Politics & Policy

Never Again?

The bloodbath in Sudan.

That old well-meaning cliché “never again” may be due for retirement. It is what we tell ourselves after every massive slaughter, whether the Holocaust or Cambodia or Bosnia or Rwanda. Now, with a new wave of genocide building in Sudan hard on the heels of the tenth anniversary of Rwanda–which brought pious expressions of regret that more wasn’t done to stop the killing at the time–we are about to prove ourselves perfectly ready to accept “again.”

Militias backed by the Sudanese government have forced roughly a million people from their homes in the western part of the country. In the North-South conflict that wracked Sudan for 20 years, the Muslim government’s favored tool was genocide, directed against the Christian and animist south. The government is conducting genocide again, giving air cover and other support to Arab militias that are cleansing black Sufi Muslims from the western province of Darfur. The North-South war killed 2 million; at least 10,000 have died already in Darfur; and, absent immediate relief, hundreds of thousands more could die.

“The U.S. has done more than anyone else in Darfur, and the Bush administration has done more than any other administration about Sudan,” says Nina Shea of the human-rights group Freedom House. The U.S. has pledged nearly $200 million in aid to the region. The European Union so far is kicking in a little more than $10 million–from all 25 countries in the EU combined. It is the U.S. that is pushing hard for a tough Security Council resolution that will call on the Sudanese government to end its support for violence and allow aid to flow into Darfur. This is consistent with the administration’s history of involvement in Sudan.

Negotiations between the North and South had been bumping along ineffectually for years, until Bush appointed former senator John Danforth–now the U.S. representative to the U.N.–as his special envoy to the country. High-level Bush officials were engaged in the peace talks on a daily basis, and finally a ceasefire was forged this May. The Sudanese government has repeatedly proven itself susceptible to international pressure over the years, which is why there is hope for Darfur–if only the world can be bothered to create the pressure.

There is as yet no “CNN effect”–the sense of urgency that comes from international media attention–in Darfur. The press has mostly been AWOL, with the exception of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, whose searing reports have made him a one-man call-to-action. The Muslim world has reserved its outrage for the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib, even though a spoonful of the same condemnation applied to Sudan could help save hundreds of thousands of Muslim lives. As for the U.N., it recently welcomed Sudan onto the U.N. Human Rights Commission, where, with China and Cuba, it will have lots of nasty company.

Unfortunately, Sudan doesn’t fit comfortably into the Bush-bashers’ international-relations categories, or we might hear more about the issue. For the president’s critics the word “diplomacy” means one thing: strong-arm Israel. And “multilateralism” tends to mean only appeasing France. So the administration’s diplomatic achievement in Sudan might as well not exist, and its effort to muster other international actors–from the U.N. to Europe–behind a multilateral diplomatic and humanitarian-aid initiative in Darfur is ignored. And even though China is obstructing diplomatic pressure on Sudan because of its oil business there, there are, unsurprisingly, no cries of “blood for oil.”

In Darfur people are being pushed from their homes and raped and brutalized by death squads, the so-called Janjaweed. They are huddled in makeshift camps that will become dens of death as the rainy season begins, if the Janjaweed isn’t called off and if adequate humanitarian supplies aren’t allowed to be delivered. If “never again” is to mean anything, it must mean something now.

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years.

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