Mahmood Mamdani is currently Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University and author of the new book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror.
He tells the Boston Globe about the real agenda behind the global Save Darfur campaign:
In a context where African tragedies seem never to be noticed, I wondered why Darfur was an obsession with the global media. The reason, I realized, was that Darfur had become a domestic issue here, thanks to the Save Darfur movement. So I thought it important to examine the movement’s history, organization, and message. I learned that this self-confessedly political group whose level of organization is phenomenal spends its annual budget of $15 million not on assisting victims but on spreading the message.
A. There are various motives. One part of the group emerged out of solidarity with the struggle in south Sudan and believes that Darfur is another version of south Sudan. Most have no idea of the difference between the two situations. Another wing is what I understand to be neoconservatives who want to incorporate Darfur into the war on terror. Both groups reinforce the racialization of the conflict and the demonization of the Arabs.
One reason, I would argue, that many Zionist groups have jumped on the Darfur band-wagon. It’s far easier to express concern for poor Africans than seriously examine the actions of your beloved Jewish state.
I’m struck by the contrast between the mobilization around Darfur and the lack of mobilization around Iraq. The explanation, I believe, lies in the fact that Save Darfur presented the conflict as a tragedy, stripped of politics and context. There were simply “African” victims and “Arab” perpetrators motivated by race-intoxicated hatred. Unlike Iraq, about which Americans felt guilty or impotent, Darfur presented an opportunity to feel good. It appealed to the philanthropic side of the American character. During the presidential election, Save Darfur’s constituency became integrated into the Obama campaign, and I welcomed that opportunity to organize around real concerns. The downside now is the attempt by Save Darfur to pressure the Obama administration to intervene militarily in Darfur.