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The War on Genocide


“[W]e have concluded that genocide has taken place in Darfur,” a statement issued by the White House Office of the Press Secretary on behalf of the American President affirmed September 9. “We urge the international community to work with us to prevent and suppress acts of genocide. We call on the United Nations to undertake a full investigation of the genocide and the other crimes in Darfur.” (“Statement by the President“)


This statement went on to note that the “Government of Sudan has not complied with UN Security Council resolutions,” and “only outside action can stop the killing.” The U.S. Government “will seek to ban flights by Sudanese military aircraft in Darfur.”

“The world cannot ignore the suffering of more than one million people.”

This presidential statement was released the same day the American Secretary of State delivered a longer version of the same before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (See both Colin Powell’s Prepared Statement (2004/954) as well as the Transcript of his general remarks (2004/955), Sept. 9.) Both were accompanied by the U.S. Department of State’s publication of a glossy—and brief—new report, Documenting Atrocities In Darfur (State Publication 11182, September, 2004). And over the course of September 9 and 10, American representatives corralled representatives of the other 14 members of the UN Security Council for closed-door sessions to lobby for what Associated Press called a “tough draft resolution threatening oil sanctions against Sudan,” one that also would demand an “inquiry into whether genocide was being carried out against black Africans by Arab-militias that Washington says are backed by Sudan’s government. An international panel would conduct the probe,” AP added. (“Gerald Nadler, “U.S. threat of sanctions against Sudan meets opposition,” Sept. 10.)

A “rare move” was how the Baltimore Sun characterized the Bush Administration’s new War on Genocide. This move sharpens “American attention to what a new State Department report calls ‘the worst humanitarian and human rights crisis in the world today’,” said the Boston Globe. The move “ratchets up pressure on Sudan’s government,” the Financial Times (U.K.) explained, “which the US blames in part for the violence, and on United Nations Security Council members to take a tougher stance.” It “dramatically increased pressure on the Sudanese government…by declaring the killings and destruction in its Darfur region to be genocide,” The Guardian (U.K.) reported. “The US now has an obligation under international law to act. Labeling violence genocide is relatively rare.”

(Quick aside: The Guardian‘s Ewen MacAskill ought to try reading some of the sorry pulp churned out in the States by the Coalition of the Leftists Willing To Unite Against Whomever the U.S. Government Does A Good Job Demonizing. Here, I’m afraid, it happens at least once or twice a month.)

“This declaration has important political significance,” The Independent (U.K.) recognized. “Its timing, as the Security Council prepares to discuss imposing oil sanctions on Sudan, is bound to intensify pressure on reluctant governments to accept the moral obligation to act. Mr Powell’s citing of article VIII of the UN genocide convention, and his call for a full investigation into Sudan’s failure to prevent genocide, goes even further. That clause provides that parties to the convention may call on the UN to take such action under the UN charter ‘as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide’….”

Indeed. The declaration of genocide—for this is what the American state has just done: drawn upon its dominance in the world to officially declare that the Government of Khartoum has committed, or is complicit in the commission of, genocide—nothing more, nothing less—“imposed a greater moral obligation to act,” was how the Irish Times saw it. The Times went on to quote the Executive Director and General Counsel of the non-nongovernmental organization known as the Coalition For International Justice, Nina Bang-Jensen, whose “group conducted research for the State Department,” the Times tells us. “This is genocide,” she said. “There is a moral and legal imperative to act.”

(Another quick aside: To repeat TFF Director Jan Oberg’s phrase (though he was using it specifically to describe the International Crisis Group—one of the major lobbyists for sanctions and the threat or use of force against Sudan), the Coalition For International Justice is a “semi-governmental” organization, “sailing under flag of convenience of [a] prestigious independent NGO,” but in actual fact performing a “Western/US-biased role.” (PressInfo #197, April 29, 2004.) In an important sense, the CIJ and other putative NGOs stand in a relation to the U.S. Government not as nongovernmental organizations stand to a government, but rather in a relation similar to that of the DynCorps and CACI Internationals and the like—as private contractors carrying out and trying to influence U.S. Government policies. True, the CIJ may not be under contract with the U.S. Government in the same way that, say, CACI International is. But the CIJ acts very much in parallel with it—is very much a member of the team. As Colin Powell noted in his Prepared Statement of September 9 (and is repeated in the credits of the Documenting Atrocities in Darfur report released that day), “In July, we launched a limited investigation by sending a team to refugee camps in Chad. They worked closely with the American Bar Association and the Coalition for International Justice….” In this respect, the only line of Powell’s that I liked even better was when Powell acknowledged that in mid-summer, the “Secretary-General and I were able to meet and exchange notes. We made sure that our message to the Sudanese government was consistent.”—Coordination pays off. Whether you’re working with the U.S. Government on the problems that it faces in occupied Iraq. The Sudan. Or the UN General-Secretariat Bldg. in New York City.)

Timing is everything, it would appear. So are moral and legal imperatives. The Los Angeles Times (Sept. 10) reported that “views differed on whether the new U.S. stand would provide momentum for a solution, since many nations oppose international intervention. At the United Nations, some diplomats even predicted a backlash.” On top of the draft resolution’s call for an increase in the size of the African Union’s armed presence in the crisis regions to help reduce the violence and fear (a term which could pass the Council by unanimous vote were this the end of it), reports claim that the American draft resolution adds sanctions on the Sudanese oil sector as well as the previously mentioned “genocide” clause and everything that it might entail, intended and otherwise. As China’s UN Ambassador Wang Guangya reacted: “Our intention is to help solve the problem, not to make it more complicated.” Presuming that the Americans’ intention really is to help solve the problem, of course.

“[T]here is the matter of whether or not what is happening in Darfur is genocide,” was how Powell’s Prepared Statement for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced the issue. Having reviewed the evidence, Powell said, the State Department “concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the Government of Sudan and the jinjaweid bear responsibility.” Indeed, that “genocide has occurred and may still be occurring in Darfur,” he added, raising the Genocidist Alert Level at least as high as Code Orange (i.e., high-risk of genocide). “We believe the evidence corroborates the specific intent of the perpetrators to destroy ‘a group in whole or in part’. This intent may be inferred from their deliberate conduct. We believe other elements of the convention have been met as well.”

Powell then listed a number of items the Bush Administration regards as evidence that the conditions for genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) have been met. (I’ll leave these items for you to consider.)

And then, Powell added this:

[S]ome seem to have been waiting for this determination of genocide to take action. In fact, however, no new action is dictated by this determination. We have been doing everything we can to get the Sudanese government to act responsibly. So let us not be preoccupied with this designation of genocide. These people are in desperate need and we must help them. Call it a civil war. Call it ethnic cleansing. Call it genocide. Call it “none of the above.” The reality is the same: there are people in Darfur who desperately need our help.

Now, there is no doubting that a lot of people in the Darfur states of Sudan desperately need help. But, “no new action is dictated by this determination“? Come again? Then why officially designate the conduct of the Government in Khartoum and its allies in the region genocide?

Notice the headlines of the articles that I’ve been quoting from yesterday’s mainstream print dailies:

“U.S. urges U.N. to halt Sudan ‘genocide'; ‘The world cannot ignore the suffering of more than 1 million people,’ Bush says,” Baltimore Sun
“Powell Calls Sudan Crisis ‘Genocide’, Raises Pressure on Khartoum To Halt Violence,” Boston Globe
“Sudanese killing is genocide, says US,” Financial Times
“Stakes rise as US declares Darfur killings genocide,” The Guardian
“The Belated Recognition of Reality in Sudan,” The Independent (Actually, this was an editorial. The article that I didn’t cite from The Independent had a much stronger title: “Colin Powell Uses the Word the World’s Human Rights Bodies Have Been Demanding as US Toughens Its Stance on the Slaughter in Sudan: Genocide.”)
“Powell classifies Darfur killings as genocide,” Irish Times
“U.S. Declares Darfur Crisis Is Genocide; Powell tells a Senate panel that atrocities may still be occurring in Sudan but that ‘no new action is dictated by this determination’,” Los Angeles Times

And all of these assessments of the Secretary of State’s prior day’s statement were what I found while avoiding the New York Times (“Powell Says Rapes and Killings in Sudan Are Genocide”), Ottawa Citizen (“U.S. labels Sudan crisis ‘genocide’, but Canada hesitates: Savage attacks don’t meet our definition, Foreign Affairs says”), London Times (“Powell accuses Sudan of genocide in Darfur”), USA Today (“Powell accuses Sudan of genocide”), Wall Street Journal (“Powell Cites Sudan for Genocide But Calls UN Sanctions Unlikely”), and Washington Post (“U.S. Calls Killings In Sudan Genocide; Khartoum and Arab Militias Are Responsible, Powell Says”).

Imagine invoking the ‘G‘-word—politically and morally and legally combined, the single most invidious word in the lexicon (unless one cares to re-invoke ‘mutually-assured destruction‘)—in as deliberately ostentatious a fashion as the Bush Administration just has, and then adding by way of footnote:

No new action is dictated by our use of the ‘G‘-word.

And then how is this, on top of that: Speaking before the National Baptist Convention in New Orleans Thursday, Democratic Party presidential candidate John Kerry said ” If I were president, I would act now. As I’ve said for months, I would not sit idly by. We simply cannot accept another Rwanda. The United States should ensure the immediate deployment of an effective international force to disarm militia, protect civilians, and facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance in Darfur. The Sudanese government has thus far rejected such force. The US should lead the United Nations to impose tough sanctions now and make plain, we will not accept Khartoum continuing to block its deployment.” (“Remarks to the 124th Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention.”) Seems that the “Darfur crisis has attracted the interest of many conservative Christian groups and civil rights organizations,” was how Associated Press explained both Bush’s use of the ‘G‘-word and Kerry’s speech telling the Baptists that as their next President, he’d do more. (George Gedda, “Powell: Sudan Abuses Qualify As Genocide,” Sept. 9.) Also the Committee on Conscience at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, for which the various crises in Sudan have been a major theme in 2004.

Looks to me like we’re heading back towards the wonderful world of the Super Predator state adopting the cloak of “humanitarian” war once again. With a frighteningly large majority of the captive American mind now engineered to consent to an American military intervention in the Sudan (see “7 in 10 Americans Say Genocide Must Be Prevented in Sudan,” PIPA Media Release, July 20), who cares whether the more easily debunked canards about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” and “ties” to the hijacker bombers of three years ago this morning no longer do the trick?

(Memo to the Editors at In These Times: Will one of you please inform your principal contributor on the “growing genocide in Darfur,” Smith College Professor Eric Reeves—a member of the Coalition of the Leftists Willing To Unite Against Whomever the U.S. Government Does A Good Job Demonizing—including the image of “children being hurled serially into the flames of burning huts and buildings” (nice touch, pal)—that phrases such as “Deathly Silence” with respect to the carnage in Darfur ceased being meaningful by late 2003—at the latest. Nor for that matter is there any fear that the words ‘Sudan‘ or ‘Darfur‘, much less ‘genocide‘, have been excised from all editions of Websters Dictionary and the Encyclopedia Britannica—so widespread the complicity to silence mention of the crisis.)

Treaties and Documents (website archiving major humanitarian documents of the past 150 years, accessed via the International Committee of the Red Cross)

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, December 9, 1948

Americans on the Crisis in Sudan, Steven Kull et al., Program on International Policy Attitudes, July 20, 2004 (Also see “7 in 10 Americans Say Genocide Must be Prevented in Sudan” (July 20), the Media Release that accompanied the full report.)

Crisis in Darfur—Not To Mention the “Left” (Again), ZNet Blogs (the old ones), July 30

The Song Remains the Same, ZNet Blogs, September 3

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