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Thursday, September 09, 2004

It is happening again

As reported in the Christian Science Monitor, Colin Powell said something today that no member of the Bush administration has said before:
US Secretary of State Colin Powell, testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, said the situation in Darfur [Sudan]...qualified as "genocide." It was the first such declaration by a member of the Bush administration
Is it happening again?

And by that, I mean is the US (and the rest of the world) sitting back and watching a genocide, without doing much of anything to stop it?
The UN set Aug. 30 as a deadline to get the Sudanese government to disarm the Janjaweed and bring them to justice, but so far the international community has not levied any sanctions. Thursday, Powell upped the ante.

"The US will propose that the next UN Security Council resolution on Sudan request a UN investigation into all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law that have occurred in Darfur, with a view to ensuring accountability," he said.

The State Department said in a report released Thursday that the 1,136 interviews by US officials with Darfur refugees revealed a "consistent and widespread pattern of atrocities committed against non-Arab villagers." He said the evidence corroborates the specific intent of perpetrators to destroy a "group in whole or part" - using language from the 1948 genocide text.
Short version: we know enough to call it genocide, but we are still only going to recommend more study rather than action to stop it.

"Accountability" means paying for crimes after they are committed. Dick Cheney just argued that Bush administration foreign policy was pro-active, and wouldn't rely upon dated legalistic approaches regarding "criminal attacks." Of course, he was talking about terrorists striking the US, but really, what's the difference?

Innocent civilians in the Sudan are being brutally terrorized.

In the Presidential debates in 2000, Al Gore said that he regretted that the US didn't send more US troops in faster to provide "humanitarian relief measures" while hundreds of thousands of people were killed in Rwanda.

Asked the same question, George Bush said he would not have intervened to save even 600,000 people because no vital American interest was at stake. Sadly, the Clinton/Gore administration seemed to agree with this perspective at the time of the killings -- but Clinton apologized for the tardy action in March 1998.

In March 2004, Kofi Annan also apologized for the international community's "sins of omission."

As the neocons in the Bush administration have long argued, the US is the most powerful state in the world. If it says genocide is occurring, then it has a moral obligation to do something with that power to stop the crimes against humanity, even if the international law is too weak to force such action.

Visit the Amnesty International website for more information about the scope of the problem:
The reality in Darfur is that war crimes and crimes against humanity are committed with impunity and attacks by government-supported militias and government troops have led to the displacement of at least 1.2 million civilians within Darfur and an additional 200,000 refugees in Chad.

While humanitarian workers struggle to save the lives of the displaced, men, women and children remain at risk of attacks, including killings, rape and torture, by the very militia and government troops that forcibly displaced them.
The International Crisis Group provides an outline of what must be done:
History has shown that Khartoum will respond constructively to direct pressure, but this pressure must be concerted, consistent and genuine. Its sixteen-month ethnic cleansing campaign has elicited a slow-motion reaction, which is having a negligible positive impact and in some ways has made matters worse. Despite a series of high level visitors to Khartoum and Darfur, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Sudanese government has yet to fulfil its repeated commitments to neutralise the Janjaweed militias responsible for much of the violence. The international community has yet to make clear, as it must, that there will be a decisive cost to Sudan for that failure.
At minimum, tens of thousands of lives are at stake.

It is truly a global emergency of the first-order.

The Human Rights Watch webpage has a collection of very troubling photos.

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