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Dharfur: The Janjaweed are Back

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times:

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SULEIA, Sudan — The janjaweed are back.

They came to this dusty town in the Darfur region of Sudan on horses and camels on market day. Almost everybody was in the bustling square. At the first clatter of automatic gunfire, everyone ran.

The militiamen laid waste to the town — burning huts, pillaging shops, carrying off any loot they could find and shooting anyone who stood in their way, residents said. Asha Abdullah Abakar, wizened and twice widowed, described how she hid in a hut, praying it would not be set on fire.

“I have never been so afraid,” she said.

The attacks by the janjaweed, the fearsome Arab militias that came three weeks ago, accompanied by government bombers and followed by the Sudanese Army, were a return to the tactics that terrorized Darfur in the early, bloodiest stages of the conflict.

Such brutal, three-pronged attacks of this scale — involving close coordination of air power, army troops and Arab militias in areas where rebel troops have been — have rarely been seen in the past few years, when the violence became more episodic and fractured. But they resemble the kinds of campaigns that first captured the world’s attention and prompted the Bush administration to call the violence in Darfur genocide.

Aid workers, diplomats and analysts say the return of such attacks is an ominous sign that the fighting in Darfur, which has grown more complex and confusing as it has stretched on for five years, is entering a new and deadly phase — one in which the government is planning a scorched-earth campaign against the rebel groups fighting here as efforts to find a negotiated peace founder.

The government has carried out a series of coordinated attacks in recent weeks, using air power, ground forces and, according to witnesses and peacekeepers stationed in the area, the janjaweed, as their allied militias are known here. The offensives are aimed at retaking ground gained by a rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, which has been gathering strength and has close ties to the government of neighboring Chad.

Government officials say that their strikes have been carefully devised to hit the rebels, not civilians, and that Arab militias were not involved. They said they had been motivated to evict the rebels in part because the rebels were hijacking aid vehicles and preventing peacekeepers from patrolling the area, events that some aid workers and peacekeepers confirmed.

Please read the rest of the article HERE.

My husband and I have long supported an organization called Medecins Sans Frontiers / Doctors Without Borders. Wherever there is human misery, these brave doctors go and serve those suffering, and their life-saving work is performed under the worst possible conditions. They don’t look at politics. They look at human suffering, and do their best to alleviate it, or to do what they can. These heroic doctors are serving in Dharfur – while they can. When Medicins Sans Frontiers have to pull out, you know that the situation is as bad as it can be.

The accept donations from anyone, anywhere. Be generous.

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March 2, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Community, Crime, Dharfur, Family Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Sudan | 12 Comments

How Good People Turn Evil

This is a subject that fascinates me – how even “good” people can do very very bad things . . . The article and interview is from Wired.com science/discoveries and you can read the entire article and view a videotape by clicking on the blue type.

TED 2008: How Good People Turn Evil, From Stanford to Abu Ghraib
By Kim Zetter 02.28.08 | 12:00 AM

MONTEREY, California — Psychologist Philip Zimbardo has seen good people turn evil, and he thinks he knows why. Zimbardo will speak Thursday afternoon at the TED conference, where he plans to illustrate his points by showing a three-minute video, obtained by Wired.com, that features many previously unseen photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (disturbing content).

In March 2006, Salon.com published 279 photos and 19 videos from Abu Ghraib, one of the most extensive documentations to date of abuse in the notorious prison. Zimbardo claims, however, that many images in his video — which he obtained while serving as an expert witness for an Abu Ghraib defendant — have never before been published.

The Abu Ghraib prison made international headlines in 2004 when photographs of military personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners were published around the world. Seven soldiers were convicted in courts martial and two, including Specialist Lynndie England, were sentenced to prison.

Zimbardo conducted a now-famous experiment at Stanford University in 1971, involving students who posed as prisoners and guards. Five days into the experiment, Zimbardo halted the study when the student guards began abusing the prisoners, forcing them to strip naked and simulate sex acts.

His book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, explores how a “perfect storm” of conditions can make ordinary people commit horrendous acts.

He spoke with Wired.com about what Abu Ghraib and his prison study can teach us about evil and why heroes are, by nature, social deviants.

Wired: Your work suggests that we all have the capacity for evil, and that it’s simply environmental influences that tip the balance from good to bad. Doesn’t that absolve people from taking responsibility for their choices?

Philip Zimbardo: No. People are always personally accountable for their behavior. If they kill, they are accountable. However, what I’m saying is that if the killing can be shown to be a product of the influence of a powerful situation within a powerful system, then it’s as if they are experiencing diminished capacity and have lost their free will or their full reasoning capacity.

Situations can be sufficiently powerful to undercut empathy, altruism, morality and to get ordinary people, even good people, to be seduced into doing really bad things — but only in that situation.

Understanding the reason for someone’s behavior is not the same as excusing it. Understanding why somebody did something — where that why has to do with situational influences — leads to a totally different way of dealing with evil. It leads to developing prevention strategies to change those evil-generating situations, rather than the current strategy, which is to change the person.

You can read the rest of the article and view the video HERE.

March 2, 2008 Posted by | Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Crime, Experiment, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual | , | 19 Comments