Showing posts with label Sudan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sudan. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An urgent message from Omar al-Bashir

Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, better known as the architect of the Darfur nightmare, has a message for all you Western busybodies:

Western nations have no ethics or morals and we will export it to them. These countries have the political, military and economic strength. We are strong with our values and we are waiting on Allah’s promise to obliterate them!
Thanks for clearing that up, your excellency.

UPDATE: Jimmy Carter will be talking to Omar al-Bashir personally to complain about the lack of appropriate immigrations and customs procedures in Sudan. Look out, Omar!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Omar al-Bashir "ready for cease fire"

The military dictator of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, has declared that he's ready to declare a cease fire with rebels in Darfur at the start of peace talks to be held in November. All across the world, professional diplomats are breathing a sigh of relief at finally receiving some sort of commitment from the Sudanese government to end the senseless violence in Darfur. To show how serious he is about pursuing peace, al-Bashir named his minister of "Humanitarian Affairs", Ahmed Haroun, to co-chair a panel set to investigate human rights abuses in Darfur. That Ahmed Haroun himself is one of the biggest perpetrators of human rights abuses in Darfur is, perhaps, besides the point, right?

Omar al-Bashir's sly inclusion of Haroun in his panel to "get to the bottom" of abuses al-Bashir himself has sanctioned is just another in a long list of his fuck-you gestures to the rest of the world. Omar al-Bashir knows that he's already won in Darfur, and that years of stalling tactics with the "international community" have already given him the time to either kill, or displace, the same people in Darfur that were causing him so many headaches to begin with. It's easy to talk peace when you've already won, after all. What's more, Omar al-Bashir is doubtlessly more than aware that the aforementioned international community, who have made themselves look busy on Darfur if nothing else, will not jeopardize the precious concept of "peace in Darfur" by insisting that any of the parties responsible for the violence actually be held accountable for their actions. Sure, in an ideal world we'd press for accountability, but we can't threaten the peace process with difficult demands. Which is exactly the reaction Omar al-Bashir has been waiting to hear.

Can anyone tell me when the idea that peace alone trumps justice emerged? What good will Sudan's "peace" be when the very men who orchestrated the mayhem will continue to rule over them? Just as Suharto remains unafraid of standing trial over his bloodbaths in East Timor, Omar al-Bashir will not be troubled about his role in Darfur just as long as he manages to stay in power. While that's no mean feat in a country like Sudan, Omar al-Bashir has held the reins long enough to stay on top, and he remains more than savvy enough to have powerful nations and international institutions kissing his ass for merely extending them the privilege of talking to him about resolving the problems in Darfur. In all the recent coverage on this story, I have yet to read anything by anybody that acknowledges the irony of having the world's most powerful leaders congratulating Omar al-Bashir for his sudden willingness to make peace, only after he's received everything he's wanted from the war.

Then again, what good is being a dictator if you can't have your cake, and eat it too?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

al-Bashir to West: "Knock it off, you drama queens"

Sudan's military dictator Omar al-Bashir has a few words for anyone in the West concerned about the years long humanitarian disaster in Darfur:

You're all making a big to do about nothing, really!

"Bush and Brown exaggerate what's happening in Darfur to hide the operations carried out in Iraq", explained al-Bashir apropos of nothing in particular.

That will doubtlessly come as startling news to the rest of the world, especially to foreign aid agencies which, at present, are keeping nearly half of the population of Darfur fed, watered and clothed. It also comes as something of a surprise to Western politicians who have spent more time ignoring al-Bashir's personal role in Darfur than, say, doing anything to stop the violence. It's almost as if Omar al-Bashir is trying to get them to feel less guilty by suggesting that there's really not that much to be concerned about. Genocide? Mass murder? Rape? Pillage? Forget it! It's all an exaggeration by neo-colonialist powers, dudes!

Still, the message is clear: concern over Darfur is a Western imperialist trick meant to divide and conquer Sudan. More so than even a dictator who uses mass murder as a tool of domestic policy? Apparently so. Thanks for setting us straight, your excellency.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dictator duo disinterestedly discuss Darfur

I've vented my spleen on more than one occasion about the "international community's" pathetic response to and assertions about the Darfur disaster, especially the failure of anyone to adapt a negotiating strategy that recognizes that Omar al-Bashir of Sudan is a dictator instead of, say, the Prime Minister of Belgium. Dealing with autocrats requires a different approach than dealing with with democratically elected politicians. Frankly, you have to speak their language. Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and Libyan strongman Colonel Muammar Qaddafi understand this perfectly, and held an impromptu Darfur crisis summit meeting with one another in Tripoli.

As one might expect, Mubarak and Qaddafi had a chat on Darfur that proved they understand a dictator's language, insofar as it urges the rest of the world to get off of Omar al-Bashir's back and focus on bringing the rebel armies fighting against Bashir "to the negotiating table". However, Mubarak and Qaddafi made it immediately clear they wouldn't press al-Bashir to do anything he hasn't already promised to do. Which is good, since the last thing Omar al-Bashir needs right now is yet another set of cheap promises he'll have to find ways to ignore down the road. Both Mubarak and Qaddafi are vaguely concerned about the violence in Sudan spilling over into their fiefdoms, but frankly, they appear to be much more concerned about the rest of the world taking dictatorships to task for shoddy, violent, and unaccountable rule. Why is everyone giving us a such a hard time, they appear to be saying, just shut the hell up and let us do our thing!

If, on the other hand, Mubarak or Qaddafi happened to be at war with Sudan, they'd shift to a dictator's other natural dialect, about the need to totally annihilate Omar al-Bashir, and how nothing on earth will get them to the negotiating table. As it just so happens, neither dictator has any particular beef with al-Bashir. They're all members of the Arab League in good standing. None of them have any territorial disputes with one another, and hey, they all resent the "neo-colonialism" of smug, holier-than-thou European Union do gooders, human rights organizations, and other such douchebags telling third world leaders how to act, or worse, linking things like foreign aid to their human rights record. Given that the aforementioned douchebags are all screaming about Sudan right now, it would be impossible for Mubarak and Qaddafi not to sympathize immediately. Dictators don't have trade unions to represent their interests, but it usually isn't too hard to find one or more dictators banding together to stick up for a beleaguered tyrant when he's facing tough times. The idea that Qaddafi and Mubarak had any ideas better suited towards providing a plan with an outcome geared towards relieving the misery of the people of Darfur instead of the unimpeded right of Omar al-Bashir to do whatever the hell he wants is a complete non-starter as far as they're concerned.

I will give Mubarak and Qaddafi credit, however, for matching their desires openly with the expected outcome. Omar al-Bashir is, in fact, going to do whatever the hell he wants, anyway, and there's nothing Egypt or Libya will do to stop him. At least al-Bashir's fellow dictators won't be attending any ridiculous candlelight vigils or hypocritically wringing their hands about how the "inaction of the world community" is at fault. They know Omar al-Bashir calls the shots in Darfur, and they're comfortable with that. Now, if only one of the countries that talks about how concerned they are about Darfur would learn to speak to Omar al-Bashir like a dictator, and threaten him to get results? Well ... that might just work.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Everything you think you know about Darfur is wrong

I need to preface this entry by saying that for far too long, I've been sick and tired of reading the same stupid gibberish about the disaster in Darfur. I also want to warn you that I've been on this rant before, and I'm tired of having to say it again and again.

Let me back up a bit and explain.

Here in the United States, the Darfur crisis is being covered in the news as a sort of slow motion tragedy. This, to an extent, is actually true. Then we have various famous people chiming in to demand that we ACT NOW TO STOP THE CRISIS IN DARFUR! Actually, I'm OK with this part, too. It is, frankly, an obligation for the rich and powerful to use their wealth and power to stop genocide, mass rape and looting.

Where my annoyance kicks into high gear is when I realize that neither the news outlets or the Hollywood glitterati seem to have any idea what to do about the crisis in Darfur.

Flashback to 1994, and the genocide in Rwanda, a conflict that we in the west boiled down to a absurdly simplistic, and completely mythical, "age old tribal hatred" between Hutus and Tutsis. Oh sure, we had the same public statements of shock, horror and outrage from anyone who had the opportunity to pontificate about it in public, but none of the powerful politicians or Hollywood entertainers ever took the time to consider what actually drove the genocide in Rwanda, how it happened, or how to another such incident from happening again. We hear the same gibberish about "age old hatreds" in Sudan, but that's not driving the violence. What is driving the violence is the use of civil war to amass political power. This is not a new story in Africa, and no matter how many times we see it replayed, we never catch on. This isn't "ethnic" or "racial" - it's political.

Invariably, the platitudes offered as a "response" are the same, too. Only a co-ordinated humanitarian response from the international community can bring people together and prevent genocide. It sounds great, doesn't it? And you know what? They're completely wrong.

The violence in Rwanda in was not random, nor was it based on "age old hatreds". What it did involve was the cynical use of identity politics and violence by dictator Juvénal Habyarimana for the purpose of staying in power indefinitely. What's more, when the Rwandan genocide was underway, the architects counted on not only the indifference of powerful nations, but the impotence of the "international community" to intervene. When United Nations peacekeeping commander in Rwanda Roméo Dallaire told the UN about the impending genocide and urgently requested a 5,000 man troop deployment, the organization blew him off. Then, when a small UN contingent of Belgian soldiers were massacred in Kigali, Belgium simply pulled their remaining troops out of the UN peacekeeping force, just as the Hutu Power leaders predicted. When the genocide finally ended, the United Nations bigwigs issued wistful "regrets", and left it at that.

In Sudan, dictator Omar al-Bashir is once again counting on the institutional incompetence and powerlessness of the United Nations and other international "peacekeeping bodies" to stop his government from winning, and even expanding, the war in Darfur. While al-Bashir makes token concessions on the presence of international peacekeeping troops, he's counting on all of them to withdraw immediately should any of them get killed. al-Bashir, is also fully aware that should they actually witness any fighting, their status as "peacekeepers" will prevent them from doing any actual fighting with the Sudanese government or the state sponsored militias. This is to say nothing of the rebel armies in Darfur, who may be counting on the international community to get lost, too.

After the Rwandan genocide, we were supposed to have learned "lasting lessons" about war and genocide, but what we really got were a bunch of cliches that were disconnected from reality. The first of which was "never again" - a platitude to alleviate our guilt over failing to intervene in Rwanda after we failed to live up to our first promise of "never again." The genocide in Darfur has been going on for years with no end in sight, so once again, "never again" fails.

The second "lesson" we were supposed to learn from Rwanda is that we must trust the "international community" to be the safety net we can all rely on to police the world. Oh sure, they failed in Rwanda, but surely, we've learned our lesson, right?

Wrong. The United Nations, African Union, et al are no better equipped to stop what's going on in Darfur than they were in Rwanda. What's more, the glacial pace of UN bureaucracy has become a sterling asset for dictators looking to buy time when they're carrying out a genocide. Rwanda's genocide took 100 days, give or take, during which time the United Nations couldn't even agree that a genocide was taking place. By the time they finally acknowledged something might actually be wrong, it was almost over. People have substituted saying "we must act!" for actual action.

Omar al-Bashir is playing the UN like a fiddle, with constant rounds of preliminary talks, tentative agreements, diplomatic standoffs, withdrawing from talks, rejoining talks, tentative commitments, etc. The diplomacy game is just that for a dictator - a game. Every time Sudan agrees to allow foreign peacekeepers in, and then backtracks on their promise, the negotiators chalk up a victory when the Sudanese sullenly agree to "return to the negotiating table". The concept that they're just stalling for time has not, apparently, occurred to anyone. This is what happens when more importance is placed on the negotiating process itself than the results of the process.

This brings to my last point - the lesson we actually should learn about genocide from Rwanda. The United Nations did not end the Rwandan genocide. Nor did economic sanctions, sternly worded (but empty) threats from foreign leaders, or least of all, candlelit prayer vigils thousands of miles away. They didn't make a bit of difference to Rwanda, and they're not going to help in Darfur. Does anyone actually remember who ended the Rwandan genocide?

If you said Paul Kagame and his rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front, go straight to the head of the class. It takes an army to actually stop genocide, and it always has. Kagame's military victory accomplished something worldwide hand wringing did not, and frankly, you'd think his success would mean we learned the lesson he was trying to teach us, but frankly, most of us over here still don't get it. In our almost comic horror of war in the west, we have, apparently, forgotten that it invariably requires a war to stop an even greater horror like genocide. Does anyone here actually believe that Omar al-Bashir is more afraid of "smart sanctions" and sports boycotts than he is of being attacked by powerful western armies?

Actually, don't ask me. Ask Paul Kagame.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Omar al-Bashir to deny everything

When in doubt, deny everything. Especially when you're the dictator of Sudan and the topic is the disaster in Darfur.

Rape? Genocide? Nonsense!

In an upcoming two hour interview with NBC journalist Ann Curry, Omar al-Bashir will apparently be denying that the events in Darfur count as genocide, and even if they did, there's no way the Sudanese government could ever be involved. Why, just take his word for it.

"The same forces behind the attack on Iraq are trying to do the same in Sudan" claimed al-Bashir with a straight face. Furthermore, al-Bashir regards any attempt to paint the events in Darfur as a major catastrophe, much less suggesting that the Sudanese government bears any responsibility, as an insidious American plot to seize Sudanese national resources. "The goal is to put Darfur under their custody, separating the region of Darfur from Sudan."

So what about all the photographs of destroyed villages, smoldering wreckage and dead bodies, not to mention the countless refugees fleeing for their lives? "Yes, there have been villages burned, but not to the extent you are talking about," al-Bashir states, as if the entire affair were a minor misunderstanding. And the depressingly well documented use of rape as a weapon in Darfur? Omar al-Bashir wants to put everyone's fears to rest on that topic. "It is not in the Sudanese culture or people of Darfur to rape. It doesn't exist. We don't have it."

So there you have it. I suppose we can all stop worrying about Darfur, because his excellency has finally set the record straight. No genocide, no rape, no problems!

For what it's worth, I've already mentioned how Omar al-Bashir might as well be telling the truth for all the good the international outrage over Darfur has done. Western human rights activists are attempting the unspeakably stupid task of trying to shame al-Bashir by attempting to prick a conscience we already know he doesn't even have. At the same time, we see how western politicians are paying lip service to the outrage about the Darfur issue by levying economic sanctions that Sudan doesn't even care about. The West certainly could end the Darfur crisis with a military response, but gosh, that's not very popular with the voters, and besides, can't the United Nations or African Union take care of it?

Of course they can't, and there's nobody more aware of it than Omar al-Bashir. So if you watch his farcical interview with NBC, don't get angry with al-Bashir when he lies through his teeth about Darfur. You should be getting angry with yourself for electing spineless leaders who acknowledge the genocide and then sit on their hands rather than fulfilling their obligation to actually stop it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Omar al-Bashir has played you for fools

Oh sure - we've all seen the news about the Darfur conflict since it began nearly four years ago. Millions of refugees, you say? How awful! Rape, murder and torture? For shame! Government sponsored mass murder? We must stop this!

Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, however, is having the last laugh. Having comfortably called the world's bluff on the Darfur crisis, al-Bashir is successfully gambling that, however appalled foreign leaders and non-governmental organizations claim to be by his government's actions in Darfur, none of them will lift a finger to stop him. Because that might require war, and war is, like, bad and stuff.

Instead, al-Bashir has stalled for time by halfheartedly playing the diplomacy game, making, and then forgetting, 'tentative' peace agreements, knowing all the while that if push comes to shove, he can rest easy knowing that the same "international community" who spends so much time talking about Darfur would never do anything about beyond issuing dozens of sternly worded letters of condemnation, and perhaps, trade sanctions. Not surprisingly, al-Bashir isn't losing any sleep over any of this. In fact, it's hard to believe he isn't enjoying watching them squirm.

The endless faux-diplomacy has also been an excellent way to chew up the clock. While "concerned" United Nations diplomats fly between New York and Khartoum, the government sponsored janjaweed militias are mopping up in Darfur. By the time the world actually resolved to take concrete actions, their job will be completely finished, and al Bashir can wash his hands of the whole affair.

What is more surprising is the way Omar al-Bashir's name is rarely linked to the news about Darfur. As dictator, he is the architect of the war against the rebels - and the population - in Darfur. To date, I have not seen any world leaders suggest that the best chance of stopping the Darfur crisis might be a change in the Sudanese leadership. After all, that might "smack of imperialism" (heaven forfend!) and "complicate diplomatic negotiations".

It's time to get something straight, here. Omar al-Bashir is not afraid of trade sanctions. He's not afraid of the opprobrium of leaders in America or Switzerland. He's not afraid of the United Nations. What he most certainly is afraid of is a powerful nation bringing him to justice by force, and removing him from power. In a way, we can thank Omar al-Bashir for proving the impossibility of trying to stop genocide without using force. You'd think it's a lesson the rich and powerful nations of the world would have learned over a decade ago, but apparently, they haven't. I only hope they can justify why they were willing to let civilians in Darfur make this point for them again.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Parade names top 20 dictators for 2007

It's that time of year again. Parade Magazine, best known as the worthless fluff insert in your Sunday newspaper, has released its top 20 list of dictators for 2007 (viewable here). Without giving too much away, this year's "winner" is the same as last year's winner: Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir - a decision based primarily on his country's notoriety in the ongoing Darfur disaster.

Looking over the list, author David Wallechinsky and I are more or less in agreement over the composition of the top 10. I would quibble with the inclusion of Chinese premier Hu Jintao at #4, as China is a party dictatorship, not a personal one. I might also be inclined to quibble about the choice of Iranian "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at #3. While he is invested "for life" and has sweeping powers at his disposal, the Iranian constitution has offset many of these powers to the President (ie, his loathsome toady, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). I won't quibble that he qualifies as a dictator, but his profile is certainly too low to qualify for the third spot (compare Khamenei's low public profile with that of his predecessor, for example). He belongs on the list, but ahead of Pervez Musharraf and Robert Mugabe?

The final problem is one of omission, perhaps indicative of David Wallechinsky's own politics: the glaring absence of the world's longest reigning dictator, Fidel Castro. Vladimir Putin makes the cut at #20 while Castro is nowhere to be found? Inexplicable. I will give Wallechinsky the benefit of the doubt and assume he did not include Castro because he has temporarily ceded power to his brother, or because he assumes the old man will croak in 2007. Either way, this is not an omission that can easily be explained.

While I look forward to Parade's annual listing, I cannot understand why such an utterly trivial publication is the only place to find this annual round up of the world's top dictators. Given that much, if not most, of the world's international news and crises, involve totalitarian regimes, one would expect weightier publications to publish this list. I also can't figure out why a relative journalistic lightweight like Wallechinsky has taken it upon himself to compile this list, but I suppose someone has to do it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Strongman in the Sudan

While the world is buzzing about the humanitarian nightmare in the Darfur region of Sudan, one man has curiously escaped much of the attention and scrutiny being paid to events in a nation suddenly thrust into the spotlight: Sudan's military dictator, Field Marshal Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir.

Since Bashir got the best of Sudan's former ideologue strongman (and Osama bin Laden backer) Hasan al-Turabi in 2000 power struggle, the Khartoum government has ended one genocidal conflict and begun another in Darfur. While the world's great powers have made indignant noises about the enormous scale of suffering inflicted in Darfur, none of them have mentioned the man who's responsible for waging a proxy war against his own people, or where he gets his support from. Having shrugged off the civilized world's attempts at avoiding solving the crisis without military intervention, al-Bashir dismissed foreign sanctions by saying, "we have learned to rely on ourselves".

Cynically (if masterfully), al-Bashir is playing coy with foreign powers by halfheartedly committing to talks on Darfur. It's not rocket science - as al-Bashir has long realized that the glacial pace of international diplomacy gives him all the time he needs to finish the job in Darfur, and insuring that he will still be in power long after his genocidal victory at home.