Sunday, June 1, 2008

Day Like Any Other:What in the World Was Going On?

A Day Like Any Other: What in the world was going on?
From National Review Online (May 15, 2002)

Sunday, May 5, 2002 -- it seemed a day like any other. The world was concerned about violence in the Middle East. Secretary of State Colin Powell opined on talk shows that Israel must negotiate new agreements with Palestine Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Arafat has served more than 30 years at the head of an international gangster movement that invented both airplane hijackings and pedestrian suicide bombings. On September 11, 19 Arab Muslim terrorists, 15 of them Saudi Arabians, synthesized Arafat's two innovations at the World Trade Center towers and at the Pentagon. Arafat did not abandon terrorism even after being enticed, in 1993, with the sovereignty embodied in his Palestinian Authority. Rather, he spent the next eight years coordinating television images, radio announcements, schoolbooks, and summer camps to train a generation of schoolchildren to aspire to human sacrifice. But on that Sunday, as on any other day, Secretary Powell spoke of Arafat's potential as peacemaker.

Attention also focused on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who arrived in Washington, D.C., to show President Bush a 103-page dossier of documents uncovered during Israel's recent Operation Defensive Shield. The dossier proves Arafat's continued central role in directing and funding terrorism. The evidence is so damning that Arafat's spinmeisters have had to resort to calling it a forgery. They can fabricate no other defense.

That Sunday, the Western world and its news media focused on Israel-Arab tensions. The United Nations Security Council continued debating the "Jenin massacre" that several prominent Western newspapers and international human-rights organizations unanimously have determined never actually happened. News bulletins flowed, throughout the day, from the Bethlehem standoff over the release of several wanted gunmen — at least two of them terrorists who murdered an American architect. The terrorists were still holding monks, nuns, and a sacred church itself hostage.

But what in the world was going on? The question is literal. That is, what was going on elsewhere in the world, on this day that seemed like any other?

In Colombia, an internecine civil war continued on that Sunday. That war is not 19 months old, not 38 months old. Rather, it is 38 years old, and 3,500 civilians are murdered in its crossfire every year. On that Sunday — while the world fretted about a group of Arafat-backed gunmen hiding in the Church of the Nativity — a group of terrified mothers, young children, and babies fled desperately from terrorists to the sanctuary of a Catholic church in Bojaya, some 58 miles south of Quibdo, capital of the Colombian state of Choco. Hot on their trail were armed rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The United Nations had "alerted" the Colombian government several weeks earlier that terrorism could erupt near Quibdo. The world may have watched Israeli soldiers maintain guard patiently through the day, but no one seems to have noticed what happened at that other church, in Bojaya. There was no Vatican negotiator. International peace activists did not rush in to protect the noncombatants. No one spoke out or noticed as FARC rebels pounded the holy shrine, firing homemade mortars into the church, murdering at least 40 civilians. In all, 108 non-combatants were slain in Colombia that day. According to Colombian President Andres Pastrana, "What happened here was genocide on the part of the FARC." Indeed, it was a "Jenin massacre" and a "Bethlehem Church nightmare" rolled into one. But not a page-one story for Monday.

Perhaps no one at CNN or the Los Angeles Times — which has a photographer in the Church of the Nativity — stopped to ask why this civil war of daily massacres gets buried daily to make room for a hapless search in Jenin for a massacre that never happened. The United Nations, however, did note the Bojaya Church Massacre. But instead of assembling a fact-finding team, it opted literally for a press statement: "It is lamentable that the government authorities ignored the early warning." As of this writing, the Security Council has not yet dispatched Cornelio Sommaruga, former head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Sadako Ogata, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or Martti Ahtisaari, former head of the European Union, to investigate. Because that Sunday was like any other day.

Alternatively, Kofi Annan's fact-finders could have been sent to the Sudan-Uganda border. Instead of searching for nonexistent mass graves in Jenin, they would have found a massacre in broad daylight today. A group called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has been fighting for several years to replace Uganda's constitution with the Ten Commandments. Toward that end, they have massacred thousands of civilians and exiled hundreds of thousands of Ugandans from their homes. The conflict is barely reported. These Decalogue activists — many news organs refer to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists as "activists" — ironically have been supported through most of their insurgency by neighboring Sudan's Islamic theocracy, and they have based themselves there. However, under an agreement reached by Sudan and Uganda, on that Sunday it was the Ugandan government's turn to massacre the LRA, during a bloody incursion into Sudanese territory. In a quote that did not push Jenin off the front pages of any daily worth its newsprint, Ugandan Major Shaban Bantariza told reporters on the 5th: "We have killed these rebels. Their bodies are being picked from the bushes by our soldiers. We are counting them one by one and the number has now reached 50." Nigeria set out with greater expectations for a peaceful Sunday, marked by freedom's hallmark: democratic primary elections. Unfortunately, a disagreement arose in the city of Noj, some 200 miles northeast of the capital in Abuja — between the Yorubas of Eto-Baba in the south and the Beroms and Hausas of the north — over where to conduct the balloting. Soon, the vying factions of President Olusegun Obasanjo's ruling People's Democratic Party flooded the streets to resolve the question with knives and machetes. At least 20 civilians were slain, many charred beyond recognition, and the city's chief medical officer, Daniel Iya, spoke of "mass casualties." For his own safety, however, he refused to disclose exact casualty numbers.

Algeria also had some election fallout on that Sunday. Elections were canceled in 1992, and the disgruntled have massacred 120,000 noncombatants since then, averaging a thousand murdered civilians a month. Over the past four months alone, while the world has searched for those 500 bodies Arafat's propagandists allege repose in Jenin, 400 civilians have been massacred in the open in Algeria. On that Sunday, 31 more innocents were slaughtered there by Islamic militants. Twenty were murdered in Ksar-Chellala, near the Tiaret region, about 212 miles west of the nation's capital. Eleven were slain in Tiaret. All fingers pointed towards the Armed Islamic Group, Algeria's premier Islamic terrorist gang, but no one claimed responsibility. Perhaps the United Nations will investigate soon.

What in the world was going on that Sunday? From the State Department to the United Nations, nabobs and pundits alike debated what to do about Jenin, Sharon, and Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. It was a day like any other day.

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