October 1st, 2006 11:48 EST
That international politics is a complicated and very sensitive matter is widely known, and, what is scarier, widely accepted. Politicians have got used to the idea that to achieve anything one has to go through long, tortuous, and usually, senseless debates in the United Nations. People may be dying in thousands but cosmopolitan orators must have something to do.
Nothing illustrates United Nations' impotence better than its attitude towards the Sudan. While every day newspapers and TV channels report on atrocities conducted in the war-crippled western province of Darfur, ambassadors at the UN headquarter argue over linguistic nuances. Genocide or civil war or maybe just an ordinary neighborly argument? Dozens of UN envoys were sent to the heart of the conflict to scrutinize the matter. They visited dozens of villages and talked to dozens of witnesses. When they came back to New York, they wrote fat reports filled with numbers, scales, statistics, and even pictures.
Finally, the Secretary General troubled himself to Darfur and officially stated that no genocide had been taking place. Unfortunately those ungrateful men, women and children kept on allowing the Sudanese government kill them in thousands so something ought to be done. Sending troops and beat the hell out of the thugs responsible for murders would be the first and most reasonable idea that any clearly thinking person would draw in that situation. But the words “reasonable” and “clearly thinking” seem not to apply to the United Nations.
“Let's publicly criticize the Sudanese government,” was what the multinational body decided instead. Although it had not worked with Iraq – despite countless reprimands and sanctions, Saddam Hussein had lingered on for years – the Secretary General and his colleagues were not discouraged. They dreamed up this bright idea hoping that once chided, the Sudanese officials would hold on their death squads and stop racial cleansings. Neither happened. Of course. UN workers may be blind and deaf but they are not stupid. Knowing that all eyes around the world were fixed on them, they came up with another idea. Their exceptional talents for smarmy talk tempted the Sudanese government as well as the rebels to sign a peace deal which were to bring millions of people so awaited relief. In truth, the only thing that the deal has brought was lucrative posts for those rebels who agreed to change guns for suits. To wash out itself even more, the UN asked the African Union to keep an eye on Darfur. The African Union, a mutual adoration club where member states' main care is not to offend one another, agreed; the troops were deployed. In Africa's biggest country, peace was to be guaranteed by 10,000 poorly equipped and badly trained soldiers. That meant that one soldier had to protect 360,000 civilians in the area of 400,000 square kilometers. Mission Impossible.
As soon as everyone considered the Darfur crisis solved, the Sudanese government unleashed a brutal counterattack. As an excuse for besieging refugee camps with soldiers, the officials used an absurd danger from rebel groups. The paradox of the situation these new guardians were the same people who had been conducting atrocities prior to the deal. It did not take long to realize that people began to disappear again. However, when the UN dropped a hint that it might send blue helmets to make sure that civilians are safe indeed, the Sudanese government turned down the offer at once. The humbled UN withdrew to its safe, deep hole. In October, the African Union forces' mandate expires. The impatient Sudanese government is looking forward to getting rid of the foreigners so it can finish its racial cleansing. Meanwhile, far away in New York, politicians debate what to do to ease their troubled conscience. So far, they have reached no agreement.