Remember John Kerry? It's been a busy few weeks for the 2004
Democratic nominee. Last Monday, Kerry delivered a long speech at
Brown University, blasting the Bush administration's inept response
to Katrina. Two days later, Kerry gave a floor speech in the Senate
declaring his unsurprising opposition to the John Roberts
nomination.Make no mistake: Kerry designed these to be attention-grabbers. His
staff hyped both of them relentlessly. Four e-mails from Kerryland
popped into my inbox before and after his Brown speech, which Kerry
aides billed as a "major address." Meanwhile, his Roberts speech
was heralded by no fewer than six e- mail alerts, a pace that might
embarrass some Viagra spammers.
And the net result was, well, not much. The New York Times and The
Washington Post both lumped Kerry's "major address" in with a
similar anti-Bush speech delivered by John Edwards. Kerry's Roberts
broadside earned equally fleeting mentions in both papers. Even
bloggers didn't seem interested.
It's not just the media--it's Democratic voters, too. Kerry placed
second in an August CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll that asked Democrats
whom they preferred as a 2008 nominee. That doesn't sound so bad
until you consider the numbers. Kerry finished with 16 percent,
while the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton (of course), had a whopping
40 percent. And Kerry was barely ahead of John Edwards, who placed
just one point behind him.
None of this should come as a shock to anyone--except Kerry himself.
In the midst of his typically windy Roberts speech, Kerry paused
and looked up to the Senate rostrum. "Mr. President, how much time
do I have remaining?" Kerry asked. "The senator's time has
expired," came the reply. And so it has.
In the Darfur region of Sudan, governmentsponsored violence and
intimidation continue to claim thousands of lives a month. Yet, if
you listened to world leaders, you would conclude that the African
Union's deployment of troops to Darfur is a fully adequate
response. Kofi Annan recently reported to the U.N. Security Council
that, "In some respects, the security situation in Darfur has
improved over the past year. The presence of the A.U. Mission in the
Sudan ... has been a major factor in this improvement." Praise has
come from other corners as well. Back in May, French Foreign
Minister Michel Barnier said, "I want to stress the wholly
remarkable work the African Union is doing on the spot." And,
during her July trip to Africa, Condoleezza Rice had this to say
about Darfur: "The African Union has the lead on this.... I think
Africans believe that this is a conflict ... best resolved on the
ground by Africans."
All this praise for the African Union might sound like harmless
encouragement. Except it's not harmless at all. Perpetuating the
myth that the A.U. mission to Darfur is succeeding is an easy way
for the world's powers to pretend that Western intervention isn't
needed. But continuing violence against defenseless civilians,
including increased attacks on humanitarian operations, shows that
A.U. forces are failing to protect the people of Darfur. And, by
continuing to insist that those troops are doing a good job, Western
leaders are failing the people of Darfur, too.
Eric Reeves is an English professor at Smith College and has written
extensively on Sudan.