April 3, 2006 | TCS Daily

Iraq and Darfur: Common Roots

Since mid-2004, when the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Western Sudan burst into the spotlight, journalistic explanations of the unfolding catastrophe have been riddled with inaccuracies based on hasty generalizations (to say nothing of politically correct wishful thinking). Since the perpetrators of the violence — “Islamic” militias supported by the government in Khartoum — and its victims are both dark-skinned Muslims, reports inevitably downplayed the religious and ethnic dimensions of the conflict, ascribing it instead to competition for land and water resources between sedentary farmers and nomadic herdsmen. As a result of this superficial analysis, not only have some shied away from calling the crisis by its real name – genocide — but its true origins in the twin ideologies of Islamism and pan-Arabism have been obscured.

Islamism has been a source of open conflict in Sudan since 1983. In that year Sudan's dictator, Jafaar al-Nimeiry, imposed sharia (Islamic law) on the luckless citizens of his country. Al-Nimeiry was inspired by the man who later invited Osama bin Laden to make Khartoum his home, the radical cleric Hassan al-Turabi, founder of the National Islamic Front (NIF), an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The result was an outbreak of civil war as the largely Christian and animist black populations of Southern Sudan resisted this fundamentalist religious imposition. The ensuing two decades saw the slaughter of nearly two million men, women, and children, who resisted this jihad. Little was done to stop the killing until Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute (a member of the same synagogue as the co-author of this essay) joined with Christian Evangelical leaders to bring that calamity to the light of day.

Having massacred millions of black non-Muslims before the internationally-brokered ceasefire, the NIF apparently decided to turn on the black Muslim population in Darfur, the western region of the country. It is unclear whether al-Turabi is behind the latest round of mass killings — he was pushed aside as “Guide of the Sudanese Islamic Revolution” by the country's current NIF dictator, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. At any rate, what is certain is that the government-funded Janjaweed militia has, by various accounts, killed upwards of 300,000 people and displaced more than two million. Last week Janjaweed crossed the international border — it is presently wiping out thousands of the same black ethnic Muslims in Chad, whose army is powerless to defend its citizens.

Why does the Islamist regime in Khartoum attack fellow Muslims? Because the ideology of Islamism that informs its identity is also linked in its warped Weltanschauung to the equally totalitarian ideology of pan-Arabism. This fascist movement rose to power through military coups that destroyed liberal Arab elites in the last half of the twentieth century, replacing a brief Arab intellectual renaissance (al-Nahda) with the long night of repression of Ba'athism in Syria and Iraq, and of Nasserism in Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, North Yemen and Libya.

Pan-Arabism authorized the enslavement of African Muslims in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states until the mid-1960s, when slavery was abolished due to intense Western pressure. It justified the same horrible practices during the North-South Sudanese civil war. Like Nazism, from which its founders Sami Shawkat and Michel Aflaq drew explicit inspiration, pan-Arabism inevitably leads to violence, conflict, and, where successful, subjugation, because it defines its identity in opposition to the other—the hapless Jew, the black, or the other pariah within its self-proclaimed Lebensraum.

Recently the African Union declared a six-month extension for its 7,000 troops patrolling Western Sudan, “protecting” the refugee camps used by displaced Darfur people. The extension, at the request of the Sudanese government, is a virtual death sentence for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Darfuris. And here the international contrast is striking. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has been pushing for the immediate deployment of a larger, better-equipped UN force in Sudan. But three Security Council members — Russia, China, and Al-Jazeera-hosting Qatar — have blocked his efforts. As Benny Avni reported in the February 28 New York Sun, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan recently traveled to Qatar for a weekend's talks, but somehow forgot to discuss the Sudan question. Meanwhile, Warren Hoge reports (New York Times, March 1) that UN special representative Jan Pronk is warning that a too-hasty involvement of UN forces could lead to “retaliation” by Al-Qaeda, which Pronk admits is heavily embedded in Sudan.

And so we return to the bin Laden connection. Osama bin Laden is in fact the latest and quintessential product of pan-Arabism. The only difference between the al-Qa'eda leader and previous pan-Arabists such as Gamal Abdel Nasser or Saddam Hussein is that he welds pan-Arabism to an equally toxic Islamism that overtly manipulates the spiritualism of the Islamic religion to further the overall totalitarian project.

Every synagogue in Montgomery County, Maryland (where said Jewish co-author lives) has a huge billboard outside its building, exhorting passers-by to help save the people of Darfur. Not for the first time, Americans (prominently including “Zionist elements”) are desperately anxious to save innocent people from a fanatical ideology. Pan-Arab fascism, conveniently cloaked in the pseudo-religious mystique of the Islamist jihad, versus freedom vindicated by America – gee, where else have we seen that battle rage?

Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Both are academic fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.


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