Here’s the hilariously serious Mark Steyn commenting on those “Free Tibet” bumper stickers back in 2005
The other day I found myself, for the umpteenth time, driving in Vermont behind a Kerry/Edwards supporter whose vehicle also bore the slogan ‘FREE TIBET ‘. It must be great to be the guy with the printing contract for the ‘FREE TIBET ‘ stickers. Not so good to be the guy back in Tibet wondering when the freeing thereof will actually get under way. For a while, my otherwise not terribly political wife got extremely irritated by these stickers, demanding to know at a pancake breakfast at the local church what precisely some harmless hippy-dippy old neighbor of ours meant by the slogan he’d been proudly displaying decade in, decade out: ‘But what exactly are you doing to free Tibet?’ she demanded. ‘You’re not doing anything, are you?’ ‘Give the guy a break,’ I said back home. ‘He’s advertising his moral virtue, not calling for action. If Rumsfeld were to say, “Free Tibet ? Jiminy, what a swell idea! The Third Infantry Division go in on Thursday”, the bumper-sticker crowd would be aghast.’
This was all brought to mind by Nina Shea’s article “Remember Darfur?“ Shea’s article demonstrates that while there is little harm done by the old hippies up in Vermont who mark their moral superiority with their “Free Tibet” bumper stickers, it is another altogether when this attitude infects what we quaintly call the “international community.”
Shea reminds us that on March 4, Sudan’s president, Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, expelled sixteen international and Sudanese aid organizations that, according to U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s April 14 report to the Security Council, put “well over 1 million people at life-threatening risk.”
Now, you might think that since things are getting worse in the Sudan, political advocacy on behalf of Darfur would have increased. But you would be wrong. According to Shea:
Political advocacy for Darfur , once ubiquitous, also has all but disappeared. The heartwrenching front-page news stories of Darfur ’s victims are gone. George Clooney has exchanged mega-protest rallies for private meetings with President Obama. Mia Farrow, to her credit, has undertaken a hunger strike, but she has gained no traction either in the mainstream media or with policymakers. Occasional small gatherings and prayer vigils are still held by caring Americans in places such as Imperial, Pa., and Terre Haute, Ind., and the hundreds of churches and synagogues who make up the Darfur Coalition continue to display fading “Save Darfur” signs, but they are perceived as local events. For all practical purposes, the Darfur cause has folded.
How do we explain this odd turn of events? Shea thinks that we cannot discount political cynicism. “The relentless placement of full-page ads in major media outlets in 2007 singling out President Bush for failing to stop the Darfur genocide certainly had the odor of partisanship.” Now that Bush is gone so has the fevered campaign to “Remember Darfur.”
But there’s a more fundamental reason, she thinks. Recall that Bashir sent all the aid organizations packing in response to the indictment of the International Criminal Court. If you are a “Free Tibet” bumper sticker kinda guy, you might think that this would be a wonderful Darfur campaign achievement. But there’s this little problem:
Instead of turning himself over to the court and standing trial on two counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity, Bashir was defiant. The same day the arrest warrant was issued, he expelled the aid agencies, plunging the region into its current crisis. Bashir has emerged stronger from the ICC confrontation, receiving support from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, and warm welcomes in such places as Egypt and Qatar, where he was photographed at the side of King Abdullah during an Arab League summit.
Of course, as Shea notes, given Bashir’s “bloody track record” his defiance of the ICC arrest warrant was entirely predictable. And then she adds:
Only in faculty lounges and the halls of the American Society of International Law could anyone have supposed that a rogue dictator armed with considerable oil and backing from Islamists would voluntarily submit to the rule of law on human rights. Unfortunately, it was just such international-law types who developed the Darfur ICC strategy.
Yeah, but Nina, they really feel good about themselves. And that’s all that really counts. Otherwise, they might have to contemplate how to enforce their indictment and that might mean thinking really hard about the guys in the Third Infantry Division. Or the Marines.
Something to think about the next time you see a “Save Darfur” bumper sticker.