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Why the Darfur Genocide Isn't Just Another Human Tragedy

OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

When I spoke at Cornell University recently, a woman asked why I always harp on Darfur. It's a fair question: You can make the argument that the genocide in Darfur is simply one of many world tragedies and that it would be more cost-effective to save lives by tackling diarrhea, measles, and malaria. But I don't buy that argument at all. We have a moral compass within us, and its needle is moved not only by human suffering but also by human evil. That's what makes genocide special—not just the number of deaths but the government policy behind them. And that in turn is why stopping genocide should be among the highest global priorities. But for whatever reason, Sudan's decision to kill people on the basis of tribe and skin color has aroused mostly yawns around the globe. President Bush showed an important flash of leadership on Darfur early this year, but lately he has fallen quiet again. If we don't act, the slaughter may end up claiming more than one million lives. But this is about more than body count. This time the teenagers are not named Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel—they are Fatima and Ahmed—but the horror is the same.

—Nicholas D. Kristof [9/10/06]