Tuesday, August 23, 2005

General Clark speaks out about Darfur

Originally uploaded by sfortier.
General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, for NATO and the commander for Operation Allied Force, NATO's first major combat action, which saved 1.5 million Albanians from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, made comments this morning about Darfur. If President Bush thought Saddam headed a government based on genocide, what's he think of Darfur?

Here are General Clark's comments from this morning on NPR:
After a series of UN Security Council resolutions on Darfur and a donors conference to boost the African Union Mission there, you could be forgiven for thinking the international community has responded adequately to the crisis. Sadly, this is far from the case. The international community urgently needs to take bold new action.

The truth is, civilians are still targeted in Darfur. The pro-government Janjaweed militias still remain unchecked. Humanitarian access is still restricted along key transit routes and in areas where millions of displaced Sudanese have gathered. Women and girls are still being raped as they leave their camps to collect firewood and forage for food. It's a tragedy.

The African Union's priority must be to protect civilians. It must be able to take all necessary measures -- including offensive action -- against any attacks or threats against civilians and humanitarian operations.

But the AU Mission's force numbers and mandate are simply not sufficient to cope with the reality on the ground in Darfur. The AU current plan is to deploy 7,700 troops next month, and possibly 12,000 troops next year. But this is far too slow. A minimum of 12,000 troops are needed on the ground right now, not six months from now.

The African Union should deploy a battalion task force of around 1,000 troops to each of Darfur's eight sectors and maintain another battalion task force in reserve. Each sector would then have close to 1,000 troops, twice as many civilian police, and 1,000 headquarters and other support staff.

Even if the African Union can overcome the political obstacles to strengthening its mandate in Darfur -- and that's a very big "if" -- it's in no position to get such large numbers of troops on the ground in such a short time. Despite the European Union and NATO assistance, the African Union mission looks set to fall short of its target of 7,700 troops by September.

The UN Security Council, in consultation with the AU, should request and authorize NATO to deploy a multinational "bridging force" to bring the combined force level in Darfur immediately up to 12,000 to 15,000 troops while the African Union prepares and deploys its own forces.

This is not an easy recommendation to make for Darfur, where all multinational organizations have been at pains to keep non-African troops out of Sudan. But the notion that the atrocities in Darfur are solely African problems requiring exclusively African solutions has to be reconsidered. These ongoing offenses are crimes against all humanity. They demand an international response that gives human life priority over diplomatic sensitivities.

Working together, NATO and the AU can save the lives of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. They can demonstrate to outlaw regimes like the government of Sudan that the international community will not tolerate crimes against humanity.

And we must do this now.
You might be wondering what General Clark knows about peace keeping and protecting innocent civilians. Well, his track record is a little better than some ops I can think of. On the general's retirement from service in the U.S. Army (34 years), President Clinton noted,
In March of 1999 as Slobodan Milosevic unleashed his army and police on the people of Kosovo, Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme commander, was given the first military mission of its kind, directing the forces of a 19 nation alliance to end a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing. The stakes were monumental.

Almost a million people had been driven from their homes solely because of their ethnic and religious background. Success would save lives, strengthen NATO, advance the cause of freedom, democracy and unity in Europe. Failure would leave much of the continent awash in a sea of refugees and end the 20th century on a note of helpless indignation in the face of evil.

Wes Clark well understood the perils of the Balkans for he had already played a vital role in ending the war in Bosnia and beginning the long process of building a stable, multi-ethnic democracy in that country. He summoned every ounce of his experience and expertise as a strategist, soldier and a statesman to wage our campaign in Kosovo. He prevailed miraculously without the loss of a single combat casualty.

At the apex of a long and distinguished military career that goes back to his outstanding performance as a cadet at West Point over 30 years ago, he was assigned a challenge many experts thought was mission impossible. Instead, thanks to Gen. Clark, we now can declare it mission accomplished.
I saw General Clark several years ago when he came to speak at Virginia Weslyan College. He struck me as a man who wasn't so much of a politician as a thinker and doer. And, he struck me as a man of complete integrity. If he says the Darfur situation requires intervention, I'm with him.

I guess it's just too bad there's no oil there, otherwise the current administration might actually do something right.

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