This past Sunday afternoon, the government of Sudan bombed the village of Shegag Karo in North Darfur. One of the bombs fell on an elementary school, killing 6 children. Another bomb destroyed the town’s market, killing 6 civilians and wounding many more. On Monday morning, the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum issued a press statement. Did they condemn the attack as a brazen violation of international humanitarian law and a United Nations Security Council ban on offensive military flights over Darfur? No. In fact, the release commemorated the two-year anniversary of the Darfur Peace Agreement, a moribund and counterproductive deal which the Bush administration still counts as a diplomatic success.
That the administration is clinging to the Darfur Peace Agreement is not surprising; despite all of its lofty rhetoric and hand-wringing over the genocide in Darfur, the administration’s policy decisions have made little difference on the ground in Sudan. For the administration, the peace deal is something tangible. For the people of Darfur, the administration’s blind faith in the Darfur Peace Agreement is cruelly ironic. Civilians, like those in Shegag Karo, are subject to aerial bombardments and ground assaults by Sudanese soldiers and government-backed militias. Absent logistical support from the United States and other military powers, the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur is still too small and too feeble to offer any real protection. Worse, the Bush administration’s one real diplomatic achievement in Sudan, the landmark peace agreement that ended Sudan’s North/South civil war, is on the verge of collapse due to the Sudanese government’s refusal to implement key provisions.
Faced with Khartoum’s continued atrocities and intransigence, the U.S. government is responding with horse-trading and flattery. Last week, the Bush administration transferred two Sudanese detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Sudan, and the government of Sudan quickly released U.S. government shipping containers from customs. In another press release, the Embassy expressed “its sincere appreciation for the support and leadership of …NISS Director Salah Abdullah Ghosh in successfully concluding this matter of great mutual concern.” As head of National Security, Salah Ghosh is an important partner for the CIA on counterterrorism. But his “leadership” is also responsible for arming and training militias to attack civilians in Darfur, and, most likely, the decision to bomb Shegag Karo.
A U.S. Embassy spokesperson noted that with so much bad news in Sudan, the U.S. could issue press statements every day condemning the government of Sudan’s latest atrocities, its latest violation of a UN Security Council resolution, or its latest move to push the country back to full-scale civil war. Perhaps, but praising a war criminal’s “leadership” and staying mute while his victims bury their dead is worse than silence. It is shameful for America, insulting to the people of Darfur, and comforting to the murderous regime in Khartoum.