The Darfur Genocide, the Horn of Africa Famine, and the Failure of the Global War on Terror

There are a lot of good reasons to question the logic and effectiveness of the Global War on Terror. Here’s one of them: two of the greatest atrocities of the last decade–the Darfur Genocide and the famine in the Horn of Africa–are directly linked to state sponsors of terrorist groups and terrorist groups, respectively, and yet the atrocities commenced with little alleviating action from the US.

Let’s pretend I’m a pro-war liberal interventionist for a moment. In the buildup to the War in Iraq, which occurred at the same time the Darfur Genocide was getting under way, the Bush Administration, other neocons, and “liberal” hawks justfied the Iraq War by pointing to humanitarian concerns and some shadowy potential connection with terrorists. But in Darfur, there was an ongoing genocide. The president of Sudan–Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was evidently providing military support to those carrying out atrocities in Darfur–sheltered al-Qaeda in the 1990s. True,  al-Qaeda members have since expressed contempt for al-Bashir. But in 2003, let’s say you’re all “rah rah let’s go war against terrorism and for humanitarianism”–where was the corresponding call for action against this guy (al-Bashir) who was killing his people and who had actually sheltered al-Qaeda?

Part of the answer is that the Bush Administration had worked to negotiate peace in Sudan after its very long civil war (a conflict that was not the same as the Darfur conflict), and didn’t want to risk breaking that peace by pressing too hard on the Darfur issue. You can also say: there were moneyed interests that wanted at Iraq’s resources, and for some people spouting that humanitarian/antiterror rhetoric, that was all just to mask other, less politically correct interests. But this historical incongruency–the al-Bashir/al-Qaeda connection, the subsequent genocide, and not a ton of US action against al-Bashir–always struck me as weird.

Now we’ve got this hideous famine in the Horn of Africa, at its worst in Somalia, where the terrorist insurgent group al-Shabaab has tossed out aid groups. “Furthermore,” reports The Guardian, “the terror links meant that the US, the world’s biggest donor, was desperate not to allow any of its fund to get into al-Shabaab hands, so its aid funding to Somalia was significantly cut.” As Mother Jones explains:

Across the region, more than 12 million people risk starvation. In Somalia, 4 million people, or more than half of the population, are in crisis. Three million of them need immediate life-saving assistance, and 750,000 are at great risk of dying. In early August, a US aid official reported that more than 29,000 children in Somalia starved to death in three months; undoubtedly, more children have died since then.

So one: al-Shabaab’s presence has made a horrible situation worse. Two: al-Shabaab is known to have recruited in the US, which makes them at least something of a domestic threat.

This ultimately speaks to the failure of the Global War on Terror. If terrorist groups and state sponsors of terror can brutalize populations with seeming impunity, and even escape prosecution, what material effect has this devastating decade-plus war (with no end in sight) had upon the brutalizers? We’re told that al-Qaeda is on the run, but okay: al-Shabaab might oversee the deaths of nearly a million people.

Kind of makes me wonder about the logic and motives of the Global War on Terror.

Seeing as I’m antiwar and all (and this has NOT been a call for military intervention), let’s call this next paragraph “Practical Problems for Pacifists.”

If we weren’t using a ton of resources in wars, could we utilize resources to really alleviate these atrocities? And how do we do that in a non-warlike way?

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This entry was posted in al-Shabaab, Darfur, Djibouti, Ethiopia, famine, genocide, Global War on Terror, Kenya, Practical Problems for Pacifists, Somalia, Sudan. Bookmark the permalink.

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