Thursday, May 31, 2007

Will the President's recent statements on sanctions for Khartoum do anything?

One often forgets the humanitarian crisis in Sudan in the wake of so much incompetence and violence in Iraq. But, the victims in Darfur and now reaching into Chad is undoubtedly genocide. The region in western Sudan, roughly the size of Texas encompasses up to 2.5 million people and estimations of up to 450,000 people (200,000 on the lower end) have been murdered while another 2,000,000 have been displaced, the great majority Muslim.

The Bush regime finally took action on Tuesday. The sanctions bar 30 companies that have ties to Khartoum from conducting business in american dollars. Bush also promised to enforce sanctions already in place against over 100 Sudanese companies. The sanctions are limited in scope, but also promised to propose fresh U.N. sanctions. The problem here is that it is unlikely to survive a veto by the Chinese government on the security council. The President of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir is unlikely to end the genocide with such sanctions and unenforceable provisions. After all, he has the chinese government with its large investments in Sudan's oil and profits from arms sales to Khartoum as one editorial put it, "running interference for Bashir."

It is true Bush acted because of the huge amount of pressure from college and university students, hollywood and a growing christian distaste for the crisis, but the question remains will this recent activism by Bush do anything? Maybe our focus should be on China; they are clearly complicit in the crisis if not directly involved. There is a grassroots movement to shame China and the opportunity lies in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Many in this group are calling the games the "genocide olympics." This worked in such quick success China sent an envoy to Sudan, but regrettably came back spouting the same message Khartoum invokes, "I didn't see a desperate scenario of people dying of hunger there," he claimed. But, see here for shocking photos and stories of a former marine, Brian Steidle who found himself smack in the middle of the crisis as one of three U.S. military observers of the African Union. There is no denying the crisis unless you believe skin heads who still believe Nazi Germany did not kill 6 million Jews.

There remain disputes as to the beginning of the crisis, but its roots lie in British colonialism (not unlike Iraq) that has pitted groups of Muslims against one another as well as Christians. For a very good synopsis of what is happening go here. It does a marvelous job of breaking down the crisis in simple terms. I also recommend "What is the What" a recent book by Dave Eggers that tells the struggle of a young Sudanese boy in his homeland, in a refugee camp and his struggle to find success in America. Will we soon be seing movies in ten years, much like the slate of films about Rawanda, telling us what we could have done to avert the crisis?

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