Sunday, October 31, 2004

Having been critical of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s word games as he and the U.N. Security Council avoid action to stop the atrocities in Darfur, I am sternly corrected on Oct. 19 in a letter to The Washington Times by Edward Mortimer, director of communications for the U.N. Secretary-General.

Mr. Annan’s spokesman claims the secretary-general “has left no stone unturned in calling for urgent action.” For example, he says, Mr. Annan has set up a commission of inquiry “to determine whether acts of genocide have taken place.” While this exercise in semantics will be explored for months, the death toll of black Africans in Darfur now is more than 70,000 (according to the U.N. World Health Organization) and may be closer to 300,000, according to a report by Smith College professor Eric Reeves, synthesizing reliable mortality statistics. And Andrew Natsios, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, projects death rates approaching 1 million if massive aid does not arrive in time.

The 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide speaks to “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group, (as such).” This is precisely what the Khartoum government and its murderous allies, the Arab Janjaweed, are committing in Darfur. But Mr. Annan sets up an “investigative” commission to put a name to it.

However, on the Oct. 15 edition of PBS’ “The NewsHour,” Mr. Annan said that labeling this “genocide” was not necessary. (“We know what needs to be done.”) Another stone being unturned by Mr. Annan, according to his public-relations man, in his support of “an enhanced AU [African Union] force with support and funding from donors [as] the most viable option.” Mr. Mortimer neglects to add that Nigeria, speaking for the African Union, insisted on Oct. 18 that it rejects “all foreign intervention in Darfur” because this is a “purely African question.” There is no indication that the African Union, pressured by the Arab League not to go too far, will have the equipment and resources to have any significant effect.

On her recent return from Darfur, Samantha Power, the pre-eminent historian of contemporary genocide, said in the Oct. 4 edition of Time magazine that “the only hope for peace is an international protection force.” Although Mr. Annan foresaw that possibility in an April 7 U.N. press release, stating that “military action” may be needed, he has been silent about it since. He knows that there is no way such an international force can be put into action by the United Nations.

The very structure of the Security Council dooms any such hope for Darfur. Councilmember China has made it clear that it would veto such an intervention. Its overriding concern is its substantial oil investments in Sudan.

If there is to be an international intervention to protect the black African survivors from the National Islamic Front government and its Janjaweed accomplices, the only way is through an organization of countries that do not commit crimes against their own people and have the will to stop genocide. The United States could help organize such an international force.

Ten years ago, members of the United Nations, particularly Mr. Annan (then in charge of peacekeeping operations in New York) not only folded their hands but also closed their eyes as Hutu extremists butchered 800,000 Tutus in Rwanda. The U.N. man in Rwanda, Maj. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, having been tipped off to the imminent massacres, repeatedly and desperately asked Mr. Annan for permission to use U.N. forces to stop the killings. He was ordered to do nothing.

Mr. Annan has since expressed regret at his lethal silence on Rwanda, but will not even call the atrocities in Darfur genocide until his linguistics commission reports back. But he knows what’s going on, as shown in the Oct. 4 report by this secretary-general to the Security Council: “Today, still-increasing numbers of the population of Darfur are exposed, without any protection from their government, to hunger, fear and violence. The numbers affected by the conflict are growing and their suffering is being prolonged by inaction.” (The inaction is by, among others, Mr. Annan himself, and the Security Council’s cynically useless resolutions.) Mr. Dallaire writes in the Oct. 4 New York Times that “moral condemnation, trade penalties and military efforts by African countries are simply not going to be enough to stop the killing — not nearly enough. I know because I’ve seen it all happen before.” Is Mr. Annan waiting until, as in Rwanda, there are 800,000 or more dead before he calls it genocide? Mr. Dallaire says NATO could equip and send troops, helicopters and other material, as could “countries like Germany and Canada that have more political leeway and often more credibility in the development world than the Security Council members” who will not act anyway.

Does anyone in that vaunted U.N. building near New York’s East River really care? Anyone?

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