- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Khartoum should have been happy that only one member of the six-person U.N. human-rights team headed to Darfur this week has been an outspoken public critic of the genocidal situation there. Instead, it has blocked the entire team on the grounds that Bertrand Ramcharan, a Guyanese and U.N. veteran of three decades, has previously noted Khartoum’s crimes against humanity in what his 2004 report on the subject called a “reign of terror” orchestrated by the government. With few alternatives and not wanting to capitulate, the United Nations is now forced to conduct its mission outside Sudan’s borders.

Sudan should be so lucky that only one of the six has acknowledged with any force in public the obvious truth about Darfur. The situation there continues to simmer without significant improvement in the prospects for peace nor in the situation on the ground, while the issue drifts from headlines in the United States and the major powers do little. More than 200,000 have died in total and well over 2 million are displaced, and reports continue to accumulate of villages torched and civilians killed in cold blood by government-backed militias. As the International Crisis Group put it recently: “The Sudanese regime is, by any measure, one of the most brutal and destabilizing in the world today.”

Not that the rampant impunity is new. The last several months have seen Khartoum flout a U.N. Security Council plan to send 20,000 troops to Darfur to stabilize the region and the expulsion of U.N. Special Representative Jan Pronk for “psychological warfare” — his crime the observation that Darfurian rebels had scored victories over the Sudanese army. This is what happens when a tyrannical government operates in an international security vacuum in the Horn of Africa: Absent any real consequences, Khartoum is free to flout the most minimal of international standards. Meanwhile, the conflict is well advanced, spilling over into neighboring countries, including and especially Chad.

President Bush’s famous “not on my watch” remark belies the fact that Darfur is arguably this administration’s most devilish foreign-policy problem outside Iraq, Iran and North Korea. In Darfur, it faces the most extreme of competing imperatives: It greatly values Khartoum’s counterterrorism assistance against al Qaeda and regional terrorist groups but at the same time it cannot help but dirty its hands as in no comparable case when it cooperates with such a brutal government.

In an age when Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage could reportedly threaten Pakistan with bombing back to the Stone Age in the absence of Pakistan’s about-turn into a cooperative antiterrorism ally, it remains unclear why the Bush administration has been so much weaker on Khartoum. Much can be done short of the nearly unimaginable act of sending troops. It simply hasn’t.

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