The current situations in the Middle East have made clear that human rights abuses are not all made equal. For the past week the Syrian government has shelled and burned Homs, while denying the Red Cross access to the victims. Recently, the fighting also claimed the lives of two prominent journalists, American Marie Colvin, and French photographer Remi Ochlik.
But while the ongoing events in Syria are horrendous, they are not unique to the region, nor are they the worst of a government’s genocide of its citizens. According to New York Times journalist Nick Kristof, the number that have been killed in Syria is “is within the margin of error of estimates of the numbers of people killed by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan.”
“This is a mass atrocity that has attracted little attention: a government starving its people, massacring them, raping them, and bombing them — all in hopes of crushing a rebel movement,” Kristof reports.
Kristof recently snuck into the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, where the inhabitants have been starved, raped and bombed relentlessly. He wrote of a girl chewing on sticks for food and a woman who was the victim of a bombing, leaving her lungs exposed. This travesty, as he argues, has “echoes of Darfur.”
Families of sixteen live in caves and what appear to be abandoned animal dens. They cannot farm due to the frequent bombings. Tens of thousands are targeted, either by ammunition or starvation.
Despite these horrifying realities, the international community has been hesitant to act. A UN resolution for Syria failed to materialize and China and Russia were initially hesitant but have recently changed their position, although the Security Council will meet again today.
There is one nation, however, for which the war drums are seemingly growing louder: Iran.
While he has also indicated that war with Iran must not be a casual reaction, President Obama made his intentions about Iran’s nuclear program clear by proclaiming, “As President of the United States, I don’t bluff.”
Aside from Ron Paul, all other GOP candidates meanwhile have talked a tough policy on Iran.
Newt Gingrich said on the campaign trail, “We want to say to the government of Iran, ‘You want to cease to exist, come play…It would be the end of your government. So, when you send the note saying you’re doing it, consider it a suicide note.”
According to a study by the Pew Reasearch Center, “nearly six-in-ten (58%) of Americans say it is important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it means taking military action. Just 30% say it is more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran.”
The media has overwhelmingly split its coverage of Iran with a Sudan-Syria mix. Some including Republican nominee 2008 and current Arizona senetor John McCain do in fact promote a full air strike attack against Syria. In addition, several generals (including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta) recently created an ad speaking out against war with Iran, and warning of the disastrous implications that a military strike could have.
Still, the United States beats its chest at Iran, a country that may or may not (depending on who you talk to) be trying to develop a nuclear weapon. But, fact remains that there are two other governments slaughtering their citizens while, thus far, receiving nothing more than a harsh verbal condemnation and sanctions.
Why the difference? There is the argument that a stable Iran is more in our best interests (or more popular) than another Libyan-esque military intervention in Sudan or Syria.
It could be that for the past 20 years, the relationship between the US and Iran has been slowly steering toward a cliff, and the prospect of a nuclear weapon has brought them to the tipping point.
Whatever the reason may be, it is undeniable that the United States has taken a harsher line with Iran than with Syria or Sudan. While military intervention in either country may not be the answer, the United States and the international community should be doing more to end the humanitarian crisis’s happening.