On my last visit to the Darfur area in Sudan, in June, I found a man groaning under a tree. He had been shot in the neck and jaw and left for dead in a pile of corpses. . . . Under the next tree I found a 4-year-old orphan girl caring for her starving 1-year-old brother. And under the tree next to that was a woman whose husband had been killed, along with her 7- and 4-year-old sons, before she was gang-raped and mutilated. —Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times, September 11
Colin Powell, on September 9, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “Genocide has been committed in Darfur and . . . the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility, and . . . genocide may still be occurring.”
Genocide is indeed continuing, along with unabated raping of black African Muslim women by the Arab Muslim Janjaweed directed by the Khartoum government. And on September 13, the Associated Press reported that “As many as 10,000 refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region are dying from disease and violence every month in the teeming camps where they’ve taken refuge, U.N. health agency officials said Monday.” (Emphasis added.)
The United Nations remains lethally unable to stop the genocide. Its continually delaying Security Council is complicit in these crimes against humanity. As Samantha Power—author of “A Problem From Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (HarperCollins Perennial)—added on PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer on August 26:
“Even major European countries—including France and Germany—are at odds with the United States in terms of perceiving this crisis to be born of an ethnic cleansing onslaught. The French are disputing even that finding; they say it’s just tribal violence, which is born I think of their own economic and oil and realpolitik interests in the country.” (Other countries are also involved, such as China, which is heavily invested in Sudan’s oil industry.)
Moreover, as the East African Standard in Nairobi reported on September 10: “There is no appetite in the U.S. government or among other major powers for an international military deployment to try to stop the violence.”
Quoted in that story is Colin Powell: “There is nobody prepared to send troops in there from the United States or the European Union or elsewhere to put it down in the sense of an imposition force.”
On September 16, the U.N. Security Council was considering an American resolution to threaten sanctions on Sudan’s oil industry, which is vital to its economy—and to establish a commission to determine whether there is genocide in Darfur. Suddenly, Kofi Annan, mindful of his own catastrophic silence during Rwanda’s genocide, said he would set up that commission.
He added, as reported in The New York Times: “It was the first time [in the Security Council’s history] that the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide had been invoked and [it is] ‘inconceivable’ that the council would not respond.”
Annan also emphasized, however, that definitions are not important. “No matter how the crimes that are being committed against civilians are characterized or legally defined, it is urgent to take action now.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization, which is striving mightily—with other humanitarian organizations—to save lives in Darfur, says it will run out of money by the end of this month if more funds don’t come in from concerned countries. The United States has been the largest donor.
However strongly a future U.N. Security Council resolution may be worded and accepted by Khartoum, Sudan’s National Islamic Front government chronically breaks its agreements. The murdering and raping of black Africans in Darfur will continue unless there is massive world pressure that may well have to go beyond the United Nations and indeed create a coalition of nations that will use force to end what the International Crisis Group’s John Prendergast accurately calls the “most unspeakable crime in the world.”
Back on June 15, Elie Wiesel was asked by Ted Koppel on Nightline: “What is it about the human animal that allows us to bear witness to these events without doing anything about it?”
“Indifference is seductive,” the Holocaust survivor answered, “the world could save these people in Sudan, but we don’t. . . . They are still alive. Will they be alive tomorrow?”
Where are the demonstrations in the streets of American cities and towns? Where is the flood of calls, e-mails, and letters to the White House, and to individual members of Congress?
John Kerry, at the National Baptist Convention in New Orleans, in a speech hardly mentioned in the media except notably by Stanley Crouch in the September 13 Daily News, “got a standing ovation by calling on President Bush to take leadership in ‘the immediate deployment of an effective international force to disarm militia and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Darfur.’ ”
But otherwise, the unremitting genocide of these black African Muslims by Arab Janjaweed Muslims and Khartoum is absent from the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns and from American conversations.
In the September 6 Washington Post “Witness to Genocide,” editorial page editor Fred Hiatt noted that the elite Council on Foreign Relations, in panel discussions during the Democratic and Republican conventions—attended by professors, cabinet members, and pundits—did not discuss Darfur. But they “congratulated each other on how foreign policy has moved, after many years on the periphery, to the heart of this presidential campaign.”
Said Hiatt: “A million people may die, tens of thousands already have and—nothing.” On September 18, the U.N. Security Council passed a watered-down U.S.-sponsored resolution saying “it shall consider” possible oil sanctions on Sudan, but not, at the present time, any sanctions against Khartoum’s murderous leaders. If it ever does, China pledges to veto those sanctions. The genocide goes on, but what the hell, the victims are only black Africans. And Sudan remains on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 21, 2004