Dropping a Pollard

by Daniel on August 18, 2004

Stephen Pollard, hack journalist, blogger and perennial feature of the Virtual Stoa’s “Ignorant Git” column, has a column up at the Times (American readers; you are spared this one by the Times’ subscription policy, so it will mean nothing to you. But I don’t complain when you lot bang on about Fox News.). The main conceit of the column is one that we can expect to see a lot more of in the near future; that there is something hypocritical about wanting to see international action to help rescue millions of Sudanese from being massacred, unless you also supported the bombing of Iraq.

Pollard thinks that he has found the true hypocritical heart of the Left here; that it doesn’t care about suffering people but only about “bashing America”. In fact, he’s demonstrated two things to the world:

1) That there are people in the world who know what the phrase “Humanitarian intervention” means (as in the sentence “Have you read the excellent report by Human Rights Watch entitled ‘War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention’ Stephen? Thought not”), and who believe that there is a difference between intervening in an immediate human crisis and intervening when there isn’t an immediate humanitarian crisis.

2) That in the worldview of a small minority of warbloggers, gathering support for an international effort to do something in Sudan is important, but much less important than reminding the world what a nasty bunch of people “the Left” is for reminding people like Pollard what a ferocious stack of bollocks they bought into eighteen months ago.

One might think that, since a large part of the difficulty in getting any action on Sudan is that nobody trusts us any more because we lied about Iraq, a certain degree of contrition might be in order. But apparently not.

{ 32 comments }

1

harry 08.18.04 at 4:04 pm

bq. American readers; you are spared this one by the Times’ subscription policy, so it will mean nothing to you.

Not true Daniel — he’s posted it on his blog. I’m too clueless to link nicely but here it is:

http://www.stephenpollard.net/001733.html

My view is that everyone, regardless of nationality, should read at least one Stephen Pollard column once.

2

Matt Weiner 08.18.04 at 4:38 pm

For a nice link, type [angle bracket]a href=”http://www.stephenpollard.net/001733.html”[angle bracket]LINKTEXTHERE[angle bracket]/a[angle bracket]
which should come out

LINKTEXTHERE

I hope reading the first three paragraphs of the post Daniel linked with the words “ferocious stack of bollocks” discharges my obligation.

3

dsquared 08.18.04 at 4:45 pm

I must say that this “obligation” seems a bit too close to conscription for my liking. I agree that it would be a good thing if everyone read a Pollard column once, but surely there ought to be some sort of provision for conscientious objectors?

4

Simon 08.18.04 at 4:59 pm

We must also take into account the tragic few who never make it to the end of a Pollard column, and those who moved to Canada – a country without free access to the Times website – to evade their responsibility to their country.

5

Randy Paul 08.18.04 at 6:15 pm

I must say that this “obligation” seems a bit too close to conscription for my liking. I agree that it would be a good thing if everyone read a Pollard column once, but surely there ought to be some sort of provision for conscientious objectors?

Well, he has helped save a life once.

I went to visit a friend once and when there was no answer at the door, but only a moaning sound coming from the apartment, I battered down the door.

My friend was lying on the floor with an bottle of sleeping pills in front of her and a suicide note. I booted up her computer while I searched for ipecac. Not finding any ipecac, I opened her web browser and waited anxiously while Pollard’s page loaded. I started reading loudly from his blog. Within minutes, my friend let loose with a loud technicolor yawn vomiting out most of the pills, just as an ambulance arrived.

Sometimes I think the obstetrician who delivered Pollard accidentally threw him out and his mom raised the placenta.

6

Tony 08.18.04 at 6:26 pm

I’m mostly curious what people think about “reputation” and how it relates to starting the Iraq war, and now interest in Sudan. Yes Arab states don’t trust us when we claim Sudan is a humanitarian crisis that needs intervention. But they wouldn’t have trusted us before either, and most didn’t trust us when we said that about Iraq. But I admit we look worse now. Well how MUCH worse? To what degree have we actually sacrificed international reputation among the Arab states, that was there before? How could we possibly measure such a thing?

7

Sebastian Holsclaw 08.18.04 at 6:31 pm

The lesson I take from the Sudan vis-a-vis the ‘international community’ is that the international community either cannot or will not act to stop genocide unless it can use the US military to do it. I suppose another possibility is that it doesn’t have the will to stop genocide at all. And yes I’m aware that the EU investigation is pretending that there is no genocide taking place in the Sudan–which speaks to the ‘will’ issue.

That has lessons for the overall utility of insisting on multi-lateral action, but you are correct that it doesn’t justify or fail to justify the Iraq invasion.

In short, we should do something about the Sudan. And as usual, ‘we’ is going to have to mean the US or very little of use is going to happen.

8

kevin donoghue 08.18.04 at 6:43 pm

I am not convinced that “a large part of the difficulty in getting any action on Sudan is that nobody trusts us any more because we lied about Iraq.”

Compassion is in short supply at any time. It took a long time before anything was done about Pol Pot or Milosevic, to name just two; when something was done there were additional motivations involved. Examples of truly disinterested humanitarian intervention are very hard to find.

There is also a difficulty (and hence an excuse for inaction) in that it is quite hard to see what action the Darfur situation calls for: regime change? To the extent that Iraq is relevant, it is because it has driven home the point that toppling a regime is only the start.

9

Matt Weiner 08.18.04 at 7:12 pm

I think Kevin is right to express skepticism about this quote: “a large part of the difficulty in getting any action on Sudan is that nobody trusts us any more because we lied about Iraq.”

After all, who exactly is pushing for effective action on Sudan? If the US government is doing so, it has escaped my notice. Judging by Pollard, what’s going on is that the leader of the Lib Dems is putting pressure on the UK government. I don’t think he lost any credibility over Iraq.

Of course, this doesn’t do anything to salvage the idea that the Anglosphere is any better at humanitarian intervention than anyone else.

10

harry 08.18.04 at 7:25 pm

I thought I’d do the equivalent of dropping names while I’m on the topic. I had dinner with him once, at a moderately intimate gathering. I was delighted to detect a mild nervousness as he explostulated on the topic of vouchers in my presence and that of the GS of the Secondary Heads Association. I thought it was charming. Ate a hell of a lot though.

11

Sebastian Holsclaw 08.18.04 at 7:54 pm

If you take the UNSC seriously, and so many on the board do, the US is the one who has attempted to get the UN to take action, but the resolutions that actually made it through the council were significantly weakend by the other members.

I don’t take the UNSC seriously so I would tend to suggest that pretty much no country is attempting to take serious action in the Sudan.

But all that support from France that wasn’t available in Iraq should be available for the Sudan…

12

kevin donoghue 08.18.04 at 8:30 pm

Sebastian,

Your statement that “pretty much no country is attempting to take serious action in the Sudan” rings true, but coupled with the claim that the US “has attempted to get the UN to take action” it suggests that the action proposed by the US is not serious and/or will not involve the US in any serious way.

I don’t blame America on that score any more than I blame anyone else. Armies are not created to comfort the afflicted. But it is a bit irritating that so many journalists and bloggers take up the subject of Darfur for no other purpose than to take a swipe at the UN, France, leftists etc.

13

Sebastian Holsclaw 08.18.04 at 9:25 pm

“but coupled with the claim that the US “has attempted to get the UN to take action” it suggests that the action proposed by the US is not serious and/or will not involve the US in any serious way.”

Well no, it would involve sanctions against the government. Whether or not sanctions counts as serious action is of course a matter for debate.

But on a scale of action, the US has proposed the most serious action and has been resisted by the rest of the UNSC. Which tends to suggest (though not prove) that even more serious action such as military intervention would also be resisted.

“But it is a bit irritating that so many journalists and bloggers take up the subject of Darfur for no other purpose than to take a swipe at the UN, France, leftists etc.”

Well I take it up both to show the general silliness of the UN in such matters, the non-helpfulness of France, and to try to attempt to spur the US into action. (I say the US because I believe that it isn’t worth anyone’s time to pretend that attempting to spur most other countries to action would matter much anyway.)

14

kevin donoghue 08.18.04 at 10:22 pm

Sebastian,

If the US call for sanctions was resisted by the rest of the UNSC then the media are even worse than I thought. Reports suggested only 7 out of 15 opposed the threat of sanctions: Pakistan, China, Russia, Algeria, Angola, the Philippines and Brazil. The EU unanimously called for sanctions.

If the fact that China and Russia can veto resolutions shows the general silliness of the UN it is hardly news. France has sent a few soldiers to the Chad border. That won’t accomplish much but it hardly deserves to be called non-helpfulness given that the US has sent none.

15

Sebastian Holsclaw 08.18.04 at 10:48 pm

Your summary of EU action is only accurate with the very most recent, very most watered down version of the UN Resolution. France was quite vocal a few months ago about resisting sanctions against the Sudan.

“That won’t accomplish much but it hardly deserves to be called non-helpfulness given that the US has sent none.”

Nope I’m not giving the French credit for a paltry 200 troops outside the borders to engage in ‘humanitarian’ efforts. It is a classic attempt to salve the conscience and pretend that something is being done. And I’m sure it will fulfill its intended mission–to make it look like steps are being taken while pretending that storm does not continue to rage.

16

neil 08.18.04 at 10:58 pm

The argument over whether or not US action in Iraq does or does not hinder action in Sudan could go either way. The threat of force in Sudan has to be credible and who doesn’t believe that Bush is willing to sacrifice US troops?

But this line of argument leads nowhere. Those countries that are not keen on intervening in Sudan were busy not intervening prior to Saddam’s overthrow. The Sudan government is busy blaming the Jews for the whole problem. For some blaming Bush is just as convenient and equally fantastical.

17

UN rulez 08.19.04 at 12:40 am


The argument over whether or not US action in Iraq does or does not hinder action in Sudan could go either way. The threat of force in Sudan has to be credible and who doesn’t believe that Bush is willing to sacrifice US troops?

This indeed leads nowhere.

Bush send Colin Powell to Sudan to talk to the government and to try to persuade them to do the good thing, instead of the ugly.

Neither Bush nor Powell have spoken about or suggested that sending US troops to Sudan was an option in consideration by the US.

An op-ed by Colin Powell in the WSJ of a week and a half ago states the following:

When I visited Sudan at the end of June I delivered a clear message from President Bush to President Bashir that Sudan had to take decisive steps to resolve the crisis in Darfur.

We, the United Nations, the Europeans, the African Union, Egypt, the Arab League and many others are coordinating closely to get the government of Sudan to do what it must do.

the African Union, with millions of dollars of support from the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands and the European Union, has deployed to Darfur more than 100 international cease-fire monitors. In the coming days, the African Union will deploy 300 troops to protect them. The international community welcomes the request of the African Union Peace and Security Council that the Africa Union commission chairman submit a plan on how to enhance the African Union cease-fire monitoring mission, including the possibility of transforming it into a peacekeeping mission to protect civilians.

While we and the international community are not ruling out any options, only the government of Sudan can end the violence in the short term.

And the final quote says it all:

We want to see a united, prosperous, democratic Sudan, and we are ready to work with the government of Sudan.

With these statements there is no difference between the position of the EU and the US.

Personally I think it is a good thing that the US government shows it’s willingness to cooperate with about anyone to resolve this issue.

But then Darfur is being abused by trolls and pundits to talk about their petty hate issues.

18

Lance Boyle 08.19.04 at 2:16 am

neil-
“The Sudan government is busy blaming the Jews for the whole problem.”
Well no, they’re blaming Israel. More specifically, the government of Israel.
Haaretz has a Reuters article that says as much.
That the government of Israel has its own welfare confused with the welfare of all Jews seems to be exactly the problem.
It’s dishonest to frame it as a particularly Sudanese kind of anti-Semitism, as well. Virtually the entire Muslim world thinks Israel was behind both the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the current “rebellion” and “genocide” in Sudan. Lots of non-Muslims think so, too.
Given that before any open debate has taken place the suggestion is being immediately dismissed out of hand as mindless bigotry, as is any open criticism of the Israeli government’s arrogant viciousness, it’s more than likely to be true.
I also think it’s particularly egregious to conflate the sentiments and actions of all Jews with the duplicity and ruthless inhumanity of some; which happens too often, on both sides of these crucial issues.

19

dsquared 08.19.04 at 2:54 am

Virtually the entire Muslim world thinks Israel was behind both the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the current “rebellion” and “genocide” in Sudan. Lots of non-Muslims think so, too

Virtually the entire Muslim world believes something plainly insane about Israel and we’re meant to believe it’s nothing to do with anti-Semitism? Remind me again why you’re not banned from this site?

I also think it’s particularly egregious to conflate the sentiments and actions of all Jews with the duplicity and ruthless inhumanity of some

Oh well, question’s moot; you are {pop}

20

self 08.19.04 at 6:09 pm

on the question of trust in the U.S. motives for “humanitarian intervention” in Sudan…
http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=66123
Surely Pollard was aware of this when the article was written.
Yep, no doubt about it, “we should do something about the Sudan. And as usual, ‘we’ is going to have to mean the US or very little of use is going to happen.”
The NERVE!!!

21

james 08.19.04 at 7:11 pm

The US successfully negotiated a peace treaty between southern Sudan and the Sudanese government. This put a stop to over 20 years of war between the two groups. To say that the US has not been involved in Sudan in a positive manner is disingenuous.

The first resolution the US tried to pass through the UN called for full sanctions. Both France and China rejected this resolution. Both nations have oil interests in Sudan that are taking priority over any humanitarian concerns. France’s troops are a token force. France’s actions have been contrary to actually forwarding any resolution of the issues in Darfar.

22

UN rulez 08.19.04 at 9:04 pm


The first resolution the US tried to pass through the UN called for full sanctions. Both France and China rejected this resolution. Both nations have oil interests in Sudan that are taking priority over any humanitarian concerns. France’s troops are a token force. France’s actions have been contrary to actually forwarding any resolution of the issues in Darfar.

This part of your opinion lacks any credibility.

What is the point of stating that French troops are a token force as they are the only troops there from non African countries?

And the current consensus among all parties is that the Africans will supply the troops? And that they are willing to do that?

And the US government has stated that sanctions are not going to solve the issue. So what exactly have France and China prevented in negotiating a slightly different wording in the resolution? A different wording that has only diplomatic consequences since the sanctions made possible by the original text of the resolution can still be applied after the current ultimatum expires?

And the parroting of the “liberal/left” argument that oil interests determine the positions on Iraq/Sudan are equally credible regarding both conflicts.

23

james 08.19.04 at 10:19 pm

The standard international first response to a potential use of force is to invoke sanctions. The denial of this standard first step can only be seen as an effort to slow down or stop any international action.

As to the effectiveness of sanctions. Other than South Africa, I am not aware of any time sanctions have resulted in the desired outcome.

French troops are not in Sudan. They are not actively defending any Sudanese. Therefore their presence is merely token. Until the troops actually do something, how can they be considered anything else?

I agree that oil interests are a driving factor in both Sudan and Iraq. Oil is a strategic resource. There is a major aspect of oil interests in Iraq that is constantly overlooked. Namely, France and Russia where benefiting from the presence of Saddam. Both France and Russia stood to gain even more oil contracts if Saddam was in power when the sanctions where lifted. At least the US was willing to remove a viscous dictator. In order for France and Russia to maintain their Iraqi oil contracts, they needed to keep Saddam in power.

24

UN rulez 08.19.04 at 11:53 pm

But –

– no one is seriously considering sending any troops other than in the currently agreed African Union mission. It is not the exact wording of the resolution but the status on the ground and the possibility of intervention that determine the outcome. Currently the AU is assembling a force for a peacekeeping mission. And if needed the deployment of that force will be authorized by the UN. That is the current status. It is not the current resolution that prevents the use of force, it is the fact that there are no countries that see a possibility or benefit in the use of force. And that includes the US.

– Yes, French troops are not in Sudan. US troops are not in Sudan, Dutch troops are not in Sudan, but what is the point? African troops are going into Sudan, as is agreed. And if needed they may be supported by US or other troops in logistics and other functions.

– As for the oil, the arguments have already been exchanged in the Iraq case.

25

james 08.20.04 at 4:52 am

However –

Only the US was willing to call the actions of in Sudan “Genocide”. Neither the UN or the EU was willing to do this. The UN and EU are dragging their feet on the Darfur issue.

26

UN rulez 08.20.04 at 5:49 am

No –

The House and Senate called it genocide. The US government is still uncommitted. And it is the
administration that has to take action. So again the position of the US government and the EU countries and the main actors in the UN don’t differ much.

The State Dept. Press Briefing from Aug 18 makes the point a bit stronger:

MR. ERELI: But the other point I would make, and it’s a point that we’ve made consistently, is that the process of getting that evidence, the process of coming to a determination on genocide in no way affects what we’re doing on the ground in Darfur. So you can’t make the argument that, oh, you’re dilly-dallying to make a genocide determination; meanwhile, you’re doing nothing to stop what’s going on or doing nothing to — you’re sleeping while Darfur is burning. That is not the case. We are not doing — if a genocide determination were made tomorrow, we would not be doing anything on the ground in Darfur different than we’re doing today.

To give another quote from Powell

But Powell rejected suggestions of military action.

“This is a very large area. There is not a simple military solution that is at hand,” he said. “This is a matter for the Sudanese government to handle.”

27

Tom 08.20.04 at 12:51 pm

I have kind of lost interest in Mr Pollard’s writings since he started writing those god-awful rants about why he hates tennis, rock festivals, modern fiction, blah, blah, blah……..Which is a pity, since he usually is on the side of the angels when it comes to the MidEast and All That.

28

Robin Green 08.20.04 at 6:13 pm

This is a matter for the Sudanese government to handle.

And here we see Colin Powell (who has previous – he was responsible for “investigating” and whitewashing the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War), downplaying the Sudanese governments “ethnic cleansing” operations that are working hand-in-glove with the paramilitaries.

So much for the theory that the US government is speaking the truth about the situation in Sudan!

29

james 08.20.04 at 9:04 pm

un rulez – The point you make about the US refusal to send ground troops is valid. This does not invalidate the point that the US government has done more to resolve issues in Sudan compared with other nations.

30

UN rulez 08.20.04 at 10:19 pm


un rulez – The point you make about the US refusal to send ground troops is valid. This does not invalidate the point that the US government has done more to resolve issues in Sudan compared with other nations.

Which is indeed correct.
Though for example the Dutch, holding the current EU presidency, are also very active. And most importantly, the African Union countries are supplying the monitors and peace keepers.

(And btw. the US have good reasons for not sending troops. Normally I’m all for a bit of Powell bashing, but in this case, given the activity of the US I don’t think it is appropriate here)

31

Sean 08.21.04 at 9:48 pm

For what it’s worth (yes, I know, it ain’t worth much), I’m a “leftist” that supported regime change in Iraq AND US action in Sudan.

32

sean 08.21.04 at 10:08 pm

Go ahead and make that “AND supports US action”.

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