Compromising with Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012

By Eric Reeves

October 22, 2012 (SSNA) — The extensive electronic text I am today making fully available—at no cost—attempts to contribute to the archival account of conflict, and its consequences, throughout greater Sudan over the past five years. The text comprises numerous analyses and publications focusing on South Sudan, the border regions, Abyei, and the continuing human catastrophe in Darfur.  It is above all an effort to ensure that we do not forget or deny the suffering of people throughout greater Sudan—not only in Darfur and South Sudan, but in Blue Nile and Kordofan, Nubia, the eastern states (Gedarif, Red Sea, Kassala), and Abyei.  These are people who have collectively endured unimaginable suffering and losses over more than five decades of virtually uninterrupted civil war. 

I have also been motivated in writing and editing what appears here by a passionate desire to hold fully accountable the men in Khartoum who refuse to cease their brutal assaults on humanity throughout greater Sudan—and just as importantly, to hold accountable as well those within the broader international community who bear most responsibility for providing the enabling impunity to Khartoum’s murderous National Islamic Front/National Congress Party.  In some quarters, the history of the period covered by this archival account is already being re-written—particularly about Darfur.  It is perhaps an inevitable impulse felt by interested parties to rewrite key parts of this history in ways that efface their own error, ignorance, and moral misprision.  By including extensive selections from contemporaneous human rights reports and humanitarian assessments, as well as on-the-ground news reporting and analyses by regional experts, I hope to have made impossible certain kinds of prevarication and tendentious narratives. 

I have of course done much more than cull evidence from contemporaneous sources—some of them perforce confidential.  This is not merely an assemblage but an organization of materials designed to highlight particular trends, point to the moments of most consequential decisions, and establish as clearly as possible the causal connections between various Sudan policies and developments on the grounds.  Too often the consequences of policy decisions—and non-decisions—go insufficiently analyzed.  The move into the present moment, the current diplomatic exigencies, the most pressing of humanitarian crises—all end up contributing to a destructive amnesia about the past, even the very recent past.

If there is an overall conclusion that I reach, it is that policy decisions, especially those of the United States during the Obama administration, have been badly compromised by a relentless expediency that takes the form of "moral equivalence." By "moral equivalence" I mean the various distorting representations, disingenuous linkages, and specious comparisons that have been used to equate the actions, statements, and attitudes of the Khartoum regime with its various opponents in greater Sudan.  Typically, the purpose of such expediency is not difficult to discern: for example, by establishing a specious "moral equivalence" between the Government of South Sudan and the NIF/NCP regime, the Obama administration aims to push the GoSS into a more tractable negotiating position, no matter what the actual moral, political, and diplomatic equities involved.  The most obvious results of such equivocation are evident in Abyei.

The other strategy that emerges clearly in this archival history is a deliberate ignorance, often taking the form of a factitious skepticism.  Here the Obama administration has plenty of company—in Europe, the UN, the AU, and the Arab League.  Whether it be the ongoing large-scale violence and suffering in Darfur, the clear evidence of genocidal intent in the Nuba Mountains beginning in June 2011, the horrific humanitarian indicators in eastern Sudan, Khartoum’s continued bombing of the sovereign territory of South Sudan (attacks repeatedly confirmed, without publication, by the UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS), or the deliberate destruction of agricultural production in Blue Nile and South Kordofan—to the extent possible, these realities are made subordinate, even invisibly so, to the demands of "peace negotiations."

This willingness to accommodate Khartoum’s atrocity crimes in the putative interests of diplomacy has a long and ugly history, and much of it emerges in this archival account.  Such expediency also accounts for the tendentious re-writing of history by various actors whose actions have contributed so much to the extraordinary survival of the NIF/NCP regime—now in its 24th year of power, its President charged by the International Criminal Court with genocide, its Defense Minister charged with multiple crimes against humanity, and many other senior officials simply awaiting ICC indictment.

If I have succeeded even partially in my efforts here, it will be because I have—with many colleagues—found the means to justify the words offered as testimonial to this eBook by Lt.-General (ret.) Roméo Dallaire, UN force commander in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide:

"The contents of this work provide the empirical basis for renewed and increasing efforts to stop the atrocities in Sudan, or at very least a historical record to guard against claims that we simply did not know what was happening."

Few understand so well the insidious nature of so many claims that "we didn’t know what was happening."

Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, has published extensively on Sudan, nationally and internationally, for more than a decade. He is author of A Long Day’s Dying: Critical Moments in the Darfur Genocide. His new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 – 2012) is available in eBook format, at no cost.

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