Thursday, February 23, 2006

War - the old-fashioned way

I just read in CNN about the continuing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The civilian population has taken refuge on "floating islands".
Daniel Augstburger, the head of the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Congo, said many people had taken refuge on islands formed by clumps of papyrus plants floating on lakes in Katanga's Upemba National Park.
Technically, it appears that it's not officially a war - previously, the Congolese soldiers fought Rwandan-backed rebel forces - but it sure looks like one to me:
"Both sides are living off the backs of the population -- there is total impunity. There are attacks, murders, mutilation and pillaging," Augstburger said.

"There are now more than 120,000 who are displaced in Mitwaba," an area 400 km (250 miles) north of the Lubumbashi, the capital of copper-rich Katanga.

Congo is home to 17,000 U.N. peacekeepers, making it the world body's largest peacekeeping mission. But they are spread thinly across the vast country and just several hundred have been deployed to Katanga, which is the size of France.

Humanitarian crises elsewhere in the Congo, where aid workers say fighting and war-related hunger and disease kill 1,000 people a day, mean there are also only a handful of organizations looking after Katanga's displaced.

"We are trying to get more humanitarian actors into Katanga," Augstburger said. "Congo provides us with an enormous list of crises. We can't be everywhere as we don't have unlimited resources."

Because of the severity of the crisis, which is compounded by drought in some parts of Katanga and the plundering by gunmen of what little food stocks civilians had, the U.N. has begun transporting food into Mitwaba by helicopter.

International organizations this month launched a $681 million appeal to help ease the humanitarian crisis in the Congo, which has been called the deadliest since World War II and has killed an estimated 4 million people since 1998.
I'm not sure what the UN forces are doing. It may be a situation where the intelligent thing to do is to wash one's hands of involvement, and walk away. But that's very hard to do.

This is the kind of war that raged through most of history. Merciless men swept in, looted everything, killed most of the men, commandeered others as fighters (if lucky) and slaves, and raped the women. It's only in relatively recent history that attempts have been made to reign in actions against civilian populations.

The most expedient way to deal with thugs who have no scruples about targeting civilians may be to deal with them "the Chicago way". Remember Sean Connery in "The Untouchables"? Maureen Dowd does:
In the movie "The Untouchables," Sean Connery, a cop named Malone, instructs a naïve Eliot Ness on going up against gangsters.

"If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way, because they're not gonna give up the fight until one of you is dead," he says. "You wanna know how you do it? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?"




Well, are we?

Tags = News and Politics

1 comment:

Akaky said...

Well, are we? Frankly, no, which is pretty damn unfortunate. It seems that every generation has to learn this lesson for itself the hard way.