Sexual Abuse by Peacekeepers in Congo

This is old-ish news, but I don’t want it to fall off the collective map.

One hundred and fifty sexual abuse cases are under investigation by the United Nations, and the offenders are the peacekeepers themselves.

From the NYTimes:

The allegations leveled against United Nations personnel in Congo include sex with underage partners, sex with prostitutes and rape, an internal United Nations investigation has found. Investigators said they found evidence that United Nations peacekeepers and civilian workers paid $1 to $3 for sex or bartered sexual relations for food or promises of employment. A confidential report prepared by Prince Zeid Raad al-Hussein, Jordan’s ambassador to the United Nations, and dated Nov. 8, says the exploitation “appears to be significant, widespread and ongoing.”

Violators described in the investigation, which continues, appear to come from around the globe. Fifty countries are represented among the 1,000 civilian employees and 10,800 soldiers who make up the United Nations mission in Congo. Already, a French civilian has been accused of having sex with a girl, though it is unclear where that case stands, and two Tunisian peacekeepers have been sent home, where the local authorities will decide whether to punish them.

The United Nations report details allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers from Nepal, Pakistan, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa and Uruguay, and lists incidents in which some soldiers tried to obstruct investigators.

When they arrive for duty, peacekeepers are presented with the United Nations code of conduct, which forbids “any exchange of money, employment, goods or services for sex.”

The home countries are responsible for punishing any of their military personnel who violate the code while taking part in a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

The United Nations, which has had previous scandals in missions in Cambodia and Bosnia, also warns the soldiers against sexual contact with girls under 18, even though the law in Congo permits sex with girls as young as 14.

Accusations include rape, prostitution and pedophilia, and there is photographic and videographic evidence for some.

The NYTimes article also exposes one of the more uncomfortable aspects of this kind of widespread allegation, that some of the teen girls interviewed were comfortable with and liked the sex-for-money exchange with their foreign “boyfriends.”

Nonetheless, the most salient point is that even those designated to promote and preserve peace in war zones are not above the economic and sexual exploitation of war refugees. Even if those refugees are children. Should I be surprised?

The UN, already under extreme criticism from right-wing groups that endorse abandonment of the UN by the United States, cannot afford this loss of credibility. Most importantly, the refugees cannot afford to lose international support.

Related Reading: The UN position on women and violence.

This entry posted in Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

28 Responses to Sexual Abuse by Peacekeepers in Congo

  1. 1
    Phil says:

    in what possible way could this be a good reason for pulling out of the UN?

    The people who want to pull out of the UN are the same people who most agressively fight to avoid having American soldiers being held up to the standards of the Geneva convention, why? because US soldiers keep breaking it’s rules.

    America has doled out mass murder over asia, over europe and all over Iraq. Vietnamese citizens are suffering from poisoning due to the use of agent orange, the cancer rate in Iraq damn neared doubled after the 1st gulf war due to the use of DU armaments. rape and torture are probably being systematically covered up in Iraq right now.

    With the UN this is unfortunate, and there actually is a chance those responsible will be punished, WHICH in turn will no doubt diswade some from committing these crimes themselves. (in an ideal world…I hope…what ever additional thingie needs to put on the end of that to make it seem like I’m not so blind as to think that such acts won’t be committed in the future by members of the UN peacekeeping force, but by god do I wish they won’t)

    The US have committed similar crimes as a matter of policy. who gets to be horrified by who here?

    Let me just make extra clear here, it’s just the little bit at the end I object to, I do think the things done in the DRC are atrocious, and no bad things done on the part of other people justify it, but the good that the UN does is great and this crime has been out done by russia, china and america already and unlike the people doing similar things in those three countries, the ones in question here will (hopefully) be punished.

    The rest of the post was great btw, it’s just that last paragraph…

  2. 2
    Robert says:

    The problems with the UN are structural. This is not a regrettable single incident, this is something that will happen repeatedly, as long as the UN is in existence.

    For more insight, see Glenn Reynolds at:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6738244/#041220

  3. 3
    Roxanne says:

    It’s interesting that most of what we hear about the UN from the right end of the blogosphere is about the UN Oil-For-Money scandal. I wonder why they haven’t jumped on this yet.

  4. 4
    Robert says:

    Well, some of us have. It’s not my particular area of posting.

    However, on the whole, we don’t comment on it much for the same reason that we don’t comment much on violence in the inner cities, or water flowing down hill. It isn’t news that a corrupt and criminal enterprise has minions who engage in criminal and corrupt activities.

    I would not care to stand in a docket and personally answer for the wrongs done by Americans in the past two centuries plus. Nor any nationality or group, for that matter, save perhaps some of the quieter Quakers. But I can read a moral balance sheet well enough to distinguish between wrongs committed in the pursuit of good aims, and wrongs committed for their own sake. Compared to the other nations of the earth, the stains on America’s soul are pretty wash-and-wear.

    None of our evil is unique, but much of our good is.

  5. 5
    wookie says:

    Robert, it’s not just America… anywhere where there is someone with more power and someone with less, the “greater” takes advantage of the “lesser”. It’s pretty much the default stage of human nature. Is it sick? I’d like to think so, but there isn’t much I can do to change it.

    Is the semi-consentual relationship these young girls are getting from the soldiers** better or worse than being brutally raped and mutilated by men from opposing tribes? Kinda? That’s a tough one to answer, isn’t it?

    **the two articles I’ve read on the long-standing allegations about UN peace keepers and the ladies they are supposed to be protecting both cast the situation such that it sounded like *most* of what was going on was more prositution than rape. Prostitution out of nessecity: can’t go back to family, cast out when being raped in conflict time made her unworthy to the family, already has at least one kid to support, no way to get food or shelter without a man to go get it for her… which is what I mean when I say semi-consentual.

  6. 6
    Crys T says:

    “Compared to the other nations of the earth, the stains on America’s soul are pretty wash-and-wear.”

    I really am not trying to be gratuitously nasty, but the self-unawareness demonstrated by this comment is postitively breathtaking. Please, other Americans here, don’t it go by unchallenged.

  7. 7
    Richard Bellamy says:

    The UN, already under extreme criticism from right-wing groups that endorse abandonment of the UN by the United States, cannot afford this loss of credibility. Most importantly, the refugees cannot afford to lose international support.

    But why must the support be given by the UN? Last time this identical issue was raised here several months ago, I suggested getting the UN out of the peacekeeping business and decentralize the process so there was less room for any one group to get too powerful and abusive. I was summarily shot down, but isn’t it obvious that there are structural problems here that the left should be working much harder to address before the middle gets around to realizing that the right has a point?

    http://amptoons.poliblog.com/blog/000841.html

  8. 8
    Jake Squid says:

    Robert, have you read Zinn? If not, A People’s History of the United States might be interesting for you.

  9. 9
    jam says:

    Compared to the other nations of the earth, the stains on America’s soul are pretty wash-and-wear…. None of our evil is unique, but much of our good is.

    Robert, do you really believe in American Exceptionalism?

  10. 10
    Samantha says:

    “Is the semi-consentual relationship these young girls are getting from the soldiers** better or worse than being brutally raped and mutilated by men from opposing tribes?? Kinda? That’s a tough one to answer, isn’t it?”

    I don’t think it’s tough to answer, and that you suppose women getting repeatedly sexually violated by numerous strange men may not be as bad when they “semi-consent” as when they outright fight against it is troublesome for me.

    By the testimonies of rape victims I’ve heard, I have found (in general of course) that victims who fought their attackers seemed in an emotionally different place than women who were coerced by authoritarian figures they were supposed to trust into having their bodies used sexually when they didn’t want to. There was more of a “bad things happen to women” sentiment by the stranger rape victims and more of a “how could he, this man I knew and trusted, do that to me?” by aquaintance rape and incest victims, and the sex abuse was usually repeated several times

    Your comment supposes an either/or situation when the tragic reality is that men on all sides as well as men who are UN Peacekeepers are prostituting, raping and mutilating girls and women in ungodly numbers around the world.

    Many describe their experiences being prostituted as akin to being raped. I disagree with your usage of “semi-consensual” to describe the slavery of war-stricken children and women who have food, medicine and shelter withheld if they do not submit themselves to the sexual tortures of extortionist, raping men.

    When a man threatens another man with, “Give me all your money or I’ll break both your legs”, he’s not said to have ‘semi-consented’ when he hands over the money. The threat of starving to death, losing life due to lack of antibiotics, or suffering severely from exposure is no different, and it could be argued that coming from ‘trusted, peacekeeping’ men where victims know institutionalized sexual slavery will always hang in every interaction with these men may make it worse for children and women than a one-time gain or pain “choice”.

  11. 11
    jam says:

    Let me just make extra clear here, it’s just the little bit at the end I object to, I do think the things done in the DRC are atrocious, and no bad things done on the part of other people justify it, but the good that the UN does is great and this crime has been out done by russia, china and america already and unlike the people doing similar things in those three countries, the ones in question here will (hopefully) be punished.

    hmmm… Phil, i don’t think any woman who has ever been raped is going to accept the rationale that because there have been other rapes by far worse rapists at other times & in other places that this somehow mitigates in any way the crime done to her.

    i know this is not what you meant to imply, but it sorta comes across that way… because while you begin by saying that no wrongs done by others can justify the wrongs done by the UN you follow it with the assertion that the UN does great good. but so what? what exactly is the “good the UN does” supposed to mean to the women who have suffered here? why should they care? knowing that they were raped & used & exploited by people who were in the employ of an organization that trys to do good?

    for the record: i’m not advocating one way or the other on the US/UN in-or-out thang. i just don’t see why we can’t condemn both? (and perhaps you are & i’m just not getting it?)

  12. 12
    Robert says:

    Jake – Yes, I’ve read Zinn. You can make any nation look good, or bad, by your selection of what to emphasize. Having a pretty good grasp of the big picture and being able to correct for biases in either direction, I find myself wondering more about Zinn’s agenda than about how Amerikkka got to be so wicked. Zinn provides a useful voice, but overall I’m not particularly impressed with his approach.

    Jam – Depends on what you mean by exceptionalism. We are certainly historically unique in many ways. The only thing unusual about the bad things Americans have done in the past is how relatively modest were many of our crimes – and how quickly, in historical terms, we have moved to correct and modify the things that we did and do wrong. I don’t want to minimize the horrors that haunt our past, but I see no specters there stamped “made in the USA”.

  13. 13
    Jake Squid says:

    Robert, I agree that you need to balance Zinn w/ other histories. However, are you denying the multitude of massacres that the US has committed happened? Or do you see them as justified? I have trouble understanding how you can make the “wash and wear” comment unless you believe that Zinn’s history is simply a bunch of lies.

  14. 14
    Robert says:

    Jake -

    No, I don’t deny any of the crimes that have been committed by Americans in the past. Justification is a more complex question, but broadly speaking, I don’t justify them, either.

    Are you under the impression that these crimes are somehow unique to America? Because they most certainly are not. Our massacres are a pale shadow of what other nations have done.

    All of America’s offenses are offenses born of human frailty, fallibility, and wickedness. “Everybody did it” isn’t a defense against the crime, but it is certainly a defense against a worldview that posits America as a uniquely evil entity for these actions.

  15. 15
    Sally says:

    Aaaaargh.

    Robert’s attempt to dismiss America’s atrocities makes me sick, but frankly the entire argument strikes me as distasteful. This is supposed to be a thread about women who are being sexually abused by U.N peacekeepers. Those women matter. Their suffering matters. Can we please discuss the topic at hand, rather than making this into another endless discussion about the U.S.? People do not cease to count if they can’t be used to duke it out about the United States.

  16. 16
    jam says:

    Jam – Depends on what you mean by exceptionalism. We are certainly historically unique in many ways.

    well, “American Exceptionalism” has various meanings… but generally it refers to the idea that the US is not only unique but superior to other countries. i mean, sure the US is historically unique. but can you think of a country that isn’t? so, really the superiority factor is key.

    The only thing unusual about the bad things Americans have done in the past is how relatively modest were many of our crimes

    umm… i think we might have a differing definition of “modest”

    and how quickly, in historical terms, we have moved to correct and modify the things that we did and do wrong.

    ditto for definitions of “quickly” & “correct”.

    I don’t want to minimize the horrors that haunt our past,

    you are minimizing them. characterizing large-scale genocide & slavery (to name but two “stains”) as “wash-and-wear” is, quite frankly, repugnant.

    but I see no specters there stamped “made in the USA”.

    y’know, as far as i can recollect i can’t think of any other nation who has used nuclear weapons against another country (many have used them against their own) except the US. we’re pretty exceptional here, don’t you think?

    by the way, i know you’ve said you’ve got a good grasp of the big picture but if you’re interested there are plenty of other good history books besides Zinn on the US that might help to give you an idea as to why some folks don’t think such stains are so easy to rinse out…. i’d be happy to recommend some. let me know.

    lastly, can we keep the straw dogs on a leash? unless i missed something i can’t seem to find the person you refer to who “posits America as a uniquely evil entity for these actions

  17. 17
    Robert says:

    Nobody has used nuclear weapons against their own population.

    If to discuss our crimes and to put them in historical context is “minimization”, then we might as well shut down the history departments right now.

    Large-scale genocide and slavery are in and of themselves repugnant. They don’t need my contribution.

    Am I denying genocide and slavery? No.

    Am I justifying them? No.

    Am I saying that they took place here, just as they took place elsewhere? Yes.

    The US used a nuclear bomb on two Japanese cities. This is indeed unique, as a discrete act. However, is our crime dropping a nuclear bomb, or wiping out an entire city? Focusing on the technology employed seems somewhat obtuse. Would it have been more acceptable for us to send in a hundred thousand cavalry troopers and individually beheaded everyone in Nagasaki? We bombed Dresden without using nukes, and killed more people and did more damage, too. People have been destroying cities for as long as they have been able to; our actions here were not unique.

    I would ask you for some specifics, if you’d like to continue this discussion. Do you think the American actions against the indigeous population are unique, or vastly greater in scope than what happened in other nations? Do you think our experience with slavery was unique?

    As for “modest”…well, consider:

    When Europe was burning the Jews alive in ovens by the millions…America was making it hard for them to get into certain colleges. That’s modest, to me.

    When Europe was burning the witches alive by the hundreds of thousands…America was having a single set of trials in a single backwater, and then repenting of the whole sorry business. That’s modest, to me.

    When Europe’s colonial enterprises overseas were slaughtering indigenous populations by the tens of millions…America was watching and learning, and spending its own brief colonial period trying to make its “colonies” independent states. That’s modest, to me.

    YMMV.

  18. 18
    wookie says:

    Samantha, that is why I put the word “semi” in front of consentual… because while it’s not *always* the “or I’ll break both your legs” situation, the dire need for what these girls are getting in trade is a choice they are making.

    Read Handmaids Tale. Was that consentual? Sorta… “There wasn’t a lot of choice but there was some and this is what I chose.” And not all prostitutes (in the 1st world, anyway) describe their situation as akin to rape, either, that’s a “dirty” little secret that no one likes to think about.

    What is going on with these girls is sick, it’s wrong, and it’s heartbreaking, but I think as a person who has been raped, and who would volunatarily sell my body if it was the only way to provide for/protect my child, that I’ll take the “option” where I at least have the illusion of control as preferable.

    Thank god we live in a first world nation where I don’t have to make that choice.

  19. 19
    jam says:

    This is supposed to be a thread about women who are being sexually abused by U.N peacekeepers. Those women matter. Their suffering matters. Can we please discuss the topic at hand, rather than making this into another endless discussion about the U.S.? People do not cease to count if they can’t be used to duke it out about the United States.

    Sally, you’re right. i’m afraid i didn’t see your comment until i posted my reply. although i certainly did not mean to imply that people cease to count when they can’t be used to duke it out about the US.

    but, by all means, let us return to the subject at hand… i’m fine with dropping this particular tangent.

  20. 20
    Samantha says:

    “the dire need for what these girls are getting in trade is a choice they are making.”

    Why are you renaming the horrible, systematized criminal acts of men in positions of power sexually exploiting the world’s most desperate, traumatized, starving and suffering war refugee women and children a “trade”? What purpose does that serve?

    There is no “choice” in not dying slowly and painfully because cruel men with power will let you die unless you become their slave. If that isn’t a clear lack of voluntary action and choice then there is nothing that any victim of extortionist crime doesn’t “choose” by such specious reasoning.

    I didn’t say all prostitutes describe their experiences as rape, but a whole lot of them do. Saying that there are many women who really like being men’s whores isn’t anything like a secret at all, it’s the freaking National Anthem of the United States 2004 (world’s #1 producer of porn, country of origin for thousands of sex tourists, major destination for sex trafficking, women’s bodies for sale in the back of 140 ‘liberal’ alternative newsweekly papers…) The widespread existence and acceptance of “it’s the world’s oldest profession” belies what you’ve suggested., as does the Amnesty International reports that consistently find US troops (& German & French & UK) complicit in organized rape/prostitution rings for profit.

    Quite contrary to Happy Hookers being something “no one likes to think about”, it seems to be pretty much the main thing people like to think about when discussing prostitution and pornography. It’s also how anyone can put some responsibility for “trading” on the heads of homeless, powerless, brutalized darkskinned female victims living through genocidal devastation instead of squarely on the heads of abusive men in positions of power with the food, the medicine, the shelter and the will to make children and young women their sexual slaves (not sexual ‘traders’).

    “I’ll take the “option” where I at least have the illusion of control as preferable.”

    Like I said, it’s really not an either/or situation and it’s not about ‘preference’ because becoming a sex slave for UN troops isn’t protection against being raped any more than prostitutes anywhere are “exempt” from being raped. As a class of people, prostituted women are much more raped than non-prostitutes, so the idea that “choosing” to be a sex slave makes a prostituted refugee less likely to be raped is quite the opposite of what really happens.

  21. 21
    Richard Bellamy says:

    I agree completely. Horrible and unacceptable. But beyond that 20 posts and not even a feint at a resolution, or even progress?

    This is what I posted last time this was mentioned in May. It was immediately savaged, but not followed up with any practical alternatives, so I will repost:

    The problem is not the concept of the UN peacekeeper, or the gender of the soldier, or the nationality of the soldier, but the power given to the organization. Organizations — be they corporations or governments — are made up of people, and when given power, they can be corrupted.

    Give the Red Cross or Human Rights Watch dictatorial powers, and pretty soon they’d be torturing and raping people as well.

    As an opening idea, the UN shouldn’t do anything at all. Rather, they should set up a fund and announce, “Anyone who wants to help refugees — governments, NGOs, corporations, humanitarian groups, Halliburton, kindly nuns, peace corps drop outs, Nader voters — go into Congo and start helping. For every refugee you can document helping, we’ll give you $100″ (or $10, or however much they are spending now per refugee helped). Then require video cameras in the refugee camps to document and make sure they are really providing the aid.

    Make the groups all compete for the refugees, instead of giving one group a “mandate” to help. If word gets out that the Halliburton guys are raping everyone, the refugees will start going to the Rwandan-sponsored refugee camp across town, where they have free wheat and extra-fuzzy blankets.

  22. 22
    Robert Hayes says:

    Richard, that’s a darn good idea.

  23. 23
    jam says:

    The problem is not the concept of the UN peacekeeper, or the gender of the soldier, or the nationality of the soldier, but the power given to the organization. Organizations — be they corporations or governments — are made up of people, and when given power, they can be corrupted.

    well, gee, Richard, if power is the problem – and i agree that it constitutes much of it even though one would be foolish to discount culture, gender or nationalism as factors – then why stop at the UN? the UN was put into place to supposedly promote international cooperation and ensure world security. who constitute the biggest threats to world security? who stand in the way of international cooperation time and again? that’s right: governments and corporations.

    and you want to offer them more money? because they have a videotape with some smiling faces on it? maybe they should go consult with Nike, who’s produced some great videos of their sweatshops with lots of smiling happy workers. in other words, given the fact of corruption, do you really think that either governments or corporations are going to “play fair” at this game? and who exactly will enforce the rules? the UN?

    more to the point, why should nations or corporations compete for UN fugee-dollars when so much more money can be made selling arms, training militias, etc…? not to mention the general free-for-all resource grab that generally takes place in the wake of most armed conflicts. (and let’s just not even ask why refugees should have to tromp from one camp to the next looking for the “best deals”)

    i guess this is where i think the US is relevant, Sally, though not in the generalized way that we were discussing it earlier. i mean, i’m not sure how we can talk about, let alone try to think how to change, the situation in the Congo without understanding how it got to be that way. the UN is there for a reason, no? they are there because the sociopolitical structure has disintegrated into one of near continual war. the refugees didn’t pop out of thin air. they were driven there by men with guns. who are the men? where did they get the guns? why are they fighting, killing, raping, pillaging? how is it that the situation came to be so horrific?

    at least part of this involves understanding the role of the US government and US corporations in the Congo, which on the whole has been a typically shameful one – the US has not been the only player, of course, but it has been one of the major ones… both in terms of direct political involvement (as in the case of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba as well as the ongoing training of military personnel across the region) as well as in commercial profit (as in the case of the US’s arms trade with the same region)

    the stranglehold the various militaries have over economic and political power in the region essentially prevents any possibility of sustainable social environments from arising, ones where women wouldn’t face what they’re facing in the Congo today.

    perhaps applying political pressure in some form to the US (in both its corporate & political forms) to stop training and supplying every thug with a gun in the region would help matters a bit. not the only “solution” obviously, but if you can’t figure out how to help someone, at least make sure you’re not actively hurting them.

  24. 24
    wookie says:

    Samantha, I think we’re going to have to “agree to disagree” because you seem to think I’m condoning or approving what’s going on, and I’m not. I am, however, being pragmatic and admitting my own humanity and the deprativty and vileness of humanity at large.

  25. 25
    Q Grrl says:

    “The problem is not the concept of the UN peacekeeper, or the gender of the soldier, or the nationality of the soldier, but the power given to the organization. Organizations — be they corporations or governments — are made up of people, and when given power, they can be corrupted.”

    But it is the gender of the soldier. The fact that he is part of the UN is just “giving him access” to a different pool of women, albeit more vulnerable than those in his home country. The male soldier’s views regarding women are what are key here, not his standing as part of the UN. Perhaps you should read this thread in conjunction with the “how many men are rapists?” thread and start to draw the parallels that some of us have been arguing for weeks around here.

    Gah.

  26. 26
    Richard Bellamy says:

    As I said, “immediately savaged, but not followed up with any practical alternatives.”

    Jam’s approach appears to be to promote peace in the region and therefore end the need for refugee camps. I am all for that. It is, however, the answer to a different question. I was responding to the question, “Assuming there are refugees, what do you do about it?” Jam provides no alternative.

    Even if America began to immediately work toward peace throughout the world, refugees will still exist — not every refugee crisis is or will be American-caused, even by the stretched logic that an American assassination over 40 years ago of a Congolese President who had already been deposed by the Belgians caused the current refugee crisis.

  27. 27
    Richard Bellamy says:

    But it is the gender of the soldier. The fact that he is part of the UN is just “giving him access” to a different pool of women, albeit more vulnerable than those in his home country. The male soldier’s views regarding women are what are key here, not his standing as part of the UN.

    I agree that lots of men are potential rapists, but only because lots of men are in positions of power over women. As we saw at Abu Ghraib, when women exercise absolute power over prisoners, the results are not much better.

    By giving women more options, they are less under the power of any one individual/group. All I am suggesting is “empowering” women by allowing them to choose among a variety of relief agencies, rather than a single monopoly provider.

    When a group has no power over the woman — because the woman has other choices — it will not take advantage of her. When there is only one option — no matter how well that option is thought out — it gives the woman the “choice” only that one alternative or no protection at all.

    As Samantha said very well above, “There is no ‘choice’ in not dying slowly and painfully because cruel men with power will let you die unless you become their slave.” My response is — create 2 or 3 or 20 groups, instead of just one, and you do away with “cruel men with power,” because now they have no power.

  28. 28
    jam says:

    As I said, “immediately savaged, but not followed up with any practical alternatives.”

    rowrrrh! growl! return of the Savage One!

    I was responding to the question, “Assuming there are refugees, what do you do about it?” Jam provides no alternative.

    my proposal answers the above question quite adequately, i think. assuming there are refugees, what do you do about it? you work on reducing the militarization of the region, which would subsequently reduce the number of refugees in the area, insofar as far less people would have to be on the run from men with guns. you work to reduce the spending on militaries in the area, so that the monies can go toward sustainable social initiatives, such as housing, schools, etc. which would in turn reduce the number of refugees by offering them a place to live. a place free of men with guns hopefully, and one would then hope a place where women and young girls would not be raped and prostituted with such carefree abandon – although, as Samantha points out, the selling of women’s bodies is a global phenomenon – still, reducing the number of militias run amok could only help the situation -whereas free wheat and blankets, while nice, do nothing to address the problem this thread is dealing with which is how situations like the Congo arise within which women have literally no social institutions at all for refuge from political and sexual violence.

    not every refugee crisis is or will be American-caused

    can we keep the straw dogs on a leash please? did i say this? did anyone?

    even by the stretched logic that an American assassination over 40 years ago of a Congolese President who had already been deposed by the Belgians caused the current refugee crisis.

    well, i’m glad you concede that the US is responsible for Lumumba’ s murder. but yeah, why should that matter anymore? it’s like those crybabies who say that Vietnam still matters, right? that it bears historical significance upon what is happening today? as if! what a load of hooey! i mean, it happened 30-40 years ago! thank you for reminding me that history is bunk.

    but hey, screw history. try reading my post again. awfully convenient of you to ignore the other part of that paranthetical phrase you cite where i said:

    as well as the ongoing training of military personnel across the region

    remember that part? is it too stretchy to assert that US support, training & supplying of militaries across the region has a little something to do with why the UN is there in the first place as peacekeepers? how about that such activities have had an effect on the politics and economy &, more importantly, the lives of the ordinary women and men who have to endure such armies? ever heard of Rwanda? how about Zaire? Angola? ever wonder where they got their guns? ever wonder what they do with their guns? oops, sorry. that’s ancient history, ain’t it?

    still, given i live in the US, i still think the best place for me to begin to address such nightmares as outlined in the NYTimes piece above, is to work to ensure that the sociopolitical entities i can be held accountable for & that i can conceivably affect, such as the US government, are not making the situation worse – which they have been, demonstrably, for 40 or more years (oops, sorry, history again – it’s like a nervous tic or something). and given that the arms trade is one of the strongest links between where i am and where everyone is in the Congo, i think it’s a good place to focus effort.