So let's stop talking about our own lives and the latest he-said/she-said between the Democrats and Republicans for a bit. There have been three different crises in Sudan in the last few years that I can recall. The biggest one, though it has now been eclipsed in notoriety by Darfur, has been the civil war war between the north and the south. That conflict waned over the last few years as the government and southern rebels negotiated an agreement, which they ultiimately signed this January.
The second has been an ongoing slave trade. This reprehensible practice has been one that has energize the religious right in opposition. This opposition is one reason why I am not so quick to condemn those conservatives of a religious bent. Now, one of their prominent methods for combatting slavery in Sudan is backfiring in a way that would be wholly predeictable according to any micro-economics textbook. They've raised money to purchase the freedom of slaves. In other words, the demand for slaves increased. So the suppliers of slaves increased the number of slaves they were willing to sell. Of course, since slaves can't be mined like bauxite, they are instead kidnapped from villages. In other words, rather than reducing slavery, this method is actually increasing slavery. But their hearts are in the right place even if their brains are not.
The third issues is Western Darfur. And oddly enough, the peace agreement between the north and south has only made the situation in western Darfur worse. The basic history is this: the Khartoum government has exploited most of the rest of Sudan. Several rebel groups formed in Darfur demanding control of their own destiny. Khartoum, no longer needing materiel to fight the south, has instead supported rival pro-government militias in the west. The janjaweed, as the militias are known, have air support, superiority in arms, and disregard the human rights of the people of Darfur. Essentially, they are following Sherman's scorched earth methods (though taken a few steps further). If you have a town that supports the rebels, burn it down, rape the women, and shoot the men. Predictably, many residents have fled to refugee camps in Chad and disappeared into the bush.
So, what to do about it. First thing is to remember that no one person will turn the tide. That doesn't mean doing something isn't worthwhile. So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to bribe people who read this. Write your Congresscritter and ask him/er to support a specific action such as creating a no-fly zone over Darfur, sending a small contingent of troops, or prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
Most of my Seattle friends are in Jim McDermott's district. Send the letter to his district office; mail to D.C. gets delayed so they can scan it for anthrax. The address is:Congressman Jim McDermott
1809 7th Ave, Ste 1212
Seattle, WA 98101
For those in Tacoma, Adam Smith is the representative. His district address is:3600 Port of Tacoma Road, Suite 106
Tacoma, Washington 98424
Kirkland, Shoreline, Edmonds, Lynnwood, and North Kitsap are in Jay Inslee's district 1:21905 64th Avenue West, Suite 101
Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043-2278
And lastly, much of the east side is in Dave Reichert's district:2737 78th Ave SE, Suite 202
Mercer Island, WA, 98040
So here's the bribe. I'll buy a drink for anyone who shows me their copy of the response letter they get from their congressperson (including senators, whose addresses I didn't post). They almost always send back a form letter that states some kind of blurb about what the politician's stance on the issue is, and how they are oh so effectively fighting the battle. Yeah, I'm a bit cynical but the optimist in me says that if a few more people write, the pressure to do something will move up a notch. So show me the letter. Post it. Or something. Then collect your Black Orchid at the Mercury (or whatever your favorite bar is).