Monday, January 31, 2005

Sudan: An American Dilemma

A commission established by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to investigate the situation in Darfur has recommended referral of the Sudanese government to the International Criminal Court. The commission's report alleges that crimes against humanity have been committed by members of the Sudanese government and military. However, the report stops short of calling the crimes being alleged "genocide."

The Security Council is expected to discuss the report tomorrow.

The American dilemma is this: On September 9, 2004, former Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "genocide has been committed in Darfur." Rather than taking action itself, the United States Government urged the United Nations to act. The completion of the U.N. commission's investigation brings the U.N. to the point of acting, but the course being recommended is prosecution through the International Criminal Court. The Bush Administration has pledged total non-cooperation with the ICC. Consequently, the United States must either back down and support (at least tacitly) the use of the ICC to prosecute Sudanese officials or argue that something more (or at least different) needs to be done. The latter course will put pressure on the Bush Administration to take action itself against what Secretary Powell called "genocide." That is something the Bush Administration clearly wants to avoid.

The obvious--but absolutely cynical--solution would be for the United States to block the effort to refer the allegations to the International Criminal Court while simultaneously failing to offer an alternative. But that couldn't possibly happen . . . could it?