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We’ve broken our promise to the people of Darfur

We live busy lives. Discomforting news reports out of Iraq, crime rates in Baltimore City, high gas prices and a bizarrely warm winter provide numerous other worries to the daily stresses of life. Despite the horrors strewn through the daily news, the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan has once again slipped under the radar.

The genocide occurring in Africa seems as if it comes from a violent movie — yet it is an undeniable reality for those who face it daily. Women and children are raped, men butchered and villages burned.

Although some individuals and organizations, including the Save Darfur Coalition, which sells “Not On My Watch — Save Darfur” green wristbands, have worked to stop the horror, more can be done. And Maryland can lead the way.

Darfur is an area in Sudan about the size of Texas containing two groups of residents, African farmers and Arab herders. Land disagreements have turned the two sides against one another, leading angry farmers to revolt in February 2003 after the Arab government continued to side with the Muslim herders. The revolt failed, and the result has been one of the most breathtaking demonstrations of brutality against human beings since the Holocaust.

Since the Sudanese government adopted a scorched-earth policy to deal with non-Arab inhabitants, 400,000 have been killed and nearly 2,500,000 displaced — 600,000 under age 5. The government-sponsored militia, the Janjaweed, uses rape, mass murder and organized starvation to execute their revenge.

President Bush labeled the situation in Darfur genocide early, but he has adopted a very cautious attitude, unfortunately, saying the United States needs to work with the government to gather intelligence. In the 1990s, Osama bin Laden hid in Sudan, and today, individuals detained by the government may provide valuable information about al-Qaida.

The Genocide Intervention Network distributed a report card recently grading members of Congress on whether or not they have supported recent anti-genocide legislation. The majority of the Maryland Delegation scored fairly well, with an overall grade of B. Although half of Maryland’s representatives scored an A, four scored a C or below.

With our military stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s easy to brush off calls for action in Sudan. Yet what is happening on the other side of the globe does not necessarily require military intervention. Enforcing a no-fly zone, deploying NATO troops, and imposing sanctions and an arms embargo would dramatically increase the chances of the Sudanese government agreeing to a peace settlement.

Organizations such as the Save Darfur Coalition allow Marylanders to organize groups in their community to raise awareness through petitions and fundraisers. The need for action is now. Sign a petition, donate money or call your representatives, especially those who were rated poorly by the Genocide Intervention Network, including Rep. Roscoe Bartlett and Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, and ask them for their hand in helping to stop genocide. (See grades of members of the Maryland delegation to Congress in the box below.)

This is not so much a political issue as a moral issue, and as humans we are obliged to reach out and help our fellow man. After the Holocaust, America said “never again.” We’ve broken our promise; now let’s fix it.

Take Action Now

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.): A (202-224-4524)

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.): A (202-224-4654)

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.-1st District): D (202-225-5311)

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.-2nd District): C (202-225-3061)

Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.-3rd District): N/A (202-225-4016)

Rep. Albert Russel Wynn (D-Md.-4th District): A (202-225-8699)

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.-5th District): C (202-225-4131)

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.-6th District): D (202-225-2721)

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.-7th District): A (202-225-4741)

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.-8th District): A (202-225-5341)

Justin Snow is an editorial page intern at The Baltimore Examiner. He can be reached at jsnow@baltimoreexaminer.com.

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