Red Meat for the Christian Right

A report in this morning’s London Independent relates how the early September, 2004 conversion of the Bush regime, from a state of atheism or at most agnosticism on questions concerning the nature of the crisis in the Darfur region of the western Sudan, to a state of absolute conviction that the crisis there did indeed constitute the crime of “genocide,” was a conversion “dictated by domestic considerations.”

Evidently, it was nothing less than a conversion on the road to the November presidential elections, the incumbent seeking to energize its peculiar religious constituencies. Above all, an effort to “please the Christian right ahead of the American presidential elections,” as The Independent puts it, the Christian Right in the States being not only one of the Bush regime’s staunchest supporters—roughly tied for first with the energy sector, the arms merchants, Wall Street, and similarly sociopathic institutions—but a leading purveyor of the reigning “Crisis in Darfur” narrative for the better part of the last two years.

In the exchange reported between the former U.S. Ambassador to the the United Nations John Danforth and the BBC1′s Panorama program scheduled to air Sunday evening in the U.K., Danforth was asked whether he believes the Bush regime decided to label the situation in the Western Sudan “genocide” for reasons of “internal consumption”—quite frankly, so that the incumbent could toss the States-based Christian Right some red meat before the November, 2004 elections.

According to The Independent, Danforth replied: “Right.”

I should add that I have long suspected another equally compelling factor—true not only of the Bush regime, but also of the monkeys that have overrun the halls of Congress, and so many of the national media venues in the States—besides appeasing the Christian Right has been appeasing the U.S.-based State of Israel fanatics too, with both groups, the fanatic Christian Right and the State of Israel fanatics, having discovered a near-perfect tactical alignment on a whole host of questions, including the current status of God’s plan for the Middle East and, it would appear, the Sudan as well.

Recall that the reigning narrative for the “Crisis in Darfur” alleges that the fighting and the killing and the refugee crises and the starvation and the disease and the rapes (and the spreading desertification, and the pestilence, and the lack of fresh water, and the lack of food, and the heat of the sun) in the western Sudan these past 30 months has been the result, above all, of an “eliminationist” and even “genocidal” Arab mentality operating out of Khartoum, pitted against Sudan’s non-Arab peoples—against the “black Africans,” that is, as this particular narrative assigns the peoples of the western Sudan their abstract role.

Of course, killing non-Arab peoples and driving them from their lands is just the sort of thing that one would expect eliminationist, even genocidal Arabs to do. To quote the Israeli political philosopher-cum-political enforcer Shlomo Avineri from last summer, the crisis in the western Sudan is not just the work of “unruly Arab militias.” No. The crisis in the western Sudan is the work of “Arab militias,” the Janjaweed, as they’re called, forces that are but the “instruments of the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in its war against the black, non-Arab population of the province.”

Avineri continued (“Darfur – exposing Arab goals for what they are,” Jerusalem Post, Aug. 2, 2004):

One of the characteristics of Arab nationalism – epitomized in the official ideology of the Arab League – has been to view the region as exclusively Arab. Obviously, the majority of the population in the arc stretching from Morocco to Kuwait are culturally and linguistically Arab.

Yet by calling it “the Arab region,” Arab nationalist discourse states not only a demographic fact but also presents a normative entitlement: In the book of mainstream Arab nationalism, there is only one legitimate nation- bearing people in the area – the Arabs.

This exclusivist, hegemonic aspect determines much of Arab politics.

Hence there is no Arab voice accepting the rights of the Kurds in northern Iraq for self-determination; hence the difficulties of Algeria in accepting the Berbers – and their language – as a legitimate political component of the country; hence the violent opposition to the attempts of the Christian Maronites to mold a slightly different identity for Lebanon; hence the angry response in Egypt when the issue of the Christian Coptic is raised. The Egyptian riposte has consistently been that there are no minorities in Egypt.

It is in this context that the deep unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of Israel has to be understood.

If any nation in Central or Eastern Europe were to maintain that it has the monopoly of being a Staats-Nation (to use a historically discredited German term), nobody would accept it – and international opinion would, justly, brand it as racist and chauvinistic.

This, however, is at the core of the belief system of Arab nationalism. The violence in Sudan – as well as the current violence in Iraq, aimed, among others, also against Kurdish autonomy – is just a more violent expression of the same pernicious thread running though dominant Arab political thinking.

No wonder the Arab League, so vociferous on other issues, has been silent.

What is happening in Darfur is much worse than what Slobodan Milosevic tried to do to the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Nobody wants to see the international community involved in another humanitarian war in Africa.

But the issue in Darfur is not just a need for more or quicker humanitarian aid. It is the consequence of a deep, far-reaching version of ethnocentric Arab nationalism, and it has to be robustly confronted, intellectually and politically, for what it is.

Thus the exclusivist, hegemonic logic of American Power in its relation to the rest of the world, like the exclusivist, hegemonic logic of the State of Israel in its relation to the land that it already has redeemed, and the rest of the land that it still wants to redeem, “Judea and Samaria,” serve as projections onto an alleged “Arab nationalism,” much as this exclusivist, hegemonic logic had been projected onto the wars in the former Yugoslavia the decade before. (Nice of Avineri to have brought “what Slobodan Milosevic tried to do to the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo” into his commentary on the “Arab goals” in the western Sudan.—Wouldn’t you say?)

“At that time,” The Independent‘s Anne Penketh writes, referring to the date in September, 2004 when the Bush regime decided to use the ‘G‘-word to define the nature of the crises in Darfur, “more than one million black Africans had been forced from their homes by militias allied to the Islamist government in Khartoum, and 60,000 people had been killed. The UN had described Darfur as ‘the worst humanitarian disaster in the world’ but declined to call it genocide.”

It is worth noting that, neither in December, 2003, when the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland rightly called the crisis “one of the worst in the world,” nor last summer, by which time the use of the ‘G‘-word already had become commonplace, nor this summer, when the doyens and the doyennes of the global culture industry are marshalling their talents to help the Group of Eight set the African continent right, once and for all, has it been true that the crisis in the western Sudan was the worst humanitarian disaster in the world, or even close to it. Throughout the entire period the fighting and dying in the western Sudan has come to be known internationally as the “Crisis in Darfur” (roughly the past 30 months), the situation in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo has been monumentally more grave—but without any of the fanfare, without any of the sexed-up rhetoric about “genocide” and “exclusivist, hegemonic” Arabs to whet the appetite of the fabled “conscience” of the West.

According to Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a study by the Burnet Institute and the International Rescue Committee, largely ignored when it was released last December, and by now consigned to oblivion (pp. 21-22):

Three previous mortality surveys conducted by the IRC between 2000 and 2002 showed that an estimated 3.3 million people have already died in eastern DR Congo since the outbreak of the war in August 1998. These prior investigations have also revealed the war to be the world’s most deadly in the last 50 years. Data from this most recent survey now suggests that the death toll is closer to 3.8 million and that the highest death rates remain concentrated in the unstable, conflict-prone East.

The persistently high mortality in DR Congo is deeply disturbing and indicates that both the national and international efforts to address the crisis remain grossly inadequate. Far greater efforts are still required in every aspect of the international response: diplomatic, military/peacekeeping, and humanitarian.


[A]nalysis of the data suggests that the reductions in crude mortality are closely associated with reductions in violence and, by extension, improvements in security.


All of these trends underscore the association between violence and mortality due to all causes in DR Congo. They also provide compelling evidence that improvements in security represent one of the most effective means to reduce excess mortality in DR Congo. The most obvious inference to be drawn is that a larger, more robust peacekeeping force than the current MONUC contingent of 16,700 is urgently required in order to effectively address the security concerns and associated humanitarian needs in DR Congo. But any additional
troops must be better trained, better equipped, have a broader mandate, and be willing to engage more forcefully than existing MONUC personnel.

Another key finding of the survey is that the overwhelming majority of deaths were due to preventable causes such as malnutrition and infectious diseases. Some epidemic diseases, like measles, even appear to be on the increase. Moreover, it is young children who are disproportionately affected by these illnesses. Children under the age of five years accounted for more than 45% of all deaths, although they represent only 18.7% of the population. Improving food security and increasing access to essential health services, such as immunizations, clean water, insecticide-treated bednets and case management of common diseases, have the potential to contribute significantly to reductions in excess mortality. The international humanitarian response should emphasize established, cost-effective strategies and interventions related to infectious disease control, child survival and environmental health.

The reason, I suspect, for the contrasting expression of concern over one crisis, while a neighboring crisis of far greater magnitude and duration received the silent treatment, is that whereas domestic American politics drove the recognition of the “Crisis in Darfur” (including very successful propaganda campaigns about the genocidal Arabs in Khartoum, grotesquely inflated mortality claims, hysterical Congressional resolutions, scores of rich-people symposia in Western capitals, and the like), domestic American politics also drove the lack of recognition given to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It simply lacks the red meat that makes the Sudan tasty and saleable and consumable around the U.S. political culture.

Disgracefully, however, the United Nations followed suit. But in particular, its chief propaganda organs. Above all, its American- and Israel-appeasing Secretary-General.

White House described Darfur as ‘genocide’ to please Christian right,” Anne Penketh, The Indepndent, July 2, 2005
Darfur – exposing Arab goals for what they are,” Shlomo Avineri, Jerusalem Post, August 2, 2004

Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Results from a Nationwide Survey, Dr. Ben Coghlan et al., Burnet Institute and the International Rescue Committee, December, 2004 (And the accompanying Press Release.)

How Glo-Bono-Phonies and Trojan Horse NGOs Sabotage the Struggle Against Neoliberalism,” Patrick Bond et al., CounterPunch, June 17, 2005
The first embedded protest: Live 8 and G8 are attempts to hijack justice campaigns,” Kay Summer and Adam Jones, The Guardian, June 18, 2005
Bards of the Powerful,” George Monbiot, The Guardian, June 21, 2005
The G-8 Summit: A Fraud and a Circus,” John Pilger, New Statesman, June 27, 2005

Crisis in Darfur—Not to Mention the “Left” (Again), ZNet, July 30, 2004
The War on Genocide, ZNet, September 11, 2004
Great White Warrior, ZNet, September 14, 2004
Manufacturing Public Opinion, ZNet, March 7, 2005
“The Secret Genocide Archive”, ZNet, March 16, 2005

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