Saturday, March 24, 2007

Worthy and unworthy massacres.

I declare myself partially perplexed by the apparently well-meaning letter by various lefties to the EU about Darfur. Okay, so Stoppard, Havel and Levy aren't exactly on the Left, and Habermas isn't surprising, but look who else is on there: Dario Fo, Harold Pinter, Gunter Grass and Franca Rame. Read:

How dare we Europeans celebrate this weekend while on a continent some few miles south of us the most defenceless, dispossessed and weak are murdered in Sudan?

Has the European Union - born of atrocity to unite against further atrocity - no word to utter, no principle to act on, no action to take, in order to prevent these massacres in Darfur? Is the cowardliness over Srebrenica to be repeated? If so, what do we celebrate?


I have no problem with the desire to show solidarity with the people suffering from Khartoum's vicious counter-insurgency programme. However, nice intentions doesn't exculpate one from the duty to think through what one is doing. Firstly, the call for sanctions against Sudan's leaders is, aside from anything else, likely to be pointless and inefficacious. But it so happens that this is the policy Blair is calling for the EU to support at the UN. Secondly, the idea that European states have a responsibility to save Africa when many of them are busy destroying it, is utterly bizarre. Imagine one hasn't got a memory that extends back further than 1989, and suppose that there was never such a thing as colonial genocide, mass hangings, concentration camps, devastating politically-imposed famines and so forth. Imagine you're a liberal, in other words. Even then, what do you have? Britain spent years helping mass murder in Sierra Leone, has armed most of the leading combatants in the Congo, has tended to be quietly supportive of the Khartoum government, has supported the Nigerian government cracking down on its dissidents etc etc. France is busily killing people in the Cote d'Ivoire, Chad, the Central African Republic, has helped the Algerian military kill tens of thousands, and has trained genocidaires in Rwanda. EU powers are presently helping the US to impose a client dictatorship on Somalia. And since when was the EU "born of atrocity to prevent atrocity"? The EU was founded in 1992 as the de facto successor to the European Economic Community, which was founded in 1957 long after the second world war, and long before the colonial massacres stopped. It was conceived of as an economic bloc, a right-wing, anticommunist free trade zone. It had nothing to do with preventing atrocity. Further, what serious person on the Left can talk about EU "cowardice" in Srebrenica? Complicity, surely. Participation.

It isn't a call for military intervention, and I suppose hardly any of the signatories would have added their name if it did. They're not that fucking gullible. Nor is it a call for anything that's likely to make the slightest difference, nor does it contain or hint at any analysis of what is happening in Darfur or why. It is addressed to an agency which is busily starving Palestinians and statesmen who are assisting the slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan, indeed participating in a set of atrocities collectively and conspicuously worse than what is happening in Darfur. This document therefore constitutes a plea to the rulers of Europe to reassure left-liberals that the 'European idea' is worth their love, and perhaps to prove that there can be a progressive, benevolent imperialism that puts the nasty, selfish yanks to shame. The European idea is terminally flawed, especially if based on a set of preposterous myths.

Better read Ed Herman.