Sunday, March 12, 2006

Help Send Bill O'Reilly to Darfur

I've been reading up on the genocide taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan. It is a tragic and overlooked situation that has been going on far too long with virtually no intervention by the U.S. I must claim my own ignorance of the situation. But I am learning, and I hope others take the time to see where they can help. The conflict in Darfur began in February 2003, when rebel groups attacked government positions, accusing leaders of ignoring their region. The Sudan government struck back with a fury, enlisting local militias, called the janjaweed, to massacre civilians and destroy entire villages. Over three years of conflict with a death toll of nearly 400,000 not to mention displacing 3 million. Thousands starving in refugee camps where virtually no international aid organizations can go because of the high risk. These people have little hope. The Sudanese government is paying the janjaweed to attack its own people. The international community is doing little to stop the massacres. Although there are demands to the Sudanese government to end the violence, there are no penalties or costs for them to end the genocide.

Most of us have heard about the conflict in Rwanda, but Darfur has been virtually ignored by our media with the exception of New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof. He has been writing about Darfur in his column and trying to raise awareness. In a recent article, he stated:

"According to the Tyndall Report, which analyzes the content of the evening newscasts of the broadcast networks, their coverage of Darfur actually declined last year. The total for all three networks was 26 minutes in 2004. That wasn't much -- but it dropped to just 18 minutes during all of 2005.
ABC's evening news program had 11 minutes about Darfur over the year, NBC's had 5 minutes, and CBS's found genocide worth only 2 minutes of airtime during the course of 2005.
In contrast, the networks gave the Michael Jackson trial in 2005 a total of 84 minutes of coverage. There aren't comparable figures for cable networks like Fox, but Mr. O'Reilly and other cable newscasters pretty much ignored the Darfur catastrophe."

Apparently, cable show host Bill O'Reilly recently called Mr. Kristof a "left-wing idealogue". In response, Mr. Kristof wrote an op-ed piece in the Times asking for readers to "help Bill O'Reilly" go with him to Darfur to use his talents for an important cause. Mr. O'Reilly responded that he could not possibly go to Africa because he must do three hours of news analysis for television and radio every day. Mr. Kristof is asking for pledges to send Bill O'Reilly to Darfur with a satellite phone so he could still do his various shows from Africa. The additional money raised would be to fund the case money was the concern. Kristof said the objective of sending Bill O'Reilly to Darfur would be so he could "use his television savvy to thunder against something actually meriting his blustery rage". He asks for pledges to be sent to him by e-mail to On a recent Real Time with Bill Maher show, Kristof said that people could not specifically request their pledge fund only a one-way trip to Darfur for O'Reilly, much to the dismay of some. But he argued that the people of Darfur have suffered enough.

The violence is now spreading to neighboring Chad. Nicholas Kristof recently went to Africa again to a village called Koloy in Chad along the Sudan border. All the villages east of Koloy had been destroyed and the people fled or murdered. The village was waiting to be attacked and was expecting it the day Kristof was there. Kristof wrote:

"This entire area gets no visits from diplomats and no help from the U.N. or aid groups, because it is too risky. Only one organization, Doctors Without Borders, sticks it out, sending in a convoy of intrepid doctors three days a week to pull bullets out of victims.
It was nerve-racking to be in Koloy, and my local interpreter kept insisting that we rush away. But I've never felt more helpless than the moment I pulled away in my Toyota Land Cruiser, waving goodbye to people convinced that they would soon be murdered.
In the end, there was no janjaweed attack that day. Perhaps that's because the janjaweed have found that it is inconvenient to drive away absolutely all Africans; now the janjaweed sometimes leave market towns alone so that their own families can still have places to shop.
The people of Koloy are still waiting to be massacred. Think for a moment what it would be like to huddle with your family every day, paralyzed by fear, waiting for the end."

Kristof also called for action:

"And remember all this can be stopped. You can go to and send a postcard to President Bush, encouraging him to do more. At you can find a list of "10 things you can do right now."
Maybe it seems that you have no real power to change anything in Koloy, but, frankly, right now you're the only hope that the people in Koloy have."

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