Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Money Trail From Darfur

The Sunday New York Times story by UN correspondent Warren Hoge was headlined "Intervention, Hailed as a Concept, is Shunned in Practice." The lead summed up its gist: "Three years after the United Nations adopted a groundbreaking resolution to help it intervene to stop genocide, even longtime supporters of the rule acknowledge that it has not helped the organization end the violence in Darfur."

The General Assembly in 2005 had endorsed the "responsibility" of governments to prevent genocide, but the United Nations had been "stymied" in its efforts to stop widespread killings in Darfur by "the failure of major member states to fulfill promises to support action and by the intransigence of the Sudanese government." As a result, only the 6,000-strong African Union component of a planned 26,000 joint AU-UN peacekeeping force had been able to deploy.

Hoge offered no explanation for the inaction of Western governments on Darfur, but seemed to suggest that a set of new non-governmental "advocacy and research centers" would address the issue. If they do, here's a simple bit of advice: don't waste time analyzing the moralities of why governments won't act. Just follow the money trail.

It's widely known that the Darfur money trail leads to China, which is the major importer of Sudanese oil. But it does not stop there. China needs the oil to keep its manufacturing industries whirring. Those industries produce 80 per cent of the toys imported by the United States and Europe. They produce the cheap clothes and electronics and other knickknacks that fill the shelves of Wall-mart and other major retailers on both sides of the Atlantic.

China does not produce all the goods it exports. It serves as a finishing shop for goods emerging from South East Asian Nations like Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar. In fact, China gets to keep only about 20 per cent of the proceeds from its exports; the rest goes to others in the production chain in South East Asia. Those nations do not get to keep much of the money either; just the pittance their workers earn. The lion's share of profits percolates back to the corporations and banks that have organized and control the production chains of our global economy. And of course, they wouldn't do it unless all of us buy the cheap goods they produce.

Send not to ask who tolls the bells of Darfur. We do.

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