Great White Warrior

We will not return to our homes until the white people come and make us safe.”

Although the weblink I’ve just provided takes you to the article wherein this quote appears—Samantha Power’s “Dying in Darfur: Can the ethnic cleansing in Sudan be stopped?” (New Yorker, Aug. 30, 2004)—it won’t take you directly to the paragraph in which Power uses it. For that, you’ll have to scroll down some nine-tenths of the article (roughly), to paragraph 92 (by my hasty count, anyway—or the 11th paragraph up from the bottom).

Therein, Power sets the scene for us as follows:

Although the [African Union] seems likely to expand its presence, almost all the displaced Africans I spoke with in Darfur said they would trust only Western forces to bring peace. African troops were too susceptible to bribes, they said, and African governments would end up siding with Khartoum, as they had in the past. “We will not return to our homes until the white people come and make us safe,” Abdum Shogar Adem, a thirty-two-year-old father of three, told me at the Kalma camp in July, soon after his village had been attacked by government helicopter gunships. The Western powers, however, are not likely to answer Adem’s call. The United States military is overstretched, given the occupation of Iraq, and it is unwilling to contribute troops for a peacekeeping mission. It has not even offered to equip or transport A.U. troops, which lack the logistical sophistication to deploy on their own.

Notice, please, exactly how Power—a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and the former director of its Carr Center for Human Rights Policy; also and more important one of the shinning stars serving in the International Human Rights Brigade; and one of the chief enforcers of the Neocolonial Community (though all three positions overlap)—reports Abdum Shogar Adem’s words from the remote Kalma refugee camp in the Southern Darfur state of the Sudan (Jan?b D?rf?r): Without the slightest hint that she herself appreciates the fact that this presumably desperate and destitute man, at that moment in his struggle to survive, was addressing someone he clearly regarded as a representative of this race of Great White Warriors coming to make him safe, and, moreover, that he knew this was whom he was addressing—even if she hadn’t a clue.

Here’s the real meaning of the “Crisis in Darfur” for you, friends, reduced to this single refugee’s 16 words and their use by Samantha Power in the August 30 issue of the New Yorker back in the States—the land of the Great White Warriors, with their phenomenal killing machines, and their world-historical readiness to use them.

As when Power writes elsewhere in the same article that “The Sudanese government could hardly have predicted that an obscure, inaccessible Muslim region like Darfur would become a cause celebre in America” (par. 85).

Or when she uses the term ‘Africans‘ to refer to the side in the conflicts on whose behalf she has repeatedly called upon the “international community” to intervene, whether via economic sanctions or militarily–but ‘Arabs‘ for Government in Khartoum and anyone on its side.

Or when she tries to explain two competing theories as to why the “Crisis in Darfur” came about in the first place: Because of a “racist conspiracy” within the Government to “Arabize” the region (par. 83) or because of a “counter-insurgency strategy run amok” (par. 84).

Or when Power, now writing in yesterday’s Washington Post alongside her former political mentor and an Assistant Secretary of State within the Reagan Administration, the International Crisis Group‘s Morton Abramowitz (a bona fide neocolonial outfit, this bunch), argues that “The international system is broken, at least when it comes to Africa.”

Abramowitz and Power continued (“A Broken System,” Sept. 13—for a copy, see below):

There is a moral and political void in the world when it comes to coping with catastrophes in Africa—a void that will not be filled by reforming the Security Council. The problem is the states that make up the council.

The problem-states, the argument goes, are the ones with the “built-in vetoes” on the Security Council. Not the United States’ built-in veto, needless to say. But, rather, “Russia and China and its built-in opposition,” and on to “rotating members such as Pakistan and Algeria,” all of which “prevents any serious action against sovereign nations.” Good old-fashioned state sovereignty being the ultimate bugaboo here, as far as Abramowitz and Power and the entire interventionist clique are concerned. And the ultimate reason why the “international system is broken,” so to speak. Thus reducing the capacity of the “international community” (beginning with the United States of America—and pretty much ending with the United States of America, too) to tackle the world’s really difficult problems—if and when and how it sees fit.

All of which has nothing to do with an actual crisis in Darfur and beyond. Of course.

Last point.—There is a passage in her New Yorker article where Power reports an exchange she had in Khartoum with a member of the head of the Government’s National Security and Intelligence Service, Salah Abdallah Gosh. (The paragraph wherein Power introduces Gosh (par. 46) is filled with “Western diplomats say that Gosh is….” Notice Power’s sources when it comes to defining the Government in Khartoum and its allies. And how Power employs them to establish the general historical setting. A constant feature of Power’s work. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning book included.)

“When I asked [Gosh] why Sudan had not complied with American demands that it disarm the janjaweed, he said…” (par. 72).

Imagine that. Samantha Power, asking the head of the Sudanese National Security and Intelligence Service why his Government had not complied with the dictates of American Power! American demands, note well. Not even the “international community’s.” Just America’s. From Power’s point of view, the Americans establish the scene, and she speaks on their behalf. Period.

What Gosh might have replied—though for obvious reasons he wouldn’t dare—is something like this: Complied with American demands? Huh? Who the f— are the Americans?

Well. We don’t have to try to imagine how the Americans would answer a question such as this one, were an important member of a foreign state ever to ask it. Just look at Afghanistan. Iraq. And whichever state comes next in the series. Allegedly outdated notions of sovereignty, customary international law, and the UN Charter notwithstanding.

All in all, a truly sickening display—Power’s.

And she’s only one among a cast of thousands.

The Sudan (map), Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas Library

Darfur: A Humanitarian Crisis, UN News Center

ReliefWeb Sudan, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Remaining humanitarian requirements for Sudan until 31 Dec 2004,” UNOCHA (via ReliefWeb Sudan), August 25, 2004

Survey concludes deaths in Darfur exceed the emergency threshold,” WHO (via ReliefWeb Sudan), September 13, 2004

Death rate soars for Darfur’s children,” UNICEF (via ReliefWeb Sudan), September 13, 2004

Counter-Insurgency on the Cheap,” Alex de Waal, London Review of Books, August 5, 2004

Dying in Darfur: Can the ethnic cleansing in Sudan be stopped?” Samantha Power, New Yorker, August 30, 2004

Documenting Atrocities in Darfur, U.S. Department of State, September, 2004

Americans on the Crisis in Sudan, Steven Kull et al., Program on International Policy Attitudes, July 20, 2004 (Also see “7 in 10 Americans Say Genocide Must be Prevented in Sudan” (July 20), the Media Release that accompanied the full report.)

Fill Full the Mouth of Famine,” John Laughland, Sanders Research Associates, July 26, 2004

The Cruise Missile left (Part 5): Samantha Power and the Genocide Gambit,” Edward S. Herman, ZNet, May 17, 2004

The Crisis in Darfur—Not to Mention the “Left” (Again), ZNet Blogs (the old ones), July 30
The Song Remains the Same, ZNet Blogs, September 3
The War on Genocide, ZNet Blogs, September 11

FYA (“For your archives”): Am depositing here two gems from Monday’s Washington Post.—Seems to me that the “international community” not only is alive and well. But simply flourishing in the States.

The Washington Post
September 13, 2004 Monday
Final Edition
SECTION: Editorial; A20
HEADLINE: Suspend Sudan Now

Sudan should be suspended from the U.N. Human Rights Council. Such a move would signal the world’s disapproval for the current government and be a clear sign that the United Nations could take stronger steps if the government does not change its behavior.

I am optimistic and encouraged by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s statements discussed in the Sept. 9 editorial “Mr. Powell and Darfur” and his testimony, which clearly labeled the dismal human rights situation in Darfur as genocide. Because of the thorough documentation supplied by an atrocities documentation team assembled at the initiative of the State Department, we know that more than 405 villages in Darfur have been destroyed in a consistent, widespread pattern of atrocities that include killings, rapes and burning of villages.

The situation is a critical test of the Security Council’s resolve to persuade the Sudanese government to end the crisis. Although prominent members of the council have oil and military contracts in Sudan and may argue against it, Sudan should be suspended from the Human Rights Council until it starts meeting basic open standards of decency and honesty.

The 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention requires signatories, including the United States, to prevent and punish genocide. The stark facts of what we know has happened and is still happening demand immediate action.

The people of Sudan have a right to expect safety and courage to come from the United Nations. That has not yet occurred.

The writer was speaker of the House from 1995 through 1998.

The Washington Post
September 13, 2004 Monday
Final Edition
SECTION: Editorial; A21
HEADLINE: A Broken System
BYLINE: Morton Abramowitz and Samantha Power

Every day editorial writers accuse the world or the United States of indifference to the suffering in Darfur. Television, after long averting its gaze, now rounds up desperate Darfurians to tell their stories. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group have documented the horrors, exposed the lies and pushed the world to respond. Kofi Annan, Colin Powell, Jack Straw and other luminaries have visited Darfur to see for themselves and to urge the Sudanese government to behave. Each month brings a congressional delegation — Frank Wolf, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, Jon Corzine — and the returning lawmakers do what they can to generate action. Meanwhile in New York the U.N. Security Council meets regularly to wrangle over whether sanctions should be applied or the G-word used.

And what has all this strenuous activity achieved? It has helped persuade governments to feed the starving, but it has not improved the security of the people of Darfur. Indeed, the advocacy has stimulated government responses that have had the perverse effect of defusing the political pressure to stop the killings and return the refugees home.

When the flurry of interest was aroused four months ago, some 100,000 people were refugees in Chad and more than a million were displaced inside Darfur, unable to escape Sudan and confined to wretched camps. Today those numbers are thought to have increased to 200,000 and 1.5 million, respectively. The estimate of 30,000 dead has risen to 50,000. Villages in Darfur are still being attacked by Sudanese planes and Janjaweed forces, and women in camps who fetch firewood are still assaulted daily. The uprooted are destined to remain wards of the international community.

Why has the world, with all its outpourings and Security Council deliberations, failed to tackle the Darfur problem? The main answer is straightforward enough: Major and minor powers alike are committed only to stopping killing that harms their national interests. Why take political, financial and potential military risks when there is no strategic or domestic cost to remaining on the sidelines?

But why is there no such cost? First, because not enough people are dying. The estimated 50,000 deaths are far fewer than the predictions, which ranged from 300,000 to 500,000. Recent history has set the bar extremely high for concern in Africa. In Congo, where an estimated 3 million people have died over the past six years, the media and Congress have largely stayed home, and governments have gladly taken their cue of indifference. Although the previous civil war in Sudan took some 2 million lives, it was allowed to continue for almost 20 years. And in Rwanda of course, where about 800,000 were murdered, nothing was done.

Second, the delivery of humanitarian aid lets us off the hook. After an unpardonable delay, the world overcame Sudan’s obstructionism to get food, medicine and plastic sheeting into Darfur. This has helped reduce the death toll, but it is a stopgap solution that keeps the media at bay and allows lawmakers and policymakers to do good deeds while avoiding the political problem at the heart of Darfur’s destruction: Khartoum’s sins and, to a lesser degree, a rebel movement emboldened by the belief that the United States is on its side. Now that we can all point to tens of millions of dollars in food aid, and can thankfully keep a million people alive indefinitely, the crisis has come to seem far less pressing.

Third, the existence of the U.N. Security Council hides the crux of the problem: Countries do not want to do what is necessary to prevent large-scale loss of life in messy, complex Africa. Crises such as Darfur require urgent action, and states are well aware that the Security Council cannot act urgently. It is not by accident that they throw the problem into the labyrinth of U.N. deliberations, which allows them to play the role of good international citizens, while the Security Council with its built-in vetoes from Russia and China and its built-in opposition from rotating members such as Pakistan and Algeria, prevents any serious action against sovereign nations.

The international system is broken, at least when it comes to Africa.

The Darfur death toll may as yet pale when compared with Rwanda’s, but if 800,000 Darfurians were to be murdered next week, neither the states individually nor the Security Council as a whole would be prepared to muster a speedy and robust response. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a crisis in Africa — no matter how heavy the prospective death toll — that would generate the consensus needed not merely to feed civilians but to save them.

There is a moral and political void in the world when it comes to coping with catastrophes in Africa — a void that will not be filled by reforming the Security Council. The problem is the states that make up the council.

Darfur shows that dedicated advocacy can move democracies to denounce atrocities and provide generous humanitarian help. What the earnest advocacy rarely does is propel the powerful to stop the killing. For that to happen, righteous clamor must reach a high enough pitch that politicians in democratic states are persuaded to do a difficult thing: take domestic political risks in pursuit of polices that do not serve their immediate interests, that can be financially costly and that provide no clear-cut exit strategies.

Morton Abramowitz is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Samantha Power, author of ” ‘A Problem From Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide,” recently traveled to Darfur.

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