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ISSUE 118 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/1/2004

Sudan situation dire

By Byron Vierk
Staff Writer

Friday, October 1, 2004

Politicians on both sides of the aisle in Congress have suggested that the United States should have known that the Iraqi liberation effort would go sour, citing the Vietnam conflict as proof of the inevitable failure of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Politicians who argue so vehemently that we remember history seem to have forgotten the Armenian Genocide following World War I, the Holocaust of World War II and the brutal ethnic cleansings in Cambodia, Serbia and Rwanda.

In the Darfur region of Sudan, this centurys first major genocide is unfolding while the supposed defenders of righteousness stand by powerless and unmotivated.

In Darfur, one million people have been forced to live as refugees. Following an uprising by the oppressed African minority, roving Pro-Government Arab militias have killed 50,000 or more of the regions Black African population.

The government admits to forming self-defense militias against the rebels in Darfur, but denies any links to the Janjaweed militia groups responsible for the mass murders and rapes in the region. Refugees, however, paint a very different story.

According to victims, the Sudanese Government Air Force is bombing villages suspected of being rebel strongholds. Following the bombardment, the Janjaweed militias ride through the village on horses and camels, massacring men, women and children. The Janjaweed themselves admit to these atrocities, claiming that men are killed and women are raped if they stray too far from the protection of the refugee camps in search of wood or water.

The African Union (A.U.) seems powerless to stop the violence. Neighboring countries, like Chad, have closed their borders for fear of spreading the battlefront of Arab-Black confrontation. Sudan itself seems at best complacent and at worst complicit with the slaughter of the mostly Christian Black African population by their Arab-African countrymen.

Under massive political pressure from the United Nations and the United States, Sudan has weakly promised to disarm the Janjaweed. The United Nations is threatening sanctions  with the United States leading that push, yet some nations are still resisting a broader A.U. or U.N. military presence to ensure the safety of the refugees, including Sudan itself.

Given the remoteness of Sudan, it is not likely that a western nation will be involved in any broad-based military action to protect the refugees as they did in Kosovo in 1999. Despite the similarity of the Darfur crisis to the Kosovo genocide, Darfur is considerably vaster and much further away from NATOs main bases of operation than Kosovo, Serbia.

Because of Africas status in the world, an African crisis somehow always needs to be especially gruesome for western nations to take notice. Rwanda practically bled itself dry before the United Nations decided to care.

While it is understandable that the West is apprehensive about putting troops into yet another Muslim country, a multi-national coalition featuring the United Nations or African Union would not be there to challenge the validity of the Sudanese government. The U.S. Congress recently declared the conflict genocide but only in a non-binding resolution in the House of Representatives. The Senate has yet to agree, but if they were to concur, such a decision would set off intervention actions under the guidelines of the Genocide Convention, although the depth of the resolve of such action is uncertain.

Secretary of State Colin Powell recently visited Sudan, and in a promising first step, stated, Genocide has been committed in Sudan, and the Sudanese Government and the Janjaweed militias bear responsibility.

For all those in the government today who continue to question the moral basis of the war in Iraq, Sudan presents itself as a clear example of when intervention is not only necessary, but also vital to the preservation of human rights for an entire region of the world.

To have invaded Iraq on shaky foundations with vague moral reasoning was bad enough. For the United States to ignore Sudan as its people die by the thousands would only further blemish a record of righteousness already on life support.

Staff writer Byron Vierk is a senior from Lincoln, Neb. He majors in history.

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