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What makes the situation even more puzzling is that some of those who are calling for an end to intervention in Iraq are demanding an intervention in Darfur; as the slogan goes, ‘Out of Iraq and into Darfur.’What would happen if we thought of Darfur as we do of Iraq, as a place with a history and politics – a messy politics of insurgency and counter-insurgency?
It is for this last reason that the commission ruled out the finding of genocide.
Its less grave findings of ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘war crimes’ are not unique to Darfur, but fit several other situations of extreme violence: in particular, the US occupation of Iraq, the Hema-Lendu violence in eastern Congo and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
His response was very clear: Before you can say that this is genocide or ethnic cleansing, we will have to have a definite decision and plan and programme of a government to wipe out a particular group of people, then we will be talking about genocide, ethnic cleansing. What we know is that there was an uprising, rebellion, and the government armed another group of people to stop that rebellion. That does not amount to genocide from our own reckoning. Among the members of the commission was the chief prosecutor of South Africa’s TRC, Dumisa Ntsebeza.
In its report, submitted on 25 January 2005, the commission concluded that ‘the Government of the Sudan has not pursued a policy of genocide …
Yet, the commission insisted, they did not amount to acts of genocide: ‘The crucial element of genocidal intent appears to be missing …
it would seem that those who planned and organised attacks on villages pursued the intent to drive the victims from their homes, primarily for purposes of counter-insurgency warfare.’At the same time, the commission assigned secondary responsibility to rebel forces – namely, members of the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement – which it held ‘responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law which may amount to (my emphasis).The killers are mostly paramilitaries, closely linked to the official military, which is said to be their main source of arms. The most powerful mobilisation in New York City is in relation to Darfur, not Iraq.The victims too are by and large identified as members of groups, rather than targeted as individuals. One would expect the reverse, for no other reason than that most New Yorkers are American citizens and so should feel directly responsible for the violence in occupied Iraq. It is a place without history and without politics; simply a site where perpetrators clearly identifiable as ‘Arabs’ confront victims clearly identifiable as ‘Africans’.Anyone wanting to end the spiralling violence would have to bring about power-sharing at the state level and resource-sharing at the community level, land being the key resource.Since its onset, two official verdicts have been delivered on the violence, the first from the US, the second from the UN.But the violence in the two places is named differently. But Iraq is a messy place in the American imagination, a place with messy politics. A full-page advertisement has appeared several times a week in the calling for intervention in Darfur now.In Iraq, it is said to be a cycle of insurgency and counter-insurgency; in Darfur, it is called genocide. Americans worry about what their government should do in Iraq. It wants the intervening forces to be placed under ‘a chain of command allowing necessary and timely military action without approval from distant political or civilian personnel’.As the insurgency took root among the prospering peasant tribes of Darfur, the government trained and armed the poorer nomads and formed a militia – the Janjawiid – that became the vanguard of the unfolding counter-insurgency.The worst violence came from the Janjawiid, but the insurgent movements were also accused of gross violations.That intervention in Darfur should not be subject to ‘political or civilian’ considerations and that the intervening forces should have the right to shoot – to kill – without permission from distant places: these are said to be ‘humanitarian’ demands.In the same vein, a editorial on Darfur has called for ‘force as a first-resort response’.