[I]n the last six months the administration's stance towards the genocidal Sudanese government seems to have shifted towards one of appeasement--at a time when the situation in Darfur grows more dire by the day.
This change in attitude towards Khartoum first became apparent in April, when the CIA flew Major General Saleh Gosh to Washington, D.C., in order to provide intelligence on international terrorism. Gosh was Osama bin Laden's chief minder during his five years in Khartoum, from 1991 to 1996; he now heads the Sudanese government's ruthlessly efficient intelligence and security service, and has been referred by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry to the International Criminal Court to be investigated for crimes against humanity. The security service he directs is responsible for tens of thousands of extra-judicial executions, killings, and disappearances, as well as numerous instances of torture, illegal imprisonment, and other violations of international law. Most importantly, all evidence suggests that Gosh himself is one of the prime architects of Darfur's genocide.
Another sign of appeasement came in July, when the Washington firm C/R International, whose managing director is former State Department official Robert Cabelly, agreed on a contract with the Sudanese government. Because trade and economic sanctions put in place in 1997 by President Clinton remain in effect, the contract required an explicit waiver from the State Department, which it granted.
In short, the same vicious cabal in Khartoum that was explicitly declared by former Secretary of State Colin Powell to be responsible for genocide in Darfur has now been allowed to secure the services of a former State Department employee to provide it with p.r. counsel. For a fee of $530,000 per year, the firm's role will essentially be to put a happy face on a genocidal regime.
In its public face, the Bush administration is also slowly starting to pull back from its condemnations. Consider this statement by Michael Ranneberger, deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs:
Even now what you're seeing is not these systematic Janjaweed attacks against villages. You know, somebody said, "It's because all the villages were burned." Well, it's not. You fly over Darfur, almost all the--you see thousands of villages, fully populated, farming going on, and everything else. So it's because of the presence of these African Union forces.
This assessment is belied by virtually everybody on the ground--Reeves says the prevailing consensus is that between 80-90% of the tribal villages in Darfur have been destroyed. Even if I was inclined to trust the Bush administration on this matter (which I'm not), I simply cannot believe that 5,300 troops patrolling an area the size of France, without a mandate to respond to acts of violence, could have triggered the massive turnabout in Darfur's situation that Ranneberger says they are.
We are approaching a turning point. This is the time where America will show whether its outrage at genocide can be sustained, or whether it will again dissipate as other matters draw our attention. The Bush administration has shown time and again that it will work with the most brutal of dictatorships if given free reign to do so. Clearly, they are enticed by the prospect of enlisting Sudan in the war on terror--and Khartoum is obviously dangling intelligence aid as incentive for the US to drop pressure. The only thing stopping the Bushies from treating Sudan the same as Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, or any of the other states in which we've been acquiescent in support of massive human rights violations is that the American people had, at one point, united in the belief that Sudan was beyond the pale. If that sentiment proves to be unsustainable, then I predict America will slowly, quietly, but inevitably begin opening relations with Sudan and downplaying the mass murder in Darfur.
Don't let that happen.