(cross posted at kickin it with cg and Clintonistas for Obama)

Darfur, which means 'land of the fur' is a region in western Sudan.  The region is divided into three states: West Darfur, South Darfur, and North Darfur.  Approximately the size of Spain,  the arid and impoverished region has been in a state of humanitarian emergency since February 2003.

The original conflict broke out after a rebel group began attacking government targets, claiming that the region was being neglected by its capital in Khartoum and oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs.  

One side of the armed conflict is composed mainly of the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed, a militia group recruited mostly from the Arab Abbala tribes of the northern Rizeigat, camel-herding nomads. The Janjaweed are accused of the worst atrocities.  The other side comprises a variety of rebel groups, notably the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), recruited primarily from the land-tilling non-Arab Fur, Zaghawa, and Massaleit ethnic groups.

The Sudanese government, while publicly denying that it supports the Janjaweed, has provided money and assistance to the militia and has participated in joint attacks targeting the tribes from which the rebels draw support.

The current lines of conflict are seen to be ethnic and tribal, rather than religious, some attest that the combination of decades of drought, desertification, and overpopulation are among the causes of the conflict, because the Arab nomads searching for water have to take their livestock further south, to land mainly occupied by Black African farming communities.  There are now more than a dozen rebel groups - making peace talks extremely difficult.

The Sudanese government, led by President Omar al-Bashir admits mobilizing "self-defence militias" following rebel attacks, however it denies any links or control to the Janjaweed, who are accused of trying to "cleanse" black Africans from large swathes of territory.  Refugees say that following air raids by government aircraft, the Janjaweed ride into villages on horses and camels, slaughtering men, raping women and stealing whatever they can find.  Many women report being abducted and held as sex slaves for more than a week before being released.

After strong international pressure and the threat of sanctions, the government promised to disarm the Janjaweed. But so far there is little evidence this has happened.  Trials have been announced in Khartoum of some members of the security forces suspected of abuses - but this is viewed as part of a campaign against UN-backed attempts to get some 50 key suspects tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.  

Millions of civilians have fled their destroyed villages, with more than two million in camps near Darfur's main towns.  The Janjaweed patrol outside the camps and Darfuris say the men are killed and the women raped if they venture too far in search of firewood or water.

As the conflict enters its sixth year, with much of Darfur inaccessible to aid workers and researchers, conditions continue to deteriorate for civilians. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, even by the most conservative estimates. The United Nations puts the death toll at roughly 300,000, while the former U.N. undersecretary-general puts the number at no less than 400,000. Up to 2.5 million have fled their homes and sought safety in camps throughout Darfur, or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic.  But many of these are camped along the stretch of the borders remain vulnerable to attacks from Sudan.  As well Chad's eastern areas have a similar ethnic make-up and the violence has spilled over into the border area. Both capitals have also been attacked this year by rebel groups.  

Based on Sudan's actions over the past five years, it is clear that unless the international community imposes additional political costs for President Bashir, his government will continue to buy time by either accepting initiatives only to backtrack later or impose new conditions that render them useless.  The Sudanese government stresses that the situation and numbers are being exaggerated.

Humanitarian assistance in Darfur continues to be at risk of collapse, in part because of sustained harassment by the Sudanese government, and in part because of the government's militia allies and common criminals. In September 2006, the United Nations estimated that such a collapse would cause up to 100,000 civilian deaths every month.  Troublesome developments suggest that such a failure is becoming more likely with the World Food Program's Humanitarian Air Service receiving no funding in the first three months of 2008. Last-minute donations totaling six million dollars funded it through the beginning of May and many aid agencies working in Darfur but they are unable to get access to vast areas because of the fighting.

The Save Darfur Coalition who is raising awareness and demanding an end to the genocide describe the current situation as follows:

In the second half of 2007, the Sudanese government's divide-and-conquer strategy, described by Human Rights Watch as "chaos by design," caused an increasingly frenzied free-for-all in Darfur. Rebel groups fragmented further and criminal activity as well as intertribal fighting increased exponentially.  Still, the effects of tribal fighting should not be overemphasized. Of the eight largest displacements between January and November 2007, seven resulted from government or Janjaweed attacks. Only one was the result of intertribal fighting.  In early 2008, deaths and displacements from military operations by the government, its allied militias and rebels were even more common relative to those caused by tribal conflicts.  

Darfur activists and other human rights organizations wrote a letter to both candidates outlining the resolution SR 632:

Senator John McCain
Senator Barack Obama
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

August 7, 2008

Dear Senators McCain and Obama,

The day before Olympian Joey Cheek, a 2006 Gold Medalist in speed skating, was to travel to Beijing, the government of China revoked his visa. Mr. Cheek is one of the strongest voices in the pursuit of peace in Darfur.

Mr. Cheek and a group of other current and former Olympic athletes had been calling for an Olympic Truce for Darfur - a cessation of hostilities in the Darfur region for a period before, during and after the Games. The Olympic Truce dates from ancient Greece and has been revived as a diplomatic tool over the past several decades.

Earlier this week, Darfur activist leaders and human rights groups from across the country sent an open letter calling upon each of you, as US Senators and presumptive presidential nominees, to promptly announce your intention to co-sponsor a new resolution, SR 632, that urges the Chinese government and the broader international community to use the upcoming Olympic Games as an opportunity to push for peace and security in Darfur. We also asked that you support an Olympic Truce for Darfur in your public statements in the coming week and during the Olympic Games.

Although the Senate is in recess, additional Senate co-sponsors can submit their names now, to the offices of current co-sponsors, and those names will be officially recorded in September when the recess is over. As presumptive presidential nominees, your co-sponsorship will send a clear message to China and the international community that you are committed to help bring an end to the genocide in Darfur.

Your co-sponsorship of the resolution is critical, particularly in light of the significant advertising time your campaigns have purchased to air during the Olympic Games. We believe there is an obligation to balance the purchase of Olympic advertising time with a message about Beijing's responsibility, as Olympic host and close partner of Sudan, to do more to bring security to Darfur.

Mr. Cheek's visa revocation and Senate Resolution 632 both present important opportunities for you to act. The White House has already expressed the President's concern and instructed the US embassy in Beijing to discuss Mr. Cheek's visa with the Chinese government.

Last month, Mr. Cheek and more than 200 other athletes issued an open letter to world leaders calling for an Olympic Truce for Darfur. The athletes, including more than 70 hopefuls for the 2008 Games, called on world leaders to (1) ask the Government of Sudan to cease hostilities against civilians, at least for the 55-day truce period of the 2008 Beijing Games, (2) use the truce period to allow humanitarian workers to access the civilians in Darfur who have been without food, clean water and medical care for years and (3) make progress on deployment of peacekeepers.

We ask both of you to join these athletes - men and women who represent all that is great about American and Olympic values - and release public statements announcing your co-sponsorship of Senate Resolution 632 and your support for an Olympic Truce for Darfur.


American Jewish World Service
Ruth Messinger, President
New York, NY

Americans Against the Darfur Genocide
Nikki Serapio, Director
Palo Alto, CA

Colorado Coalition for Genocide Awareness and Action
Roz Duman, Founder/Coordinator
Denver, CO

Darfur Action Coalition of Wisconsin
Sachin Chheda, Coordinator
Milwaukee, WI

Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy
Mohamed Yahya
Founder/ Executive Director
Washington, DC.

Darfur Metro
Eileen Weiss, Director
New York, NY

Darfur People's Association of New York
Motasim Adam, Director
Brooklyn, NY

Dream for Darfur
Jill Savitt, Executive Director
New York, NY

Essex County Coalition for Darfur
Gloria Crist, Founding Member
Montclair, NJ

Investors Against Genocide
Eric Cohen, Chairperson
Boston, MA

Kentuckian Interfaith Taskforce On Darfur
Bob Brousseau, Chair
Louisville, Kentucky

Louisvillians Helping to Save Darfur
Dave Robinson, Chair
Louisville, KY

Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
Susan Morgan, Director of Communications
Boston, MA

New York City Coalition for Darfur
Sharon Silber, Director
New York, NY

Physicians for Human Rights
Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer
Cambridge, MA

San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition
Esther Sprague, Executive Committee
San Francisco, CA

Save Darfur Washington State
Deborah Jones, President
Seattle, WA

Team Darfur
Martha Heinemann Bixby
Executive Director
Washington, DC

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
Charlie Clements, President and CEO
Cambridge, MA

Use Your Voice to Save Darfur RI
Sandra Hammel, Director
Providence, RI

In addition to contacting both Senators Obama and McCain (who have both remained silent on this to date) to co-sponsor SR 632 , you can also contact the Save Darfur Coalition.

There's more...

Only Bush Can Go to China

Cross-posted at Taylor Marsh.

Note:  I lived and worked in Shanghai, China for five years before returning to the United States three weeks ago.  This was originally posted at Taylor Marsh, where I am covering current issues in China--international politics, culture, human rights, and more.  Given that this became an issue here yesterday, I thought I would cross-post my diary and have a discussion about this emerging power.

In May 2007, President Hu Jintao invited President Bush to attend the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.  This spring, in the heat of the primary election, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and, eventually, Senator Obama called on the president to decline the invitation to protest the human rights situation and the recent Beijing crackdown in Tibet.  Several human rights groups also issued calls for a boycott of the opening ceremonies, but ultimately, George Bush accepted the invention.

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The Olympics in China: Look on the Bright Side

    This past year in school, I took a class on Spanish-language film. I didn't learn too much about cinematography, but what I learned about the history of many Latin American countries was invaluable.
    One film we watched that was particularly excellent was Machuca. Machuca is about two boys living in Chile in 1973. One boy, Gonzalo, comes from a rich family of European origin who attends a private American-sponsored Catholic school. The other boy, Pedro Machuca, who is of indigenous origin, lives in a shantytown; he and several other similar boys are invited to attend the Catholic school by the priest, who believes that all children have the right to equal education. Despite their differences, the two boys become friends. However, the political climate between those who support socialist President Salvador Allende (mostly those who are poor and of indigenous origin) and those who don't (mostly the rich) threatens their relationship. After Augusto Pinochet's military coup the government kicks the poor boys out of the Catholic school. Gonzalo bikes over to the shantytown to see the government rounding up the inhabitants and shooting those who don't comply.
    The final two images of the film are the most powerful. They are Gonzalo's mother's lover reading the state-propaganda newspaper El Mercurio with the headline "FIFA says everything is fine in Chile" and Gonzalo going to the shantytown and seeing that it has been transformed into a soccer field.
    I immediately thought of China and the Olympics and how easy it must be to believe a sports organization that many hold in high esteem (Soccer is, of course, the world's most popular sport, and the Olympics are probably the world's most popular sporting event). If FIFA says everything in Chile is fine, it must be okay. If the Olympic Committee says everything in China is fine, it must be okay. That's far easier than listening to stories of brutal repression that human rights groups (What entertainment have they ever provided?) tell.

    But after studying about the Guerra Sucia (Dirty War) in Chile, we learned about how it played out in its next door neighbor Argentina. Like Pinochet in Chile, Argentina's military junta kidnapped and tortured thousands of young people known as the desaparecidos. I spent last summer in Argentina and my host mother told me the story of how her friend was tortured into an oblivion that continues to this day for refusing to admit a dead and obviously tortured patient into a hospital, telling the policemen that brought the body in that they only admitted live patients.
    In 1978 Argentina hosted the FIFA World Cup. Part of the government's rationale was that if they hosted the World Cup, the world would look at Argentina and assume that everything was normal and business and usual. But the plan backfired. With thousands of international people and reporters crowding into Buenos Aires, the people of Argentina, and especially the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (an organization of mothers whose children had been disappeared) spoke out against their government and let the world know their plight. The World Cup in 1978 was very instrumental in the fall of the military junta and the return of democracy to Argentina (the Falklands/Malvinas War was the real downfall of the dictatorship, but the World Cup certainly helped weaken it.)

    Beijing was chosen for the 2008 Olympics. We couldn't change it. Now they're happening so we really can't change it. At this point, merely boycotting it won't do much. We can't just let beloved international organizations tell us that everything's alright when it's clearly not. We need to take the lesson of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo and the people of Argentina. We need to use the Olympics to spread the message of the brutality of China's regime. Because by letting the Olympics occur in Beijing we have a unique chance to help China that we otherwise may never have had. Let's use it.

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The Olympics: To Boycott or Not

Crossposted fromMY LEFT WING

I watched One Day in September a few weeks ago on HBO, despite my almost pathological aversion to films about painful historical events.

(Which is not to say I don't eventually get around to watching them; I just procrastinate. It took me two years to watch "Hotel Rwanda", a year to see "Blood Diamond." I did manage to see "Schindler's List" while it was still in the theatre, but only because my friend dragged me. And I've still never seen "The Sorrow and the Pity," but please, it's sixteen years longer than the war.)

Yes, I've buried the lede.

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I am Boycotting These Olympics, why aren't you? Or are you?

I have wanted to write an in depth diary as to why I am boycotting these Olympics and why I am amazed that the progressive/liberal/Democrat netroots have not called for a boycott, but... I have been way to busy.

So I leave you with some thoughts from a couple of comments I made on another diary.

"I am Boycotting these Olympics for many reasons.

I will NOT give china and credit and praise for what they do. This reminds me of the Nazi Olympics, but with OUR support and money helping to showcase them as the new economic, and soon to be, military superpower."


"As you revel in the spectacle of the Olympics, I hope you think of a few things like...

Darfur/Sudan, of the mistreatment of lower end workers and slave labor, of the 2.3 million jobs lost from the USA to China during the bush regime, the 1.4 TRILLION dollars we OWE china, of Fulan Gong (sp?), of TIBET, and on and on and on...."

There's more...


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