Posted by: sean | September 2, 2006

Indignation about Darfur

Martin Peretz at The New Republic writes about his frustration that no one is stopping the genocide in Darfur. I’m glad that he’s bringing more attention to this conflict that is too often forgotten in the shuffle, but there are some ridiculous points in his little piece:

One might think that Afro-American organizations in the States and African-American politicians might raise their voices against this infamy. But no. You see, George Bush has actually done this. And he certainly can’t be in the right. I wish he would go further and, as our editorial in this week’s TNR hard copy edition urges, with the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Australia and, yes, Israel, deploy the troops necessary to save the lives of those whose lives have not yet been taken or simply destroyed.

First of all, Obama Barack and other black lawmakers have been bringing attention to the issue, and seven members of the Congressional Black Caucus were arrested while protesting in front of the Sudanese embassy. So while I agree that the world as a whole has not been giving this issue the attention it deserves, Peretz’s dig at black groups is unfair.

This also made me think of a recent review in The Nation about the understandable ambivalence that many black Americans have felt about Africa. So while I think we all have a moral responsibility to Darfur as humans, I’m not sure that black people have should be held any more responsible than the rest of the world just because they’re black.

Second, Israeli troops? Is he crazy? The Sudanese government has already stated that any foreign troops will be seen as invaders and fought by Khartoum’s forces, so it seems obvious that the more African and Arabic any intervention would be, the better chance it would have of success. American troops (and maybe even British ones) would already be a bad idea, but sending Israelis would guarantee the already likely scenario that such a conflict would be spinned as a religious war against foreign infidel usupers. Peretz should know better than to even suggest such an obviously wrongheaded idea.



  1. Point well taken. I live in Harlem (population is mostly West African and African-American) and right in front of an army recruitiing station. Harlem, a neighbordhood at the center of African-American civil politics, enjoys a fair share in the anti-war movement, particularly since so many US soldiers come from African-American descent. Every weekend, there is some kind of parade -lots of red, black, green- demanding intervention in Darfur and denouncing the aggressive US recruitment strategies.

    The whole identity thing strikes the black people in different ways here. Even the first generation Africans here feel ambivalent about what makes “African-ess”. Accusations run around from “you are black but not African” to “we’re African-American, and you’re not even American”. Yet, while there is great division, they generally feel ambiguous about their very responsibilities in Darfur, but overall, they understand that the principal question revolves around *agency*. If the world automatically assumes that “black is black”, it’s simply not fair to automatically assume responsibility to these people, when in fact there’s a large degree of ambiguity already present. While they demand *agency*, the whole identity thing becomes both an assett and a deterrent to the making of racial solidarity.


  2. In regards to your second point, I wanted to point out that it is very dangerous to bear the eurocentric assumption that western militaries are superior. A relic of the colonial era, which did not end until the 1970s, we must start to understand that such an assumption is increasingly becoming an outdated notion.

    It is just assumed that the west, because it is so well equipped and powerful, that it is only through western peace keeping soldiers that would provide quality service. No. Indians, Pakistanis, Japanese, Indonesians, and Kenyans have proved very capable in the field.

    Take, for example, the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda in 1993, the very mission that was unable to stop the genocide. The mixed force of Europeans and Ghanians, who were outnumbered by the killers and suffered substantial casualties, attempted to deter the killings. However, the Ghanians themselves saved the most lives, and yet, the Western Media failed to highlight such heroic activity.

    In the case of Darfur, it would undeniably be dangerous if we are to assume that Europeans and Americans have the know-how to stop the atrocities in that region. If anything, an ideal mixture would combing the technical might of the West with the commitment, courage, and understanding of the Africans and other peacekeepers. An ideal mix, then, would be a combined effort of both developed-world and developing world contigents. Otherwise, the whole identity politics thing -a mechanism for human rights violations- would dig its own grave.


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