Last week, former Marine Capt. Brian Steidle was on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer discussing the six months he spent working with the African Union as an observer on the ground in Darfur. Earlier this year, Steidle resigned from his position with the AU and returned to the US so that he could provide a first-hand account of the genocide and share with world the hundreds of photos of destroyed villages and dead bodies he had taken.
Near the end of the segment on the NewsHour, Steidle was asked if humanitarian intervention could stop the violence and he replied
CAPT. BRIAN STEIDLE (RET.): Absolutely. I think that we can, and the power lies with the people. You know, I call on all the people to write their governments and get it done.When activists are afforded the rare opportunity to share their message with the general public, the one thing they inevitably do is urge listeners to contact their representatives and put some pressure on them.
While I have no doubt that calling, faxing, or e-mailing our congressmen can have a significant impact, in the case of Darfur I find it utterly incomprehensible that we, as citizens, must contact member of Congress and urge them to stop a genocide.
As the leaders of this country, it is inexcusable that they should fail to act on this issue simply because they have not heard from enough people demanding action.
Was there a public outcry about the need to reform Social Security? Were phones ringing off the hook about the importance of reforming our intelligence community? Were the American people swamping fax lines with letters demanding a new bankruptcy bill?
The fact is that most issues get addressed because members of Congress feel that they are worth addressing, and not because the public is calling for action.
President Bush is currently traveling around the country selling Social Security reform, not because the American people are clamoring for it, but because he thinks it is important - and because he thinks it is important, it generates news coverage.
If he thought Darfur was important, he would be talking about it and it too would receive news coverage. But he isn't. And neither is anybody else.
It seems almost ridiculous to have to say it, but those in positions of power should not have to be pressured into stopping a genocide.