The world finds ready reasons for averting its eyes from the grisly realities in Sudan's Darfur region, where thousands continue to be slaughtered during a phantom "ceasefire." A distracted America is elsewhere preoccupied, an inward-looking Europe lacks the resolve to act, and an impoverished Africa, beset by a dozen conflicts, has neither the funds nor the capacity to do more than monitor the ongoing massacres in Darfur--which continue, even as Sudan has finally this year ended its decades-long war with the non-Islamic south.
It thus serves many interests to know as little as decently possible about Darfur in western Sudan, where war, hunger, and pestilence stalk an estimated 1.5 million people. A fourth of the region's inhabitants have been driven from their homes, either by government forces or their allied irregular militia, the Janjaweed (the name is said to mean "devil on a horse"). The war pits the Arab-led Khartoum regime against a largely African but also Muslim population consisting of settled farmers and nomadic herders. It needs adding that Sudan's 35 million people are divided into 19 major Arab and African ethnic groups, meaning tribal rivalries and a profusion of languages invariably complicates disputes in a country poor in traditions of tolerance. There are rarely neat fault lines. In Darfur, for example, the Sudanese Liberation Army brings together Darfur's Islamists and secular rebels in opposing Khartoum's forces and its militias.
Washington has creditably joined in pressing the United Nations Security Council to exhort Sudan to halt the killings. But three council resolutions adopted in the past year have signally failed to abate the bloodletting. Following a forthright report by a U.N. commission of inquiry detailing genocidal crimes, the council is at press time weighing yet another hortatory resolution lacking real teeth. With that in mind, it is our privilege to publish this graphic essay by an American whose unsettling duty it was to monitor the sham ceasefire. He here explains his purpose.
My name is Brian Steidle. I grew up living around the world as the son of an American naval officer, now a retired admiral. This included two years in the Philippines, which greatly influenced my desire to work on a global scale helping the less fortunate. I graduated with a B.S. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1999 and received a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps as an infantry officer. I completed my service at the end of 2003 as a captain...