Natsios spins the g-word

If Andrew Natsios, the former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan who now makes a hobby of criticizing current policy toward the country, had some actual policy recommendations, I’d have an easier time taking him seriously. As it is, his most substantive gripe is that people keep using the “g-word.”

As Mark argued before, what’s important is not what we call the situation in Darfur. We should have moved beyond that debate long ago. Instead, partially due to activist groups, yes, but equally to those critics like Natsios who furiously — and wrongheadedly — contend that because not that many people are dying, it can’t be “genocide,” the conversation remains stuck on the level of classification. This “g-word” politics only ties the hand of actual policy and, from both sides, makes it more difficult to address the issues that everyone acknowledges are important: chiefly, securing a peace accord and ensuring that the fragile North-South deal does not collapse.

Calling what happened in Darfur by its rightful name, “genocide,” does not impede our ability to talk with Khartoum. Conversely, vehemently insisting that the word not be used does not give us an upper hand in negotiations. It’s not easy to formulate a Darfur policy, but there has to be one that transcends this stale debate of how to employ a word fraught with political and moral overtones.