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Nat Hentoff Challenges Obama to End Genocide in Sudan

Though Sudan's ruthless president, Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, is now subject
to arrest by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against
humanity, he defiantly intends to continue traveling to friendly Arab and
African countries and China.

For safety's sake, however, says an aide (Sudan Tribune, March 11),
his plans "will be surrounded by as much secrecy as possible." Gen. Bashir's
most recent crime against humanity was expelling the most vital foreign aid
organizations providing food, water and medicine to the survivors of Darfur.

Because Sudan is a sovereign state, the U.N. Security Council, while verbally
reprimanding Africa's Hitler, will not intervene with force, although Gen.
al-Bashir - whose charges include murder, extermination, forcible transfer (of
civilian populations), torture and rape - is now condemning even more of the
black Muslims in Darfur to death.

For years, I've reported on this slow-motion genocide, and the only realistic
way I see to ending these horrors came from a March 5 column in The
Washington Post
("Grounding Sudan's killers"), by former Air Force Chief of
Staff (1990-94) Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, who co-chaired Barack Obama's
presidential campaign.

With co-author Kurt Bassuener, a senior associate of the Democratization
Policy Council, Gen. McPeak strongly advocates creating a no-fly zone over Gen.
al-Bashir's killing grounds. This decisive humanitarian intervention was
proposed last year by our current vice president, Joe Biden, and Susan Rice, now
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Since he has become part of the Obama team, there has been no further word
from Mr. Biden on actually doing something to end the genocide. And Ms. Rice, a
once-passionate advocate of international intervention, now prefers to first
fully strengthen the U.N.-African Union (UNAMID) peacekeeping force on the
ground there. However, she adds (National Public Radio, March 6), "If
that does not succeed, then we'll need to take a look at all the levers at our
disposal." While we wait, more abandoned Darfurians will die.

Gen. McPeak and Mr. Bassuener emphasize that "air power plays a central role
in al-Bashir's military strategy." His helicopter gunships clear the way for
Gen. al-Bashir's Janjaweed's murders, mass rapes and razings of villages. And
the Sudan Air Force bombs both rebel sites and the camps of brutally displaced
black Muslims in Darfur.

Getting control of Gen. al-Bashir's airspace means being able to shoot down
his planes that violate the no-fly zone. This must involve, the two current
no-fly zone advocates make clear, "NATO and European Union allies, in particular
France, which has a suitable airfield at Abeche, in eastern Chad."

Of all European leaders, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy has shown the
degree of deep-seated indignation at other countries' war crimes against their
own people to very likely be an active participant in this no-fly zone policy.
And on March 11, he declared that France will become a full member of NATO,
including its integrated military command, more than 40 years after Gen. Charles
de Gaulle pulled out in anger over American influence in Europe. (France has
continued to contribute funds and troops to NATO, but now it's a major

What about American involvement in the no-fly zone? During his presidential
campaign, President Obama urged an end to the atrocities in Darfur. And on March
10, the Sudan Tribune reported that after a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Obama "urges a strong, unified stand against Sudan's expulsion
last week of 13 humanitarian agencies that had provided the majority of aid in

However, if President Obama is expecting real-time, real-life U.N.
involvement - aside from clouds of words - to end the genocide, he is, as
old-time labor organizers used to say, talking pie in the sky. Four days before
Mr. Obama and Mr. Ki-moon solemnly conferred, "the U.N. Security Council failed
to agree on even a nonbinding statement about the expulsion of the aid groups."
(March 10, Sudan Tribune).

But if NATO and other European forces supplied fighter aircraft for the
proposed no-fly zone, Gen. McPeak and Mr. Bassuener insist that an American
contribution would be essential, "especially of aerial refuelers and
command-and-control aircraft. About a squadron of each type of aircraft would be
more than enough to end the impunity Sudanese military aviation now enjoy."

They recognize that a political solution will still be necessary for Sudan to
rejoin civilization, but "by taking away the Sudanese government's freedom to
use air power to terrorize its population, the West would finally get enough
leverage with Khartoum to negotiate the entry of a stronger U.N. ground

Furthermore, notes Nicholas Kristof, who has actually been on much of the
ravaged ground in Darfur (The New York Times, March 8): "Sudan cares
deeply about maintaining its air force, partly because it is preparing for
renewed war against South Sudan." And inside the government in Khartoum, there
is growing dissent against Gen. al-Bashir's added disgrace of Sudan by the
expulsion of humanitarian agencies that had been keeping millions of Darfurians

What, if anything, do you have to say, President Obama, about helping to
energize the creation of a no-fly zone so that, on your watch, we can finally
say "never again" - and mean it? Gen. McPeak, who strongly advocates a no-fly
zone, having been co-chairman of Mr. Obama's presidential campaign, should speak
directly to the president about the plan.



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