As the bloodshed in Iraq continues to get a lot of media attention because of America's involvement, in a striking contrast, the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Darfur, West Sudan, where an estimated 180,000 people have died in a campaign of genocide, merits wide indifference. It's not that there's nothing to report.
Baba Gana Kingibe, the African Union's special representative to Sudan, said today that on Wednesday (September 28th), about 400 Arab Janjaweed fighters on camels and horseback attacked the Aro Sharow refugee camp in western Darfur, killing 34 people as government helicopters flew overhead. Government forces have ``resorted to the violent, destructive and overwhelming use of force not only against rebel forces, but also on innocent civilian villages and the IDP camps,'' Kingibe told reporters today in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.
On Friday, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in a statement on the "murderous assault," said that the "UNHCR, which carries out protection monitoring in West Darfur, has three offices in the region, with five more planned. There are an estimated 2 million internally displaced people in Darfur, including 715,700 in West Darfur; 770,800 in South Darfur, and 480,000 in North Darfur."
In the Middle East, there is no rage in the "Arab Street" in response to this tragedy and in the rest of the world, it is also largely one of indifference.
The "something-must-be-done brigade"
John Lloyd of the Financial Times and former editor of the New Statesman
In The Financial Times today, John Lloyd writes that the forward march of the "something-must-be-done brigade" has certainly faltered. The phrase is Douglas Hurd’s, used when he was UK foreign secretary in the early 1990s, about the demands of human rights campaigners, journalists and opposition politicians that western states must intervene to stop the slaughter in Bosnia. On the opposite side of the fence were advocates of realpolitik who argued that a state requires security and retains interests and that any effort to impose a different politics on states of whose politics one disapproves is, as Henry Kissinger put it, international relations as social work.
Lloyd writes that governments of large states with diverse interests have largely agreed with the Kissinger option: idealism has been confined to smaller states, such as Sweden, the country that has long played the role of Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin, forever hopeful of the world’s capacity for goodness. Britain has moved towards idealism under Tony Blair who has argued that "acts of genocide can never be a purely internal matter".
The intervention of American forces ended the genocide in Bosnia and the murderous campaign against Muslims in the Serbian province of Kosovo ended when NATO, under the leadership of the US and the UK intervened. Lloyd says that the interventions of the 1990s and "noughties" in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and in smaller ways in Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo and Sudan, have rarely been without large bloodshed - and not one has been unambiguously successful...Those who always saw these ventures as sins against realpolitik are grimly confirmed in their views.
Lloyd asks what of the liberals and leftists who were the generals, the officers or even the foot soldiers in the something-must-be-done brigade?
"When push came to shove, most have melted away, without, it seems, a backward glance at the ideals they once espoused. This is most true in the case of Iraq," Lloyd says. "The sheer bloodiness of the country and the revelation to the British in Basra, as well as to the Americans elsewhere, that a large part of the active population hates them, have amplified the calls made to get out, last week at the Labour Party conference, against the leadership, the week before at the Liberal Party conference, by the leadership," Lloyd adds.
Lloyd says that it is a sad spectacle that liberals and leftists who spent decades demanding that something must be done to end all sorts of repressions and foreign horrors, and denouncing theirs and other governments for refusing to end them, now denounce the British and US governments for having removed one of the great monsters of the late 20th century because blood was shed (and is still being shed) in the course of it. This isn’t debate about the manner of waging war: it is a smug, I-told-you-so (or I didn’t tell you but I am now) blast against apparent failure - usually oblivious to the consequences of that failure, especially on the ideals and practice that liberals and leftists claim to have espoused.
Irish commentator Vincent Browne for example who opposed US intervention in Iraq, in the past lamented the failure to stop genocide in Africa while he has both supported and opposed the American led NATO military action in the Balkans, in the 1990's (Browne supported US military action to stop a war in 1995 that had resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 people; He opposed US led action against Serbs in Kosovo, in 1998).
The late UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, supported NATO action in Kosovo in 1998, which did not have UN approval because of the threat of a Russian veto. Cook opposed intervention in Iraq, because it did not have UN approval.
People who support the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to a state, can be oblivious to the dramatic improvement in the lot of the Kurds of Iraq.
The people of Kurdistan who are the largest ethnic group in the world without a state, have been treated badly for many decades by Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.
As media commentators in the West agonise about the impact of Iraq and Palestine on disaffected Muslim youth who have been weaned on a very narrow view of the world, there is seldom a reference to how Muslims have for long mistreated fellow Muslims in Kurdistan. Then there's Darfur, which is hardly on the curricula of the madrasas. The infidels are a more useful target than focusing on ethnically Arab Muslims driving ethnically African Muslims, off their land.
A Matter of Principle - Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq: "The scholarship contained in this collection is superior: it includes the leading and most sophisticated advocates of liberal internationalism from the worlds of the academy, politics and the media. The arguments are complex and nuanced, and contribute to a new understanding of the Iraq war."--Richard A. Wilson, Director of the Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut
The American writer on human rights Thomas Cushman, in his introduction to a collection of essays titled A Matter of Principle - Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq, says that the for most of the authors, the liberal internationalist case for the war was not made strongly enough by the Bush administration or at least as strongly as the argument for anticipatory self-defense, which turned out to be empirically ungrounded. What is striking about these essays is the willingness of each author to voice pointed criticism of the Bush administration and its practices (as Christopher Hitchens wryly notes in his contribution, "I write as one who could not easily name a mistake that the Bush administration has failed to make").
Cushman writes: Yet at the same time the authors also offer pointed critiques of the liberal-left opposition to the war, much of which is contradictory, reductionistic, logically flawed, or excessively emotional, and irrational. Even the most sober and reflective critics of the war occupied a stage that also displayed demonstrators toting placards of Bush with a Hitler mustache, waving Iraqi and Cuban flags, and passing out copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Ironically, many of the authors in the volume point out that the antiwar position was, in fact, something of a conservative one in that it aimed to preserve a regime of intolerable cruelty in order to preserve the deeply flawed system of international law that gives both tyrants and democratically elected leaders equal seats at the table of international justice. Indeed, as Daniel Kofman notes in his contribution here, it is odd that many leftists, who have built careers on challenging the unrestrained sovereignty of states and state power, would find themselves arguing in favor of the current system that supports and guarantees the power of sovereign despots and the inviolability of their states, even in extreme cases such as Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il, or Saddam Hussein. Had there been no war, Saddam Hussein would still be in power rather than preparing for his trial for crimes against humanity. He would still be tormenting, torturing, and killing his own subjects, destabilizing the Middle East, and giving succor to international terrorists who are the avowed enemies of liberal democracy.
Thomas Cushman - "George Orwell once noted in a famous epigraph, “Pacifism is objectively profascist.”
What is striking about the antiwar movement is the way in which the global left has turned against the United States rather than gross violators of human rights such as Saddam Hussein. Indeed, the war has been the pretext for a global revival of anti-Americanism, much of it well grounded, but much of it a rehearsal of a more fundamental twentieth century proclivity of the left to vent its rage primarily at the "empire" rather than the various despots who have wreaked havoc on the global stage. Indeed, such tyrants figured out very early on that they could always gain a certain advantage by articulating critiques of the bugbear of American empire (witness, for instance, the enthrallment of the left wing in America with Fidel Castro, who is the personification of resistance to the United States).
Lesson for Darfur
Thomas Cushman writes that it is clearly the case that current practices of international law and international organizations have failed rather glaringly to deal with tyrants. One has only to think of UN indifference to the plight of Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo and its current ineptitude with regard to events in Congo and Sudan to see that the current structure of dealing with illiberal despots with liberal principles of law, negotiation, and accommodation is deeply flawed. The flaw consists in allowing illiberal despots the luxury of treatment according to Enlightenment ideals of toleration. If you treat an illiberal tyrant liberally, you can count on rendering him a distinct advantage.
The UNHCR said that its team reported Friday that many of the 4,000 to 5,000 residents of the camp that had been attacked, had returned from the nearby Jebel Moon mountains and surrounding countryside where they initially fled as the Arab horsemen swooped into the camp, killing the black African residents and burning down their makeshift shelters, on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the survivors, after entering the camp, the 250-300 armed Arab men divided into three groups: one peeled off to steal the cattle; a second set about chasing and killing people in the camp; and a third set fire to the flimsy shelters in which the displaced people have been living since abandoning their villages in the area because of similar attacks.
In all, 17 of the displaced people living in the camp were killed, along with 17 more people from nearby villages who were visiting the camp because Wednesday was market day. All 34 victims were male. The UNHCR team witnessed the burial of one of the 34 dead and said the man appeared to have had his arms bound before he was killed. Witnesses in the camp said he had been tied up and dragged to his death behind a horse.
UN envoy to Sudan Jon Friday said: "The names of the individuals responsible for the attack, when known, will be reported to the Security Council... as well as to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court."
UN Security Council veto power China is assisting the government of Sudan to develop its oil industry. Last December a report in The Washington Post said: On this parched and dusty African plain, China's largest energy company is pumping crude oil, sending it 1,000 miles upcountry through a Chinese-made pipeline to the Red Sea, where tankers wait to ferry it to China's industrial cities. Chinese laborers based in a camp of prefabricated sheds work the wells and lay highways across the flats to make way for heavy machinery...Sudan is China's largest overseas oil project. China is Sudan's largest supplier of arms, according to a former Sudan government minister. Chinese-made tanks, fighter planes, bombers, helicopters, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades have intensified Sudan's two-decade-old north-south civil war. A cease-fire is in effect and a peace agreement is expected to be signed by year-end. But the fighting in Sudan's Darfur region rages on, as government-backed Arab militias push African tribes off their land.
In Myanmar (Burma), a country like North Korea, that is stuck in a fifty-year old time warp, China has made an agreement with the military dictators who control the country, to develop its oil and gas industry. A week after hundreds of people were gunned down in Uzbekistan, President Islam Karimov was warmly welcomed in Beijing. The access of the US to a military base in Uzbekistan has been withdrawn because of Washington's criticism of Uzbekistan human rights record.
China is extending its alliances without evident criticism from the many who would virulently criticise American missteps.
So the authorities in Khartoum are hardly worried about their campaign in Darfur, given China's veto in the UN Security Council and besides, does the rest of the world give a damn?
Download Professor Cushman's Introductory Chapter in A Matter of Principle - Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq (pdf format)