Good News and Bad

The good news is that imprisoned journalist Paul Salopek, along with his Chadian driver and interpreter, have been released from Sudanese custody after intervention from New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. (Read about his arrest and detention here.)

The bad news is that the Khartoum government appears to be stepping up its campaign of aerial bombardment, massacring civilians in an effort to stamp out all Darfuri rebel resistance. The report of the bombing comes from Human Rights Watch – an admirable and generally reliable organization whose frankly credulous and biased approach to recent Israeli military actions in Lebanon has, to my mind, cast some doubt on its credibility.

There are, however, some important differences between the two situations that ought to be noted: first, Israel, a liberal democracy, was fighting a terrorist organization that had attacked its army and civilian population across a sovereign border, so whatever one’s thoughts about its tactics the justness of its cause was not in question (and to its credit, Human Rights Watch strongly condemned Hizbollah’s actions – both its attacks on Israelis and its use of Lebanese as human shields. Unfortunately its overall response was unfairly biased against Israeli actions).

The Sudanese government in Khartoum, on the other hand, is a clearly murderous dictatorship bent on nothing but its own survival and Arab Islamist supremacy. Rather than defending its citizens, it is killing them, in the hundreds of thousands. Where Israel ostensibly was trying to eliminate terrorist targets in civilian areas, the Sudanese military and the Khartoum-back Janjaweed militias have been targeting civilians – bombing villages from the air and raping and murdering on the ground – as punishment for their alleged support of rebel groups and in an effort to “Arabize” the region.

The simple facts of the conflict make the grisly reports of massacres far more credible. There is no ideological political movement to delegitimize the Khartoum regime, primarily because it does not care about the kind of legitimacy not murdering people confers. So while some reports of Khartoum’s actions in Darfur are no doubt skewed by politics on the ground they cannot be as suspect as proclamations of Israel’s crimes. Nor is there anywhere near as much leverage to be gained by branding Sudan’s leaders as war criminals and genocidaires because, again, they’re not overly concerned about that sort of thing.

Whether Khartoum has anything to be concerned about as it carries on its killing spree is an open question. The determination of the international community to continue asking politely for it to stop seems boundless. Meanwhile, Khartoum is threatening to expel even the meagre African Union force that has so obviously failed to protect civilians in the region.

This, however, is no reason to stop standing up for the people of Darfur. This weekend demonstrations will be held nationwide advocating more forceful action from President Bush and the international community. I encourage anyone who can to attend and lend their support. Who knows? It might even make a difference.

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2 Comments on “Good News and Bad”

  1. « small-d Says:

    […] small-d Fiendishly Clever Tagline Pending « Good News and Bad […]


  2. […] Annan’s comments came at the same time the Human Rights Watch released a report detailing how the Sudanese government appears to be stepping up its aerial bombing campaign in an effort to stamp out rebel activity. (Thanks to small-d for the link to the report.) […]


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