Our Humanity in the Balance

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Darfur has been a well documented genocide with many excellent books and films available. Most of those which do not appear on this short list, in our judgment, suffer only by the conclusion they reach; that the best way to end genocide is to use education, advocacy and "calls to action" to move our leaders to intervene. Those who favor that view have a determination and passion to end genocide that is no less than our own. It is our opinion, though, that their strategy is a dead end, that governments have not been moved to intervene in almost a century of genocides with Kosovo the only exception. The presence of a resource on this list, however, is not an endorsement of our strategy by its author. Synopses are by Publishers Weekly.


Civilian Peace Service Canadawww.civilianpeaceservice.ca

Council on Foreign Relations — "Crisis Guide: Darfur" — www.cfr.org/darfurguide

Click to view the Crisis Guide: Darfur Presentation A comprehensive history of the conflict in Darfur, provided courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations and Media Storm

Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy

Global Action to Prevent Warwww.globalactionpw.org

Nuba ReportsNubareports.org

Search For Common Groundwww.SFCG.org

Stratos Digitalwww.stratosdigital.com

Books and Film

Click to view Fight for the Heart of the South Video Fight for the Heart of the South

"A PROBLEM FROM HELL" — America and the Age of Genocide, by Samantha Power

Power, a former journalist for U.S. News and World Report and The Economist and now a Senior Director for Multi-lateral Affairs at the National Security Council, offers an uncompromising and disturbing examination of 20th-century acts of genocide and U.S. responses to them. In clean, unadorned prose, Power revisits the Turkish genocide directed at Armenians in 1915-1916, the Holocaust, Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, Iraqi attacks on Kurdish populations, Rwanda, and Bosnian "ethnic cleansing," and in doing so, argues that U.S. intervention has been shamefully inadequate. The emotional force of Power's argument is carried by moving, sometimes almost unbearable stories of the victims and survivors of such brutality. Her analysis of U.S. politics what she casts as the State Department's unwritten rule that nonaction is better than action with a PR backlash; the Pentagon's unwillingness to see a moral imperative; an isolationist right; a suspicious left and a population unconcerned with distant nations aims to show how ingrained inertia is, even as she argues that the U.S. must reevaluate the principles it applies to foreign policy choices.

In the face of firsthand accounts of genocide, invocations of geopolitical considerations and studied and repeated refusals to accept the reality of genocidal campaigns simply fail to convince, she insists. But Power also sees signs that the fight against genocide has made progress. Prominent among those who made a difference are Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew who invented the word genocide and who lobbied the U.N. to make genocide the subject of an international treaty, and Senator William Proxmire, who for 19 years spoke every day on the floor of the U.S. Senate to urge the U.S. to ratify the U.N. treaty inspired by Lemkin's work. This is a well-researched and powerful study that is both a history and a call to action.

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"SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL" — The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, by Lt Gen Rom�o Dallaire

As former head of the late 1993 U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, Canadian general Dallaire's initial proposal called for 5,000 soldiers to permit orderly elections and the return of the refugees. Nothing like this number was supplied, and the result was an outright attempt at genocide against the Tutsis that nearly succeeded, with 800,000 dead over three months. The failure of the U.N.'s wealthier members to act as the tragedy unfolded obliged the author to leave military service to recover from PTSD (as well as the near breakdown of his family).

While much of the account is a thickly described I-went-here, I went-there, I-met-X, I-said-this, one learns much more about the author's emotional states when making decisions than in a conventional military history, making this an important document of service—one that has been awarded Canada's Governor General's Award. And his descriptions of Rwanda's unraveling are disturbing, to say the least ("I then noticed large piles of blue-black bodies heaped on the creek banks"). Dallaire's argument that Rwanda-like situations are fires that can be put out with a small force if caught early enough will certainly draw debate, but the book documents in horrifying detail what happens when no serious effort is made.

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"DARFUR" — A Short History of a Long War, by Julie Flint and Alex de Waal

The humanitarian tragedy in Darfur has stirred politicians, Hollywood celebrities and students to appeal for a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Beyond the horrific pictures of sprawling refugee camps and lurid accounts of rape and murder lies a complex history steeped in religion, politics, and decades of internal unrest.

Darfur traces the origins, organization and ideology of the infamous Janjawiid and other rebel groups, including the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement. It also analyzes the confused responses of the Sudanese government and African Union. This thoroughly updated edition also features a powerful analysis of how the conflict has been received in the international community and the varied attempts at peacekeeping.

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"WAR IN DARFUR" — and the Search for Peace, edited by Alex de Waal

Since it sprang from obscurity to international headlines in 2004, the name "Darfur" has become synonymous with war, massacre, and humanitarian crisis. The crisis had, however, been brewing for far longer, its causes neglected by both scholars and Sudanese leaders.

War in Darfur and the Search for Peace is a series of essays by leading Sudanese and international specialists on Darfur, combining original research and analysis. The book provides in-depth analysis of the origins and dimensions of the conflict, including detailed accounts of the evolution of ethnic and religious identities, the breakdown of local administration, the emergence of Arab militia and resistance movements, and regional dimensions to the conflict.

The study also focuses on the search for peace, with contributions by those most closely engaged in local and international efforts to resolve the conflict. This includes documentation and analysis of the warring parties' ideologies and agendas and how they have changed in the course of the conflict, and examination of the efforts made by Sudanese civil and political leaders, the African Union, and other international actors to bring the war to an end.

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"TEARS OF THE DESERT" — Halima Bashir and Damien Lewis

Writing with BBC correspondent Lewis (Slave), Bashir, a physician and refugee living in London, offers a vivid personal portrait of life in the Darfur region of Sudan before the catastrophe. Doted on by her father, who bucked tradition to give his daughter an education, and feisty grandmother, who bequeathed a fierce independence, Bashir grew up in the vibrant culture of a close-knit Darfur village. (Its darker side emerges in her horrific account of undergoing a clitoridectomy at age eight.) She anticipated a bright future after medical school, but tensions between Sudan's Arab-dominated Islamist dictatorship and black African communities like her Zaghawa tribe finally exploded into conflict. The violence the author recounts is harrowing: the outspoken Bashir endured brutal gang-rapes by government soldiers, and her village was wiped out by marauding Arab horsemen and helicopter gunships. This is a vehement cri de coeur—I wanted to fight and kill every Arab, to slaughter them, to drive them out of the country, the author thought upon treating girls who had been raped and mutilated—but in showing what she suffered, and lost, Bashir makes it resonate.

(Disclosure: Author Halima Bashir is an Adviser to Our Humanity in the Balance)

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"ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE" — International Humanitarian Workers Tell Their Stories, complied and edited by Carol Bergman

This is a wonderful insight into the real lives of the workers who are on the frontlines day in and day out. The stories are very well written in their own voices and paint a picture of the events taking place around these workers. If you've ever thought (or dreamed!) of doing humanitarian work, especially overseas, this book is a must-read. It will open your eyes to the real world not the media's glossed over view of it.

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"EMERGENCY SEX AND OTHER DESPERATE MEASURES" — A True Story from Hell on Earth, by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait and Andrew Thompson

They’re young, Western and ambitious in a war zone. It's the early 1990s, and Cain and Postlewait are two American U.N. employees sent to Cambodia to help the country rebuild itself after two decades of war and genocide. Thomson is a New Zealand trained doctor who has already been there for a short while, patching up limbs shattered by land mines and looking for a corner of the world to save. The three meet during the U.N.'s efforts to install democracy in one of the unlikeliest places. Idealism, financial need, thirst for adventure and the desire to be a part of history bring them there, and the high they get from doing their work keeps them flitting around the globe, looking for hot spots to help cool down.

The trio's early success in Southeast Asia is only added encouragement, as they follow their own intertwining paths through the wars and killings of the 1990s. From Cambodia, Somalia and Haiti, to Bosnia, Rwanda and Liberia, Cain, Postlewait and Thomson find death, sex, bureaucratic betrayal, sex, liberation from their pasts and seamy, regret-tainted sex amid the body parts and rotting flesh. Infuriating, heart-wrenching and well written, their tale is compelling both as a bottom-up look at U.N. peacekeeping efforts during the 1990s and a testimonial from the people who put their lives and sanity on the line for the sake of a simple idea - peace.

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