Needham Darfur Initiative

A unique, newsworthy, town-based initiative to raise public awareness of the first genocide of the 21st century.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Incisive political analysis

The following article is an editorial from last week's New Republic. It's the best analysis of its type that I've seen. AG

Again, Part II
by the Editors

Post date 06.12.06 | Issue date 06.19.06

We recently argued that the West's handling of Darfur suggests it has learned nothing from previous genocides. And, three years into the killing in Sudan, it appears the West has learned nothing from this genocide, either. The most important lesson it has failed to absorb is that the Sudanese regime is composed, in the words of Darfur expert Alex de Waal, of "serial war criminals." Last month, the West once again put its faith in a promise from these criminals to end the violence--this time in the form of a peace deal the government reached with one of the three rebel groups. But we have been here before: In April 2004, Khartoum agreed to a cease-fire with Darfur rebels; in July 2004, it promised Kofi Annan that it would disarm the Janjaweed militias; in November 2004, it made the promise once again in another agreement with the rebels. Yet at no point did the genocide abate; and still, today, after years of diplomacy, the Janjaweed continues to terrorize civilians in Darfur and eastern Chad. Meanwhile, millions of Darfuris remain confined to camps, where they are dependent on humanitarian assistance that is running out and no closer to returning home than they were before.

If we are serious about stopping this genocide, we cannot rely on peace agreements or further expressions of good intent from Sudanese officials. Indeed, we must acknowledge that any approach to stopping the genocide that is acceptable to Khartoum is probably not an approach that will actually end the killing. Saving Darfur requires military intervention--intervention only the West can provide.

The African Union currently has 7,000 peacekeepers in Darfur. But they do not have the numbers, equipment, or mandate to confront the Janjaweed. The United Nations is planning to augment that force with its own troops in the coming months. But China and Russia (veto-wielding members of the Security Council and allies of Khartoum) will probably insist that U.N. troops deploy under a passive Chapter VI mandate rather than under a more robust Chapter VII mandate, which would allow them to more aggressively confront combatants and protect civilians. What's more, Sudanese officials are now backpedaling on whether they will allow U.N. troops into Darfur at all.

A far more effective way to stop the genocide would be with a nato-led force that doesn't wait for Khartoum's permission. The consensus among experts is that it would take approximately 20,000 troops to secure Darfur. Of that number, about 5,000 would be needed to force a stand-down of the Janjaweed and Khartoum's regular military forces. To the other 15,000 would fall the less confrontational tasks of securing the border with Chad; protecting the camps, where refugees and internally displaced persons are still being raped and harassed by the Janjaweed; guarding humanitarian corridors, so that aid groups can resume deliveries of desperately needed food and medical supplies; and, eventually, securing the safe return of non-Arab Darfuris to their villages so they can begin the long process of rebuilding their lives.

These latter troops could come from any country--Western or non-Western--that traditionally supplies peacekeepers for international missions. By contrast, the 5,000 troops tasked with the heaviest lifting should be the best-trained and best-equipped the West has to offer. They should enter the region first--after nato has established control over an existing air base--and clear the way for the arrival of the rest of the forces. Working from the ground and the air, their primary objective should be to stop attacks by the Janjaweed and, where necessary, confront rebel groups as well.

The idea that the Iraq war has made it impossible for nato to come up with 5,000 troops is popular but simply untrue. Two years ago, the British army's chief of staff stated that his country alone could deploy 5,000 troops to Darfur. France has more than 100,000 soldiers not currently deployed, while Germany has nearly 200,000. Yes, the United States will have to supply troops as a signal of its commitment to the mission, and, yes, U.S. air power and weaponry will invariably be used. But saving Darfur does not require enormous numbers of American personnel. What it does require is American leadership. On Darfur, as on Bosnia and Kosovo just a decade ago, Europe is paralyzed. And so President Bush needs to rally our allies to action. We'd suggest a high-profile speech at nato headquarters in Brussels. No, Bush is not the perfect man for the job, but--with the African Union and the United Nations unable to rescue Darfur, and with Europe unlikely to act on its own--he may be Darfur's only hope.

Would Khartoum resist intervention? Absolutely, if, by resistance, we mean that Sudanese officials will protest loudly. But will they actually confront nato militarily? They would be crazy to do so. And, while Sudan's leaders are evil, they are also pragmatic: They have shown time and again that their highest allegiance is to their own power. (Their decisions to cut their once-strong ties with Al Qaeda under pressure from the Clinton administration and to ally with the United States after September 11 are but two examples of their fundamental realism.) If nato announced, at the outset of the conflict, that it would bomb Sudanese targets if Khartoum obstructed the mission in Darfur, there is every reason to believe that government forces would hold their fire. Still, if Iraq has taught America anything, it is the need to anticipate all potential scenarios. And so we must prepare for the possibility that Sudan's leaders would confront our troops. If they did, nato would have to follow through on its threat and attack Sudanese military installations from the air until Khartoum got the message. This is precisely the strategy that nato used in Kosovo--and it worked.

Once nato forces have ended the genocide, the peace can (and should) be kept by the United Nations, as tribal leaders begin the long process of reconciliation. The ultimate goal of Western intervention is not to make Darfur an independent nation; it is to establish an international protectorate that would seal Darfur off from the rest of Sudan, insulating the area from both Khartoum's troops and its penchant for manipulating the region's ethnic politics. This would create the political space for traditional tribal leaders to reassert their authority and rebuild the institutions that once guaranteed peaceful co-existence between Arab and African Darfuris. Yes, this means a sustained and expensive commitment from the international community. Seven years after nato bombed its way into Kosovo, the region's political status remains unresolved, and international peacekeepers continue to patrol the province. But, for all the difficulties of the conflict's aftermath, few regret that nato acted to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo when it did. In Darfur, we can be sure of two things: that restoring normality to the region will not be easy and that we have no choice but to try.

In recent weeks, two objections to Western intervention in Darfur have gained currency. The first is that American troops entering another Muslim country would further inflame anti-American sentiment around the world. We are not so sure. True, the perpetrators of the Darfur genocide are Muslims, but, as in the Balkans, the victims are Muslims, too. Some, including Osama bin Laden himself, have raised the possibility that Al Qaeda would fight Western forces in Darfur. Yet, if it is the worldwide struggle for hearts and minds that concerns us, then a scenario in which Al Qaeda abets genocide against a Muslim population would seem a favorable one for the United States. This is not Iraq: A few weeks ago, thousands of Darfuris demonstrated in a camp, chanting, "Welcome, welcome, USA. Welcome, welcome, international force." Potentially, an intervention in Darfur could help restore, rather than further erode, America's moral standing in the world community. And if not? If the worst happens and the West is vilified in the Muslim world for its mission to Darfur? Then the United States has to weigh the costs of such vilification against the moral imperative of saving hundreds of thousands--perhaps millions--of lives. We think that calculation yields a clear answer.

The second objection is more fundamental. Some have alleged that those who favor intervention in Darfur misunderstand the nature of the conflict there: It is a civil war, they say, not a genocide, and, while the government's tactics have been brutal, the rebels are no angels, either. By this logic, intervention would just help one group of morally dubious actors (the rebels) triumph over another group of morally dubious actors (the government and the Janjaweed).

This argument gets one thing right: The rebels are far from sympathetic. They have committed atrocities, and they continue to play a role in making Darfur a dangerous place for humanitarian workers. But the rebels did not, as one New York Times op-ed recently alleged, take up arms "to gain tribal domination." For decades, Khartoum neglected the region's development. Though the reasons for the formation of the different rebel groups in 2003 were varied, their basic demand--a fair share for Darfuris of national wealth and power--was far from illegitimate. Here again, the analogy to Kosovo is instructive: An unsavory band of rebels, acting on behalf of a population with legitimate grievances, has taken up arms against a central government that espouses a racialist ideology; the government has responded with genocide; and, now, the question before the West is whether to stop the massacres or throw up our hands and declare both sides equally culpable.

It is true that, as in Kosovo, nato forces in Sudan will have to confront rebel groups as well as government-backed militias. But let there be no confusion: It was the government and the Janjaweed, not the rebels, that evicted millions of non-Arab Darfuris from their homes and consigned them to refugee camps, where they face death by disease, hunger, and marauding militias; and it is the government and the Janjaweed, more than the rebels, that are currently making it impossible for these men, women, and children to return to their villages and rebuild. Yes, the rebels need to be disarmed; and, yes, certain groups may reasonably believe that Western intervention will yield political gains for their own tribe. But none of this obviates our moral obligations. It is not for the rebel groups that we must go to Darfur. It is for the millions of civilians in the camps whose relatives have been killed, whose communities have been destroyed, and who, if Khartoum has its way, will never return home. These desperate people were chanting "welcome, welcome USA" for a reason. We are three years too late to save many of their relatives and neighbors. But we are not too late to save them.

the Editors

Heartwarming story coming out of the initiative

I received a call the other day from a mother of a 14 year old girl in Medfield. She had read the article in last Sunday's Globe and was discussing it with her daughter and two friends, who were planning to have a "triple" 14th birthday party this past Saturday. As a result of their discussion, the girls called all of their invited guests (114 in total) and asked them not to bring gifts, but rather to bring the money they would have spent instead, which would then be sent to a humanitarian aid organization to benefit the children of Darfur.

Editorial Page, Needham Times, May 15, 2006

I was so impressed with this drawing that I found Robert Larsen, the artist, and spoke with him about it. I wondered whether he had unfettered editorial freedom. He responded that he did, as long as he was drawing about a local issue. I said that Darfur being halfway around the world surely wasn't a local issue. He said that our initiative made it one, and that it gave him the freedom to draw what he did. AG

Monday, June 12, 2006

Latest photos....

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cover of Globe West, Sunday, June 11

A banner effort to aid Darfur

Needham man calling for help

By Lauren K. Meade, Globe Correspondent
June 11, 2006

You may have seen them in the storefronts of the mom-and-pop
boutiques in the center of town, pegged up on poles in front of a
church or temple, or draped from the high school. Emblazoned
on the green 3-by-8-foot banners:
``A call to your conscience . . ."

And one Needham resident hopes to spread this message from
his front yard on Savoy Road to the White House, one banner at
a time.

Alan Greenfield's plan is this: He will pay for the banners and
yard signs -- all you have to do is put them up. His offer is open
to Needham residents, though he hopes folks in other towns buy
the banners as well. His goal is to blanket the area in green and
capture the attention of the national media, maybe even
President Bush.

He's already written to Oprah Winfrey, but has yet to hear back.

So far, six worship centers in Needham and several businesses
and residents have agreed to post the banners, which Greenfield
purchased from the Save Darfur Coalition website.

The idea was sparked at an otherwise ordinary Passover Seder
this spring, he said.

Some 20 friends and family, Jewish and non-Jewish, had gathered
at the Greenfield home. Greenfield led the Seder, retelling the story
of the Jews' exodus from Egypt, while guests drank wine,
ceremonially dipped vegetables in salt water, and ate charoset, a
sweet paste of apples, nuts, and wine symbolizing the mortar used
by Jewish slaves to cement bricks.

Talk turned from events in biblical Egypt to the genocide taking
place in Africa today.

``Every year Jews sit around a table. It's the same conversation
and the same food. Alan tries to move it forward and make it
relevant to today," said Greenfield's wife, Claudia, during a recent

Determined to do more this year than merely talk about the crisis
in Sudan, Greenfield posed a question to his guests: Could one
person affect a situation as vast and complicated as that in Darfur?

``The sentiment was `no,' " said Greenfield.

He set out to prove them wrong.

In an impulse buy of sorts, Greenfield purchased four banners at
$50 each from the Save Darfur Coalition website. The coalition
describes itself as an alliance of more than 100 faith-based,
humanitarian, and human rights organizations.

Greenfield went to local houses of worship with the banners.
``I thought, ifthey didn't go for it, it probably wouldn't fly," he said.

His synagogue, Temple Aliyah, was the first to put one on display.

Five other worship centers followed suit.

Greenfield spent much of his career in high-tech sales, eventually
becoming a vice president at Brooktrout Inc. Five years ago, he
left the corporate world and purchased a dog-walking business,
Creature Comforts . He runs the company, with a staff of 14, out
of the basement of his home.

As the operation's owner, he devotes about 8 to 12 hours a week
to the job, leaving the rest of the week open for charitable efforts.
Greenfield has volunteered as a companion to the elderly, a Big
Brother, and a career adviser for the Jewish Vocational Service.

Claudia Greenfield owns the Grey Goose boutique in downtown

Besides a few Vietnam protests during college, Alan and Claudia
said, they haven't been active in political or humanitarian
campaigns. A black and white photo on a bookcase in their living
room shows the couple in their younger years. They are sitting
back to back, he in a plaid shirt with shaggy hair, and she in a
white blouse and layered hair.

Greenfield last week spoke before members of the
Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur about his initiative,
hoping it would spread to other towns.

The Rev. John Buehrens, minister of the First Parish in
Needham, said his Unitarian Universalist church put up a banner
because it fits perfectly with its eighth-grade youth group's
campaign to raise money for peacekeeping efforts in Darfur.
The class has raised $1,000 this year by selling green wrist
bands, he said.

Buehrens applauded Greenfield's vision, though he said,
``I don't think it can catch on until people put up yard signs.
That's when you get neighbor to neighbor conversations."

John Moran , owner of the UPS franchise in the center of town,
put up a banner in its window about two weeks ago.
``I've only had one person make a wisecrack about me getting
into politics," said Moran. ``This isn't politics."

Moran said he told the customer about the systematic
destruction of villages in Darfur by Arab militias. ``He didn't
know what was going on."

Recently, Greenfield drummed up support from students
in the high school's World Peace Club.

Despite its lofty name, the club did not start out with humanitarian
ambitions much beyond providing its members with a good time,
according to its president. Jeff Escalante said he and some friends joked
about starting a club with the purpose of holding weekly parties. But
they knew the idea wouldn't fly
with the principal unless the club
had a credible name (hence, World
Peace Club). The partying didn't
take off (no one brought the food,
Escalante said), but the
humanitarian work did.

Escalante, 16, said he researched
several causes and was moved by
the mass killings, rapes, and
looting in theDarfur region of Sudan.

This year, the World Peace Club
raised $400 selling bracelets like
those worn by Tour de France
winner Lance Armstrong. But the
club hit a fund-raising roadblock.
It ran out of buyers.

Greenfield showed up at a club meeting and enlisted the students
in his cause. With the OK of school principal Paul Richards, the
club put up a green banner outside the school.

The club plans to continue collaborating with Greenfield after the
summer break, said Escalante, as well as conduct its own fund-raising

Greenfield said he has been pleased with how the initiative has grown
over the past five weeks. He has been reporting its progress on an
Internet site (

Africa has not been a focal point for many Americans, with the
Iraq War and the aftermath of the Gulf hurricanes and the tsunami
competing for their attention, he said, and he finds the situation
disturbing: ``For a genocide to be going on in 2006, there should
be more awareness."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Needham Cable Channel Coverage

Click the link to check out the coverage we received on the May 18 7:30 PM news program of The Needham Channel.