May 30, 2006
David Rieff, contributing editor at The New Republic, has recently published a lengthy essay arguing against the need for humanitarian intervention in Darfur (“Moral Blindness: The Case Against Troops for Darfur,” May 26, 2006, http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?pt=9kQWwCOp9H9UXR3zYlPDUH%3D%3D). Rieff’s central concern is of considerable significance: what will be the consequences of military force, specifically Western military force, intervening to halt genocide in Darfur and to protect acutely vulnerable civilians and humanitarians? Unfortunately, Rieff’s contribution to the discussion of the issue is fatally compromised by egregious factual error and a conspicuously limited understanding of the current state of Darfur’s crisis. He is also disturbingly selective in his use of evidence (particularly in treating the issue of genocide), and indulges at times a breathtaking disingenuousness. Since this last is a charge Rieff directs at this writer, who figures prominently in Rieff’s essay, I take this occasion to reply at length.
RIEFF ON CURRENT REALITIES IN DARFUR
If there is a singularly shocking sentence in Rieff’s essay, it is the following:
“Yes, in the end, some form of international military deployment in Darfur may be necessary, both to protect Darfuri civilians from attacks by the government of Sudan and its Janjaweed surrogates and to enforce the recent Abuja peace agreement.”
“In the end”? “May be necessary”? This reflects a perspective of supreme callousness, as if we have somehow not already reached far beyond the “end” of what is morally acceptable in the form of human destruction and suffering. Rieff seems very little interested in statistics: he cites only one, “our planet’s 1.5 billion Muslims.” Tellingly, despite this demographic fact, Rieff manages to avoid noting that the population of Darfur is entirely Muslim—a fact that we must hope will increasingly register with Darfuris’ numerous co-religionists around the world. But Rieff has no time for the more urgently relevant statistics: the number of conflict-affected civilians (UN estimates for Darfur and eastern Chad approach a staggering 4 million human beings); the number of displaced civilians (reaching to 2.5 million in Darfur and eastern Chad); the number of human beings beyond all humanitarian reach (over 700,000); and the number of people who are already victims of genocidal violence and its ghastly aftermath of malnutrition and disease (over 450,000; see my most recent mortality assessment [April 28, 2006], http://www.sudanreeves.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=102).
Even less does Rieff talk about the effects of funding shortfalls on humanitarian deliveries and the recent cuts in food aid to the conflict-affected populations of Darfur, which even with recent supplementary contributions leave people with diets less than two-thirds of the normal ration for human survival. This occurs as the Khartoum regime refuses to draw down its huge strategic grain reserve in any way truly responsive to the massive food needs in western, southern, and eastern Sudan. Nor does Rieff talk about the relentless obstruction of humanitarian assistance by Khartoum, which terribly attenuates relief efficiency and capacity, and ultimately translates into further deliberate human destruction.
Nor does Rieff talk about other smaller, but still telling statistics: Human Rights Watch recently reported what all evidence suggests was an extraordinarily brutal Janjaweed attack on civilians far inside Chad. During the week in mid-April 2006, when Khartoum-backed Chadian rebels attempted a coup against President Idris Deby in N’Djamena, more than 100 non-Arab civilians were slaughtered:
“In the village of Jawara, which was visited last month by researchers from [Human Rights Watch], 38 people gathered together praying under a tree were killed in one swoop. Another 37 who came back to the village later to bury the dead were also massacred, HRW said. Those attacks took place on 12 and 13 April, according to villagers. [ ]
“HRW said it also learnt of a further 43 people killed in three villages close to Jawara in eastern Chad at around the same time. ‘The bodies were still out in the open. There were blood stains on the floor, machetes, and bodies,’ said HRW researcher David Buchbinder. ‘These attacks were deeper inside Chad than we have ever seen before, and there were far more people killed–we are talking about hundreds of people butchered with machetes and knives.'” (UN IRIN [dateline: N’Djamena], May 25, 2006)
Such deaths, and the fact that they continue unabated—both in Chad and Darfur—figure nowhere in Rieff’s account. And yet all accounts of current realities on the ground in Darfur suggest continual large-scale violence, growing insecurity for the humanitarian operations upon which literally millions of lives depend, and increasing desperation in the camps for displaced persons.
Rieff can bring himself to say only that, “yes, in the end, some form of international military deployment in Darfur may be necessary….” How many hundreds of thousands of deaths are encompassed in this casual phrase, “in the end”? And “may be necessary”? Is it possible that the current trajectory of violence and destruction “may not” require a military response?
Rieff’s refusal to accept the need for an urgent, fully sufficient military response to the cataclysm of current and prospective human destruction is the context for his assessment as a whole, and its most salient feature.
IS IT GENOCIDE?
Rieff wants to disable the argument that genocidal realities in Darfur give a surpassing urgency to intervention. His strategy is two-fold:  glibly suggest it may not be genocide, and  suggest that a genocide determination has been construed as excessively obliging of international action. Rieff is intellectually disgraceful in both efforts.
Rieff declares, falsely, that there are “many reputable groups abroad [ ] who reject claims like those made by Reeves [i.e., that realities in Darfur are genocide].” Who are these groups, Mr. Rieff? Why don’t you name them? Instead, Rieff cites only Doctors Without Borders/ Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF); and while it is true that the controversial head of MSF-France, Jean-Hevre Bradol, has made some extraordinary comments on the issue of genocide in Darfur, as has one MSF physician, Mercedes Taty, these comments bear close scrutiny before serving as the basis for any reasonable doubt about the existence of genocide in Darfur.
It is first important to note that in its public reporting MSF has systematically elided all data pertaining to the ethnicity of those it treats in Darfur. It has done so since the beginning of its field-work in Darfur, and continues to do so to this day. This self-censorship (those the organization treats have been overwhelmingly from non-Arab/African tribal groups) is evidently the price MSF is willing to pay to retain humanitarian access.
But how can the same organization that is systematically removing (or failing to include) data on ethnicity from its reports on Darfur be taken seriously when it speaks to the issue of ethnic crimes in Darfur? And what are we to make of the preposterous assertions made by MSF’s Taty and Bradol, flying in the face of every credible human rights report that has been published on Darfur over the past three years: “[Taty said] there is no systematic target—targeting one ethnic group or another one [in Darfur]” (MSNBC, April 16, 2004). Bradol declared, “Our teams have not seen evidence of the deliberate intention to kill people of a specific group.” (The Financial Times, July 6, 2004).
These assertions are outrageously and demonstrably false, as many within MSF will acknowledge privately. Indeed, it is hardly accidental that, besides Rieff’s, the only use made of MSF commentary on “genocide” in Darfur has been by Khartoum’s propaganda organ in London, the absurdly mendacious “European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council.”
Compounding the credibility of MSF in speaking on genocide in Darfur is a perverse misreading of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Bradol, head of MSF-France, wrote in an MSF edition of “Stories from the Field” (Issue 25, July 2004):
“Since Mdecins Sans Frontires started working in Darfur in December 2003, teams have not witnessed the intention to kill all individuals of a particular group. We have information about massacres, but never any attempt to eliminate all the members of a specific group.”
Of course these “specific groups” are ethnic groups, and Bradol knows full well that the 1948 Convention twice refers explicitly to the destruction of targeted groups “in whole or in part.” There is no requirement in a genocide determination that ***all*** members of a group be targeted for elimination. The importance of both parts of this key phrase (“in whole or in part”) has been repeatedly confirmed and interpreted by international legal bodies, including the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (see my discussion of the important review by the Appeals Chamber of the International Tribunal for violations of international law in the former Yugoslavia in the case of “Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic,” Case No. IT-98-33-T, http://www.sudanreeves.org/index.php?name=Sections&req=viewarticle&artid=196).
Rieff’s casual deployment of MSF as an authority on genocide in Darfur is a mark of intellectual dishonesty or irresponsible ignorance. Moreover, Rieff pointedly ignores the many voices declaring genocide in Darfur, including those who know Darfur best: Julie Flint (UK) and Alex de Waal of Justice Africa (UK), whose fine recent book “Darfur: A Short History of a Long War” is by far our best account of the origins of the Darfur genocide and ethnic hatred that has so deeply wounded Darfuri society. Physicians for Human Rights, which has done superb work on the ground in Darfur and eastern Chad in researching the consequences of ethnically-targeted destruction, has also declared genocide in Darfur (see especially “DARFUR: Assault on Survival,” January 11, 2006, http://www.phrusa.org/research/sudan/news_2006-01-11.html). Numerous international genocide and human rights scholars have also publicly declared the realities in Darfur to be genocide. So too have the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Africa Action (Washington), the Committee on Conscience of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and senior officials of the UK and German Governments. The Parliament of the European Union voted 566 to 6 in September 2004 to declare the realities in Darfur to be “tantamount to genocide” (this weasel phrase was a means of declaring genocide without using the word in a fashion that might trigger contractual obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention, to which all the nations of the EU are party).
The only other prominent expressions of doubt about whether or not genocide has occurred in Darfur come from Human Rights Watch (which has long emphatically declared that what is occurring in Darfur amounts to massive “ethnic cleansing” and “crimes against humanity”) and a UN Commission of Inquiry, whose report of January 2005 on Darfur is a travesty of legal reasoning and reflects nothing so much as the desperate political desire by Kofi Annan’s UN Secretariat not to be burdened with the consequences of a genocide determination, which would expose the UN Security Council as woefully inadequate to respond to such determination.
[See my two lengthy analyses of this UN Darfur Commission of Inquiry Report, both of which address at length issues that Rieff simply ignores, http://www.sudanreeves.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=489&page=1
Rieff would have us believe that a genocide determination is somehow peculiarly “American”: “Yes, in the United states it is universally believed [ ] that a slow motion genocide has been taking place in Darfur”—but nowhere else, he implies. This is again demonstrably false, and Rieff either doesn’t care or doesn’t know—indeed he makes it very hard to know which.
Rieff also declares peremptorily that the 1948 Genocide Convention is a “deeply flawed document,” this without offering the slightest indication of what these flaws are, or suggesting even vaguely why such a troubling judgment is called for. But context would indicate that what concerns Rieff is the obligation at the heart of Article 1 of the Convention:
“The Contracting Parties [to this Genocide Convention] confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and punish.”
Rieff is distrustful of such principled commitments, and this is central to his objection to what I have consistently urged, viz. that this international commitment be honored in Darfur as morally if not legally binding. For the alternative to honoring the Genocide Convention is to be left with a document that is nothing but a guide for historical reference, a vague exhortation, a mere relic of post-Holocaust literature. But Rieff surely knows that if in the wake of Rwanda and Darfur the 1948 Convention experiences its demise as a meaningful guide to international action in the 21st century, it will find no meaningful successor in the current UN political environment.
In fact, Rieff makes it impossible to resist the conclusion that he would welcome the demise of such a “demanding” document:
“The recurrent use of the term ‘genocide’ [by Reeves and others] is a way of delegitimizing any questioning of the intervene-now-no-matter-the-cost line.”
Evidently, Rieff wishes it to be an open question (not an international contractual obligation) as to whether or not we respond to vast, ongoing genocidal destruction. He can survey the massive past and impending human destruction in Darfur—orchestrated by a regime that is guilty of previous genocides in the Nuba Mountains and the oil regions of southern Sudan—and assert, “yes, in the end perhaps we’ll have to stop this—but we need to be flexible in this decision.” Rieff is right to suggest that I and others regard this “flexibility” as morally intolerable. He is deeply wrong, however, to suggest that the costs of intervention in Darfur have been ignored—or that no attention has been given to the required military nature of such intervention, or its consequences for Darfuri and Sudanese society.
CONSEQUENCES OF INTERVENTION
Though sharply critical of others for not talking enough about potentially unfortunate consequences of humanitarian intervention, Rieff himself nowhere talks about the specific tasks of humanitarian intervention, what must be done to protect a huge population of vulnerable civilians over an immense geographic area, as well as to provide adequate security for the humanitarians and humanitarian operations on which almost 4 million conflict-affected human beings now depend. This is of a piece with his failure to give any evidence of understanding how great the catastrophe in Darfur is, including the realities of enormous past and impending human mortality. Only because Rieff is so glib, only because he refuses to look closely at the numerous and highly demanding tasks of providing security in this difficult environment, is it possible for him to dodge the issue of what must actually be done if we wish to halt human destruction. Rieff suggests that in place of a credible, well-equipped, large-scale (roughly 20,000 personnel) international force—including a heavy NATO-quality brigade at its core—we might substitute another version of the African Union force that has failed so abjectly over the past two years, and whose failure grows daily:
“[If used ‘diligently,’ American ‘soft power’ could produce] the intervention that might actually work, for example, one undertaken by African countries with, perhaps, the participation of forces from Islamic countries outside the region.”
It is not at all clear how the force suggested here would be any different in character or effectiveness from the current failing African Union mission in Sudan, except that Rieff adds (“perhaps”) the resources from a few Islamic countries—no doubt the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are high on his list. None of the key issues of mandate, intelligence capacity, logistics, equipment, firepower, communications, “inter-operability” of forces, or in-theater transport needs are addressed. If Rieff were actually to read some of the ample research published by human rights and policy groups on what is required in Darfur, he might begin to see the foolishness of this scandalously superficial proposal for a security force in Darfur. Were Rieff to look seriously at the assessments coming from the International Crisis Group, Refugees International, or the Brookings Institution—all of which have published substantially on the military challenges and consequences of intervening in Darfur—he might see how extraordinarily casual he is being with millions of African lives.
[See my two-part overview of the research from these organizations, “Ghosts of Rwanda: The Failure of the African Union in Darfur,” November 13 & 20, 2005, speaking extensively of the military conditions on the ground in Darfur at the time, as well as the preceding year and a half, during which time the challenges to military intervention increased significantly; http://www.sudanreeves.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=535&page=1
Even normally cautious human rights leaders and humanitarian officials, who have in the past failed to ask in timely fashion for required interventions, are speaking out now, demanding a robust UN force of approximately 20,000 military personnel, with robust rules of engagement and Chapter 7 authority (peacemaking, not merely peacekeeping, authority). So far few have had the nerve to ask about the consequences of an inevitable veto by Permanent Security Council members Russia and China of any further resolution brought under Chapter 7, and thus the inevitable need for NATO forces. But at least the need for NATO-quality forces is widely recognized.
Indeed, even UN Secretary General Kofi Annan finally, if only temporarily, found his voice on the need for robust intervention to save Darfur, speaking last January of the need for “tactical air support, helicopters, and the ability to respond very quickly.” Asked if such a force would include rich countries, like the US and European nations, Annan said at the time, “Those are the countries with the kind of capabilities we will need, so when the time comes, we will be turning to them. We will need very sophisticated equipment, logistical support. I will be turning to governments with capacity to join in that peacekeeping operation if we were to be given the mandate” (Reuters, January 13, 2006). He was certainly not talking about the Pakistanis or the Bangladeshis here.
What would be the consequences of humanitarian intervention in Darfur, with all necessary military resources? The first answer is that there much we simply cannot know in advance, despite Rieff’s characteristically facile and pessimistic conclusions. Rieff goes to great effort to force us to see such intervention through the lens of the war in Iraq, rather than through the lens of our failure in 1994 to halt the Rwandan genocide—the slaughter of some 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates. But Darfur is neither Rwanda nor Iraq, though as a moral precedent, our failure in Rwanda must surely tell us more about the international community as a whole than the US-led war in Iraq. Though Rieff hints, disingenuously, that I share the views of editors at The New Republic about the war in Iraq, I do not. Indeed, I am quite as convinced as Rieff that one of the costs of this war is an enormous depletion of US political and diplomatic capital, in the UN and elsewhere.
But this is far different from assenting to Rieff’s argument that intervening in Darfur amounts to an ignoring of Darfuri “politics.” This bears emphasizing, since it is “politics” that Rieff highlights in explaining why we should not intervene in Darfur: “The problem with responding [to massive genocidal destruction as a matter of moral principle] is the problem of politics.” “Politics,” Rieff wants to argue, makes everything so very complicated that we had best attend to political considerations before moral ones. Of course it’s quite possible to do both, as presumably Rieff believes he himself is doing.
But understanding “politics” in Darfur requires some attention to facts, and this is not Rieff’s strong suit. In an astonishing and all too revealing moment of ignorance, Rieff declares that, “The deployment of foreign troops, whose mission will be to protect Dafuri civilians, will allow the guerrillas to establish ‘facts on the ground’ and will strengthen their claims for secession.” But of course neither faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), and even less the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), have a secessionist agenda, public or private. Indeed, within Darfur the JEM is widely despised because its political ambitions are national in nature, not focused enough on Darfuri political needs. But neither Minni Minawi nor Abdel Wahid el-Nur, the two SLM/A leaders who lead rival factions, has ever suggested or pushed for secession. Here Rieff appears to have badly confused the demands of Darfuris for greater national and regional political representation with the demands of southern Sudanese—who overwhelmingly favor secession. Indeed, southerners secured in the north/south Comprehensive Peace Agreement (January 2005) the right to a self-determination referendum, with secession as an option.
This confusion on Rieff’s part tells us how little he knows about the background of Darfur, and how little he knows about the “politics” of the region, even as he makes this his central concern. Those of us who argue for humanitarian intervention are “testimony to the refusal of the best and brightest among us to think seriously about politics.” What, we must ask, does “politics” consist in for Rieff? Fundamental mistakes about the most relevant “political” realities are hardly a sign that Rieff and his ilk have any claim on realism or an understanding of what is “best” for places like Darfur.
In this same vein, Rieff simply assumes that international intervention will encounter resistance from the Janjaweed and Khartoum’s regular forces. Rieff gives no sign of understanding the political relationship between the leadership in Khartoum’s National Islamic Front and the military it presently controls. His conclusion about the NIF ordering a suicidal resistance to robust international intervention is almost certainly another error. It is far more likely, as I have recently argued in The Guardian (UK), that Khartoum would not engage for fear of incurring annihilating losses, including to its highly valued and exceedingly vulnerable military aircraft. Such losses could easily turn the military against the political leadership, not something that Omar el-Bashir, Ali Osman Taha, and other senior NIF members will risk.
It is much more likely that the intervening force would immediately begin undertaking the critical civilian and humanitarian security tasks on the ground:
“Such [an intervening] force could produce an immediate and complete stand-down of Khartoum’s regular forces, including helicopter gunships. The Janjaweed could be put on notice that they would be destroyed if they assembled in groups larger than a couple of dozen (this would have the effect of ‘disarming’ these brutal militias, since they function as a quasi-military force only when they aggregate in the hundreds or thousands). Camps for displaced persons could be protected from marauding remnants of the Janjaweed and other violent elements. Vital humanitarian corridors and operations could be protected. And there would be sufficient manpower available to start the process of providing security for people as they return to their lands. Crucially, staunching the flow of genocidal violence into an increasingly unstable eastern Chad could also begin” (May 15, 2006, http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/eric_reeves/2006/05/darfur_3.html)
Given the tenor of his criticism of my work, I would have Rieff particularly note the sentence that follows: “Yes, there are risks and significant costs to such an operation; it will be neither short nor easy.” These difficulties and costs have been regularly articulated in my writings for more than two years; on the basis of present evidence it is simply not possible for me to believe that Rieff has felt obliged to engage with these efforts.
Again, there is much that simply can’t be known now about the consequences of intervention. In the same essay in The Guardian, I suggest that gathering intelligence will be key to the success of any intervention, and that there is an extraordinary resource at hand:
“We must bear in mind that these African tribal populations make up a distinct majority in Darfur. They represent a huge built-in network of intelligence observers should the threatened migration of non-Sudanese jihadists to Darfur actually occur.”
A highly seasoned military analyst, with many months’ experience on the ground in Darfur and very considerable experience in Sudan, has suggested to me that while this is certainly a possibility, it will require careful planning and preparation. Will such efforts guide an actual intervention? There is no telling, even as it would very be foolish to forego such assets for lack of adequate planning.
Certainly, however, we gather something of the response to Western-led intervention from the remarkable greeting accorded Jan Egeland, the Norwegian head of UN aid operations during his recent trip to Kalma camp in South Darfur. Crowds of people, undeterred by the menacing presence of Khartoum’s security forces, chanted, “Welcome, welcome, U.S.A.! Welcome, welcome, international force!” The people who greeted Egeland at Kalma camp were not exceptional; I have yet to speak with any non-Arab Darfuri who would not welcome a UN-led or, preferably, NATO-led intervention. Indeed, I receive from Darfuris, in Darfur and the diaspora, constant, often anguished pleas for such intervention.
In a deeply revealing omission, Rieff doesn’t discuss Chad at all, even as the military demands of securing eastern Chad are very considerable, and far beyond the capabilities of even an expanded African Union force. This is a particularly telling gap in Rieff’s account of Darfur since he declares that I “sneer at the idea of national sovereignty” and “bemoan the African Union’s insufficiently aggressive line toward the Government of Sudan.” The latter is certainly true, although it is a view shared by a large majority of observers. The previous statement is simply untrue. National sovereignty is an important source of continental stability, as Rieff rightly asserts—but it cannot be legitimately asserted by gnocidaires. Moreover, national sovereignty is precisely what is being undermined in dramatic fashion in eastern Chad and perhaps eventually in N’Djamena. The Chadian rebels based in Darfur, clearly and substantially supported by Khartoum, are actively destabilizing the border region between Chad and Sudan, and have created a virtual state of war between the regimes in N’Djamena and Khartoum.
To be sure, Idris Deby, the president of Chad, is a cruel, rapacious tyrant; he does not deserve to rule Chad. But if he is overthrown by the FUC rebel coalition supported by Khartoum, Chad’s territorial integrity—its “sovereignty”—will be deeply imperiled, with additional risks to the Central African Republic and conceivably Cameroon. Why are such risks not part of the “political” calculus that Rieff would have us consider? And what about the extreme security risks to some 350,000 Darfuri refugees and conflict-affected Chadians, increasingly subject to the kind of violence noted above? Khartoum-inspired violence has brought humanitarian organizations to the point of complete withdrawal from eastern Chad, just as the most dangerous months of the year (the rainy season/”hunger gap”) are beginning. The African Union has no presence of any kind in eastern Chad, and doesn’t begin to have the resources to provide either security or to halt the flow of genocidal violence across the border.
Does Rieff know this? His silence on these issues is hardly encouraging. And yet he presumes to pontificate about the importance of “politics” in understanding the implications of intervention in Darfur.
All evidence is that the Abuja “peace agreement” of May 5, 2005—signed by one faction of the SLA (the least representative) and the Khartoum regime—is already failing. Unless the Abdel Wahid el-Nur faction of the SLM/A signs on to the agreement in the next day or two, it will collapse entirely. Rieff gives very little evidence of understanding the significance of the two factions of the SLM/A—indeed, he preposterously declares that in the US “the Christian right has supported Minni Minawi’s Sudan Liberation Movement as it once supported John Garang’s insurgency in Southern Sudan.” The SLM/A is, if the creation of one man, Abdel Wahid’s, not Minni Minawi’s. In any event, most Americans in the Darfur advocacy movement can’t distinguish meaningfully between what Minni represents, or even identify his tribe. This is important because he is Zaghawa (perhaps 8% of Darfur’s population), while Abdel Wahid is Fur (perhaps 30% of the population) and much more ethnically ecumenical. Yet again, Rieff simply doesn’t understand the “politics” he declares so important, even its most important features. Perhaps this is why he can descend into ghastly nonsense when speaking of “the political”:
“The people being killed by the Janjaweed have political interests. [ ] To describe [them] simply as victims deprives them of any agency.”
In fact, we must wonder what “agency” a nine-year-old girl has when she is brutally gang-raped by the Janjaweed, or what “agency” a five-year-old boy has as he is thrown screaming into a bonfire along with his brothers, or indeed what “agency” a one-year-old boy has when the Janjaweed slice off his penis and he bleeds to death. “Political interests” here is an abstraction that can have meaning for very few besides David Rieff. There are real political issues in Darfur, including competition over natural resources and power in governance, as well as competing visions of equitable distribution of land and wealth. Rieff captures none of this in his account.
If the Abuja accord does fail, if violence then inevitably rapidly escalates in Darfur and Chad, it will be too late for hundreds of thousands of lives. We have simply waited too long, with too many sufficiently encouraged by specious arguments of the sort so abundant in Rieff’s account. In this sense it is perhaps useful to have Rieff articulate his factitious “realism,” to invoke so glibly the difficult “politics” of Darfur, to pretend that Iraq has somehow changed the imperative of responding to massive genocidal destruction.
Rieff’s ignorance, his disingenuousness, his cowardice are supremely instructive: for they are those of the world community at its worst.
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