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Friday, June 25, 2004

Vile Enemy of the Week: Sudan

Colin Powell is taking a trip to Sudan. It is almost certainly a pat on the back for Sudan's cooperativeness in The War on Terror: They've gone from "Blatant Terrorist Refuge" to "Snidely Obstructive Neutral Party". It's probably also an attempt to shore up the Islamist government's cease-fire with the Animist and Christian rebels of the south; since 1983, two million Sudanese have died in or from the effects of a religious civil war. Three times as many have been displaced, and the refugees have badly disrupted regional stability.

The CIA factbook profile also notes the country's ethnic cleansings, and that despite some newfound fiscal responsibility the vast majority of Sudanese will remain desperately poor do to the effects of repression and war. And though they no longer officially harbor bin Laden or his organization (as they did up through 1996) the general chaos caused by the Islamist government's authoritarianism and ineptitude does provide a breeding ground for terrorists.

This is the nation that now sits on the UN Human Rights Commission; in a stinging rebuke to US efforts to re-introduce sanity to that body, a junta of African countries put Sudan on the commission for another term. The US representative had a few choice words, which he gave before walking out of the proceedings:

"But the least we should be able to do is to not elect a country to the only global body charged specifically with protecting human rights, at the precise time when tens of thousands of its citizens are being murdered or left to die of starvation," the US Ambassador said, addressed to African governments. The election of Sudan was "allowing the Commission to become a safe-haven for the world's worst human rights violators, especially one engaged in 'ethnic cleansing'."

"The US will not participate in this absurdity. Our delegation will absent itself from the meeting rather than lend support to Sudan's candidacy," Mr. Siv told the Commission's President. "We ask that the Secretariat take note of our action in the record of this session," he added.

To which the Sudanese official predictably responded:

The Sudanese government's representative to the Commission however did not let Mr. Siv's statement pass without protest. Omar Bashir Manis, responded by criticising the US for engaging in human rights abuses around the world, especially citing the "infamous and degrading treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison."

Mr. Bashir went on naming the latest known examples of excessive use of force by the UN Army, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantnamo Bay in Cuba. "It is yet very ironic that the United States delegation, while shedding crocodile tears over the situation in Darfur, is turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed by American forces against the innocent civilian population in Iraq," Mr. Bashir said.

Yes, Mr. Bashir, a pyramid of naked Iraqis is equivilent - no, no, surpases! - two million dead and six million homeless due to your government's attempts to enforce Islamic law on non-Muslims. The American soldiers who abused prisoners in Abu Grhaib are being tried and punished; one of them is already in jail and has been dishonorably discharged from the military.

When does your trial start, Mr. Bashir?