Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Strange bedfellows

After a period of admirable voiciferousness, the Bush administration has been fairly quiet recently about the genocide going in Darfur, western Sudan. Now The Los Angeles Times gives a good indication why.

According to the paper, the genocidal regime in Khartoum is now providing key intelligence in the war against terrorism. The al-Qaeda type of terrorism, mind you. Though, many would contend that genocide is the most extreme version of terrorism.

As recently as September, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell accused Sudan of committing genocide in putting down an armed rebellion in the western province of Darfur. And the administration warned that the African country's conduct posed "an extraordinary threat to the national security" of the United States.

The partnership with Sudan is an odd one. Sudan once harbored Osama bin Laden. But in the late 90s, Sudanese strongman Gen. Omar el-Bashir broke his alliance with the Islamist leader and parliamentary speaker Hassan al-Turabi. Since then, Turabi and the Islamists have been vocal opponents of the Bashir regime. This is why the general has denied any cooperation with the United States.

Responding to an uproar over rumors of collaboration with the administration in late 2001, Bashir told a Khartoum news conference, "I swear in God's name that we have not handed and will not hand in any [terrorism suspects] to the United States."

Criticism of Sudan has been led by an unusual alliance of Christian conservatives and human rights organizations. The latter has long been concerned with the regime's poor human rights record. The former have been particularly angered by the mostly Muslim government's treatment of the mostly Christian south during the long civil war in the region.

The regime recently signed a peace agreement with southern rebels and the civil war in the south is hopefully over. However, many feared that the regime settled the war in the south so it could concentrated its military resources on the genocide in the west.

The regime denies any involvement in the Darfur genocide; naturally, it insists that nothing is taking place except a few unfortunate excesses, inevitable during a little chaos. This, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, including first hand testimony by a Janjaweed militia leader.

Increasing Sudanese cooperation with Washington on some forms of terrorism makes it increasingly unlikely that the Bush administration will press the regime on the more extreme form of terrorism it's complicit in.

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