Hannah Arendt is known for her book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.” She fled Germany in the 1930s during the rise of Hitler. Her book and its title came from her reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, who was a key organizer of the Holocaust. She coined the phrase, “banality of evil” because of the moral detachment of a man just doing his job.
Our State Department, Congress and the organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast are accepting Sudanese Prime Minister Ali Karti as a man who is just doing his job. He is being given the legitimacy of a statesman by each of these symbolic bodies of the U.S. government and civil society.
Ali Karti was promoted to the position of Prime Minister in 2010 after leading the Sudanese Popular Defense Force. The Popular Defense Force is best known for genocide in South Sudan. They also armed Janjaweed militias, which carried out much of the genocide in Darfur along with the PDF. The PDF is a military extension of the National Islamic Front. The NIF is the Sudanese political party founded by Hassan al-Turabi. He is the Muslim Brotherhood leader who harbored Osama bin Laden. The Janjaweed were originally a creation of Muammar Qadaffi to Arabize Chad and Sudan. Their intent is to cleanse Africa of black non-Muslims.
The PDF first carried out genocide in South Sudan. They were slave raiders that took women and children, killed men, and burned villages in South Sudan. Tens of thousands of slaves. That was in the ‘90s. Then, the PDF turned to helping the Janjaweed in Darfur in the 2000s.
Granted the comparison to Eichmann is rough. Ali Karti is not as morally distanced from his crime, as was Adolf Eichmann. Were he to be captured and tried in Juba, the comparison would break down less quickly. Eichmann was not able to repair his image in the eyes of the West like Mr. Karti. Mr. Karti is known in the Sudanese President Omar Bashir’s cabinet as an advocate for dialogue. The Khartoum regime clearly learned from the Iran negotiations that the prospect of prolonged talks could distance themselves from pesky issues such as war crime charges from the ICC and the arming of rebels in the South Sudan conflict.
Every U.S. official and congressman who shakes Mr. Karti’s hand will be complicit in legitimizing the Khartoum regime’s rational for their atrocities. Ignorance as a self-defence for failing to recognize the symbolic significance of Karti’s acceptance by Washington will be no comfort to the surviving African families of Mr. Karti’s victims.
Watch the news coverage of the National Prayer Breakfast. Will the press challenge our government for their approval of Mr. Karti? Will well-meaning religious observers be duped into the same tacit acceptance of one of this generations greatest monsters?
Nicholas Hanlon is Chief Africa Analyst at the Center for Security Policy.