Wednesday, July 28, 2004

War and Resistance.

Iraq is a disaster area again today, and I'd like to thank those who made it all possible. After all, this obviously means that the situation can clearly get no worse and we're bound to see some of the fruits of 'humanitarian intervention' soon. As per usual, when acts of extreme and disturbing violence are wreaked, the tendency is to foreclose thought and seek out the condemnation stick. Not that I don't condemn these wicked attacks on civilian lives (yes, yes, I know, they're aimed at police stations and such, but it isn't as if noone ever walks past a cop shop is it?), it's just that the rush away from analysis typically enjoined by extreme moral outrage is either dangerous or futile. I therefore offer you a couple of links to pursue if you feel like stepping back from the fire.

Daniel Brett has an excellent post on Sudan which I urge everyone to read. As per usual, the media tropes are mercilessly torn asunder; Brett carefully inserts what has been reduced to simply a stark humanitarian situation (which, of course, it is) back into its context of local political rivalries, imperial pretensions and interlocking interests:

What I find most galling is the attitude of the West. The Darfur insurgency has been going on for over a year now, but few Westerners had bothered to notice it until now. The issue has been recently adopted by Christian missionaries and the media has adopted their agenda without questioning it. The history of the Darfur conflict is thus bleached to reflect a Christian colour. It is now simply portrayed as Arab Muslims oppressing innocent black Africans and Darfur is a cause celebre for the Christian Right, a conflict with good and evil.

The fact that Chad's President Idriss Deby has been manipulating and arming the ethnic Zaghawa in Sudan, which has helped destablise Darfur, is not mentioned. Deby is a Zaghawa, a tribe which inhabits Darfur and eastern Chad. The Zaghawa of Sudan gave him sanctuary during his Libyan-backed insurgency against the regime of Hissein Habre in the late 1980s. He relies on the support of this ethnic group to maintain his hold on power and to balance the power of the northern oligarchs of the Gorane tribe and repress political opposition - since 1990, his regime has been responsible for the killing of 25,000. According to the US State Department's human rights report on Chad, Deby has established a "culture of impunity for a ruling minority". The SLA is part of his power play to defeat rival tribes, consolidate his hold over Chad and diminish the influence of the Gorane tribe.

The American Christian right-wing - which represents the majority of Americans - is advocating military intervention in Darfur, similar to the "humanitarian" invasion of Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has followd this line, with reports that he has drawn up plans to use the army to "protect" refugee camps in Chad and creating "safe zones" inside Sudan.

Unilateralism will make matters worse

The proposals are reminiscent of the NATO invasion of the Serbian province of Kosovo. Such an intervention would require Deby's support, which risks upsetting Sudan's Al-Bashir regime. Any action that does not have the explicit consent of both Chad and Sudan would plunge the US and its allies into a complex and violent conflict that will sink them financially and politically.

If such an armed venture was carried out, the White Nile would run red with Sudanese blood. It would be reminiscent of the Congo, with a tribal and religious conflict spreading beyond Sudan's borders into Chad and other countries in the ecologically precarious Sahel region.

Even a modest number of Western troops stationed in the border areas where refugees are located would upset the delicate situation in the region, prompting violent clash between an emboldened Zaghawa-dominated government and the well-armed Gorane. This might threaten the stability of the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR), where in March 2003 a Chad-backed military coup removed the elected but widely discredited government of Ange-Felix Patasse. Instability in northern CAR could quickly spread to other parts of the country in the event of shifting regional alliances and power dynamics and an influx of refugees.

Sudan's peace process would collapse, with the SPLA taking advantage of the Khartoum government's weakening control. It could possibly gain the support of Uganda, the rebel group's traditional ally, to break the country up along confessional and tribal lines. North-eastern Sudan would witness Eritrean and Ethiopian opportunism and military adventurism as both countries vye for territorial influence and control. In Chad itself, the tensions between an emboldened and American-backed Zaghawa tribe and the Gorane oligarchs would explode into civil war.

Although it is tempting to rush troops into Sudan and Chad to stop the ethnic cleansing and hunger, the impact of an intervention in Sudan is full of dangerous uncertainties. Is it worth taking these risks? Will resorting to unilateral military action really solve the humanitarian crisis in Darfur or create a regional war and famine on an unprecedented scale?

And while I'm at it, you could be persuaded to have a look at Scott Ritter's latest , in which he argues that the Iraqi Resistance will win - indeed, has already done so:

Regardless of the number of troops the United States puts on the ground or how long they stay there, Allawi's government is doomed to fail. The more it fails, the more it will have to rely on the United States to prop it up. The more the United States props up Allawi, the more discredited he will become in the eyes of the Iraqi people - all of which creates yet more opportunities for the Iraqi resistance to exploit.

We will suffer a decade-long nightmare that will lead to the deaths of thousands more Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. We will witness the creation of a viable and dangerous anti-American movement in Iraq that will one day watch as American troops unilaterally withdraw from Iraq every bit as ignominiously as Israel did from Lebanon.

The calculus is quite simple: the sooner we bring our forces home, the weaker this movement will be. And, of course, the obverse is true: the longer we stay, the stronger and more enduring this byproduct of Bush's elective war on Iraq will be.

There is no elegant solution to our Iraqi debacle. It is no longer a question of winning but rather of mitigating defeat.

Finally, and amazingly, Johann Hari has yet another excellent article in the Independent today. I assume it will soon be available on his website , but if you're eager you could always click on the Indie link and pay their exorbitant log-in charges. Incidentally, Hari's website contains two acts of his new and apparently well-received play (at least, I think there are more acts to come). Looks kind of modern and New Labour to me, but you might like it.