The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Good Day to You

Posted on: November 27, 2006

It is a gloomy afternoon here in mid-sized town, Canada. I have not yet left the house. The idea of pancakes and jam sounds appetizing.

I recommend reading this thorough, engaging and discerning article on the political situation of Sudan, particularly as it relates to the violence in Darfur: LRB | Alex de Waal : ‘I will not sign’. It is one of the most informative articles I have come across and gives me a much clearer idea of the parties involved in the conflict.

The Inter-Sudanese Talks on the Conflict in Darfur began inauspiciously in the Chadian capital, N’djamena, in April 2004, with an unworkable ceasefire agreement. The Chadian foreign minister ordered an extra sentence to be handwritten into the Sudan government’s copy of the agreement, specifying that the rebel forces had to go to camps and disarm. The Sudan Liberation Movement had a signed and stamped version without this provision – which they had rejected as suicidal. There was a second, equally fatal short cut: the agreement had no maps attached, and so there were no details about which territory was controlled by each side. A month later, when the first African Union ceasefire observers arrived in Darfur, they didn’t know which troops were supposed to be where, or whom to blame when one side accused the other of encroaching on its territory. From the start, the African Union Mission in Sudan was mission impossible.

Then, if you feel it is not too inappropriate a follow-up, get a good laugh from John Barrell’s brutal critique of Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’: A Biography by Christopher Hitchens.

Hitchens’s casual attitude to facts is not compensated for by a corresponding precision with ideas, or any concern for the range, the richness, the complexity of Paine’s thinking. For example, we will not learn from Hitchens anything much about what Paine thought the rights of man actually were. ‘The great achievement of Paine,’ he tells us, ‘was to have introduced the discussion of human rights . . . Prior to this, discussion about “rights” had been limited to “natural” or “civil” rights.’ I have no idea what this means. (Bolding is mine.)

These articles only make me look more forward to the few free issues I’ll be getting in the mail from LRB. *jig* A kindly LRB staff member read my cry on the lack of copies at the local bookstore and asked for my address. Nevermind, it was a sham. The articles are still recommended.

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