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This is the personal weblog of Aakash Raut, established Sept. 2002. It will cover current affairs, worldwide & national topics, local & university events, and provide insight and commentary on contemporary issues and the news from his perspective. Enjoy!

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    Thursday, September 29, 2005

    Clarity and Realism Needed in "Save Darfur" Movement

    At my CSF small group (Bible Study) last night, I brought up the issue of the 'Save Darfur' campaign, on which CSF has decided to jump upon the bandwagon. (Christian Student Fellowship is the main Christian organization at our university, and one of the largest and most active student organizations on campus.) I raised some points that I thought needed to be addressed, but were being very-much neglected by those in CSF who were trying to 'raise awareness' about this [very-complex and mult-faceted] issue.

    In an e-mail that was sent to the entire CSF e-mail list, the leader of the organization stated:

    Save Darfur Fast
    Thursday, October 6th

    Violence and destruction are raging in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Since February 2003, government-sponsored militias known as the Janjaweed have conducted a calculated campaign of slaughter, rape, starvation and displacement in Darfur.

    It is estimated that 400,000 people have died due to violence, starvation and disease. More than 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes and over 200,000 have fled across the border to Chad. Many now live in camps lacking adequate food, shelter, sanitation, and health care. The United States Congress and President George W. Bush recognized the situation in Darfur as "genocide." Darfur, "near Hell on Earth," has been declared the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

    On October 6th, CSF students and others will be fasting in solidarity with those around the world who want to bring attention to the slaughter occurring in Darfur. Set that day aside and be a part of something bigger....we'll be meeting to pray together and may have some other events ....more info to come.

    Let me get into the specifics of these issues, and then share why I think that a movement such as this is unfortunately myopic, and has the potential to do more harm than good.

    "Think of the children!!..."

    One of the biggest problems in dialectics - one that I think can interfere with reasoned debate and dialogue - is the graphic and inflammatory "appeal to emotion" (something that is oftentimes used by one party in a debate, in place of solid argumentation or substance). Flashing photos and video of people starving, suffering, or dying is very effective - at a visceral level - and it does have its purposes... but it can also interfere with rational dialogue, instead providing a reductionist mentality for subjects that are much more complicated. When I followed the link to the "Save Darfur" website, and clicked on the "Resources" section where I expected to find arguments backing up their position, I instead found some expository writing, but an emphasis on "Audio/Video" presentations and "Photo Essays."


    "What's in a name?..."

    In matters that are as vital as those involving life and death, we have to be very careful about the words that we use. Genocide is a loaded term, and also a very dangerous one. Misuse of this term has drawn our nation into bloody conflicts and quagmires, interventions based upon biases and distortions. [As people such as Daniel Pearl would know.]

    Those who have read this blog for a while should know that I am very much not a fan of internationalism, or of world government-type institutions. However, I think that many of those in the "Save Darfur" movement actually do support the observance of international law; movements like this oftentimes cite the Genocide Convention, which our nation is a party to, to substantiate their view that our nation must take action in foreign conflicts, to prevent or stop [alleged] "genocide."

    But who determines what constitutes "genocide"? Since our nation is a party to the Genocide Convention, there is an implicit agreement that we have acknowledged the official definition established by it.

    In order for a situation to be actual genocide (under the law), certain criteria need to be met. [info] Have those criteria been met in Darfur?

    The House vote

    Supporters of the claim that genocide has occured in Darfur cite the bill passed "unanimously" by the U.S. House of Representatives, declaring that Genocide is occuring in Darfur. But there are several problems with this.

    First off, that bill [H.CON.RES.467] cites the Genocide Convention as the basis for its recognition that the situation in Darfur constitutes Genocide. However, nothing in that Convention (or any other law) gives recognition of an official declaration of a state of Genocide in a foreign nation, when it is made only by one member-state party. And since the House bill does not mandate that any specific type of U.S. government action be taken in Darfur, this seems to be a symbolic measure taken by Congress. (At least for now... Some fear that it could be used in the future, as an attempt to mandate actions by our government, and our military.)

    There is another problem with the passage of that House bill. For an issue as important as this one, why was the bill quickly snuck through the House in the way that it was? Here is a description of what happened, by our friend U.S. Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), who serves on the House International Relations Committee:
    "...Mr. Speaker, this resolution was never marked-up in the House International Relations Committee, on which I serve. Therefore, Members of that committee had no opportunity to amend it or express their views before it was sent to the Floor for a vote. Like too many highly controversial bills, it was rushed onto the suspension calendar (by House rules reserved for "non-controversial" legislation) at the last minute...
    Excerpt: Floor Statement: U.S. House of Representatives, July 23, 2004

    (Read Congressman Paul's entire speech here, and another important piece on Darfur here.)

    The Bush administration

    Also cited by the "Save Darfur" movement is the statement made by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, back in September 2004, that "genocide" is occuring in Darfur. However, the Bush administration has more recently been trying to avoid using that characterization; U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, when he was asked about this last April (after making an official visit to Sudan), refused to state that our government views Darfur as genocide.

    US's Zoellick signals that violence in Darfur is not genocide, Financial Times, April 15

    The original Powell statement was made about a year ago, and was backed up by others in the Bush administration, including President Bush himself. I am disturbed by the more-recent admission by the Honorable John Danforth, who served President Bush as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. (and was a top White House spokesman with regard to this issue), that the "genocide" declarations were made to curry favor with Christian voters in the November 2004 elections. Perhaps that is a factor why some Bush administration officials have somewhat backed off from the bold "genocide" assertion. What will the "Save Darfur" people say if Gen. Colin Powell - now no longer in the Bush administration - retracts his previous statement (which they are using to bolster their case)? General Powell already seems to be backing off of other bold foreign policy statements that he has made; I don't know if he truly believes that genocide is occuring in Darfur. [Update: I just saw that Gen. Powell, within only about four months of his original claim, was refusing to re-state it: Powell now Mum on Genocide in Darfur]

    So the assertion that the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration has declared Darfur as "Genocide," while technically true, is also misleading, and has omitted key facts.

    Once again, I want to reiterate how opposed I am to internationalism, globalism, and world government. (Those who've been reading my blog for awhile should already know this.) That being said, since the Genocide Convention has been used by interventionists to urge U.S. involvement in foreign nations, and since the U.S. is officially a party to this Convention, and since the "Save Darfur" organization (and that e-mail excerpt above from CSF) cite the two aforementioned sources [the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration] to back up their "genocide" claim, and since said sources recognize the Genocide Convention, and recognize international law (and international institutions, like the United Nations and the European Union - no matter how despicable said institutions are), I think think then, that it is fair to cite what these international bodies have had to say. Keep in mind that since the agreed-upon Genocide Convention is international, it is the international bodies that have the authority to officially declare "genocide."

    And so far, they have not. In fact, both the United Nations and the European Union have stated that the situation in Darfur does not constitute Genocide.

    U.N. rules out genocide in Darfur, Feb. 1, 2005
    [Update: The full, 176-page, report is available here.] (via Coalition for Darfur)

    EU says Sudan killings are not genocide, Aug. 10, 2004

    (Note: I am not saying that if there is an official declaration, by an international body, of Genocide - or any other policy matter - that that is then a matter of truth. While such a declaration may or may not be accurate, however, it will be official.)

    Since no body or party with appropriate standing, under the law, has declared Darfur as Genocide, and since the Bush administration is [at least somewhat] backing off of its previous assertion regarding this matter, and since the passage of that House bill was quite questionable, and mostly symbolic, and since this situation is very complex, rooted in decades-old conflicts that are difficult for outsiders to understand, I don't believe that it is appropriate for an organization such as Christian Student Fellowship, which is not a political organization at UIS, to take the position that an "all-out genocide" (the term used in an e-mail that I just received this morning) is occuring in Darfur.

    Note: An online petition exists to urge Secretary of State Powell to retract his "genocide" assertion. It contains some interesting information, and was started by the Nile Basin Society, and by people who seem to have a better understanding of what is going on in northern Africa than probably any of us here at UIS do.

    Petition Online - The Darfur Crisis: Not Genocide

    [Created by the Nile Basin Society]

    Whether or not the situation in Darfur consitutes Genocide is debatable (and is being debated) - but since no general consensus has been reached, I think that CSF, and other non-partisan UIS organizations, need to back off of this loaded assertion.

    Words do matter.

    The Christians of Sudan

    Don't get this situation confused with the [very-real] plight of the Christians in Sudan. The fact is, the 5% of the Sudanese population that is indentified as Christian lives mainly in southern Sudan. Since 1983, more than two million people have killed in the conflict between the Christian south and the Muslim north.

    Darfur is in northwestern Sudan. Both parties in this civil warfare are Islamic.

    Some progress was being made in resolving the problems between the Christians in the south and the Muslims in the north, within Sudan. However, the focus on the Darfur conflict threatens to overshadow this issue.

    If organizations on college campuses want to pray and fast to help end the violence in Sudan, then why aren't they at least focusing on all of Sudan, rather than on one region?

    Unintended Consequences

    But in reality however, I am afraid that a visible and national focus on Darfur has the potential to increase instability, resentment, and even possibly violence, in Sudan, as well as in other parts of the Islamic world.

    I will write about that after my class tonight.

    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    Constitution Day

    It was two years ago when I last mentioned (and first found out about) this holiday.

    It would be nice if, before encouraging the people of other countries to come up with their own, we could get our government to adhere to the one that we're supposed to have.

    We must get our nation back on track.

    We must take America back.

    [.ram file]

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    All Happening at Once

    Just when I hadn't even begun to update my previous posts - on Hurricane Katrina, and on the passing of conservative leader Jude Wanniski - one of my fellow UIS College Republicans members has just knocked on my door, to inform me that the Chief Justice of the United States [*], William Hubbs Rehnquist, has passed away.

    This seems to be too much tragedy, in too short of a time.

    I think I am going to be sick...

    How to survive...
    (.wmv file)

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    Hurricane Katrina relief efforts

    The organization I lead will be helping out our local chapter of the Red Cross collect donations for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts this weekend.

    The Blogosphere is also doing a project this weekend, to help out. Glenn Reynolds has a comprehensive round-up of organizations that you can contribute to, and Citizen Smash has provided an inspirational idea for us to act upon.

    I will be posting a better entry about Hurricane Katrina soon; for now, please do what you can to help out.