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No blood for Congo?

By Steven Martinovich
web posted April 14, 2003

Nearly 1 000 people were killed in a massacre earlier this month and aid agencies estimate that millions of people have died in recent years, many from treatable diseases and malnutrition. Those numbers may seem familiar to you given that the same words are often used by people against the American-led war against Iraq. They, however, refer to another trouble spot. The Democratic Republic of Congo has been torn apart by years of tribal warfare, rebellion and incursions by the Ugandan military with little notice by the world.

Villagers in Drodro in northeastern Congo on April 10, stand beside a mass grave in which 32 victims of the April 3 massacre are buried
Villagers in Drodro in northeastern Congo on April 10, stand beside a mass grave in which 32 victims of the April 3 massacre are buried

It's hard to see why. The 3.3 million dead represent more lives lost in a war in any since the Second World War, more than the total killed in the various Balkans conflicts and easily surpasses anything that could have happened in the war in Iraq. Even for troubled Africa, the death toll in Congo represents a new mark for destroyed lives.

"This is a humanitarian catastrophe of horrid and shocking proportions," George Rapp, president of International Rescue Committee said on April 8. "Still, the crisis has received scant attention from international donors and the media."

Not to mention the peace industry which has made its cause du jour blasting the American-led war in Iraq. While pundits like Sheryl Crow sagely noted the best way to avoid war is to have no enemies and protesters shouted "No blood for oil" on American streets, thousands of people in Congo starved to death, died of dysentery or were killed in senseless ethnic conflicts like the one that claimed 966 lives in 14 communities on April 3.

By not speaking out against the troubles in Congo, the so-called peace movement reveals once again their true agenda. As their protest signs indicated, the real goal wasn't peace in Iraq but rather to oppose the United States and the values that it is seeking to promote along with global security. If world peace was their real goal, the activists would have turned their attention to the situation in Congo given the seriousness of what's going on there.

Of course, that would have deprived them of their favourite target and forced them to come up with some new slogans. As Canadian writer David Janes noted this week about the hear, see and speak no evil attitude the peace movement has in regards to Congo, "But ultimately, their deaths are irrelevant in the 21st century because no one can figure out a way to blame the United States for it."

At the heart of the peace movement is an anti-Americanism unmatched except by zealots in the Middle East. It is an anti-Americanism that rejects the principles that the United States stands for. Individualism is the core notion that ties American freedoms together, something that many in the peace movement find abhorrent even if they pay lip service to it. Their version of individualism and freedom doesn't lead to the belief that the United States, as a free nation, has the right to defend itself against enemies who have already declared war.

It's a shame then that U.S. President George W. Bush didn't declare Congo a member of his Axis of Evil and target it for Iraq-style liberation, then perhaps the peace activists would take notice of the real human rights disaster playing itself out. Then again, since there's no way to blame the United States for those millions of deaths it's clear that their plight won't appear on protest signs any time soon. Caring about Congo is obviously not as much fun as slandering a country that serves as the leading example of freedom for the world.

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario.

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