Today, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court requested an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Bashir’s involvement in the Darfur genocide has been obvious for several years now. Our own military observers have reported that Sudanese government soldiers and aircraft have worked with the Arab militias in systematically murdering tens of thousands of civilians and destroying whole villages at a time.
Journalists and NGOs have done their best to keep Darfur in the headlines for several years now, but the world’s governments have largely ignored or, when that was not possible, taken half-steps to address the genocide. Not one western government has risked its own forces to intervene on behalf of the powerless. This is precisely the mission that a strong United Nations with a clear mandate could undertake: the defense of a people being murdered by their own government and in imminent danger of extinction. The words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ring mighty hollow when no U.N. member state will step forward to make them real.
Likewise, the United States has the air power to quickly destroy the Sudanese military’s ability to attack from the air and to move quickly on the ground, but the Bush administration, which abused the truth and the law in invading Iraq to satisfy its own twisted aims, can not be bothered to intervene in Darfur because the people suffering and dying there are brown, not white, and their plight doesn’t directly affect the fortunes of those here in power. Intervention in Darfur is exactly the type of action that would show the world our global aims are noble rather than selfish, and our inaction confirms the world’s belief that we care only for those most like us and protect only our own direct interests.
The International Criminal Court has taken the first step in bringing justice to Sudan. Those of us who long to end the suffering in Darfur can only watch and see where this takes us, whether it prods the world to action or the world continues it own prolonged navel-gazing while covering its ears to fend off the sounds of suffering.