- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008


Among the first of the world’s presidents to congratulae President-elect Barack Obama was Sudan’s dictator, Gen. Omar al-Bashir, who is beyond elections. He sent hope that Mr. Obama will bring “change” to U.S.-Sudan relations.

Mr. Obama knows better. As the Paris-based Sudan Tribune’s Web site reports (Nov. 6): “During his campaign, Senator Obama pledged ‘unstinting resolve’ to end the crisis in Darfur, and stated ‘there can be no doubt that the Sudanese government is chiefly responsible for the violence and is able to end it.’ ”

On Nov. 12, in what Gen. Bashir assumed Mr. Obama would consider a welcome move, Sudan’s genocide president, , announced “our immediate unconditional ceasefire” that would include the disarmament (which he has often pledged) of his most ruthless killers and rapists, the janjaweed militia.

As is Gen. Bashir’s custom, he followed the ceasefire by two days of multiple attacks by his army and Russian Antonov gunships and bombers on rebel forces (Sudan Tribune, Nov. 15).

The blame for the continuing atrocities against Darfur’s black African Muslims is not only the general’s because, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice belatedly said in a New York Times Sunday Magazine interview (Nov. 16), the U.N. Security Council has continually failed to impose strong enough sanctions on Gen. Bashir. “I think,” she said, “it (the genocide) has been an enormous embarrassment for the Security Council.” Not at all embarrassed are China, the Arab states and Russia, among other U.N. members, who protect Gen. Bashir at the United Nations - and in China’s case, heavily invest in Sudan’s economy and provide bountiful arms to its army and the janjaweed.

In her interview, the soon departing secretary of state made a bitter comment that I hope she will amplify once she is out of office: “I think we thought ‘the responsibility to protect’ meant something. In the Darfur case it has turned to be nothing but words.” She was referring to what seemed to be an historic commitment by the United Nations, in 2005, named the Responsibility to Protect “populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity … in an international commitment by governments to prevent and react to grave crises, wherever they may occur.”

R2P, as it is called, also declared, for the first time in U.N. history, that “states have a primary responsibility to protect their own populations” and that “the international community has a responsibility to act when these governments fail to protect the most vulnerable among us.” In that case, national sovereignty is not absolute.

The Bashir government is still a member of the United Nations in good standing, as are other countries that terrorize their own people.

As a citizen of the United States, I increasingly regret that our taxpayers’ dollars form a considerable percentage of U.N. finances. Sen. John McCain’s vital contribution to making an international responsibility to protect more than (as Miss Rice says) “nothing but words,” was his proposal for “a league of democracies” to rescue populations attacked by their own leaders.

Does President-elect Obama have the insight and courage to work with Mr. McCain on the beginning steps to build “a league of democracies”?

In quoting Miss Rice’s burst of sunlight on the immeasurable darkness of abandoned peoples due to U.N. incompetence, the Sudan Tribune ended its story: “U.N. experts estimate some 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes” by Sudan, a sovereign U.N. member nation. And there is a postscript to the story: “Sudan blames the Western media for exaggerating the conflict and puts the death toll at 10,000.” In another repellent trait, Gen. Bashir also blames Jews in the media and other places of influence for maligning his rule.

At least, however, the United Nations does, in addition to its useless resolutions to end the genocide in Darfur, put out some reports on what it has done (nothing substantial) to stop the crimes on the ground.

An October report on Darfur by U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon noted that attacks by Sudanese forces - and the rebels - on humanitarian workers in Darfur have exceeded those of the past two years, forcing two aid organizations to suspend their operations in Darfur that helped a half-million refugees. (Those figures are understated.)

The secretary-general’s report continued: “So far this year 208 humanitarian vehicles have been hijacked, 155 aid workers abducted … and 123 premises broken into.” And the understaffed African Union-United Nations hybrid force (UNAMID) documented “16 cases (hugely understated) of rape and sexual assault against women of Darfur - including by government forces,” some “in military uniform.”

By the way, on Nov. 12, the U.N. secretary-general praised the general’s declaration of a ceasefire - without waiting to see whether it was nothing but words. In a refugee camp where there are mass graves, Darfur survivors said they need not peace - but justice.

To be continued.

Nat Hentoff’s column for The Washington Times appears on Mondays.

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