By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
NY Times – September 11, 2004
In this unassuming but spot-on editorial, Nicholas Kristof raises the question I’ve asked myself and readers before: why is the USA not “going Iraq” on Sudan?
What are the precious ambiguities militating against an intervention? Equally importantly, how have such subtleties in Sudan become so numerous as to silence the once-frothy-mouthed pro-war citizenry before the second Iraq war? What is so unclear about stopping genocide? What makes Sudan so much more volatile than Iraq? (To be clear, the short correct answers are: “none,” “fallaciously,” “nothing,” and “little if anything.”)
One of the main objections I’ve heard against a move in Sudan is that we lack international solidarity. Germany, France, a number of Muslim countries and Sudan itself oppose an intervention by the U.N. and the USA. The intent of this objection is to silence anyone, such as myself, that objected to the war in Iraq *as it went down*. The logic, such as it presumes to be, is that if you were against the war on Iraq based, even in part, on a lack of international solidarity, then you must also be against meddling in Sudan.
My position on Iraq is fairly simple. (Maybe even too simple.) While the ultimate effect of the intervention has benefited the Iraqi people in some important ways, the “war” was executed on dubious evidence and with reckless disregard for the international community. It was the scandal of no WMDs and the lack of international solidarity *combined* that placed me against the war. At a basic level, I objected to the timing of the strike, not its nobler aims.
There are significant differences between Iraq two years ago and Sudan now. First, the U.S. populace is not nearly as divided on this issue as they were before Iraq. Bush cajoled a schizophrenic horse — the USA — into a war that could and should have been forestalled.
Second, in Sudan is there is no question of the immediate and aggressive threat the Janjaweed poses. There are no misleading and contradictory reports – and certainly not from the same people – about the genocidal peril in Sudan. There are no hidden — or, a year later, missing — WMDs.
Third, and most importantly, it is immoral to base a military intervention on its supposed, future benefits; the ends do not justify the means. Citing the benefits of the war on Iraq is only so much sweeping under the rug painfully clear gaps in the case for war *before we attacked.* For all the sternness of pro-war folks, whenever I hear them defend the war based on present benefits, I can’t help but hear, “Well, come on, fella, go easy. It all turned out peachy in the end, see? There’s no need to stir up angry old dogs about missing WMDs and the like. And leave those angry new puppies alone about missing limbs and lives, while you’re at it. None of that matters now. Embrace the golden age of freedom! The gamble worked!” Problem is, I don’t like gambling and I still don’t see any WMDs.
Defending the war retrospectively — based on a slim and very positive selection of reality in Iraq — is an immoral tease. What is moral is to intervene based on, to use a Clancyism, “clear and present danger.” There is an undeniably clear, present and intransigent danger in Sudan, so we must intervene. If Hussein had posed a serious and imminent threat to the Middle East and/or the USA, then we’d have had much greater right to strike. Indeed, wasn’t the central point of the pro-war case that, in light of the 9/11, Iraq was the next live, imminent threat to the USA, if not the whole world? It certainly felt that way at the time. Only a month or two ago I had a picture of 9/11 thrown in my face (via email) as “proof” that the USA was in grave danger and that, as an obvious result, deposing Hussein was justified. To strike is to thwart evil; to wait is to succumb to it. The war on terror is the war for freedom. And all the rest. I’ll admit, the pro-war argument based on grave, imminent evil is solid.
And yet. And yet, if you’ve spent anytime online or off- observing the war feuds, you’ll know the one word war hawks avoid like a barrel of anthrax is “imminent.” Innuendo, inference, implication and assumption are abominable. “When, exactly, did Bush or anyone else *say* Hussein posed an ‘imminent’ threat, hm?” That’s a good question. But it’s an equally important to ask when Bush or any one else in favor of the war said, or even hinted, Hussein was *not* a grave, imminent threat. You can’t *base* a war on stopping a sadistic butcher with big weapons right now and then deny the war was based on stopping a sadistic butcher with big weapons.
To delay any longer while the Sudan is hacked to death is moral cowardice. Period.
But enough from me, here’s Kristof:
…I salute the Bush administration for formally declaring on Thursday that the slaughter is a genocide. But as we commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, let’s remember that almost as many people are still dying in Darfur every week as died in the World Trade Center attack. …
So I’ve got some questions.
For President Bush Why don’t you turn up the heat on Sudan? How about consulting urgently with the leaders of our allies about how to exert more pressure on Sudan? How about inviting victims to the White House and denouncing the genocide from the Rose Garden? How about threatening a no-flight zone in Darfur unless Sudan cooperates? …