Saturday, June 02, 2007

On not saving Darfur

The Save Darfur Coalition are experiencing massive turmoil after alienating aid workers by running a series of advertisements funded by anonymous sponsors, in which they called for armed intervention and strong sanctions, and claimed to be representing aid agencies that they did not in fact represent:

Sam Worthington, the president and chief executive of InterAction, a coalition of aid groups, complained to Mr. Rubenstein by e-mail that Save Darfur’s advertising was confusing the public and damaging the relief effort.

“I am deeply concerned by the inability of Save Darfur to be informed by the realities on the ground and to understand the consequences of your proposed actions,” Mr. Worthington wrote.

He noted that contrary to assertions in its initial ads, Save Darfur did not represent any of the organizations working in Darfur, and he accused it of “misstating facts.” He said its endorsement of plans that included a no-flight zone and the use of multilateral forces “could easily result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of individuals.”

Another aid group, Action Against Hunger, said in a statement last week that a forced intervention by United Nations troops without the approval of the Sudanese government “could have disastrous consequences that risk triggering a further escalation of violence while jeopardizing the provision of vital humanitarian assistance to millions of people.”

Aid groups also complain that Save Darfur, whose budget last year was $15 million, does not spend that money on aid for the long-suffering citizens of the region.

So, they've fired the executive director and re-organising the bureaucracy. The Save Darfur elite has principally been Christian fundamentalists and Zionist leaders, and haven't been particularly apt at contributing to peace in Darfur in the past. I have argued before that armed intervention would be a disaster, but there is a current of liberal opinion which buys Bush's sincerity in the matter and hopes for some sort of military intervention in the form of no-fly zones (and check out that headline, by the way). This is not as unlikely as a full-scale war or bombardment, even though I am sure Bush is merely flattering a couple of key Republican constituencies. Blair was said to be pushing no-fly zones as a preparatory for military intervention earlier this year. A US senator who has returned from a photo-op tour of a refugee camp in Darfur has called for a no-fly zone.

Aside from ignoring the advice of aid groups who are working in the area, this suggestion is noticeably indifferent to the people it is supposed to be designed to help. It might make liberals feel good to demand the use of force when there are plainly atrocities going on. It certainly overcomes the feeling of helplessness to imagine that the President of the most militarily powerful nation of the world might be on your side. But such a policy is not only impracticable, in that it expects no-fly zones to be imposed over a region almost the same size as France, and not only destructive since it threatens to stop or dramatically curtail aid flights. It effectively puts international forces in charge of a substantial portion of Sudan, rather than empowering the residents of Darfur themselves. And it inaugurates de facto, and sustained, military confrontation with the government of Sudan, which would have potentially catastrophic consequences. It is an imperialist policy, that is, not a solution that has been conceived with a view to enhancing the condition of Darfurians on any front. As I've said, there is another way to go about solidarity with the oppressed of Darfur - support the resistance. If you really think the resistance are right, and the government wrong, in the current civil war then support the right side and send your aid to them. Contact representatives of the oppositional movements and try to find out if and how you can help. If you think neither side is right, then support pacification and negotiations.