On Our Watch

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Do you think the world will ever be capable of acting decisively to stop massive crimes against humanity? What will it take?


As a Chinese American, I am extremely upset by the use of the phase "Genocide Olympics" and comparing the upcoming Olympics to the Olympics held in Berlin in 1936. The Chinese did not commit acts of genocide. The Chinese didn't send in troops to kill anyone in Darfur. China is spending significantly more money than any of the previous hosting countries to create an event the whole world can enjoy. We deserve better than this.

Fundamentally, Frontline did not delve into the reason to why there is killing in Darfur. The reason behind the killing is years of drought and desertification. It is an environmental disaster caused primarily by the developed nations. China's solution to the problem is to create trade and wealth. This benefits both countries. Over time, the positive impacts of wealth from trading will create long term peace and prosperity. The U.S. solution is to create economic sanctions. Personally, I do not understand how creating a trade barrier can help a country who's people are suffering from lack of resource. It is counter productive. Economic sanctions just do not work. Look at North Korea. Has the sanction created by the Bush administration had any positive effect? North Koreans are suffering more than ever and now they have nuclear weapons. It hasn't deprived the leaders in North Korea a good life. Economic sanctions only punishes the poor civilians in that country. Economic sanction did not work for North Korea, it is not working for Iran and Cuba and it will not work for Sudan. I also agree that the world needs to respect the sovereignty of a county in order to create trust and open dialog. Sending U.S. Troops into Darfur would create a disaster. Look at the mess in Iraq. Over 600,000 Iraqis have died due to the war. This is far greater than the number of death in Darfur.

New York, NY


Yes, the UN has not been effective in Darfur and in many other situations. But, implying the UN is useless in all such situations, as you did in On Our Watch, is like saying that grapefruit make bad hammers. At worst, it piles all responsibility and blame on top of an organization that has its good points and successes, both in peacekeeping and in development work -- an organization that is not really in control of its own agenda.

The UN should be the subject of another Frontline episode -- what's really wrong with the UN and how can it be fixed. On Our Watch was not the program to attempt that. It left me with the impression that Darfur was simply a vehicle to bash and perhaps destroy the UN. (The current political idea of a League of Democracies, to circumvent countries that don't see eye-to-eye with us, will only result in the destruction of the UN, replacing it with another organization where member states cannot agree on big issues.)

Please, help us understand that the UN is not an independent entity. Countries like the USA, especially, have made sure of that through budget restrictions, policy directives and personnel appointments. The UN is a club of countries with no overriding "international interest." Whenever its member states have gathered to identify such common, or universal, positions, as they have, for example, at the Earth Summit, the Women's Summit, the Population Summit, the City Summit, the Food Summit and other sectoral summits, individual member states (with the USA setting the example) negotiate resolutions and declarations that will not impede their own bad practices. The result has been a very flimsy platform for national self-correction built on the lowest common policy denominators. Once in a while, when faced with a blatant horror, member states will reach a much higher plane of intent. But, each country is still more or less free to ignore its own responsibility.

The proper focus for an American audience should have been American policy failure, including our policies that have shaped the UN's lack of effectiveness. As a people, we cannot redesign the United Nations but we can exert pressure on our own government to help make the UN a proper interventionist force -- if that's what we are complaining about here. Otherwise, thank you for focusing attention on the plight of Darfur.

Jay Moor
Bozeman, MT


Thank you for your excellent "On Our Watch". Excellent chronicle of what does not work. Shining a light on the evil and waiting for the knight to show up to rescue the innocents does not work. Shaming Sudan does not work. The problem is economics. China profits from the misery. US consumers contribute to the problem. The solution is Wal-mart. Make Wal-Mart an ally to influence the Chinese to influence the Sudanese. If Wal-Mart is not interested, then the American consumers must be correctly influenced. This is not a job for amateurs.

Paul King
Asheville, NC


I've watched this series and it has opened my eyes. How can we call our selves "human" beings and let tragedies like this continue. This is the 21st century and yet genocides continue. The U.N. is rendered useless because of the politics that come into play between the Western countries and their allies and the Eastern countries and their allies. We have sat back and watched millions die because countries are more worried about pushing their own economic and personal gains above the lives of human beings affected by these gains. I feel useless because what can we do to stop it? We have protested yet the governments of the world have done nothing. It makes my heart sink everytime I think of the grandmothers, grandfathers, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters being raped, brutalized, and murdered while governments turn a profit. Appalling!

John Boyle
Philadelphia, Pa


I am shocked by the conspiracy of creating a so called "genocide Olympics" to reach some politicians' goal. I think the people who want to take an advantage of the Olympics in China are the shameless ones because it is against the principle of Olympics. This is never even happened in the Olympic history. It makes me wonder those politician's integrity. In the program, there was lack of concrete evidence in terms of the number of people who were killed in Darfur. But rather more of political propaganda. The followers in west were influenced by the politicians through the media, not what they really see since they have never been there. It makes me wonder why and what is the purpose of this campaign behind, a political or an economic reason? Why people in west never questioned the true genocide in Iraq where the large number of innocent people who died compared to Darfur?

Midland, MI


For starters I would love to tell you how much I appreciate your programs. I consider myself a fairly informed person. But every time I watch a program I learn something new. I have know what has gone in Darfur and I believe that it is so unfortunate that other people are not educated on what has been going on. When I watch your programs they truly touch me. It makes me want to work my butt off to help the people who are suffering more then we can imagine. Please keep making such fantastic programs so others can be more aware and help if they can.

Amy Nevin
Mesa, AZ


The situation in Dafur is sad, tragic, and horrific, but perhaps it is only a foreshadowing of what is to come. What goes unmentioned is that there is a human population explosion taking place in that region. The women scavenge the area for wood to burn as fuel to cook and in the process decimate their own environment at a time when due to climate change the desert is encroaching and expanding across the area. First bring the rate of population increase under control. Then find a sustainable way for a reasonable population to exist in the area.

Curtis Rhodes
Dallas, Texas


Darfur is what you get when you've raised two generations of western populations on a strict diet of dreamy-liberal-violence-doesn't-work utter nonsense. And of course, here's Frontline blaming the civilized nations for crap that's happening among some African people whose greatest collective accomplishment is not dying of hunger.

We're blamed when we intercede anywhere, and blamed when we don't. And blamed by liberal darlings like Ms Farrow, who says nothing of arming herself and risking her own life to actually fight for these nobodies. I'll also bet that the exact same 90,000 marchers would show up to protest their being "drafted" to go fight in Darfur.

Frontline shows how the West has ultimately produced a cushioned bunch of lecturers-for-freedom. This entire thread blames global warming, Israelis, America, the U.N. (true it's all for theater only) and anyone who eats a bowl of cereal in the morning without being raped. Seems Frontline has picked its side. Against military force when it's Israel or America, and oddly, for military force when it's for some mud shacked village that no one would've been the wiser had it not been for cable television.

Man's inhumanity to man shows up throughout all eras of history = = and will again as long as humans exist. You must meet force with force. or be taken down. I really doubt that members of the Frontline staff, or Mia, or the PBS staff, or any the 90.000 marchers would lift anything more dangerous than a water bottle - - to really make a difference for the poor Darfurians. So you can stuff your big lecture. Africa has not developed itself, and that's what happens when you don't make a culture that can defend itself. Darfur will not be the last genocide on that continent.

Once there are 10 billion humans on the planet, Mia will be stretched way too thin.

kevin p
kansas city, missouri


Darfur is what will continue to happen time and time again when power, money and just plain evil will trump good intentions. What should happen now is a movement of people around the world to tell the UN to put an armed force into Sudan. If China (or any other nation) at the Security Council vetoes that resolution, those nations that voted for action should form a NATO like group (making sure that some of the prominent players are from Muslim countries) and just unilaterally invade Sudan to stop the genocide. While they are there, they should capture or kill any Janjaweed forces that won't lay down their arms. This should be happening ASAP! This is not a West vs Muslim issue. This is an issue of inhuman genocide that must not be tolerated!

Andy Snyder
Gloucester, VA


I look to PBS/Frontline for educating me and my family about the world because the mainstream media does not. Like always FL did a great job. From my website and of those of my friends I will make an effort to spread the word to boycott watching the "genocide olympics".

But I ask: Why did it take Frontline so long and report so little on Darfur over the years? Only one small report in 2005 and now this?

Vish Kay
Dallas, TX


Just think 80% of what Wal-mart sells comes from China. China supports Sudan. So aren't we just as much at fault as the worthless blowhard politicians?

Mark Jackson
Kearney, NE


I think the question is easily answered if you look at the past: The 'World' will not be (cap)able of acting decisively to stop massive crimes against humanity.

The main reason is I think we must alter the UN and therefore we -the people- must give a strong signal to the leaders of the permanent five countries of the UN. Now, the UN is a hollow organ which debate is not what is really happening to eg. Darfur, but how to put it on paper so that China will not be offended.

I would like to see that a non-vote from eg. China would be ignored. The UN does in other fields very good work but not in defending the human rights. Iraq, Afghanistan Yes. Darfur, Tibet eg. not.

Sven Landshof
Gouda, Netherlands


For an extra credit project my World History Teacher (Deerfield High School) had us watch the 8 chapters of the report on the Genocide in Darfur. I, being a female of America am appalled at what happens to the women in Darfur. I don't think much about others and what happen to them (being honest) but when I watched this it made me think, "What can I do to prevent the torture, terror, and death that occurs every day to each person in Darfur, whether it is a woman or a man." And now that I think about this situation, there is not much I can do because (1) the government is not going to listen to a Freshman in High School, (2) Being a woman changes the thoughts of what I can and cannot do here in America, and (3) There is not much I can do in the first place.

I so badly want to make a difference in the world and I want to start by changing what people think about the Genocide. Millions of Sudanese are being killed even now as I type this feedback message. For every second of the day, there is a person being killed, for every day in a week there are thousands being tortured, for every week in a month there are children at my age that are losing family members, for every month in a year there are women of all ages being raped and dying of sexually transmitted disease, for every year in a millennium there are people in the world that don't care.

We as Americans need to confront the United Nations, China and other neighboring countries that are 100% capable of stopping the Genocide in Sudan.

I don't want to see another Genocide such as this one, or the one in Rawanda. This is pain to my eyes. People are dying and we as americans don't care. But what can I do? I am just one young woman in Illinois that can't find a way to be heard.

Jade Shelby
Highland Park, Illinois


Dear Frontline,

While war, murder, rape, genocide, controversies, boycott, activism, Mia Farrow, etc. take the center stage of this unfortunate drama called Darfur, little attention has been paid to the very root cause of this crisis. Without any doubt, the fundamental reason of the tragedy in Darfur is human-induced climate change, caused by hundreds of years of industrial development led by the United States, Britain and the western countries.

As reported by the United Nations Environment Program, "The scale of historical climate change, as recorded in Northern Darfur, is almost unprecedented: the reduction in rainfall has turned millions of hectares of already marginal semi-desert grazing land into desert. The impact of climate change is considered to be directly related to the conflict in the region." When you put that much green house gas into the atmosphere over hundreds of years, climate inevitably changes, drought follows in regions like Darfur, and local people (Arab Muslims and Black Muslims) fight each other over what is left of the precious resources to survive. So now you tell me: who is ultimately responsible for this Darfur tragedy?

Without informing the audience about this root cause of Darfur, Frontline has missed an opportunity to foster an intelligent discussion among its viewers. Instead, one more round of public whipping of Sudan, the Arabs and China commences. While such venting may be popular, it is misguided and ultimately unproductive.

David Zheng
Salt Lake City, Utah


Three comments: Another respondent mentions hiring a private army. Perhaps Blackwater could be hired. I have a limited income but I'd contribute to paying for Blackwater forces to stop the Janjaweed.

I also hoped the program would further contextualize the genocide; one issue that is almost always ignored is population pressure.

What actions has the government of Chad taken with the invasion of their territory?Isn't the UN slightly more likely to act in a case where there is an invasion (unless of course the USA is doing the invading)?

Sandra Maliga
Los Angeles, CA


Outrage over the tragedy in Darfur is obviously warranted. But I am at a loss to understand why you would characterize it as the "first genocide of the 20th century."

You are ignoring several others, the two most salient being the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians by the Israeli government (needless to say, with direct US support and complicity) and the ongoing genocide being carried out against the Iraqis by the US government. To watch uber hypocrites Colin Powell and George Bush (!)--both guilty of war crimes--cry crocodile tears about Darfur was one of the most nauseating spectacles I have ever seen in a documentary.

Ron Larsen, (GySgt, USMC, Ret.)
Omaha, NE


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posted november 20, 2007

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