Ironic Oversight

It was a week fraught with tragic ironies. The first irony came last week in the wake of the horrific massacre in Littleton, Colorado. President Clinton announced that we must teach our children never to resort to violence to solve their differences. He was correct of course, but the irony is that he said it during a break in this week's NATO meetings in which he and other leaders talked about accelerating the violence to solve problems in Yugoslavia—problems that 600 years of violence have not solved. Losing our own children is an incredibly painful experience that and has dominated the national consciousness this past week. But even as we mourn, we should not lose sight of another situation with profound implications for our country's future. In Serbia, the pressure to introduce ground troops is increasing. There is every indication we will keep escalating. But history shows we've seldom been able to solve these kinds of long-standing ethnic disputes by war. The parallels to Vietnam, which I lived through, are eerie. More than anything else we need a calm, reasoned national debate and come to some understanding of how, when, and where military force is warranted. What is our post cold war military role? This brings me to the second irony in President Clinton's decision to accelerate the bombing of Serbia. The rational for NATO intervention was that we needed to protect innocent civilians who were being starved, murdered, and driven from their homes in a terrible ethnic cleansing. And yet, there is another country in which far more civilians are being starved, murdered, and driven from their homes: Sudan. In his New York Times column, A. M. Rosenthal quoted some grim statistics he says he received from Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas. As Rosenthal writes, "more Southern Sudanese have died from guns, bombs and starvation than all the victims in Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda combined—at least 1.9 million. About 2.6 million face starvation because of genocidal withholding of food, and 4.3 million were driven from their homes—the largest displaced population in the world." Scarcely a day goes by without our networks and newspapers showing us the faces of terrified and starving European refugees. But when was the last time we saw the faces of terrified Sudanese refugees? Human-rights activist Elie Wiesel last week asked President Clinton at NATO ceremonies why our government did not intervene to stop the suffering in Rwanda. Clinton's response? He said he would do his best to make sure there was not another Rwanda. As Rosenthal dryly noted, "Sudan had [evidently] slipped his mind." We send cruise missiles to deal with Milosovic. But we won't even stop trading with Sudan, because we need the gum arabic to make soft drinks. I hate to say it, but I'm afraid we care about what happens in Europe because most of us come from European stock. But the Sudanese victims? Well, they're black and they're Christian. As we pray for healing in Littleton, let us also pray for an end of violence in the Balkans, which has profound implications for our future. May we be wise enough not to become mired in a Balkan war that could last for years. And second, may we not be selective in our compassion. We should not forget our brethren in Sudan. Our leaders can do something there, not with troops but with economic pressures to stop the enslavement and murder of the southern Christian population—people who deserve our compassion every bit as much as white Europeans.


Chuck Colson



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