“The Secret Genocide Archive”

I happened to miss Nicholas Kristof’s “The Secret Genocide Archive” when first published on the Op-Ed page of the February 23 New York Times. Though by all accounts, it made for quite an exhibit: Kirstof’s commentary on the “victims of our indifference,” accompanied by four photos drawn from the African Union’s “secret archive of thousands of photos and reports that document the genocide under way in Darfur.” Access to the AU’s “secret archive” was shared with Kristof, he tells us, by “someone who believes that Americans will be stirred if they can see the consequences of their complacency.” For it is our “passivity” in the face of this horror “which allows these people to be slaughtered,” the Times‘s columnist believes.

Today being Wednesday, March 16—three weeks to the day after Kristof’s commentary ran—we can no longer retrieve a copy of it, much less the photos that accompanied it, via the Times‘s website unless we agree to pay the Times a fee for access. Besides, the $2.95 that the Times charges for individual articles does “not include photos, charts, or graphics,” the Times explains. On top of this, acquiring the rights to re-use the Times‘s electronic files of its photos will cost us a “minimum fee of $200.00“—and I for one have no intention of purchasing copies of either. Thus our indifference, our complacency, our passivity, and, ultimately, our complicity in the Darfur genocide are compounded even more. Immeasurably compounded. By the Times‘s proprietary policy. And by my reluctance to pay the Times so much as a cent for anything.

However. We no longer live in a simple print age, and the electronic medium to which you are presently connected has saved the day. It turns out that Nicholas Kristof’s “The Secret Genocide Archive” itself has been archived in many other places, as have the photos he shared with his readers on the Op-Ed page of the Times three weeks ago. So access to the Kristof exhibit will not be such a problem after all. We may not be able to rely on the New York Times. Still. There is a whole cadre of Sudan-, Darfur-, and genocide-related archivists to which we can turn.

About the other archive, the “secret” one, Kristof elaborates:

This archive, including scores of reports by the monitors on the scene, underscores that this slaughter is waged by and with the support of the Sudanese government as it tries to clear the area of non-Arabs. Many of the photos show men in Sudanese Army uniforms pillaging and burning African villages. I hope the African Union will open its archive to demonstrate publicly just what is going on in Darfur.

The archive also includes an extraordinary document seized from a janjaweed official that apparently outlines genocidal policies. Dated last August, the document calls for the “execution of all directives from the president of the republic” and is directed to regional commanders and security officials.

“Change the demography of Darfur and make it void of African tribes,” the document urges. It encourages “killing, burning villages and farms, terrorizing people, confiscating property from members of African tribes and forcing them from Darfur.”

Indeed. Human Rights Watch reports that a “top Janjaweed leader in Darfur,” Musa Hilal, has been “interviewed over the course of several hours by Human Rights Watch researchers in Khartoum,” and Hilal told the organization that the “government of Sudan directed all military activities of the militia forces he had recruited.” The organization even quotes Hilal: “All of the people in the field are led by top army commanders….These people get their orders from the Western command center, and from Khartoum.”

(Quick aside. These quotes from Musa Hilal are horribly wrenched from context—insofar as one is even discernible in the transcript of Human Rights Watch’s September 27, 2004 interview with him. So please check out the interview for yourselves. And remember: “when the bull or the cow dies, all the vultures come from the sky to feed off the carcass.”)

Missing here is any hint of an explanation as to why an interview that Human Rights Watch conducted with Musa Hilal way back on September 27, 2004, has only been placed into circulation lately—though they seem quite proud of it now. More important, also missing is any indication that Human Rights Watch understands “just what is going on in Darfur” differently than Nicholas Kristof does: At bottom, an Arab “jihad” against non-Arabs, an Arab “cleansing” of non-Arabs, an Arab “genocide” of non-Arabs. And all of it situated within a general “Clash of Civilizations”-type narrative in which the Civilized World (“The West”) is forced to confront the Arab (not to mention Islamic—or Islamist, to use the going phrase) plague across many theaters of conflict, the western Sudan being just one of them.

“For decades,” Kristof wrote on the Times‘s Op-Ed page back on March 27, 2004, “whenever the topic of genocide has come up, the refrain has been, ”Never again’.” With this single sentence, Kristof thereby became the first person on the pages of the New York Times to associate the word ‘genocide‘ with an alleged policy of the government in Khartoum towards the western Sudan and the non-Arab population in the Darfur states in particular.

Just three days earlier (March 24, 2004), Kristof had come pretty close to doing the same when he wrote that:

The most vicious ethnic cleansing you’ve never heard of is unfolding here in the southeastern fringes of the Sahara Desert. It’s a campaign of murder, rape and pillage by Sudan’s Arab rulers that has forced 700,000 black African Sudanese to flee their villages.
The culprit is the Sudanese government, one of the world’s nastiest. Its Arab leaders have been fighting a civil war for more than 20 years against its rebellious black African south. Lately it has armed lighter-skinned Arab raiders, the Janjaweed, who are killing or driving out blacks in the Darfur region near Chad.

”They came at 4 a.m. on horseback, on camels, in vehicles, with two helicopters overhead,” recalled Idris Abu Moussa, a 26-year-old Sudanese farmer. ”They killed 50 people in my village. My father, grandmother, uncle and two brothers were all killed.”

”They don’t want any blacks left,” he added.

Now. A quote such as this—”They don’t want any blacks left“—reverberates so deeply within the guts of the American experience of racism that upon first reading it, I thought that the Americans were at it once again, imposing not only their McDonalds and their Disneyworlds upon other cultures and peoples, but their nightmares and their dilemmas as well. In this case, a projection of the “American dilemma” onto the Sudan.

Three days later, Kristof closed his March 27, 2004 column with the question: “Are the world’s pledges of ‘never again’ really going to ring hollow one more time?”

In my opinion, Nicholas Kristof’s performance with respect to the western Sudan has been exemplary of what is worst about journalism in the States. The “Never again” question to which Kristof returns repeatedly is one that he himself never asks about what American Power actually does in this world—for example, invading Iraq and killing an untold number of Iraqis—but only about what American Power doesn’t do—in the case at hand, militarily intervening in the Sudan and putting a stop to some other power’s killing.

So the “Never again” pledge never applies to what American Power itself does. It applies only to what American Power doesn’t do. A category of moral consciousness about which the “solidarity” groups are free to be positively apoplectic.

Think about it. The Newspaper of Record in the States giving the world an Op-Ed columnist who insists that we all bear witness to the consequences of our alleged “indifference,” “complacency,” and “passivity” with respect to the Sudan. But not to the consequences of our willful and deliberate criminality elsewhere.

The Americans lead the world in threatening or using violence against others. (Against their own, too.)

They also lead the world in bearing witness to the atrocities committed by others.

Last, they lead the world in denouncing themselves for not living up to the “Never again” pledge. But only where the atrocities committed by others are concerned. Never their own.

The people who practice this craft regard themselves, and are widely regarded, as critics of American Power.

But in my eyes, they are nothing but its servants.

Really sleazy ones at that.

FYA (“For your archives”): By my count, Nicholas Kristof has mentioned the situation in the western Sudan no less than 27 times on the pages of the New York Times, while he has used his Op-Ed column to focus on this situation no less than 18 times, adding one brief entry in the Times‘s Magazine section along the way.

Here is a list of 19 pieces focusing on the situation in the western Sudan to have appeared on the pages of the New York Times under the Nicholas D. Kristof byline.—If I’ve missed one or more, be sure to let me know.

“Ethnic Cleansing, Again,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, March 24, 2004
“Will We Say ‘Never Again’ Yet Again?” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, March 27, 2004
“Starved For Safety,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, March 31, 2004
“Cruel Choices,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, April 14, 2004
“Attacked, Expelled, Ignored, “Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, April 25, 2004 [i.e., the Magazine]
“Bush Points The Way,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, May 29, 2004
“Dare We Call It Genocide?” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, June 16, 2004
“Sudan’s Final Solution,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, June 19, 2004
“Magboula’s Brush With Genocide,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, June 23, 2004
“Dithering As Others Die,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, June 26, 2004
“Saying No To Killers,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, July 21, 2004
“Reign Of Terror,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, September 11, 2004
“As Humans Are Hunted,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, October 13, 2004
“The Dead Walk,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, October 16, 2004
“He Ain’t Heavy…,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, October 20, 2004
“Facing Down The Killers,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, December 18, 2004
“Why Should We Shield The Killers?” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, February 2, 2005
The Secret Genocide Archive,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, February 23, 2005
“The American Witness,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, March 2, 2005

KRISTOF Responds (the writer’s NYTimes blog)

Video Transcript: Exclusive Video Interview with Alleged Janjaweed Leader,” Human Rights Watch, September 27, 2004
Darfur: Militia Leader Implicates Khartoum,” Human Rights Watch, (Date?)

African jihad,” David McCormack, Baltimore Sun, March 10, 2005

Darfur: A Genocide We Can Stop
Genocide Intervention Fund
Passion of the Present
Save Darfur Coalition
Sudan Emancipation and Preservation Network
The Sudan Campaign

Naming the Darfur Crisis,” Mahmood Mamdani, ZNet, November 18, 2004
Good Muslim, Bad Muslim – An African Perspective,” Mahmood Mamdani, Social Science Research Council, (Date?)

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

Postscript (March 19). I’ve just learned that back on February 23, the American filmmaker Michael Moore used his personal—and high-traffic—website to second (i.e., to vet, to okay, to sign-off-on) Nicholas Kristof’s commentary of the same day, and the subject of this very blog: “The Secret Genocide Archive.”

This selection of Kristof’s commentary for Moore’s website is deeply troubling for me, as it creates the appearance that Moore also is seconding (vetting, advancing, and the like) some version of the American military-to-the-rescue option in the western Sudan—an option that Nicholas Kristof himself would embrace (whether Kristof would call it a “coalition of the willing” or any other name), and an option that I am quite confident NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander James L. Jones would also be willing to accommodate, sooner or later, and under the right circumstances. (See “Africa Integral to U.S. European Command, General Says,” American Forces Press Service, March 9.)

Do you suppose this is what Michael Moore himself thinks about the western Sudan? After all, for the week of March 14, 2005, Moore’s website selected the Save Darfur Coalition for its “Link of the Week.” “The U.S. Congress declared that the killings in Darfur amount to ‘genocide’,” the accompanying text for the same week told us, “while also urging U.S. President George W. Bush to call the situation in Sudan ‘by its rightful name — genocide’.”

(Apparently, this refers to the Darfur Accountability Act of 2005 (S. 495). Though there are a hell of a lot of others that it might also refer to. Including the Comprehensive Peace in Sudan Act of 2004 (S. 2720). And a recent resolution introduced into the Senate under the auspicious title, Calling on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to assess the potential effectiveness of and requirements for a NATO-enforced no-fly zone in the Darfur region of Sudan (S.Con. Res. 17).)

Glancing at Moore’s website right now (March 19), I find lots of bona fide anti-war material and links that commemorate the fact that today is the Second Anniversary of the launching of the American and British aggression over Iraq.

And I find pressure building not only within the American Government, but within segments of the American Left as well, to “do something” with respect to the western Sudan.

But to do what, I wonder? To adequately support the African Union monitors and peacekeepers? To begin interdicting, on a global basis, all trafficking in light weaponry? Or to invite NATO to enforce a “no-fly” zone? Or the Americans, the British, and the French? To bomb the desert? Some pharmaceutical or petro-chemical plants? To award Nicholas Kristof the Pulitzer Prize in the category of the most vocally expressed moral outrage over the fact that the same global powers that have been mercilessly pounding Iraq for the past 24 months haven’t done anything more proactive and merciful to pound the Sudan?

One other thing. But can anyone tell me whether Michael Moore’s latest documentary, which I believe he was working on as recently as the spring of 2004, was ever released to the public? (The working title of it escapes me at the moment.) Last I had heard, close to one year ago, Moore’s documentary had been suppressed by the Disney Company, the distribution of his film banned in any country where Disney operates (or something like this), and the whole saga completely erased from the public’s consciousness, on the exact same model of the foreign—and no doubt at times American—nationals whose misfortune it is to become ensnared by the actually-existing American Gulag.

Just wondering.


Postscript (June 25): For anyone inclined to question authority, and the assumptions without which the worldview of the powerful would retreat like dew before the morning sun, here are several items worth sinking your teeth into:

The Secret Genocide Archive,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, February 23, 2005
The American Witness,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, March 2, 2005
The Pope and Hypocrisy,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, April 6, 2005
Mr. Bush, Take a Look At MTV,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, April 17, 2005
Day 113 of the President’s Silence,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, May 3, 2005
Day 141 Of Bush’s Silence,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, May 31, 2005
A Policy Of Rape,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, June 5, 2005
Uncover Your Eyes,” Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, June 7, 2005 (Republished in the June 8 IHT.)
Darfur: How many more will have to die?” Nat Hentoff, Jewish World Review, June 20, 2005

Notice how central a particular version of the “Crisis in Darfur” has been to “humanitarian” interventionists in the States, and how important this version of the crisis has been on the American Left, as indicated by the Truthout organization’s decision to archive the writings of the New York Times‘s Nicholas Kristof, rather than critiquing them, as they deserve.

Moreover, it appears that many of the States-based Jewish organizations—e.g., the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum simply fetishes this line of thinking—will propagate any narrative that can be filed as a subset of The Holocaust. Particularly if the events it narrates pale in comparison to the real thing.

And if the narrative incorporates “eliminationist,” even “genocidal” Arabs (i.e., members of the same “tribe” or the same “civilization” that the State of Israel confronts daily), so much the better.

In crucial features, the reigning narrative of the “Crisis in Darfur”—and I’m posting the Kristof because it exemplifies this narrative—replicates crucial features of the reigning narrative for the breakup of Yugoslavia (e.g., Marlise Simons in Friday’s New York Times, specifically whatever Simons denigrates as coming from the mouth of Slobodan Milosevic), for the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina, culminating in the “Srebrenica massacre,” and, ultimately, for the situation in the Serbian province of Kosovo, culminating in the U.S.-led NATO-bloc’s war in the spring of 1999.

The major difference being that the NATO bloc hasn’t started dropping bombs over the Sudan to right a humanitarian crisis only to be exacerbated by the bombing campaign.

But in terms of their similarities, a major similarity among the narratives for the former Yugoslavia and the Sudan today has been the way that armed conflicts, civil wars (actually, several concurrent civil wars, including a lot of very localized fighting and grudges with no real political significance beyond their local significance), have been portrayed as something more than armed conflicts with all of the attendant ugliness and barbarism one would expect in any such conflict.

For reasons not all of which are readily explicable (i.e., there has always appeared to be a great deal of emotionalism and irrationalism at work here), the Left invested heavily in that part of the narrative of the wars over the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Sudan today that makes everythng seem an unambiguous instance—not of war per se, but of an ethnically or racially motivated mass crime.

Thus narrative frameworks for talking about and wringing one’s hands over events far sexier than just a civil war in central Europe or a lot of concurrent little wars for survival in east-central Africa were born.

Particularly for the moralists who embrace this narrative, it simultaneously enables them to adopt very public poses (a) against ethnically or racially motivated mass crimes, and, crucially, (b) against the alleged inaction of the Great Powers in the face of these ethnically or racially motivated mass crimes. It enables moralists such as Nicholas Kristof to accuse the Great Powers not just of failing to militarily intervene in civil wars, but of failing to militarily intervene in genocidal crime scenes—the Serbs’ attempted destruction of the Bosnian Muslims, or the Sudanese Arabs’ attempted destruction of the “black Africans” (or whatever the going phrase is).

Here we are clearly examining the psychology of intellectuals in relation to the Great Powers, and the mass psychology of political movements as well. Only not in central Europe last decade. And not any place in Africa today. But among the Global Phonies and Moral Tartuffes in the States, the U.K., and elsewhere in the North.

So, in the spirit of dissing these rich-country charlatans, let me close for now by linking-up with four items that provide some critical insight into the reigning narratives and psychology of the Masters—the last one, by John Pilger, being a brilliant piece of work:

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

Leave a comment