Save Darfur’: Emancipatory American Exceptionalism?

by Jun 30, 2009All Articles

posted by Alex de Waal
Several contributors to this blog have disputed Mahmood Mamdani’s arguments about the links between ‘Save Darfur’ (in the wider sense of the mass movement) and the George W. Bush Administration’s ‘global war on terror,’ or conversely supported them. I think there is another and more fundamental point that needs to be made: the ‘war on terror’ and the call for halting genocide by (principally American) military intervention possess a comparable moral logic.

Let me caricature them both. The ‘war on terror’ as mounted by the Bush Administration identified ‘evil’ as a concrete enemy that could be destroyed by military action. If a discrete number of ‘evil’ individuals were detained or killed, then the world would resume its secular progress towards societies and political systems that look more like America. As it happens, these ‘evil’ individuals tend to be Muslims and Arabs, and they supposedly hate America because of its freedoms and its success. And all that America needs to know is whether a person or a country is ‘with us or against us’—the task is not to understand the world but to change it in America’s favor, while America’s huge power renders detailed knowledge redundant.

The ‘war on genocide’ as envisaged by the liberal interventionists identifies ‘evil’ in the form of individuals and governments which can be removed by military action or judicial activism. Genocides are perpetrated, according to this narrative, because powerful states (i.e. America) fail to intervene (politically, early, or militarily, when necessary) to halt the march of evil. If those determined to be genocidaires are apprehended by the ICC or killed by U.S. cruise missiles, then the world will continue to progress towards respecting human rights and practicing democracy and justice (as America should do so if its leaders were properly respectful of the Constitution and Bill of Rights). As it happens, the first government identified in this way is Muslim and Arab, and it allegedly wants to eliminate Africans because they are different (and perhaps more diverse in their faiths). And all that America needs to know is whether ‘genocide’ is happening and which evildoer is responsible. Once this determination is made, any further academic analysis is redundant.

This is a caricature of both. We shouldn’t judge either project by the crasser claims made in campaign advertising, though we should ask why leaders find if acceptable and meaningful to use words like ‘evil.’

Many of those involved in prosecuting the ‘war on terror’ recognize that the better route to suppressing jihadist militancy is through promoting better government and development in the Muslim/Arab world, through cooperative and respectful dealings with Muslim and Arab governments, and through seeking peace with dignity for the Palestinian people. The cooperation between the CIA and Sudanese intelligence is one of those anomalies in which old-fashioned realists won out over ideologues (compare America’s rebuffs of Syria and Iraq in 2002-03).

Many of those who advocate forcible measures to prevent genocide or protect its victims also have more nuanced views. Gareth Evans chastises me for ‘misrepresenting’ his views on the ‘responsibility to protect’ as chiefly a charter for intervention—a challenge I must take up another time.

But having fielded questions on Darfur in many public fora, it’s also clear that the ‘Save Darfur’ caricature contains elements of truth. There are many Americans who genuinely believe that the main challenge to stopping genocide is for the U.S. armed forces to be prepared to intervene, and for the President and Congress to possess the ‘political will’ to dispatch them, in time with the right mandate.

Mahmood Mamdani has an acutely sensitive nose for the slightest whiff of neocolonialism or any agenda that promotes western political or ideological domination. His suspicion of ‘Save Darfur’ is widely-held across Africa, and not just among ruling elites. It is important to be alert to the way in which the ‘Save Darfur’ agenda reverberates with a host of other agendas of power and ideology. Mamdani’s description of the faith-specific cards handed out to the Darfur demonstrators in Central Park should make any liberal squirm. His characterization of the ‘Darfur’ of public imagination as a ‘moral high ground’ rather than a real place with history resonates with the way in which Darfur’s tragedy has too often been instrumentalized for other purposes. His observations about the sources and use of the funds for the Save Darfur Coalition, at least until 2008, are also discomforting. The fact that Mamdani holds his own—or better—in public debate with his adversaries shows that his critique has hit a nerve. Some activists are their own caricatures.

But that does not mean that it is correct to argue that ‘Save Darfur’ is ‘the humanitarian face’ of the ‘war on terror’. I don’t believe this is supported by the evidence and I think that it also misses the fundamental relationship between the two.

A first point is that ‘Save Darfur’ is ‘humanitarian’ only in a limited sense. The mainstream of institutionalized humanitarianism, as exemplified by the U.S. NGOs, MSF and the ICRC (each representing a different strand) has had an ambivalent relationship with the ‘Save Darfur’ movement. The campaign is (as Mamdani notes elsewhere) a move beyond the old apolitical style of humanitarianism and also beyond the classic approach of human rights organizations, which don’t explicitly deal with questions of political power. It is a political project, unafraid to deal with challenges such as using force. If the interventionists got their way then they would define U.S. military action in Sudan as a ‘humanitarian war’—something that would mark a departure from other definitions of ‘humanitarian.’

A second point is that the Bush Administration’s attitude to the campaign was ambivalent. ‘Save Darfur’ was not a pawn of any branch of government, not least because it complicated U.S. cooperation with Sudanese intelligence on counter-terrorism and made it difficult to sustain discussion on the implementation of the CPA.

In some circumstances, ‘Save Darfur’ and the war on terror converge on the same themes, for example support for Israel or Europe’s alleged moral spinelessness. ‘Save Darfur’ exports about as well as the ‘war on terror’. They also share another feature in common: they enjoy professions of support across sub-Saharan Africa, but the same people who avow loyalty also discreetly express their fears about the project. Is interesting to note how Mamdani’s book resonates in Africa: it speaks to people’s worries about the humanitarian imperium, while they are equally concerned that this critique will let abusive leaders off the hook.

In other areas, there are sharp divergences between the war on terror and the war on genocide. The Center for American Progress, one of the leading liberal institutes associated with the movement, is also a prominent critic of human rights violations perpetrated by the U.S. in the war on terror and in Iraq. One impulse among the movements’ members is to redeem the misuse of U.S. power in Iraq and Guantanamo by projecting force in Sudan in a moral manner. The slogan ‘Out of Iraq and Into Darfur!’ observed on Save Darfur demonstrations was meant with all seriousness.

One striking feature about the ‘Save Darfur’ campaign has been the breadth of its support across the American domestic political spectrum. Only the unreconstructed left, the isolationist right, and those professionally involved in conflict resolution in Sudan, have been outside the bipartisan consensus which condemns Darfur as ‘genocide’ and the Sudan Government as ‘evil.’ Save the occasional embarrassment such as over the visit of Gen. Salah Gosh to the CIA, the Darfur movement has been notably unthreatening to the U.S. political establishment.

Third and most important, this formulation gives analytical primacy to the ‘war on terror’, rather than to the mindset and political economy that turned the U.S. confrontation with al Qa’ida into an ethically unconstrained projection of American power. Rather than conspiracy, I think we have a partial convergence of worldviews: both projects share the fundamental belief in an emancipatory American hegemony. While the ‘war on terror’ made liberalism subservience to American power, the fight against genocide wants to reverse the hierarchy. ‘Save Darfur’ falls within a wider ‘liberal absolutist’ (in Anatole Lieven’s felicitous phrase) and American exceptionalist movement. It bestows on the U.S. the right to identify ‘evil’, and excise it thereby creating a better world—saving other nations from the prison of their own history.

It would have been more accurate to describe ‘Save Darfur’ as the liberal interventionist face of U.S. hegemony, at a historical moment when American supremacy was showing a particularly ugly countenance. That is its strength as well as its weakness. There is much more to say on this: the movement’s biggest challenge is become genuinely internationalist, at a time when the new U.S. President is showing remarkable signs of internationalism.

Responses to “‘Save Darfur’: Emancipatory American Exceptionalism?”
Bikem Ekberzade:

April 24th, 2009 at 1:14 pm
I suppose one of factors adding to the controversy surrounding Save Darfur is the amount of finances they have at their disposal at any given time for advocacy. Large sums spent on exhibits, art installations, outreach, even the budgeted expenses sliced aside for the organization’s PR efforts is dream sums that a field worker would pray for his project’s annual expenditure.

Save Darfur thus becomes the epidemy of advocacy as a sector (listed as more recent right above environmental activisim and humanitarian assistance) setting off wide skepticism towards its motives. And whether it is there to save Darfur for the people of Darfur or for others become a question.

Eric Reeves:

April 24th, 2009 at 6:25 pm
“We should ask why leaders find if acceptable and meaningful to use words like ‘evil.’”
[Alex de Waal, April 2009]

“This [counter-insurgency in Darfur] is the routine cruelty of a security cabal, its humanity withered by years in power: it is genocide by force of habit.”
[Alex de Waal, August 2004]

I think it’s fair to ask why de Waal’s description of 2004 may not serve as an occasion to ask him the very question he poses in April 2009. I’m not sure there is necessarily any difference between “routine cruelty,” “withered humanity,” “genocide by force of habit” and what I and others mean by evil.

Speaking just for myself, I’ve spent the entirety of my careers, literary and in Sudan advocacy, reflecting on the issue of human evil. It is a word I use with extreme hesitation, but find unavoidable in speaking of the leadership of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party. I don’t see why this should make me subject to the relentless homogenizing of Darfur advocacy and the caricatures that seem a staple method of dismissal (de Waal is in this post explicit about his initial caricaturing; elsewhere—a strategy he shares with Mamdani—this is not the case).

Until there is a frank acknowledgement that “Darfur advocacy,” or even “American Darfur advocacy,” is a more representative designation than “Save Darfur” (with its inevitable connections to the “Save Darfur Coalition”), it seems unlikely that there will be improvement in the discourse between what de Waal elsewhere refers to as “landscape painters” and the real experts, the “mountaineers.” The implicit assertion is of a trumping expertise, made endlessly with the dismissive use of the loaded phrase “Save Darfur.” This in turn depends upon an untenable account of American civil society efforts on behalf of Sudan, a number going back more than a decade. Such relentlessly invidious distinctions invite a harsh rhetoric of response.

Eric Reeves

Alex de Waal:
April 24th, 2009 at 10:28 pm
Dear Eric,

it is deeply unfortunate that your health has prevented you from visiting Darfur, and that you have never had the opportunity to visit Khartoum or to live in Sudanese society. It is also a shame that you have never had the chance to match your literary study of evil with first hand experience of countries and communities that are going through traumatic events. Were you to benefit from such chances, I am confident you would understand at once that the deductions and characterizations you make today would need to be revisited.

As I wrote, there are phenomenal strengths in the ‘Save Darfur’ movement (it’s an odd quibble for you to condemn that phrasing as ‘loaded’ or ‘invidious’). It has been phenomenally energetic and, at its best, reflective and effective. But one of its weaknesses has been its difficulty in acknowledging its own successes. The ‘Save Darfur’ movement (for me this label carries no derogatory baggage) contributed to a remarkably successful humanitarian operation. Without it, relief agencies would have struggled for funds. It helped deter the levels of violence seen in 2003 and 2004 from recurring. Other forms of engagement have helped keep the key provisions of the CPA more-or-less on track.

As the English say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Please show me that you are not a caricature, a standard formula that doesn’t change.

Eric Reeves the caricature will lose no chance to lambast any commentator or diplomat for any form of constructive engagement with Sudan. This caricature will predict doom, knowing that nine times out of ten he won’t be proven wrong.

But Eric Reeves the person who cares for Sudan and for mitigating its traumas will welcome the progress that is being made, week in and week out, and will nurture these small but real openings that will, once or twice out of ten tries, bring a real transformation in the lives of the Sudanese. Which one is it to be, Eric?

with best wishes for your rapid recovery.


David Barsoum:
April 24th, 2009 at 10:41 pm
It seems to me that the problem lies in the nature of arguments,facts and solutions that some of the members of the advocacy groups tend to offer to the Crisis in Dar Fur.They tend to emphasize intervention.”Out of Iraq qnd into Dar Fur”.Even in your comments here,you refer to the NIF/NCP,but from the little I know,there are two partners that make the government of the Sudan which is called the National Unity Government,the NCP and the SPLM.But what I think we need to think of is the real problem in DAR FUR,and how to solve it?We have a country,Sudan,that may disintegrate.We have’nt heard any plans from the advocacy groups for a negotiated settlement,on the country,the unidirectional positions of these advocacy groups have only incresed the intrnasigence of the Rebel Movements in Dar Fur.Their rally in London,on the 19th,they called for a “No Fly Zone”.You for example,seem to consider the de facto government in Sudan,as evil incarnate.But if we need a negotiated settlement,dont we have to talk to this de facto authority in the country?Is’nt it the same Government,that the SPLA/M negotiated with?I think these are issues that the advocacy groups tend to ignore.They keep repeating the charge of genocide,ongoing genocide,and the need for intervention,even though the ICC itself,rejected the charge of genocide?

Eric Reeves:
April 25th, 2009 at 1:25 am
I acknowledge no such split within myself as might correspond to your supposed distinction between me as “caricature” and me as “person who cares” about Sudan, and thus deny that the question you pose has any meaning. You’ve merely contrived the question in order to support your own characterization.

You say, “It is also a shame that you have never had the chance to match your literary study of evil with first hand experience of countries and communities that are going through traumatic events.” Are you really suggesting that one can learn about the reality of evil and suffering and atrocities only by being present? (By the way, I was present in southern Sudan in January 2003 during a time of terrible atrocities committed by the regime in the oil regions, and interviewed survivors of helicopter gunship attacks.) Is the assiduous study of history not enough to tell us a great deal about how cruelly the Armenians suffered and died in the second decade of the 20th century? Can we not learn a great deal about the evil of the Holocaust by means of the extraordinary achievements of historical scholarship and archival research? If we were not in Kigali in April through July of 1994, are we permanently cut off from a perspicuous view of the Rwandan genocide, despite work such as that of the late Alison Des Forges? Do we not gather much about the very texture of genocidal atrocities in Rwanda from a book such as General Dallaire’s harrowing “Shake Hands with the Devil”?

It is offensively condescending to suggest that were I to spend a more extended period of time in Sudan I would need to “revisit” my present conclusions, simply because your conclusions are otherwise. Many with more significant recent experience on the ground in Darfur sharply dispute many of your conclusions; so, too, do a number of closely informed students of the Khartoum regime. No doubt my views would change if I could spend more months in Sudan; but the implication that these views would change in ways that you can knowingly, “expertly” predict is again simply offensive.

You suggest that one measure of whether I am to be viewed as “caricature” or “real person” will be how “fully I welcome the progress that is being made, week in and week out, and [whether I] will nurture these small but real openings.” But whether or not it makes me what you consider a “caricature,” I must confess grave doubts about “progress” in Darfur or anywhere else in Sudan. Indeed, I believe—50 days after the expulsion by Khartoum of more than 50% of humanitarian capacity in Darfur—that people are in greater danger in the immediate future than at any time since 2004 (this is the clear consensus among UN and INGO humanitarian personnel). Large-scale violence between an emboldened Justice and Equality Movement and Khartoum’s regular forces also seems much more likely than a meaningful peace agreement, or even verifiable cease-fire, endangering civilians and humanitarians even more threateningly.

You evidently consider more than ten years of extensive academic research on Sudan an inadequate basis for the conclusions I’ve reached; you evidently consider my myriad contacts with many Sudanese (northern and southern, on the ground and in the diaspora) to be an inadequate source of supplemental knowledge; you evidently consider my ongoing conversations within the human rights and humanitarian communities working in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan to be similarly inadequate as a means of gaining access to Darfur’s realities; and finally it would appear you are willing to dismiss as well my continual conversations with people who have spent tremendous amounts of time, recently and more distantly, in Sudan, particularly Darfur.

In your binary designations, if I am “caricature,” then I “lose no chance to lambast any commentator or diplomat for any form of constructive engagement with Sudan.” But “lambast” here is simply part of your caricature of any argument I might make, not an act of shareable judgment. Moreover, you have yet again simply assumed that you are the definitive measure of what is “constructive” engagement. I am, of course, all for “constructive” engagement, if it is truly “constructive”—and not a means for Khartoum to sustain its tyranny. But “constructive engagement,” engagement in true good faith, was certainly not evident in the terribly misconceived Darfur Peace Agreement. Nor is it at all clear, more than four years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, whether Khartoum is committed to its terms, or has simply signed the Agreement for expedient purposes—purposes that many see in the actions by the regime in Abyei, Malakal, the Nuba Mountains, as well as in other key failures of implementation.

Your repeated implicit claim to have the only useful “expertise,” to be one of the exclusive “mountaineers,” seems again to be a poor way to encourage communication with the broader advocacy community, even if many within that community continue to use the word “evil,” and even if you continue to perceive them as mere “landscape painters.”

Eric Reeves

Sean Lee:
April 25th, 2009 at 2:42 am
Alex and Eric,

I’d like to make three points. First, as a non-religious man, I feel slightly uncomfortable with the word “evil,” since it conjures up a Manichean worldview and seems to also imply a counterpoint in “the righteous.” That being said, I have been to Rwanda and lived through the 2006 war here in Lebanon, and as bad as the violence was here, I think there is a categorical difference between the two instances of violence. I am not really sure how to call the Rwandan genocide except for evil, which is a label more for the act than it is for those who committed it, for if Arendt has taught us anything, it’s that evil acts can often have banal sources. If you have any suggestions on alternate language to use, Alex, I’d love to hear it.

Second, it’s clear that you don’t think much of American military interventionism, Alex, and it’s certainly difficult to defend after the debacle in Iraq. What’s not clear to me, though, is if you’re against all American military intervention; if you think international military intervention is ok; and if there are any instances in which you would approve of the former. To put it more concretely, would you have supported an American military intervention in Rwanda?

Finally, I’d like to go back to something Eric said about lumping all Darfur advocacy into a cartoonish straw man like Mamdani does. I think that painting everyone with the same broad brush is unhelpful for actually discussing the issues, although perhaps convenient for settling ideological scores. I think that we can all make a distinction between say Eric and Prendergast on the one hand, and Mia Farrow and high school seniors on the Washington Mall on the other. By drawing a caricature of imperialist Americans who are allergic to knowledge and impatient for Washington to throw its weight around in Muslim or Arab countries, Mamdani does his readers a gross disservice. It’s a shame that he uses his bully pulpit at Columbia to do so. Which finally brings me to the point of “expertise.” Mamdani, under the implicit assumption that he’s an “expert,” uses the question of “expertise” as a rhetorical bludgeon to attack his ideological enemies. The problem, of course, is that Mamdani isn’t actually an expert on Sudan or Darfur, or Rwanda for that matter. But that doesn’t stop him from attacking Darfur advocates for shunning knowledge. Ironically, his latest book has little to no primary research, and its second section is riddled with factual errors, as the reviews by Daly and O’Fahey illustrate. This, however, brings up a larger question about activism. Does one need to be an expert in order to advocate? Do I need a PhD in public health policy to advocate universal health coverage? Need one be an expert in Middle Eastern affairs to advocate an end to the Israeli occupation or the rights of the Bahai in Egypt? Personally, I know very little about Sri Lanka, but I’m comfortable with the opinion that Colombo and the LTTE should allow civilians to get out of the way of their fighting.

David Barsoum:
April 25th, 2009 at 4:57 pm
Alex,Eric and Sean
I am a Sudanese,at pains because of what the country is facing now.My qusetion to all of you is simple:do you think and would want the Sudan to be a united country and if so how would you think the Sudanese people can achieve that?

April 26th, 2009 at 12:12 am
Er, speaking of Darfur Alex, did you happen to read the keith harmon snow article I posted here:

And eric,you might get some insight by reading this:

Alex de Waal:
April 27th, 2009 at 10:06 am
To Eric: my invitation to you still stands: please contribute two columns, at the timing and length of your own choice, on why Darfur should be considered “ongoing genocide” and what should be done about it. I don’t want to get into an exercise in reciprocal textual exegesis, except to say that please don’t impute motives, and also when you quote my ‘genocide by force of habit’ piece, recall that the purpose of that description was to differentiate what was happening in Darfur from other appalling (but different) episodes in recent Sudanese history.

To Sean: intervention isn’t always wrong, but it’s always questionable. A few days after the Rwanda genocide was launched, a joint French-Belgian force arrived to evacuate foreigners. It had the firepower, mobility and mandate to be effective. If it had used those in aggressive support of a protection mission then it could have saved a huge number of lives. And no, one doesn’t need to be an expert to be able to recognize horrors and react appropriately. But as time passes, as information improves, and the focus moves to longer-term solutions, a shift is both possible and necessary.

To David: This is a truly substantive question, and I suggest we have a full debate on it very soon.

David Barsoum:
April 27th, 2009 at 10:59 am
To Alex
Thank you very much,i think it would be helpful.I would like to draw your attention to an article by Julio Godoy entitled”Africa:The Second Scramble for AFrica Starts”,on 20th April 2009.I also wish Eric Reeves would read it too,meanwhile I wish him quick recovery and good health and sorry forgot to do that last time.

Bikem Ekberzade:
April 28th, 2009 at 2:05 am
Between the aid workers and us journalists we often debate the intensity and the direction of international intervention. We often witness that it turns out to be futile, while rushed and error-prone (the relatively immediate response of NATO to Kosovo crisis after the embarrassment of Bosnia, and the mass civilian deaths at “friendly fire”; Somalia, Afghanistan, etc) It may sound cruel and cold blooded, but often instead of walking into a conflict with additional firepower, escalating violence may be subdued, but balances are thrown off, and the nature of the conflict changes with voids in the equation, and often a state of misgovernment to follow (Afghanistan is still a mess, a worse mess in fact than before, Somalia ditto, and as for Kosovo, or even Bosnia for that matter, still a sound government cannot be established, the countries are propped up with the support of “international guides” as if trying to keep a drunk man standing to save face)

So for all those, including Save Darfur “coalition” and perhaps especially the Save Darfur coalition, all that cry for international intervention is either ignorant, or truly well calculated (latter a juicy topic for the conspiracy theoricians) International MILITARY intervention to a state of escalating violence with heavy civilian casualties at the end of the day takes off the pictures of the piles of dead bodies from our morning newspapers leaving room for a delightful breakfast, however hardly does it do any good to the civilian population in question. They suffer, more in fact, with military “protective” patrol, ammunition, guns, tanks rolling in and out of their villages, should the stay of the troops be prolonged, and they often are, prostitution, smuggling, and the black market flourishes. Now, the photos of the dead are gone, and we no longer are disturbed in our “civilized” lives, but the country in question is damaged beyond repair, and the foundations of the civilization in question are to a large extent shattered.

It is very similar to giving a heavy dose of chemo to a cancer patient, destroying the immune system so that the germs and bacteria take over. The patient no longer dies of the cause, but the cure.

An alternative to all this? In places and conflicts I have seen I still cannot think of an alternative. But I believe there has to be one. And seeing all these bright minds here, maybe this could serve as a platform to come up with a better solution, through discussion, that can serve as an example for the future. Each conflict in essence is different. However they are also very similar. There is a math to it almost, and then perhaps, there is a solution as well.

Juergen Hart:
April 28th, 2009 at 10:29 am
Searching for something more fruitful…

I thought to write something to the audience of this blog, since I miss some more fruitful contributions which might have some positive effect for Darfur’s social fabric. A lot of controversy is going around, whether the situation in Darfur has improved, has not improved and where it might move to. Discussions seem to move partly into backyards or enter into directions which leave one with strange feelings. At the UN level one can observe similar debates, e.g. between the representative of the UNAMID and members of the security council just recently.

Considering the facts, at present it is more than a difficult task to come up with thorough conclusions about the situation in Darfur. The information is sparse and fragmented, in particular for the more recent years, and often interpreted through lenses of previous years experience. But the authors of the GI Net study have also indicated clearly the scope of their study and the space for drawing conclusions.

Maybe it is time for a fact finding mission, which would depict first hand data from Darfur, making use of already existing data sources on the ground and putting it together into a coherent framework . Hopefully this might contribute to more forward discussions about what is really going on in Darfur now and what would be appropriate means to contribute to improvements.

Although I assume that Sudan could be very reluctant, I assume that it might also perceive the possible positive signals and benefits of such a fact finding mission. In particular, if it is credibly and properly done by well known, independent experts. Maybe this could be a fruitful exercise for those two Darfur researchers, who have engaged themselves very much for the region. Both of them, I guess, are friends of Sudan and its people.

I would like to close with a spot from the field one friend told me about. While working in Darfur he and his counterpart came across a man, who turned out to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both were reluctant about that man and his motivation, asking themselves what they could expect from him. During their operations they learned that this man was a very committed person. He worked very hard for the well being of his community.

One day members of a governmental office where supposed to file reports about the situation in the man’s location and he was invited to contribute information. It turned out, that the officers wanted to withhold information he provided, in order to paint a nicer picture about the situation, that Khartoum would not worry. The man started a dispute and at the end he motivated the officers successfully to consider his information in their filing.

Getting a better picture about a situation is challenging but not impossible.

Abd al-Wahab Abdalla:
April 29th, 2009 at 4:40 am
Dear Prof Reeves,

You have answered Prof De Waal’s question about whether you are a caricature or not when you accuse the Obama administration of “capitulation”. Readers can judge for themselves. The article is at

Vagn Sparre-Ulrich:
April 29th, 2009 at 7:27 am
The main question is what perspective one has on the Darfur crisis: either one sees from the perspective of the “objective” international observer/analyst who is looking at the conflict in isolation and condemning the Sudan government for all evil doings which happened in Darfur. Or one sees the conflict from the perspective of “within Sudan”, a perspective that demands a growing sophisticated level of analysis as the knowledge of the context grows. The first paradigm has some similarities with good old colonial thinking and could be used as justification for all kinds of interventions into Sudan like it was used in the past; the second is what is behind the idea of the UN system which takes its point of departure in the respect for the individual countries and their governments.

Mohanad Elbalal:
April 30th, 2009 at 6:41 pm
Eric reeves even a man of limited intellect can not seriously believe that a conflict that claims no more then 150 lives a month can be described as an “ongoing genocide”, especially considering that most of the casualties are combatants not civilians. your sensationalist claims and conclusions on the Darfur conflict do not relate to the facts on the ground,how you can seriously call your self a scholar is beyond me.

Abd al-Wahab Abdalla:
May 1st, 2009 at 2:34 am
And I just saw Nick Kristoff’s blog which also accused President Obama of “appeasement of Sudan.”

Another caricature. Those who live by the caricature shall die by the caricature.

Bernardo S:
May 1st, 2009 at 7:47 pm
“If a discrete number of ‘evil’ individuals were detained or killed, then the world would resume its secular progress towards societies and political systems that look more like America.”

This line in particular grasped my attention. If Mamdani is actually suggesting that US involvement in the prevention of Genocide is wrong on the basis that it is from the United States’ point of view of what is right and wrong, that pretty much states that military regimes whose purpose is to erradicate a certain group (racial, religious, political, etc.), such as the one in Rwanda in 1994 are acceptable, even if different to what the Western world accepts as correct.

If my two options are:
a) Letting these oppressive governments keep on killing people
b) Spreading the United States’ political system
then, as much as it may hurt, Bring on the Imperialism!
The Genocide Convention was created for a reason.

Stefan Kroepelin:
May 11th, 2009 at 11:18 am
Reading the lines above I remember my email exchange in this connection with Eric Reeves in November 2005. The full text is given in the following so everybody can make his own judgement.

17 Nov 2005 (Email message Stefan Kröpelin to Eric Reeves)
Dear Colleague,
Just back from another field season in Northeast Chad along the Sudanese border I heard about your homepage and activities on Darfur.
I have been doing geological and archaeological field work in Northwest Sudan almost every year since 1980, probably no other foreigner has passed more time in the Sudanese desert. On the other hand, the three sisters of my grandmother have been murdered in Auschwitz, many of my family have been in the resistance or have emigrated before or after WW2.
So I have been shocked by your posting of articles comparing the situation in Darfur with the Nazi genocide or Ruanda.
I have not seen a single photo or objective proof of your and others’ statements about hundred of thousands of dead, or as recently claimed 500 killed by the government or Janjaweed per day. Please let me know if you have. Doesn’t that make you think of the WMD in Iraq?
In case that unlike most of your countrymen you read another language than your native one, you can have a look at and on my view of the situation.
Best regards,
Stefan Kröpelin
Director, Sudan (A2) and Chad (A6) projects, Collaborative Research Centre 389 (ACACIA)

17 Nov 2005
read the reports of Amnesty Intl (last two and a half years), Human Rights Watch (last two years), Intl Crisis Group (past two plus years) and pull your head out of the sand…you have clearly made no effort to discover what has been widely reported, and photographed, including by the African Union
Eric Reeves
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

18 Nov 2005
I know many of the quoted sources and never saw anything comparable to the numberless reports and photos from Ruanda etc. not to quote Auschwitz.
Might be a good idea that you go to Darfur yourself once and depend less on hearsay, interested parties and propaganda. And better compare it to the “normal” situation before the conflict, which never has interested anyone before, and the US the very least before the oil, and not to the way of life in Massachussetts.
We checked claims of systematically burned villages published in the media based on USAID allegations by using high-resolution Quickbird data (<60cm). In fact, in much of the allegedly destroyed areas not a single hut was burned down, but rather a number government buildings.
Our project ethnologists were in Tina and elsewhere near the border for many months during the last years, even during the bombing, and reported a lot of terrible events, but nothing to justify the word “genocide”.
Stefan Kröpelin

19 Nov 2005
this issue at hand, you ignorant and arrogant prick, is what you don’t know and the volumes you haven’t read…I’ve got no interest in continuing an exchange with someone who hasn’t read the scores of human rights reports on Darfur, UN reports, international humanitarian assessments, the UN Commission of Inquiry report, etc, ect, etc….. many thousands of pages of documentation which is clearly of no interest to you in your self-enclosed “worldview” of Darfur—you are the embodiment of the European failure to respond to massive human suffering and destruction in the region
over and out…
(Eric Reeves)

21 Nov 2005
you better read less, get out of your academic ivory tower and over to sudan instead to get a view on reality. without that, really no use exchanging any other word.
(Stefan Kröpelin)

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