by Peter Erlinder
To my dear and well-meaning Human Rights colleagues,
The story of displacement and death in the Darfur region of Sudan is indeed
horrific. And, since Sudan is one of the few countries in Africa which has
been off-limits to US oil deals and capital penetration, the crimes of the
Sudanese government have a special resonance in U.S policy-making circles.
Although it is rare that the Darfur tragedy is put into context, please
permit me to try.
Actually, over the past two years 1.1 million Somalis have been displaced by
the Ethiopian army  with the assistance of Rwandan army (both of which have
been funded by our own government with the assistance of US military
advisors and equipment)  and Somalia has displaced Sudan's Darfur, as the
world's most dangerous region, awful as the Darfur crimes might be . We
must also note that the attacks on Muslim Somalis by "Christian"
Ethiopians/Rwandans have not been characterized as a "genocide" by US
leaders, despite its larger-than-Darfur scale, although others have.....
The awful number of civilian deaths in Darfur -- some 400,000 we are told --
has been eclipsed by the 6.4 million deaths in the Eastern Congo as a result
of the invasion of the Eastern Congo by US/UK-supported armies of Uganda and
Rwanda beginning in 1996  which are continuing at the rate of 45,000 a
An October 2003 UN experts report describes how the economy and resources of
the Congo have been stolen by Ugandan and Rwandan militaries, and their
surrogates, during the ongoing, decades-long war in Central Africa  with not
so much as "peep" from western HR advocates. And the killing is continuing
as I write and you read these words. But no regular reporting has appeared
in the US press. There has been no condemnation of any kind from USG and no
human rights "movement" has materialized to condemn the invasion or the
killing in the Congo, much less Somalia.
And, European Union Reports from 2003 make clear that the recent electoral
debacle in Zimbabwe in 2008 was merely a repeat of similar tactics, such as
physical attacks, arrests and deportation of the political opposition that
occurred in Rwanda, when President Kagame was "elected" with 95% of the vote
in 2003.  Interestingly, Zimbabwe has been almost completely cut-off from
"western" economic aid -- with the predictable results in the African
By contrast, Uganda is Africa's largest recipient of UK military and
economic aid, and Rwanda has a similar relationship with the U.S. Both
countries have become centers for trading gold, diamonds and coltan (the
rare mineral that makes cell phones possible). Although none of these
resources exist in any quantities in either country, they DO exist in great
plentitude in the Congo. US military aid to Rwanda has ballooned the Rwandan
army from 7,000 (before Kagame's war 1990-1994 to seize power) to
70,000-100,000 to today.  Rwandan troops are now being "farmed-out" to the
U.N. and U.S. allies for cash, not unlike the mercenaries, called military
"contractors," being used in Iraq and elsewhere.
And, when we begin considering who the criminals are in Africa, it is worth
noting that Zimbabwe's Mugabe had the poor judgement to send troops to the
Congo to oppose the completely illegal Ugandan/Rwandan invasions that began
in 1996 and are continuing today.
This is not to say that Darfur does not deserve our concern and attention,
but when the U.S. State Department starts throwing around the "genocide"
label, you can be pretty sure that the targeted African leaders are NOT
favorites of U.S policy-makers. On the other hand, no matter WHAT crimes
are committed by local despots that great-powers outside Africa support,
much, much greater crimes (such as wars of aggression for economic gain)
never get even a mention.
Because I am Lead Defense Counsel at the UN Tribunal for Rwanda, I have had
access to original UN and U.S. Government documents that have been
suppressed since mid-1994 but which are now in the record at the ICTR, and
many of which are posted on the website of original source materials I have
been creating to permit researchers to draw their own conclusions rather
than accepting my or our Government's "spin" on the politics of Africa.
Please check out www.rwandadocumentsproject.net.
Also, please note that the Pentagon established AFRICOM, the first military
command structure for Africa, just last year, a clear signal that the
struggle for the vast resources and undersupplied markets in Africa is just
beginning. AFRICOM joins PACOM (war planning for Asia, including the
Vietnam War); EUCOM (European war planning...the US segment of NATO); the
Southern Command (military planning for interventions in Latin America) and
CENTCOM (responsible for military strategy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan
The establishment of AFRICOM in 2007 is undisputable evidence that U.S.
policy-makers see Africa as an area of military contention for the
foreseeable future. Africa is the last continent, with almost unlimited
nature riches, over which all major economies must seek influence to fuel
their industrial production.
Before we swallow wholesale the accepted story of "good and evil" among
African leaders, a careful study of the politics, history and big-power aims
in Africa is probably warranted -- although it is very painful to face up to
the machinations of our own military-industrial complex because to do so
will require fundamental change within our own society, rather than to look
elsewhere for "the problem."
However, as responsible citizens of the most dangerous Empire the world has
ever seen...we must.
The future of humanity hangs in the balance, not because of violence
committed by local despots, which is, of course, despicable, but because of
the political, economic and military manipulations of the post-WWII American
Empire which benefits from fueling local conflicts to ensure that its allies
(and influence) prevail in every corner of the globe.
However, there has been one good recent development on the International
Human Rights "front".
The President of Sudan was indicted for "genocide" and war-crimes by the
International Criminal Court even though Sudan has not signed the treaty,
which is exactly the same legal position in which the U.S. finds itself
because of Bush's rejection of the Clinton's signature on the Treaty of Rome
that set up the Court.
When Bush of other American leaders are similarly indicted by the ICC, too,
we will be sure that "international justice" is being meted out evenly and
the "Rule of the Powerful" will have been replaced by the Rule of Law.
But, as it is now, the powerful decide who among the less-powerful will feel
the lash of retribution...or reap the rewards of co-operation
I realize that the above may be shocking -- and may call my sanity into
question in some circles -- but facts are facts, and can re-order our
perceptions, if we have the courage to examine them.
best regards to all,
Prof. Peter Erlinder
Wm. Mitchell College of Law
St. Paul, MN
Lead Defence Counsel-UN/ICTR, Arusha, TZ
past-President, National Lawyers Guild, NY,NY
1 CIA World Factbook, Updated September 4, 2008
2 USA Today, January 8, 2007: "A Christian-led nation...Ethiopia has
received nearly $20 million in U.S. military aid since late 2002. That's
more than any country in the region except Djibouti...the U.S. and Ethiopian
militaries have "a close working relationship," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr.
Joe Carpenter said...[a]dvisers from the Guam national guard have been
training Ethiopians in basic infantry skills at two camps in Ethiopia, said
Maj. Kelley Thibodeau, a spokeswoman for U.S. forces in Djibouti...There are
about 100 U.S. military personnel currently working in Ethiopia, Carpenter
3 "Humanitarian crisis in Somalia is worse than Darfur", International
Herald Tribune, Nov. 20, 2007. Quoting UN sources.
4 Eritrea: President Accuses U.S. of Genocide in Somalia,
http//allafrica.com/stories, Sept. 7,2008.
5 By 2003, the Congo wars had been going on for 7 years and had killed more
than 3 million Congolese. See, UN Panel of Experts Report on the Illegal
Exploitation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, October 20, 2003.
Since 1998 to the present, alone, the total is 5.4 million.
6 See, UN Panel of Experts Report on the Illegal Exploitation of the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, October 20, 2003.
7 Rptr. Colette Flesch, Report of European Observer Mission, September 2003;
See also, Waugh, Paul Kagame and Rwanda: Power, Genocide and the Rwandan
Patriotic Front, pp. 185-206 (Mcfarland USA 2004); U.S. State Department
2003 Human Rights Report on Rwanda, Feb. 25, 2004.
8 See, UNAMIR Reconnaisance Report, September 1993;
Enver Masud, "Sudan, Oil, and the
Darfur Crisis," The Wisdom Fund, August 7, 2004
David Leigh and David Pallister, "The
New Scramble For Africa," Guardian, June 1, 2005
Stephan Faris, "The Real Roots of
Darfur: The violence in Darfur is usually attributed to ethnic hatred. But
global warming may be primarily to blame," Atlantic Magazine, April
Robert Menard and Stephen Smith, "Darfur Needs Peace, Not Peacekeepers,"
Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2007
David Rieff, "The
Darfur deception: In trying to spur action, some humanitarian groups are
framing the conflict as a too-simple contest between good and
evil.," Los Angeles Times, October 7, 2007
Michael Gavshon and Drew Magratten, "Congo: War
Against Women," CBS: 60 Minutes, January 13, 2008
Stephanie McCrummen, "A Wide-Open Battle For
Power in Darfur," Washington Post, June 20, 2008
[The campaign to 'raise awareness' of the conflict in the Darfur region of
Sudan has been highly successful. The Save Darfur Coalition has generated
huge publicity, particularly in the US, attracting the support of Hollywood
celebrities such as George Clooney and endorsements from numerous
politicians, including both US presidential candidates. Britain's Africa
minister, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, has praised the 'fantastic' achievements
of this 'exciting new activism' (1).
Over the last year, however, there has been some criticism of the campaign.
Newsweek reported complaints about 'Save Darfur's simplistic presentation of
the conflict' and noted concerns that the influence of activists 'may even
have made the crisis worse' (2). The American writer David Rieff remarked
that 'if, proverbially, the first casualty of war is truth, then the first
casualty of activism is complexity' (3).
The criticism is undoubtedly justified, though the problem is not so much
the activist's perennial need for a clear message, as a broader contemporary
tendency to treat complex and distant conflicts as a potential source of
moral clarity for Western societies. Not just the campaigners, but also
journalists, international lawyers and political leaders have sought to turn
the war in Darfur into a simplistic moral parable.--Philip Hammond, "Darfur:
the dangers of celebrity imperialism. Sending Blackwater to Sudan? The
eccentric war-hungry activists of the Save Darfur lobby have taken leave of
their senses," spiked-online.com, November 7, 2008]
group, seen as cover to promote Christian missionary work, expelled from
Darfur," Middle East Online, January 31, 2009
Kambale Musavuli, "The
conflict in the Congo is a resource war waged by U.S. and British allies,"
Global Research, February 22, 2009
"The New Scramble for Africa:
Sudan President Charged With War Crimes," The Wisdom Fund, March 4,
[What has not been reported anywhere in the English press is that the United
States of America has just stepped up its ongoing war for control of Sudan
and her resources: petroleum, copper, gold, uranium, fertile plantation
lands for sugar and gum Arabic (essential to Coke, Pepsi and Ben & Jerry's
ice cream). This war has been playing out on the ground in Darfur through
so-called 'humanitarian' NGOs, private military companies, 'peacekeeping'
operations and covert military operations backed by the U.S. and its closest
allies.--Keith Harmon Snow, "Africom's
Covert War in Sudan," dissidentvoice.org, March 6, 2009]
[Mahmood Mamdani, a Ugandan-born scholar at Columbia University and the
author of "When
Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and Genocide in Rwanda,"
is one of the most penetrating analysts of African affairs. In "Saviors
and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror," he has
written a learned book that reintroduces history into the discussion of the
Darfur crisis and questions the logic and even the good faith of those who
seek to place it at the pinnacle of Africa's recent troubles. It is a brief,
he writes, "against those who substitute moral certainty for knowledge, and
who feel virtuous even when acting on the basis of total ignorance." . . .
But as elsewhere in Africa, Mr. Mamdani says, the International Criminal
Court has brought a case against only the enemy of Washington's friend, the
Lord's Resistance Army, remaining mute about large-scale atrocities that may
have been committed by the Ugandan government. In this pattern the author
sees the hand of politics more than any real attachment to justice.--Howard
W. French, "The Darfur the West Isn't Recognizing as It Moralizes
About the Region," New York Times, April 29, 2009]