August 4, 2004 | Scripps Howard News Service

Defending Sudan’s Black Muslims

Co-Authored with Cliff Shecter

We don't agree on many things. One of us is a Republican and one a Democrat. One believes Iraq is the front line in the War on Terrorism, the other thinks our decision to go to war there has distracted from our efforts to lay waste to Osama Bin Laden's network. 

But we do have the same first name, masters' degrees in international affairs from the same school (Columbia University) and, most importantly, we strongly agree that significant action must be taken to end the carnage in the Darfur region of the Sudan. 

For two decades, Radical Islamist governments in Khartoum, dominated by soul mates of al Qaeda, have waged a vicious war against black Christians and animists in the south of Sudan. They have killed and enslaved tens of thousands. These atrocities held the promise of abating in May, when a cease-fire was signed between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, which represented the ethnically and religiously distinct people of the south. 

But while negotiations were under way to end the conflict between the north and south of the country, representatives of the Darfur in Western Sudan, a region populated mainly by black African Muslims, demanded a power sharing agreement with the Arab-controlled Khartoum government. 

The response was genocidal – there is no other word to use. According to numerous human rights groups, the Sudanese government armed and encouraged Arab militias — known as Janjaweed — which have been committing ethnic cleansing and, in the words of Amnesty International, using rape as “a weapon.” 

Up to 50,000 Africans have now been slaughtered and a million displaced. More than 2 million are in urgent need of food or medical attention. 

Black Muslim villages have been burned to the ground while, 500 yards away,

Arab villages have been left untouched. Black men have been murdered and black

women violated. The militias leave sentries behind to make sure those who have escaped do not return. This is a pattern and there can be no mistake:  It is deliberate. 

The same Sudanese government that inspires the mass murder of innocent civilians also maintains close links with international terrorism. From 1991-1996, Osama Bin Laden called Sudan home. And President Clinton, largely in response to the 1998 bombings of America's embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, used cruise missiles to destroy what intelligence analysts believed to be a chemical weapons facility in Khartoum. 

A few world leaders have understood that it is crucial that we act — British Prime Minister Tony Blair chief among them. 

The European Union has now joined the United States in calling for sanctions against the Sudanese government if they do not cease and desist from continuing to enable the Janjaweed.

But the UN has yet to take any meaningful action to stop the killings. Last week, the Security Council passed a resolution 13-0 that warned of “unspecified punitive action” if the government in Khartoum fails to rein in the militias and bring security and humanitarian aid to the Darfur region within 30 days. Somehow, it is hard to believe that this “threat” of the UN taking a month to mull over a specific punitive action — while the children of Darfur continue to be slaughtered — has Sudanese terrorist masters shaking in their shoes.

Furthermore, without independent monitors and a security force strong enough to protect the black African population, Sudanese government officials can easily claim to be doing all they can to prevent the violence — while secretly continuing to support the murderous militias.

France, a member of the UN Security Council, remains blasé about this tragedy – even though they have troops and equipment both in neighboring Chad and nearby Djibouti. 

Finally, it is high time for groups such as the Arab League and Islamic Conference to either act or to be publicly condemned by the international community for their indifference to barbarism and genocide – even, apparently, when that barbarism and genocide is directed toward fellow Muslims. 

There is little cause for optimism: The Arab League recently warned the United Nations against “slapping hasty sanctions on Sudan.” Both groups know full well that the real danger is that the killing will be ignored until the genocide and ethnic cleansing do irreparable damage to the indigenous people of Darfur. 

In the past, the international community has turned a blind eye to mass murders in Cambodia, Rwanda, Iraq, Syria and the Balkans. To repeat those performances once again would be an outrageous dereliction of moral duty. 

Democrats and Republicans may disagree on aspects of the War on Terror.

But on this front, there should be unity. Maybe that is why members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are trying to make their voices heard. Congressmen Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Joe Hoeffel (D-PA) have been arrested for protesting the actions of the Sudanese government, while Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), have coauthored a report enumerating the human rights abuses being perpetrated against the African villagers of Darfur. 

Americans and Europeans, Muslims, Christians and Jews, Africans and Arabs — all have a clear moral obligation to take serious steps to end the terrorist war against the people of Darfur. With a united front, Democrats and Republicans can lead the way.

– Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute created after 9/11/01 and focusing on terrorism.  

– Cliff Schecter is a political analyst for The Sinclair Broadcast Group and a contributing writer to Gadflyer Magazine. He was a member of the polling team for President Bill Clinton in 1996.