Friday, September 22, 2006

The Politics and Presumptions of the 'Save Darfur' Campaign....

Although I don't agree with all his views, 'Lenin' writes a pretty good blog. There are a couple of good articles on 'Lenin's Tomb' on the recent 'Save Darfur' campaign. There were also a couple of good pieces in the Graun by Simon Jenkins and Jonathan Steele. I would have a minor quibble with Lenin for his support of one of the rebel factions, but on the whole he is spot on here. Do read the links from his post too, they are very interesting.

The mentality of the campaigners appears to be at best naivety (at least on the part of the third world supporters), and at worst a very patronising form of white liberal guilt with a dash of post colonialism. Things are not as black and white as the media portrays them (i.e Arab militias/nomads bad, African farmers/rebels good). Neither has it been a simple case of Arab v. African. Contrary to the common wisdom that may have been received, one of the leading rebel groups is an Islamist one, as 'Lenin' pointed out. And all the people involved are Africans, whatever their other ethnic make up.

Few wars are ever as simplistic as today's media portrays them, with the simplistic good and evil divide. There are inevitably shades of grey. For example, Bosnian Muslims were the West's good guys in the Yugoslav tragedy. Yet the Western media did not mention that Itzebegovic, the man they supported, had been a supporter of the Nazis during WWII. Nor that he wished for Bosnia to be an Islamic State with all that would have entailed. He was far from the tolerant multiculturalist they portrayed him to be. Bosnian Serbs had always lived in the region side by side with Muslims. Yet they were portrayed as invaders and only Muslims were granted the title of 'Bosnian'. The Western media failed to address the fact that acts of ethnic cleansing had occured with Serbs as the victims of Muslim death squads. Much was made of Serbian prison camps, and the likening them with Hitler's death camps was a recurrent theme. Yet few people cared to mention the fact that every side had prison camps. Franco Tudjman of Croatia was a far more virulent nationalist than Slobodan Milosevic, and was responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from the Krajina region in the republic. He was also known for nostalgia for the Nazi puppet Ustashe regime, and it's paraphenalia. Yet this outspoken racist was the West's man, aided by the German State. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) aimed for an ethnically pure Albanian State. They not only targetted Serbs but Jews and Roma.
These guys moved from being terrorists (which was Washingtons first description) to 'freedom fighters' when it was deemed to be in the interests of the West. Sadly some of the left fell for this too, and praised the neo fascist KLA as being national liberation warriors. There were atrocities on every side of this brutal war, which the demonisation of the Serbs would not allow for.

Truth is always the first casuality of war. Darfur is no exception, and it's coverage and motivation of Western concern should be treated with as much scepticism as the Balkans should have been (and in fact were by the more discerning and intellectual left at the time). For one, the rebel factions have committed atrocities too. The conditions that have led to this war are complex, but one factor that has pitted nomad tribes against settled farmers is an ecological one. There has been a shortage of resources, mostly water in the wake of a drought. If global warming continues as predicted then we can sadly expect more wars over resources or lack thereof.

'Genocide' has been thrown about so indiscrimately that the term is getting close to losing it's meaning. It was defined after WWII to give a name to the Nazi Holocaust. It meant a deliberate and calculated policy of ethnic cleansing, or other measures that would have the desired result of eradicating an entire race or ethnic group. The definition is framed not in terms of result but rather intention. This is what makes it difficult to prove. This is why Saddam Hussein has not yet been found guilty of it in regards to Kurds or Shias, and why Milosevic languished so long in jail before dying of natural causes. Despite the cries of the campaigners for intervention in the Darfur region, there is no evidence that genocide is taking place there. The United Nations have not accepted that it is. Rather it has been a bloody civil war where as so very often civilians have not been distinguished from rebels. If this is what defines genocide then the British and US governments would be in the dock, even for crimes as far back as Vietnam where entire villages were destroyed on the grounds that they were harbouring Vietcong. Israel would be in the dock for failing to discrimate between Palestinian civilians and combatants. But this is not what defines the term.

In fact, the concept of genocide is very prone to manipulation for political ends, which is why it perhaps should be gotten shot of (although it is doubtful the establishment will drop it as it serves well as a propaganda tool, conjuring up visions of SS squadrons). War crimes should perhaps simply be called war crimes in the 21st century for those who wish to be even handed. For one, proving the intent of a group or government is no easy task, as has been shown. The end result of a war crime (namely mass death) is easier to show and more convictions would result. But the West would not want this as they could more easily find themselves taken to task for it. The United States has in fact consistently opposed the creation of a criminal court where itself would not be exempt.

To take another example of manipulation of 'genocide' for propaganda purposes - the massacre of Muslim men by Serb militias at Srebenica is used as a prime example. Yet, unlike many of the other crimes during that war, this was in fact one where the perpertrators did in fact make at least *some* distinction between combatants and civilians. Women and children were evacuated, while men of combatant age were lined up and killed. Tudjman's death squads in Krajina, on the other hand, made no such distinction. This is not apologising for the crime, just pointing to the facts which the media underplayed. The Western media also failed to point out that only the centre of the town was demilitarised. The outskirts were still being used as bases from where Muslim militias would raid Serb villages. Before the massacre took place the major combatants fled the region and left the rest of the men to their fate. It is not unlikely that the crime was played up to prompt public support for Nato intervention in Bosnia, and that Itzebegovic and his militias knowingly sacrificed the town for this purpose. The whole tragedy aided the West in their support for the break up of the former Yugoslavia. The demonisation of the Serbs was in their interest as they were the only force in the region who opposed this, much to their own long term cost.

Krajina seems to fit the definition of genocide more easily than does Srebenica but this is not the view of Western governments or the medias. A prime example of the problematic nature of the term. Likewise, accordinmg to the United States, Srebenica was an act of 'genocide' whereas Falluja (where US troops decimated a large proportion of an entire city with the aid of chemical weapons) was not. Faulty logic and definitions.

Back to Darfur - To have Western troops in the region would be a disaster. It seem the powers that be are aware that invading another Muslim would not be a good public relations exercise, and they are already tied up elsewhere anway. Hence they suggest bringing blue helmets from India or Bangladesh.

One cannot blame the Sudanese government for not wanting the United Nations in their country. The United States attacked Korea under a UN mandate, and sanctions on Iraq were done on UN auspices. Sudan has long been aware of the West's hostility to it. The US bombing of the pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum is not that long ago. The country was accused of harbouring terrorists, notably Bin Laden. It is not paranoia to suggest that the West may have strategic or other interests in the area, such is always the case everywhere else where there is talk of invasion. Rather it is naivety on the part of the 'pro war' left to take their 'humanitarian' rhetoric at face value.

Why do the 'muscular liberals' not call for intervention in Burma, or the Congo where a war has been raging for over a decade? What is different about the Sudan? The media attention given to it, maybe?

A perceived case of Arab racism against Black Africans is the rationale, which is far too simplistic. It fails to address the causes behind the war and the history of the region.

But in practicality I would not take the view that nothing should be done. I tend to go along with Steeles view, that the African Union Mandate should be extended with financial and some military (not personnel) back up from the United Nations is given. The Sudanese government does not appear to have a problem with this.

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