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The West Is Complicit In The Genocide In Darfur

From: Adam LeBor To: Shmuel Rosner Dear Shmuel, Thanks for your thoughtful response. Once again you raise some good points, the most crucial of which is the Big Question: the United Nations — Angel or Satan? The case for the … Read More

By / June 12, 2008

From: Adam LeBor

To: Shmuel Rosner

Dear Shmuel,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. Once again you raise some good points, the most crucial of which is the Big Question: the United Nations — Angel or Satan? The case for the prosecution is heavy indeed: Bosnia, Rwanda and now, Darfur. And, as you say, the same mechanisms that prevented, and prevent, any meaningful action on these crises still hampers any decision on Iran. No matter how many times the International Atomic Energy Authority warns that Iran is not co-operating over its nuclear programmes the UN seems powerless to act. Member states — and especially the five permanent members of the Security Council: the US, Great Britain, Russia, China and France — still act in accordance with their national interests and realpolitik triumphs over any hazy ideas of humanitarian internationalism. We live in a world of nation-states, and have done so since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which set out the principles of territorial integrity and non-intervention.

Except when the opposite suits. Jumping back to Bosnia, you absolutely right to point out that "Clinton didn’t really move in the Balkans until he was certain that political damage will be greater if he didn’t act, than the possible damage if he does." By the summer of 1995, it was clear that the daily humiliations that the Bosnian Serbs were meting out to NATO troops were severely damaging the western alliance's credibility and self-respect. Moscow was watching and laughing. Clinton finally pushed to bomb the Bosnian Serbs as much to save NATO as to save Bosnia. And here, once again, the UN's report into Srebrenica, provides an interesting footnote.

The war in Bosnia began in spring 1992. Western powers repeatedly argued that there was no mandate to intervene to stop the killing. But when NATO did finally bomb the Bosnian Serbs, they needed some legal authorisation. They found it in Security Council resolution 836 that mandated UN peacekeepers to "deter attacks" on the safe areas such as Srebrenica. Resolution 836 was passed in June 1993. For two years American, British and other diplomats had argued that this resolution (which they had more or less crafted) did not provide a mandate to intervene in Bosnia. But when NATO's credibility became the key issue — instead of the lives of starving, ragged, Bosnians — Resolution 836 was suddenly re-interpreted. A miracle! It did allow for intervention.

The pattern continues today. Let's focus briefly on Darfur as an example. For the past five years Sudan has been carrying out a campaign of genocide in Darfur. And yes, it is genocide. Contrary to popular belief, genocide does not mean mass extermination, either industrial, such as the Holocaust or, by hand, such as happened in Rwanda in 1994. It means the intentional destruction of a group. The group here is the civilian population of Darfur, of whom about 300,000 have been killed, or died of hunger or disease, and more than two million displaced from their homes. This campaign is thoroughly planned and executed by the Sudanese government, using its own armed forces and paramilitaries known as the 'Janjaweed.' Just as happened in the Holocaust, many of the victims die from the decisions of the 'desk-murderers,' in this case the Sudanese officials and ministers who deliberately obstruct relief and medical supplies to the victims.

Meanwhile China bankrolls Sudan, supplies its weapons and military equipment, and keeps the Sudanese economy afloat by buying its oil. The US, and to a lesser extent Britain and France, make a lot of noise about Darfur and the need to stop the killing. Even the Bush administration has talked tough on Darfur. It's to America's credit that unlike in Europe, where the left is obsessed with Israel/Palestine to the exclusion of almost everything else, there is a vocal Darfur solidarity movement. But one not powerful enough to actually influence policy.

The west is complicit in the genocide in Darfur. The key to stopping the slaughter in
Darfur lies in Beijing as much as Khartoum. Western diplomats would have you believe that China is some great, immovable behemoth, impervious to criticism and incapable of altering her policies. That's complete nonsense. China has never been as vulnerable: under the human rights spotlight during the preparations for the Olympics, its coming-out on the world stage.

Now is the time for sustained pressure from the United Nations, to get the peacekeepers into the field, to get the relief supplies to those whose lives depend on them. And for sustained pressure on China to stop bankrolling Sudan. Neither of these are happening. Western governments play safe with China because it is the biggest market in the world. We need to sell to China, sure, but China also needs our computers, aircraft and cars. But tragically, there is no political will to even use the leverage that we have.

Faced with these circumstances it's hard to be optimistic about any kind of meaningful reform of the UN. The new Human Rights Council, which replaced the discredited Human Rights Commission, shows how western concepts of human rights are being ever more marginalised. The council, whose agenda is dominated by Islamic and Arab countries, is obsessed with Israel. Only a handful of resolutions passed at the May 2008 session were concerned with specific countries. Four of these condemned Israel. Sudan, and Burma, for example, got one each.

We can doubtless look forward to more of the same, when, next year, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Cuba take their seats. Increasingly, it seems to me, that the United Nations, which was supposed to unite the world in a drive to protect human rights, is now the forum where human rights abusers find support and sustenance. All of which raises the question of why the west, and the United States in particular, which pays 22 per cent of the UN's budget, keeps funding hate-fests for those states who have diametrically opposed ideas to ours about the meaning of the words 'human rights.' I have always thought the UN could be reformed but increasingly, I am starting to have doubts. Perhaps it's time to start thinking about an "League of Democracies" after all.

Very best,

Adam

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