Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Time to End the Silence

Nicholas Kristof's op/ed column in today's New York Times reveals that President Bush's Office of Management and Budget has sent a letter to Congressional negotiators requesting that they remove the Darfur Accountability Act (passed unanimously by the Senate last week) from the supplemental appropriations bill now being considered. First reported by the American Prospect's Mark Leon Goldberg on Saturday, the letter's existence is confirmed by Kristof, who has obtained a copy.

The DAA, sponsored in the Senate by New Jersey's Jon Corzine and Kansan Sam Brownback, allows for $90 million in U.S. humanitarian aid to the Darfur region, establishes "targeted sanctions" against the Sudanese military regime, "accelerates assistance to expand the size and mandate of the African Union mission in Darfur, expands the United Nations Mission in Sudan to include the protection of civilians in Darfur, establishes a no-fly zone over Darfur, and calls for a presidential envoy to Sudan." The measure received complete support in the Senate, and was expected to sail to an easy, bipartisan victory in the House of Representatives. But now the White House has asked that it be quietly removed from consideration.

This is outrageous.

The Powell State Department called what is happening in Darfur a genocide, a formulation that President Bush himself has used in the past. But now, under Condi Rice and Bob Zoellick, State has dialled that back - recently Rice "deflected questions about Darfur and low-balled the number of African Union troops needed there," according to Krugman, and Zoellick (in Sudan) "pointedly refused to repeat the administration's past judgment that the killings amount to genocide." Zoellick has also seriously underestimated the number of civilians murdered in Darfur, which the International Coalition for Justice says is rising at the rate of 500 per day, and now totals more than 400,000.

And the Bush Administration has now gone from doing nothing to actively opposing taking action in Darfur. Why? Kristof offers three possible reasons: "no neat solution," a recently-achieved and fragile peace between groups in the north and south of Sudan that the Administration doesn't want to destabilize, and cooperation with Sudanese intelligence leaders. All fair reasons for proceeding cautiously, sure. But not fair reasons for doing nothing, and not fair reasons for trying to kill the Darfur Accountability Act and allowing the status quo to continue unchecked.

Tom Malinowski, a former Clinton Administration official who now works with Human Rights Watch, writes in the Washington Post today, reprising the theme that Bush today is "repeating Clinton's mistakes" in ignoring the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia until it was almost too late (he fails to mention Rwanda, where Clinton did wait until it was too late). Like I have tried to, Malinowski gives Bush credit for what has been done so far on Sudan, but notes that "for all of its good works on Darfur, the administration has not really tried. Since January Bush and Rice have met with leaders from NATO and U.N. Security Council member countries 29 times, and they have mentioned Darfur publicly only once. That's no way to convince the world - and Sudan - that America is serious."

Indeed it isn't. And opposing the DAA proves just the opposite: that we can be distracted by promises of help fighting terrorists while hundreds of thousands of civilians are slaughtered by roving militias and government-backed strafing campaigns. Kristof gets it right when he says "Granted, Darfur defies easy solutions. But Mr. Bush was outspoken and active this spring in another complex case, that of Terry Schiavo. If only Mr. Bush would exert himself as much to try to save the lives of the two million people driven from their homes in Darfur."

If only.

For further reading:
- My first post on Darfur, which includes a good number of organization links.
- Coalition for Darfur, the best Darfur-related blog out there.

7 Comments:

At 9:41 AM, Blogger EG said...

It's unclear what the Adminstration's objections are to the legislation. And it seems to me the legislation could be changed to allow the President to enact portions of the sanctions at his discretion, thus giving the Administration the big stick without forcing it to use it.

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger JBD said...

It's true that the administration hasn't outlined its objections to the DAA, at least publicly. Whatever issues they had with it could certainly be dealt with easily, I would think, and something could still be passed. The text of the DAA, available here, indicates that the President would have flexibility in asking for the UN resolution (it merely says that the "sense of Congress" that the US "should" seek passage of a resolution imposing a no-fly zone, etc.

I agree, there should be flexibility built it, and if there isn't enough in the DAA as passed by the Senate, let's add some. But we ought to pass something.

 
At 11:07 AM, Blogger The Cynical Liberal said...

Jeremy, please... There are no good targets in Sudan. And there's no oil. Why the hell would the neocons risk American lives in Sudan when there are so many other more lucrative places we could be intervening?

And if you think I'm being obnoxious, I'm not.

~Josh

 
At 3:05 PM, Blogger Mike said...

At some point we have to realize we have a limited military and limited resources. We cannot fight everyone's fight. Considering the beating Bush took for his "unilateral" action in Iraq I don't blame him one bit for being hesitant to order action before U.N. consent. Hell, he even took a beating for not channeling tsunami relief through the U.N. The poor guy is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

 
At 3:35 PM, Blogger EG said...

hey cynical,

Sudan does have oil reserves. That's why China and Russia have been courting the government. The oil reserves aren't in the Darfur area but there is oil there.

That's one of the reasons for the earlier war between the North and South portions of the country.

 
At 5:02 PM, Blogger The Cynical Liberal said...

EG,

Interesting... I haven't read anything to that nature... Do you have any sources that I might read up on it?

 
At 6:55 PM, Blogger EG said...

Here's a link to the U.S. Dept of Energy's web site that analyzes it. Sudan's links to Russa, China and a host of other countries are noted.

 

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