Thursday, October 19, 2006

Google Earth makes me sad

I mentioned before that Google Earth is nice enough to mark Western Sahara's border separate from Morocco's. Unfortunately, because it's so unbeguilingly truthful, Google Earth can't help but also break my heart.

There are a lot of good things to be said for the refugee camps in Tindouf. They're models of refugee camp organization, especially when compared to other African camps, like those in the African Great Lakes region. Except for when the Polisario obfuscates the exact number of people in the camps, UNHCR has few complaints.

But Tindouf, at least from the satellite pictures on Google Earth, looks awful. It's a blasted no man's land. Only the roads, the city, and the camps make Tindouf distinguishable from the Moon.

Carne Ross said it poignantly in an article on Slate I mentioned earlier: "Morocco is with us, so the Sahrawis can go to hell. And, frankly, hell is a pretty accurate description of those refugee camps in the Sahara."

While France and the United States continue to ignore Morocco's occupation, the Sahrawis, who almost everyone outside Morcco acknowledges are in the right, have to eke out an existence in Tindouf.

Of course, I'm just looking at satellite pictures. Maybe Tindouf's grand. Either way, the Algerian government deserves credit for helping with the refugee crisis.

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