In yesterday's Financial Times Anatol Lieven casts doubt on the motives of people involved in campaigns over Darfur. In support of his scepticism, he offers the thesis that those who appear to have good reasons for thinking or doing something may really be up to no good; they may harbour a bad intention of some kind. This is indeed true. But the difficulty for him is that they may also not. As I've pointed out on a previous occasion, it could be that Ruth has a bad opinion of a particular dentist just because that dentist messed up her teeth; it doesn't have to be because she's prejudiced against dentists. The strength of the overt reason in such cases is one kind of evidence that matters.
But Lieven is strangely undeterred by the fact that those troubled by what has been happening in Darfur have some very strong reasons for being so. In early 2005 a UN report spoke of the Sudanese government and its allies killing, torturing and raping civilians. Earlier this year another UN report identified 'gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law'. That there may be different views about what is now the most effective course of action is one thing. And that there are different estimates of the numbers of the dead and displaced is also not altogether surprising. But one way or another, we are talking about tens of thousands of dead, and human rights violations on a massive scale. In this situation a person might reasonably be exercised without the assistance of any 'imperial' agenda. (Thanks: GC / ME.)