Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Opportunistic Genocide of Darfur

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has an important essay in the New York Review of Books on what he describes as the "opportunistic" genocide of Darfur. Having just returned from Sudan, he paints an utterly depressing picture:
"In my years as a journalist, I thought I had seen a full kaleidoscope of horrors, from babies dying of malaria to Chinese troops shooting students to Indonesian mobs beheading people. But nothing prepared me for Darfur, where systematic murder, rape, and mutilation are taking place on a vast scale, based simply on the tribe of the victim. What I saw reminded me why people say that genocide is the worst evil of which human beings are capable."
This essay follows on the heels of numerous other recent reports on the situation in Sudan: (1) HRW's annual report last week reporting that "In 2005, indiscriminate and targeted killings, rape, forced displacement, and looting of civilians ... at the hands of government-backed militias or 'Janjaweed'"; (2) Parade magazine's identification this week of Omar al-Bashir as the world's worst dictator; (3) Amnesty's report yesterday of dozens of national and international human rights activitists detained and harassed by the Sudanese government; and (4) first-hand, uncensored accounts of the human rights situation from aid worker and blogger at Sleepless in Sudan.
So what can be done? Sleepless in Sudan has these micro-suggestions. Kristoff in his essay offers sharp criticism of virtually everyone: the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, Russia, China, even mainstream media. Kristoff offers a few macro-suggestions, including a stronger military presence (preferably the U.N. or NATO), a stronger expression of moral outrage, and a general effort to raise the cost of what he describes as a strictly opportunistic genocide. "Sudan's leaders are not Taliban-style extremists. They are ruthless opportunists, and they adopted a strategy of genocide because it seemed to be the simplest method available. If the US and the UN raise the cost of genocide, they will adopt an alternative response, such as negotiating a peace settlement. Indeed, whenever the international community has mustered some outrage about Darfur, then the level of killings and rapes subsides."

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