From Wed Aug 11 10:15:11 2004
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 17:19:45 -0500 (CDT)
From: Bill Weinberg <>
Subject: [World War 3 Report] Darfur: Military Intervention?
Article: 187191
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Darfur: The military intervention question

By Wynde Priddy, special to World War 3 Report, 9 August 2004

The entire political spectrum of the United States is only now acknowledging the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan—which has been ongoing since early in the year, with little to no media coverage until recent weeks. Even now that the crisis has exploded into the media, few political voices have taken a decisive stance on the question of military intervention.

Currently, between 30,000 and 50,000 Sudanese are dead in Darfur from either armed attacks or related hunger and disease, and at least 1.2 million have fled their homes for over-stretched refugee camps, either within Darfur or in neighboring Chad. The camps within Darfur are under threat of further attacks, and Oxfam warns that a cholera outbreak looms at those on either side of the border.

The relentless attacks by armed militiamen—which the victims call “Janjaweed”—have been systematic and widespread, concentrating in the most western area of Darfur, within 100 miles of Chad. Janjaweed translates roughly from Arabic as “a devil on horseback with a gun.” While the government in Khartoum claims to have no control over the militias, rights observers say the regime armed them at the beginning of the conflict and rallied them to devastate Darfur. Many Janjaweed militiamen were even appointed as police in the area, positions they still hold today—as the mounted militia has put hundreds of villages to the torch.

The conflict, which pits an Arab-identified pastoral class supported by the government against indigenous peasants of the Fur and other local tribes, escalated dramatically after the emergence last year of two rebel groups in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The rebels demand regional autonomy for remote and impoverished Darfur, which has long been ignored by the Khartoum government. This armed opposition to the Khartoum regime is the official excuse for the violence. It was also used by the UN to deny the area humanitarian aid at the beginning of the conflict.

Rights groups have noted ecological warfare, such as the destruction of village wells, and the use of rape as a weapon of war. A recent Amnesty International report states that girls as young as eight are being raped and abducted as sex slaves by militiamen in Darfur. “The mass rapes ongoing in Darfur are war crimes and crimes against humanity but the international community is doing very little to stop it,” Amnesty said in an official statement July 19.

Musa Hilal is a noted Janjaweed leader who is said to control thousands of militiamen. He has close ties to the Khartoum regime and refers to himself as an agent of the government, rejecting the term “Janjaweed.” He says the militias are just protecting Arabs against the black African rebel groups. “We retaliated, and we are criminals?” he rhetorically asked the New York Times.

The United Nations is threatening sanctions, and has given the Sudanese government until Aug. 30 to disarm the militias. There were large government-orchestrated demonstrations at the UN offices in Khartoum Aug. 4, with protesters accusing the UN of providing a cover for the United States to invade and attack Sudan, in the fashion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Ironically, the US-authored Security Council draft resolution speaks only of sanctions, and US Secretary of State Colin Powell—who visited Khartoum July 1—has repeatedly said it is too soon to talk of military intervention.

The United Kingdom—the former colonial power in Sudan—has tentatively volunteered 5,000 soldiers to serve as peacekeepers, an idea which the Darfur rebel groups apparently welcomed. The Khartoum regime rejects the idea. Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said: “We have to make a distinction between three categories. The presence of observers, the presence of protection forces for those observers and the presence of peacekeeping forces. We don’t have a problem with either the first or the second categories. As far as the third category is concerned…this is the responsibility of the Sudanese forces.”

France has deployed 200 troops to eastern Chad (a former colony), officially to protect the refugees there from cross-border attacks. Paris insists their mission is purely defensive and will not intervene in Darfur.

The resolution that US Congress passed July 22 connecting the word “genocide” with the situation in Darfur called for US military intervention—either multilateral or unilateral—only if the UN Security Council does not act decisively. The strongest opposition to military intervention is coming from Republicans. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) protests that “our military is stretched to the breaking point” and asks: “Can anyone tell me how sending thousands of American soldiers into harm's way in Sudan is in the US national interest?”

No UN troops have yet been mobilized to Darfur. The only peace-keeping force there now is 300 African Union troops sent only recently to police an area the size of France. 150 more troops are expected soon from Rwanda.

Humanitarian organizations are calling for immediate aid for the refugee camps, of course, and some has been sent. But there is no consensus on their part about either US or UN military intervention. None of the major anti-war and left organizations in the US has come out with an anti-intervention stance, or even taken note of the question.


“UN Humanitarian Situation Report, Darfur Crisis, Sudan,” Aug. 3:

Amnesty International, “Sudan: Rape as a weapon of war in Darfur,” July 19:

“US Must Stay Out of Sudan” by Ron Paul,, July 24:

Darfur Information Center:

See also “Darfur: Rwanda Revisited?”, WW3 REPORT #99: