I am experienced and world weary, and it takes a lot to leave me speechless. But once Jodi Rudoren’s Orientalist pop anthropology from Gaza had flabbergasted me, her New York Times colleague in east Africa finished the job.
Jeffrey Gettleman missed the actual breaking news in eastern Congo two days ago, when several thousand armed predators calling themselves the M23 Movement seized Goma, a major regional city. Once he did show up, he opens his article with a favorable portrait of the M23, describing them as “lean, young rebels in pressed fatigues.” Only right at the end, almost as an afterthought, does he note that those pesky scolds at Human Rights Watch have found M23 guilty of “ethnic massacres, recruitment of children, mass rape, killings, abductions and torture.”
To his credit, Gettleman does note that neighboring Rwanda is masterminding the M23, mainly so it can continue to steal minerals from the eastern Congo. And he also points out that human rights groups have blistered Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the U.N., for disregarding the crimes of Rwanda and its president, Paul Kagame, a master manipulator who has mesmerized Rice and other U.S. policymakers since the mid 1990s.
Gettleman did leave out the part of the Human Rights Watch report where the organization warned, “Rwandan officials may be complicit in war crimes through their continued military assistance to M23 forces.”
But Gettleman missed the most important part of the story. The resurgent violence is sweeping through a region in which more than 5 million people have died since the Second Congo War started in 1998. That figure is not a misprint, but the result of careful surveys. By launching the latest attacks, Rwanda and its M23 proxies have guaranteed that many thousands more among the newest refugees will die of hunger and disease.
(The Nation has just posted my own look at the crisis in eastern Congo.