Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Then Came Darfur

As a recent PBS Frontline program opens - "The world vowed "never again" after the genocide in Rwanda and the atrocities in Srebrenica, Bosnia. Then came Darfur."

As the LA Times reports, with an upcoming trip to Sudan later this month by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Sudanese President Bashir signaled his disrespect for the institution and its intentions with a political shot across the bow.

It's a bleak day for humanity when one of the architects of the genocide in Darfur gets a promotion. In a gesture of supreme defiance of decency and international law, the Sudanese government announced Monday that it had appointed Musa Hilal, a militia leader who recruited and mobilized the janjaweed militias responsible for the carnage in Darfur, to be a special advisor to the president on ethnic affairs. It gets worse. Hilal is the third alleged war criminal to be elevated to a government post. He is under United Nations and U.S. State Department sanctions; the other two have been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

In an especially cynical move, one of the indicted has been put in charge of humanitarian aid to Darfur. Sudan also has been doing everything possible to obstruct the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers, including shooting at a clearly marked U.N. convoy this month. Appeasement and negotiation from a position of weakness have not and will not stop the thuggery of the oil-rich Sudanese regime. Only muscle will do. But the "civilized" world has done next to nothing to enforce meaningful economic sanctions, hasn't even moved to arrest the indicted war criminals and, disgracefully, has yet to provide even one of the helicopters that U.N. peacekeepers need. It's time to face facts: Unless the U.N. gets far more political, economic and military support from its posturing but so-far feckless members, it may as well pack up its blue helmets and go home.

If there was a time for the UN to live up to its charter - to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights - it is now. The atrocities being committed by Bashir and the janjaweed have been labeled genocide since 2004 by the US government yet President Bush and the UN remain slow to act. It's time for some backbone and it's time to do whatever it takes to get China (who has frequently prevented strong action on Sudan because of trade ties) on board. Multilateral sanctions against those responsible are a nice slap on the wrist but it's time we stop negotiating with a war criminal, do whatever it takes to alleviate the current cycle of genocide, and ensure the prompt prosecution of the Bashir thugs in an international court of justice.

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