The quasi-genocidal crisis in Darfur is finally getting a bit of renewed attention from the rest of the world, but it’s not clear it’s happening fast enough to make a difference.In case you’ve forgotten Darfur because it hasn’t been in the headlines much, more than 300,000 people have probably died there since the government of Sudan unleashed a vicious counter-insurgency campaign in 2003 designed to squash an insurgency loosely linked to the Southern Sudan forces Khartoum was trying to outmaneuver in negotiations to end the long-running North-South civil war. Just as importantly, more than two million Darfurians have been displaced by the fighting, and are hemmed into refugee camps with no means of subsistence other than food shipments from international organizations.And while the direct violence against Darfurians by the Khartoum-paid-and-trained Janjaweed militias has abated somewhat, the strategy of keeping them penned up under atrocious conditions is doing the Grim Reaper’s work as efficiently as the previous kill-and-rape raids on hundreds of villages.That’s why, as Eric Reeves explained on The New Republic’s site yesterday, the most immediate threat to Darfur stems from Janjaweed attacks on the international humanitarian aid organizations that are literally serving as Darfur’s lifeline. Some are already withdrawing personnel from Darfur, and others may soon follow, given the general recognition that African Union peacekeeping forces are incapable of providing security in the region, and no one else is on the scene.But as always in Darfur, there’s a lot of political fog distorting a clear picture of the situation.There are ongoing if sluggish negotiations underway between Khartoum and the two insurgent groups it is supposedly fighting in Darfur: the Fur-tribal-based Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA), and the Islamist Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Unfortunately, as the Kofi Annan statement I just linked to shows, these negotiations are helping feed the idea that this is a civil war or “ethnic conflict” where both sides are equally to blame for the death and destruction, and where the rest of the world can legitimately step aside as the parties to the dispute wrangle through a settlement.The only bright note recently was the voice-vote passage by the U.S. Senate of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, which would recommit our government to an end to the disaster in Darfur; pledge immediate military support to an expansion of the AU deployment; and place sanctions on the government of Sudan, including seizure of oil shipments and withdrawal of travel rights for Khartoum officials, until such time as it releashes the Janjaweed and starts cooperating with humanitarian agencies.The bill still needs to get scheduled in the House, which in an obscure committee action stripped out previously approved funds to support an expanded AU peacekeeping mission. And that’s a good example of what’s wrong in this whole debate. Nobody will come out and say they don’t want to take action in Darfur, but the Bush administration officials who are so appreciative of Khartoum’s assistance in the War on Terror are obviously helping slow down any binding congressional action that would complicate things for them. Today New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof helped shine a spotlight on this subterranean but effective strategy.The whole situation reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a veteran Georgia State Patrol trooper who used to work traffic accidents in a rural community. The ambulance service there was provided by a local undertaker, who got paid a small fee for hauling accident victims to the hospital, but who got the burying rights if the victims died. So, said my informant, the ambulance driver would pick up the grievously injured passengers and then head off towards the hospital, lights flashing and sirens screaming, at about 15 miles per hour.That’s what the U.S. and international mission to “save” Darfur looks like to me right now.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
After a week of efforts to equate the controversial remarks of two particular members of Congress, I pushed back a bit at New York:
It looks like House Republicans are going to deal with outrage over their perennial problem child Marjorie Taylor Greene by finding a Democrat to punish. That would be Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, according to Politico’s Huddle:
“’I think that Ilan should receive the same type of punishment as Marjorie because if it’s good for one, it is good for another,’ Rep. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.), who voted to remove Greene from her committees, told me. ‘Anti-semitism is the same thing as anti-semitism. It’s just that Nancy is afraid …'”
There are others who want to push for Omar’s removal as well as those looking to censure her over her war crimes remarks — and a few Dems may join them.
The idea of equating Omar’s complaints about unequal treatment of countries in investigating military misconduct with Greene’s comparisons of mask and vaccine requirements to the Holocaust is deeply satisfying to a lot of people. Republicans can continue their now-ancient habit of waving away extremism in their ranks by claiming it’s more prevalent on the other side of the aisle. Nervous centrist Democrats can document their nervous centrism by firing thunderbolts left and right. And most of all, accusing both parties of harboring those prone to “false equivalence” appeals to the false equivalence many Beltway media folks want to draw between Democrats and Republicans, who are engaged in the mutually assured destruction of partisan polarization.
There’s only one problem: Treating what MTG and Omar have said as equal expressions of false equivalence actually is false, as any honest evaluation of their words quickly shows. Greene bluntly compared COVID-19 precautions to the Holocaust, analogized vaccine documentation mandates to the Nazi practice of making Jews wear yellow stars, and, for good measure, said Democrats are like Nazis because they are “socialists.” Omar said this in the midst of a virtual exchange with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken over investigations of the brief but intense war between Israel and Hamas:
“’We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,’ she wrote. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.’”
Her point wasn’t to say the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban were equally culpable in their commission of atrocities, but that all should be equally subject to international investigation. I suppose there are superpatriots who would dispute the idea that America has ever committed “unthinkable atrocities,” though the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks, and of countless genocidal assaults on Native Americans, among many examples, suggest otherwise. But in any event, when challenged by Republicans and Democrats alike to make it clear she was not imputing equivalent culpability to these various nations and coalitions of fighters, Omar complied instantly:
“U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said Thursday that she was ‘in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems … ‘
“’To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding [International Criminal Court] cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.’”
MTG, meanwhile, kept doubling down on her comparisons of public-health measures with the slaughter of many millions by Nazi Germany, and finally, after more than three weeks and a tour of the Holocaust Museum, she issued an apology that betrayed little understanding of the full scope of the Holocaust, and then refused to apologize for the Democrat-Nazi analogy.
Looking more broadly at the two women and their records of controversial utterances, Ilhan made an unfortunate and erroneous reference to “the Benjamins,” in a gratuitous comment about support for Israel in the United States, for which she “unequivocally” apologized:
“Anti-semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be able to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Greene lost her committee assignments earlier this year after media focus on an almost incredible blizzard of incendiary statements she made on social media before coming to Congress (barely anyone even noticed her practice of brandishing an AR-15 when discussing her enemies in campaign ads). In February, she apologized for claiming that school shootings were fake and for promoting QAnon conspiracy theories. She never apologized for happily contemplating violence against congressional Democrats (including, very specifically, Ilhan Omar) and the Speaker of the House, or for her unusually aggressive support of Trump’s electoral big lie and the effort in January to overturn the presidential election results, or for her own subscription to very weird anti-Semitic claims.
If you cannot discern a qualitative difference between Omar’s “outrages” and Greene’s, and between the speed and coherence of their clarifications and apologies, it may be time for some remedial work in logic and rhetoric. These two members of Congress aren’t alike at all, and as much as I sometimes disagree with Ilhan Omar, treating her as a left-wing MTG is lazy and just plain wrong.