Monday, August 28, 2006

Darfur - Last Chance or Final Solution?

Straight talk from Joseph Britt (in a guest-post on Eric Umansky's blog to which I was alerted by Brad DeLong). This cuts to the heart of the matter, so it should be read fully and carefully ...

... and then, as Britt suggests, read the important report on Saturday by the indispensable Eric Reeves from which he quotes, "Darfur: The Final Decision" (August 26), as well as Reeves's August 11 piece on "Darfur's downward spiral". As Reeves concludes his cogent and anguished analysis in "Darfur: The Final Decision":
If under these circumstances the international community is unwilling even to threaten non-consensual intervention to protect civilians and humanitarians in Darfur, then Khartoum may rightly, in full throat, exult in its savage triumph. It is a triumph that has been long in coming; one that might have been stopped with sufficient will at any point; but one that is now terribly close to culmination.
--Jeff Weintraub
Joseph Britt (on the weblog of Eric Umansky)
August 27, 2006

Darfur's nightmare was always bound to end in some way.

It could end in a peace agreement honored by all sides in the conflict that began in early 2003, or through the intervention of a strong peacekeeping force from the civilized countries. Or, it could end with the civilian population of Darfur being mostly wiped out, either killed or starved or driven into permanent exile. The United States gave the first possibility its best shot last year, and failed; it is now calling, more than a little ineffectually, for the second. But the third is more likely at this point.

Eric Reeves explains why, per usual for him at great length and in great detail. His account nonetheless deserves to be read in full:
All evidence suggests that the international community is prepared to acquiesce before the military onslaught Khartoum’s National Islamic Front is preparing for North Darfur, an offensive that will target both rebel military forces and non-Arab civilians who do not support the deeply flawed “Darfur Peace Agreement” (May 5, 2006, Abuja, Nigeria). Fighting in North Darfur over the past two months has increasingly involved collaboration between the forces of Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction leader Minni Minawi (a member of the Zaghawa tribe and the only Darfuri signatory to the Abuja agreement) and Khartoum’s regular military. This collaboration has produced attacks that have focused primarily on Fur villages. As Refugees International President Kenneth Bacon reports in a July 21, 2006 letter to President Bush (following an eleven-day assessment mission to Darfur):

“Minawi’s forces are attacking Fur villages in North Darfur. According to the United Nations, some of these attacks show the same signs of genocidal intent demonstrated by the government-back Janjaweed militia---the targeted killing of young men.”
Who decides that this should continue? The government in Khartoum does. How can one government, ruling a weak and deeply divided country, wield such authority? Because it is not isolated and left to face the international community (where human rights are concerned "the international community" essentially means the North American, European, and Pacific democracies plus a scattered few other countries) alone. China has evidently placed its UN Security Council veto at Khartoum's disposal should a resolution calling for UN peacekeepers in Darfur come to a vote, but China would not so exert itself about a conflict in Africa for the sake of just one government there.

The fact is that Sudan, a member of the Arab League, has the unquestioning support of the League and of every Arab government for anything it chooses to do in Darfur. The same governments and Arab media that wail piteously about the suffering of Arabs at the hands of Westerners and Israelis are fine with genocide sponsored by an Arab government.

That is the root of the matter; that is why Khartoum is able to call on China to support its refusal to allow a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, though UN peacekeepers already monitor the peace agreement between Sudan's government and former rebels in the south of the country. The government responsible for genocide knows, as Beijing does as well, that in standing up for murdering large numbers of Africans it will be seen in Arab countries as standing up for Arab dignity. [JW: On this crucial point, see here and here and here and here.]

Arab voices outside of government seem to know it too, something that drew comment as long as two years ago in one Arab publication. A few months ago an al-Arabiya editor suggested in a Washington Post forum that pressure from Khartoum was responsible for the paucity of Darfur coverage in Arab media. The whole situation has grim implications for the Mideast democratization strategy so beloved of President Bush -- how does it help us or anyone else if people tolerant of genocide get to vote in free elections?

That aside, though, now would be a good time to decide if we mean to let Sudan complete its final solution to the Darfur problem without doing anything at all. The least that ought to be done is to push the Anglo-American resolution calling for a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur to a vote in the Security Council. If China and the Arab governments are going to come out in support of mass murder and gang rape as weapons of warfare they might as well be forced to do so in the plain light of day.

After the Rwandan genocide of 1994 any number of people in Europe and America promised each other "never again." Well, "again" has happened at least three times since; a government-imposed famine in North Korea in the late 1990s and the maelstrom that has enveloped Congo for the last several years were the first two. Darfur is the third. It is possible to find fault with American and Western policy toward this massive ongoing human disaster in several respects, but perhaps the most important is that so little effort has been made to isolate a government recklessly pursuing a vicious policy that benefits no one else.

Too much time has passed for there to be anything like a good resolution to the situation in Darfur, but as Eric Reeves demonstrates we know what will happen soon if nothing is done. Perhaps a more forceful Western effort in the Security Council will accomplish no more than putting genocide's enablers on record. That's not much, but it's not nothing, and we'll never know if more is possible if the effort is not made.

JEB [Joseph Britt]
August 27, 2006 at 12:06 PM |