The brewing crisis in Haiti has made the headlines in recent days, as has Bush’s reluctance to get involved militarily. But a story you almost certainly haven’t heard of — I only just learned of it myself — is the ongoing genocide in Darfur, a region of southern Sudan. Sudan’s government in Khartoum is Arabic Muslim and for decades has been waging a slow, grinding war against the black Africans in the South, who are mostly Christian or follow traditional tribal religions. The war has gained some attention among right-wing Christians in the U.S. who sympathize with their beleaguered brethren, and antislavery groups have made some noise about the horrific human trafficking that goes on, as blacks from the south are sold to Arabs in the north in a trade that most of us imagine ended by the 18th or 19th century. (A while back I read that singer Perry Farrell went to Sudan and put on an impromptu concert for a group of freed slaves.) But the Sudanese civil war has never made much impact with the mainstream American press.
While trekking in Nepal I met an Irish woman, Louise, who’d worked with an NGO in the region, helping to build schools and clinics. She told me that they build two of everything; that way, after the Sudanese army comes flying over in its aging Soviet Antonov airplanes and throwing bombs out the windows, you still have one school and one clinic left over. The war goes endlessly on because the Sudanese government does not want to give up its oil-rich territory in southern Sudan.
If America truly believed in bringing democracy to the oppressed, Sudan would be a fine place to do it. Its military is weaker than Iraq’s was, and the government’s crimes are current and glaringly obvious. But we don’t, because our government is concerned neither with spreading freedom nor with protecting Americans. As far as I can tell, our current regime is largely interested in increasing the power and wealth of its leaders. And so, despite our professed desire to spread democracy and defeat terror, Sudan remains completely off the radar.