Thursday, May 22, 2003

Tears of the Sun

The discovery of a mass grave containing the remains of a cannibal feast has underscored the total failure of the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Aid workers have reported finding the bodies of more than 200 people killed on the streets of the provincial capital Bunia, including women and children, some decapitated and others with hearts, livers and lungs missing.

One British source cited by the Independent has described UN peacekeeping efforts as "shambolic", pointing out that the 700-strong force in Bunia, Congo is itself in danger of being overrun. The French have predicted a gloomy fate for their own relief force.

"A team of French officers is in the remote region to assess the mission but the Defence Ministry in Paris has already said that the deployment of French forces would be "very complex", requiring hundreds of flights by heavy cargo planes. The dangers of intervention can scarcely be exaggerated in a country where it is estimated that at least two million people, perhaps twice as many, have been killed since the former Mobutu regime began losing its grip in the mid-1990s."

Two million dead is thirty Hiroshimas -- all under the nose of the UN: without anyone noticing, without any peace marchers. But since UN staff are now at risk, the global headquarters has asked the British for help.

This blog noted earlier that any relief effort would be at the extreme limit of the logistical capabilities of the European powers, who have slender airlift resources. The French cannot deploy any reliable air support over Bunia, more than 800 miles from the coast. Although a European force could still probably extricate the Uruguayans from their encirclement, the prospects of saving even a small fraction of the desperate refugee stream would be slim. The medical personnel attending the refugees might also refuse to leave, recreating in real life the fictional scenario depicted in a recent Hollywood movie.

The British Army is now being asked to rescue the UN from yet another debacle, on the shortest of notices, with only rudimentary planning and on the most meager of resources. One of the reasons the UN is so keen on getting the British on the ground is the knowledge that, if things go wrong, the UK has the ability to pick up the phone and summon the ultimate cavalry: the Deployment Readiness Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is held at Pope AFB on 18 hour alert. Who said the French lacked cunning?


"All is lost"


"All you can eat"


"All American"