Friday, August 03, 2007

War In Sudan Or On Sudan - Now, Please!


I was startled to see, in my ink-on-paper copy of the International Herald Tribune for Thursday 2 August 2007 a front-page article with the triumphalstic headline "UN to send vast peacekeeper force to war-torn Darfur."

The force is not going to be huge. It is only going to be 26,000 people, a mix of cops, troops and experts. Of these, some 7,000 are already in Sudan. They are troops from the African Union, and they are described as being "beleaguered," a word which suggests that they are in no position to rescue anyone but, rather, are in need of being rescued themselves.

The proposed force numbers are derisory when set against the military might of the civilized world and the scale of the problems in Darfur. On top of that, the very notion of sending in a peacekeeping force is absurd when there is no peace to keep.

What is needed, now, is a military force to make war on the janjaweed militias, to hunt them down and kill them dead. To make war in Sudan. Or, better still, to make war on Sudan, and take down the genocidal regime in Khartoum.

The UN, this week, flinched from agreeing to threaten to impose sanctions on Sudan, but what it would have done was to agree to threaten not just sanctions against Sudan but a war against Sudan.

As it is, the token force that is planned is a bad joke.

Darfur has a land area of about 493,180 square kilometers or 196,555 square miles. and a population of 3,093,700 in 1983 (various population figures for Darfur are kicking around, but this one is sourced from the page http://sudanwatch.blogspot.com/2004/11/darfur-population-figures-6-million-65.html).

By contrast, Northern Ireland has a land area of 14,139 square kilometers or 5,459 square miles. As of 2001, its population was 1,685,000.

One of the images in the photo montage at the top of this blog entry makes clear the size of Northern Ireland versus France. Darfur is roughly ninety percent of the size of France.

By coincidence, I recently read a news article that tells us that the British military has now ended its security mission in Northern Ireland. They were not there to fight a war - there was nobody running around Ireland going into villages and burning all the houses, killing all the men and raping all the women - but just to keep the peace. An uneasy peace with bombs going off now and then and people being kneecapped in pubs, but a peace nevertheless. A peace of sorts.

To cope with the troubles in Northern Ireland, at its peak the British troops strength was 30,000. (This statistic may not be razor-sharp exact, but it's within the ballpark; I got it from an article on the site Boston.com.)

In Northern Ireland, then, which is a titchy little area where civil strife was kept pretty much under control by military checkpoints and patrols, the British had thirty thousand pairs of boots on the ground. By contrast, to confront the genocidal war being waged by the janjaweed in the comparatively vast territory of Darfur, the UN has a smaller presence planned, and even this will be hampered by a "stand back and watch, please" mandate which will forbid UN forces from confiscating and destroying the illegal weapons which are being used for the slaughter.

Going to the war zone known as Darfur to play tourist and do peacekeeping is like going to an extermination facility and camping out overnight outside the gas chambers. And getting up in the morning to stage a barbecue cookout outside the ever-busy incinerators.

The UN has flinched from its responsibilities. The proper course of action is not to put together a peacekeeping force but to assemble an expeditionary force which is suitably equipped for an invasion, and then go and either make war in Sudan, and take out the janjaweed, or, better, to make war on Sudan, and take out the ruling regime in Khartoum.

The trouble in Darfur is often billed in the Western media as a conflict between persecuting Arabs and victimized blacks, but actually, it seems to be the case that, not to put too fine a point on it, the Darfur disaster is a case of black on black.

That's a simplistic statement, and if you really want a nuanced assessment of the religious and ethnic background, then I recommend a page from Islamica Magazine, in which university academic R.S. O’Fahey takes us through the details.

The URL for the page is:

http://www.islamicamagazine.com/issue-19/darfur.html

On that page, O'Fahey says, in part:

"The conflict is presented both locally and in the wider media as one between Arabs and Africans. This fits into the dominant ideology of the northern Sudanese elite who see themselves as Arab and Muslim, despite the fact that many have experienced color-based racism in the Arab heartlands. This ideology is practiced by the janjaweed who burn mosques, kill imams and desecrate the Holy Qur’an."

Skipping the complications, and simplifying in line with the teachings of a newspaper article I read recently, it seems to be the case that the ruling elite in Khartoum, the black elite, self-identifies as "Arab," though authentic Arabs such as Saddam Hussein and the king of Saudi Arabia would be unlikely to accept them as the real thing.

In the photo montage at the top of this blog entry is the smiling mug of the President of Sudan, Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. A newspaper article that I read recently said that this supposedly "Arab" dude in Khartoum is actually from one of Sudan's African tribe, and, when you look at the pic, well, put him onstage with Bob Marley and some other Rastas, and he wouldn't look out of place.

This guy shouldn't be sitting in the presidential palace in Khartoum. He should be waking up in the morning in a prison cell in the Hague, getting ready to meet, yet again with his lawyers to prepare to defend himself in the trial which is coming his way, a trial for war crimes up to and including genocide.

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5:29 PM  

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