our Feet Again in Africa
hellish situation in the Sudan is finally getting some press, though
it comes too late for thousands of dead, wounded, and displaced Sudanese.
The government-endorsed systematic campaign of genocide there has
been going on in earnest for a year and a half, but hasn’t even registered
as a blip on our media until now—and even now, while the print media
has lifted its sluggish head to glance at the Sudan, TV, the all-important
portal to the minds of the great unwashed, is still asleep (If your
only news source last
week was CNN, I imagine that you’d think the only two stories of significance
to occur were Saddam’s new “business casual” look and the pictures
of Saturn’s rings).
Perhaps the saddest part is that stories about the rampant
atrocities in the Sudan did not precipitate the new diplomatic focus
on the nation by the State Department and the UN; rather, it was the
other way around—only when Colin Powell and Kofi Annan decided to
turn up the heat, however belatedly, on the Sudanese leadership’s
obvious complicity in the rape, pillage and murder of it’s black population
by Arabic janjaweed horseback militias, did these stories make
their way outside of marginalized alternative news sources and the
It’s a pathetic satement on our media when they are
prodded into action by our leaders and not vice versa. Even now, when
the AP reports that a UN delegation was “stunned” to find that Sudanese
officials had forcibly removed thousands of refugees from a camp just
hours before they arrived on a last-minute visit, it still doesn’t
reverberate. The story gradually fades away, having failed to garner
the popular scrutiny it so richly deserves. The implications were
obvious, of course: that what the refugees had to say was the most
damning evidence of all, enough to scare the heedless oppressors into
committing a major diplomatic faux pas, and tipping their hand rather
Of course, there is no real need for any further gathering
of evidence—there has been little doubt regarding the situation for
some time. The ruthless massacres have raged on, and the lessons of
Rwanda have gone unheeded.
Some would argue that we have acted slowly in the Sudan
because there is little self-interest for America in the region. But
our nation’s inaction indicates, rather, that we are invested
in the blood-soaked (and oil-soaked) ground there. Only, as usual,
we’re working with the wrong side.
Yes, there is oil in the Sudan. And where there is oil,
there are large oil companies, attempting to extract it. And our nation
in particular has a huge vested interest in the success of these endeavors.
To this end, we tend to favor governments who are willing to trample
their citizens in order to facilitate this process. That, in a nutshell,
is the mechanism behind many conflicts around the globe—in Columbia,
Venezuela, and of couse, Iraq, just toname three. It really is that
simple. Dead people don’t amount to much in the face of a huge fossil
fuel industry, supported by the most powerful governments in the world.
So the Sudanese are obstacles, and must be removed—in this case, it’s
by Lawrence of Arabia-style horse-riding, sword-wielding, torch-bearing
armies of darkness. The cultural animosity between these two groups
has always been at issue—the Arab Muslim North has waged war on the
African Christian South for twenty years, killing 2 million and displacing
4 million in the process.
And yet we continue to drag our feet, still avoiding
the word“genocide,” the official use of which would require us to
act swiftly. The closest Powell has come is this: "People are
dying and the death rate is going to go up significantly ... we see
indicators and elements that would start to move you toward a genocidal
conclusion, but we're not there yet."
“Not there yet?’ So what—we have to wait until these
people are all dead before we can go and save them? The atrocities
committed against these people make Saddam look like a kitten—and
the White House’s lame retroactive “liberation” justification for
the war in Iraq is called ever more clearly into question by our lackadaisical
response to this horrendous genocide. Yes, genocide; that’s what this
is—and if there is a law requiring us to act upon it, then we need
to respect that law, and the basic human decency behnd it.
But what can we do in a world of poorly drawm borders,
which lump enemy peoples together in an eternal and pointless death
struggle, to achieve any lasting peace, the kind that stays on after
the international inspectors leave? Partition was the only reasonable
solution in Yugoslavia, and it is certainly not to be disregarded
in this and other similarly intractable conflicts around the globe.
We have the power to redraw the borders that the English bungled so
badly almost a century ago. Iraq, for example: why not just draw the
lines where they really should be? Disregarding for a moment Turkey’s
near-maniacal desire to prevent the Kurds from achieving autonomy,
a free Kurdistan would be America’s best ally in the region; a non-fundamentalist
nation where we could put all the military bases we wanted—they’d
probably build the damn things for us.
Oil is the worst thing that ever happened to these countries.
As long as there is any left, they will remain the prey of the more
powerful. And there will be rebels. And there will be war. It’s just
business as usual.