Friday, November 09, 2007

Newsweek: Dueling Over Darfur

Alex de Waal & John Pendergast
Newsweek Web Exclusive


A human rights activist and an Africa scholar disagree ­vehemently­ on the best way to help Sudan.

An exclusive online forum
Updated: 11:51 AM ET Nov 8, 2007



Have advocacy movements like the Save Darfur Coalition helped or hindered the search for a political solution in Sudan's troubled province? Should the killings there really be classified as genocide, or has the meaning of the term been devalued by activists trying to draw public attention to the conflict?

After NEWSWEEK raised some of these questions in a report called "Packaging a Tragedy," two leading Darfur experts, Alex de Waal and John Prendergast, discussed these issues in an online forum for NEWSWEEK. De Waal is program director at the Social Science Research Council, a fellow of the Global Equity Initiative, Harvard University, and a director of Justice Africa. He has written and edited several books on Darfur, including "Famine That Kills: Darfur, Sudan, 1984-1985" and, most recently, " War in Darfur and the Search for Peace . " Prendergast is a co-chair with the Enough Project and serves on the board of the Save Darfur Coalition. He served as an adviser to the White House and the State Department during the Clinton administration and later as a senior adviser to the nonpartisan International Crisis Group. He co-authored the book "Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond," with actor Don Cheadle, and has written seven other books on Africa.



ALEX DE WAAL: The point of activism is to make a difference. And the Darfur campaigns have made a difference to U.S. policy­certainly in rhetoric, and significantly in substance. For a start, humanitarian agencies working in Darfur have little difficulty in getting the funds they demand from the U.S. government, and no presidential candidate can outline a position on foreign policy that doesn't have some reference to what he or she proposes to do in Darfur. Without the campaigners there would have been no genocide determination and no referral to the International Criminal Court, and it's unlikely that there would have been an effort to change the African Union force to United Nations peacekeepers. It's certainly true that a lot of what has passed for U.S. Darfur policy in the last three years has been hot air­beginning with Colin Powell's Sept. 9, 2004, determination that genocide had been committed in Darfur (and may be continuing), immediately followed by his assertion that U.S. government policy would not change. But hot air can make a difference too, when we are dealing with a government in Khartoum that has been on the receiving end of U.S. cruise missiles and that fears that the U.S. government will take sides against it in a future war for the secession of southern Sudan. When you are dealing with the U.S., you need to pay attention to what its leaders say. Hot air also makes a difference to inexperienced but heady young rebel leaders who think that if they play their cards right they might just get a NATO military intervention, à la Kosovo, which delivers them from the hands of Khartoum into some form of self-government. Thirteen years ago, in the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide and a lopsided relief response that aided the refugees in (what was then called) Zaire, a group that included much of the genocidal interahamwe militia, and neglected the people threatened by genocide itself, humanitarian agencies went through a painful period of soul-searching. Their first response to their critics (of whom I was one) was something like, "We are not politicians, we are only here to help­and how dare you blame the ambulance crew for car crashes!" But relief workers in the field had long been troubled by the way in which their good intentions were subverted by the realities of horrible wars, in which the material resources provided by aid agencies could turn into an asset that actually worsened conflict and abuse. The principle "do no harm" was adopted to guide humanitarian engagement. The same "do no harm" principle applies to advocacy, too, and I think that what is happening in Sudan today will soon turn into soul-searching by activist organizations. How could they have inadvertently done harm (or failed to do good)? And what should they learn from this experience? Let me pose three questions, as possibilities we shouldn't evade: 1) Could the focus on Darfur mean that the challenges of consolidating the North-South peace have been neglected? Could it mean that the threat of major violence in Kordofan, the region that borders Darfur, has been overlooked? 2) Could the Darfur campaign have driven the Bush administration to adopt hardline rhetoric that made Khartoum less cooperative, while at the same time encouraging the rebels to believe that they could win a military intervention if they held out long enough? Could it in fact have impeded the search for a compromise between government and rebels? 3) Has the stress on genocide­which has continued even after the end of large-scale hostilities in early 2005­misrepresented the situation? Has this meant that we have missed more appropriate actions? Does putting Darfur into the same category as the Holocaust and Rwanda mean that we are obliged to do the same for a whole array of ethnic wars and counterinsurgencies across the world?



JOHN PRENDERGAST: Well, at least we agree on your first line: the point of activism is to make a difference. However, we diverge in the starkest of terms on most of your other main points. Let me begin with three general counterpoints: First, your criticism of the advocacy community seems bizarrely misplaced, when it is the policymakers in Washington, Brussels, London, and Beijing who have been primarily responsible for the failure to confront the crime of genocide and the inability to craft relevant solutions to the complicated crisis in Darfur. Activists seek to raise the alarm bell and to shape the policy priorities of their government. We were not running the failed peace process you were a part of in 2006 that led to an escalation of violence, for example. We just want to see solutions. And we recognize that the actor that is primarily responsible for the mayhem in Darfur is the Sudanese regime and its brutal counterinsurgency campaign that has ruthlessly targeted civilian populations and attempted to divide and destroy the rebel movements and the communities that support them. Second, hardline rhetoric is problematic only insofar as it hasn't been backed by credible action. That is not the fault of activists. It represents the failure of will on the part of policymakers in Washington particularly who placed other priorities (reserving assets for Iraq, maintaining access to counterterrorism information from the Khartoum regime, and not wanting to upset China, the principal investor in Sudan's oil sector) over undertaking actions necessary to confront genocidal intent. The Khartoum regime figured out the U.S. Government (USG) was willing to bark but not bite, and knew they could literally get away with mass murder, in the face of the empty Washington rhetoric. Third, I don't think you fully recognize how much activists have indeed made a difference, particularly in the last six months. A divestment movement is growing throughout the U.S. that has led 20 states, numerous universities, and some mutual funds to sell their shares of stock in companies doing business in ways that support genocide. Activist campaigns targeting China's hosting of the "Genocide Olympics" in 2008 have led Beijing to become much more constructive behind the scenes of late. Activists have pressed relentlessly for the deployment of a U.N.-led force to protect civilians in Darfur, and we are almost there. The Bush administration finally decided to take its first bite after all the barking, and imposed further sanctions on the regime a few months ago, signaling that confronting genocide has now taken its rightful place as equal to the other policy imperatives governing relations with Sudan. The list goes on. Frankly, if you removed the advocacy movement from the equation, absolutely nothing would have been done on Sudan. So it's not that activists diverted energies from what otherwise would have been a good approach; rather, we created attention and momentum around a set of issues that would have been ignored, at no cost, otherwise. Now I would like to turn to some of the specific points in your submission, which I have reviewed with my ENOUGH Project colleagues Colin Thomas-Jensen and Julia Spiegel. (You see, we need a battery of people to tally up the differences of view we have with you!!) · Your "Hot Air" paragraph has a number of holes. The USG has often been as vocal in its criticism of the rebels as it has of the government (and often disproportionately harsh on the rebels), so it is very suspect to say that U.S. rhetoric emboldened rebel groups to think that a NATO intervention was imminent. Look also at USG sanctions. The USG has imposed sanctions on the rebels as well as NCP [Sudan's ruling National Congress Party] officials. The hot air is blowing in all directions. "Hot air" without follow-through is what actually emboldens rebels and the NCP alike. As has been the case with the Bush administration' s rhetorical advocacy of a no-fly zone, for example, harsh rhetoric without any serious military planning to back it up hands the NCP a propaganda victory. The regime has called the U.S. bluff time and time again, and clearly no one plans to do anything about it. And even with the sanctions, the USG didn't target the key guys responsible for ongoing atrocities, and Washington didn't work aggressively to make them multilateral. That again sends a message to the regime that we're all talk and no walk. · It is worth noting that when renegade rebel–turned–governme nt militia commander Minni Minnawi traveled to the U.S. to visit Bush last year, he met with a number of activist groups­including us­who were harshly critical of the abuses committed by his forces. Activist organizations have not portrayed the rebels as freedom fighters, but rather maintained a justified focus on the primary cause of the crisis: the actions of the regime and the impunity it still enjoys. · Activists had little to do with the genocide declaration in 2004. There was not even what you could call "a campaign" at that time. Actually, the USG sent a team of researchers to Chad, interviewed 1,100 refugees, and based on the patterns of violence they discovered made a determination. Then, the disconnect between word and deed­genocide and "doing all we can"­helped to create the movement. · You write: "When you are dealing with the U.S., you need to pay attention to what its leaders say." Perhaps, but I would argue that a regime as experienced and wily as the one in Khartoum pays a lot more attention to what the USG does, not what it says. You should know this… · You write that the Khartoum regime "fears that the U.S. government will take sides against it in a future war for the secession of southern Sudan". Really? If that were the case, then wouldn't the USG be making much more of an effort to pressure the regime to implement the southern Sudan peace agreement? Or pumping arms into the south? Again, the regime is looking at actions, not words. · In the Rwanda/Zaire paragraph, you are comparing activists calling upon their elected leaders to stop crimes against humanity to relief agencies who were knowingly feeding genocidaires in eastern Congo. That is a grotesque oversimplification­ provocative and largely meaningless. You're comparing apples and oranges to make a cute rhetorical point, and it doesn't work. The comparison is at best disingenuous: you cannot say giving aid that gets diverted to genocidaires is analogous to pressuring the USG to take more concerted action in Darfur. Perhaps you're alluding to what you see as activists' oversimplification of the crisis and a focus on Darfur, but I think you would be hard-pressed to explain how that makes activists responsible for bad USG policy or demonstrates that they have done "harm." · You are failing to look at your own actions with a critical eye, as a central participant in crafting the fatally flawed Darfur peace deal in 2006 that led to an intensification of conflict in Darfur. Activists were pushing for a comprehensive peace deal that would address root causes in Darfur, not a half-baked agreement between the regime and the most abusive rebel commander in Darfur who has now become a government militia thanks to your "peace deal." · You write: "Could the focus on Darfur mean that the challenges of consolidating the North-South peace have been neglected?" Again, that suggests that the USG policy is solely dictated by activists, surely not something anyone could argue with a straight face about the Bush administration. Activists have certainly deemphasized the North-South deal, but that doesn't excuse the Bush administration from walking away from one of its only foreign policy successes of the past seven years. And would it have been OK to let Khartoum pursue a policy of mass murder in Darfur just to get the North-South deal implemented? Stove-piped USG policy is the problem, not activism. Why do you consistently let the USG off the hook and blame activists for bad policy? The USG should have had a comprehensive policy to deal with both the North-South deal and Darfur, but instead it has been unable to reconcile the two. Had there been no Darfur movement, it's highly likely that both crises would have been ignored. And right now advocacy groups across the country are taking the lead role in making it clear that the problems in Sudan need to be dealt with holistically, since USG policy still hasn't addressed it that way. · You write: "Could the Darfur campaign have driven the Bush administration to adopt hard-line rhetoric that made Khartoum less cooperative, while at the same time encouraging the rebels to believe that they could win a military intervention if they held out long enough? Could it in fact have impeded the search for a compromise between government and rebels?" What compromise? When has the government of Sudan shown any willingness to compromise when they were not under intense international pressure? At the 2006 peace talks you were part of, the USG put more pressure on the rebels than it did on Khartoum, and ended up with a stillborn agreement. Is this the fault of rebel-coddling activists? · You write: "Has the stress on genocide­which has continued even after the end of large-scale hostilities in early 2005­misrepresented the situation? Has this meant that we have missed more appropriate actions? Does putting Darfur into the same category as the Holocaust and Rwanda mean that we are obliged to do the same for a whole array of ethnic wars and counterinsurgencies across the world?" The answer is no, no and no. Genocidal intent was there in 2003-2004 in Sudan and it is still there today. Without activists pushing on the U.S. to back up the genocide rhetoric with some action, the Khartoum regime would have pursued a scorched-earth policy until many more hundreds of thousand­and perhaps millions­were dead. This is not an "ethnic war," and it is remarkable that you would parrot exactly what the government of Sudan is saying. Also, are Rwanda and the Holocaust the litmus test for genocide? I hadn't realized… You should reread the Genocide Convention. The sincere reading of that document by the preponderance of activists, including this one, leads to a conclusion that the regime in Khartoum is pursuing policies calculated to create conditions that would bring about the destruction, in whole or part, of specific groups of people on the basis of their ethnicity. The names of the groups are the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit. We should know their stories just as we now know the stories of the Tutsis of Rwanda, or the Jews in Germany. And if there will ever be any meaningful response to these crimes, it will be because of activists saying that as voters we will not tolerate our government standing by in the face of genocide.



ALEX DE WAAL: Whoa! I wrote my thoughts in anticipating a constructive debate on how activism could learn the lessons of the successes and failures of the last few years. My three clusters of questions were precisely that­questions, to open debate. You took them as charges­in fact, as personal accusations. Not so! I was hoping for a substantive discussion on how activism by citizens and leadership on moral issues by political figures­congresspeop le, aspiring presidential candidates, other public intellectuals­ helps shape foreign policy, and how this new wave of international public activism on Africa and human rights can be made more effective. John, your ad hominem attacks are shameful. They display wanton ignorance about the peace process in Abuja and the role I played in it. Have you not read my accounts of what went on there? (Published in the London Review of Books and more recently in "War in Darfur and the Search for Peace.") Are you not aware that I strongly advocated for power-sharing provisions that would have provided parity for the movements and the NCP in Darfur rather than the imbalance that was proposed? Are you ignorant of the fact that after the deal was signed on May 5, with Minni Minawi­a man whom I advocated the U.S. should NOT back­I stayed behind on my own initiative to try to get [rebel leader] Abdel Wahid to continue negotiating with the government and came closer to an agreement than all the assembled diplomats and heads of state on May 4-5? I joined the peace process late, as an adviser. The Sudan government objected to me and I was smuggled in as a personal advisor to the chief mediator, Salim Salim. I didn't dictate that process. My advice was sometimes followed, more often not. I declined the invitation to join the last mediation in Sirte [Libya] because the advice I have been giving was not followed at all. I and others involved have scrutinized and criticized every aspect of the process. Knowing how agonizingly close we came to an agreement in Abuja, and looking at the small things that might have made the difference, I search my memory and conscience every day to examine what I might have done differently. You, however, served in government. You were a senior official on African policy in an administration that fired cruise missiles that destroyed a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum and which endorsed regime change by rebels in both Sudan and Zaire. In the latter case, that regime change happened and ushered in the humanitarian disaster that is the Democratic Republic of Congo today. Do you ever ask yourself what you might have done differently to avert that disaster? Most of your response is an exercise in pyromania of straw men. But although careless with both facts and logic, it deserves a response. Let me start with the first sentence of your second paragraph, in which you unhesitatingly use the word 'genocide,' and your final point about the genocide convention. There is almost six decades of scholarly work on the definition of genocide and almost twenty years of debate among Sudanese activists about whether or not to use the term in Sudan (see my recent article in the Spring 2007 Harvard Human Rights Journal). It's not as straightforward as you imply. If we applied the letter of the convention, any attempt to inflict harm on members of a racial, religious or ethnic group, with the intent to destroy them in whole or in part, would be genocide. That would mean that at least half a dozen episodes in the Sudanese civil war would be genocide, as well as episodes in Ethiopia in the 1980s, Uganda in 1983, Somalia in 1988 and 1992-3 and again in the last few months, numerous episodes in the DRC and various others would all be genocide. It would include most ethnic wars and counterinsurgencies (in passing, your attempt to smear me with endorsing Khartoum's explanations for the Darfur war is a cheap shot­I did not write that Darfur's war was an ethnic war and you know it). Many scholars prefer to use a narrower interpretation of the genocide convention to apply to projects of racial or ethnic annihilation­ which Darfur is not. Racist insults by militiamen simply aren't proof of genocidal intent. And in your final sentence you cannot resist the temptation of comparing Darfur's victims to the Rwandese Tutsis and European Jews­rather than (for example) the displaced fleeing the fighting in Mogadishu. There's another problem with your argument. The period of intense conflict in Darfur was from about April 2003 to January 2005. The great majority of massacres were committed between July 2003 and April 2004. Mortality from hunger and disease peaked at the end of 2004 and fell away rapidly after that. By this time a major humanitarian operation had been mounted, the AU had dispatched troops, peace negotiations were all under way, and Darfur had been referred to the International Criminal Court. That's not a bad response, from governments, much of it underway before the grass-roots activist campaign got properly into gear. (See your point 3.) Don't claim the credit for everything­governmen ts aren't always as cynical or apathetic as you imply. After that, the nature of the war has changed. There haven't been big government offensives­for one reason, when they try, the rebels usually shoot them up pretty comprehensively. The main reason for ongoing displacement has been generalized insecurity, much of it banditry and extortion rackets, some of it fighting between militias, as the government-armed tribal militias turn on one another. The rebels have launched quite a lot of the offensives themselves. If you are looking for genocidal intent in the period since early 2005, it's pretty hard to find. It looks to most people on the ground like a thoroughly nasty combination of a rather ineffective counterinsurgency and intertribal fighting (the government's description is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy). The government isn't responsible for most of the divisions among the rebels­they have done a pretty good job of that themselves. Darfur is a pretty sorry mess today. No one should be patting themselves on the back for that. The Darfur Peace Agreement failed. The activist campaign hasn't succeeded either. Did you stop any offensives in the last two years? I rather think that the SLA fighters in north Darfur did that. And be careful about proclaiming that protection is on its way. Expectations are sky high for what U.N. troops will do. When they disappoint, I'm sure you will be the first to criticize. But when you get what you call for, your basis for condemnation begins to get thin. The campaign on China has definitely made a difference. I'm not against activism­quite the contrary. I began my human rights activism in Sudan in 1988 and among other things helped start the land-mines campaign, co-wrote the first big report on Rwanda in 1994, opened up the Nuba Mountains to human rights investigation and humanitarian access in 1995, and campaigned for Sudanese civil society organizations to be involved in the peace process from the late 1990s on. (But I would note that China's first serious change in tack happened a year ago, before the Genocide Olympics campaign.) Each time I have tried an honest assessment of what went right and what didn't. It's precisely because activism can make a difference that we need to be honest with ourselves when we assess what has succeeded, what hasn't, and what has had unanticipated side effects. You need to be a lot more careful in describing what activists and their fellow travelers in Congress and among the Washington political aspirants actually said and wrote, and when. During the months when the Abuja peace process was alive and progressing, there was a deafening silence from the activists about it. During those months the overwhelming emphasis was on U.N. troops. I might call it tunnel vision. In the critical days after the signing of Abuja, when I was one of two mediators to stay behind to narrow the gap between Abdel Wahid al Nur and the government, the chorus of condemnation of Abuja was, to say the least, unhelpful. Your point 7 is shockingly misleading and shows a deep ignorance of what happened in Abuja. Afterward, it's true, you and others neatly reversed direction and began to call for a revamped peace process and began to criticize the rebels. Advocacy, like politics, is all about timing. Sorry, John, you were too late. But my serious point here is about how advocacy does influence both rhetoric and policy (and rhetoric can become policy) and how it changes the structure of incentives of peace processes. Making a peace deal involves making compromises with the enemy. The guarantee of faithful implementation is built into the structure of the deal itself­when you do A, we'll do B. Usually the stronger side is asked to act first­e.g., to withdraw its troops or start disarmament­before the weaker one does. A monitoring team or peacekeeping force is there to help keep it on track. This was the structure for the North-South peace deal, for example. Direct security guarantees, in the form of foreign troops who enforce the deal, are pretty rare­Kosovo is the example that comes to mind. The Darfur Peace Agreement was designed with these types of internal security guarantees­staged reciprocal actions by the parties, with the government acting first­built in. They were tough on the government, and when the final text was presented, all the rebel leaders congratulated the mediators on this chapter and accepted it. It was the government that raised objections. But the activist campaign had raised the promise of a military intervention with direct guarantees, and that was the message that got through. In the final session, Abdel Wahid demanded guarantees like Bosnia­he wanted an intervention before he signed. [U.S.] Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick wouldn't give him that guarantee. I'm not blaming the activists for the failure of the talks. Most of the blame goes to the intransigent miscalculations of Khartoum's chief negotiator, Majzoub al Khalifa, and much of the balance to the rebels and their poor leadership. The mediators made some bad mistakes too. But the question I want to pose, for our own learning and for future activism, is the following: do we run the danger of encouraging rebels to aim too high in their demands, and risk them rejecting workable deals in favor of unrealizable dreams? That's a serious question that demands a serious debate. You completely mistake the point of my comparison with the aid agencies after the Rwanda genocide. The tragedy of that humanitarian response was that one good intention­feeding the hungry­conflicted with another ethical imperative: preventing and punishing genocide. I for one never accused aid agencies of being deliberately complicit in feeding genocidaires. What I did was to point out the unanticipated and often unacknowledged side effects of what they did, and asked that they examine the context of their actions and their outcomes. That is what I am asking you to do now. As any senior policymaker will tell you, much time and energy on issues like Sudan is driven by the clamor of activists. This relates to point 8. There's no doubt that the activist and congressional focus on Darfur drove­and distorted­U.S. policy priorities. Again, pay attention to my argument. I wouldn't blame aid agencies for the Rwanda genocide and I don't blame activists for the failures of U.S. policy on Sudan. But insofar as you make a difference, however small, you must attend to what that difference might be. There's much more I could write­your scattergun approach leaves almost every sentence up for challenge.



JOHN PRENDERGAST: Thankfully, in this duel to the rhetorical death we were only given two bullets. I used up most of my nine lives in the last 25 years living and traveling in war zones, so I wouldn't want to spend any more of them on answering these extraordinary claims. Activists need to know there are solutions out there, and that these solutions can be driven by activists. Some of your writings (and no, I haven't read all of them) tend to blame activists for things getting worse on the ground in Darfur, and for the failure of the Darfur Peace Agreemeent of 2006. At least that is what most activists perceive your intentions to be. And I understand that. It is hard to get published these days on Sudan, so an argument like that is very attractive to editors. The fact that it is not true is irrelevant, it appears. Here's the Africa I know from my 25 years' working on the issues there: Afrca is a continent of extraordinary transformation. It is not a place of gloom and doom, of fatalism and hopelessness. Having seen the extraordinary turnarounds in Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, southern Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi and elsewhere, I am an unabashed Afro-optimist. I believe Sudan is at one of its low points, just as these other countries were at various times over the last 25 years. And I believe with a little help, particularly driven by activists, Darfur can turn itself around as well. Any social movement here in the U.S. has to go through growing pains and massive learning curves. There is in formation a growing antigenocide movement in the U.S. today, one that understandably contains many people who are just learning about international relations and what is really going on in places like Sudan, half a world away. Most of them, regrettably, have not yet read your London Review of Books article. So they are learning. I stopped writing for academic journals a few years ago to concentrate on building the capacity of these activists, because I learned when I was working for President Clinton that without a permanent constituency supporting actions against genocide and other mass atrocities, even those people in policymaking positions who wanted to do something were hard-pressed to do so. Though in a perfect world politics wouldn't have to drive policy, in the real world we inhabit political will is the holy grail, and the only way to increase it is through building a movement in an inclusive, bipartisan, encouraging way. Your conclusion that activists didn't drive the U.S. position on the deployment of the African Union force or the U.S. stepping aside to allow the referral of the case of Darfur to the International Criminal Court demonstrates a lack of understanding of how policy gets made here in the U.S. by American constituencies. Here most of the major incremental steps that have been taken by the U.S.­either unilaterally or multilaterally­ have come because of this growing movement of activists that hail from all kinds of backgrounds. You seem obsessed with the idea that activists have only been pressing for the deployment of force. Some of the [Save Darfur] ads from 2005 and 2006 certainly focused on that issue, but advocacy in the U.S. has been much more comprehensive than you give it credit for, even though we have not fully succeeded in changing U.S. policy. We have focused on what we call the Three P's of Crisis Response: Peace-making, Protection and Punishment. We believe those three elements are part and parcel of every successful external effort to support an end to conflicts or crises in Africa in recent history. We think that a more effective peace process, a rapid deployment of the UN/AU force with a focus on protecting civilians, and clear penalties for obstructing the first two (peace and protection) would do much to helping to bring an end to the crisis in Darfur. And we believe an equal effort must be made to implement the North-South peace deal, as the fates of Darfur and the South are deeply intertwined. Not every activist understands this, but we all can contribute to educating them to make a difference, a real difference. And you are right, activists are not the most even-handed commentators when it comes to responding to Darfur. However, you interpret that as having taken sides with the rebels. Not so. Activists realize that the responsibility for the vast preponderance of atrocities committed since early 2003 lies at the feet of the ruling party in Khartoum, the NCP. Please understand the difference when you are constructing your critiques of the activists and their efforts. Whatever your intent, those activists that have read anything you have written of late are trying to understand why you are saying that activists are more part of the problem than of the solution. Certainly there is room for improvement in our advocacy efforts. For example, you perpetuate the erroneous notion that activists are advocating for military action against Sudan. That just doesn't square with the reality. Many of the key activist groups have gone through a period of reflection and have issued public statements about the potential for negative consequences outweighing positive results in use-of-force scenarios, such as no-fly zones or targeted airstrikes. There is certainly disagreement out there. But it is simply erroneous for you to assert that activists promote the use of force and that hardens rebel positions. The rebels are a lot smarter than you are giving them credit for. They have their own views and agendas and use others to justify those views. Again, blaming activists or even pointing out their ignorance may sell (a few) magazines, but it isn't an accurate reflection of real cause and effect. A final rejoinder on this contentious issue of genocide. Good people can disagree about the use of this term. For example, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and the International Crisis Group (despite my best efforts when I worked there) all were not prepared to call what was happening in Darfur genocide. It comes down for them­and many legal scholars­to the question of intent. The Convention says the perpetrator of genocide must INTEND to destroy, in whole or in part, specific groups of people. I happen to believe that the government of Sudan indeed had the intent to in part destroy the Fur, Zaghawa and Massalit ethnic groups to punish them for supporting the Darfur insurgency, to cut the umbilical cord between rebels and their supporters, and to send a message to all would-be rebels throughout Sudan that this would be your fate if you rebelled. Others disagree, saying it was a by-product of a disproportionate counterinsurgency strategy. On this I believe we agree. Now where you and I diverge is on the last couple years. The war changed, yes, precisely as you say it has. But it changed BECAUSE of the ruling party's genocidal counterinsurgency strategy, which aimed to divide and destroy Darfur, and throw it into the very chaos it suffers from today. You describe it as an "ineffective counterinsurgency strategy." I couldn't disagree more strongly. This has been a textbook counterinsurgency operation, which has turned the Darfur conflict in on itself, leaving the clear lines of regime culpability much more murky, and leaving analysts like you to carry the government's argument that it is anarchy, not genocide. Mission accomplished. Darfur is witnessing the echoes of genocide. I believe one of the best chances we have of reversing the crisis is if well-infomed, united activists in the U.S. and abroad work diligently for governments around the world to step up their efforts to promote peace, protect the people, and punish the perpetrators. In fact, working in partnership with Darfurians, I believe it is the only chance Darfur has.



URL: http://www.newsweek .com/id/69004 © 2007 Newsweek.com

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