Enough of the quiet diplomacy on Zimbabwe

ALESSANDRO DI MEO/POOL/AFP/Getty Images Incredibly, the situation is Zimbabwe grows ever more outrageous. There is simply no doubt that the runoff election on June 27 is going to be stolen by Mugabe’s thugs. Opposition rallies have been banned. Aid organizations have been shuttered and diplomats detained. In a country on the brink of famine, authorities ...

594664_080612_mugabe42.jpg
594664_080612_mugabe42.jpg

ALESSANDRO DI MEO/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

Incredibly, the situation is Zimbabwe grows ever more outrageous. There is simply no doubt that the runoff election on June 27 is going to be stolen by Mugabe's thugs. Opposition rallies have been banned. Aid organizations have been shuttered and diplomats detained. In a country on the brink of famine, authorities yesterday confiscated food aid earmarked for starving children and doled it out to Mugabe's supporters instead. Jails are being emptied to make room for opposition troublemakers -- anything to intimidate people away from polls (as if top generals weren't already doing a fine job of that). Abductions, beatings, and torture are commonplace since opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai bested President Mugabe at the polls in March.

But where are the outraged public statements? Hitchens is right: A denunciation from Mandela would boom in this enviroment, as would the pope's. (Good to see Desmond Tutu calling Mugabe's regime a "nightmare" yesterday.) South Africa's Mbeki has shown himself spineless in denouncing Mugabe's actions, and this recent statement by President Bush is simply not going to cut it. The polite applause Mugabe earned on his recent trip to Rome was just too much.

ALESSANDRO DI MEO/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

Incredibly, the situation is Zimbabwe grows ever more outrageous. There is simply no doubt that the runoff election on June 27 is going to be stolen by Mugabe’s thugs. Opposition rallies have been banned. Aid organizations have been shuttered and diplomats detained. In a country on the brink of famine, authorities yesterday confiscated food aid earmarked for starving children and doled it out to Mugabe’s supporters instead. Jails are being emptied to make room for opposition troublemakers — anything to intimidate people away from polls (as if top generals weren’t already doing a fine job of that). Abductions, beatings, and torture are commonplace since opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai bested President Mugabe at the polls in March.

But where are the outraged public statements? Hitchens is right: A denunciation from Mandela would boom in this enviroment, as would the pope’s. (Good to see Desmond Tutu calling Mugabe’s regime a “nightmare” yesterday.) South Africa’s Mbeki has shown himself spineless in denouncing Mugabe’s actions, and this recent statement by President Bush is simply not going to cut it. The polite applause Mugabe earned on his recent trip to Rome was just too much.

What’s Bush got to lose? He should be out there every day condemning the brutalization of Zimbabwe’s opposition and the inevitability that the country simply won’t get anything approaching a free and fair election on June 27. What’s preventing him — or anyone else in a position of power — from doing more than just throwing stern glances in Mugabe’s direction?

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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