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Jewish World Review August 9, 2004 /22 Menachem-Av, 5764

Nat Hentoff

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Horrors of Darfur divide the world | The foreign policy section of John Kerry's purportedly decisive speech at the Democratic convention failed to address violence against black Africans in Darfur — the most catastrophic human rights crimes since Rwanda 10 years ago. Just a week before Kerry's speech, a unanimous Congress, transcending party labels, directly accused the Sudanese government of violating the international convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide in Darfur. Meanwhile, the atrocities there are increasingly dividing the nations of the world.

From Cairo, the Arab League is conducting a campaign to prevent any meaningful sanctions on the Khartoum government in Sudan. The New York Sun quotes a "diplomat from a moderate Arab state," who, requesting anonymity, says he was ashamed at the Arab League's refusal to help stop the killings (more than 50,000 so far) and the often-repeated rapes of women and children by the government-supported Janjaweed militia.

By contrast with the Arab League, the African Union has become actively involved because of, as one AU representative recently told the BBC on July 30, "the deteriorating situation in Darfur" despite Khartoum's so-called commitment to disarm the Janjaweed. African Union monitors there (as part of its first military mission in a member state) reported seeing Janjaweed victims chained and burned alive.

According to the BBC, Rwanda, reacting to what it calls "a humanitarian crisis," says it is ready and willing to send troops as monitors. But Egypt claims it does not have enough facts on what's happening in Darfur to jump to any conclusions.

Yet the actual ghastly facts on the ground have been shown nightly on Arab satellite-TV channels. Meanwhile, the Khartoum government — reports Benny Avni in the July 30 New York Sun — has closed Al Jazeera offices in Sudan.

If this dictatorship has been really reining in the Arab Janjaweed, as it claims, why would it censor Al Jazeera? In fact, as the BBC noted on July 30, while Khartoum has trumpeted the arrest and convictions of a small number of the Janjaweed, none of the leaders of that homicidal militia have been taken into custody. The humanitarian coordinator for Sudan characterized this as "a culture of immunity" for the leadership of the Janjaweed. What about the leadership of the Khartoum government?

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The European Union is putting vigorous pressure on Khartoum, yet Algeria and Pakistan — ignoring the atrocities against their fellow Muslims in Darfur — choose solidarity with the Muslim government of Sudan. And amid the continuing killings and rapes, the sovereign nations of Russia and China have been trying to block any meaningful action against Khartoum.

Those two countries have more pressing interests, as a July 28 Wall Street Journal editorial underlines: "Russia's MiG corporation has just dispatched two new MiG-29 fighters to Sudan out of a total order of 12 fighter jets, a deal worth around $200 million. And the company badly needs the cash."

As for compassionate China, The Wall Street Journal points out, Sudan wants to increase its oil production, and vital to the plan is "Block 6, an oil field partly located in southern Darfur. ... These reserves have certainly caught Beijing's attention. The concessions for Block 6 are in the hands of the China National Petroleum Corp., the biggest foreign investor in the Sudanese oil industry."

Have John Kerry's foreign policy advisers informed him of this kind of hideous realpolitik, which he'll be dealing with should he become the principled leader of the free world?

At the U.N. Security Council, which has been thoroughly briefed on the carnage in Darfur by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other U.N. officials who have been to Darfur, the United States was pressured to remove the word "sanctions" from its proposed resolution of threatening Khartoum with punitive measures if it doesn't stop the atrocities. The Security Council members wishing to give Khartoum more time were unimpressed with a report by U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe that, as The New York Times (July 29) wrote: "United Nations staff members had interviewed 38 women and girls who said they had been raped in the past week, sometimes repeatedly, by Janjaweed fighters."

On July 30, the United Nations — with China and Pakistan abstaining — passed the U.S. resolution requiring Khartoum, within 30 days, to disarm and prosecute the Janjaweed. Khartoum says it will comply with the resolution, but adds the measure does not go beyond its previous commitments. Those, however, have already been broken.

After 30 days, there will have to be subsequent monthly reports from Khartoum to the United Nations, and probably another Security Council vote to actually insert the word "sanctions" into another resolution. The delays will likely accompany more killings and rapes, and acute hunger as the rainy season has closed more access to those driven from their homes. This entire scenario is tragically all too familiar.

Anyone remember Rwanda?

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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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