31 July 2004

In Darfur, help is not on the way

Darfur Mortality Update: July 15, 2004
So high are current mortality rates in Darfur, so great is previous human destruction, that the current (and static) UN figure of 10,000 deaths for the entire duration of this massive catastrophe must be regarded as both statistically irrelevant and morally slovenly (it was proffered by the UN in March 2004, without explanation or context). We certainly have no means of ascertaining with any precision what the number is; nor will we ever have a precise figure. But too much extant data and evidence suggest that a reasonable figure is already well in excess of 100,000 dead.

According to data authoritatively assembled by the US Agency for International Development, the present Crude Mortality Rate (CMR) is 7 per day per 10,000 for the affected population. Using as the basis for calculations the most recent UN figure of up to 2 million people "in need of emergency relief" (UN News Centre, July 13, 2004), the daily death toll is now approximately 1,400 human beings---or approximately 10,000 per week ("Projected Mortality Rates in Darfur, 2004-2005, at http://www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-saharan_africa/sudan/cmr_darfur.pdf ).

[The figure here of 2 million is at once lower than the total number of "war-affected" persons (now greater than 2.3 million if we use as a base figure the June 3, 2004 estimate contained in joint UN, US, and European Union communiqu� in Geneva) and higher than the number of Internally Displaced Persons (1.2. million) and the UN World Food Program estimate of Darfur's food-dependent population in June 2004 (1.2 million, though climbing to 2 million for October). The relation of these figures is discussed in a first appendix to this analysis.]

In other words, the current mortality figure offered by the UN for the past 17 months of extreme violence and displacement in Darfur is the equivalent of what US AID data suggest is the death toll for the past week. Such a gross disparity should be the occasion for serious and urgent re-thinking of a reasonable mortality figure for Darfur. Nongovernmental organizations concerned with Darfur should commit the resources necessary to synthesize all data and evidence available. To date there has been no such effort.

PM admits graves claim 'untrue'
Downing Street has admitted to The Observer that repeated claims by Tony Blair that '400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves' is untrue, and only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered.

The claims by Blair in November and December of last year, were given widespread credence, quoted by MPs and widely published, including in the introduction to a US government pamphlet on Iraq's mass graves.

In that publication - Iraq's Legacy of Terror: Mass Graves produced by USAID, the US government aid distribution agency, Blair is quoted from 20 November last year: 'We've already discovered, just so far, the remains of 400,000 people in mass graves.'

On 14 December Blair repeated the claim in a statement issued by Downing Street in response to the arrest of Saddam Hussein and posted on the Labour party website that: 'The remains of 400,000 human beings [have] already [been] found in mass graves.'

The admission that the figure has been hugely inflated follows a week in which Blair accepted responsibility for charges in the Butler report over the way in which Downing Street pushed intelligence reports 'to the outer limits' in the case for the threat posed by Iraq.

The missing people-shredder:
Nobody doubts that Saddam was a cruel and ruthless tyrant who murdered many thousands of his own people and that most Iraqis are glad he's gone. But did his regime have a machine that made mincemeat of men? The evidence is far from compelling.

The shredding machine was first mentioned in public by James Mahon, then head of research at Indict, at a meeting in the House of Commons on March 12. Mahon had just returned from northern Iraq, where Indict researchers, along with Clwyd, interviewed Iraqis who had suffered under Saddam. One of them said Iraqis had been fed into a shredder. 'Sometimes they were put in feet first and died screaming. It was horrible. I saw 30 die like this ...' In subsequent interviews and articles, Clwyd said this shredding machine was in Abu Ghraib prison, Saddam's most notorious jail. Indict refuses to tell me the names of the researchers who were in Iraq with Mahon and Clwyd; and, I am told, Mahon, who no longer works at Indict, 'does not want to speak to journalists about his work with us'. But Clwyd tells me: 'We heard it from a victim; we heard it and we believed it.'

The coalition has occupied Abu Ghraib prison since the collapse of the Saddam tyranny. A human shredding machine cannot be a small object and should be easy to identify. Somehow I missed the press conference where coaltion generals showed the thing to a shocked world. Where is it? And if it hasn't been produced did it ever exist?

Darfur: The case for intervention
We often, quite rightly, call the US to account for its expedient abuse of principles, and there are indeed very solid reasons, from Central America to East Timor and Iraq, why we should examine very critically any intervention that the US even hints at. It is indeed a good rule of thumb to doubt Washington's intentions, but sometimes finer measurements, and indeed nuances, are called for.

In this case, Iraq notwithstanding, US Secretary of State Colin Powell does indeed have a point, even if one could suspect that some of the US lobby groups pushing for action are more zealous in the case of Sudan than they would be if they could not characterize the perpetrators as "Arabs".

On the other hand, sadly, there is no shortage of countries that will support a rogue state for reasons of shortsighted or expedient "national interest". Security Council members Algeria and Pakistan, as representatives of Arab and Muslim states, not to mention their own state interests and domestic politics, would find it almost impossible to agree to US-led action against an Arab League member such as Sudan.

We should not be reassured just because some of the members opposing action against Sudan also opposed the war in Iraq. France springs to mind, as the patron of the former Rwandan regime, protector almost up to last moment of the Serbian ethnic cleansers in Bosnia, the defender of Morocco's occupation and repression in Western Sahara - and even if former French foreign minister (now Interior Minister) Dominique de Villepin did make an excellent case against attacking Iraq - previously a thoroughly expedient defender of French oil interests in Iraq. As we said, China and Russia all too often try to armor their domestic behavior behind a cloak of sovereign principle.

As a result of this objective alliance of the expediently supportive and the expediently opposed, it is sadly almost inconceivable that the Security Council or the General Assembly would authorize the robust military operation that would be necessary - or perhaps more usefully, the credible threat of a military operations, which in many such cases, from the Balkans to Rwanda, is all that it would have taken to preempt genocide.

Instead, the US's draft resolution is a tokenistic one reminiscent of the worst days of the Bosnian tragedy in that it pretends to be doing something, but in reality does nothing. It would mandate sanctions and travel restrictions against a motley paramilitary band of Sudanese brigands and militia who are unlikely to have many cosmopolitan world travelers in their ranks. One cannot help suspecting a gesture designed to cover the Bush administration's backside against the "if Iraq, why not Sudan" argument that is denting its already shredded ethical credibility.

So the question of support or opposition for intervention is a genuine quandary, but it is surely important that we do not let people die in Sudan just so we can feel vindicated in our stand against interventions. A credible threat of intervention has to be made soon - but kept within those "precautionary principles".

The United Nations itself is not designed to conduct robust operations that could involve serious fighting, which is why it often "franchises" them. Ideally, the Arab League should act, but it will not. The African Union has made a start, but it is hopelessly under-resourced, and similar regional operations in Sierra Leone and Liberia were much-mitigated successes.

It would be good if some of the stronger Asian powers, even if it involved North Atlantic Treaty Organization and US backup, could get involved, but Pakistan being Muslim - and India not being Muslim - could complicate that. Indeed, Japan and South Korea, not having any dog in the fight at all, as former US secretary of state James Baker once put it, would be ethically preferable, if their militaries were up to it.

Failing that, perhaps in this case, this is a matter on which the European Union could be given the blue-flag franchise, and especially Germany, whose clean credentials on the Iraq war clear it of the Crusader connotations.

But one thing is very clear: the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and other active "coalition" partners should stay in the background, at best offering logistics and funding and the most discreet diplomatic support. And in a few years, maybe they will emerge from probation as good global citizens and be listened to once again.

Statement by the President on 1994 Rwanda Genocide
Ten years ago today, the world witnessed the beginning of one of the most horrific episodes of the twentieth century, the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. A 100-day campaign waged by Hutu extremists tore Rwanda apart and resulted in the murder of at least 800,000 Tutsi men, women, and children, as well as many moderate Hutus. This genocide also included systematic rape and sexual violence against countless Tutsi women and the orphaning of thousands of children.

The United States supports the people of Rwanda as they commemorate this horrific chapter in history. We urge all states, particularly those in the region, to work with Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to bring to justice those responsible for the genocide and to repatriate the thousands of displaced Rwandans. We also urge the international community to assist the survivors of that great crime as they continue to heal. The United States will continue to assist Rwanda in the unification of families, the providing of scholarships, the combating of HIV/AIDS, and the promotion of the rule of law.

The United States joins Rwanda and members of the global community in this day of reflection.

Secretary-General Observes International Day of Reflection on 1994 Rwanda Genocide
It is good that we have observed those minutes of silence together.

We must never forget our collective failure to protect at least eight hundred thousand defenceless men, women and children who perished in Rwanda ten years ago.

Such crimes cannot be reversed.

Such failures cannot be repaired.

The dead cannot be brought back to life.

So what can we do?

First, we must all acknowledge our responsibility for not having done more to prevent or stop the genocide.

Neither the United Nations Secretariat, nor the Security Council, nor Member States in general, nor the international media, paid enough attention to the gathering signs of disaster. Still less did we take timely action.

When we recall such events and ask 'why did no one intervene?', we should address the question not only to the United Nations, or even to its Member States. No one can claim ignorance. All who were playing any part in world affairs at that time should ask, 'what more could I have done? How would I react next time -- and what am I doing now to make it less likely there will be a next time?'

Perhaps more than any others, those questions have dominated my thoughts, since I became Secretary-General. If there is one legacy I would most wish to leave to my successors, it is an Organization both better equipped to prevent genocide, and able to act decisively to stop it when prevention fails.

The Darfur genocide began in February 2003. Each and every day that the coalition fought in Iraq on the basis of unfound WMDs, trailers of mass destruction, inflated figures and missing shredders, 10 000 people were dying in Darfur. The next time is now. The people of Darfur do not need a minute of silence any more than they need the year of silence maintained by the United Nations Secretariat, the Security Council, the Member States in general, the international media since the onset of genocide. Why Iraq and not Sudan?

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