Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Darfur

Last Sunday, the Islamic Government of Sudan reached a peace agreement with a Christian rebel group based in the southern part of the country. Although this deal offers hope in tentatively ending one civil war in the embattled country, the conflict in Darfur continues.

The genocide at Darfur ranks as one of the worst human rights disasters, but few have paid much attention. One particularly telling moment occurred during the first presidential debate on Sept. 30, 2004 between President Bush and Senator Kerry, when both men veered off subject to talk about other issues while supposedly on the topic of Darfur:
LEHRER: New question, two minutes.

Senator Kerry, you mentioned Darfur, the Darfur region of Sudan. Fifty thousand people have already died in that area. More than a million are homeless. And it's been labeled an act of ongoing genocide. Yet neither one of you or anyone else connected with your campaigns or your administration that I can find has discussed the possibility of sending in troops.

Why not?

[Kerry had thrown out a line about there being genocide in Darfur when on the question of whether there might be a need for more U.S. military interventions around the globe.]

KERRY: Well, I'll tell you exactly why not, but I first want to say something about those sanctions on Iran.

Only the United States put the sanctions on alone, and that's exactly what I'm talking about.

In order for the sanctions to be effective, we should have been working with the British, French and Germans and other countries. And that's the difference between the president and me.

And there, again, he sort of slid by the question.

Now, with respect to Darfur, yes, it is a genocide. And months ago, many of us were pressing for action.

I think the reason that we're not saying send American troops in at this point is severalfold.

Number one, we can do this through the African Union, providing we give them the logistical support. Right now all the president is providing is humanitarian support. We need to do more than that. They've got to have the logistical capacity to go in and stop the killing. And that's going to require more than is on the table today.

I also believe that it is -- one of the reasons we can't do it is we're overextended.

Ask the people in the armed forces today. We've got Guards and Reserves who are doing double duties. We've got a backdoor draft taking place in America today: people with stop-loss programs where they're told you can't get out of the military; nine out of our 10 active duty divisions committed to Iraq one way or the other, either going, coming or preparing.

So this is the way the president has overextended the United States.

That's why, in my plan, I add two active duty divisions to the United States Army, not for Iraq, but for our general demands across the globe. I also intend to double the number of special forces so that we can do the job we need to do with respect fighting the terrorists around the world. And if we do that, then we have the ability to be able to respond more rapidly.

But I'll tell you this, as president, if it took American forces to some degree to coalesce the African Union, I'd be prepared to do it because we could never allow another Rwanda.

It's the moral responsibility for us and the world.

LEHRER: Ninety seconds.

BUSH: Back to Iran, just for a second.

It was not my administration that put the sanctions on Iran. That happened long before I arrived in Washington, D.C.

In terms of Darfur, I agree it's genocide. And Colin Powell so stated.

We have committed $200 million worth of aid. We're the leading donor in the world to help the suffering people there. We will commit more over time to help.

We were very much involved at the U.N. on the sanction policy of the Bashir government in the Sudan. Prior to Darfur, Ambassador Jack Danforth had been negotiating a north-south agreement that we would have hoped would have brought peace to the Sudan.

I agree with my opponent that we shouldn't be committing troops. We ought to be working with the African Union to do so -- precisely what we did in Liberia. We helped stabilize the situation with some troops, and when the African Union came, we moved them out.

My hope is that the African Union moves rapidly to help save lives. And fortunately the rainy season will be ending shortly, which will make it easier to get aid there and help the long-suffering people there.

Although the United States has pledged significant aid, it is unclear that such aid will have much impact as long as the war continues. Pledging troops is not a realistic possibility, not only because the U.S. military is already overextended, but also because Africa is not high on the world's priority list. Had this conflict been in Europe instead, we would have likely sent troops by now. Rwanda should have been a wakeup call the way the Holocaust was in Europe, but Darfur shows that this has not been the case. This neglect of Africa is unfortunate, and the continent's plight will likely continue unabated until the world really starts paying attention.

3 Comments:

Blogger Ha ha hit him again said...

Well, at least the idea of giving Iran nuclear power went unnoticed as well

1/12/2005 08:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You stumbled onto something very interesting here. For decades, Africa has been at the bottom of the watch list for most of the world. I hesitate to say if its because of racism, economics, apathy, or possibly a mixture of all three. Regardless, I hope people around the world do not just notice what is going on in Africa but also actively get involved in stopping the chaos. I am not neccasarily a supporter of foriegn intervention but if you are going to do it in other regions why not Africa as well? The US pledging 200 million dollars means absolutely nothing. Like with the tragedy that happened in South East Asia and on the East Coast of Africa, the US has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars but humanatarians haven't seen a third of it yet. Its like they have been handed a credit card, hoping they can pay off the balance with promised money in the future.

But let me be fair. Its not just the United States. Where was the world when apartheid was occuring for decades in South Africa? When the French, English, Porteguese, and other former African colony owners left Africa in the early 20th century after it raped its people and plundered their land? Where was the world's outcry for change when a holocaust (even bigger than the one of World War II) was happening in the former Congo (has it even stopped)? Where was the world...'can you put on your specs' and tell me because I can't figure it out.

1/13/2005 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger Ha ha hit him again said...

I think the problem has less to do with Africa per se but rather a recurring short-term focus by foreign policymakers that has so clouded our judgments in the past. Is there any doubt that the problems in Africa will expand and bubble up to a more "serious" level over the next fifty years? Just as we are paying the price for arming Saddam Hussein and the mujaheeden in Afghanistan, so will we ignore Africa and the developing world more generally only at our peril.

Alas, history does in fact repeat. The exclusive focus on terrorism is going to kill us in the long run. While the threat is serious, it is, I think, a manageable one if we keep mistakes like Iraq to a minimum. How much longer do we have left as the world's only superpower? The India-China rivalry for world superiority is coming, and the sooner we recoginze what the longer term place of the United States in the world will be, the better off we are.

1/13/2005 04:56:00 PM  

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