More on Carter’s Darfur Folly

Excellent piece on the moral idiocy of our worst ex-president who apparently cannot learn from history because he only has one move in his moral chess game: appease. (Hattip: Noa Landes) The author, Eric Reeves, is a professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College and has written extensively on Sudan.

Jimmy Carter’s Shamefully Ignorant Statement on Darfur
by Eric Reeves

Last week, Jimmy Carter toured Sudan as part of a group of international celebrities who are calling themselves “the Elders.” Founded by Nelson Mandela, the Elders aim — in the modest words of one member, British billionaire Richard Branson — to address “problems in the world that need a group of people who are maybe…beyond politics, beyond ego, and who have got great wisdom.”

Ouch. How devious the workings of spiritual pride.

Great wisdom? Let’s just say the group is off to a rocky start. That’s because Carter took the opportunity of his visit to Sudan to criticize the United States for labeling the killing and destruction in Darfur genocide. “There is a legal definition of genocide and Darfur does not meet that legal standard,” Carter lectured. “The atrocities were horrible but I don’t think it qualifies to be called genocide.” He also said, “If you read the law textbooks… you’ll see very clearly that it’s not genocide and to call it genocide falsely just to exaggerate a horrible situation — I don’t think it helps.”

Carter got one thing right–that there is a legal definition of genocide, embodied in the 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide — but that’s it. The “atrocities” Carter refers to have included, over the past four and a half years, the deliberate, ethnically targeted destruction of not only African tribal populations, but their villages, homes, food- and seed-stocks, agricultural implements, and water sources. People die now in Darfur primarily because of this antecedent violence, directed against not only lives but livelihoods. Here, the Genocide Convention is explicit: You can commit genocide not only by “[k]illing members of [a] group” but also by “[d]eliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” The destruction in Darfur clearly meets that test.

Then there is the use of rape as a weapon of war by Arab militias in Darfur. The racial component of rape in Darfur has been well-documented at this point. In a typical example, here is what three Fur women — the Fur are the largest African tribal group in Darfur — told Doctors Without Borders:

    We saw five Arab men who came to us and asked where our husbands were. Then they told us that we should have sex with them. We said no. So they beat and raped us. After they abused us, they told us that now we would have Arab babies; and if they would find any Fur, they would rape them again to change the color of their children.

Racist epithets are typically hurled at women and girls, who are often gang-raped and then scarred to mark them as rape victims–a terrible burden in Darfur’s conservative Muslim ethos. Can there be any denying that such ethnically targeted rapes fall under the Genocide Convention’s admonition that “[c]ausing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group” constitutes genocide? Moreover, because of the stigma that attaches to raped women, marriage and thus child-bearing becomes impossible for many. And, for some victims, especially younger girls, ensuing medical complications make child-bearing physically impossible. Which means that these rapes clearly meet yet another definition of genocide contained in the U.N. convention: “[i]mposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”

In addition, children, as well as women, are continually abducted by the Janjaweed. This, too, is a genocidal act under the convention, which prohibits “[f]orcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

As heinous and racist as all this is, I’m not sure I’d give it the name genocide. Systematic massacring of civiians though, is. It is important to keep genocide as a powerful accusation and not make any single affiliated act (targeted rape) sufficient. But the combination, in the context of a murderous campaign does constitute genocide.

None of this should be controversial at this late date. Numerous human rights organizations have, over the past four years, collected unambiguous evidence of genocide. The examples could fill books. A young African man who had lost many family members in an attack heard the gunmen say, “You blacks, we’re going to exterminate you.” Speaking of Khartoum’s relentless aggression, an African tribal leader told a U.N. news service, “I believe this is an elimination of the black race.” A refugee reported these words as coming from his attackers: “You are opponents to the regime, we must crush you. As you are black, you are like slaves. Then the entire Darfur region will be in the hands of the Arabs.” Another African tribal chief declared, “The Arabs and the government forces…said they wanted to conquer the whole territory and that the blacks did not have a right to remain in the region.” And Musa Hilal, the most powerful Janjaweed leader, declared his objective in simple terms back in 2004: “Change the demography of Darfur and empty it of African tribes.”

As for the complicity of the Sudanese government officials whom Carter clearly imagines he can charm with his criticism of the genocide label: The air attacks mounted by Khartoum, often in conjunction with Arab Janjaweed ground forces, have been directed exclusively at African villages, primarily those of the Fur, Massalit, and Zaghawa–the perceived civilian base of support for Darfur’s rebels. The hand-in-glove operations of Khartoum’s regular military forces and the Janjaweed have been authoritatively documented by Human Rights Watch.

In short, it seems doubtful that Carter has read the textbooks he claims to have read, or the vast body of human rights literature on Darfur–or even the Genocide Convention itself. If he had done any of these things, he would not speak so ignorantly.

But Carter isn’t just wrong on the facts. His prescriptive point–that it is unhelpful to label Darfur a genocide–is foolish as well. No doubt Carter’s statement was the quid in some ghastly quid pro quo he hopes to arrange with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. But Sudan’s leaders are realists, and our only hope of changing their behavior is to credibly threaten them. The calculus is simple: If they believe the west–the United States, Europe, human-rights activists–now see the Darfur conflict as a chaotic civil war, not a genocide, they will feel less threatened. Which means they are more likely to dig in their heels on the diplomatic front–refusing to negotiate a political solution to the crisis–while waiting for the final cleansing of Darfur to run its course. The upshot is that Carter, a man who is so fond of lecturing others about the need for diplomacy, has managed to make a diplomatic solution to Darfur’s bloodletting less likely. Great wisdom, indeed.

Here’s where we hit the core of the problem. “Elders” like Carter pride themselves on being able to speak with anyone. What they don’t consider is the price of being able to so brag. If you criticize Westerners — Israelis, American conservatives — you can still talk with them. If you criticize dictators and genocidal maniacs — Janjaweed, Hamas, Hizbullah — then you will no longer have any access to them. So in order to “speak to everyone” — which apparently passes as great wisdom by these “Elders” — you have to take the kind of morally corrupt positions of appeasement that we find here in the case of Sudan. Nothing serves freedom more badly than such well intentioned moral cowardice.

12 Responses to More on Carter’s Darfur Folly

  1. […] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptWhich means that these rapes clearly meet yet another definition of genocide contained in the UN convention: “[i]mposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.” In addition, children, as well as women, are continually … […]

  2. […] Augean Stables wrote an interesting post today on More on Carterâs Darfur FollyHere’s a quick excerpt Excellent piece on the moral idiocy of our worst ex-president who apparently cannot learn from history because he only has one move in his moral chess game: appease. (Hattip: Noa Landes) The author, Eric Reeves, is a professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College and has written extensively on Sudan […]

  3. Eliyahu says:

    1) Dar Fur means house of Fur, that is, the Fur tribe. Arab slavetraders were taking slaves out of Dar Fur way back in the first half of the 19th century. See link:

    2) “[f]orcibly transferring children of the group to another group” is also defined as genocide, according to the UN Genocide convention, as quoted above. If so, then Muslim powers have been guilty of genocide for centuries. Way back in the Middle Ages, Muslim powers were raiding non-Muslim populations in the Dar ul-Harb outside the Muslim controlled Dar ul-Islam. This was the source of the Mamluks, non-Muslim boys who were seized by Muslims and taken to Muslim states, i.e., the Fatimid state centered in Egypt, and raised as Muslims. Most Mamluks were raised to be soldiers for Islam.

    When the Ottoman Empire came along it extended this practice to non-Muslims living within the Dar ul-Islam as dhimmis, whereas the dhimma pact supposedly protected dhimmis from such treatment. There was a yearly tax of boys imposed on non-Muslims, especially in the Balkans. The practice was called the devshirmeh and many of these boys were brought up to be soldiers for Islam [the Janissaries], although some become clerks, minor officials, etc. If we accept the above practice as genocide, then Muslims empires practiced genocide for more than a millenium. How does that square with the edward said, rosey-colored image of Islam as so civilized, peaceful and tolerant, yet so oppressed, exploited, and persecuted that is so prevalent today???

  4. fp says:

    consider this: carter allowed himself to be very loose with the application of the term apartheid to israel. but all of a sudden he became very strict in applying the term genocide to sudan. he insists on legal precision for the latter, but defends taking liberty with the former.

    one must be either an idiot or a hypocrite to exhibit such hypocrisy, and carter seems to be both.

  5. Richard Landes says:

    fp: i think carter’s (uncs) thinking is: if you criticize the israelis they’re likely to respond by changing; if you criticize the muslims, they’re likely to abreact (against the critic among others), therefore let’s appease the muslims and attack the israelis/jews. there is a certain logic to this, but the natural outcome is this grotesque example of hypocrisy and moral idiocy.

  6. Eliyahu says:

    fp, good point about carter. Actually, he is stupid and hypocritical and nasty/vicious. His hypocricy is glaring. RL, you really don’t have to give carter the benefit of the doubt. He wouldln’t do it for you.

    Actually, carter has a family history of Judeophobia. His mother was once interviewed and talked about how her early household reading included Tom Watson’s paper, whatever it was called [Social Justice??]. Watson was a notorious Judeophobe and racist, and helped to incite the violence that led to the lynching of Leo Frank. Carter’s mother liked Watson’s paper. [on this see, as I recall, Julia Gorin’s article on carter, available on the Web].

  7. fp says:


    while i understand the logic, i doubt that this is what animates carter, even if it occurs to him. for several reasons:

    1. he’s a bigot and he revealed that early on in his first meeting with golda. and he hated the US jews for political reasons

    2. he had a traumatic experience during a hostage crisis. the only time he tried to stand up and fight, there was incompetence and failure. that taught him to appease

    3. he’s financially fed by the worst arab tyrants.

    4.the inconsistency between his high moral horse and his asslicking of the worst tyrants in the world who finance him is so enormous that one is at a loss as to decide whether he has no brains or is a hypocrite of the umpteenth degree.

  8. fp says:

    there is a book about him — don’t recall the author — i think it’s called THE REAL JIMMY CARTER, which I recommend. it explodes the myths.

    as i said, his judeophobia was exposed in his first ever visit to israel.

  9. Michael N says:

    When a friend first mentioned the existence of this group – the Elders – and listed one or two of their members, I jokingly suggested that Richard Branson must surely be a member of this superhero team. Sure enough, he is one of their official supporters.

    If anything confirms that emotionalism has taken over the civilised world to the detriment of rationality, the existence of this bunch is it.

    The Impressionists – like many other groups – gained their name through the appropriation of a term of ridicule aimed at them. That this bunch have actually named themselves “the Elders” surely reverses this process. The name has pre-empted the joke. Maybe that was the idea.

    The precise nature of Carter’s sheer wrongness – hypocrisy or stupidity – is in some sense moot; whatever the cause, he is dangerous to the cause of peace and freedom in the world.

  10. fp says:


    the stupids and hypocrytes are by definition dangerous if they reach positions of power and influence. i mean, consider the current president!

    but in a sense the elders are a reflection of the failure that is the west. it seems that everywhere throughout the west these are the kind of leaders we generally produce.

  11. Michael N says:

    well, fp, it’s certainly true that we deserve whatever we’re prepared to put-up with. However, regarding the senile Elders, what can a citizen DO about them? If these self-aggrandizing simpletons wish to drag us ever further towards surrender how do I vote them out of office? I cannot influence what they do, I cannot unseat them, I cannot deny them media airtime.

    Some things are NOT our fault. And in a sense, perhaps the Elders represent something quite different from the failure of the West; after all, if the West were already doing what the Elders are doing, there would be no need for the Elders to what the Elders do. (That’s a tentative suggestion, I’m not quite convinced by it, and I understand, fp, that you will immediately stamp on the slight ember of optimism that it keeps aglow. I know I know – we’re all doomed and we deserve it because we’re stupid and weak!)

    How can we get Mark Steyn invested as an Elder?

  12. fp says:


    to your first paragraph, that’s the problematics of individual vs. collective action, well covered by game and rational choice theory. tough issue.

    that’s part of the reason the electoral concept of democracy is an illusion. democracy requires much more than voting. corporations understand this very well and act accordingly, the average citizen does not and does not have the resources.

    a lot of it has to do with my main peeve: the collapse of education. we are schooling, not educating and produce people for the job market who conform, but are ignorant and unable to think independently and critically. consequently, they will do anything to escape thinking and learning, are gullible and therefore can be easily manipulated.

    that’s a recipe for decline, which is precisely what we are witnessing.

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