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Sunday, July 24, 2005

We are all to blame

The New Republic Online:
The conclusion of a weeklong crash-course on Darfur by Smith College Professor Eric Reeves
Genocidal destruction in Darfur will continue for the foreseeable future. The resources to halt massive, ethnically targeted destruction--of lives and livelihoods--are nowhere in sight. The consequences of this destruction, now extending over almost two and a half years, will be evident for years--in villages that have been burned to the ground, in poisoned water sources, in the cruel impoverishment of people who have lost everything, in deaths that will continue to mount relentlessly.

There is currently no evidence that the international community is prepared to deploy adequate protection for either Darfur's vulnerable civilian populations or endangered humanitarian operations. August, traditionally the month of heaviest rains, will see a further attenuation of relief efforts as transport of food and other critical supplies becomes mired in flooded river beds and blocked by severed road arteries. At the same time, water-borne diseases, along with malaria and a wide range of communicable diseases, will take huge numbers of lives. These diseases will be particularly potent killers because so much of the civilian population of Darfur has been seriously weakened by malnutrition. Famine conditions have already been identified in parts of Darfur, and the U.N.'s World Food Program estimates that 3.5 million people will need food assistance in the near future.

We have failed in Darfur. The only question now is the ultimate moral scale of our failure.


Those who would object to such a NATO deployment must answer, clearly and honestly, a fundamental question: Who besides NATO has the requisite size of forces, the logistical and transport capacity, the essential interoperability, and the experience to mount such a protection operation? The answer is certainly not the A.U., as recent months and any unbiased survey of potential A.U. capacity will indicate. The A.U. must be commended for its efforts to date; it must be encouraged to take upon itself as much of the military obligation as possible; NATO countries must accelerate the training of African military personnel and provide necessary logistics and transport on a highly expedited basis. But the A.U. cannot, in the end, be the organization to answer the desperate call of Darfur.


More broadly, the international community cannot allow the present "climate of impunity" (as many have described it) to prevail indefinitely. Genocide must be punished or the force of international law will be seriously compromised. Future genocidaires will be guided by the vigor and timeliness with which justice is meted out.


The plan I have laid out above for NATO intervention is unlikely to be implemented. Even so, it is important that the stark moral choice confronting the international community be absolutely clear. History must not record this moment as one in which our decision was uninformed by either the scale of the human catastrophe or an understanding of what is required to stop genocidal destruction.

And so, despite the long odds against an intervention actually taking place, it is our obligation to say with conviction and understanding the most urgent truth: In the absence of humanitarian intervention Darfur's civilian population, as well as humanitarian workers, will be consigned to pervasive, deadly insecurity; displaced persons will remain trapped in camps that are hotbeds of disease; agricultural production will remain at a standstill, leaving millions of people dependent on international food assistance for the foreseeable future; aid workers will continue to fall prey to targeted and opportunistic violence.

In other words, the genocide in Darfur will continue. We could stop it. We have simply chosen not to.


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