Saturday, August 08, 2009

After six years, Darfur genocide still a reality

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof once described Darfur as a “genocide in slow motion.” Slow motion, because the international media were so lax in reporting the mass rapes of women and girls, the international community so meek in responding to each successive campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Year after year, the numbers added up — 100,000, then 200,000, then 400,000 dead, and 2.5 million refugees. Satellite images show a region nearly the size of Texas that has been scorched and depopulated. The fewer people who are left, the fewer there are to kill.

That led to some unusual semantics. The U.S. government officially describes the systematic elimination of the black African population of Darfur as genocide. But Andrew Natsios, President George W. Bush's special envoy to Sudan, told a group of journalists in 2007, “The slaughter in Darfur is over.”

That depends of course on your definition of slaughter. Thousands more would still perish — are still perishing — since Natsios made his remark. Later, former President Jimmy Carter said that referring to the post-slaughter in Darfur as genocide is inaccurate and unhelpful.

Now President Barack Obama's special envoy to Sudan is echoing both of these sentiments. “There's significant difference between what happened in 2004 and 2003, which we characterized as a genocide, and what is happening today,” Gen. Scott Gration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Gration's comments reflect a debate within the Obama administration about Sudan policy. Facing the “remnants of genocide,” Gration and others argue, the United States should lift sanctions on Sudan and remove it from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

That would be a profound mistake. As long as the perpetrators of the atrocities are still empowered in Khartoum, as long as millions of refugees continue to live and die in squalid refugee camps, the genocide in Darfur cannot be airbrushed out of history. Read more >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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