Friday, August 06, 2004

Darfur update

In yesterday's "Wall Street Journal" op-ed piece, Colin Powell pointed to the African Union plan for peacekeeping troops in Darfur as a sign of the international effort's success. But today, it turns out, that plan is much in doubt.

CAIRO, Aug 6 (Reuters) - The African Union has not told Sudan of any plan to deploy 2,000 African troops in Darfur and the government reserves the right to reject such a plan, a Sudanese minister said in an interview published on Friday.

The Sudanese government seems to have learned from Iran's nuclear tug-of-war that the best way to handle international "soft power" pressure is to play the cheat-and-retreat game. If your patient, you get everything you want in the end.

Stanley Crouch in the New York Daily News has a furious column today about the diplomatic dithering that allows the Sudan slaughter to continue.

With 1,000 people dying a day and Sudan's leaders rejecting demands from the UN to take action within 30 days, the gloom darkens. Sudan wants 90 days. After all, what are 60,000 lives?

Only numbers -- unless the U.S. decides to recognize those numbers as human beings whose need for protection from slaughter cannot be denied.

Like The Economist said on its cover, "Sudan Can't Wait." But Crouch scorns the White House, too, for taking the multilateral route in Sudan and trying to work through the U.N.

The Bush administration is also punking out. It is going along with the cowardice and immorality of the world at large because those advising it fail to understand that this is the time to take chances. Had President Bush gone into Sudan with the Army's new OTW (Operations Other Than War) unit last month, the world would have been caught off guard -- and the Democratic convention would have been overshadowed.

The cynicism that assumes America's foreign policies are shaped in equal parts by desire to stem genocide and desire to discomfort the Democrats is so general nowadays that it hardly raises objection.

Some might compare Sudan to Iraq and claim to see a double standard by the U.S., but how is this so? In Sudan, as in Iraq, the Americans first tried the U.N. system, in a vain bid to rally the international community via that flawed body and its toothless resolutions. No, the double standard is in the minds of those who want us to be unilateral and forceful to stop some murders, and not others.

I also don't understand Crouch's next bit:

There would, of course, be those screaming about infringing on Sudan's sovereignty. They would make it a matter of pride and unity for Muslims to stand behind that racist regime. That would be to the good, because it might push Muslims into reconsidering the shortcomings of Islamic tradition.

Any religious culture that embraced Saddam Hussein as a lion of the caliphate is not going to have second thoughts about Sudan. The "Arab Street" decried slaughter in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, and Palestine when non-Muslims killed Muslims. In Sudan, it's Arab Muslims murdering black Muslims, and the response is mostly a big shrug.

However, as Crouch does point out, there is heavy-duty hand-wringing going on at the more responsible Muslim Web sites, such as, where Naeem Mohaiemen wrote a piece on it titled "The Muslim World's Shame."

"The Muslim world is sliding backward into medievalism, and it is time for reformers to speak openly and bravely. There is a cancer that is eating away at our soul -- a disease marked by paranoia, double standards and virulent racism."

I don't mean to besmirch this response; it's only "hand wringing" because there's not much more these well-intentioned people can do about it. I'll take hand wringing any day over silent complicity (or dancing in the streets and passing out confectionary treats in celebration).

Meanwhile, we found out today what the U.N. is good at: releasing scathing reports.

GENEVA (Reuters) - A U.N. investigator said Friday the Sudanese government was largely to blame for a humanitarian disaster in Darfur and its responsibility for large numbers of killings in the region was beyond doubt.

Investigator Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani lawyer, said a June visit to Darfur found overwhelming evidence government forces and militia they backed had executed large numbers of civilians.

Her report says, among other things, "It is beyond doubt that the government of the Sudan is responsible for extrajudicial and summary executions of large numbers of people over the last several months in the Darfur region." She says it is "very likely that many will die in the months to come as a result of starvation and disease." "... I have to conclude that there is overwhelming evidence that extrajudicial killings of civilians in Darfur have been carried out, with some exceptions, in a coordinated manner by the armed forces of the government and government-backed militias."

And the U.N.'s way of dealing with this? To work with the same government to set up a timetable and a plan for the government to set up "secure and safe" areas in Darfur. It's as if the U.N. learned nothing from the Bosnian "safe havens" that conveniently concentrated unarmed Muslims so the Serb militias could march in and kill them.

"It would then use police to provide secure routes to towns and villages and allow people access to water and food, as well as freedom to tend animals and work land," according to Reuters.

Great idea. Take the armed authority figures who have been committing genocide, and put them in charge of the people they have been trying to kill. Could any entity but the U.N. have conceived a plan so perfectly brain-dead?

Marc Lacey in The New York Times has a good piece today titled "Sudanese Suffer as Militias Hide in Plain Sight," which exposes the Khartoum government's duplicity and .

Sudan's government lined up 50 prisoners at the main jail here recently and offered them as evidence to the world that it was cracking down on the militias that have stained so much of the desert sand of Darfur, the country's western region, with blood.

But when the men spoke and when their court files were reviewed, it quickly became clear that many of them were not members of the militias, which have displaced a million villagers in the last year and a half and killed tens of thousands in what the United States Congress calls a genocide.

Among the group were petty criminals who had already been in jail as long as four years. One man's charge was drinking wine in a country that forbids it.

But the article also reveals just how difficult it would be for the Sudanese government now to stop the bloodbath, even if it wanted to.

Janjaweed is a fluid identity, and diplomats here say the government has exploited the ambiguity. First it armed the militias, rallied them and set them loose in Darfur. Then it gave many of the same men uniforms and declared them upholders of the law. Sometimes the Janjaweed have served as law enforcement officers by day and reverted to pillaging at night.

"If you sent 200 soldiers out to get the Janjaweed, maybe 50 of them would probably be Janjaweed themselves," said Osman Mirghani, a prominent columnist for the Sudanese newspaper Al Rayaam who has written frequently and frankly about the conflict in Darfur, sometimes incurring the wrath of the government.

"A Janjaweed is a Janjaweed when he is on his horse with his gun, going to burn and kill," Mr. Mirghani said. "But when he comes back to his village and hides his gun he is no different than anyone else. Maybe he's a policeman during the day and a Janjaweed at night."