Just what I was saying.
Posted to Poetry and Politics
by mot-juste on 2004-07-20 15:17:00
Sudan is getting away with murderBy Mark Steyn
'Where are the Kiplings of today to rouse public opinion?" my anguished colleagues on the Leader page asked yesterday apropos Sudan. "Do we humanitarians care less about Darfur than our imperialist ancestors would have done?" The answer to that second one is: yes. John Mann, the Presbyterian minister of Pollak in Glasgow, fancies himself as a fine humanitarian, but, as his interview with Scotland on Sunday made plain, his priorities lie elsewhere.
For the umpteenth time, he denounced the "unnecessary, unjust war" in Iraq and said that, if he were Tony Blair, "I don't know how I could live with myself".
If I'd ipso facto supported the continuation in office of a psychopathic dictator, I don't know how I could live with myself. But each to his own.
The point is that today's humanitarians are too busy for Sudan. Ask Barbra Streisand and she'd say, "Sudan Hussein? Bush lied!!!" As for Kipling, if he were around today, he'd be tied up with the big Not In Our Name march with fellow versifiers Harold Pinter and Andrew Motion. Or possibly he'd be preening with Ashley Judd and Rupert Everett and other experts at the big world Aids conference in Bangkok, and getting his photo taken next to an effigy of George W Bush smeared with blood. America spends more money combating Aids than the rest of the world combined, but why let some petty number-crunching spoil your fun?
Darling Rupert denounced Bush's Aids plan for Africa as "extremely frightening" because of its "judgmental attitude" toward sex. Kofi Annan was also critical of Bush's initiative, mainly because all those billions of dollars are being spent directly by America in Africa, rather than being sluiced through the UN.
Now that the Oil-for-Fraud programme has come to an end, many UN bureaucrats are at a loose end and would have been only too happy to bring their experience and efficiency to bear on Bush's pathetically pitifully footling judgmental $15 billion. Once the UN's administration fee had been deducted, there could easily have been enough left over to buy 20 thousand bucks' worth of condoms, no doubt from a rubber factory co-owned by the husband of an old mistress of Jacques Chirac's.
The Americans could probably make a difference in Sudan, too. The USAF could target and bomb the Janjaweed as effectively as they did the Taliban. But then John Mann and Harold Pinter and Rupert Everett would get their knickers in a twist, and everyone from John Kerry to Polly Toynbee would complain that it's "illegitimate" unless it's authorised by the UN. The problem is, by the time you've gone through the UN, everyone's dead.
The UN system is broken beyond repair. In May, even as its proxies were getting stuck into their ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan was elected to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Commission. This isn't an aberration: Zimbabwe is also a member. The very structure of the organisation, under which countries vote in regional blocs, encourages such affronts to decency.
The Sudanese representative, by the way, immediately professed himself concerned by human rights abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
The UN, as the Canadian columnist George Jonas put it, enables dictators to punch above their weight. All that Elfatih Mohammed Ahmed Erwa, the Sudanese government's man in New York, has to do is string things out long enough to bog down the US call for sanctions in the Gauloise-filled rooms. "Let's not be hasty," Erwa told the Los Angeles Times. And, fortunately, not being hasty is something the UN is happy to do in its own leisurely way until everyone is in the mass grave and the point is moot.
Today, British charities are launching a campaign to save Darfur, which they describe as the "world's worst humanitarian crisis". If we were serious about the plight of Sudan, we'd stop using that dully evasive word "humanitarian". It's fine for a hurricane or a drought, but not a genocide.
The death and dislocation in Sudan is a political crisis every step up the chain - from the blood-drenched militia to their patrons in Khartoum to their buddies in the African Union to the schemers and cynics at the UN. It's "multilateralism" that magnifies some nickel 'n' dime murder gangs into a global player.
In W. F. Deedes's account yesterday, I was struck by this line: "Aid agencies have found it difficult to get visas." That sentence encapsulates everything that is wrong with the transnational approach. The UN confers on its most dysfunctional members a surreal, post-modern sovereignty: a state that claims it can't do anything about groups committing genocide across huge tracts of its territory nevertheless expects the world to respect its immigration paperwork as inviolable.
Why should the West's ability to help Darfur be dependent on the visa section of the Sudanese embassy? The world would be a better place if the UN, or the democratic members thereof, declared that thug states forfeit the automatic deference to sovereignty. Since that won't happen, it would be preferable if free nations had a forum of their own in which decisions could be reached before every peasant has been hacked to death. The Coalition of the Willing has a nice ring to it.
One day, historians will wonder why the most militarily advanced nations could do nothing to halt men with machetes and a few rusting rifles. After Kitchener's victory over the dervishes at Omdurman, Belloc wrote:
"Whatever happens/ We have got/ The Maxim gun/ and they have not."
We've tossed out the Maxim gun for daisycutters and cruise missiles. In Darfur, meanwhile, the Janjaweed on their horses are no better armed than the dervishes were. But we're powerless against them because we've fetishised poseur-multilateralism as the only legitimate form of intervention. Who needs a "Kipling of today" when the old one works perfectly well:
Take up the White Man's burdenHe didn't know the half of it. Today, we have devised a system of protean "world government" that amplifies both the Sloth of the West and the heathen Folly of the thug states. And, because of it, in Sudan as in Rwanda, hundreds of thousands will die.
The savage wars of peace
Fill full the mouth of famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch Sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hope to nought.