Gulay's Comment Ill-Informed And Offensive To Victims

Gulay’s foolhardy equation of U.S. troops in Iraq to the genocidal janjaweed in Darfur "(Comment, Iraq: Our Very Own Dafur [sic],” Nov. 29) is so thoroughly lacking in credibility that it would normally not merit a response, but his argument is so offensive to the hundreds of thousands of slaughtered, raped, starved, burned or otherwise annihilated victims of the horrific Sudanese genocide that it cannot be excused, even by his obvious ignorance of the situation.

If you want to compare the situations in Iraq and Sudan, let’s do so—this time using the facts. In the last year, cumulative U.S. aid disbursed to Iraq totals about $7.5 billion. There have been approximately 1,000 Iraqi civilians killed by acts of war since April. There are approximately 160,000 Coalition troops and another 90,000 partially or fully trained Iraqi troops or police on the ground to keep order.

In 2004, the total U.S. government aid to Darfur totals about $250 million (one-thirtieth the amount in Iraq). There have been approximately 70,000 Darfurians killed by acts of genocide since April (70 times the number in Iraq—and this doesn’t even count the number of deaths from the forced starvation, which Prof. Alex de Waal of Harvard’s Global Equity Initiative estimates to be in the 100,000-350,000 range). Yesterday, 3,000 troops from the African Union arrived in Darfur (they are authorized to only to monitor, not intervene to stop the killing). Until yesterday, Darfurians had only 700 such unarmed monitors to ‘keep order’ (one-three-hundred-fiftieth the amount of security forces in Iraq).

Today 1.6 million members of the Fur, Masalit, Tunjur and Zaghawa ethnic groups—“those who have escaped slaughter”—are displaced and living in refugee camps on or near the Chad border, since their homes, villages, crops, livelihoods, loved ones, and futures have all been destroyed. On Friday the World Food Programme reported that because of the continuing janjaweed slaughter, 300,000 refugees (30 times the population of Cambridge) have now been cut off from any humanitarian aid whatsoever.

The 1948 Genocide Convention covers the actions of the janjaweed killers. Their goal is to wipe out the Darfurians as a group; they are urged on by the flames of ethnic hatred fanned by the central Sudanese government in Khartoum under President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir.

Herded into concentrated areas without armed security, the refugees, are now like fish in a barrel for the janjaweed. For those women (mainly widows) who dare stray too close to the borders of the camps in their foraging for food or water, not only will they be captured, beaten, raped and murdered, but recently the janjaweed have taken to slicing the skin off the faces of the women’s corpses so that they will be unrecognizable by their families—that is, if they have any family members that survive the camps at all.

Gulay can call American troops in Iraq “state-sponsored killing squads” if he likes, and assert that they are analogous to the janjaweed. I’m sure, then, he wouldn’t mind castigating as foolish those Darfurians who pray each day, in vain, for their attention.


Nov. 29, 2004

The writer was editorial chair of The Crimson in 2003.