The American draft of the resolution before the U.N. General Assembly could not have been any clearer or more vital, especially since an increasing number of governments and their murderous militias are using rape as a political weapon. As reported in The New York Times (Nov. 17), America intended to condemn "rape used by governments and armed groups to achieve political and military ends."
But, as often happens at the spineless, rampantly disingenuous United Nations, the final resolution after itself being savaged by many self-protecting revisions stated that, in general, rape is not acceptable, but stripped out rape as an "instrument to achieve political objectives." There was no mention left of government "soldiers and militia members."
Instead, the United Nations weakly says that rape should not be used "in conflict and related situations."
Who crippled the original American draft language? Not surprisingly, it was the 43-nation African Group Coalition. Said South African ambassador Dumisnai Kumalo, America had created two categories of rape and the African delegates wanted "to balance the text by making certain that there was no politicization of rape."
By leaving out rape sponsored by an individual state and its armed militia, the sovereign criminal nation of Sudan was thereby not embarrassed, let alone the Belgian Congo. At first, there was a U.S. objection from Grover Joseph Rees III, our human-rights ambassador, saying that we would have preferred the original language about "the particularly outrageous situation in which a state condones the use of systematic mass rape by its own forces or surrogate militias in order to advance their military or political objectives."
But Rees, a team player, added that the United States does welcome the final agreement by good old consensus. That way, delegates, though disagreeing, can still have a companionable lunch. If only John Bolton were still our man at the United Nations.
After a critical New York Times editorial on the U.S.-abetted consensus, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, was heard from in a Nov. 21 letter to the newspaper: "The United States did not fail. ... We are particularly pleased that the resolution requests the secretary general to report on situations in which rape is 'calculated to humiliate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate' members of opposition groups."
To which nations might he be referring?
Does Sudan simply "calculate" rape as a primary weapon in its genocide of black Muslims in Darfur? And is the world to take heart that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who has become the Alberto Gonzales of that organization is the authority to whom these reports are to be made?
There are certainly committed and brave human-rights activists in Africa, but the continent's leaders steadily fail to excoriate the monstrous Robert Mugabe, the terrorizer and starver of his people in Zimbabwe. (And why has the revered Nelson Mandela continued to be so silent about Mugabe? There are many victims of that brutalizer who would welcome words of encouragement from the extraordinary leader who liberated South Africa.)
At the next summit meeting of African leaders, I do not expect a resolution on the agenda to ask for accountability for heads of states or their armed opponents who have committed systematic crimes against the humanity of the people on that continent. For one example, on Nov. 1, Amnesty International reported: "Six years after the end of war in Sierra Leone, tens of thousands of women and girls who survived mass rapes, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy and other crimes of sexual violence continue to suffer as so-called 'rebel wives,' targeted for discrimination and denied access to health care, jobs and schools. ... The government has an obligation under international law to bring to justice those responsible for mass and gang rapes, sexual slavery and sexual violence, which are considered war crimes."
There is no mention of Sierra Leone in the new U.N. resolution on rape.
But Africa, of course, is not unique in the world as a haven for rape as a political weapon. On Dec. 8, 2004, in a report including rape as weapon of war, "Lives Blown Apart," Amnesty International revealed "a systematic pattern of abuse (of women) repeating itself in conflicts all over the world from Colombia, Iraq, Sudan, Chechnya, Nepal to Afghanistan and in 30 other ongoing conflicts. Despite promises, treaties and legal mechanisms, governments have failed to protect women and girls from violence."
Have there been any substantive changes for better or worse in this global pattern? The General Assembly of the United Nations or its Security Council are no more likely to seriously address itself to the conduct of those of its sovereign member nations committing these atrocities than they are likely to force Sudan's leader, Gen. Omar al-Bashir, to disband his Janjaweed militia, serious contenders for the world championship of mass raping.
Says a villager in Darfur recently on PBS's "Frontline" ("On Our Watch"), "I was carrying my little baby on my back, and they shot him dead. After the child died, they pulled him away and raped me."
I don't think this kept U.N. member al-Bashir awake that night.