Obama’s Guide to Handling Genocide: Cookies and Gold Stars

  • November 8, 2010

3435798438_ba2e82a0f9_bYou live in a complex city.

One of the gangs on the other side of town has been systematically killing as many blue eyed residents in their neighborhood as possible. They have also started a gang war against the southern section of the area, medicine leading to countless deaths over the years.

Would you want the local authorities to financially ostracize, arrest and imprison this gang, or to offer them cushy presents in exchange for ending the gang war against the south, while continuing the killings of blue eyed citizens?

Apparently, according to US President Barack Obama and his special envoy to Sudan, Major General (Ret) Scott Gration, there is no need for the former, aggressive shananigans.

According to a leak in The New York Times, the Obama administration has told the leadership of Sudan that if it allows the upcoming referendum on independence for southern Sudan to go forward as planned in January, and abides by the results, the US will remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism this summer.

For a country whose leader, President Omar Al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for three counts of genocide and seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, that’s a pretty big carrot. One might argue that Obama and General Gration have offered President Bashir a carrot cake with extra cream on top.

Why would the Obama administration offer the only sitting head of state to ever be charged with a crime by the International Criminal Court to end his international isolation?

‘Realists’ in the Obama administration contend that such a move is a necessary choice between two evils: on the one hand rewarding a war criminal, on the other hand continuing to ostracize him and end up with Sudan in another civil war.

That logic worked wonders in North Korea, with former US President George W Bush removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism in the hope that it would lead to North Korean flexibility over their nuclear program. Let’s just say that North Korea has not exactly disarmed its nuclear weapons, entered into peace talks and sent flowers to embassies all over the world.

A US plan to offer incentives to Sudan is not new, and began with a discussion of kids, cookies and gold stars.

“We’ve got to think about giving out cookies [to the Sudanese government],” General Gration told the Washington Post in an interview just over a year ago. “Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.”

A few inventive young activists from Students Against Genocide responded by delivering a large cardboard cutout of a smiley face and gold star to the Sudanese embassy in Washington, DC.

A number of groups miffed by the general’s comments then bought full-page ads in a number of U.S. media outlets and newspapers, reminding the US president that he campaigned on the claim that “There must be real pressure placed on the Sudanese government.”

Within weeks the administration had a plan, replete with talk of “incentives and pressures” designed to end the genocide in Darfur and allow for a credible referendum on independence for the south.

The incentives began with agricultural equipment but included promises of normalized diplomatic relations, debt relief (discussed this weekend), the lifting of sanctions and getting Sudan off the US state sponsors of terrorism list, an honor the country has held since since 1993.

The full batch of carrots weren’t meant to be given out until 2012, as they were linked to a significant reduction in violence in Darfur.

Now it seems the US has thrown all its bargaining chips onto the table over the upcoming referendum on southern independence.

Assuming for a minute that this stretch of a strategy works, and the esteemed president-wanted-for-war-crimes agrees to allow the oil rich south to secede from the union without a peep, what exactly will the US have left to offer Sudan if ethnic violence, and the government-sponsored genocide in Darfur flares up again?

There will be no carrot cake left.

This is not the strategy most American people voted for, it’s not the strategy most Darfur advocacy groups support, nor is it a strategy that most Americans want.

Remind Special Envoy to Sudan General Gration that he is a public servant, representing the people of the United States, who are intelligent enough to decide whether or not they want to be giving gifts to foreign leaders rightfully wanted for genocide.

Photo credit: Sebastian Baryli

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