This is not how the Prendergast/Mamdani debate went down…

I had to share this post from change.org since it refers to my Huffington Post piece.

This change.org post is not a very good description of the debate. It sounds like what Prendergast would’ve written had he been allowed to write a press release rather than actually debate Mamdani.

I agonized over the Huffington Post piece — I didn’t want to paint an overly critical picture of Prendergast’s performance just because I admire Mamdani’s critical thinking. And I don’t think I did a bad job — unlike other bloggers out there, I made no mention of Prendergast’s clothing, hairstyle or any other comments irrelevant to the debate. On the other hand, I also did not dwell on the people in the question-and-answer session who attacked Mamdani for a couple of reasons: (1) they seemed to be speaking with an agenda — not necessarily a bad thing, but their comments did not respond to what Mamdani had actually said and (2) in at least a couple of cases the questions were ugly personal attacks against Mamdani that he did not deserve. Speakers accused him of being a liar, a bad Muslim and basically complicit in the killings in Darfur. Whatever else you may say about him, Mamdani certainly does not deserve that kind of slander. I do not think it would have been valuable to repeat those things in my Huffington Post piece. Continue reading

Huffington Post article on Darfur Debate

[I’ll post the link-heavy version of this in a couple of days, I think. Until then, enjoy…]

Is the war in Darfur genocide? Have American activists done anything to help stop the violence? On Tuesday, John Prendergast and Mahmood Mamdani faced off to try to answer these questions.

The buzz on the Columbia campus this week was that the debate would be the Ali-versus-Foreman of intellectual match-ups.

And that’s pretty much how it happened. On Tuesday, John Prendergast, co-chair of the ENOUGH Project and a prominent advocate working with the Save Darfur Coalition, went toe-to-toe with Mahmood Mamdani, a Columbia University professor of government and anthropology who is Save Darfur’s most scathing critic. Read more…

Interesting comparison: Darfur and Rio De Janeiro

The ICC issued its arrest warrant for Sudanese president for Omar al-Bashir today. I won’t add to the cacophony of voices (including in yesterday’s Times: read for and against arguments) weighing in on where this is going. Suffice it to say, there is plenty of hope and maybe even more anxiety about what the arrest warrant means for peace, stability and justice in Sudan.

In poking around for more info on the conflict, though, I came upon an interesting discussion of violent deaths in Darfur in the first three-quarters of 2008. Analyzing UNAMID and Genocide Intervention Network figures, Alex de Waal at the Social Science Resource Council estimates that between 1,200 and 1,500 violent deaths occurred in Darfur between January 1 and September 8, 2008. Between 359 and 720 and civilians died violently in that period. Continue reading

2 million dead in Darfur??

Wooooah, this allegation by the Save Darfur Coalition — that 2 million people have been killed in the Darfur conflict — is way, way above even the highest estimates of deaths in Darfur that I have ever seen. Nicholas Kristof has said 400,000 have died. The U.S. Government Accountability Office says that the World Health Organization’s estimate of a maximum of 150,000 dead is more on track. And those WHO figures include people who have died of sickness and starvation, not being killed in the strict sense (that calls to mind a violent death, I think).

Can anyone shed some light on this figure? Is it just an egregious typo?

SDC already got in trouble in Britain a couple years back for lack of truth in advertising in saying that 400,000 had died in Darfur. You’d think they’d be extra careful with their death estimates at this point.

Taking the Darfur discussion to the next level

If you want deeper discussions on all Darfur-related matters (especially the ICC indictment of Omar al-Bashir) you have to add this baby to your RSS feeds: Making Sense of Darfur, started by Darfur expert Alex de Waal. If you’re a Save Darfur member and you’re not engaged in these discussions, well, you should be ashamed of yourself! The thoughtfulness of some of the posts on this blog puts some of my more energetic rants to shame. (Not that I ever get my facts wrong. Ever.)

Also, if you’ve got suggestions for other thoughtful or definitive blogs on Darfur or Sudan that you think are worth following, I’d love to hear them. I’m trying to make Sudan part of my daily readings.

Re: Good guys and bad guys in Darfur

As long as we’re having a discussion about Darfur, I thought it would be a nice time to bring up this definitive interview from last year with Mahmood Mamdani on Democracy Now! (Sorry to overload on Mamdani inteviews from this particular show, but these clips are too good to pass up.) Below is part 1 of 3. I recommend watching them all.

The Darfur issue continues to be very relevant: VP-elect Joe Biden is a pro-interventionist who thinks the United States should enforce a no-fly zone in Darfur. (Sorry to subject you to more Palin in that link — you can skip her part, which begins at 2:03!)

This is worrying to me. I think Washington looks for military solutions because our military is so big, not because it is the best way to deal with things. Even pro-ICC, pro-interventionists like International Crisis Group president Gareth Evans say that military action in Sudan makes no sense. Read his objections (starting page 6 of the linked doc); they could apply to a lot of other places, like Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the idea of stepped-up intervention has been tossed around.