POLITICS APRIL 21, 2008
Friends of Tibet and the Tibetan cause, I would like to remind you that China's totalitarian power also bears responsibility for another crushing disaster: Darfur.
Of course I am not saying that the Chinese government and its army are directly involved.
Nor that--as in Tibet--they are entirely responsible for a crisis that has only lasted so long because of the more or less tacit consent of other countries. For example, the United States talks a great deal but does little; France, before its presidential elections, promised more and delivered even less. It is also not China's fault that no one has decided to contribute the 18 helicopters needed for the deployment of the U.N. peacekeeping force, as Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guehenno has demanded.
Nonetheless, it is China that continues to act as the principal diplomatic support for Khartoum's murderous regime.
It is China that has for nearly five years blocked the U.N. Security Council from issuing a formal condemnation of Sudan.
It is China that keeps Sudan alive by buying its oil and using its ports for access to raw materials for which the Chinese manufacturing sector has an urgent and growing need.
It is China that is arming Sudan.
It is China that is supplying Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with the planes, trucks, and light and heavy weaponry the Janjaweed militias use as they spread terror in Jebel Marra and elsewhere.
It is China that the democratic nations of the world ought to have been pressuring for the past five years. Those nations must act now, using the weight of their combined power to put an end to the most horrifying destruction of a civilian population since the end of the war that al-Bashir led against the animists and Christians of southern Sudan three years ago.
I also want to say to the friends of Tibet and the Tibetan cause that Sudan is subject to the sort of carnage that is far beyond what, thank heaven, Tibet is experiencing today.
Of course people are being killed in Tibet.
And thanks to the latest Chinese news blockade, no one can tell us exactly how many dozens of monks, students and young people have already fallen to the bullets of Chinese military.
But in Darfur, alas, we can no longer count the dead in mere dozens, hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands.
In Darfur people are dying en masse (I was going to say in bulk), on a scale that cannot be compared, if we are bound and determined to compare it, even to what happened in Tibet nearly 50 years ago: Tens of thousands died in the riots of 1959.
In Darfur, the Chinese are covering for or inspiring a situation I wrote about a year ago in an article published by Le Monde and reprinted in the American and European press. Entire regions of the country have been reduced to scorched earth: zones where one can drive for hundreds of miles without seeing a living soul, where there are refugee areas to which survivors have been herded like cattle, where the rape of women and girls has been raised to a military strategy. Even today, at the very moment I write this, air attacks are likely taking place in the western part of the province, and at least 20,000 newly displaced people have been cut off from all humanitarian aid in the region of Jebel Moon alone.
Obviously I am not comparing one disaster to another.
And nothing is more odious, as I have said many times, than the modern obsession with victimhood rivalries and competition over suffering.
Let us at least attempt to show our solidarity with the weak.
Let us extend, not just on behalf of Tibetans, but also those suffering in Darfur, the outpouring of compassion and anger that is growing day after day.
This movement of solidarity that has gained momentum through the obstinacy and the faith of the friends of Tibet and the Tibetan cause; the beautiful fury that has been provoked, which the obtuse Chinese bureaucrats with no memory have clearly underestimated; the sudden, dawning awareness of the scandal that will occur at the Olympic Games in Beijing--at least let us make sure this will also be about the forgotten martyrs of Darfur.
There are two conditions that a democrat worthy of the name must require before he or she accepts the idea that these new Games of Shame can be held as though nothing has happened: stopping the repression in Lhasa and stopping the bloodbath in the Sudanese province of Darfur.
Long live a free Tibet, but please, let us not forget Darfur.
French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Lévy is the author most recently of American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville. His new book, Left in Dark Times: A Stand against the New Barbarism, will be published by Random House in September. Bernard-Henri Lévy will be in a conversation with Mia Farrow on Darfur at the PEN Festival in New York City on April 29, an event sponsored by Guernica Magazine: http://www.pen.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/2024/prmID/1580. This article was translated from the French by Sara Sugihara.