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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Arrest Warrent Issued for Sudan's Bashir: Debunking the Arabist Line

Well the precedent has been set and an arrest warrant has been issued for President Bashir of Sudan. The warrant accuses him of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and needless to say the immediate Sudanese reaction has been one of condemnation of neocolonial white interference and bla bla bla. You know the drill. I also imagine the reaction on the nationalist quasi-leftist arab street to be of a similar nature. Naturally, the interference of the international community is to be condemned, while the killing of black africans is ok. The white man cannot interfere but it is fine for the arab to rampage... Lets take a look at the following sample from the angry arab.

This arrest warrant is a joke, of course and will not be taken seriously outside of the offices of the New York Times. I mean, let us say that Bashir (a lousy dictator with very low intelligence level and a skill in turning into a buffoon before a crowd, with a history of cooperation with Western governments--overt and covert) is responsible for much of the bloodshed in Darfur, his record pales by that (if you count the numbers of victims) of George W. Bush. I mean, will that body issue an arrest warrant for Bush or any American president if he/she were to drop a nuclear bomb on an entire country or continent? Of course, not. But then again: how can the White Man resist the temptation to preach and sermonize? The White Man can't resist that opportunity.

Alright, clearly there is anger there. But let us dissect the argument a little bit more carefully.

"The arrest warrant is a joke".
Maybe, but maybe not. It is certainly useless in the short term but in the long term it is not inconceivable that we see Bashir is shackles before a court of law. It happened in the former Yugoslavia, why not Sudan.

"Bashir's record pales in comparison to Bush's ...".
That is an irrelevant argument, since justice in one case does not preclude justice in another. Moreover, it is a subjective argument and relies on where one places value. If equal value is placed on all human life regardless of its ethnic composition, and if human suffering is condemned regardless of the color of its skin, then no, Bashir's record does not pale in comparison to Bush's. On the other hand, if one values Iraqi life more than Darfurian life, then perhaps it does pale... Also, I am not quite sure how that macabre calculation worked. Do we tally up all the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan regardless of who killed them (e.g., Iraqi Shias, Iraqi Sunnis, the Taliban...) , then add all the murders and rapes, regardless of who perpetrated them and assign the blame on all of them to Bush? I haven't done that ugly math, but I am sure that even then, Bashir's record does not pale in comparison to Bush's...

"How can the White Man resist the temptation to preach and sermonize?"
I don't know. But how does that differ from the Angry Arab man blaming the white man for everything? Was the self righteous white man on horseback in south Darfur killing and raping? Was the self righteous white man providing tank cover and air support agains the Darfurians? Or was it Bashir's rule that enabled those acts? When will the angry arab stop and unequivocally condemn atrocities committed by (seemingly) equally angry arab dictators. Preaching and sermonizing is one thing. Enabling atrocities is a different thing. It is Bashir who is on trial for war crimes here, not those who preached for his arrest.

Final Points
My main point in writing this post has been to deliver the following message. We need to resist the temptation to enable atrocities by using "yes, but..." arguments. Atrocities are bad. period. Those who commit them must be brought to justice. period. If there are other places in the world where atrocities are being committed, then the perpetrators should also be brought to justice. You wouldn't release one murderer because you can't catch another one, would you?