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General News    H3'ed 10/10/19

Tomgram: Nick Turse, Lives (and Names) Lost

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Thanks to the looming impeachment crisis, the already Trumpian news cycle -- the media has dealt with The Donald as no human being in history -- is reaching a bizarre crescendo. And so is a president who seems to spend most of his White House time watching TV and tweeting ever more, ever wilder claims and threats about "spies" and "treason"; a "fake whistleblower report," "savages" (his political opponents), and "coups"; even a future "civil war" in this country if he's removed from office. Of course, you know the mantra by now. Who doesn't? Think of it as the new definition of a news cycle, one that cycles nowhere but around him, 24/7. Think of it as the news cycle of an autocrat wannabe, the self-nominated Nebuchadnezzar of our imperial moment.

And give the president of the United States credit. At this point, it seems as if that impresario of bankrupt casinos and golden-lettered hotels, of reality television and surreal politics has done everything but block out the sun (on this fast-heating planet of ours). You would be hard-pressed, for instance, to notice America's forever wars these days (as opposed to that "civil war" in a post-Trump America). From Afghanistan to Syria, Yemen to Libya, they do go on (and on and on), but unless Donald Trump briefly turns his attention to one of them, who would know?

And yet coverage of them is extensive compared to the war that TomDispatchManaging Editor Nick Turse so vividly describes today. Talk about never-ending wars that next to no one notices, the set of conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should take the cake in this century, but who (myself included) knows a thing about them. I was talking to Turse about my own ignorance on the subject as we were preparing his piece for publication and here's what he had to say on the subject: "When I cover the war in Libya, people at least have some clue about the violence. When I've reported on the civil war in South Sudan, people have some inkling of what it must be. But the war in Congo? No one has a clue -- and with good reason. Imagine this: just two Congolese provinces, South Kivu and North Kivu, are now home to an estimated 130 different armed groups. But when do you see Congo's conflicts on the front page of a newspaper? When does it lead the nightly news? Or get placement on cable news?" Since we all know the answer to that, his piece today crucially fills in a few of those blanks -- and what horrific blanks they turn out to be! Tom

The Forgotten Trauma of a Forgotten War
As the World Looks Away, Death Stalks the Democratic Republic of Congo
By Nick Turse

GOMA, North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo -- The boy was sitting next to his father, as he so often did. He mimicked his dad in every way. He wanted to be just like him, but Muhindo Maronga Godfroid, then a 31-year-old primary school teacher and farmer, had bigger plans for his two-and-a-half-year-old son. He would go to university one day. He would become a "big name" -- not just in their village of Kibirizi, but in North Kivu Province, maybe the entire Democratic Republic of Congo. The boy was exceedingly smart. He was, Godfroid said, "amazing." He could grow up to be a leader in a country in desperate need of them.

Kahindo Jeonnette was just putting dinner on the table when someone began pounding on the front door. "Open! Open! Open!" a man yelled in Swahili. Jeonnette was startled.

The 24-year-old mother of two looked at her husband. Godfroid shook his head. "I can't open the door unless you say who you are," she called out.

"I'm looking for your husband. I'm his friend," came the response.

"It's too late now. My husband can't come out. Come back tomorrow," she replied.

The man shouted, "Then I'm going to open it!" and pumped several bullets into the door. One tore through Godfroid's left hand, leaving him with just a thumb and two-and-a-half fingers. For a moment, he was stunned. The pain had yet to hit him and he couldn't quite piece together what had happened. Then he turned his head and saw his tiny son splayed out on the floor.

The grieving parents can't even bring themselves to utter their late son's name. "I'll never forget seeing my baby lying there," Jeonnette told me, her eyes red and glassy, as we sat in the kitchen of her two-room, clapboard home in a tumbledown area of Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province. "I close my eyes and that's all I can see."

No one knows who exactly killed Jeonnette and Godfroid's son. No one knows exactly why. His death was just one more murder in an endless tally; a killing somehow tied to a war started decades before he breathed his first breath; a homicide abetted by an accident of birth -- the bad luck of being born in a region roiled by a conflict as interminable as it is ignored.

Lightning Fast Lava, an Exploding Lake, and "the Most Dangerous City in the World"

The attack on Jeonnette and Godfroid's home, the violence they endured, was no anomaly, but another painful incident in one of the most enduring catastrophes on the planet. A new report, "Congo, Forgotten: The Numbers Behind Africa's Longest Humanitarian Crisis" by Human Rights Watch and the New York University-based Congo Research Group, finds that between June 1, 2017 and June 26, 2019, there were at least 3,015 violent incidents -- including killings, mass rapes, and kidnappings -- involving 6,555 victims in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu.

An average of 8.38 civilians were killed per 100,000 people in those two provinces alone, a number that exceeds even the 2018 death rate of 6.87 civilians in Borno, Nigeria, the state most affected by the terror group Boko Haram. It's more than double the rate -- 4.13 -- in all of civil-war-torn Yemen, where Houthi rebels and civilians have, for years, been under a relentless assault by a U.S.-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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