Cruel and Inhuman

The Donald Rumsfeld countdown has begun. He apologized to the Senate Armed Services committee today for the abuse of Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib prison.

CNN has some of the pictures taken by US soldiers who were supposed to be guarding prisoners, and they really are as "cruel and inhuman" as Secretary Rumsfeld said they were.

Here's some of what CNN reported:

A military report about that abuse describes detainees being threatened, sodomized with a chemical light and forced into sexually humiliating poses.

Military investigators have looked into -- or are continuing to investigate -- 35 cases of alleged abuse or deaths of prisoners in detention facilities in the Central Command theater, according to Army Secretary Les Brownlee. Two of those cases were deemed homicides, he said.

"The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters after Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

This Abu Ghraib prison scandal is bad business and it is going to take a take a lot more than apologies to make it right.

But in all the uproar over these "inhuman and cruel" photos, we are missing something far worse. A "reign of terror" in the Darfur region of Sudan, where up to a million people have been forced to flee from their homes.

Here's a bit from a BBC story today:

As we drive out from the main town of Nyala, in southern Darfur, we begin to see the evidence of lives swiftly overturned.

In the first village, ash crunches underfoot.

Huts are charred, the thatch gone.

In the debris is a child's blue plastic shoe.

In the second village, clay water pots lie cracked open like eggs.

A grain store is scorched and empty.

In the huts, there is a muddle of cloth, wooden beds half broken, buried under a thin layer of dust.

The BBC reported on a United Nation meeting where UN officials described numerous "crimes against humanity" being committed against African Muslim Sudanese by the mostly Arab Muslim government in Khartoum.

After briefing the council, UN Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan spoke of a "scorched earth policy" and "repeated crimes against humanity".

He described aerial bombardments as well as systematic attacks on villages by Sudanese government forces and militiamen who killed, raped, and looted.

"This is happening before our very eyes," he said.

Damn. Is it just me, or does it seem like we are getting Vietnam and Rwanda all over again?


A Thankful Heart

It's spring and time for a number of award contests for Christian journalists, and it's been another good year for The Covenant Companion, where I work.

We won six awards from the Associated Church Press this year. Not all the stories are online yet, but as soon as they are, I'll post some links.

Four of the awards went to pieces I wrote, so I am especially grateful.

This has been a great time in my writing life, as I've gotten to do some very rewarding and enjoyable pieces, like this one on a new book out called Shadowmancer.

It was a huge hit in the UK, and the author, a Yorkshire vicar who sold his motorcycle to pay to have the book initially self published, has the kind of background story (like JK Rowling writing Harry Potter in coffeeshops while her baby slept because her apartment was too cold) that most successful young adult or children's authors seem to have.

I'm also getting the chance to write about a new documentary, which I will get to see in a few weeks with some young Sudanese men who've been resettled in the US as refugees.

I'm not sure what I did to deserve this good fortune, but I am trying to remain thankful each day for what I have received.


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