Never say never again

A depressing observation made often in this blog concerns the tension between the moral imperative and the practical impossibility of preventing holocausts in places like Rwanda (or, for that matter, Nazi Germany).  Presently, horrors quite literally beyond the imagination of normal Americans take place every day in North Korea.  That has been the case for years:  in the mid-1990’s for example, as many as 3 million North Koreans died of hunger.

The monstrosities perpetrated by the government against political prisoners are detailed here by Young Howard in the San Diego Union-Tribune.  They include arbitrary murder, forced abortion, and the extermination of the politically tainted unto the third generation.

The Union-Tribune should be applauded for bringing these facts to light.  Ritually, as always, the facts are followed by a recitation of previous holocausts and a call to action under the catchphrase “never again.”

When Europe’s Jews were being murdered by the millions during World War II, the world paid too little attention until it was too late. When 2 million Cambodians were dying in their country’s auto-genocide in the mid to late 1970s, hardly anyone deigned to notice. When 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutus were being slaughtered in Rwanda in 1994, the world knew but did nothing.

A repeat of this shameful neglect must not be permitted as North Korea’s slave state brutally suppresses all dissenters, real and imagined, and millions remain at risk of starvation.

The Union-Trib editorial ends with the following plea:  “Above all, don’t let it be said that the world knew of North Korea’s horrors, and did nothing”  But isn’t it already too late for that?  Hasn’t the world known for years, and done nothing?  And what, beyond ensuring that the victims are remembered, can be done?

As I write, there are riots against the U.S. raging in Afghanistan and Pakistan; human rights groups are in a frenzy about the situation in Guantanamo and Iraq; the G-8 meeting in Britain will no doubt bring together huge crowds of anarchists and nihilists who deeply hate the free markets; but who in the world is angry enough to stir on behalf of the sorrow and the suffering and the deaths of North Koreans?

UPDATE:  I missed this piece in today’s WaPo by one Paul Diehl (“Henning Larsen Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois and director of the Correlates of War project, which collects data on international conflicts”), which explores possible international structures that can be tinkered with to prevent genocide.

Diehl’s focus is Darfur.  No mention of North Korea.  His candidates for saving the world from mass murder are the UN, the EU, and the regional organizations such as the African Union; all are wisely dismissed.  The U.S. is never mentioned.  The question of a legitimizing authority remains unresolved.  Darfur is easy, yet all its people get is pious talk.  North Korea, being hard, is enveloped by a guilty silence.

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