No word resonates quite as strongly in the context of international human rights violations as “genocide.”
Considering the impetus behind any act of genocide – the desire to exterminate a people simply for their identification as a people – genocide is the most heinous of all crimes.
Abhorrence to genocide unites Democrats and Republicans alike.
It unites the religious right and the radical left.
It is beyond politics and it strikes at the heart of any human being’s most basic desire to live.
So what does the world do when the systematic mass killing of a people is discovered?
That’s a question which has been plaguing the international community in regard to the genocide in Sudan. In the Darfur region of western Sudan, 50,000 black Muslim Sudanese have been killed and 1.2 million have been displaced.
The situation originated when small conflicts broke out between black Sudanese farmers and Arab nomads over use of resources.
It then escalated when the black farmers organized into full-fledged rebellion.
As a result, the Sudanese government in Khartoum has enlisted the aid of Janjaweed militias to kill the insurgents.
Yet, the fighting is not confined to military zones. It has infiltrated peaceful villages and has led to the blatant slaughtering of civilians.
Of those black Sudanese who have been displaced, there are victims of gang rape who can no longer produce milk for the babies of their rapists, and there are child soldiers who fight to avenge the murder of their own parents.
Clearly, this is not a governmental attempt to maintain order.
The Janjaweed militias responsible for the mass extermination of the black Sudanese are doing so primarily based on racial reasons. Both the victims and the perpetrators of the genocide are Muslim, so religion is not the issue.
If action is not taken, the staggering figure of 50,000 dead may soon rival the 800,000 killed during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
The Bush administration has come to the understanding that this situation amounts to outright genocide. So what will this world united against genocide do to stop the continual slaughter?
The first answer that comes to mind is economic sanctions, particularly sanctions on Sudanese oil. Since 1999, Sudan has been exporting oil and has been reaping the economic benefits.
However, the governments of Pakistan and China, both recipients of Sudanese oil, would most likely oppose any resolution that includes sanctions. China, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has veto power and could end any attempts by the international community to impose sanctions.
Both of these countries also question the ability of sanctions to actually accomplish any good. This questioning of the effectiveness of sanctions is in itself a very good policy stance.
Surely sanctions are the quick and easy answer to any international misconduct.
From the American perspective, a country’s success or failure is based largely upon dollars.
But in analyzing the current situation, world leaders have to look beyond their own narrow perspectives.
In reality, sanctions are not always effective. Sudan is a poor country whose economy has only recently been revitalized by oil exports.
In any attempt to use sanctions against a foreign nation, it is imperative to analyze the effects that those sanctions would have on both that foreign nation’s policy and on its civilians.
The sanctions against Iraq after the first Gulf War were a blatant failure and only led to the deaths of thousands of Iraqi children; Saddam didn’t care about the welfare of his people. It would be advisable that the international community first examine the effects of sanctions on the civilian population of Sudan to avoid any further deaths.
Additionally, the recalcitrance of the government in Khartoum must also be considered.
It is likely that sanctions would only aggravate the government and create more obstacles to successful negotiation.
For President Bush, the situation in Iraq has marred his image and his credibility in the Middle Eastern world. If he hopes to gain some diplomatic ground in the Muslim world, playing a key role in ending the genocide could help to clear his name.
Among the intelligent options available to world leaders are negotiations and diplomacy.
It would be intelligent for the European Union and the United States to send delegates to talks in Nigeria where leaders of the African Union, rebel groups and the Sudanese government are meeting.
It would be intelligent to send more U.N. peacekeepers and augment the African Union’s measly 300 monitors; this provision is already included in the U.S. resolution. It would be intelligent to give Chad a major role in negotiations, as it is the suspected supplier of the rebel’s arms and supplies.
It would be intelligent to address the initial reasons for the rebellion of black Sudanese, the sharing of resources and more representation in government.
To most Americans and to most citizens of the Western world, an end to the genocide in Sudan is not a top priority. As a result, the governments of the Western world are not making it a top priority.
But isn’t genocide one of the most, if not the most, horrific crime known to man?
Attention should be paid to the situation and intelligent action should be taken.