SUDAN WATCH: U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan set up a commission to determine whether genocide has taken place in the Darfur region of Sudan. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan set up a commission to determine whether genocide has taken place in the Darfur region of Sudan. What do you think?

Jim Moore's recent post at Passion of the Present asks this:

Question: Last week, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan set up a commission to determine whether genocide has taken place in the Darfur region of Sudan. What do you think?

Copied here below, is my response, emailed to Jim a few days before he proposed in his Journal that the U.S. bomb Sudan's air force and "Janjaweed" camps - with the aim of exterminating as many people in those camps as possible.

My email was not intended as a post, and so is not as complete as I'd like, but as a co-author of Passion of the Present, I feel a need to record, in my own space, my take on things as they can't be aired at Passion of the Present.

Jim is exhorting readers of his Journal to be more aggressive and creative. I'd like to see much more focus and pressure put on Sudan's peace talks. The talks are key to a united Sudan and imho are the quickest and safest route to stopping the violence, whilst at the same time, keeping the flow of aid going into Sudan. If Sudan is attacked or any troops go in without permission, Khartoum is bound to deny access to newcomers and for could dismiss all aid workers from the country.

As an aside, there is a big to do going on here in Britain. American soldiers in Iraq have disobeyed U.S. orders to drive fuel and supplies to their buddies on the front line - saying it was too dangerous - nevermind about those stuck in the thick of things without supplies and fuel.

Now, because the British are more respected and accepted by the people in Iraq, the U.S. are asking the UK for British forces and support in Iraq and for them to come under U.S. command. At the same time, some loud voices in America are pushing for the U.S. to attack and bomb Sudan.

If the Americans can't hack it in Baghdad they wouldn't last five minutes in the heat and sand of Africa surrounded by warring militia and saber rattling bedouins.

I think the UN's setting up of a commission to determine whether genocide has taken place in the Darfur region of Sudan:

(1) acts as a three-month long stick, instead of a one-month long stick, with which to beat the regime in Khartoum into action. By extending the psychological pressure, it increases, not delays, the pressure and keeps access open for aid workers and the flow of aid. It buys another three months for psychological warfare which - if it works - will succeed within a shorter space of time than military intervention. U.S. or European military intervention without permission from Khartoum could escalate and turn into a bloodbath that could last for years, halt the peace talks, fragment Sudan, stop aid from getting through and annihilate the very people the process aimed to help.

(2) genocide could have been officially declared five months ago but would have made the U.S. and other countries morally bound to intervene militarily with troops and identify, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. By keeping diplomatic channels and lines of communication open, aid has a good chance of getting through to those most in need; provides pressure to keep peace talks going; allows international community to press for AU troops and expanded mandate; puts pressure on countries who are not paying their contributions pledged; gives international community time to gather more evidence of war crimes that will hold up in court if - and when - genocide is officially declared.

(3) in order to enter a country without its permission, you need a strong case and concrete evidence. How does one provide a cast iron case against a country where access is severely restricted? Seems impossible. When genocide is first suspected, evidence can only be gathered by intelligence services and civilians on the ground. Others on the ground may be there illegally. Aid workers may provide flimsy evidence for fear of losing their neutrality and confidence of those who need the most help, being accused of taking sides, and being denied access to those who are most in need.

Others on the ground, for example aid suppliers and distributers, might have vested interests and their perspectives may be biased. Citizens themselves could be biased and prejudiced against their attackers for all manner of reasons, or more likely be in such fear they feel too intimidated to speak out and provide evidence.

When access into a country is denied (such as Iraq and Sudan) diplomatic pressure allows observers and inspectors to legally enter a country - enabling them to look for hard evidence that will stand up in court. When a country has something hide it's like looking for a needle in a haystack - only those leading a country know where the needle is and have plenty of warning via U.N. resolutions to cover up. Suspecting - and then setting out to prove - crimes against humanity is painfully slow, laborious and time consuming, causing years of delay - that probably at this time (the way U.N. works) can't be helped and is what separates democracies from dictatorships.

Here in the West if security forces try to search a suspected criminal's home for evidence without a warrant, the evidence won't stand up in court. People who are up to no good learn how to duck, dive and survive. No trick is too low or too dirty - they see it as survival and a game where they can outwit those pose a threat.

The day the U.S. or U.N. is really forced to send in its troops -- against the will of the regime in Khartoum -- is the day genocide will be officially declared in order enter Sudan without permission. That day may never come -- which could mean genocide might not ever be officially declared.

My question is: at what point does a country lose its right to handle its own affairs and refuse help from the outside world?

At what point can security forces storm in onto private land and break down the front door of a suspected drugs baron? My guess is they'd have to watch and monitor the life and dealings of the drugs baron - and everyone else involved in the drug dealing, from growers to distributors - and gather solid evidence with which to make an arrest and succeed in stopping the drug baron's dealings. People who are suspected of crimes have rights too.

After years of weapons inspections in Iraq, countless numbers of UN resolutions against Iraq and all the while Saddam Hussein thumbing his nose at the West -- citizens of the world insisted evidence has to be concrete and documentation crystal clear. Voiciferous voters, with the aid of the media, have forced governments to make cast iron cases for intervening militarily into another country. These voters seem to be saying it is up to each country to do as it wishes in its own territory - including countries like Iraq and Sudan, regardless of the atrocities committed by genocidal dictators.

As for Darfur, by the time a cast iron case is made, the genocide will be over. And as in the case of Iraq, enough time was bought by Saddam Husseins years of stalling for WMD to be shipped out of the country and sold.

The whole U.N. process allows socio path dictators to survive - with some ending up being seen as the victims, while those who took the trouble and shouldered huge expense in terms of lives sacrificed and resources spent - to help stop atrocities from occurring - are seen, and accused of, as being the villains. It's a mad world.

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