Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Genocide Acceptable?

It is easy to dismiss someone’s entire opinion when most of it is enraging and idiotic. I felt this way when I first read Alan J. Kuperman’s Opinion piece in the NY Times. His column accuses the rebels in Darfur for starting the violence that lead to the genocide. Unfortunately, there is a grain of truth in his column. The rebels should not be romanticized as their history is not pure. In fact, the author is probably right that the rebels are standing in the way of a lasting peace.

While I can agree with his characterization of the rebels in Darfur, the rest of his column is completely out of line. The author uses the rebel’s history of violence as a pseudo-excuse for Sudan’s genocidal response:
“Cease-fires often have been violated first by the rebels, not the government, which has pledged repeatedly to admit international peacekeepers if the rebels halt their attacks.

This reality has been obscured by Sudan's criminally irresponsible reaction to the rebellion: arming militias to carry out a scorched-earth counterinsurgency. These Arab forces, who already resented the black tribes over past land disputes and recent attacks, were only too happy to rape and pillage any village suspected of supporting the rebels.

In light of janjaweed atrocities, it is natural to romanticize the other side as freedom fighters. But Darfur's rebels do not deserve that title. They took up arms not to stop genocide — which erupted only after they rebelled — but to gain tribal domination.”
Kuperman is suggesting that Sudan’s response is both criminally irresponsible, but yet also understandable based on the rebel’s actions.

Anyone who thinks back on the situation in Rwanda will remember that the Hutu government claimed that they were only suppressing an armed Tutsi rebellion. In fact, Rwanda’s history is remarkably similar to that of the picture Kuperman paints of Sudan. The Tutsis operated a government that repressed Hutus until the Hutus took power, after which there were numerous Tutsi rebellions. The fact is that both nations, and countless others around the world, have a violent history. But the international community cannot accept genocide as a natural result of civil war or repression.

Kuperman finishes his piece by suggesting that if the rebels do not accept the cease fire and peace proposals, we should allow the Sudanese government to deal with the uprising on their own as long as they "eschew war crimes". While I agree that the rebels in Darfur need to be held responsible for their violence and refusal to compromise, the Sudanese government has shown that it is incapable of stopping an uprising without raping and slaughtering civilians at the same time. Therefore, this proposal, and most of the column, is completely useless to the dialogue on Sudan.