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Not Dead Enough: An Inauspicious Milestone

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2007 marks four years since the beginning of the Iraq war and the Darfur genocide - with no end in sight.

Who would have thought some four years ago, that the initial turmoil in these regions would escalate into two of the greatest global catastrophes of the century?

War and genocide begin on a single day. It takes but a moment for a singular act to metastasize and define itself as an endless cycle of mass slaughter, rape and displacement. When that final decision is made - whether by heads of state, rogue factions, or both, and that first bullet fired - it explodes into a continuum of atrocities that appear far easier to commit than finding diplomatic solutions.

Between these two humanitarian crises, perhaps as many as one million civilians are dead and millions more displaced - within their own nations or as refugees in neighboring countries. Not to mention three thousand-plus American troops killed, thousands in harm's way, and yet thousands more enroute to Iraq and possibly facing similar fates in escalating violence.

The ugly head of politics has fine-tuned its smooth talking double-speak into illegal war and ethnic cleansing while at the same time, feigns paralysis as to how to end occupation and genocide due to "necessary restraint and diplomacy," or not wanting to further exacerbate the bloodshed. If only politicians had exercised such restraint and diplomacy before diving headfirst into the abyss they have created in both Iraq and Darfur.

And while these very same politicians wring their tied hands, talking the talk from both sides of their mouths about walking the walk, without ever getting out of their seats, more and more innocents die. Four horrific years later and we are no closer to resolution or solution in ending the needless slaughter in Iraq or Darfur.

Human beings are expendable, as we have all seen, and as governments have demonstrated in grand style. Lives morph into numbers and statistics so inconceivable that we can no longer fathom what it all means. It is difficult enough to grasp the reality of a dozen murdered human beings, let alone thousands. We are war-weary and overloaded with Iraq, Darfur, and all the other catastrophic happenings around the world. We turn on our televisions and see the bloody carnage of bodies spilled across a Baghdad marketplace, or hear of a woman raped in Darfur following her husband's brutal murder, and simultaneously feel sick, helpless, empathetic, angry and hopeless. We raise our fists in defiance, screaming at our t.v.'s and our leaders to do something - to clean up their messes and stop the killing!

Still, the politicians do nothing.

It is astonishing how quickly governments can lead us into battle - a nod, a wink, and a slip of a pen -and we are fully engaged. The secondary issue, of far less importance - how the hell do we get ourselves out - seems to be a recurring brain freeze amongst warmongers worldwide. And then there are those leaders who couldn't care less about ending violence and atrocities. They barricade themselves behind palace walls until the "situation" burns itself out. Only then will they venture out amongst the smoldering remains, sifting through the bones and ash for anything of value to slip into their pockets.

The universal human flaws of ineptitude, greed, corruption and xenophobia, or hatred of anyone seen as "other," seem to be the driving factors in policy making and the disastrous effects thereof. The United States is only one poster child for such avarice and barbarism.

As countries, cultures and populations go up in smoke, China seems to be taking full advantage of Africa's plethora of natural resources by overlooking horrific human rights abuses to gain access to Africa's bounty. During a recent visit to Sudan, China's president Hu Jintao expressed "concern" over Darfur, stating that Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir "must give the UN a bigger role in resolving the Darfur crisis," all the while wheeling and dealing for millions in oil and minerals. Hu Jintao offered Sudan's president a 100 million yuan interest free (approx. 13 million U.S. dollars) to build a new presidential palace, while offering another 40 million yuan (approx. 5 million U.S. dollars) in humanitarian aid and materials for Darfur. What else need be said?

There will be no "winning" or "success" in Iraq or Darfur. Leaders have destroyed, plundered, and murdered thousands of innocent victims, leaving nations and entire regions in ruin and despair. Bush took down a country, obliterated an ancient culture and civilization and killed thousands. Now, with a bloody civil war and broken infrastructure, he scolds Iraqi leaders on how they must be held responsible and accountable for picking up the pieces of our destruction in their "own country." How will WE stand accountable and responsible?

Darfur will burn itself out. Four years have yielded nothing to quell the genocide and mass displacement. Four years of talking heads have led to a continued killing field so dangerous and violent that even humanitarian groups have had to halt efforts for fear of being among those killed.

Lives are expendable. Thousands are dead. But not dead enough.
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Jan Baumgartner is the author of the memoir, Moonlight in the Desert of Left Behind. She was born near San Francisco, California, and for years lived on the coast of Maine. She is a writer and creative content book editor. She's worked as a grant (more...)

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