Assume the Position

Friday, April 11, 2003
Picking Percy Shelley's Ozymandias as a "fitting epitaph for Saddam’s rule and its wrecked idols" is fine; but, Angie Shultz's update of the Hays & Seeger folk song might better capture the toppling of Hussein's statue in the current age:

If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the evening
I'd hammer on Saddam
All over Baghdad
I'd hammer out chu-unks
And sell 'em on eeeEEEEbaay
I'd hammer out love between the Yankees and Iraqis
Aa-aall over Baghdad!

Meanwhile, Damion Penny captures the tone of many news reports with an imagined dispatch from Robert Fisk on the Allies' capture of Berlin:

"The streets, where for so many years the proud men of the Gestapo maintained law and order, have deteriorated into anarchy under the weight of American bombs, just as my face deteriorated into a mass of wretched black bruises when I was attacked by Jewish refugees who obviously, and rightly, targeted me because of the disgraceful way Great Britain has dragged their continent into this filthy war."

[Blogger archive bug, use the Angie/Damian link and scroll down.]

Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Instead Of Pledging A "Vital Role" for the UN in post-war Iraq, maybe Bush and Blair should be questioning Kofi Annan about the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, formerly DRC, formerly the Belgian Congo, etc.
Warring parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo signed a post-war political settlement in South Africa last Wednesday.

Just one day later, almost 1,000 civilians were massacred by tribal militias in northerneast region on the country.

The "United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo" (MONUC) has been in the DRC since the end of 1999. (It is a small operation, less than 6,000 people [1], for a country five times larger than Iraq. So, no, this was not another Srebrenica carried out under the noses of UN peacekeepers.) MONUC officials went to the scene afterwards:
United Nations investigators are gathering information at a remote Congo town where local people say nearly 1,000 civilians were massacred in what may be the worst atrocity in the country's four-and-a-half-year war.

U.N. officials quoted eyewitnesses as saying women and children joined in the bloody dawn raid on Drodro last Thursday, killing 966 people within three hours with guns and machetes.

"Nearly 1,000 dead -- I cannot remember a time when so many were killed in such a short space of time," said Hamadoun Toure, spokesman for the U.N. force in Congo (MONUC).

The U.N. force in Congo has established a committee to negotiate an end to the killings in the Ituri province, but a local cease-fire agreed in March has failed to halt violence even as tribal and community leaders meet in Bunia to talk peace.

The massacre was April 3rd. Here is the committee's complete April 4th press release:
The Ituri Pacification Committee starts its work
Yulu Kabamba

The Ituri Pacification Committee started its work on Friday, 4 April 2003 in Bunia. The meeting was presided over by the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Behrooz Sadry.

On this occasion, Mr. Sadry indicated that the Committee's work would be crowned with success "when terms like massacres, rape, looting, torture are vanished from the populations' vocabulary; when the communities living in Ituri feel again the desire to live together, like in the past, without rejecting one another nor excluding any one".

In his speech, Government Representative, Human Rights Minister, Mr. Ntumba Luaba, reminded the Ituri delegates that the future and destiny of their 65,000-km2 huge territory lied in their hands. The Brigadier General and head of Ugandan delegation, Kale Kayihura, stated that he had no resentment against the Union of the Congolese Patriots (UPC) led by Mr. Thomas Lubanga. He expressed UPDF readiness to pull out of Bunia provided that a neutral force was established to secure not only Ituri, but also Uganda, upon withdrawal of their troops on 24 April 2003 as planned.

The majority of the people representing the 32 Ituri delegations deplored the massacres and devastations brought on their land by the numerous conflicts. They also voiced their hope to see, at last, reconciliation and peace in Ituri for a lasting development in that part of the country.

Three sub-commissions were set up and are to begin working on 5 April 2003. They will be dealing with crucial issues such as security and the consolidation of the cessation of hostilities, revival of the public services and restoration of the rule of law, humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation. Their proceedings are scheduled to wind up on 12 April, two days before the signing of the Peace Accord and Reconstruction in Ituri.

Another Reuters report on the massacre:
"They slaughtered my people. Slit their throats and slashed many on the head. People were killed like cows," Kpadhingo Londri, a local chief of the Hema tribe, told Reuters. He said some villagers fled into the bush and were chased and cut down by the attackers, who he said were militia from the rival Lendu tribe.

"They used guns, machetes, knives, spears and bow and arrows. They killed three of my young children and my first wife," said Londri, who was not home when the raiders struck.

U.N. investigators saw some 20 mass graves at the weekend after Thursday's dawn raids on Drodro town and 14 neighboring villages near Bunia, the capital of Ituri province 50 miles from the border with Uganda.

About 50 survivors are in hospital with stab wounds and deep cuts to the head and hands.

"What our people saw were mass graves. Fresh graves," Behrooz Sadry, a senior United Nations official, told Reuters.

He said a local priest had counted 966 bodies, but the Ugandan army has put the death toll at between 350 and 400.

Both tribes have gathered in Bunia this week for peace talks, but they show no signs of ending the cycle of violence.

A Lendu representative did not comment on the Drodro attack, but he pointed to previous Hema attacks on his people. "They killed us and our people think we should fight back," said the representative, who declined to be named.

Pilo Kamaragi, a university professor and Hema leader, said the young men who fled Drodro would seek revenge.

"They have come back because this war with the Lendu will never end," Kamaragi said.

On April 7th, Human Rights Watch put out "an open letter to President Museveni of Uganda" (aka a press release).
Ugandan forces and their allies must prevent the killing of civilians in Ituri in northeastern Congo, Human Rights Watch said in an open letter to President Museveni of Uganda today after information of yet another massacre of civilians surfaced over the weekend.

Human Rights Watch research recently conducted in Ituri shows that at least 4,000 people have lost their lives in ethnic killings over the past eight months on both sides of the ethnic divide. Uganda's volatile sponsorship of a variety of ethnic militias in Ituri has inflamed the situation.

On April 8th, the International Rescue Committee released its latest DRC mortality study calling the Congo war the "deadliest since World War II."
The four and a half year war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has taken more lives than any other since World War II and is the deadliest documented conflict in African history, says the International Rescue Committee.

A mortality study released today by the IRC estimates that since August 1998, when the war erupted, through November 2002 when the survey was completed, at least 3.3 million people died in excess of what would normally be expected during this time.

[That is an "excess deaths" figure that ranges from 3.0 to 4.7 million. A loose approximation from material on the IRC site is 10% of the deaths were people killed in war violence, the rest of the deaths come from the social disruptions caused by the war. -lp]

"This is a humanitarian catastrophe of horrid and shocking proportions," says George Rupp, president of the IRC. "The worst mortality projections in the event of a lengthy war in Iraq, and the death toll from all the recent wars in the Balkans don't even come close. Yet, the crisis has received scant attention from international donors and the media."

But the IRC's research found some cause for hope. While people continued to die at an extraordinary rate, death from violence in the east dropped by 90 percent compared to the previous three years of the war, and overall mortality also declined significantly.

The IRC believes a number of positive developments have contributed to greater stability and the decline in excess mortality. Peace talks in South Africa have led to the withdrawal of most foreign forces, as well as a framework for implementing a peace accord and developing a government of reconciliation. And some 5,500 UN observers have taken up position in the country. This environment of improved security enabled humanitarian aid organizations like the IRC to expand emergency health services and infrastructure support programs, particularly in previously inaccessible areas.

However, the peace process is in danger. There are new outbreaks of fighting in northeastern Ituri, and Uganda has reoccupied areas of the province. Meanwhile, Rwanda, which withdrew its forces last October, is threatening to reinvade, and militias that perpetrated the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, still lurk in the forests of eastern Congo.

"Unless there is rapid and bold international investment in strengthening this peace process, all that has been gained in Congo could be lost," said George Rupp. "We hope the findings in this report compel the international community to take action."

Finally, there is this opinion piece by Dr Chris Landsberg, director of some Center for Policy Studies, published April 6th in the Sunday Times of Johannesburg, SA.

WHILE most of us were compelled to watch how the US and its coalition partners play out their "shock and awe" war in Iraq on television, and how Saddam Hussein's men desperately try to convince us that they are in fact in the ascendancy, an event quite opposite to this was playing itself out in Africa: peace, albeit formal peace, was made closer to home.

While the US and its friends continued to teach the world a lesson in invasion by sidelining and ignoring the United Nations in particular and multilateralism and international co-operation in general, the Democratic Republic of Congo peace process and deal-making was an example of an attempt to work multilaterally - under arduous political circumstances - to end war, not promote shock and awe.

While the Iraqi invasion seeks to discredit the UN and set back global governance, the Congo peace process and peace pact are attempts to boost continental governance and build confidence in Africa's premier multilateral body, the African Union.

Over two dozen representatives from the DRC signed a peace pact to bring a formal end to Africa's first World War and the formal (or first) stage of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue.

And the day after the signing, almost 1,000 civilians were slaughtered in Drodro. [See update [2] -lp]

In the Congo, Lebanon and elsewhere, the UN has amply demonstrated that it is about process, not results. As long as "representatives" show up and "negotiate" and eventually sign some "peace pact," it doesn't matter if they ignore it the next day and the slaughter continues, so long as the process starts over again. It doesn't matter whether the war goes on 4.5 years or 45 years.

If Iraq becomes a UN show…

This is a moment that people have been fearing, even those who are very opposed to the regime, who have been wanting and anticipating the fall of the regime.

They always voiced concern, when I was in Baghdad, about what happens when [Saddam] falls. What comes next? Who's going to take over?

There was fear that there would be chaos in Iraq -- no law and order, that the country would disintegrate.

-- Rula Amin, CNN
…expect a long civil war between the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites with various support and armed incursions from Iran, Syria and possibly Turkey and/or Saudi Arabia.

There's no guarantee the US/UK will do better, but they'd be hard pressed to do worse.

[1] MONUC -Facts and Figures

Authorized strength
5,537 military personnel, including up to 500 military observers, supported by specialists in human rights, humanitarian affairs, public information, child protection, political affairs, medical and administrative support.
Current strength (28 February 2003)
4,414 total uniformed personnel, including 476 military observers, 3,889 troops and 49 civilian police; supported by 581 international and 682 local civilian personnel

[2] UPDATE April 16, 2003: As usual, casualty numbers are subject to question. I'll let that line stand as a bit of dramatic hyperbole, the numbers may not approach 1,000 and certainly not all the killings occurred in the village of Drodro; but, there was a massacre, none the less. The April 8, 2003, story on the UN News Centre website reporting the UNSC action, said:

Today, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the bodies of at least 960 victims have been recovered. The UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), meanwhile was forced to distribute medical supplies to survivors by helicopter because the security situation on the ground remained very dangerous.

Later (April 10, 2003), OCHA clarified in a story about the ongoing fighting:

Meanwhile, Diallo said MONUC would soon be sending a larger team to undertake more thorough investigations into the 3 April massacre at Drodro in northeastern Ituri district. There has been confusion over the number of people killed when Lendus attacked members of the Hema community. Diallo clarified that local chiefs had given lists of 966 people killed in Drodro and 14 surrounding areas, and that MONUC officials had been shown 20 mass graves reportedly containing between 150 and 300 bodies.

Monday, April 07, 2003
Finally, a rational explanation for this.

Sunday, April 06, 2003
You Got What You Asked For and now you're complaining about it (via Matt Welch via Arthur Silber).

You'd think the government would have a central office with a 1-800 number, staffed with people trained to accept information from the public and then ensure it was routed it to the appropriate agency to deal with it.

Of course, there were plans for such an office, but public outcry orchestrated by the ACLU (it's too scary, it's too Orwellian, it's too much like the Stasi) got Dick Armey to scuttle it.

Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.