If I were a more responsible blogger, I would have blogged about this before it happened, but I’m not. Amanda and I decided to spend this overcast, cold afternoon hearing Brian Steidle speak over at Scarrit-Bennett about his experiences a military observer in Darfur. You know, something lighthearted and cheery to take the edge off the gloomy weather.

Brian’s presentation was good. His job was to spread awareness and concern – for some reason hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced isn’t enough – and he does a fair job. His experiences were clearly pretty harrowing and frightening. I could have done with more background on the actual conflict, but it’s probably for the best. He obviously wasn’t an ethnologist, or someone to offer a comprehensive view of the conflict’s origins. But he’s a marine who was on the ground, and he offers his experiences on what is really happening, and his opinion on what we should do.

His suggestion is military intervention: Specifically, a Turkish-led NATO force. He believes strongly that anti-U.S. hostility would doom a U.S.-led intervention, and with this I agree. However, a gentleman from Kurdistan in the back raised his concern that Turkey would be a poor choice for leading a humanitarian effort, citing their experience with the Kurds as evidence. (The Armenian contingent could not be reached for comment.) Sadly I don’t think Brian picked up on this, or maybe wasn’t aware of the, uh .. not so good relationship between the Kurds and the Turks. In any event, I agree with him that Turkey probably would not be the best choice for a peacekeeping mission in a conflict between Muslims and Christians.

The question and answer period proceeded downhill from there, frankly. If seeing rather graphic shots of murder and mayhem from Darfur was depressing, the reaction from some members of the audience was downright horrifying. Allow me to kvetch a little here:

First there was the woman who raised a non-sensical objection that I can only paraphrase as “Why isn’t anyone asking the leaders in Darfur what they want?”
Uhmm. Lady, I think no one is asking the leaders in Darfur what they want because they are all getting killed. I seriously think she was making some mix of an anti-interventionist argument mixed with black power – i.e. it didn’t sit well with her that this corn-fed whiteboy marine was advocating intervention to save the “poor black people” (her words). Infuriating ignorance.
Then there was the guy from Nigeria making a similar point, adding “Why can’t we smuggle someone out of Darfur so they can tell us what’s going on?
Well, buddy, see point #1 about everyone in Darfur getting killed, and then there’s point #2, which is the guy from Darfur sitting right behind you, who you may have noticed, had you been paying attention, introduced himself earlier and said “yes, please, U.S., anyone, come to Darfur, help us stop dying, k thnx.”
The woman dressed like Cher meets Jessica Simpson with her tits on display who took up literally like 5 minutes with a “question” that obviously served no purpose other than to point out to the room that she was affiliated with “Big & Rich” somehow (raise your hand if you have any idea who/what “Big & Rich” is; I don’t), and that maybe they could put on a benefit concert.
This may not seem so infuriating, but she spent literally 5 minutes beating around the bush about how she could use her “resources” and “people she knows” to “make this happen”. Jesus, lady, this isn’t fucking A&R rep night at the Wild Horse. She could have just asked him about it after his presentation, instead of swinging her dick around while other people are trying to ask questions about things that actually matter – people that actually give a shit about the people dying, and not just pushing your crappy Nashville Star country band. Jesus Christ.
The woman who raised her hand at the end to object that “I don’t mean to discourage you, but I think another U.S. intervention would be a bad idea, military stretched thin, blah blah.”
I have no idea what she was on about, but clearly she wasn’t paying attention to the part where he wasn’t advocating a U.S.-led intervention.

What was discouraging was how quickly the questions were co-opted by people pushing their own stupid agenda: anti-interventionism, ignorance (?), black/African-power, and plain hippie peacenik naivete, which reminds me of the best exchange of the evening:

Hippie Chick: I keep hearing you use the word “military” and “boots on the ground”? Couldn’t we try something else? Like some sort of peacekeeping force?
Brian: *blank stare* .. like what? (A spectacular answer. You should have seen her gears start turning.)
Hippie Chick: Uhh.. well.. … I don’t know.. I don’t know much about these sorts of things, but isn’t there something else we can do?

To Brian’s credit he handled this very well. I would have (and nearly did) flip out and yell “What the hell, lady, do you think a peacekeeping force can just waltz in and wave around their magic peace stick? Group A is trying to systematically exterminate Group B. If boots are gonna be put on the ground to stop this, they are going to be military ones.

Okay, I think I am done bitching. The biggest benefit, bitching aside, of this presentation is that it did provide much food for thought regarding this situation and our inaction. I hope to comment a little more on it in the future.