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June 23, 2005

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What else can we do? How about that blogging storm that I recommended.

*stifled laughter* Keep it up with the blogging storm idea. When the Chinese and the Indians get going with that idea, you are going to rue the day you suggested it. Of course, you will probably say that when you call for a blogging storm, you are actually only asking for thoughtful, reflective posts made on the basis of careful consideration of the data. Hilzoy's latest is sufficient to pop your bubble.

Oh, and you may want to reflect on this as well.

Its the descent into hell -- a rerun of Communist terror. Pressure from those who still have a relationship with Zimbabwe is the best short term solution, even though it probably will do little good. Pressuring them for continued support of Mugabe would be choice number two, as you suggest. I assume Mugabe would respond to pressure in the same manner as the hermit kingdom -- he seems perfectly happy to allow economic ruination in exchange for greater control.

Is there any organized resistance at the present? My impression is that there is none. Mugabe would probably welcome Western nations arming a nascent guerilla resistance, as it would fuel his rhetoric of revolution. He would co-opt the old Communist counter-revolutionary slogans and cite to Western support of guerillas as proof.

Thanks for the info.

I thought "democide" was what Karl Rove recommended yesterday.

Good post. The larger issue of What To Do About Africa is a dejecting one.

I was thinking that we should take most of the continent into international receivership, as it were. Then I remembered that this is called "colonialism."

Leaving aside that the colonial powers did *not* have the education, improvement, & eventual independence of their African possessions in view ... can we admit yet that, colonialism having happened, walking away from Africa was not a good idea?

I agree, good post, and good for bringing this to the table for discussion. We need to be talking about Mugabe and Darfur with the same vigor we debate what to do about Kim Jong Il and Iran. As far as specifics, it's way past time for a Security Council referral based on the use of food as a political weapon. Mbeki should use his G8 appearance to encourage donor nations and NGOs to restrict funding without progress for the rule of law and human rights; that's the price of the spotlight. Maybe targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his people personally, such as financial controls and/or travel restrictions. Someone should be looking at the lesson of Iraq and figure out how to devise a sanctions regime that actually punishes the autocrat and not the population.

Keep it up with the blogging storm idea.

I'm sure Dan Rather and Dick Durbin and Eason Jordan are right with ya on that, LJ.

Dan Rather, Dick Durbin, Eason Jordan, and Robert Mugabe. One of these things is not like the others...

I'm sure Dan Rather and Dick Durbin and Eason Jordan are right with ya on that, LJ.

I was thinking more like Bird Dog and the Chinese hacker masses, separated at birth...

well, since failed states are the best home for terror groups and Zimbabwe is moving right to the top of the list of failed states at warp speed,

we could always invade, depose the thug, install a UN-controlled protectorate govt, and start a multi-billion dollar and multi-year rehab program.

probably we have neither the will, nor the money nor the troops to do that, though I'd support something along those lines.

Anarch: Dan Rather, Dick Durbin, Eason Jordan, and Robert Mugabe. One of these things is not like the others...

That would be the more amusing if it weren't so weird in the light of Charles Bird's earlier post on the evils of doing what he just did. Anyone who thought like CB in "Images Evoked" would think that Charles was comparing two respectable and accomplished American journalists, and one honest and courageous US Senator, to a villain like Robert Mugabe - and as Charles made amply clear, he thinks that's a vile, vile thing to do.

Odd, that's all I'm saying.

Charles, I confess, you are right this is awful, but I just feel utterly powerless to do a thing about it. I mean, I just looked up in the Congressional record--there were two references to Mugabe this entire session, in either house, and they were embedded in speeches attacking the UN and the Supreme Court; they weren't directly condemning what's going on there, let alone suggesting a U.S. response. And even in Darfur, where Congress has given the situation so much more attention, very little has come of it.

I also think you need to learn a bit more about African history in general before you go around saying "start a civil war". Just because a situation is awful, doesn't mean that any change will be for the better. Contrast the transition of South Africa and Zimbabwe from minority rule, and read about the Congo and Angola, and the West African civil war.

Something you might want to look into is whether the U.S. government has extended Temporary Protected Status to Refugees from Zimbabwe. I tried googling and it looks like we've not done so though I wouldn't swear to it. TPS is sort of temporary asylum that we give people fleeing an acute crisis; it ends when the crisis ends. It won't fix the situation but it might help some people, and it's something the U.S. can do without having to convince the U.N.

Thanks for this information, Charles. I feel powerless to do anything about it, but that's no reason to be ignorant. The pictures are devastating.

It is awful, and thank you for posting on it. Brad DeLong has a good post here, citing an even better one by Tim Burke here.

also think you need to learn a bit more about African history in general before you go around saying "start a civil war".

Katherine, I wrote the following at Redstate and meant to do it here: "How about not standing in the way of a civil war." I've since changed it here. If the choice comes down to starving to death or fighting, I'll respect their right to live. Your suggestion on TPS is worth an update.

That would be the more amusing if it weren't so weird in the light of Charles Bird's earlier post on the evils of doing what he just did.

Specifically, my question in the other post was: "Can we agree that, no matter how the words are weaseled, putting American in the same sentence with Nazis, gulags and the Khmer Rouge has no place in civil political discourse?" I still stand by that. In the matter of Zimbabwe, Mugabe is conducting a ruralization program eerily similar to Pol Pot, the exception being that Zimbabweans are not sent to reeducation camps but to basically starve to death. The numbers aren't in proportion to Cambodia's, but they are still disturbingly high. If 1.5 million are truly homeless, this sounds like nothing short of a major humanitarian crisis every bit as serious as Darfur.

I also think you need to learn a bit more about African history in general before you go around saying "start a civil war". Just because a situation is awful, doesn't mean that any change will be for the better. Contrast the transition of South Africa and Zimbabwe from minority rule, and read about the Congo and Angola, and the West African civil war.

He could start by reading the comments to his posts, methinks. This comment discusses the history that constrains Mbeki. Do I think that this absolves Mbeki? No, but a failure to understand the circumstances that undergird the situation leads in all likelihood, to more problems rather than less.

Mugabe is conducting a ruralization program eerily similar to Pol Pot, the exception being that Zimbabweans are not sent to reeducation camps but to basically starve to death...

You've mixed up your asian regimes here, Charles. reeducation camps were Vietnamese.

Actually, the Khmer Rouge had 'em, too.

in Cambodia after Pol Pot came to power (1976) an estimated one million civilians died in “reeducation” camps.

(Why, I wonder, does this message look like comment spam to your filter? Link deleted to see if it'll get through.)

Yeah, I distinctly remember seeing the Khmer Rouge re-education camps portrayed quite chillingly in The Killing Fields.

It sounds like the BBC is following this story with everything it has. From the reporting I've heard from them (via PRI), their reporters are banned from the country yet they continually file in-country reports with interviews of locals and sharp, critical analysis.

I'm just putting that out there, remembering, as I do, recent Republican opinions of the BBC...

Yes, the BBC is un-American to the core!

Just to chime in with the above, but there were plenty of "reeducation" camps in Cambodia during the Khmer reign. A huge number died as a result of famine as well. S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, an extraordinary documentary about one of the most notorious prisons, is required viewing for anyone interested in the topic.

As to the actual topic of this post, you're exactly right. Given the history of the region I'm not so sanguine about the let a civil war unfold option, and I wonder if there's any indigenous opposition that could mount an effective resistance at this point. I'd hate to endorse a course of action that led to the slaughter of an overwhelmed and undermanned opposition.

The Guardian Unlimited reports numbers of homeless as high as 1.5 million: http://www.guardian.co.uk/zimbabwe/article/0,2763,1513999,00.html

Note that this is larger than the total population of Botswana. The potential refugee problem is beyond the ability of neighboring countries to handle. Note also that it is the beginning of winter in the southern hemisphere. Despite being on the tropic of cancer, it can still get damn cold at night during the winter. Certainly cold enough to kill children or adults weakened by hunger or disease.

A friend at the CDC who is working with TB vaccination tells me there is a nascent TB epidemic in subequatorial africa due to the large numbers of people with immune systems compromised by HIV. The potential for disaster is very real.

On the subject of recommendations for action: Arming the populace is a recipe for a massive civil war. Zimbabwe has two major tribes and a number of smaller ones. Dropping large numbers of weapons into this situation almost guarantees the formation of mutually hostile tribal militias. The results would simply add another example to the pattern of Somalia, Sudan, and Rwanda.

The best hope is for an effective international peacekeeping intervention, but there are a number of problems with that. Absent a serious breakdown of civil order the international community has little leverage with the Zim government to get troops on the ground. In addition the operative word is "effective" - the historical pattern of international intervention against democide is not encouraging. Interestingly, I think the most successful example is the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, which was precipitated in part by a refugee crisis.

Things that might help: Maintain international pressure - blogs can help here by keeping the profile of this disaster high. Support African peacekeeping and peacemaking efforts - again blogs can help by highlighting what can be done by Africans themselves, and by encouraging our respective nations to support these efforts however they can.

An African Union Peacekeeping exercise just wound up in Botswana: http://www.mmegi.bw/2005/June/Friday24/5352155401847.html
This editorial pretty much gets it right, IMO:
http://www.mmegi.bw/2005/June/Friday24/5352155641672.html

In the end of the day, this is an African problem and it will have to be resolved by Africans. The best the outside world can do is to support those efforts, offer advice, and let the AU do what it can. Whatever is done will not be perfect, if for no other reason than that humans are imperfect. Even if the AU action is insufficient, ineffective, or even harmful, the developed world should not try to run the show. If the AU screws up and a hundred thousand people die, the lessons learned will inform future efforts, almost certainly saving many more lives in the future than are lost. This is, I realize, quite a harsh view. The alternative, however, is to treat the Africans as basically stupid and incompetent. They are not. The mistakes they will (and have) made in pulling themselves up from the wreckage of colonialism are no greater than the mistakes western nations made in pulling themselves out of the dark ages. They can and will learn, adapt, adjust, and create their own civilization organically connected to their own roots, traditions, and history. It will not look like western civilization. In the period of transition there will be hardships, including the deaths of innocents. Hamfisted western intervention will simply change which innocents die, and will almost certainly prolong the turbulence. We can offer assistance, advice, and support. I believe we have a moral duty to do these things. But the initiative must come from the people on the ground. Let them ask for what they need, and if their case is sound (based not on what we think they should do, but on what they are attempting to do), we should give assistance. What we absolutely must not do is to try to impose solutions from the outside, based on our preconceptions, incomplete understanding of the situation, or at worst based on ideology wrapped up in contemporary domestic political battles (see Joe Katzmann's post on Winds of Change for an excellent example of this error).

I wish I had more concrete suggestions, but I hope I've at least convinced some people that there are certain things which ought to be taken off the table.

Gee, I'm surprised Charles isn't utilizing - and lauding - Amnesty International's extensive coverage of the ongoing human rights disaster in Zimbabwe, what with him being such a proud member and all.

;-)

Excellent post btw. Please keep this up - this must not be allowed to fall down the memory hole. While I deplore the phrase 'blogging storm' (please, for the love of god, drop the cheesy catch-phrases and neologisms), the relative silence of the North American media regarding this vitally urgent issue is pathetic - yet par for the course.

We must actively support those in the region such as like Bishop Desmond Tutu, who, along with Nelson Mandela (although he's not quite as vocal in his opposition) is one of the few ANC partisans who have dared to be critical of South Africa's policy of quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe. Tutu called Mugabe a "caricature of an African dictator", a most apt description. Bishop Tutu has also said that Zimbabwe has made a mockery of African Democracy:

We have a responsibility. People should see that we do really care about things like freedom, justice the basic freedoms for which we have fought...We have to say, places like Zimbabwe make almost a mockery of our saying that we are committed to these things and makes it difficult for those who are our friends."

The pictures Charles posted above are blatant evidence of the ongoing human rights abuses occuring in Zimbabwe. (For more details see the Amnesty links above.) Yesterday 200 human rights organizations condemned the actions of Mugabe, calling upon the AU and the UN to take action:

Strongly condemning the mass forced evictions, the coalition of organizations urged Nigerian President Obasanjo, as Chair of the AU, to put the crisis in Zimbabwe on the agenda of the upcoming AU Assembly --scheduled to take place in Libya on 4 - 5 July.

The coalition also called on relevant bodies at the UN, including the Secretary-General, to publicly condemn the ongoing mass violations and take effective action to stop them.

"The appointment of a UN Special Envoy to investigate the mass violations taking place in Zimbabwe is welcome," said a representative of the coalition. "But effective action
must also be taken immediately to help those already sleeping on the streets, beside the rubble of their homes -- and to ensure that the evictions and demolitions stop immediately."

"The AU and UN simply cannot ignore such an unprecedented, wide-ranging appeal on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe, particularly from African civil society," said a coalition representative. "African solidarity should be with the people of Africa -- not their repressive leaders."

The entire statement is availible here.


Well, since 130K troops are in Iraq to fight the GWOT by means of Democracy and Human Rights, we should expect a deployment to Zimbabwe any day now, right?

After all, we'd be greated by the local people, sweep away the local army, and be done by fall. It'd be a good warm-up training session for the units schedule for Iraq this fall, particularly since they really won't be needed there (with the death throes of the insurgency and all that).

oops - didn't notice Charles had already made an update re: joint statement of condemnation.

mea culpa.

The African Union has rejected calls from the West to take immediate and decisive action against Zimbabwe:

An AU spokesman told the BBC that it had many more serious problems to consider than Zimbabwe..."If the government that they elected say they are restoring order by their actions, I don't think it would be proper for us to go interfering in their internal legislation," AU spokesman Desmond Orjiako told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

His comments were backed up by South Africa, Zimbabwe's giant neighbour, which some see as the key to solving Zimbabwe's problems.

Presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo said he was "irritated" by calls from UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to do more to end the "horrors" in Zimbabwe.

"South Africa refuses to accept the notion that because suddenly we're going to a G8 summit, we must be reminded that we must look good and appease the G8 leaders," he said.

"We will do things because we believe they are correct and right."

Words fail me.

I've been having computer woes so this took longer than it should have but: my snark above notwithstanding, this was a generally good post made even better by the consistent updating. Good job.

OK, things are really bad in Zimbabwe but the comparison with Pol Pot is very inaccurate.

'South Africa refuses to accept the notion that because suddenly we're going to a G8 summit, we must be reminded that we must look good and appease the G8 leaders," he said.'

Somebody needs to remind this guy they're invited to a G8 summit and they ought to show they belong on the stage by taking on the responsibility that comes with it. Too bad we shot all the credibility we would've had for bully-pulpit-ing them like that.


One reason for the lack of attention on Zimbabwe may be that everyone's using the approach of hoping Mugabe will die soon, taking the problem with him. The man's 81 years old.

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