- Nov 22, 2003
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The final countdown for Darfur looms.
Back in April, in a widely commented piece on TCS, we warned both that the impending Darfur crisis was a calamity of overwhelming proportions and that it was intrinsically linked (despite the irony of its victims being Muslims) to the same kind of pan-Arab Islamism that threatens us globally. Since then, of course, the West has been "distracted" by Islamist attacks from Gaza and from Lebanon, the latter itself a diversion of the world's attention from the creation of an Islamist holocaust weapon in Iran.
After the United States helped broker a Darfur peace deal in May, the United Nations promised to come to the rescue with a peacekeeping force capable of enforcing the accord. But, as Darfur faded from public consciousness, the world body has again proven itself utterly ineffective. As the feeble and largely symbolic African Union force (itself indifferent at best to the continuing rapes and murders) prepares to leave the region in five weeks, Darfur is on the brink of massive human killing with no international force forthcoming. The UN's own chief of humanitarian operations, Jan Egeland, conceded in a recent interview that mass murder is about to begin on a tremendous scale, while rapes and individual killings are already the rule, not the exception. (Systematic sexual violence against women, we recall, is the hallmark of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Sudanese regime's Janjaweed militia in Darfur. Even after they have been driven from their homes into wretched camps, Darfuri women still must venture out to fetch wood and water, putting themselves at risk.)
Bearing a letter from President Bush, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer recently flew to Khartoum to urge Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to accept U.N. peacekeepers for Darfur. Secretary Frazier and our nation were publicly humiliated when al-Bashir claimed he was too busy to see her. Perhaps the dictator was busy composing the note he dispatched to Dr. Frazer the next day, rejecting the conversion of the 7,000 African Union troops into part of the UN mission. Or perhaps he was personally addressing invitations to the students who were let out of school on Wednesday to stage an anti-peacekeeping rally in Khartoum. In any event, Bashir finally found a bit of time in his busy schedule to meet with America's representative last week -- after she had put off her scheduled departure -- then dismissed her cavalierly with the observation, "[a]ny state that sponsors this draft resolution [authorizing UN peacekeeping troops in Darfur] will be regarded as assuming a hostile attitude against the Sudan."
On August 28, Sudan boycotted the meeting of the Security Council at which Egeland warned that since the dubious "peace deal" signed in May, there had been a dramatic increase in violence, sexual abuse and displacement in Darfur. In response, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said he wanted a new Security Council resolution "in the next couple of days" authorizing the urgent dispatch to Darfur of a UN force of 17,500 troops and 3,000 police. Although the text still stipulates that the force will only be deployed with the consent of the Sudanese government, and despite opposition from Qatar, the only Arab member of the council, the six-page, 2,600-word resolution appears to have gained enough support to pass.
But Sudan seems intent on accelerating the massacre in Darfur: the government has actually proposed that the African Union troops depart when their mandate expires, to be replaced by 10,000 troops from the same Sudanese army that created the Janjaweed in the first place. Thus is set in place the most massive calculated campaign of slaughter, rape, and displacement since the Rwandan genocide (a slaughter that itself could have been mitigated had the then-head of UN peacekeeping, one Kofi Annan, not hamstrung General Roméo Dallaire, commander of the blue helmets in the benighted Central African country). By best estimates, at least 250,000 men, women, and children have already been killed in Darfur. At least another 2.5 million people whose homes have been destroyed have taken shelter in miserable camps partially under the watch of the African Union military that will be withdrawing. In these places -- when they are not attacked by Janjaweed -- they die from disease and slow starvation as they await mass annihilation after the African Union troops leave. As for other volunteer assistants, the murder of an aid worker with the International Red Cross -- the first ICRC staff member to meet that fate in Darfur -- sends a not-too-subtle message about the fate Bashir and his cohorts have in mind for humanitarian workers.
In fact, as the UN's own Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Hedi Annabi, recently reported to the Security Council, the Islamist regime in Khartoum is massing for a military onslaught in northern Darfur. "We have received reports that a build-up of Sudan Armed Forces in Darfur has already begun and that a number of extra battalions have been deployed in El Fasher and Nyala," Annabi reports. The only appropriate response to this move, given Bashir's obstruction, would be the deployment (under Chapter VII of the UN Charter) of a credible international force without his consent to protect the victims and their humanitarian assistants and repel the killers.
Don't hold your breath. Let's see, the UN is currently providing cover for Hezbollah re-armament in Lebanon, having brokered a ceasefire on its promise to protect the peace by disarming these terrorists, and then immediately breaking that promise. The UN is also practicing milquetoast diplomacy with respect to Tehran's impending nuclear arms build-up, which is in violation of another UN resolution that set a deadline of Thursday for the mullahs to suspend uranium enrichment activities. Now the Security Council has declined to enforce its deadline, postponing possible actions until after the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, met with Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, sometime in the middle of next week. Even in Sudan the UN appears helpless before a relatively weak, lawless country whose Islamist leadership seems intent on massacring hundreds of thousands of its citizens. Do we sense a pattern here?
Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Both are adjunct fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.