Got a reply from Sen. Jim Talent’s office to my email on the plight of the civilian population of the Darfur in Sudan (so charmingly classed by one blogger in the category of “obscure current events in 5th world countries”). Talent’s is the only response I’ve received so far, and is probably typical of the replies one might expect. Let’s look it over:

Like you, I find the crisis in the Darfur region disturbing. Since the fighting in Darfur started just a little more than a year ago, the United Nations and USAID estimate at least 30,000 people have been killed, more than 130,000 people have been forced from their homes and have fled to neighboring Chad, and more than 1,000,000 people have been internally displaced.

The situation in Darfur is something more than “disturbing.” Still, those distressing estimates match up with figures from other sources, so it’s clear that Talent is at least aware of the extent of the problem.

It is imperative that the United States government does all
that it can to ensure that Sudan has a real peace and send a message
to the National Islamic Front government that its cooperation with
the U.S. in fighting terrorism is not a license for spreading terror is
Southern Sudan. Regimes that sanctions lawlessness or terror
within their borders cannot be a reliable partner in the war on

I’d argue that the time for “sending messages” to the Sudanese government is long past, particularly as Khartoum is working hard to deflect criticism and undermine any international response to the tragedy. Sudan’s duplicitous political offensive includes the following tactics:

    • blocking the African Union from sending a peacekeeping force charged with protecting civilians
    • arguing that death counts are ten times too high and are inflated by the UN, NGO and US State Department
    • claiming that rebels in Darfur are consorting with and supported by Israel
    • arguing that the janjaweed militias are out of control “outlaws” beyond the reach of immediate government action
    • equating the threat of US and UK action with the invasion of Iraq, and arguing that the US is out to restructure the Arab world – and take control of Sudanese oil
    • touting a quick tentative fact-finding mission by the European Union as confirming that no genocide is going on, when in fact the E.U. mission said nothing of the kind
    • enlisting the active support of such human rights-impaired states as China, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt in shielding it from any military intervention or even the imposition of sanctions – and thus from any real motivation to change its policies


The administration has shown an unprecedented commitment to Sudan and has helped reach substantial yet by no means adequate achievements fostering peace in a country that has suffered through decades of war. Its efforts deserve our support. The Administration has led efforts in seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Darfur, and in addressing the ensuing humanitarian crisis, including the visit of Secretary of State Colin Powell to Darfur in June 2004 to engage directly in efforts to end the genocide, and the provision of nearly $140,000,000 to date in bilateral humanitarian assistance through the United States Agency for International Development.

The humanitarian aid Talent mentions is laudable – though, as USAID itself admits, food security is worse in Darfur than earlier assessments had determined. Still, Talent does not acknowledge here that the American/British political effort to advance peace in Sudan has been effectively stymied by Khartoum.

The Bush administration should continue to participate in
international efforts to stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur and
make it clear to the National Islamic Front that there will be
consequences for the wanton disregard for human life. I am
pleased to report that SCR 133 was passed by the Senate and
House of Representatives on July 22, 2004 by unanimous consent.

That resolution puts Congress one step ahead of the White House, which has declined to officially depict the Sudan crisis as genocide because to do so would require it by law to intervene. This has also been the approach of other nations, and the result has been the continued murder, starvation, and displacement of Sudanese civilians by their own government. I should hope that Talent and his collegues don’t intend to stop with that resolution, though there’s every likelihood that they will unless prodded by their constituents.

And therein lies the problem.

In the meantime:

Sudan’s government is worsening the crisis in the embattled Darfur region by legitimizing militia groups and blocking international aid, Human Rights Watch says.The United Nations also hit out again at the Sudanese government, saying fresh helicopter attacks in Darfur were worsening an already desperate humanitarian situation.

A Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday said armed government forces and Arab militias, backed by Khartoum, continued to attack men, rape women and steal livestock in the region.

“The Sudanese government insists that it is taking significant measures, but the continuing atrocities in Darfur prove that Khartoum’s claims simply aren’t credible,” said Peter Takirambudde, executive director for Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division.

“If the government were serious about wanting to protect civilians, it would welcome a greater international presence,” he added.

Talent on Sudan: Parsing the response