Whether it is genocide or civil war in Darfur, we cannot stand by and let the slaughter continue, write Brian Brivati and Philip Spencer.
Raul Hilberg, the Holocaust historian, explained that for genocide to take place there has to be a triangle: perpetrators, victims and bystanders. In Darfur all the elements are present. We have the victims, the perpetrators, the indifference of bystanders. The issue is what will happen next: will this escalate further as civil war with crimes against humanity, or is there something different here that will bring it into the realm Hilberg describes?
Who are the victims? More than 200 000 black African Muslims have been killed in two years. According to the UN, by September 2004 1.45 million had been displaced, with 500 000 more in urgent need of assistance. The figure now is probably nearer 3 million. Then there are the deaths from disease and malnutrition — in 2005 the UN estimated 180 000 and there are probably now some 80 000 more.
In the recent renewal of fighting the rebel groups who oppose the Khartoum government and who rejected the peace treaty that ended the civil war there have been attacking civilians in the displaced persons camps. The government has launched attacks similar to those condemned by the UN in 2004. Some argue this is a counter-insurgency like many others. But this one is different because of the nature and the project of the Khartoum government.
Who are the killers? The Sudan government has systematically engaged in mass murder; it has the tanks, the aircraft, and its own militia, the Janjaweed. They have their own racist ideology, in this case an Arab supremacist one, which they use to assert their solidarity with Hizbullah and to claim they too are being attacked by evil Zionists. Jonathan Steele has argued on these pages that this is as much an economic conflict between nomads and settlers as an ethnic one between Arabs and Africans. Others have pointed out that all those involved are Muslims. It is difficult to see how this explains the large numbers of black African Sudanese being killed and displaced in such a concentrated period of time.
Who are the bystanders? The international community is once again disgracing itself by its passivity. But the UN has never intervened to prevent a genocide — not in Bangladesh, not in Cambodia, not in Rwanda. It has only recently, under limited US and British pressure, passed resolutions authorising intervention in Darfur. It ignores vicious internal suppressions in other parts of the world.
What is more shocking is the indifference of the left. Instead of demanding our governments act now, we are told that what is going on in Darfur is none of our business. Or that this is civil war, not genocide. Or that it is far too complicated for us to intervene. Or that any intervention on our part would only make matters worse. Or that we shouldn’t call for intervention because no one has the slightest intention of doing anything, so we are raising expectations that cannot be met. Or that the real plan is to invade Sudan and create a new colony.
These are shameful evasions that run counter to all the left is supposed to stand for.