October 06, 2005
For Dar Fur Day (Updated) [realised it's actually Darfur Fast (sic)]
In honor of this ridiculous, pretentious and foolish event scheduled for 6 October (a day of fasting during Ramadan, how... navel gazing North American whinging activist), I would like to draw your attention to this old post of mine on the issue of Dar Fur: Darfur - On Racism, On Ignorance, On Laziness and just plain stupidity (and Arab responses) as well as this from 'Aqoul, Critiquing the Arab World.
As an added bonus and in part prompted by my annoyance with the annoying little whinging idiot of an ill-informed stereotypical student 'activist' git, I thought I would provide a new link to a Dutch analysis of the Dar Fur issue entitled: Darfur: The logic behind the conflict, from the Dutch journal RISQ: Review of International Social Questions.
Rather makes the same points I have in regards to the miss framing of this (and I would add the nasty substition of anti-black sub-African prejudice for equally unenlightened anti-"Arab" prejudice).
There is also an idiotic Andrew Sullivan post out there citing to a more risible journo article I wanted to rip apart (idiocies as no more black people in Dar Fur, Zurga = nigger), but it is bed time and a long Ramadan day awaits.
Thanks to eerie for reminding me about this.
So for all those who participated in this: you're bloody twits.
The ridiculously misinformed activism around this issue actually recalls for me similarly structured and ill-informed romantic student blithering about the Touareg uprising in Mali in the early 1990s - except of course this was something of a mirror image of the Dar Fur events (and lacked the ever so telegenic al-Bashir as a foil, the Malian government not being obviously as reprehensible at this time).
There again, the issue of the desertification of the Sahel, the tensions between settled peoples (again in this case 'black') versus nomads (in this case 'white' - although not really) during severe drought was elided into a moral struggle between freedom seekers (in this case the Touareg got to play the good guys, the 'blacks' the bad guys as they had the government on their side and of course for young activists almost automatically the guys with the government are the Bad Guys) and oppressors. (A queer point of reflexion, the same problem of our dear Friend Muammar Qadhdhafi's fun little military training camps arose in this Malian issue, many of the Touareg had trained with our Guide's people - I note as an side the Duthc article amused me with the reference to clinically insane in re Muammar).
A ridiculous distortion to be sure, and as well as utterly obscuring the real problems.
But "activism" as a general matter is all about emoting and bleating, not practicality.
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Oh, aren't you so aqoul?! You - with your haughty academese trying to downplay genocide and mock young people who actually try to do something to make a difference - are the pathetic one.
General Omar al-Bashir is an unelected thug who is responsible for the death of over one million people in southern sudan and now nearly 400,000 in Darfur. The man is a murderous thug whose regime has also revived the wonderful practice of cross amputation and terrorized northern Sudanese society as well. He and his regime should be opposed by all people who have a shred of decency. Instead, he gets elected to the UN Human Rights Commission.
Meanwhile, refugees from Darfur - people who have seen their homes torched, their sisters gang-raped, and their relatives shot - have repeatedly said how they are fear the world has abandoned them. Now a coalition of students from across the country has taken up their plight and is dedicated to helping. Rather than being naive, their effort puts your effete sidelines sniping to shame.
There must be something else going on here. Do you have such a stake in pan-Arabism that you cannot admit Darfur has revealed its worst tendencies? That the ideology of Arab supremacism has spawned in Sudan one of the worst genocides of the past half century?
Why try to obscure this terrible truth? Why not get off your blogging ass and help stop the atrocities? Or do you, sadly like many in the Arab world, still regard the African as "abeed"?
Posted by: Speaking Out at October 7, 2005 07:05 AM
I'm not an academic you whinging little git.
Indeed, I am quite the opposite, I'm a financier.
Now, as to your ridiculous comment and the various confused straw men and bleating:
(a) Bashir is a thug. Yes, indeed. Lots of thugs throughout the Continent and elsewhere, elected or otherwise.
(b) Bashir was not elected to the UN committee, a representative of Sudan was. Part of the UN system. It's an amoral system about resolving different state interests, not 'doing good' except insofar as having an amoral system for resolving state interests demostrably reduces the incidence of wars (alhtough not to zero). There it is, no need to piss and moan about it.
(c) Dar Fur is indeed a nasty bit of ethnic cleansing (not bloody genocide whatever the debasement of the word in student and ideological circles may be in this "victim" celebrating idiot world). Setting up an idiotic blog day "fast" - moreover rather insultingly at the start of Ramadan merely shows you to be clueless gits. My 'effete' sniping as you put it is mere expression of my contempt for the foolish posturing you've indulged in.
(d) As to 'something else going on' - that's an amusing bit of over reading. I have zero interest in or respect for 'Pan Arabism' - which has fuck all to do with my comments although your raising it rather reflects some issues on your part - nor indeed do I have much interest in general in Pan anything-ism. Of course this leaves aside your over-hated ridiculous rhetoric in regards to "worse genocides" - the Rwanda-Burundi incidents were far worse and merit the phrase attempted genocide. Dar Fur is a nasty little game in the context of the war, but hardly ranks as the worst (although of course I am well aware in over-heated 'activist' wanker rhetoric everything is always "among the worst." Gets the bleeding hearts dripping.
Further, of course there is nothing in my commentary, I should think, that says anything about Dar Fur and Pan Arabism; certainly of course it is clear that the central government in Sudan has been exploiting Arab ethnicity and pimping Arabo-Muslim with a key emphasis on Arab rather than Muslim. I rather noted that, if you read for comprehension rather than merely ran through to get offended your precious activism was not appreciated.
This aside, I rather do find your silly swipe at calling me a racist amusing as well as illustrating your issues with Arab ethnicity contra "African" - in this case it is very much a false dichotomy, as it is in fact in general in the Maghreb where I am currently spending most of my time.
Unlike yourself, of course, I have a long and direct experence across the board on this, and I am well aware of the unresolved prejudices in the Arabo-Berber world with respect to their darker skinned confreres. No where near as bad as in the anglo-saxon world, but clearly something, like in Brasil, of unexamined prejudices.
In short, you mistake far greater knowledge, experience and understanding - practical not bleeding academics sitting around a fucking desk - of the situation here.
So, rather, I would say do you not still have the concieted and hypocritical Victorian prejudice of the bloody minded Arab in your head.
Otherwise, fuck off you whinging little ill informed posturing git.
Posted by: lounsbury at October 7, 2005 08:03 AM
Since you invoke your groundedness in the Maghreb, perhaps it's best to let a Maghreban respond:
The Arab Silence on Darfur Revisited
By Abu Khawla*
The catastrophe unfolding these days in Darfur, Western Sudan, is considered to be the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. According to all credible reports, nearly a quarter million people are already lost, and one million more will follow suit in the coming months, unless urgent action is taken. UN Secretary General Kofi Anan described the matter as a collective massacre of civilians. And US Secretary of State Colin Powell saw in it “indicators and elements that would start to move you towards a genocidal conclusion.”
In contrast, a deafening silence was observed throughout the Arab world on the horrendous crime being committed by their fellow Arabs in Sudan. This “puzzle” was explained by Kamel Labidi, in an Op-ed article on the Wall Street Journal of July 5, 2004, by the fact that the voices of the Arab human rights community remain of little influence due to lack of access to the official media. The fact of the matter, however, is that official media is of no relevance to Arabs today, thanks to the advent of independent TV channels and the Internet.
In our judgment, the Arab silence could only be explained once we understand the true nature of the twin fascisms of Islamism and pan-Arabism that continue to wreak havoc on Arab land, and the impact they are having on the ignorant masses.
To obtain credible information, Arabs turn nowadays to satellite TV channels, especially Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, a tool of communications that is so far completely monopolized by Fundamentalists...
Why did these fundamentalist havens try to hide the truth about the Darfur massacre? For starter, we should notice that the matter wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow among Muslim public opinion had the slaughter targeted non-Muslims. Fighting infidels until they either convert to Islam or submit to Muslims as “Dhimmis,” i.e., citizens of second class status under Islamic rule, and pay the “Jezya” (a poll tax), is still considered by Islamists to be a religious duty. And the above-mentioned status of Dhimmitude is exclusive to the “peoples of the book,” namely Christians and Jews. Animists, Hindus and other “heretics,” are all considered “Najus” (filthy), i.e. fit for extermination. Today’s animists in Southern Sudan as well as Bah’ai and Ismailite sects in most Islamic countries are learning about it the hard way.
But Darfur is different, since it is a slaughter of Muslims even though they are non-Arabs of African descent. Why? In order to be able to answer this question, we need to make a difference between theory and practice. In theory, Muslims aren’t allowed to slaughter other Muslims. The much-vaunted reference here is the Koranic verse stating that “ only faith and piety will make a difference between an Arab and an “Ajami” (non-Arab).” This explains to a large extent the historic animosity between Islamism and pan-Arabism. While the latter refers to the Arab nation, Islamists refer to the Islamic “Ummah,” considering Arab nationalism as a source of “fitnah” (sedition).
The practice, however, tells a very different story. Slavery is among the most horrendous means by which Arabs subjugated non-Arab Muslims, especially those of African descent. The practice was widespread in Saudi Arabia until the mid-1960s when it was abolished due to intense international pressure.
But despite all these facts, there are no reasons to believe that Islamism is responsible for Darfur. To their credit, both Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya ended up reporting on the massacre, especially after Kofi Anan’s strong statements on the subject, and Hassan Al-Tourabi was reported to be on a hunger strike to protest against the massacre. In addition, informed Arabs have large access to international media like the BBC Arabic Service and international news agencies. So the fact of the matter is that Arabs knew about what was going on in Darfur, but they didn’t react. Why?
The chief culprit in this particular case seems to be pan-Arabism, the fascist movement that rose to power half a century ago through military coups. Nasserism took over Egypt, Sudan , Algeria, Northern Yemen, and Libya, while Baathism took care of Syria and Irak. In all these countries, the previous reformist/modernist attempts of the first part of the 20th century came to an end. The whole social strata of people of liberal leaning was decimated. Through intimidation and terror, its members were either silenced at home or forced to emigrate abroad.
And despite pan-Arabism’s crushing military defeat in 1967, and its failure to deliver on economic and social matters, the so-called Arab street is still captive to its propaganda. A propaganda that, in many instances, seems to have the support of Arab governments, with the hope that anti-Western diatribes may help deflect the attention of the masses from their own failures.
The only effective way to counter this propaganda of hate-mongering and deceit is to mobilize the Arab liberal movement. That hasn’t been very successful so far, especially given the lack of support of the Western democracies. As a result, the ignorant Arab masses will continue to be kept hostage to charlatans of pan-Arabism and Islamism, and other Darfurs may be forthcoming.
(*) The author is a human rights activist and former Chair of the Tunisian section of Amnesty International (E-mail: Abu200364@hotmail.com).
There is much more to respond to in your "colorful" post. It's sad to see you brush off Bashir, UN corruption, and attitudes towards Africans as somehow to de rigeur and not worth getting too worked up about. Also, genocide expert Samantha Power (author of "A Problem From Hell") along with dozens of others recognizes the Darfur situation as attempted genocide.
To be clear, the Sudan genocide goes beyond Darfur and includes millions slaughtered and forcibly displaced in southern Sudan (not to mention new flarings in eastern Sudan). If these atrocities were not happening in Sudan, but say in Spain, it's hard to imagine you sitting by so demurely and explaining how it's all so much more complicated.
As for the Arab-Berber world, it has a long way to go in facing up to centuries of trade in millions of black slaves and a general attitude of disdain for "abeed". The US and the West at least have undergone enormous soul-searching, and racism continues to be discussed front-and-center in schools, the media, and beyond. In the Arab world, as Abu Khawla notes, it seems to be swept under the rug.
But maybe your blog can be a place to open up that conversation rather than to go after American students (many of them Muslims) who are the Darfuris' best hope as long as Arab leaders continue the denial. Let's see what you can do on your blog to explore racial attitudes and political inaction. You might try talking to some Darfuris and Southern Sudanese - listen to their perspective. Perhaps we can at least come to agree on the problem before you start bashing people trying to create a positive solution.
Posted by: Speaking Out at October 7, 2005 09:59 AM
Speaking Out: Did you even read Lounsbury's article? The whole point of this exercise is to gain some perspective, not stand around brandishing your righteous indignation at anyone who dares to expose a problem as more complex than a pamphlet might imply.
I have something to say about all this, but busy at the moment.
Posted by: eerie at October 7, 2005 10:31 AM
I totally agree, the hyperbole is mystifying, more later.
Posted by: Meph at October 7, 2005 10:40 AM
Ah, the little whinging git is back for more.
First, it's Maghrebine (or in fact here, Tunisian), second Abu Khawla is wrong, one sees Dar Fur stuff in the Arab Sats all the time. Frankly his pretension the Sats (above all al Arabiyah) are monopolised by "fundamentalists" speaks more to his political axes than actual media.
Leaving aside the boring posturing, a few more items to correct:
(i) The election of a Sudanese representative to the committee has fuck all to do with corruption and everything to do with state politics between the African bloc. Realpolitik, not corruption. Realpolitik.
Of course this requires understanding the adult world.
(ii) As to the issue of the rest of Sudan, again civil war and ethnic conflict are not genocide, not matter what weak minded fools with more flair for abusing words than actual thought wish to pimp.
Sudan's civil war has run a good 50 odd years, and probably will run longer. A senseless state, but there it is. Of course if this were Spain it would be hard ass up against some neighbors with real capacity and the like. Regardless, the lesson of the Spanish civil war tells me that when neighbors have other things on their mind and other problems, they tend to sit around passively.
So, next time you trot out an example, think abit you idiotic little under-educated git.
(iii) Oh the slave trade, boo fucking hoo. It has fuck all to do with this really, ex-where Egypt is concerned (and even there the Sudan situation is really about the British colonial glomming together of disperate polities - like they did in Nigeria - that had no real business together).
Regarding facing up, well, yes. Of course so do the Portuguese, the French, the Spanish, the Brasilians, the African elites themselves that were the prime purveyors of the slave trade, and countless other parties.
The West, you of course mean "the United States" as it sure the fuck is not true in Spain, nor Portugal, nor in many respects France, let alone our honourary West members, the Latin Americans.
(iv) As to the pretension over-priviledged self-indulgent ill-informed North American student activists are the 'best hope' of the Fur, well may God spare them then.
For your final pretentious little comment, let me merely note that I have done business in the wider MENA region for a good decade and find it amusing some little git in North America is advising me to get to know Fur and Sudanese. I assure you, long before you even knew the words, I have known and known well Fur and Sudanese. And Malians, and Touareg and others from the Sahel.
Positive solutions will come when "activists" stop pimping boiled down distorted simple minded clap trap and recognise the rather more complicated world.
Or you can whinge on like the silly gits you are making pointless gestures.
Posted by: lounsbury at October 7, 2005 11:05 AM
I may add that any author who calls Pan Arabism fascism is both retarded and delusional.
Pan Arabism is romantic clap trap largely pimped now by 50 year old men, writing in literary journals that no one but their friends read, that would have to get 1000 more times organised to even pretend to fascism.
Posted by: lounsbury at October 7, 2005 11:08 AM
Firstly, it is tiresome that people feel the need to speak in superlatives, 'the worst', 'the most bloody', 'undoubtedly' etc. Lounsbury's attempt is a thankless (if a slightly abrasive) one. The media must couch its reports in hyperbole (no punters will tune in to follow a mildly disturbing episode, it has to be bloody and comprehensive genocide) for NGOs there is the issue of funding, there are so many disasters competing for resources that each one needs to be sold as apocalyptic and as for the students, bless their hearts, one death or rape is one too many.
The tragedy in Sudan is hardly a conspiratorial manifestation of Pan Arabist ethnic cleansing but a reflection of the latent racism that exists within the northern arab population. I won't go into the semantics of this as they were elaborately outlined a few articles ago. Having spent time in Khartoum recently I was mostly struck by the blase nature in which the whole Darfur affair unfolded. There is plenty of confusion, finger pointing and most of all, deep running apathy on the part of those elite in power. The Darfur issue is a thorn in the side, irritating but not overpowering, When there is no activism on behalf of members of the community in Arab Sudan then the definition of the problem falls into the hands of those who adopt is as the next big thing.
I am not belittling the suffering of the people of Darfur or the evils perpetrated by the goverment (although I have a nasty feeling that someone will still read that into this post) but it is not a holocaust. Sudan is a country that has been festering since an independence that drew arbitrary lines in the sand lumping together groups and ethnicities that share very little in terms of nationhood and the hapless non voting Arab/Khartoum public is just as guilty en masse as the government.
A social/anthropological/historical examination (sans any righteous indignation, although I appreciate how hard that is for some Crusaders without a cause) of how these conflicts flare up in Sudan will probably provide more of an accurate provenance of the problem.
Posted by: Meph at October 7, 2005 11:10 AM
Well let me thank Meph for cutting to the core, which is indeed the abuse of superlatives, as well as to the point that the problem in Sudan is not Pan Arabism (lord knows the Arabs would have to display more gumption and organisation than they have in 1000 years for Pan Arabism even to pretend to become anything more than an amusing idiocy), but the colonial Frankenstein that is Sudan.
Blame the fucking British Victorians and their polite racism in seeing all the Darkies as one, with a moderate preference for the moderately (in their view) less awful Egyptians in ruling the Sudan.
Posted by: lounsbury at October 7, 2005 11:14 AM
Posted by: Meph at October 7, 2005 11:21 AM
There's a bit of an issue wrt the word "genocide" in that the legal definition (as defined in the international convention on genocide) is a great deal less far-reaching than the common-usage definition: "In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious groups, as such:
a) killing members of the group;
b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
The "in whole or in part" bit, in particular, leaves open a lot of wiggle room. (And some advocates, I think, deliberately try to have it both ways, invoking the Holocaust on the one hand while basing their legalistic arguments on the much broader UN definition).
Posted by: Tom Scudder at October 7, 2005 01:13 PM
When it gets right down to it, I should think that ordinary not wanking or whinging squeelers know that genocide properly means a real organised attempt to wipe a people out, period.
Rwanda fits. Dar Fur does not, regardless of the overdone squeeling and sad pimping of superlatives by people who just learned about Dar Fur in the past couple of years.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at October 7, 2005 03:33 PM
"In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious groups, as such:..."
Is there any stipulation that the following acts be carried out systematically and/or that the acts are systematically carried out by one group (or groups) on another (or other groups)? Just curious, because one important element in my understanding of the term genocide is the systematic intent/nature of the acts being committed.
Given the above definition, then war, in and of itself, is genocide. Do we really want to stretch the term to the point where it becomes meaningingless to make distinctions between bad events? It's rather like calling all sickness "cancer" without actually making distinctions betwen different kinds of cancer and/or other illnesses. Then, to deal with it, use chemotherapy to treat all "cancers" (regardless of whether it actually is a particular kind of cancer or some other serious illness like alzhimer's).
In short - making the correct "diagnosis" will help in determining the type of "treatment" that is necessary. Which is the whole point Loundsbury (and others) are making.
Posted by: eponymous at October 7, 2005 03:54 PM
Incidentally, this from Jonathan Steele in the Guardian:
Coverage of Darfur has dwindled, but AU monitors, as well as UN officials in Khartoum, report a marked improvement since last year's campaign of rape and killing left close to 200,000 dead and forced 2 million to flee. Janjaweed militias, usually backed by the government in clashes with rebel groups, were behind most of the atrocities.
Thriving on bad news - typical was Caroline Moorehead's Letter from Darfur in the New York Review of Books this summer - commentators who still write about Darfur often thunder away without any sense of time or context. In fact, the UN secretary general's latest report to the security council points out that the influx of 12,500 aid workers has "averted a humanitarian catastrophe, with no major outbreaks of disease or famine". Patrols by the hundreds of AU monitors have reduced violence and other human-rights violations.
The report attacks the government for not disarming the Janjaweed or holding enough people accountable for last year's atrocities, but it blames the rebels for most of this year's abductions of civilians and attacks on aid convoys.
Grim though it has been, this was not genocide or classic ethnic cleansing. Many of the displaced moved to camps a few kilometres from their homes. Professionals and intellectuals were not targeted, as in Rwanda. Darfur was, and is, the outgrowth of a struggle between farmers and nomads rather than a Balkan-style fight for the same piece of land. Finding a solution is not helped by turning the violence into a battle of good versus evil or launching another Arab-bashing crusade.
(via Lenin's Tomb)
Posted by: Tom Scudder at October 7, 2005 05:38 PM
Oh, aren't you so aqoul?! You - with your haughty academese
Gosh - you so obviously haven't read any of my posts. Anything less learned can barely be imagined.
Posted by: secretdubai at October 7, 2005 06:31 PM
Well, that fellow clearly hasn't read any of Col's previous posts either, with all their expletives (although I grant that he's toned down a good bit lately). Hardly "academese."
Posted by: kao_hsien_chih at October 7, 2005 10:21 PM
how i love activitsts. they're so clueless!
i have a "friend" on LJ trying to debate my making fun of the Dar Fur Fast (DFF) protest. it's rather comical.
i really wonder how that activist stumbled upon aqoul in the first place.
Posted by: drdougfir at October 9, 2005 01:20 PM
He spammed the Aqoul authors (at least, I got the only email I've ever gotten on my aqoul.com addy). I guess he just did a search for ME-related blogs & emailed every email address he could find there.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at October 11, 2005 11:01 AM