfur and who opposed engaging in Kosovo and Rwanda, must now display their commitment to isolationism by insisting on leaving Iraq. Those Democrats who have insisted on action in Darfur and Kosovo and Rwanda, must now admit the responsibility to do SOMETHING in Iraq.

But at this point, hypocrisy on both sides must end--and we must look at SOLUTIONS, rather than continuing to play politics. The elections are over: the work of governance now begins. Playing politics while genocide rages is not only futile, it is deeply immoral.

On both sides of the aisle, policy positions must not be related to the the "war on terror" or on "American Imperialism" or "immoral war"; it must be related to the stance on intervening in genocide. "Stay the courses" and "I told you sos" won't cut it anymore.

What goes for Iraq today, also goes for Darfur. Just as it went for Yugoslavia, and ESPECIALLY as it went for Rwanda.

As for me, I'm not advocating directly any one position or another. I'm simply advocating for a change in the debate.

Because the future not of just Iraq, but of victims of genocide hangs in the balance.


Post a Comment

<< Home