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Jewish World Review August 4, 2004 / 107 Menachem-Av, 5764

Nat Hentoff

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Who stops genocide this time? | The world by now knows that more than 30,000 black African Muslims have been slaughtered and at least 1.3 million have been driven from their homes in Darfur, Sudan, and herded into camps where fatal diseases are spreading. We know the murderers — the Arab Muslim Janjaweed. We also know that the government of Sudan in Khartoum has armed and deployed these killers, who continue to rape thousands of black African women.

The appalling culpability of the Sudanese government has been documented by Human Rights Watch's release of confidential reports from Darfur's civilian administration that reveal the direct involvement of high government officials in supporting the Janjaweed.

And Amnesty International, in its new report, "Rape as a Weapon of War," reveals that "girls as young as 8 are being raped and used as sex slaves in Western Sudan." That report includes interviews with victims and makes the incontrovertible point that these "mass rapes ... are war crimes against humanity that the international community is doing little to stop."

In America, both the House of Representatives and the Senate are trying to avoid repeating America's utterly shameful silence during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. On July 22, by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the House and Senate passed resolutions stating explicitly that the horrors in Darfur are indeed genocide.

George W. Bush, weeks ago, strongly told Gen. Omar Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir, Sudan's chronically duplicitous head of state, to rein in the Janjaweed. But since then, Bush has not focused nearly as hard on these atrocities. And Colin Powell, whose language has been much more forceful in the past, is now just calling for more diplomatic pressure on the Sudanese government rather than specific stinging punitive measures. Meanwhile, the killing of civilians and raping of women and children continue.

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U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has said he had learned from his own silent culpability in the Rwanda genocide, now claims that Al-Bashir can end what other U.N. officials in the field call "this human rights catastrophe."

However, Benny Avni reported in the July 22 New York Sun (a daily paper that has been invaluably present in Darfur) the Khartoum government is sending a police force to Darfur to "protect" surviving black Africans — and among these police protectors are recently recruited actual members of the murderous Janjaweed!

And what of the United Nations, increasingly impotent in protecting those in this world most desperately endangered? (Sudan, by the way, is a member of the United Nations' farcical Human Rights Commission.) As of this writing, an American draft resolution circulating in the U.N. Security Council threatens sanctions against the Khartoum government if it does not arrest the leaders of the Janjaweed.

But the sanctions are unspecific, and they call for "evidence" from this entirely untrustworthy Sudanese leadership within 30 days that they have, at last, fulfilled this commitment — this, after breaking many previous ones. How many more black Africans will be murdered and raped within the 30 days, and beyond?

How is the Khartoum government reacting? "Around the globe," the New York Sun reports, "oil-producing Sudan was lobbying to prevent outside pressure, playing not only the oil card but also on anti-American emotions that arose during the Iraq conflict."

While the United Nations "deliberates" as more lives are lost, Pakistan, China and Russia — the latter two members of the security Council — are urging that Khartoum be given more time to comply with whatever resolution the United Nations passes. Kofi Annan agrees, saying — as Colin Powell does — that Khartoum can muster the will, under pressure, to stop the Janjaweed, the killers that the government itself unleashed.

BBC News has been providing important coverage on Darfur, including evasive semantic debates in which governments and human rights groups are temporizing as to whether to call this catastrophe genocide. But Susannah Sirkin of Physicians for Human Rights, speaks the raw, saving truth in the July 23 New York Times: "The goal of prevention, which is paramount, cannot wait until a full legal determination is made."

On the same day, in a dispatch from BBC News, photographer Marcus Bleasdale, who reportedly took "pictures of between 30 and 40 mass graves in Darfur, in which up to 100 people had been buried," told the BBC, "As we looked along the horizon, we could see hands and heads sticking out of the trenches (of those graves)."

Of course this is genocide. It is also pure evil.

George W. Bush is not afraid of that word. Let him, right now, unlike Bill Clinton turning away from Rwanda, save lives in Darfur!

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Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights and author of several books, including his current work, "The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance". Comment by clicking here.

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