Saturday, May 1, 2010

They Turned Our Desert Into Fire

Thursday night i attended a screening of "They Turned Our Desert Into Fire" with a couple friends and met the director before the film began.  It was an interesting documentary of a photographer who visited Darfur in 2004 and was asked to present his findings to congress.  In order to get to Washington DC, the photographer traveled by Amtrak train from San Francisco and shared his photographs and story of Darfur with fellow passengers and recorded their reactions. 

Most of the people he recorded were unaware of the crisis in Darfur and wanted the government to do something.  Some of the statistics presented in the film about the media's neglect of the crisis were astounding, especially when compared to the Martha Stewart Insider-Trading Scandal (60 mins for Darfur over a year and 130 mins for Martha Stewart). 

Another part that was amazing to me is the impact of the American policy decision to not put any pressure on the government of Sudan until the North/South/rebel group conflict was resolved.  This allowed the government to delay any peace deal and continue the burning/killing operations in Darfur.  Bad analysis of the political situation drove bad American policy and allowed the deaths of thousands and displacement of millions. 

The reaction of many of the train passengers was to ask why the US Government and the United Nations hadn't intervened.  The director gave some information about how some of the nations on the Security Council had vested interests in the conflict continuing as they were making a profit (selling arms) as well as Sudan was selling them oil. 

In my opinion another major reason for non-involvement is the principle of sovereignty- that a sovereign nation can make its own decisions and no one can force them to do anything.  This is a principle that hasn't been evenly applied internationally.  It all seems to depend on the interests of the invading countries and what they can gain from it or the story that is told about it.  Sovereignty is something the US claims when another nation or group attempts to get it to do something that is not in its own interests (Kyoto for example).

It seems that Darfur hasn't been a bigger story because Iraq overshadowed it, because some were making money by selling arms, and others were afraid that it would upset the oil exports from the country.  The director challenged everyone to get the word out on Darfur and try to increase the visibility of the crisis to get support of the millions of displaced people and bring pressure on the government of Sudan.

Watch the film- check for a free screening around you or order the DVD.  Spread the word because the crisis is still not over. 

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