This last week as most Americans sat down to their wonderful Thanksgiving feasts, many in the east of the DR Congo were given a special unwanted surprise from America and the United Nations. Late last week Monuc, the UN Peacekeepers in the DR Congo moved in and forcibly invaded the quiet area that was under the control of General Laurent Nkunda. This weekend the town of Sake, just 13 miles from Goma, came under attack from supporters of General Nkunda. Now there are hundreds or more who have been injured or killed because of the actions of our own President Bush and the head of Monuc, Mr. Ulli Mwambulukutu.
Less than one week before the UN Peacekeepers moved against General Nkunda and the latest outbreak of violence, I met with both the head of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, Mr. Benjamin Hounton and Mr. Mwambulukutu . I presented both of them with a personal message from General Nkunda that he was willing to discuss his issues in a peaceful manner and that an international conflict resolution group was willing to mediate such peace talks. Mr. Mwambulukutu refused to allow the UN High Commission for Human Rights or any other UN entity to assist with any Human Rights monitoring activities as a way to assist with a peaceful resolution to the problems posed by General Nkunda.
Just 3 weeks before this latest military action and outbreak of violence, President Bush sanctioned General Nkunda using this Iraqi style proclamation "I, George W. Bush,... determine that the situation (with General Nkunda) constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat." The wording of this proclamation revealed that the military options was the only option that was considered by both the US and Monuc to deal with a local problem. For his part General Nkunda had indicated he was willing to resolve his issues in a peaceful manner. The US and UN however determined from the beginning that they would not allow any peaceful resolution to these local problems. Since the US Embassy in Kinshasa and the UN Peacekeeping officials in Goma knew of my peace brokering activities from the early stages it should come as no surprise what was intended from the beginning.
The similarities between this latest breakdown of intelligence and the breakdown in the lead up to the Iraq war is startling and revealing of the misguided approach of most of our security and military activities in our post Sept 11th world. These events also give us insight into why we will never win the so-called "war on terror" with our over reliance on the Military Intelligence Complex to solve international disputes in a peaceful manner.
In hindsight it is now clear why the US and the UN were not interested in encouraging any peace talks, they had already decided that the military option was the only option available to deal with General Nkunda. This is the same logic we now understand was used by President Bush and his Cabinet in the days before the start of the Iraq war. The failure of the Military Intelligence Complex to assist the people of Iraq and the people of DR Congo is a failure for us all. Our leaders hide behind their security compounds in Washington and Goma and never touch the lives they condemn to the killings, rapes and child soldier abductions. The UN Human Rights section of Monuc reports these abuses are the normal situation for people who are controlled by the integrated nation Congolese army and police force in the east of the Congo not by the forces of General Nkunda. Where there was once relative safety and a chance for a peaceful settlement, there will now be even more retribution killings, rapes and child soldier abductions.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Mwambulukutu for their parts now feel confident that they have made the world safer from terror. I suggest however that both leaders have lost touch with the reality on the ground and have absolutely no connection with the people they have now subjected to unimaginable human misery and suffering. I am reminded of the words President Kennedy used in 1961 to describe the diplomatic approach that should be the ideal of the US and the UN, especially when peace is a real option. "We are always conscientious of the obligation which rests upon all members of the United Nations to seek peaceful solutions to problems of this sort."
I appreciate the fact that the peace option is not easy to arrange when dealing with international disagreements. But how easy is it to watch hundreds die before your eyes when peace was possible just a week ago? The solution for us of course lies in the ballot box. We have an urgent need to elect leaders who know what it means to be fully human and thinking at the same time. We need leaders who are willing to look at humanity and think as if people mattered. If we are to have security and peace in our world we need leaders who can once again inspire us to greatness and who believe that creativity and idealism are the best insurance against the threats we face in our world today.