A number of organizations have come together to delcare August 25th, a Day of Conscience to call attention to the situation in Darfur, Sudan. Not surpisingly, as the media and the UN have begun to pay more attention to Darfur, some voices on the left have begun to question the West's motives in intervening. This is from an op-ed published in the Guardian: The absence of anti-war skepticism about the prospect of sending troops into Sudan is especially odd in view of the fact that Darfur has oil. For two years, campaigners have chanted that there should be "no blood for oil" in Iraq, yet they seem not to have noticed that there are huge untapped reserves in both southern Sudan and southern Darfur. As oil pipelines continue to be blown up in Iraq, the west not only has a clear motive for establishing control over alternative sources of energy, it has also officially adopted the policy that our armies should be used to do precisely this. Oddly enough, the oil concession in southern Darfur is currently in the hands of the China National Petroleum Company. China is Sudan's biggest foreign investor. We ought, therefore, to treat with skepticism the US Congress declaration of genocide in the region. No one, not even the government of Sudan, questions that there is a civil war in Darfur, or that it has caused an immense number of refugees. Even the government admits that nearly a million people have left for camps outside Darfur's main towns to escape marauding paramilitary groups. The country is awash with guns, thanks to the various wars going on in Sudan's neighboring countries. Tensions have risen between nomads and herders, as the former are forced south in search of new pastures by the expansion of the Sahara desert. Paramilitary groups have practiced widespread highway robbery, and each tribe has its own private army. That is why the government of Sudan imposed a state of emergency in 1999. But our media have taken this complex picture and projected on to it a simple morality tale of ethnic cleansing and genocide. They gloss over the fact that the Janjaweed militia come from the same ethnic group and religion as the people they are allegedly persecuting - everyone in Darfur is black, African, Arabic-speaking and Muslim. Campaigners for intervention have accused the Sudanese government of supporting this group, without mentioning that the Sudanese defense minister condemned the Janjaweed as "bandits" in a speech to the country's parliament in March. On July 19, moreover, a court in Khartoum sentenced six Janjaweed soldiers to horrible punishments, including the amputation of their hands and legs. And why do we never hear about the rebel groups which the Janjaweed are fighting, or about any atrocities that they may have committed? This is dangerous stuff. My first impression is that it's the kind of knee-jerk radicalism that can, quite literally, get lots of people killed. But my second reaction is that while I certainly don't think much of this particular author (the arguments here are less than persuasive: so what if the government "condemned" the Janjaweed?) a dose of skepticism is perhaps warranted, at least so far as military intervention is concerned. It's tempting, particularly after Rwanda and Kosovo to want to "send in the marines" as the ultimate solution to atrocities, genocide, and humanitarian disasters, and ultimately that may be the only way to stop the bloodshed in Darfur, but as we've seen in Iraq, totally legitimate, even urgent humanitarian concerns can be manipulated for resolutely non-humanitarian ends. That said, write your representatives in Congress and tell them not to let up until there is hard evidence that people in Darfur are being protected.
Christopher Hayes is the host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. He is an editor at large at the Nation and a former senior editor of In These Times.