Demonstrators chant slogans and hold placards in Sudan's capital Khartoum, September 20, 2006. Thousands of Sudanese marched on the U.S. embassy in Khartoum to protest against Western pressure on Sudan to accept 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers in war-torn Darfur. REUTERS/MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH
I don't get Darfur. No -- I don't mean that I don't believe that hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of human beings have been uprooted and may die because of conflict there. No -- I don't mean that I don't understand that the Sudanese government is a villainous party to the situation. And no, certainly, I don't mean that I believe the world should simply leave these people to their fate.
But the Darfur campaign in the United States doesn't feel right. For one thing, one of its biggest boosters is Mr. Invade and Torture himself, Pres. GWB. And over in the U.K., the sanctimonious poodle Tony Blair is right out there in front. And when I look at the organizational members of the Save Darfur coalition, the list, in addition the usual suspects, is full of outfits whose commitment to humanitarian action on behalf of the suffering regularly disappears when the suffering are afflicted by the United States or Israel.
Today Alertnet pointed me to an article by Jonathan Steele that appeared in the U.K. Guardian entitled " Sorry George Clooney, but the last thing Darfur needs is western troops."
Steele goes right to the question of whether the Darfur horror is "genocide" under international law:
Steele believes the best action in a bad situation is for the United Nations to prop up the existing African Union force in the region in order to save as many lives as possible and try to get the parties back to the negotiating table.
I don't know if this a "right" description, but it feels more authentic than the campaign for intervention that some in this country and elsewhere are mounting.
The Darfur campaign reminds me of a little local political squabble I was involved in a few years ago. The city had just come off a heated mayoral election in which downtown money, developers and city unions broke every rule of ethical campaigning in the book to keep business as usual in the saddle and crush a progressive challenge. Lots of nominally progressive politicians and people had found themselves institutionally bound to play on the conservative side of the fence during that fight. They found the experience extremely unsettling. When the election was over, they needed a new campaign to recover their own belief in their "progressive" credentials. Fortunately, the city confronted an initiative aimed at criminalizing homelessness. For the wobbling "progressives," this was a no-brainer. All the forces feeling dirty from the mayoral race rushed off to defeat the homelessness measure.
It was a fun campaign -- essentially we could get anything we needed from some very prominent people. We defeated this mean-spirited measure easily. And those movers and shakers got their "ethical shower."
I'm pretty sure the Darfur campaign is working the same way for some of its loudest adherents. Guess if their ethical shower saves some Darfurians, that's something to be glad of.