In 2004 the United States government went before the United Nations to press for some sort of 'official' classification of the atrocities in Darfur as 'genocide.' What was going on there at the time was genocide according to the letter of the law.
Now, if we were all to blindly obey the law, we'd be in for a rather harsh and dystopian world. So the debate as to whether of not this was actually 'genocide' (even as civilians were being burned, raped, starved, and hacked to death) was a good thing, as it is not a word the world throws around lightly unless we're trying to label the U.S. government's actions as such. Additionally, if a particular situation arises where 'genocide' was found to occur, by its charter, the members of the U.N. would be obliged to actually intervene instead of complaining about it via numerous paper resolutions Convention on Genocide
However, the U.S. efforts were resisted by the U.N. which, at the time, refused to recognize the atrocities in Sudan as actual genocide. Instead, the mass rape, systematic killing, illegal detentions, and mass displacement led the U.N. to the conclusion that the Sudanese government "orchestrated and participated in" war crimes and crimes against humanity. This freed the member countries from moral obligation to take action over and above a token light-blue helmeted peace-keeping force. However, the U.N. still recognized that a humanitarian crisis had developed, and offered humanitarian aid as well as the engagement of diplomatic avenues with the Sudanese government committing this non-genocide. Hooray for the 2.5 million displaced people living in refugee camps left alive. And hooray for moral authority.
U.N. Panel Finds No Genocide in Darfur but Urges Tribunals (washingtonpost.com)
These resolutions and actions taken by the U.N. resulted in the Khartoum government deporting Jan Pronk, the head of the U.N. mission in Sudan. Jan Pronk subsequently wrote the Sudanese government continued to "disregard Security Council resolutions, to break international agreements, to violate human rights and to feed and allow attacks on their own citizens. They could do all this without having to fear consequences. On the contrary, the Council and its members and the rest of the international community have been taken for a ride."
Nobel Peace prize laureate and the head of the U.N. investigating team Jody Williams found a word to describe the international reponse: "pathetic."
Just today, as is detailed in the first link, the ICC charged the sitting Sudanaese president with 'war crimes' and 'crimes against humanity', but once again feels not enough evidence was presented to warrant a charge of 'genocide'. This only forces one to wish they'd do the same for GW Bush.
Speaking of that idiot, accusations that the United States government's pressure to label the Darfur non-genocide as genocide were done under the pretense of hegemony abound (The Black Commentator - April 5, 2007 - Issue 224 ZNet - Darfur
). Hooray for the enlightened nations with moral authority in resisting U.S. hegemony. There are 200,000+ dead Sudanese who will no doubt be relieved to hear the U.N. finally stood up to U.S. hegemony.
So we're left with a United Nations that refuses to do anything, a China supplying the arms to carry out non-genocide, and somehow the U.S. still ends up the bad guy for trying to call this 'genocide.' More good times...
As the U.N. presses on with the creation of documents accusing those it feels are responsible for the non-genocide of hundreds of thousands in Darfur, I'm left wondering how many Sudanese deaths were required to label this as genocide?
How many white people must be killed for the label of genocide (Armenia, Bosnia, Chechnya)?
How many Asians must be killed for the label of genocide (Cambodia, Tibet)?
How many Arabs must be killed for the label of genocide (Iraq)?
How many Africans must be killed for the label of genocide (This is a long list)?
How many Jews must be killed for the label of genocide? Christians? Muslims? Palestinians?
How does the presence of oil in a given country alter these requirements?
How does the participation of Israel in the killing alter these requirements?
How does the participation of the United States in the killing alter these requirements?
What sort of impact does committing the atrocities have on this sliding quantitative scale of moral authority versus the impact of doing nothing to stop it?
While blind adherence to the letter of the law is just as bad as not having law, it seems that the U.N. could benefit from at least outlining numerical requirements that must be met, lest the U.N. bicker over semantics while thousands of people die when instead they could be passing paper resolutions while thousands of people die. Additionally, fly-by-night dictators would be able to know when they could stop killing without having to worry about the U.N. actually doing anything. Finally, this could make the process by which Western nations judge their own clean conscience and moral authority much easier, no genocide - no foul. It's a win-win situation for those not being killed.