14 March 2007

Well, of course, it is Bush's fault

This blog has been writing about the situation in Darfur for a couple of years now. There have been so many postings that all I can suggest is that our readers find them through the search machine. The tenor of our comments was to point out that the UN, that body that claims the moral high ground has managed to achieve nothing at all; that the EU has sent millions of euros in aid that, undoubtedly, was spent on arming the janjaweed militias; that the African Union forces went in there and did nothing at great expense to the international community; and that the Archbishop of Canterbury should have spoken out on the subject during his visit to Sudan, instead of wittering on about the war in Iraq.

Of course, the real problem with Darfur has always been the obvious one of what can the international community do? There is only one thing: stop all aid to Sudan (and I mean all aid, including any money that might go through NGOs to alleged humanitarian purposes) and refuse to renew it until the militias are fully and demonstrably disarmed.

Since Sudan and Darfur, in particular, are seriously impoverished, some help might have to be given when the militias are disarmed but this will have to be done under strict supervision with clearly defined rules of audit and accountability.

This might or might not help. Anything else will not. The notion that the Chinese will simply pick up the tab is erroneous. The Chinese do not give aid. They will go on buying oil from Sudan thus providing money and arms but they will not simply hand over lard wodges of dosh the way we do in the West.

All of which is far too hard-headed to appeal to the new breed of “Darfurians” as Professor Edward Bernard Glick calls them. These are people, mostly on the Left, who have suddenly realized that nasty things are going on in Darfur and have become all agitated about it (having ignored the subject for several years). They are demanding instant action. From everyone. The US Government. The European Union. But, especially, the US Government. Because it is probably President Bush’s fault.

I imagine most of our readers recall the sudden vogue in demonstrations, led by Hollywood fruitcake George Clooney (and others) with placards that said: “Out of Iraq and Into Darfur”.

Why? Who knows? Does this mean that George Clooney, who seems to have forgotten this particular cause, and other Darfurians actually want US troops to move into Darfur and sort the mess out? What if they do so and do not succeed in doing it in a couple of weeks? Will the same people demand that the same US troops pull out immediately because they are a greater danger to world peace than everybody else in the world put together?

It has come. Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian makes it quite clear that if only Bush had not sent those troops into Iraq, the world would have done something about Darfur long ago. It is all Bush’s fault, I tell ya.

Fourteen UN humanitarian agencies signed a “collective statement on behalf of the people of western Sudan” in January and it has been “roundly ignored”. That may have something to do with the fact that it is not clear what all these humanitarian agencies, who have been thronging western Sudan, actually want done.

Jonathan Freedland is no help. He starts the article by referring back to the war in Bosnia and the heartbreak of journalists who did not manage to get anyone to take interest in their stories (actually, they weren’t very good). What he does not say is that the situation was more or less sorted out by NATO troops led by the United States and Britain. Is that what is needed in Sudan? Um, well, wouldn’t go as far as that.

The agencies in question merely wailed about the undeniable horrors that have been going on, which some of us tried to write about while the agencies assured us that they will go in and sort matters out.

Who is to blame? (That, too, is a title of an influential novel, this one by Alexander Herzen.) Firstly, says Mr Freedland fairly, it is
the government of Sudan, which UN human rights investigators this week accused of "gross and systematic" abuses, orchestrating and participating in a campaign of violence that has seen, at a conservative estimate, 200,000 people killed and 2 million displaced. Officially, this has been done in the course of a civil war against rebels in Darfur, who are guilty of their own atrocities. But the UN human rights council was quite clear: the "principal pattern" was of violence committed by the Sudanese government and its allies in the Arab Janjaweed militias.
Why can it not be stopped, asks Mr Freedland? What has happened to liberal interventionism, articulated by Mr Blair at the time of the Yugoslav war (not that he uses that expression) has moved to Kosovo? It lies in shreds, apparently.
It's not as if the international community has done nothing. In August last year the UN passed resolution 1706, agreeing to upgrade the small African Union force of 7,000 troops that was attempting to police Darfur - a territory nearly the size of France - with a UN deployment of 22,500. Such "heavy support", in both personnel and hardware, would have made a vital difference, standing between the Khartoum-backed predators and their Darfuri prey.

Of course, the Sudan government refused to have even that rather miniscule force, given the size of the territory in question and the complexity of the situation. Ah but it could have been so different if … well, if we did not have President Bush, the fount of all evil:
Back in the prelapsarian days of 1999, when Tony Blair went to Chicago to evangelise for liberal interventionism, the response to this closed door would have been to suggest that the rest of the world, led by the west, should bust its way in. But that was before the calamity of Iraq, which has tainted for a generation the Blairite doctrine of muscular humanitarianism. So no one talks seriously about military action against Khartoum now, not least because Bashir's government is an Islamist one - and a western war against such a regime would look uncomfortably like confirmation of the clash of civilisations that both Blair and President Bush insist does not exist.
Well, there are many other reasons why no one talks seriously about military action against Khartoum now but let that pass. Has Mr Freedland seriously thought about it?

Meanwhile, back on the SaveDarfur website they are demanding that people sign petitions so that the UN and the EU will do something about Darfur. President Bush should unveil his Plan B, they scream. Fair enough but if Plan B will involve military action? Who is going to carry it out?

The demands for action are the same, whether they are directed at Ban Ki-moon or President Bush, who is somehow tasked with doing something about the mess, which is probably his fault.
President George Bush:

Every day, the 2.5 million people chased from their homes in Darfur face the threat of starvation, disease, and rape, while the few lucky enough to remain in their homes risk displacement, torture and murder. Therefore, we call on you to do the following:

Strengthen the understaffed and overwhelmed African Union peackeeping force already in Darfur.

Push for the deployment of a strong UN peacekeeping force.

Increase humanitarian aid and ensure access for aid delivery.

Establish a no-fly zone.
Cutting off aid would be much cheaper and, probably, more effective. But that would deprive all those UN humanitarians of the high moral ground.

Nothing daunted, the German Green Party has also launched an on-line petition that calls “on Chancellor Merkel to use Germany´s EU presidency to take strong political action to help end the violence in Darfur”. Back to the same problem. What is Chancellor Merkel of, indeed, the EU going to do that would appeal to die GrĂ¼ne?

After all, they disapprove of military action, though, presumably, if it comes in blue helmets it is all right. But those blue helmets have not been particularly efficient anywhere else and their own behaviour in Sudan and other countries has been distinctly off-colour.

Besides, the UN cannot even begin to finance the sort of army that is needed to deal with Sudan. Right, who then? And what are they to do when they get there?

The United States, of course, though this time under the auspices of the “international community” that has signally failed to deal with this or any other problem. Obviously, what the American troops must not do is to try to impose any American ideas as to how the country should be run and their commander will have to ask the Archbishop of Canterbury for advice on what matters and what does not.

Equally obviously, their main effort will be to protect all those humanitarian agencies, though, naturally, they will reserve the right to scream abuse and to “distance themselves” from the militarism of the United States and its allies.

Or there is our suggestion of Plan B: cut off that aid until the militias are disarmed. Then we can talk. I don’t suppose those humanitarian agencies are going to listen to this.