Losing Our Way in The Sudan
The problem with the Bush Doctrine lies in its relativism. We have no intention of invading every country that harbors terrorists; we're not invading every country that owns or is seeking weapons of mass destruction; and we're not invading every country ruled by brutal dictators who massacre their own people. The saddest example of this is the Sudan, where all of this is taking place.
Over 30,000 indigenous Africans have died in the war-torn Darfur region in the last 16 months, with over 1 million residents driven from their homes, and almost 2 million in urgent need of aid. Arab milita known as the Janjaweed have been uprooting and killing African farmers in the southern and western desert, a form of ethnic cleansing. Few American papers have reported on the crisis, which the UN's commissioner on human rights admits is "bordering on genocide." Colin Powell, who is as disassociated from this government as Jesse Jackson, did visit a refugee camp in the country today, which he called "horrific" and "catastrophic." UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan accompanied Powell to Sudan today, and is attempting to put diplomatic pressure on the ruling Muslim government to stop the killing. Annan has considered sending in international troops if Sudan's government can't safeguard its people, telling reporters that the international community "cannot sit idle and complain that yet again we have had mass killings."
Yet Powell, in a shocking admission of helplessness, said to reporters, "The death rate is going to go up significantly over the next several months." While the US has offered a Security Council resolution proposing sanctions against the Janjaweed militia, the resolution takes no action against the Sudanese government, who most suspect support the militia. In addition, the resolution seeks mainly to impose an arms embargo and travel ban on the Janjaweed. Um, the Janjaweed already have weapons, they don't need any more, and where exactly would they want to go? I don't think reducing the Janjaweed's vacation plans helps the situation.
The notion that you can separate the militia from the government is patently ridiculous. John Heffernan in The American Prospect quotes a refugee from Darfur:
“At around 5 a.m., helicopters and Sudanese military Antonovs circled the village,” she said. Later, four men wearing Sudanese military uniforms entered her house and took all her property, then set the house on fire.
"My husband had fled first for fear that he might be killed,” she continued, describing what appears to be a common pattern among Darfurian villagers attacked over the last several months. As the men in the village get wind of impending attacks, they flee at once -- knowing that they will be killed if they stay -- leaving the women and children behind. The male villagers know that the women will be raped, but probably not killed. That is unless they resist.
This is state-sponsored terrorism from a country that housed Osama bin Laden for 8 years. Bin Laden built the only main road in the country, which leads from Khartoum north to the Egyptian border. The Clinton Administration bombed an aspirin factory outside of Khartoum in 1998 in response to the African Embassy attacks, based on intelligence that believed the factory was producing WMD.
But Sudan's links to al Qaeda and WMD are almost beside the point. This is very much reminiscent of the massacre of Tutsis by Hutus in Rwanda in 1994, during which UN peacekeepers were powerless by mandate to intervene in the murders, and the US government stood idly by and did nothing. So far, Powell's visit at least signals the possibility that we will learn from our mistakes. However, all the diplomatic efforts to head off the possible genocide look remarkably similar to Rwanda in 1994. This is not inevitable, as Powell has said. We can make a difference. The problem is that maybe we have no troops to help, given the fact that we've just called up the Individual Ready Reserve to fill in the gaps in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is another way in which Bush's reckless foreign policy has made the world less safe.