Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is certainly responsible for the mass killings and rape in Darfur, said The Boston Globe in an editorial, but the International Criminal Court’s indictment of him highlights a “clash between two principles”—justice and conflict resolution. The ICC’s genocide charges won’t help ongoing peace talks, and Bashir won’t turn himself in—more likely, he’ll "declare open season” on Darfur’s civilians and the U.N. peacekeepers sent in to protect them.
That’s why “indicting Bashir is the right act at the wrong time,” said the Houston Chronicle in an editorial. Such a risky measure should be taken after other “more pragmatic approaches have been exhausted,” and they haven’t been. Only 9,000 of the promised 2,600 peacekeepers have been deployed, and the U.S. and U.N. could do more to pressure countries like China to stop arming and supporting Bashir.
In fact, many world diplomats are worried that the indictment is “probably both dangerous and counterproductive,” said Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation. The African Union, China, and Russia all opposed it, and the U.S.—thanks to its “muddled pursuit of democracy-by-force” in Iraq—has no leverage left to persuade them or put any muscle behind the indictment.
Even if it can’t “rally Security Council action,” the U.S. has a few cards left, said The New York Times in an editorial. It could immediately jam Sudan’s communications network, and it could turn to NATO to enforce a no-fly zone if the U.N. continues balking. Despite the risks, indicting Bashir was the right call—genocidal despots need to know there’s a price for their actions.
The prosecutor has not only “done the right thing,” said Gordon G. Chang in Commentary’s Contentions blog, he should “finish his job by bringing charges against Khartoum’s collaborators,” notably China, Sudan’s “largest arms supplier and principal commercial partner.” It would be “especially sweet” if he could indict China before the Beijing Olympics start Aug. 8.