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Tagging posts, posts by category, next/previous post indicators, and other post-2003 design innovations are incrementally being tweaked/kludged/melting.
Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
FRYING PANS, FIRES, SUDAN, AND CONGO. Out of one, into the other. Last week, on the 24th of January, there was what might, if one is half-blind and squinting, seem like good news, in a small way, about the world's, and Africa's, treatment of Sudan, over Darfur. Well, it's good news, sort of. In a rather microscopic way.
The African Union made a noteworthy decision yesterday: For the first time in its brief history, the organization denied the AU chairmanship to the government hosting its annual summit--in this case, the genocidal Sudanese regime. The National Islamic Front, which dominates Sudan's nominal "government of national unity," was initially the only announced candidate for the position; but in the end Congo Republic President Denis Sassou Nguesso received the nod.
Well, that sounds like good news, doesn't it?
If you know squat about Congo. But first more on the AU's action.
The United States and Nguesso both praised this development effusively. "I think it is really great because it affirms that the AU has standards and principles," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer. For his part, Nguesso immodestly declared that his selection represented an "important and relevant decision, and our proceedings bear witness to this. Our summit has been a tremendous success." But such unstinting praise was hard to find elsewhere, and for good reason.
For one thing, the move hardly signals a new commitment to human rights by African leaders. Nguesso isn't exactly a model democrat (like the National Islamic Front, he came to power via a coup). And the fact remains that Sudan should never have been the site of an AU summit: This in itself did far too much to legitimize the Khartoum regime.
Moreover, the news from the AU summit could prove ominous for the long-suffering people of Darfur. There may now be a temptation towards complacency on the part of the African Union and the West: Having momentarily highlighted Khartoum's destructive conduct in Darfur, African leaders may conclude that a chastened National Islamic Front will settle down and stop the genocide. This interpretation will be convenient for European and American politicians, who desperately want to believe the Darfur crisis can be solved without the involvement of Western troops.
Unfortunately, it will take a lot more than modest diplomatic reprimands to stop the NIF--and this would be a dangerous time to conclude otherwise, as the regime appears increasingly determined to flex its muscle throughout the country. The United Nations has just reported that Khartoum's recent military offensive in the Hamesh Koreb area in eastern Sudan constitutes the first major violation of the ceasefire that came into force as part of last year's peace agreement with southern rebels. Meanwhile, Khartoum has been militarily active in West Darfur and may be on the verge of a war with neighboring Chad. The potential for such a conflict has gone largely unnoticed by the international community, but its implications would be serious. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons, on both sides of the border, are acutely vulnerable; these civilians would almost certainly lose access to humanitarian assistance in the event of open hostilities. None of these on-the-ground developments are likely to be ameliorated by the AU's symbolic decision. If the AU and the West conclude otherwise, they will have done Darfur a disservice.
Worst of all, the deal that gave Nguesso the chairmanship also promised the position to Khartoum in 2007; and this promise could have disastrous consequences. Perversely, the NIF may view the gap year before its coming chairmanship as an opportunity to finish the active phase of its destruction in Darfur. After all, if the genocide is complete by late 2006, the NIF will be able to wipe its hands clean by the start of the next AU summit and say--in some sense, truthfully--that the "war" in Darfur is over. If the NIF does opt for this strategy, then it will probably try to stall negotiations currently taking place in Nigeria aimed at ending the crisis. This shouldn't be too hard to pull off: The rebel leadership that is negotiating with the NIF is both weak and lacking in diplomatic skill; and the talks have produced only scant progress so far. If the NIF can obstruct progress at those talks, while accelerating its nasty work in Darfur, it could be well positioned to assume the AU chairmanship next January. Yesterday's compromise offers Khartoum a disturbing incentive to proceed along this track.
Of course, this analysis involves guesswork about how the NIF will interpret the result of the AU summit. But the regime is vicious in its practice of realpolitik, and its leaders have shown a penchant for similarly shrewd strategies in the past. If Khartoum's genocidaires are thinking along these lines, then yesterday's AU achievement will prove a very modest one indeed. But even if they are not, the AU compromise can hardly be described as an "outstanding outcome," as America's assistant secretary of state has called it. After all, the only "outstanding outcome" for the people of Darfur would be an end to genocide. And yesterday's deal isn't going to make that happen.
That by Eric Reeves, and it strikes me as spot-on.
KINSHASA, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Eight Guatemalan U.N. troops killed in Congo last week were casualties of a botched hunt for a top Ugandan rebel which has sparked a debate about the U.N.'s peacekeeping tactics, diplomats and U.N. sources said on Tuesday.
The Guatemalan "Kaibil" Special Forces soldiers were killed on Jan. 23 during what the U.N. mission in Democratic Republic of Congo officially says was a "reconnaissance patrol" in the eastern Garamba National Park near the border with Sudan.
It was the second deadliest loss in the history of the U.N. mission in Congo, the world's biggest peacekeeping force.
Guatemala has demanded an inquiry into the deaths, which occurred in a four-hour gunbattle with fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), one of a number of Ugandan rebel groups still operating in northeastern Congo after the end of a five-year war. At least 15 rebels were also killed in the clash.
While the U.N. declines to give further details about the Guatemalans' mission, U.N. sources and diplomats in Kinshasa said their operation raised questions about how far the world body should go in enforcing peace in Congo.
One senior U.N. official, who asked not to be named, said the contingent of 80 Guatemalan special forces troops were trying to capture or kill the LRA's deputy commander, Vincent Otti, after locating his suspected camp.
"It was an operation that went wrong," he told Reuters.
"This was clearly an attack -- special forces do not carry out recces (reconnaissance) in groups that large," said a Kinshasa-based diplomat. "They attacked but the LRA were dug in and more organised than people thought.
Led by self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony, the LRA has terrorised communities in Uganda's remote north, killing villagers, slicing off survivors' lips or ears and abducting more than 20,000 children as fighters, porters and sex slaves.
U.N. and Congolese troops were also deployed against LRA rebels late last year after they crossed over the border.
Diplomats say the Guatemalan deaths could make countries contributing troops to the U.N. more reluctant to allow their soldiers to take part in high-risk operations in Congo, where the peacekeepers have been regularly battling Congolese and foreign rebels ahead of elections due this year.
"Capitals may tell their commanders in the mission that they don't want to see body bags coming home so they shouldn't take part in similar operations," the diplomat said.
With some 17,000 soldiers and policemen, the U.N. mission in Congo is the world body's largest. But the blue helmets are spread across a vast country the size of Western Europe where fighting continues three years after the war officially ended.
Twenty U.N. peacekeepers have been killed in Congo over the last year in which U.N. forces operating with Congolese government troops have raided rebel camps and brought in attack helicopters to support ground operations.
The LRA leadership is wanted by the International Criminal Court to face atrocities charges.
Of course, many on the right constantly inform us that the ICC is an evil worse than its cure, and the UN is worse than pointless, but is greatly harmful, and saves no lives. They don't live in a country where UN peacekeepers, however inadequately deployed and supported -- which they usually are, are fighting and dying to save them (and doing an inadequate job, but whose fault is that for not giving them adequate numbers and tools to do the job?).
How much better off is Congo than Sudan? Let's see:
A year after the end of a half-decade war that killed a jaw-dropping 3.8 million Congolese, mostly through starvation and disease, fierce fighting continues in the remote, eastern part of the country.
With the situation showing no sign of improving, AlertNet takes a detailed look at the dynamics behind a crisis described by the United Nations as one of the world's biggest humanitarian disasters.
What's the crisis?
In hostile terrain hundreds of kilometres from the capital Kinshasa, militias clash with government forces and U.N. peacekeepers, and plunder natural resources such as gold, diamonds, cassiterite and coltan. They terrorise local populations through campaigns of killing, rape and abduction.
The eastern part of Congo remains a dangerous place for aid workers, even as the humanitarian crisis deepens. Relief workers are often targeted and supplies looted, while fighting has forced the suspension of humanitarian programmes in food security, health care, water and education.
According to the United Nations, access is so bad that 3.3 million people are out of reach of aid groups.
According to the latest mortality study by the International Rescue Committee, some 3.8 million people have been killed since 1998, mostly due to disease and malnutrition.
Some experts fear the whole peace process could be derailed. Congo’s President Jospeh Kabila has been unable to maintain control over the huge country, and various rebels have refused to join the new national army.
One such leader, General Laurent Nkunda, a former commander of a Rwandan-backed rebel group, attacked Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province, on the border with Rwanda, in June 2004. The attacks sparked riots throughout the country and brought food aid grinding to a temporary halt.
But what about ‘the peace’?
The five-year regional war, which at different times involved seven countries and at least as many rebel groups, officially ended in 2003 when delegates of Kabila’s government in Kinshasa signed a peace agreement – dubbed the Final Act -- with representatives of the main rebel groups.
One of the biggest of those groups was Nkunda’s Congolese Rally for Democracy (RDC). The others were the Liberation of Congo, the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement and the Congolese Rally for Democracy-National.
The Final Act follows four years of failed peace, dating back to a 1999 ceasefire signed in Lusaka, which allowed the United Nations to establish a peacekeeping mission called MONUC in Congo.
But the ceasefire was repeatedly violated by all signatories, and violence continued, particularly in the north and east, where various groups jockeyed for power and exploited the country’s natural resources.
After the signing of the Final Act in 2003, power vacuums created by the withdrawal of troops in North and South Kivu and in the Ituri district led to renewed violence.
Why hasn’t the U.N. done more to stop the killing?
With fewer than 5,000 troops when it was first deployed, MONUC probably couldn’t have intervened successfully if it had tried. Furthermore, the peacekeepers were not authorized to use force.
MONUC was permitted, however, to protect its own personnel and civilians, but that didn’t save thousands in Bunia, the capital of the Ituri district, in May 2003, when rival militias clashed over control of the town. The U.N. subsequently strengthened MONUC’s mandate and increased the mission’s troop count to a maximum of 10,800.
The mission has suffered more than 40 fatalities since 1999 -- 33 military personnel, eight military observers and three civilians. Its mandate is currently under review.
So what happened in Bukavu?
In early June 2004, rebels loyal to General Laurent Nkunda seized Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, claiming they were protecting the Banyamulenge, ethnic Tutsis, from persecution. Forces loyal to President Kabila quickly ousted the rebels for control of the town.
General Nkunda, a Tutsi born in North Kivu, is a former commander of the main rebel group that controlled the eastern part of the country, the Rwandan-backed RCD. He has refused to lay down his arms and join Kinshasa’s new national army.
How is Bukavu related to the war?
Instability in Bukavu is exacerbated by unresolved tension between Kinshasa and Rwanda.
Throughout the war, which was triggered in part by ethnic tensions between Tutsis and Hutus spilling over from neighboring Rwanda, Rwandan President Paul Kagame accused Kinshasa of supporting Hutu rebels in eastern Congo who were linked to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Recently, Kinshasa has accused Rwanda of supporting General Nkunda, a charge Rwanda denies.
What’s going on in Ituri?
Despite the official end of hostilities, various armed groups continued to vie for control of the mineral-rich district.
An estimated 50,000 people have died and more than 500,000 have been displaced since 1999 as a result of fighting in Ituri, which has been under the direct or proxy control of neighboring Uganda since the beginning of the war. Fresh fighting in 2003 ended only when French troops intervened.
Much of the fighting can be broken down into two sides: the Union of Congolese Patriots is mainly composed of members of the Hema ethnic group, and the Nationalist Integrationist Front is made up mostly of the Lendu people. The Hema are pastoralists and the Lendu are agriculturalists. Both have, at different times, been backed by Uganda.
The running conflict between the Hema and Lendu has been exploited by leaders of armed political groups vying for influence in the region, and, according to Amnesty International, Ugandan support to various groups has prolonged the crisis.
Few give a fuck, of course, about a few million dead Africans. Pointless filibusters doomed to failure occupy the left, and pointing out that liberals and leftists are all traitors and fools occupy the right. Gotta have a good sense of priorities, after all.
ADDENDUM, 2:07 p.m., as pointed out to me in e-mail by d'Herblay, for which I am grateful, I am an idiot, since, well, as he said:
You've conflated the Republic of the Congo, of which Denis Sassou Nguesso is President, with the civil-war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, the former Zaire.
He was politely apologetic, and while the politeness is definitely appreciated by me, no apology was necessary (though it shows he's a nice person) -- this was not an error that goes under "pedantic nitpicking," as he called it; as I wrote him back, and this goes for anyone who reads me:
I'm one of those strange people who likes and prefers and desires and requests his factual errors pointed out. I don't have much ego invested in such things, and I'm not ashamed of the fact that I -- from rare time to time -- make errors. But when I do, I'm far better off knowing about them, as it tends to minutely lessen the likelihood of repeating them, which would compound the error.
I also prefer intelligent disagreement to mindless agreement. And so on.
Please do let me know in future when you catch me.