John in The Corner:
While the horrors in the Congo were going on (i.e., from 1998 to the present) I was a busy worker bee, mixing with Americans of all classes, races, and stations in life, certainly including a good many Roman Catholics and, I am sure, at least a few evangelicals. Until 2004 I was also attending my own (Episcopal) church, though I’ll admit less and less often.
In all those years, with all those people, in all those venues, I don’t recall hearing anyone speak of the Congo massacres, not once. That seems to me like a pretty darn good empirical foundation for the remark you took objection to: “North of five million people have been slaughtered in the Congo this past twelve years, and nobody much (no, not me — how about you?) has lost a wink of sleep over it.”
The Congo Wars didn’t even rise to the level of occasional water-cooler chat that, as I remember, the ructions in ex-Yugoslavia did at the earlier part of that period. Interesting contrast.
Empirical-foundations-wise, I believe I’m in good shape.
New-clothes-wise, the Emperor of Universalist Humanitarianism hasn’t got any.
One can argue over the numbers here, but the reality is that the largest loss of life due to political and military conflict since Rwanda over the past generation has been in the Congo river basin (Zaire, which became the Democratic Republic of Congo). I do not begrudge the concern of pro-Israel and anti-Israel factions in their preoccupation with that particular conflict, but when the arguments shift toward abstract and universalizable principles then I think it is important to ask: why not Congo? There are many plausible reasons, but far too often the reasons are not aired for all to comprehend. Let’s make the implicit explicit.