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Saturday, December 04, 2004

Failure to Mount a Humanitarian Intervention in Darfur: 

Historical context for dramatically escalating insecurity

Eric Reeves
November 29, 2004

As violence intensifies in the Darfur region of western Sudan, and as growing
insecurity restricts humanitarian access in ever more consequential fashion,
there is a revealing failure on the part of UN officials, the US State Department,
and other international actors to see present realities within the historical
context of the past year. Though conflict has raged in Darfur for almost 22
months, and grew in many ways out of antecedent lawlessness and abusive neglect by
Khartoum, the last year of violence in particular has defined the present
nature of the crisis. Historical myopia may simplify matters here for diplomats and
political officials, who seem incapable of doing more than decrying present
disastrous trends. But such myopia badly distorts the meaning of increasing
violence, and all too conveniently serves to obscure the now conspicuous failure to
plan for and mount a timely international humanitarian intervention, with a
broad mandate to protect humanitarian aid efforts and increasingly vulnerable,
badly weakened civilian populations.

International refusal to act upon the clear historical evidence of the past
year also continues to embolden Khartoum. Thus today the BBC and other news
sources report that the regime has ordered the expulsion of senior aid officials
from two of the most distinguished international humanitarian organizations
operating in Darfur: "country directors of British Oxfam and Save the Children were
told [by the Sudanese government] to leave within 48 hours. The Sudanese
government accused both organisations of prolonging the conflict rather than helping
it" (BBC, November 29, 2004). What should be a shocking event is simply another
episode in Khartoum's testing the resolve of the international community, only
to find that there is none.

In the case of Save the Children/UK, the issue seems to be that dozens of the
organization's workers were in the Tawilla area when Khartoum used its aerial
military assets to bomb targets very close to Save the Children operations. The
organization then had the temerity to report publicly this egregious breach of
the terms of the November 9, 2004 cease-fire agreement in Abuja, which
committed Khartoum to "refrain from conducting hostile military flights in and over the
Darfur region":

"Save the Children said that field workers were forced to flee from Tawilla
when government warplanes bombed a site close to a feeding centre run by the
organisation. [ ] Save the Children is one of the largest food distributors in
Darfur. It provides food to more than 300,000 of around 1.5 million refugees in
the troubled region." (BBC, November 29, 2004)

Oxfam has also been punished for speaking honestly, in particular about the
meaninglessness of recent UN Security Council resolutions, the last of which
Khartoum found full satisfying in its vacuity. Oxfam, which has been working
throughout northern Sudan for more than 20 years, stands accused by Khartoum's
"Humanitarian Affairs Commission" of "breaking laws on non-intervention in Sudan's
political, ethnic or sectarian issues" (BBC, November 9, 2004).

Continuing international failure to bear in mind the actions by Khartoum over
the past year ensures only that there will be more such outrages, targeting the
very humanitarian relief that is increasingly essential for a conflict-affected
population that reaches to approximately 3 million.

WHAT THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HAS KNOWN,
AND HOW LONG THIS "COMMUNITY" HAS KNOWN IT

The most significant early moment of alarm, one that should have galvanized
immediate planning for humanitarian intervention, was the conclusion last December
by Tom Eric Vraalsen, UN special envoy for humanitarian affairs in Sudan, that
the Khartoum regime was "systematically" denying humanitarian access in Darfur:

"Delivery of humanitarian assistance to populations in need is hampered mostly
by *systematically denied access* [latter phrase emphasized in Vraalsen's
text]. While [Khartoum's] authorities claim unimpeded access, they greatly restrict
access to the areas under their control, while imposing blanket denial to all
rebel-held areas."
(Tom Vraalsen, Note to the Emergency Relief Coordinator; "Sudan: Humanitarian
Crisis in Darfur," December 8, 2003)

The "populations in need" were overwhelmingly from the African tribal groups in
Darfur, and the "system" was one that ensured with relentless efficacy that
adequate humanitarian aid would not reach these increasingly needy people. The
means were multiple and would become more resourcefully deployed as the crisis
expanded. But even in November 2003 some of the techniques were clear:

"Sudan's government is hampering an adequate response to an escalating
humanitarian crisis in the war-ravaged Darfur region by reneging on a pledge to process
aid workers' travel permits speedily, the UN accused on Monday. 'Some aid
operations haven't been able to start.'" (Agence France-Presse, November 10, 2003)

Given Khartoum's lengthy and brutally destructive record of "systematically"
obstructing humanitarian aid in southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, often
affecting many hundreds of thousands of desperately needy people, this behavior
should have prompted an immediate international response. That there was no such
response tells us a good deal about the attitudes of the international
community toward Darfur over the past year. Certainly the message to Khartoum was that
there would be no consequences to such deadly obstructionism, which would
continue essentially unchecked for another half year

Vraalsen's December 8, 2003 memo also had as context previously reported
ethnically targeted violence during the fall of 2003, part of a larger campaign to
destroy the African tribal populations of Darfur, primarily the Fur, the
Massaleit, the Zaghawa, but also the Tunjur, Dajo, and others. The International
Crisis Group, in a press release and report on Darfur (December 10 and 11, 2003),
noted that in response to the insurgency campaign, Khartoum had stepped up its
assaults on the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masseleit peoples:

"the government of Sudan has mobilised and armed Arab militias (Janjaweed),
whose salary comes directly from booty captured in raids on villages, to terrorise
the populace of Darfur" (International Crisis Group, December 10, 2003)

After noting Khartoum's signing of a cease-fire agreement with the SLA in
September, the International Crisis Group found that:

"Government-supported militias deliberately target civilians from the Fur,
Zaghawa, and Massalit groups, who are viewed as 'Africans' in Darfur and form the
bulk of the SLA and JEM ethnic base. [ ] The latest attacks [by the
government-supported Arab militias] occurred deep inside the Fur tribal domain, against
unprotected villages with *no apparent link to the rebels other than their ethnic
profile* [emphasis added]." (International Crisis Group, "Sudan: towards an
Incomplete Peace," December 11, 2003; available at
http://www.crisisweb.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=2416)

THE LOOMING FOOD CRISIS

At the same time that ethnically animated violence was gathering pace in
Darfur, and at the same time that Khartoum was "systematically" manipulating
humanitarian aid access, an ominous food crisis was increasingly in evidence. Agence
France-Presse reported that,

"international relief agencies are sounding the alarm about a looming food
crisis in western Sudan as they report a growing number of people fleeing militias
burning their villages and farmland. One relief official said the Darfur
region suffers from the same factors that produced the famine in the Bahr al-Ghazal
region in 1998: limited access for relief groups, marauding militiamen, and
entrenched poverty. 'The parallels are evocative,' the official said on condition
of anonymity." (AFP, November 14, 2003)

As the prospect of famine conditions and a highly dangerous food shortage
became clearer in the early months of 2004, numerous humanitarian organizations,
including Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (which had the earliest
significant presence on the ground in Darfur) strenuously urged the UN's World
Food Program (WFP) to begin pre-positioning food in the region. Anticipating
both continued violence and a failed spring planting season (and consequent
failed harvest in fall 2004), these groups realized that without massive
pre-positioning of food, the logistical and transport capacity for humanitarian
operations would be overwhelmed during the rainy season (June through September)---which
is of course precisely what occurred. WFP for its part failed miserably in
pre-positioning significant quantities of food.

Nor was there any disputing the enormous scale of what was unfolding in Darfur.
On December 18, 2003, Jan Egeland, UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs,
declared in a BBC interview that "Darfur is in all probability the world's
greatest humanitarian crisis." In other words, by December 2003, the world had
clear evidence of a massive humanitarian crisis, involving the deliberate,
systematic denial of humanitarian access to the ethnic groups perceived as supporting
the Darfuri insurgency groups; this was occurring in the context of
state-sponsored violence directed against these ethnic groups, and growing evidence of a
massive food shortage.

And still the international community acquiesced. This writer drew the most
obvious conclusion from these aggregated facts and reports, and argued that
genocide was occurring in Darfur and that an immediate international response was
required:

"It is intolerable that the international community continues to allow what all
evidence suggests is genocide. [ ] The present realities in Darfur must
urgently be rendered for the world to see and understand---fully, honestly, and on the
basis of much greater information than is presently available. In turn, these
realities must guide a humanitarian effort that will not allow Khartoum's claim
of "national sovereignty" to trump the desperate plight of hundreds of
thousands of innocent civilians caught up in a maelstrom of destruction and
displacement." (Darfur analysis, December 30, 2003; available at Africa InfoServe [Sudan
publications of AfricaFiles.org]
http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=4075)

DARFUR AND THE PAST NINE MONTHS

This same argument was made more prominently in the Washington Post on February
25, 2004, with no discernible influence or effect:

"A young African man who had lost many family members in an attack heard the
gunmen say, 'You blacks, we're going to exterminate you.' Speaking of these
relentless attacks, an African tribal leader told the UN news service, 'I believe
this is an elimination of the black race.' A refugee reported these words as
coming from his attackers: 'You are opponents to the regime, we must crush you.
As you are black, you are like slaves. Then the entire Darfur region will be in
the hands of the Arabs.' An African tribal chief declared that, 'The Arabs and
the government forces...said they wanted to conquer the whole territory and
that the Blacks did not have a right to remain in the region.'"

"There can be no reasonable skepticism about Khartoum's use of these militias
to 'destroy, in whole or in part, ethnical or racial groups'---in short, to
commit genocide."

"Khartoum has so far refused to rein in its Arab militias; has refused to enter
into meaningful peace talks with the insurgency groups; and most disturbingly,
refuses to grant unfettered humanitarian access." [ ]

"Immediate plans for humanitarian intervention should begin. The alternative
is to allow tens of thousands of civilians to die in the weeks and months ahead
in what will be continuing genocidal destruction."
(Eric Reeves, "Unnoticed Genocide," The Washington Post, February 25, 2004; at:
www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&;
node=&contentId=A3559-2004Feb24¬Found=true - Supplemental Result)

This assessment was authoritatively echoed a month later by the UN's Mukesh
Kapila on the verge of ending his tenure as humanitarian coordinator for Sudan:

"'The only difference between Rwanda and Darfur now is the numbers involved'
[said Kapila]. '[The slaughter in Darfur] is more than just a conflict, it is an
organised attempt to do away with a group of people.'" (UN IRIN, March 22,
2004)

And things were clearly getting worse, despite the claims by Khartoum in early
February 2004 to have brought the situation in Darfur under "total military
control":

"The pattern of organised attacks on civilians and villages, abductions,
killings and organised rapes by militias was getting worse by the day, [Kapila] said,
and could deteriorate even further. 'One can see how the situation might
develop without prompt [action]...all the warning signs are there.'" (UN IRIN, March
22, 2004)

"One can see how the situation might develop without prompt [action]...all the
warning signs are there."

More than eight months after Kapila's bluntly honest and explicit warning,
total mortality in Darfur has climbed to more than 300,000 human beings; as many as
2.5 million have been internally displaced; and as many as 3 million are in
need of urgent humanitarian assistance---the very assistance that Khartoum has
previously, and now again, obstructed. Moreover, humanitarian personnel and
operations currently face unacceptable security risks.

Such insecurity was clearly in prospect months ago. The UN's Egeland openly
worried about the nightmare scenario for humanitarian operations that is now so
evident. He expressed concern that "Darfur was becoming too dangerous for aid
workers" (BBC, July 14, 2004). And in a chilling moment of speculation, Egeland
described, "'my worst scenario [is that] that the security will deteriorate,
that we will step back at a moment we have to actually step up [emergency
relief]'" (BBC, July 14, 2004).

Following high-profile visits to Khartoum and Darfur by UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan and US Secretary of State Colin Powell (early July), the regime agreed
to a "Joint Communiqué," signed in Khartoum by the regime and Annan (July 3,
2004). Khartoum would promptly proceed to ignore entirely its commitment in the
"Joint Communiqué" to "immediately start to disarm the Janjaweed and other
armed outlaw groups" (Section 3, "Joint Communiqué Between the Government of Sudan
and the UN," July 3, 2004).

Subsequently, the UN Security Council would incorporate the "demand" that
Khartoum "fulfill its commitments to disarm the Janjaweed militias and apprehend and
bring to justice Janjaweed leaders" into UN Security Council Resolution 1556
(July 30, 2004; Section 6). This "demand" has also been contemptuously ignored
by Khartoum, without consequence. The predictable response of the Council has
been to pass two weaker and more meaningless resolutions (No. 1564, September
18, 2004 and No. 1574, November 19, 2004).

Khartoum was certainly encouraged in its intransigence by the willingness of
Kofi Annan and his special representative, Jan Pronk, to negotiate away the July
30, 2004 Security Council "demand." Instead of pressuring the regime to disarm
the Janjaweed and bring its leaders to justice, Pronk substituted a request
that Khartoum provide a list of Janjaweed leaders. This request, and a
disastrously conceived scheme for so-called "safe areas," were the essential features of
the August 5, 2004 "Plan of Action" negotiated by Pronk. Khartoum still has
not provided the requested list, almost four months later. And the "safe-areas"
plan was so conspicuously a disaster that Pronk and UN officials have
quietly---very, very quietly---abandoned it (see September 3, 2004 analysis of "safe
areas" plan by this writer at
www.genocidewatch.org/SudanTheUNPlanforSafeAreasinDarfur.htm).

STILL NO PLANNING FOR HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION

At this inexcusably belated point in the Darfur catastrophe---despite the
manifest bad faith of the Khartoum regime and the clear threat of massive additional
human mortality---there has been no planning for meaningful humanitarian
intervention; there has been no planning for an international effort that will
protect humanitarian workers and operations, as well as undertake the daunting
civilian-protection tasks that have grown exponentially more difficult.

Rather, the international community remains content with what can be achieved
by an African Union force that is deploying without adequate equipment,
especially transport and communications capacity, and without a mandate to do more than
observe the ongoing disintegration of the April 8, 2004 cease-fire
(subsequently re-iterated at Abuja, Nigeria on November 9, 2004, with only the very
slightest augmentation of mandate for AU forces). In the end, this deployment will
become another casualty of Darfur's conflict, saddling the important but still
fledgling African Union Peace and Security Commission with a conspicuous and
ignominious inaugural failure.

For even when fully deployed (perhaps not until February 2005 or later), the
3,500 to 4,000 AU troops (including monitors, police, and support personnel) will
be hopelessly inadequate to the security tasks so urgently in evidence. This
is not a matter of dispute, though it is a source of abundant disingenuousness
and excuse-making. All evidence, past and present, makes clear that absent a
robust, very substantial international humanitarian intervention, with all
necessary military support, hundreds of thousands of additional human beings will die
in the coming months and years. 30,000 are now presently dying monthly, and
growing food shortages ensure that this number will soon rise rapidly (see
November 16, 2004 mortality assessment by this writer; at
www.sudantribune.com/article.php3?id_article=6536).

Massive genocide by attrition gives no sign of ending, nor can it until the
instruments of genocide have been militarily neutralized and Khartoum held
meaningfully accountable for its actions.

KOFI ANNAN AND DARFUR'S RECENT HISTORY

The world was of course promised that the present genocidal horrors in Darfur
would not occur. On April 7, 2004, the grim tenth anniversary of the Rwandan
genocide, Kofi Annan sanctimoniously mouthed the right words, no doubt conscious
of his own terrible failure as head of UN peacekeeping operations at the time
of the genocide in 1994:

"'Wherever civilians are deliberately targeted because they belong to a
particular community, we are in the presence of potential, if not actual, genocide,'
he said, warning the international community that it could no longer afford to
be blind to this grim dynamic." (UN News Center, April 7, 2004)

But just two weeks earlier, UN humanitarian coordinator for Sudan Mukesh Kapila
had declared very publicly:

"'The only difference between Rwanda and Darfur now is the numbers involved'
[said Kapila]. '[The slaughter in Darfur] is more than just a conflict, it is an
organised attempt to do away with a group of people.'" (UN Integrated Regional
Information Networks, March 22, 2004)

Evidently aware of such reports (though he would later expediently deny the
fact), Annan further declared:

"'Such reports leave me with a deep sense of foreboding,' said the
Secretary-General. 'Whatever terms it uses to describe the situation [in Darfur], the
international community cannot stand idle.'" (UN News Center, April 7, 2004)

Almost eight months later, despite Annan's "deep sense of foreboding," "the
international community" has essentially "stood idle," relying exclusively on a
woefully inadequate African Union force and humanitarian relief that is
increasingly inadequate and endangered. And still the destruction of the African tribal
populations of Darfur proceeds at a horrifying rate.

In a moment of characteristic bluster, Annan went on to say:

"'It is vital that international humanitarian workers and human rights experts
be given full access to the region, and to the victims, without further delay,'
he said. 'If that is denied, the international community must be prepared to
take swift and appropriate action,' he warned." (UN News Center, April 7, 2004)

But of course Khartoum would contrive months of further delay in humanitarian
access, and severely constrain UN human rights officials. There certainly was
no "swift" or "appropriate" response.

"'Let us not wait until the worst has happened, or is already happening,' the
Secretary-General concluded. 'Let us not wait until the only alternatives to
military action are futile hand-wringing or callous indifference. Let us be
serious about preventing genocide.'" (UN News Center, April 7, 2004)

Annan, with unintended accuracy, was describing precisely the situation that
now prevails in Darfur. His own response seems to alternate fitfully between
"hand-wringing" and "indifference" (he would say nothing significant about Darfur
for two months following his April 7, 2004 comments). And though he himself
explicitly evoked the threat of military intervention on April 7, there is still
no sign---almost eight months later---that any planning for such intervention
has even begun.

Instead, Annan disingenuously and expediently manipulates the issue of genocide
in Darfur as a means of obscuring his own failure to provide moral and
political leadership at the UN. The most egregious example comes from an interview
Annan provided to the US Public Broadcasting System's "The News Hour":

"ANNAN: The impression...which has been gained in some quarters, that if you
were only to label it genocide things will fall in place, I'm afraid, is not
really correct. We know what needs to be done. We need to have the will and the
resources and go in and do it." (The News Hour, October 15, 2004)

This is of course utterly and disgustingly specious. No one has argued that
"if you were only to label Darfur genocide things will fall in place"---no one.
And Annan knows this perfectly well. By setting up what is transparently a
straw-man to be knocked down, Annan is attempting to avoid responsibility for his
own failure to accept the truth of his words of April 7, 2004. There can be no
more disgraceful betrayal of the meaning of this somber anniversary.

ANNAN'S COMPANIONS IN EXPEDIENCY

To be sure, Annan's expediency was widely shared in early April of this year.
From late 2003 through May of 2004, north/south peace talks preoccupied the US,
the UK, and Norway---the "troika"---and there was no inclination to speak
honestly about the discomfiting realities in Darfur. Troika members were seeking an
expeditious conclusion to the Naivasha peace negotiations between Khartoum and
the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement under the auspices of the East
African IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority for Development). As a result of
their attempt to secure completion of the Naivasha agreement (which, notably, has
still not been concluded), these countries muted their criticism of Khartoum's
genocidal destruction in Darfur and ongoing obstruction of humanitarian aid.
Because the "troika" represented a larger consortium of Western nations (the
IGAD Partners Forum), there was little willingness in other quarters to challenge
this expedient silence.

Khartoum for its part saw immediately through this diplomatic stratagem and
proceeded to string out the Naivasha process as long as possible in order to avert
criticism over accelerating genocide. February and March of 2004 saw some of
the most extreme and wide-ranging violence in Darfur, even as these were months
in which Khartoum's diplomatic behavior in Naivasha was at its most coyly
enticing. Certainly the reports of violence in Darfur could not have been more
shocking:

"In an attack on 27 February [2004] in the Tawilah area of northern Darfur, 30
villages were burned to the ground, over 200 people killed and over 200 girls
and women raped---some by up to 14 assailants and in front of their fathers who
were later killed. A further 150 women and 200 children were abducted." (UN
IRIN, March 22, 2004)

All evidence suggests that this attack was led by Musa Hilal, the most
notorious of the Janjaweed commanders that Khartoum has loosed as an instrument of
genocide. Tawilla, in north Darfur, continues to figure prominently in Darfur's
ongoing catastrophe (see below), and it is instructive to recall the savagery
previously endured by the African peoples of this area.

Ultimately, Khartoum triumphed diplomatically both in refusing to complete the
Naivasha agreement (despite signing protocols dealing with all issues of
substance on May 26, 2004) and in refusing to rein in the Janjaweed, or allow for
timely humanitarian response to the urgent crisis in Darfur. Indeed, even now the
regime is playing off the uncoordinated negotiating venues of Naivasha and
Abuja (as well as Cairo, site of putative negotiations between Khartoum and the
umbrella organization for northern opposition groups, as well as the SPLM, the
National Democratic Alliance [NDA]).

RECENT FIGHTING IN TAWILLA (NORTH DARFUR)

There has been a good deal of reporting on violence in the Tawilla (also
Tawilah) area a week ago. Much blame has fallen on one of the insurgency groups (the
Sudan Liberation Army [SLA]) for "violating" the "cease-fire" nominally put
into effect at Abuja on November 9, 2004. The full nature of a series of
incidents beginning on September 16, 2004 is still not entirely clear, but a dispatch
today from the New York Times (dateline: Tawilla) comports with a number of
wire-reports and other accounts. Excerpts offer a crude time-line; but again, we
should remember the extraordinary levels of ethnically animated violence endured
by the people in this area for many months. With this as our context, the
unseemly haste of the UN and others to blame the insurgents for a "cease-fire"
violation seems yet another example of international failure to accept the ghastly
historical realities of the past year and more:

"Few people in North Darfur were surprised by the violence in Tawila on Nov. 22
[2004]. Tensions between the townspeople, largely members of African tribes,
and Arabs from nearby villages had been building. The pivotal event, townspeople
said, was a brawl on market day, Nov. 16. A group of Arabs had come to the
market, as they normally did. This time, they picked out a pile of women's clothes,
stuffed them in their sacks and refused to pay. Instead, they brandished guns."

"Frustration was running high from similar incidents in the past, and the town
was still recovering from an attack by government forces and allied Arab
militias earlier this year. So this time, when the Arabs refused to pay, the Africans
retaliated. The entire market took part. People grabbed sticks and stones from
the market stalls and began pummeling the Arabs, killing four of them on the
spot and injuring as many as seven. By the time the police arrived, the Arab
bodies lay bashed and disfigured in the market."

"Revenge begot revenge. That night, Arabs returned, firing randomly at the
houses and looting from the market." [ ]

"Then, just after dawn prayers on Nov. 22, [SLA] rebels attacked the town,
killing nearly 30 government police officers and pocking the garrison with bullet
holes. The government retaliated with airstrikes. People ran any way they could.
Like so many other towns in Darfur, Tawila virtually emptied." (New York Times
[dateline: Tawilla, North Darfur], November 29, 2004)

Khartoum's characteristically indiscriminate bombing attack, which came within
50 meters of Save the Children operations, was meant to be inflammatory. The
point was not merely to retake Tawilla militarily, but to provoke further
military action by the insurgents, giving the regime excuse to unleash its aerial
weaponry in other places. As the insurgents continue to give evidence of poor
communications capacity (last week's wildly contradictory statements from the SLA
concerning respect for the Abuja cease-fire agreement is the most striking
example), as command-and-control deteriorates and fissures appear within the
broader insurgency movement, Khartoum senses that it has the upper hand militarily
and will eagerly seek means to exploit this advantage. Where possible, the
regime will use insurgency attacks as pretext; where not, the Janjaweed remain as
potent as ever, with a now thoroughly cultivated sense of impunity.

THE END OF THE DEBATE ABOUT GENOCIDE IN DARFUR

Though there are some organizations and many governments that continue to
profess agnosticism about whether the massive crimes against humanity and ethnically
animated violence in Darfur rise to the level of genocide, such agnosticism has
become thoroughly irrelevant. For in their very different ways, Colin Powell
and Kofi Annan have ended the debate about genocide. Powell declared
unambiguously that genocide is occurring in Darfur (Senate testimony of September 9,
2004), basing his determination on the most authoritative report that we will have
on the issue, that of the Coalition for International Justice ("Documenting
Atrocities in Darfur," September 2004 at:
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/36028.htm). But he then proceeded to declare further that "nothing new follows from
this [genocide determination]," other than referral of the US finding to an
obviously paralyzed UN Security Council.

Annan has, perhaps more contemptibly, simply ridiculed the notion that a
genocide determination makes any difference for Darfur. Despite his sanctimonious
remarks of April 7, 2004, genocide seems not a word that carries much real moral
or political weight with the Secretary-General. It is difficult to imagine a
more obscene compounding of the failure to intervene in Rwanda ten years ago.

Both Annan and Powell have transparent motives for their respective positions
on genocide in Darfur. Powell knows the Bush administration has no intention of
undertaking to "prevent genocide" in Darfur, a contractual obligation for the
US under the 1948 UN "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime
of Genocide" (Article 1). Insisting that US contractual obligations are
fulfilled by sending a determination to the Security Council is simply a way for the
administration to wash its hands of greater responsibility.

Annan wishes to preserve the appearance of working "practically" on Darfur,
even as he hopes to minimize how conspicuously the UN Security Council is
incapable of responding to Sudan. But China's veto threat alone ensures paralysis, and
thus a further move toward appeasement (recently enthusiastically endorsed by
John Danforth, US ambassador to the United Nations). In the expedient arena of
geopolitics, in which Darfur has already been traded out, there is a perverse
convergence of US and UN political interests.

For its part, a docile and impotent European Union desperately seeks to
substitute exhortation for action, but only succeeds in making failure more
conspicuous. Japan and the Arab world are silent.

If we wish to see Darfur's future, we need only look to the past year. To be
sure, violence will abate, as so many of the tasks of genocidal destruction have
now been completed (90% of African villages have been destroyed). But 2.5
million have been displaced, and even more are dependent on international
humanitarian assistance, which in turn will lead to ever greater civilian concentrations.
Agricultural production has been virtually ended, with no prospect of
resumption---and a way of living is in the process of disappearing.

We no longer need wait for history's judgment of our failure; too many
judgments have already been clarified by the actions and inaction of the past year.

Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
ereeves@smith.edu



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