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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Talk is cheap when it comes to Darfur

    Christina Jelly columnist
    Christina Jelly

    Another school year, another opinions column lambasting your apparent ignorance of the horrific genocide in Darfur. But that would be trite – you already have George Clooney, Don Cheadle and a wealth of other celebrities urging you to educate yourself about Sudan’s protracted conflict and to act by writing your congressman, lobbying Congress or educating others.

    Despite all of the rhetoric surrounding Darfur, why has little progress been made in alleviating this humanitarian disaster?

    No one is afraid to talk about the crisis in Darfur or label the current situation a catastrophe. In fact, we feel good talking about Sudan – it is morally commendable to be mindful and vocal about the ever-deteriorating conflict. And this isn’t limited to the student population. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised just last week to “”redouble”” their efforts to further progress in the war-torn region and urged “”quick and decisive action from the international community.””

    Domestically, all of the 2008 presidential candidates have assiduously advocated for action to end the genocide. If you watched the CNN YouTube Democratic debate this summer, you witnessed Bill Richardson and Joe Biden jockeying for the Humanitarian of the Year award: a question from a Darfuri refugee camp prompted Richardson to assert that he visited that camp. Not to be outdone, Biden chimed in that he too had visited that same camp.

    Yet, what do Brown, Sarkozy, Richardson, Biden and all of the other political leaders have to show for their vigorous advocacy? Nothing. If only talking about the Sudanese conflict would bring about some sort of solution.

    I do not mean to undermine the untiring efforts of a variety of non-governmental organizations that have succeeded in inciting public interest in the Darfur campaign as well as pushing the once-obscure conflict into the international spotlight. What I take issue with is the acceptance of political rhetoric on genocide, in and of itself, constituting a sufficient response.

    After Armenia and the Holocaust, and more recently, Bosnia and Rwanda, I believed international recognition of genocide prompted immediate action or at least culpability for inaction.

    I am an optimist and tend to believe that politicians who say they care about plight of the Darfuri people actually do care. The alarming trend that worries me is the recognition of genocide as part and parcel of contemporary conflict and that a satisfactory reaction is to concede that it happens, deplore it and move on.

    Illustrative of this emerging mindset is Barack Obama’s recent admission that he would support withdrawal of American troops from Iraq even if it could lead to a potential genocide. Obama’s justification: “”Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now – where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife – which we haven’t done.””

    Essentially, Obama, as well as other politicians, support American withdrawal even if a prospective consequence is the extermination of Iraq’s Shia and Kurd populations. Not that Obama and others welcome that possibility; rather, they argue that all parties might be worse off if Americans continue to stay.

    No one, bar Clooney and other celebrity glitterati, encourages the unilateral occupation of Sudan though most admit current efforts have been insufficient in easing the tension within the region. So what can be done besides persistently reiterating the Sudanese government’s depredation of Darfur?

    In her book “”A Problem from Hell,”” Samantha Power argues that the United States and the other world powers have done little to prevent or stop genocides, poignantly evoking the tragedies in Rwanda, Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia. Politicians have continuously chosen ineffective negotiations and inaction rather than sending troops to ensure the safety of victims.

    The U.N. Security Council recently voted unanimously to send a 26,000-strong peace force of African Union and United Nations troops to Darfur. Still, the U.N. is already behind schedule in securing specialized air, transport and logistical capabilities to get the peace force on the ground.

    I may not be a political expert or an astute critic of international affairs, but like any other student, American and human being, I am genuinely disturbed by policymakers promising morality-based action, but delivering only vague generalizations or promises.

    But, in a world where national strategic interests and realpolitik supersede public morality, should any of us be all that shocked?

    Christina Jelly is a senior majoring in art history, biochemistry, economics and philosophy. She can be reached at

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