Sunday, May 20, 2007

Weekly Commentary - A "Plan B" for the Save Darfur Movement

It can't be cheap to keep running full-page ads in the New York Times, but the Save Darfur Coalition has repeatedly managed to grace the front page section with its messages.

Monday, May 8's incarnation (shown in part at right; from page A13) implores President Bush "to enact an effective Plan B" for Darfur.

First, an unanswered question: what was "Plan A"? Was it to make empty threats against Khartoum while cuddling up to other unsavory elements in the regime, ignore the African Union (AU) troops on the ground in Darfur, support a deeply unpopular peace agreement, and let humanitarian aid organizations lay on the edge of collapse?

Regardless, Washington's "Plan B" has been a long time in manifesting itself to the public. Back in the fall, U.S. special enjoy Andrew Natsios "wouldn't say" what Plan B entailed, though the "deadline" for implementing it was to have been January 1.

With that date having come and gone, President Bush in April "heartened" us with his more specific formulations of what the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir would face if he "does not meet his obligations" in resolving the conflict. According to press accounts, these include sanctions targeting both "companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government," and three individuals "involved in fomenting violence in Darfur" (surprise - the Sudanese intelligence chief and CIA asset Salah Abdallah Gosh is not amongst them). There is also talk of a no-fly zone.

Though some have condemned "Plan B" as not "strong enough," others in the Save Darfur movement assure us that now "the United States is engaged totally" with bringing an end to the crisis - after all, the Bush Administration's rhetorical support for a UN force in Darfur, a no-fly zone, and further sanctions more or less comprise three-fifths of what the Save Darfur Coalition is advocating above in the most public of forums.

While the wisdom (or lack thereof) of implementing these various measures is a subject for another day, what is clear enough is that the U.S. is not "engaged totally" with stopping the crimes in Darfur (see our May 13 post). But what is also apparent is that neither is the Save Darfur movement.

What other conclusion could be drawn from their list of demands, which includes absolutely nothing about the AU forces in Darfur? It is downright shameful for a group which claims its preoccupation with the collective fate of Darfurians to run a public advocacy campaign and fail to make any mention of funding the desperately strapped AU forces, which, after all, are already in Darfur, and could step up their presence quickly if anyone in the West cared to finance them. Instead, the AU struggles through shortages of food and fuel, at times unable to even pay the soldiers they have, let alone fund the presence of more - which they have requested, though it is a request that has been met with absolute silence.

It is no exaggeration to say that the AU forces in Darfur have been "set up to fail" by the West (in the words of Oxfam and other relief organizations), or that "the international community has let them down" (as noted by the AU itself). Accordingly, they have also let down Darfurians.

Given its own neglect of advocating an increase in funding for the AU, the same can be said for the Save Darfur Coalition.

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