Faced with the realities of an ongoing genocide in Darfur, some unlikely bedfellows have found themselves together: once-vociferous war protestors, disillusioned hawks, and cowed politicians too craven to risk the political fallout of American casualties have all become conspicuously silent, failing to confront Sudan’s overt campaign of ethnic cleansing. Even worse than the individuals who turn their backs on the Sudanese people are the many nations that join them. Countries that refused to provide assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq are now equally committed to the same degree of action — that is to say, none at all. Instead, these regimes opt for the politically expedient choice of ignoring the deaths of thousands. Inaction was wrong then. It is even more reprehensible now.
The Yale College Students for Democracy, recognizing in our charter that “targeting innocent civilians is an unjust act” and that “human dignity demands respect for people of every religion, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation,” believe that the United States has the obligation to forcefully intervene on behalf of Darfur’s African population of 1.3 million, who are now the targets of the Sudanese government’s vicious crusade of genocide. It is the goal of YCSD to encourage the Yale community to discuss and address the desperate situation in Darfur.
Pundits and policy hacks have tirelessly debated whether the Sudanese government’s actions against the black Africans of Darfur constitute “genocide.” Beyond the sheltered realm of political rhetoric and legalese, there is no doubt that the Khartoum regime and its proxy forces, the Arab Janjawid militias, are attempting to exterminate the black Africans of Darfur. Over 50,000 have died as a result of murder and the government’s strategy of starvation. Over one million more have been forced from their homes, and another 130,000 have fled to neighboring Chad. With the aid of Sudanese Air Force bombs, the militias have razed villages to the ground and murdered and raped their inhabitants — all under the banner of fighting “rebels.”
On August 30, a U.N. deadline for the Khartoum government to “disarm and prosecute” the Janjawid passed, and with it passed any likelihood of peace. By all accounts, the Sudanese government has allowed the Janjawid to continue its assault on Darfur’s black population. Considering that the West has conveniently ignored Sudan’s persistent human rights violations over the last two decades, it is unsurprising that the government remains undeterred. Khartoum has waged its genocide for a year without consequences save shallow condemnations and empty threats leveled by the United Nations. The legacy of Sudanese appeasement continues.
It is doubtful that economic and diplomatic sanctions will persuade the Sudanese government to end the ethnic cleansing. Khartoum officials have only been emboldened by UN threats and have declared that Sudan is simply the target of a smear campaign led by the United States as part of its “war on Arabs and Islam.” When in doubt, they blame America.
Khartoum’s Islamist regime, host to Osama bin Laden in 1991, has threatened “jihad” against any Western powers that seek to end the killing in Darfur by deploying an international peacekeeping force. Capitalizing on the prevalent contempt for American intervention in the Middle East, the Sudanese government seeks to gain support and conceal its genocide by shrouding it in the hateful yet resonant language of holy war against the West. Hassan Al-Turabi, the fundamentalist ideologue behind the Khartoum regime, once boasted of “arabizing Africa.” Indeed, Sudan’s “arabization” campaign has begun, exploiting Islam and the rhetoric of jihad to mobilize the Arab world to its side.
Thus far, it has worked. Sudan is well on its way to its goal of expelling blacks from Darfur as the world contentedly watches. The European Union’s “fact-finding mission” came and left Sudan last month, declaring that they had found “widespread violence” but “no evidence of genocide.” Neville Chamberlain would be proud. The United States and Great Britain, too worried about their perceived image as crusaders against Islam, have cowered in the shadows. The only semblance of a response is a feeble force of 300 Rwandan and Nigerian security troops sent to protect cease-fire monitors.
If we have any desire to avoid a harrowing replay of the 1994 Rwandan nightmare, when the world stood by as an official spectator to the massacre of 800,000 Tutsi, we must assert that the United States has the right and, moreover, the duty to intervene. Retired General Romeo Dallaire, leader of the impotent 1994 U.N. peacekeeping force in Rwanda, said he is “disgusted with the lame and obtuse responses coming from — the Western world.” Leaving over a million residents of Darfur at the mercy of the Janjawid is not only “lame;” it is a choice making us complicit in their extermination.
Force, in the form of an international coalition of peacekeeping troops led by the United States to oversee the return of refugees to their villages and to forcibly disarm the Janjawid militias, is likely the only language Khartoum’s government, unfazed by the prospect of sanctions and familiar with the UN’s coercive decrepitude, will understand.
Keith Urbahn is a junior in Saybrook College. He is the vice president for communication for the Yale College Students for Democracy.