Saturday, June 26, 2004

The shame of Darfur 

Your conscience can rest easy - the crisis in the Sudanese province of Darfur is only a step away from a positive resolution:

"With thousands of children in western Sudan facing starvation and millions left homeless in a crisis of ethnic cleansing, the world's wealthy nations pledged yesterday to intervene - not with aid or armed forces, but with planeloads of politicians."
The government-backed irregular ethnic cleansers will be bombarded into submission with Colin Powell, Kofi Annan and the foreign ministers of France, Italy and Switzerland. In case the diplomatic heavy guns would prove insufficient, you can always try more aid. In fact, as Fox reports, "Powell to Ask Sudan's Leaders to Allow Aid". It would only be a slight exaggeration to compare the current scenario to the Allies asking the Nazis to allow food parcels into Auschwitz.

The Fox report goes on to say that Powell, Annan and other luminaries "are headed to the Sudanese capital next week to try to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis... [Powell] also plans to tell Sudanese leaders to 'let the aid flow freely'." Three quick thoughts: 1) the crisis doesn't need more attention, it needs action; 2) it's not a humanitarian but a political crisis, in so far as the human catastrophe unfolding in Darfur is a result of the military actions of Arab militias supported by the government in Khartoum, and not of any natural disaster - the humanitarian tragedy is the symptom of the political crisis; 3) flowing from the previous point, it would make more sense for Colin Powell, instead of telling the Sudanese leaders to "let the aid flow freely", to tell them to stop the war on the people of Darfur.

As Nicholas Kristof, who for months now has almost single-handedly been trying to awaken the Western conscience to the crisis in Darfur, writes in his "New York Times" column:

"Hats off to Colin Powell and Kofi Annan, who are both traveling in the next few days to Darfur. But the world has dithered for months already."
Sadly, some have already found the culprit for the international community's prevarication. Writes Anthony Bennett of Open Democracy:

"[T]he discussion over 'humanitarian intervention' is now deeply marked by the Iraq experience. It can be argued - it was indeed predicted - that by intervening in Iraq in a reckless, mendacious and unilateral way, Washington and its supporters have made it more difficult to build 'coalitions of the willing' for intervention even when (as in Sudan) most agree that it may be essential and that American reach and might may be the best means to achieve it."
Don't be fooled by the talk of an "Iraqi fatigue" and its chilling effect on international intervention. I have three words for you: Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo - three great examples of the so-called international community's well attested willingness to intervene and stop genocide. What's that you say? They all pre-date Iraq? Funny that. But for Bennett and company it's always easier to blame America.

Besides, as Kristof writes, "[t]he U.S. is not going to invade Sudan. That's not a plausible option. But we can pass a tough U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing troops, as well as more support for African peacekeepers. If Germany, France and Spain don't want to send troops to Iraq, then let them deploy in Darfur." But that would require all the usual critics to actually do something constructive. If the sum-total of your foreign policy consists of trying to do whatever it takes to sabotage whatever the United States is doing at the moment, it makes it pretty difficult to suddenly get into a positive and pro-active mode. And so, at least for the time being, Darfur joins Rwanda, Vukovar, Srebrenica and Kosovo on the long list of the UN's shame.


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