President Bush, speaking at a Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum April 18, pledged to intensify pressure on Sudan, warning of stiff economic sanctions if President Omar Hassan al-Bashir does not bring a quick end to the violence in Darfur. “The time for promises is over—President Bashir must act,” Bush said. “The world needs to act. If President Bashir does not meet his obligations to the United States of America, we’ll act.” (NYT, April 19; Reuters, April 18) Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, just back from a visit to Sudan, made similar noises two days earlier: “The government of Sudan must disarm the janjaweed, the Arab militias that we all know could not exist without the Sudanese government’s active support,” Negroponte said. (AP, April 16)
We aren’t privy to what Negroponte discussed with al-Bashir, we take it the Deputy Secretary failed to coax Sudan’s despot back into the Western fold. It has been three years since the US administration first called the Darfur killings “genocide,” and the State Department has recently backtracked from this position. So it is absurd to assume that US interests here are really about saving African lives—especially given Negroponte’s deep complicity with genocide in Central America a generation ago. However, the estimated 400,000 dead Darfurians may prove very convenient to Washington given the Khartoum regime’s closeness to militant Islam and (perhaps more significantly) to China.
The renewed hardline stance comes just as widespread press accounts cite an unpublished UN report claiming that Sudan is flying arms and heavy military equipment into Darfur in violation of Security Council resolutions—and painting the planes white to disguise them as UN or African Union aircraft. The report apparently says the planes are being operated out of all three of Darfur’s principal airports, and being used for aerial surveillance and bombing raids in addition to cargo transport.
The report also supposedly cites guerilla groups fighting the Khartoum government for violating UN resolutions, peace agreements and humanitarian standards. (Hamilton Spectator from wire services, April 18)
See our last post on Sudan and Darfur.