President Al Bashir’s US Visit

Khalid Al Mubarak

“Irresponsible” was the word used by our Foreign Ministry to describe the reaction of the top US officials to the news of President Al Bashir’s visa application to attend the 68th General Assembly Session in  New York.  The latest US impropriety comes in the wake of other unreasonable and inappropriate practices emanating from US activists-turned-officials seemingly unable to adopt the diplomatic discourse of government spokespersons, which is starkly different from the shrill and abrasive language of mobilisation and demonstrations.
They are encouraged by a streak that saw the standard of Security Council leadership compromised and undermined by referring Darfur/Sudan to the ICC, which three of the five Security Council members do not recognise!  Indeed, the US has got a law authorising the president to use all possible means to set free any US citizen from the clutches of the ICC.
In view of such a dysfunctional international order, how do we in the Sudan set about protecting our young people from reacting violently or being attracted to extremist anti-Western organisations?
One way is to explain patiently that the US democracy can, (as the former US president J. Carter rightly said) in the fullness of time, heal itself and correct its course – as it has done in the civil rights movement and as it has done after the disgraceful McCarthy era and after the George W. Bush neo-con presidency that resulted not in increased arrogance and aggression; but in the American people electing and re-electing an articulate African-American as president amid a general aversion to military adventures abroad and a genuine call for elusive “change”.
In an excellent Financial Times analysis (17 Sept 13) Gideon Rachman has argued that the US’s greatest triumph, the collapse of the USSR, did not come about as a result of a military invasion, whereas the biggest blow to US global power came as a result of Vietnam and the Iraqi invasion.  He maintained that “not making terrible mistakes in Foreign Policy” is a crucial part of credibility.
In his press conference on 23 September, President Bashir has given concrete examples of the US’s series of broken promises and mistakes that blunt US credibility and leverage.
It would help our young people if we highlighted the contribution of the “reasonable Americans” – as opposed to the lobby-controlled and promoted activists-turned-officials.  Several names spring to mind. Senator John Danforth, George Bush’s envoy to the Sudan said candidly to the Independent newspaper on 3 May 2005 that the US has used the word “genocide” to describe the Darfur situation for internal political reasons, to satisfy the Religious Right in the run up to the 04 Presidential elections.  Another honest American, Ret. General Scot Gration, President Obama’s envoy (2009-2011) also drew the ire and fire of the activists-turned-officials when he said during his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (July 2009) that the decision to keep the Sudan on the terror sponsors’ list was “political” not based on US intelligence evidence and that it would have to be wound down.
The latest to raise eyebrows is not an American but a Canadian, legal expert Dr. Louise Arbour who was involved in pushing through the flawed 05 Security Council Resolution about Darfur.  She declared last July that with the wisdom and hindsight, that resolution was “a very bad idea”.  She noted the fact that non-signatories to the ICC have referred another non-signatory (The Sudan) to the ICC!
Politics apart, we could argue that US academic institutions are engaged in research that does not pay attention to the suffocating US sanctions. Tufts University’s Feinstein International Center in collaboration with UNEP is engaged in research about cattle in Darfur and the Sudan.
On 9 September 13, the ODI hosted an event –chaired by Wendy Fenton-at its London premises that showed the “other” bright face of the UN and the other bright face of the US.  Helen Young, Margie Buchanan-Smith and Saverio Kratli were-compared to the flood of toxic and ill-informed propaganda against the Sudan-a breath of fresh air when they introduced their publications.  They actually went to Darfur, cooperated with Sudanese researchers, contacted our relevant ministries and analysed their findings without condescension. Theirs is the sort of approach that restores credibility to the UN and US and help steer our young people clear of anti-Western extremism.

Date: 29/09/2013

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