---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Eric Reeves <eree...@smith.edu>
Date: Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 6:13 PM
Subject: Darfur and U.S. Presidential Campaigns: Making Genocide Disappear
​ ​(with a “Political Postscript”)
To: Eric Reeves <eree...@smith.edu>

*​​ *
*Darfur and U.S. Presidential Campaigns: Making Genocide Disappear ​ ​**(with
a “Political Postscript”)*

E​ric Reeves | September 16, 2016​

In both the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns, the Darfur region of
western Sudan was an unlikely but entirely appropriate topic. After all,
the U.S. Congress had—in a remarkable bipartisan, bicameral vote in July
2004—declared that what was occurring in Darfur at the hands of the
Khartoum regime was “genocide.” So too did President George W. Bush, as did
then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in a speech to the UN, citing a
detailed and rigorous assessment by a nongovernmental human rights groups.
The 2004 campaign of then-Senator John Kerry asked me to vet closely their
own statement on Darfur.

In 2008 candidate Obama’s campaign made much of Darfur and the continuing
rape, slaughter, and displacement of civilians belonging to Darfur’s
African (non-Arab) tribal groups, a brutal counter-insurgency campaign
conducted by Khartoum’s regular and militia forces. At one moment in his
campaign, Obama declared that Darfur was a “stain on our souls,” and vowed
that as president, he did not “intend to abandon people or turn a blind eye
to slaughter.” Candidate Hillary Clinton in 2008 also made strong
statements about genocide in Darfur, and the issue actually emerged in one
question posed in the final presidential debates of that year between John
McCain and Obama.

In the campaign of 2016 there has been no mention of Darfur, hardly
surprising for Donald Trump, given his vast deficit in knowledge of foreign
policy issues. But there is nothing on the Clinton website, no public
statement, no indication that she understands the current realities in
Darfur are every bit as bad as when she was making her own unctuous
declarations in 2008.

There are two reasons for this. The Darfur civil society movement in this
country—as remarkable as any since the time of apartheid-era South
Africa—had largely disappeared by the 2008 – 2009. The reasons for this are
many, but central was the decision by the Obama administration to
“de-couple” Darfur from the key bilateral issues between Washington and
Khartoum, namely (1) the U.S. intelligence community’s desire for
counter-terrorism from a regime that remains one of three countries on the
State Department’s annual list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism”; (2)
Khartoum’s desperate desire to be removed from that list and to see the
lifting of comprehensive economic sanctions first imposed during the
presidency of Bill Clinton.

“De-couple” is not my word choice: it is that of a “senior administration
official” referred to as such in a background interview given in November
2010 (for which there is an official State Department transcript). And
though articulated explicitly only two years after Obama’s election, it
reflected policy priorities articulated by then-Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton and President Obama’s first, disastrous choice for the role of
Special Envoy for Sudan, Air Force Major-General (ret.) Scott Gration.

Gration had no diplomatic experience, no significant knowledge of Sudan or
its history, or any relevant language other than English. His policy views
were animated by the absurdly naïve belief, as reported by the *Washington
Post*, that a regime of hardened *génocidaires* could be appealed to with
“cookies”: “We've got to think about giving out cookies… Kids,
countries—they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements,
talk, engagement."

Obama’s Sudan policies have ensured that there is little interest in Darfur
within his administration that is not guided by the lust for
counter-terrorism intelligence. And yet the carnage continues, indeed has
escalated significantly over the past four years, culminating this year in
a savage assault on the civilians in the last rebel redoubt in the Jebel
Marra mountains of central Darfur.

Reports from the past thirteen years of ethnically-targeted conflict
strongly suggest that in excess of 500,000 people have been killed,
directly or indirectly, by violence; more than 3 million Darfuris have been
displaced from their homes—some 300,000 as refugees in the harsh environs
of neighboring eastern Chad; tens of thousands of girls and women have been
raped, often gang-raped, while those assaulting them hurl hateful racial

The violent expropriation of farmland that has also accelerated, ensuring
that peace will be much more difficult to achieve than when Obama assumed
office, despite his soaring campaign rhetoric of 2008. We hear nothing of
this. Hillary Clinton is unlikely to speak about Sudan since she was
Secretary of State when Darfur began to tip into greater violence. Donald
Trump probably couldn’t locate Darfur on a map, and all indications are
that he would take no interest in *Darfur [see “Political Postscript”
below].* And debate moderators have either themselves forgotten Darfur or
can’t imagine it of interest to television viewers. Syria will serve as a
surrogate for all “troubled regions.”

The brutal men in Khartoum will watch all this with the keenest interest as
they contemplate their next offensive in Darfur, which—coincidentally—will
begin in November, when the seasonal rains have ended. They will conclude
that genocide is simply no longer a political issue of interest for the
American people.

*Political Postscript:*

In almost eighteen years of committed research and advocacy for a just
peace in greater Sudan, I have tried assiduously not to allow my work to be
determined or influenced by American political issues unrelated to Sudan.
The same is true for issues elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East, if
unrelated to Sudan—this despite many requests for broadcast interviews. My
view has been simple: I should speak about what I have come to know well
over these years, and that partisanship cannot help advance the cause of
Sudan in the United States, where Sudan has traditionally bi-partisan
issue. I have at times been sharply critical of the Clinton administration,
the George W. Bush administration, and most fiercely of the Obama

But the candidacy of Donald Trump does not permit me to stay silent, given
my primary concern at present for the people of Darfur—people who are
universally Muslim; who are all “African” in the broadest sense, and
“dark-skinned”; and who offer nothing of interest to a a Trump
administration, should it be our great misfortune to see this “national
disgrace” (to borrow the word’s of Colin Powell, Secretary of State during
a Republican administration) become president.

Trump’s racism, his xenophobia—extending to a virulently anti-Muslim
campaign rhetoric—and his stunning ignorance of world affairs (declaring,
for example, in a recent ABC Television news interview that he would
*prevent *Russian troop from entering Ukraine, despite the fact they are
have been present since 2014)…all suggest that Darfur and Sudan as a whole
would suffer greatly from policies guided by ignorance and hatred. Caring
for the innocent civilians of Darfur and other marginalized regions of
Sudan is a compelling reason not to vote for Donald Trump.

[image: Screen Shot 2016-09-16 at 10.52.07 AM]

*Donald Trump, the most viciously racist and xenophobic presidential
candidate in recent American history*


[*Eric Reeves* has written extensively on Sudan for almost two decades; he
is a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center
for Health and Human Rights]

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