DAWN - Opinion; 21 August, 2004

Published Aug 21, 2004 12:00am

Reasons for redeployment

By Afzaal Mahmood

Announcing the biggest military reorganization since the end of the Second World War, President George Bush disclosed on August 16 that 60,000 to 70,000 American troops would be withdrawn from Europe and Asia over the next decade.

Addressing a veterans' group in Ohio state, where he faces a tight electoral race, he said that about 100,000 civilian employees and families of soldiers would be affected by the huge restructuring plan

Though Mr Bush did not give details, press reports quoting senior Pentagon sources say the troop withdrawal will be mainly from Germany, South Korea and Japan (Okinawa). According to the New York Times, America plans to withdraw two divisions from Germany, its main cold-war base in Europe.

It may also move a wing of fighter aircraft from Germany to Turkey, provided Ankara allows Washington full control over these aircraft. Some naval forces could move from Britain to Italy. Recently, South Korea announced that by 2006, America would withdraw 12,500 troops, one third of its total presence, from the country.

American planners argue that the restructuring of military power has become necessary as, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia does not pose any threat, and that new realities in global security call for a change in strategy.

They expect main threats to come from terrorists, failed states and rogue states in the "arc of instability" from Africa, through the Middle East, to South and South-East Asia.

An inevitable consequence of the restructuring plan will be that the United States will be abandoning its longest and traditional allies in Europe and Asia in favour of new collaborators in more volatile regions.

However, the determining factor for the Americans in acquiring military facilities seems to be proximity to oil and gas-producing areas, pipelines and shipping routes through which vital energy supplies pass.

That is why the troops from Germany would be moved to comparatively cheap bases in Bulgaria and Romania, which are closer to the oil-rich Caucasus and the Middle East. Mr Bush says America will "take advantage of 21st century military technology to rapidly deploy increased combat power", obviously to protect its interests.

What are these American interests? The most important of them is, of course, access to energy. In 1991, George Bush Sr. would not have militarily intervened in the Gulf War to protect Kuwait if the region did not happen to contain most of the world's oil reserves.

The US has worked for decades to retain this control of the region's oil and ward off potential threats to it: from the Soviet Union during the cold war, from Ayatollah Khomeini after the Iranian revolution, from Saddam Hussein in the 1990s and currently from Al Qaeda and other anti-West groups who intend to disrupt energy supply or even seize control of the oil-producing countries.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is the driving force behind the new restructuring plan. He insists that the American armed forces must be more mobile and more easily deployed, relying less on manpower and tanks and more on technology and communications.

Replacing the large, heavy divisions will be a "Stryker" brigade. The Stryker is a new, wheeled vehicle with tank-like armour and weapons, but lighter (and thus easier to transport) than the mainstay Abrams battle tank. The Stryker seems to be at the centre of the transformation of America's military power.

The restructuring move seems to be more than military strategy. One of its objectives is to calm down anti-American sentiment in some of the countries where American troops are stationed.

For instance, in South Korea, anti-American feelings were inflamed in 2002 when during an American military training exercise two girls were killed and the American soldiers involved were cleared of all charges. Also, an American base occupies a large chunk of prime real estate in the centre of Seoul, to the irritation of many South Koreans.

The same is more or less true of Japan where the Americans have made themselves unpopular in Okinawa base. Reducing American presence in South Korea and Japan, it is argued, may ease anti-American feelings in these countries.

But the danger is that pulling some American troops from South Korea may send the wrong signal to North Korea which has stationed a million-man army just across the "demilitarized zone that runs between the two Koreas.

The redeployment of American military power to new bases will effectively nullify the Bush administration's stated policy of supporting liberal political reforms and the global spread of democracy because many of new American bases will be located in non-democratic, even autocratic, states.

It is hoped that the policy-makers in Islamabad are fully cognizant of the implications of the American redeployment plan for Pakistan because our country happens to fall in "the arc of crisis." Pakistan's proximity to oil and gas-producing areas and shipping routes through which vital energy supplies pass has further enhanced its strategic importance.

Since we have now joined the fairly exclusive club of America's non-Nato allies, the question naturally arises: what role, if any, is Pakistan expected to play in the biggest restructuring of US global forces and facilities since 1945?

Some analysts argue that American redeployment plan shows that Mr Bush, even after the setbacks in Iraq, continues to believe that the US stands a better chance of solving the problems that threaten its vital interests by acting on its own than letting itself be tied down by its allies who care only for a peaceful life. The countries that opposed the Iraq war, led by France, were too weak to stop the US from invading that country.

But they have shown one thing beyond any shadow of doubt: they can damage American foreign policy interests and image simply by means of denunciation and abstention. But the danger is that if they continue to denounce and abstain, it will convince many Americans, including, of course, the Bush administration, that, apart from a few loyal friends, such as Britain, most European allies are worthless.

It may be observed that most European leaders say in public that it is time to move beyond the quarrels over Iraq. But in private, according to The Economist, much of Europe's political class detests Mr Bush and what he stands for.

Most European leaders think Mr Bush is throwing the superpower's weight about with no regard either for international law or treaties or for the views of allies. Having noticed that Mr Bush's approval rating is declining, "they are longing for him to lose November's presidential election", says The Economist.

But Mr Bush is not the only leader in trouble. The leaders of most western democracies are floundering. Mr Chirac has become widely unpopular. Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has failed to make a success of his economic reforms and may not last till the next election.

Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair's political future has become uncertain because his unstinted support to Mr Bush has cost him dear. The current political scenario in most western democracies does not make for self-confident leadership, imbued with statesmanship, that may effectively help in coping with the problems the world is faced with.

At the end of the day, the world is left with an America which has come to believe that it can rely only on itself and, therefore, it should care only for itself. Some may point to the decline of American authority as a result of setbacks in Iraq. But it will be a serious mistake to carry this conclusion too far and belittle the awesome power of America.

The setbacks in Iraq may have caused some embarrassment to Mr Bush and his supporters of Iraqi adventure. But Iraq has in no way affected the objective and actual power of America. The fact remains that, for good or ill, the United States will remain the dominant superpower in the world for years to come.

The writer is a former ambassador.

Not by guns alone

By Kuldip Nayar

When governments resort to extra-judicial methods to rule, they compel people to rebel. A clash comes to develop between those who wield power and those who prize their rights. In the process, the truth does not come to light for lack of free market to the ideas.

This is why there has been sustained resistance to the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Manipur and elsewhere and this is why there has been a large-scale protest in the country against POTA, TADA and MISA, a series of measures which have been enacted from time to time to detain people without trial. There seems to be a large gap in the perception of the government and the public.

Harsh acts take away people's right of defence in an open court of law, a normal recourse in a democratic structure. Strange as it may sound, India has had one or the other type of preventive detention acts for 48 out of 57 years of independence.

A government can perhaps argue that emergent situations demand emergent remedies. But they have to be emergent, short and quick. When such steps go on and on and come to be included even in the constitution, the intention of rulers begins to be doubted. If nothing else, it gives a peep into their bent of mind which suggests that they want extra power.

Needless to say that the individual will accept compulsions only up to a point, not indefinitely. He may be forced to express himself through violence or militancy. This is what has happened in Manipur and, to a large extent, in Kashmir. Terrorism may well be a sign of desperation but when driven to the wall, the "committed" see no other way out.

A law passed as far back as in 1958 to meet "a piquant situation" at that time has continued for 46 years. People have suffered at its hand to the last family in the two states.

A jawan still has the right to search a place on suspicion, to detain anyone without a warrant and to kill with impunity. Comical as it may sound, Article 21 of the constitution guarantees our right to life and personal liberty.

Why has the law with such sweeping powers as the AFSPA continued so long is the question. Obviously, the authorities have got used to untrammelled powers and they want to retain them. A poignant remark by the Manipur Students' Association tells it all: Are our rights merely a gift of the state that can be violated at any time?

Take the attitude of security forces. They pick up woman activist Manorama from her house in Manipur, torture and leave her dead on the roadside with bullet marks on her body.

There is yet another case of Miss Sharmila who has been fasting unto death since November 6, 2000. The authorities keep her alive through forced feeding but do not go into the causes why she wants to sacrifice her life.

Secession is probably the biggest crime. But there has been no such demand in Manipur. People's main grievance is that the state has empowered the armed forces to ensure that they do not complain against the excesses committed against them to register their entity. Even the demand for jobs or development is taken as an example of defiance.

Instead of attending to such things, Home Minister Shivraj Patel and Defence Minister Pranab Mukerjee say that the AFSPA will not be withdrawn. It is not an exhibition of authority, but authoritarianism. In this way, the rulers only display their ugly side of power.

This type of arrogance had created doubts about the abrogation of POTA. The good news is that the government says it will introduce a bill during the current session of parliament to repeal POTA.

Why couldn't it do so through an ordinance when it was included in the common minimum programme (CMP) and when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) assumed power? The delay only heightened suspicion.

It is a belated reaction but Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha has at least withdrawn the POTA cases against her political opponent Vaiko. New Delhi should have also announced that all cases relating to POTA would lapse once the law is scrapped.

However, the official word is that POTA will apply with retrospective effect. In other words, those who commit the "same crime" today will not be touched but those who were responsible for a similar crime yesterday will not be released.

The record of the central government is full of stains. It has continued to pursue the cases of the detainees under TADA which lapsed nine years ago. It is obvious that in the eyes of the authorities, TADA detenues are a dangerous lot. If it is so, let the government try them in open courts. It should realize that a rescinded law has no validity and any punishment under it is illegal.

Still more disconcerting is the government's move to reenact certain provisions of POTA. Jaipal Reddy has said on behalf of the government that the new legislation will be enacted to "take care of concerns of internal security."

That the innocent will not be touched was his assurance. But this is what the BJP-led government said when it enacted POTA. Its misuse is well known. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi went to the extent of invoking it against the Muslims.

The UPA government, which is considered liberal in comparison to the one led by the BJP, should have turned a new leaf, a rule without any draconian law. The Congress-led government should realize that the reason why the Left and its different organizations have supported the Manmohan Singh government is the belief that it will not detain dissenters and not chastize those who want to preserve their own entity. The revolt of "insurgents," whether in Manipur or in other parts of the country, is not against India's federal structure but against conformity.

The question is not that of violation of human rights but that of a political system which gives no leeway to those who challenge its outmoded structure. The "insurgents" are, no doubt, different from the rulers socially, culturally and ideologically. But all that they want is to have their own space. They want parivartan (change), something which Jayaprakash Narayan advocated to give the lower half a place in the sun. The upper castes, the landlords and the vested interests do not want this to happen. The authorities support them in their nefarious deeds.

This is what the different groups, who are known as the Naxalites, tried to convey when they met in New Delhi a few days ago. The media, for reasons best known to it, ignored the four-hour meeting where some 800 activists from all over the country were present. Their objective was clear: the nation does not have to be ruled through oppressive laws and political subterfuge, even after 57 years of independence.

People cannot be labelled unpatriotic just because they raise the demand for a normal, legal and transparent rule. Their fault is they think differently and believe that the policies that New Delhi pursues benefit only a few. A readiness to comprehend such forces is needed, not measures to suppress them.

The writer is a leading columnist based in New Delhi.

US objectives in Iraq

By Fauzia Qureshi

In conquering Iraq, US strategic intentions were to stabilize the Middle East. Iraq was to be a free and liberal Islamic state as a successful model of market democratization for the Arab world.

The Iraq venture was also meant to send a signal to the "rogue states" to put their house in order or face the consequences. Today, the US seems far from achieving this goal.

In fact, the Iraqi occupation indicates a shift in the world balance of power. At the beginning of the Iraqi occupation, the world appeared unipolar, but today, the broad ramifications of the erosion of American power are evident.

The United States hopes that by next month, some countries will contribute troops to a separate force to protect UN staff in Iraq. Why? Did the US-led coalition occupy Iraq after a Security Council resolution? No. So, why should any country of the world contribute its forces to a unilateral US/UK aggression which was contrary to international law and principles?

On August 1, the US commander in chief, central command, John P Abizaid met President Musharraf to discuss the regional and international situation with special reference to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The sending of Pakistani troops to Iraq also came under discussion. Later, there was a statement by Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain that "there is no plan to send troops to Iraq at the moment." What does "at the moment" specify? Why should the Pakistani government even consider sending troops to Iraq? Haven't we learnt our lesson?

No doubt that there has been pressure on Pakistan ever since the "war on terrorism" began. Pakistan has arrested more than 450 Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects since the Afghan regime was toppled in Afghanistan.

For this, Pakistan has been rewarded by the US by being declared a major non-Nato ally. The US also turned a blind eye to Pakistan's nuclear black marketing scandal. Pakistan's five-year suspension of its commonwealth membership was also lifted.

More importantly, The Guardian of London reported that Pakistan is getting far more money than the US had officially earmarked. Pakistan is getting $1 billion a year for "logistical support."

Some critics say cynically that Pakistan has more to gain from waging a long and highly public war against terrorism than it has from totally defeating it - as the foreign aid could dry up.

It has also been learnt that the US House of Representatives subcommittee has passed a $19.4 billion aid bill, of which Pakistan was allocated $300 million in military assistance. It's another story that Israel is set to receive $2.2 billion for military help and a further $360 million in economic assistance.

Recently, Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State, remarked during an interview with daily Al-Hayat, that "the US is 'delighted' with the cooperation of Pakistan, which has allowed the administration to get a lot of information on a possible attack."

Of course, there is nothing wrong with cooperating with the US to wipe out terrorism but at what price is the question. No sooner had this statement come out did we hear Prime Minister Shujaat Hussain again stating that "the decision on troops for Iraq would be taken only after consulting Islamic countries and taking in view public aspirations and sentiments."

But we all know what the public sentiments and views of the whole Pakistani nation are. Or are we waiting for other Muslim countries to send their troops so that we can follow suit.

Why can't we learn from the bold decision of Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, who in order to save a Filipino truck driver held hostage in Iraq, withdrew the country's forces without offering apologies to the US? A spokesman for the President Arroyo said in a statement, "If this is the price to pay for being a Filipino and for leading the Filipino nation, so be it."

What happened in Tharparkar?

By Asma Jahangir

There was hardly an element of surprise in the election victory of prime minister-designate Shaukat Aziz, especially after the several reports of pre-poll fixing. There was however some expectation of fair play on the day of the ballot since Mr Aziz's election was a foregone conclusion and there was no need for any fixing. Sadly, even this pretence was not kept and mal practices as well as rigging were all too apparent.

Was this a simple case of mismanagement? Or were there some hidden expectations which required manipulation to get the desired result? Or has rigging become a political culture of those in power? There are apparently no clear reasons for rigging a perfectly winnable election, but the complexity of the Tharparkar electorate indicates that it is no safe haven particularly as the goal was to show a landslide victory and not just a simple win for the next prime minister.

Election-watching can be a great learning experience. Everyone has an opinion. There is movement and people around the main cities/towns are often seen discussing electoral prospects.

This was not the case in NA 229, Tharparkar 1. The only people seen parading in the streets of Mithi were armed plainclothes men brandishing rifles in a dead city. On enquiry we learnt they were police constables.

According to official sources, some 2,500 police along with Rangers were brought to Tharparkar for security reasons. The following day a number of them discreetly complained to the HRCP (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan) team of the poor conditions in which they were kept.

On the face of it there were no fears of any breach of security. The official candidate was not expected to be there and the opponents were huddled in a corner. Nobody was whispering or willing to share any views. They all pretended that it was just another ordinary day.

On the way to Mithi, there were several roadblocks but we were not searched or disturbed. Law enforcement officials remained polite and made no attempt to stop us. At the same time we did visit a couple of PPP parliamentarians who had been detained at the police station of Mirpurkhas on charges of carrying their own registered weapons. One weapon was in the possession of the driver of the MNA rather than with the MNA, thus the breach of law.

At the same time, the police had filed no FIR till 5pm while the persons were detained the previous evening. According to police officials, they were waiting to hear from the "high-ups".

This appeared to be yet another unnecessary delaying tactic so that the PPP parliamentarians could not reach their destination in time. Mr Nisar Khuhro was also detained for a while and his official guard withdrawn.

If these measures were being taken for genuine security concerns, then there should have been a more vigorous search of cars rather than targeted harassment. But this was the least of the hurdles which were to follow the next day.

The HRCP team was told in whispers that those who opposed the Arbabs in 2002 were still hurting from the bruises they suffered at the hand of their henchmen. It was reported to the team that 1,100 FIRs were filed against political opponents.

Some cases were still being pursued against those who had not sought forgiveness in public. The locals confirmed that every DPO, judge, school teacher and government doctor is an Arbab loyalist. The supporters of the chief minister confirm this with some pride.

There is no doubt that he has a sizable following in Tharparkar, but not everyone is there because of genuine admiration. There are those who live on his largesse, others who fear his wrath and quite a few who are disappointed with their own parent parties. The number of his opponents is difficult to define, and hence steps had to be taken to ensure foolproof victory.

Prior to the elections, the chief minister and his associates had made public statements intimidating their opponents in various ways. For example, Hamid Singh, son of Rana Chandar Singh, was reported on Aug 6 to have said that anyone attending the PPP meeting would get their legs broken.

The Sindh chief minister reportedly magnanimously said to the press that he had allowed his opponent to file papers for contesting against the future prime minister whereas he had the power to get him out of the way.

Other such reports were also printed by the press prior to the elections. These reports were neither denied by the Arbabs nor were they denounced by Mr Shaukat Aziz. The grounds for manipulation were prepared by publicly appointing a prime minister who did not have the prerequisite qualifications. It was a direct message to the vulnerable Tharparkians. In Bush style, they were told that "you are either with us or against us".

Amongst the 251,579 registered voters in NA-229, some 48 per cent belong to the Hindu community. They have suffered at the hands of a separate electorate system put in place by the former military dictator for over a decade.

Now they are being exploited under the joint electorate system in the wake of declining party-based politics. In the rural areas of the country the writ of the feudal runs large.

Religious minorities are at their mercy and annoying them can result in hardships. Under the separate electorate system, the Hindu thakur teamed up with the establishment to secure a place in parliament, at the cost of denying his entire community the very basic right of adult franchise.

Under the present de-politicized system, thakurs back the local strong-arm feudal to survive. Some members of the Hindu community lamented that they were between the devil (the local feudal) and the deep sea (the mullah, in case they moved out of Tharparkar). They naturally prefer to stay in their native land and suffer the patronage of the Muslim feudal at the cost of any expression of freedom.

The PPP candidate, Dr. Mahesh Kumar, is a Hindu Brahmin, who does not believe in the untouchability of other castes. A number of individuals and groups of the Hindu community secretly admitted to members of the HRCP team that given a free choice, they would naturally vote for one of their own, rather than a candidate they had never heard of and knew little about.

A large number admitted that they would rather boycott than vote against their own member of the community. Eventually some optimists concluded that the fact that a Hindu was able to contest these elections gave them sufficient pride and courage. Regrettably, no Pakistani can claim the same for the future prime minister, who stands beholden to a feudal and the establishment of Pakistan for his victory.

Sindhi nationalists expressed their discomfort at being coerced into voting for a non-Sindhi. Those that managed to slip away did not vote. The HRCP team calculated that despite all the machinery at work, the turnout could not have reached beyond 40 per cent.

There are numerous examples of rising percentages of the turnout in the last hour of polling. One such example was witnessed by me at a polling station number 58 (Yousaf Somroo) where by 10:45 am polling in the women's booth was seven per cent and had reached 23 per cent by 3.30 p.m. but had increased to 65 per cent in half an hour when there were no women in sight.

A similar pattern was seen by all five teams of the HRCP. Four teams witnessed the polling agents of Mr Shaukat Aziz stamping ballot papers in full view of the public.

Incidentally, every polling agent of Mr. Aziz informed the HRCP team that they represented the Arbabs, and only one polling agent mentioned that she represented "Chaudhry Shaukat Aziz".

In polling station 123, Dr. Tasneem Kausar, general secretary of a human rights organization, was waving the official stamp and calling out to women voters so that she could note down their ID card details in order to vote for them.

In the same station, another polling agent of Mr. Aziz was sitting on a chair behind the screen to help women voters stamp their ballot in the right place. In at least six polling stations, the percentage of the turnout of women voters was higher than of men.

This despite the fact that only a few women were actually visible around the polling station. A number of people were seen with multiple ID cards in their hands while waiting for their turn to vote abundantly. There were also reports of child voters who had also helped themselves while the going was good.

In a number of polling stations, the PPP was not represented by a polling agent. In other places all the agents had been recruited from outside Tharparkar. Even the staunch supporters of the PPP admitted that they could not risk becoming polling agents for their candidate. The majority of the polling stations were supervised by a sidelined presiding officer but were in full control of either the local nazim or a man of the Arbabs.

The locations of some polling stations had been moved since the 2002 elections. They were located within arm's length of the various guest houses of members of the ruling party.

There was abundant transport for the voters of Mr. Aziz while hardly any wagons were seen with the PPP flag. It was reported that 32 cars of the opposing candidate had been confiscated by the police. The HRCP team photographed and saw a large number of official cars being used for Mr Aziz's campaign.

There are apprehensions that reprisals will take place after the elections are over. Time and again people quietly approached members of the HRCP to watch out for post-election repression.

Independent observers also witnessed the rigging of these "historic" elections. Only time and a subjective test can lay the matter to rest. The finance minister is known for his competent innings in his present portfolio. The challenge would be for him to re-contest elections, post-prime ministership, from his now native constituency without the backing of a sitting chief minister.

The writer headed the HRCP team that observed the Tharparkar by election.

Truth about Sudan

By Eric S. Margolis

The human crisis in Sudan's arid Darfur region, where 30,000 have died and a million are said to be homeless, has provoked charges of a second, Rwanda-style genocide and calls for urgent western military intervention in Africa's largest nation.

The UN Security Council has ordered Khartoum to disband its militias in Darfur. The US Congress, humanitarian groups, America's Christian religious right, and other foes of Sudan's military regime, are demanding armed action.

Inevitably, Sudan had become an election year political football and media frenzy. The White House has been currying favour with Christian militants and blacks by intensifying hostility to the isolated Khartoum regime, which the US has been trying to overthrow for a decade.

Caution is strongly advised. The Darfur disaster is not, as oversimplified by the western media, a case of murderous government-backed Arab militias, called Janjaweed, slaughtering helpless blacks.

Nor can Khartoum end the strife at will: its writ in Darfur is barely existent. Darfur is not a case of ethnic-religious terrorism, as in Kosovo and Bosnia. The real story is far more complex.

Darfur is Sudan's poorest, wildest region. One of the Islamic world's first anti-colonial movements, known in the west as the Dervishes, burst from the wastes of Darfur in the 1880's.

Led by the fiery "Mahdi", the Dervishes drove the British imperialists from Sudan, an event immortalized in the splendid Victorian novel, Four Feathers. The Dervishes took Khartoum, slaying Britain's proconsul, Sir Charles "Chinese" Gordon.

The "martyred" Gordon's death roused a storm in Britain, resulting in a punitive army sent up the Nile (including the young Winston Churchill) that destroyed the Dervish army at Omdurman. But remote Darfur remained a hotbed of rebellion.

In recent times, two anti-Khartoum insurgencies simmered in Darfur, backed by neighbouring Chad, and Eritrea, both of whom are US-clients. CIA has reportedly supplied arms and money to Darfur's rebels. Washington recently developed interest in Chad, which has oil and gas deposits.

Washington is using Darfur's rebels, as it did southern Sudan's 30-year old insurgency, to destabilize the Khartoum regime, whose policies have been deemed insufficiently pro-American and too Islamic. More important to the increasingly energy-hungry US, Sudan has oil, as well as that other precious commodity, water.

Last year, the Darfur insurgents launched widescale attacks on government garrisons after receiving new arms and supplies from abroad, gravely threatening Khartoum's hold on Darfur. Sudan, whose army is weak, raised local militias in Darfur to fight the rebels. Civilians were caught in the crossfire.

Far from a case of Arab whites versus African blacks, all concerned are dark-skinned Sudanese Muslims. The main enmity is between rebels, nomads, and farmers, tribes and clans. As in southern Sudan, most of the violence stems from land grabs, banditry, cattle-rustling, women stealing, and local vendettas.

This is not genocide, a severely overused term. Swiss aid groups, with no political axe to grind, deny genocide claims. But Darfur is certainly a humanitarian crisis meriting foreign aid and African Union troops to bring law and order that Sudan's over stretched army cannot provide. Janjaweed bandits should be punished. But rebel groups must not be encouraged to avoid peace talks with Khartoum in hope of outside military intervention.

Foreign meddling in southern Sudan's civil war, particularly supply of arms and money to Christian and animist separatists by western aid groups and Protestant charities, prolonged that conflict and delayed a peace settlement for decades.

Now, western intervention in Darfur could meet strong local resistance from Sudanese, an amiable but tough people, unravel the fragile, painfully achieved north-south peace accords, and re-ignite civil and tribal conflicts that could tear Sudan apart and turn it into a second chaotic Congo.

Many westerners imbued with neo-imperialist fervour or a case of white man's burden are calling for another western army to march up the Nile and smite the later-day Dervishes of Khartoum. Such crusading zeal should be curbed. Sudan is neither a second Rwanda nor a threat to the west.

The worst of Darfur's crisis appears over. Let humanitarian groups do their work. Continuing US attempts to overthrow Sudan's government are only making things worse. Allow Africa to solve its own problems. -Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2004


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