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Darfur: A “humanitarian” invasion?

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    Darfur crisis sparks calls for U.S. action, but can there be... A humanitarian invasion? By Lance Selfa May 5, 2006 | Page 4
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6, 2006
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      Darfur crisis sparks calls for U.S. action, but can there be...
      A "humanitarian" invasion?
      By Lance Selfa
      May 5, 2006 | Page 4

      THE ONGOING crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan brought thousands of
      people to "Stop genocide" rallies held in Washington, D.C., and cities
      across the country April 30.

      Dozens of members of Congress, prominent religious leaders and
      Hollywood entertainers lent their voices to the calls against the
      atrocities in the region, which is on the western edge of Sudan,
      bordering Chad. In stark contrast to the movement against the Iraq
      War—which most elected officials won't touch—dozens of politicians
      flocked the stage on the Capitol Mall in Washington.

      Six members of Congress were arrested April 28 protesting the Sudanese
      government's arming of paramilitary forces held responsible for
      butchering tens of thousands and for driving as many as 2 million from
      their homes. George Bush himself announced last week that he endorsed
      the April 30 rallies, saying they would send a message that "genocide
      in Sudan is unacceptable."

      An even broader coalition of groups, called the Save Darfur Coalition,
      sponsored the rallies. "The National Association of Evangelicals and
      the American Humanist Association might not agree on much," wrote
      Matthew Hay Brown in the Baltimore Sun. "When it comes to abortion or
      homosexuality, the Union for Reform Judaism and the U.S. Conference of
      Catholic Bishops find themselves on opposite ends of the debate. But
      when the subject is genocide in Darfur, all are on the same page."

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      THE CRISIS that these unlikely allies are responding to began in 2003,
      when two Darfuri rebel forces, the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and
      the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), launched an uprising against
      the military regime in the capital of Khartoum. The SLA and JEM,
      Muslim farmers who identify as African, were fed up with the Islamic
      central government's neglect of the region and its efforts to
      "Arabize" the population of Darfur.
      In response, the Sudan government, taking advantage of ethnic and
      class divisions within Darfur, armed militias composed of nomadic
      livestock traders who identify as Arabs, to attack the rebels. The
      result has been three years of a scorched-earth campaign that
      displaced millions, killed as many as 200,000 and drove an estimated
      200,000 to seek refuge in UN sponsored camps in Chad.

      In 2004, the United Nations (UN) Security Council demanded that Sudan
      disarm the militias and reach a peace settlement with the rebels. The
      UN authorized, and Sudan agreed to, an African Union peacekeeping
      force in Darfur, but of no more than 7,000.

      At the same time, Sudan has stonewalled UN attempts to deliver
      humanitarian aid. And the "international community" that pledged more
      than $600 million to help the refugees has not come through. Just last
      week, UN aid officials announced that because of funding shortfalls,
      they would have to cut food rations for refugees from 2,100 calories a
      day to a near-subsistence level of 1,050 calories a day.

      This terrible situation has received no help from the Bush
      administration, which refused to label the attacks in Darfur
      "genocide" until the 2004 election campaign, when it changed its
      rhetoric to curry favor with the religious right.

      The Bush administration came to power in 2001 determined to normalize
      relations with a Sudanese government and open its oil-rich South to
      Western investment. For that reason, it sought to force a settlement
      between the Sudanese government and Christian and animist rebels in
      the South, which had endured a separate decades-long scorched-earth

      In 2003, just as Sudan and the Southern rebels were concluding a
      tentative agreement, the uprising in Darfur erupted.

      Since then, the U.S. has played a double game in Darfur. It has called
      for a stepped-up NATO presence, while enlisting the Sudanese
      government in the "war on terror."

      Last year, the U.S. government hosted a secret visit by Gen. Salah
      Abdullah Gosh, head of Sudan's secret police, who has worked with the
      CIA's covert "rendition" program and other secret operations against
      Islamic militants. "Their competence level as a service is very high,"
      a State Department official told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't
      survive in that part of the world without a good intelligence service,
      and they are in a position to provide significant help."

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      FOR ALL of these reasons—the horrific conditions in Darfur, the Bush
      administration's indifference, and the sense that "something must be
      done"—many thousands of ordinary people want to express their
      solidarity with the people of Darfur.
      But we should also ask about what these thousands of people are
      demanding. To answer this question, we have to take a look at the
      organizations that have rallied around the Darfur issue and formulated
      the demands made of the Bush administration.

      As noted above, the coalition for Darfur covers a spectrum from the
      Religious Right to the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). While
      some may laud this ideological diversity as a strength, it's clear
      that it narrows the coalition's demands to what will be acceptable to
      such an ideologically diverse group.

      To judge from the coalition's "talking points," what is acceptable is
      a series of calls on the Bush administration, Congress and the UN
      that, added together, ask for "humanitarian" military
      intervention—through a "UN peacekeeping force" and providing
      "significant help" to African Union peacekeepers "with its
      command-and-control structure and intelligence operation."

      What's noteworthy about these demands is that they almost all revolve
      around some kind of military intervention. There is not even a single
      demand calling for the U.S. to spend money to support humanitarian aid
      in Darfur.

      It may be argued that this militaristic tone is all that the Save
      Darfur Coalition can agree on. But it's worth noting that the liberal
      Progressive Democrats of America's action plan for Darfur echoes this
      tone: "Impose an embargo on Sudanese ports, an arms embargo on the
      government of Sudan, and implement economic and travel sanctions
      against key individuals; deploy adequate numbers of peacekeepers to
      Darfur under the auspices of NATO; impose a No-Fly-Zone over Darfur."
      The PDA sound like the real hawks!

      Seeing these demands, it becomes easier to understand how ardent
      Zionists and Iraq war hawks like Rep. Tom Lantos and Elie Wiesel can
      be lining up with Iraq war critics like actor George Clooney to
      protest the Darfur atrocities. To them, protesting the atrocities in
      Darfur—against an Islamic military regime, it should be remembered—is
      part of the "war on terrorism."

      Lantos, a Holocaust survivor and one of the members of Congress
      arrested on April 28, is a major supporter of Plan Colombia—the latest
      military offensive in Colombia that has contributed over the years to
      the displacement of 3 million people—and of Israel.

      The Jewish newspaper Forward reported that the Save Darfur Coalition
      is "an umbrella organization of more than 150 religious and human
      rights groups" with "a disproportionately Jewish presence."

      Many of these groups are prominent supporters of Israel—despite the
      Israeli government's record of maintaining squalid refugee camps for
      Palestinians, starving out communities and attacking civilians with
      helicopter gunships. These are all atrocities that the Sudanese
      government and its allies in Darfur have conducted against the
      civilian population there.

      If the more conservative forces in the Save Darfur coalition are
      pressing the Bush administration to intervene in Darfur, they are
      following the same logic of the neoconservatives who criticized Bush
      for "selling out" port security in its Dubai deal—or who think Bush
      should foster regime change against the government of Saudi Arabia,
      instead of "coddling" it because of its oil wealth.

      Unfortunately, when liberals and even radicals sign on to this
      program, they are giving the conservatives a cover and "human rights"
      credentials they don't deserve.

      What's more, we can't rule out the possibility that the Bush
      administration will decide U.S. interests are better served by
      scrapping its double game, and shifting to open support of the Darfur
      rebels and direct intervention in Sudan. Bush's endorsement of the
      April 30 rally suggests this possibility.

      The liberal supporters of "humanitarian intervention" will have
      provided the Bush administration with an excuse for a new war.

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      IF THE Darfur issue is truly about helping the people of Darfur—and
      not about giving the U.S. military (or NATO or the African Union or
      the UN) a humanitarian excuse to intervene in Sudan—then the movement
      should aim at helping the people of Darfur.
      First, we should demand that the U.S. increase the level of
      humanitarian assistance to the region. It's scandalous that UN relief
      efforts are being cut back because of funding shortfalls.

      Second, we can demand that the U.S. break its covert ties with the
      Sudanese government and its security services. How can a movement
      demand that the leaders of Sudan's security services be considered war
      criminals while it refuses to criticize the U.S. government's
      collaboration with the same war criminals in the "war on terror"?

      Third, we can demand that the U.S. and the EU open their borders to
      Darfur refugees. In the 2006 fiscal year, only 20,400 people from the
      entire continent of Africa will be allowed to immigrate to the U.S.

      Those who say that these demands aren't "realistic" should ask
      themselves why calls for a "no-fly zone" or military intervention,
      under whatever flag, are deemed "realistic" or even "humanitarian"

      The record of "humanitarian intervention" includes the 1999 NATO war
      over Kosovo, which killed thousands of innocent people, and has left
      NATO occupying Kosovo. When the U.S. intervened in Bosnia and
      Croatia—allegedly to stop ethnic cleansing—it orchestrated the largest
      act of ethnic cleansing during the entire war in the former
      Yugoslavia, 1995's "Operation Storm" that drove 200,000 Serbs out of
      their homes in Croatia.

      In 1992, the U.S. invaded Somalia, allegedly to help starving
      Somalians. Instead, it tried to create a U.S.-friendly government and
      became locked into a war with Somali warlords. Thousands of ordinary
      Somalians perished at the hands of the U.S. military. And revelations
      of barbarous racism against Somalis, including rape and murder at the
      hands of UN peacekeeping forces, further sullied this "humanitarian

      That's not even to mention what the U.S. is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      This is the real record of the U.S. military—and it shows the
      injustice that any military intervention in Darfur is certain to involve.

      Michele Bollinger contributed to this article.



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