October 01, 2009

Obama rhetoric on Sudan counterproductive for peace

Atheo News - July 16, 2009

President Obama has mimicked the Bush regime's characterization of the Darfur conflict as "genocide" following criticism from the American Jewish World Service (an organization which seems to have Sudan as an almost singular focus).

"When there’s a genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems — they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response" Obama said in his recent speech at the Ghanaian parliament.

Such labeling which is not mirrored by the U.N. will likely impede current peacemaking efforts between rival factions and reduces the influence that the U.S. has over Sudan outside of military means.

In an email response to pro-war activists Obama pledged to ensure tough sanctions:

"As President, I will build on America’s efforts that I previously championed in the Senate. I led in calling for the joint African Union/United Nations peacekeeping force now on the ground, and insisted on comprehensive sanctions against the Khartoum government. Going forward, my Administration will continue this work with unstinting resolve to end the genocide."

"In my discussions with other nations, I will work to ensure that tough sanctions on the Khartoum government continue as a part of a growing global effort involving our allies, interested countries, and other multilateral institutions."
Alex Meixner, director of policy and government relations for the Save Darfur Coalition expects a new policy on Sudan to be announced by the White House soon. The Obama Cabinet includes Susan Rice who germinated the U.S. military Africa Command (Africom) during the Clinton Administration. Rice is considered a Sudan "hawk" and has established a position at the very extreme end of the interventionist spectrum by describing the situation as "ongoing genocide".

The relatively dovish former Bush regime Sudan envoy and USAID chief Andrew Natsios is critical of the position that seems to be unfolding under the new regime:
"Some policymakers continue to call Darfur an ongoing “genocide,” but in fact, the conflict has descended into anarchy. “Darfur today is a conflict of all against all,” Rodolphe Adada, the joint African Union-United Nations special representative, told the U.N. Security Council in April. Between Jan. 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, he found some 2,000 fatalities from violence, one third of them civilian. The death of some 700 innocent civilians over a 15-month period, while morally repugnant, is not genocide. It is a low-level insurgency. More civilians died in southern Sudan during the past six months than in Darfur over the past 15 months. Despite such facts and extensive U.N. Security Office reports showing that genocide is not an accurate description, President Obama continues to use that weighted term."
A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of genocide claims found the estimates of high numbers of deaths related to the conflict to have methodology problems, relying on "too few data points extrapolated to an excessive degree". The three studies which generated the highest numbers of victims were determined to lack objectivity:
"Most experts rated the level of objectivity of the three estimates as low, particularly those by Drs. Coebergh and Reeves. The experts thought that the estimates were more characteristic of advocacy or journalistic material than objective analysis."
Explaining his estimates of victims to the GAO panel Coebergh described his study as a "political statement". Yet these are the figures which are routinely cited as fact by both intervention advocates and Western media reports.

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