Tuesday, October 11, 2005

History repeats in Darfur

History is repeating in Darfur. Yesterday US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton blocked the UN Security Council from hearing the report of UN special advisor on preventing genocide Juan Mendez on atrocities in the Sudan. Mendez was going to report that the Sudanese had done nothing to prevent the killings in Darfur, and had allowed a "culture of impunity" to flourish - and recommend that the Security Council members (including the US) make good on their pledges to provide equipment to African Union peacekeepers. More importantly, he was going to recommend that pressure be stepped up to force the Sudan to cooperate with the International Criminal Court. Instead, Bolton allied with Algeria, China, and Russia - three countries who have consistently dragged their feet on Darfur - to block the briefing:

Bolton said he had objected to the briefing to make the point the council should be "talking more about the steps it can take to do something about the deteriorating security situation" in Darfur. He gave no new proposals.

But there's more to it than just opposition to the ICC. This briefing could have led to a determination that the atrocities in Darfur amounted to genocide - something which under international law would demand action from the UN and the international community. But US policy is to oppose any action by the UN unless it is meets stringent financial requirements and is directly relevant to US interests. And for all its chest-beating, the US has no interests in Darfur, and thus opposes any UN action there - whether it requires US assistance or not.

If this seems familiar, it is exactly what the Clinton administration did over Rwanda. History is repeating, and once again its the people of Africa who are suffering from US selfishness.


Note that I'm not necessarily advocating military intervention in Darfur; as I've said before, while I think it is justifiable (or at least was when that post was written; the facts on the ground may have changed), I also don't think its a practical solution. But there's a world of difference between that - acknowledging the moral problem and the imperitive for action, while recognising the practical limitations on such action - and the US position of blocking any acknowledgement because it would put them on the spot and they don't really give a damn. I'll also note that given the US's eagerness to call what is going on in Darfur "genocide", their blocking of Mendez is especially shameful; it makes it crystal clear that either they're not interested in the facts, or that the purpose of such chest-beating has all along been to bash the UN for "inaction", rather than anything to do with the actual problem.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/11/2005 04:36:00 PM

I agree. Shameful.

Posted by Muerk : 10/11/2005 05:12:00 PM

"the US has no interests in Darfur, and thus opposes any UN action there - whether it requires US assistance or not."

I am not sure your critique makes sense - the US called genocide geocide if they didnt care they wouldn't do it - their are many other potential ways to reconcile that with their actions here.

Furthermore the UN does not LACK information regarding Sudan. the fact that they dont have the breifing means basically nothing in terms of facts (afterall you know what his recomendation was going to be!) it only is relevant in as far as it might have sparked some sort of beurocracy into having a discussion that might have lead to somthing (but probably wouldn't have).

Having said that maybe the US should have played by the rules and sacrificed long term goals for short term moral high ground.
and HAVING SAID THAT it is probably a futile task - as long as Russia China and Algeria dont want to do anything (and everyone else is ambivilent) I presume they have the power to block any action.
I also understand that China has strategic interests in the region.

Posted by Genius : 10/11/2005 09:38:00 PM

I actually spent some time debating with a person a while ago who insisted the USA DID have a strategic interest in the oil and gas of sudan and that is why they supported the genocide of the black people (or somthing along those lines).

Posted by Genius : 10/12/2005 05:57:00 AM

I think you just fell into the beurocratic trap.

"if they don't officially receive Mendez' report and recommendation then they don't have to officially respond to it. "

Your statement implies the legitimacy of inaction in the face of genocide in the "they don't have to" part. I suggest we dont give that sort of a defense legitimacy at all.

I would suggest they SHOULD have to respond to it (or more precisely the actual genocide itself as opposed to the report) regardless. If you know genocide is occuring then it is irrelevant that form X or Y has not been filled in. Next step is to explain how you will stop it it is not as if they are swamped with more important things than genocide to deal with.

This is rather like when you go to a university to make a complaint and they tell you to fill in form x and Y etc etc. If you follow the proceedure to the letter you will be burried in the system so long by the time you exit it you have forgotten what the problem was.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/12/2005 02:33:00 PM

Sock Thief: then you'd expect the US to make some proposals. Instead, it seems they are fighting to prevent official recognition and a determination of genocide (despite having banged that drum loudly), because it would then create a legal requirement to act.

As for Rwanda, here's some interesting quotes:

From Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century, by Jonathan Glover:

The UN lacked the ability to act without the support of its more powerful members, notably the United States. the American government wanted to avoid a repetition of its unsuccessful intervention in Somalia, in which thirty American troops were killed. President Clinton issued a directive on UN military operations. American support was dependent on demanding financial and military conditions. The operations would also have to be directly relevant to American interests. These conditions excluded American support for UN intervention to stop the genocide.

There is a legal obligation to take action against genocide and the Clinton administration was worried about this. State Department officials were instructed not to use the word 'genocide' about Rwanda. At the United Nations, the United States blocked a resolution authorizing the use of up to 5,500 men because of reluctance to involve American troops. Later, 6,800 troops and police were sent, mainly from Africa and after delays caused by arguments over the finances. The Security Council followed the American lead and avoided using the word 'genocide'. The upshot was humanitarian aid instead of effective police action.

From BBC's Panorama documentary, When good men do nothing:

The ultimate insults to the dying are now well known. The US State Department's spokeswoman Christine Shelley - acting on orders - declined to use the term "genocide" unqualified, insisting on saying only "acts of genocide" were occurring.

The department's legal team feared that recognising the G Word would oblige the US to intervene because of the UN Genocide Convention. In fact the convention mandates no such thing, merely makes it a possibility. The lawyers knew this but politicians feared the public wouldn't follow such subtle reasoning.

Then, when the UN did decide to summon up an intervention force, the US delayed over the despatch of armoured vehicles. The arguments ranged from what colour to paint the vehicles to who would be paying for the painting.

I think this speaks for itself about US foreign policy priorities over Rwanda, and the parallels are there for all to see.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/14/2005 09:19:00 AM