Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Global Dave For Darfur

Here's a fact for you; there are more people at risk of death in Northern Uganda than in Darfur right now. Also, massively resistant TB is a huge health risk to the whole of Africa and there is still a civil war in DR Congo. The fact that Darfur has not made the news is a small subset of the larger fact that stories about Africa, in general, do not make the news (the mandate of the "mission to explain" does not reach the Sahara. It's not something that can be tricked up into a semi-demi charge of racism, unless Dave is prepared to accept it himself. The Liberal Democrats have, it appears to me, mentioned Darfur about as often as Dave has and for more or less the same reason – to score points off their domestic political opponents. The "shameful silence over Darfur" game is a silly one to play, particularly as shameful silence is actually probably more productive at present than crazy demands for non-specific "action" which (as I believer I and others have pointed out regularly and copiously) basically amounts to a promise to the NRF that the cavalry is coming, without an army to cash the cheque.

I am on the point of massively and viciously losing my temper over the Rwanda analogy. Dave is by no means the worst offender, but he is this week quoting Romeo Dallaire as if having been in Rwanda gives you some special insight into Darfur. That's Orientalism, pure and simple. Darfur is nothing like Rwanda. It is a civil war. The only point of similarity is that there are black people involved (there is also no specific reason why Muslims might be particularly interested in an African civil war, any more than Bavarians might have had a special interest in Northern Ireland). It is always annoying when the Decents drag out the old "the world stood by in Rwanda" line, because they are implicitly comparing it to a perfect intervention of the imagination rather than a Somalian-scale fuckup, but this comparison is ill-informed as well.

For what it's worth, Dave's news is a bit out of date; al-Bashir is currently attending a UN meeting and now appears to be negotiating on the UN force. But the interesting thing here is that it isn't clear at all whether or not Dave is actually supporting a non-consensual intervention here. The "better question for the Start the War Campaign" is not whether they have enough troops and bodies to intervene (and I don't know why Dave is bullshitting about Sweden and Turkey – the proposal is for UNMIS to rebadge the AMIS troops and write a cheque for their pay and rations). The interesting question is whether the fact that "We still don’t know how to intervene in somewhere such as Darfur, which is so big (it's about the same size as Iraq -bb)" means that actually, this "never again" rhetoric is so much flatus vocis and the Decent Left is going to have to admit that the constraints of sanity and possibility are rather more binding on their project than they had thought hitherto. Dave raises this question but never addresses it; is he rolling back the frontiers of Decency or not?

3 Comments:

Anonymous rioja kid said...

Is there any way you can determine statistically how many of the published articles on Darfur are actually about the "shameful silence" of (insert political enemies, generally of a leftward bent)on Darfur, which is to say not about Darfur at all?

9/19/2006 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

The problem is in the terms. Literally searching NewsUK for "silence" and either "Darfur" or "Sudan" returns just 3 stories in which that implication is meant. Two are by...oh you don't need me to tell you, and the other is by Benny Morris, which rather says it all.

There are clearly going to be more meaning that but not using the term, "silence". Aaro's is a good example. I pointed out in the comments that he has since the start of 2005 mentioned the country 3 times, always in passing (and once by (wrongly it turns out) attacking the A of C for his not mentioning it when he visited).

I think there may be something more general going on here with these Decent Media types, which is that they really think that they were part of the Coalition of the Willing, and without their cheerleading for war in Iraq it would not have happened. This is not so ludicrous when it comes to British participation, though obviously is when it comes to the actual thing, as the US could have done without our help relatively easily.

9/19/2006 07:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

there is also no specific reason why Muslims might be particularly interested in an African civil war, any more than Bavarians might have had a special interest in Northern Ireland

This is true, and also goes for the Middle East. It's often said the big swing to the Liberal Democrats among some Asian voters in 2004-05 was because of Iraq; I think it was actually because the Liberal Democrats had finally worked out how to appeal to voters in Asian communities, with Iraq as a fairly weak peg on which to hang their campaigns. Even so, voters in predominantly-Asian wards appear to be swinging back to Labour far faster post-Iraq than voters in white wards.

9/20/2006 10:10:00 AM  

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