Democrat John Kerry is far ahead of President Bush on the urgent issue of genocide in the Sudan. But the world’s failure to stop the slaughter also illustrates the fundamental weakness in Kerry’s whole approach to foreign policy. [IMGCAP(1)]
The Bush administration, led by Secretary of State Colin Powell, is doing just what Kerry always advises in a foreign crisis: Go to the United Nations, get it to inspect the situation, sponsor a resolution, work for an international consensus and hope that action ensues.
The result is that nothing is happening to stop the Sudanese government and the savage Janjaweed militias it sponsors from systematically butchering and dispossessing the black Muslim people of the Darfur region.
In a report to Congress after a trip to the region in June, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) wrote, “Ruthless, brutal killers, the Janjaweed have instigated a reign of terror on Darfur, a region the size of Texas, for more than a year.
“They kill men. They rape women. They torch villages. They dump human corpses and animal carcasses in wells to contaminate the water. Their mandate is essentially doing whatever necessary to force the black African Muslims from their land to never return.”
Newspapers and human rights groups have exhaustively verified the facts and the complicity of the Arab Sudanese government. At least 30,000 people have been killed so far and 1 million displaced. The death toll could reach 1 million by next year.
It’s the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, but the United Nations is doing, at best, a slow walk toward a U.S.-sponsored resolution using the word “genocide.” China might even veto if it’s too tough.
France has troops and fighter planes standing by in neighboring Chad. In a heartbeat, it could impose a no-fly zone over Darfur and stop the Sudanese from using old Soviet-made planes and helicopter gunships to bomb and strafe Muslim villages to soften them up for Janjaweed pillage.
But France won’t act unless there is a U.N. mandate to do so, if then. France declines to accept that “genocide” is in progress. And even its humanitarian aid to Darfur has been piddling — $20 million vs. the United States’ $230 million.
Kerry has been talking about the Darfur crisis at least since April. He has used the word “genocide” for months and has repeatedly called for “immediate action” to stop it.
Most recently, at the National Baptist Convention last Thursday, he said, “If I were president, I would act now. As I’ve said for months, I would not stand idly by. We simply cannot accept another Rwanda,” referring to the killing of 1 million mainly Tutsi tribesmen in 1994 that no one did anything to stop.
Kerry added that “the United States should ensure immediate deployment of an effective international force to disarm militia, protect civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Darfur. The Sudanese government has thus far rejected such force. The United States should lead the United Nations to impose tough sanctions now and make it plain, we will not accept Khartoum continuing to block its deployment.”
Kerry’s campaign Web site contains 15 statements he’s made on Darfur. The White House Web site contains not one reference to the crisis.
Bush’s campaign Web site links to two Bush statements in July and August calling upon the Sudanese government to “stop the violence of the Janjaweed militias,” which that government is assisting.
If Bush has not spoken out much, Powell has acted — in a systematic, multilateral fashion, which is just what Kerry always calls for to solve the crises of the world.
Powell visited the region himself and demanded that Sudan stop the violence — to no effect. He then sent an inspection team to make an exhaustive documentation of atrocities.
Last week, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Powell formally accused the Sudanese government of violating the U.N. Genocide Convention.
But as The Washington Post put it in an editorial, “Having spoken the truth about Sudan’s barbarity, Powell offered little hope of ending it. ‘No new action is dictated by this determination,’ he told the Senate hearing. The administration will continue to press other countries to press the United Nations to press Sudan’s government.”
But, the Post continued, “the uncertainty of this strategy was immediately apparent … Brushing aside the evidence, France and Germany declined to call the killings genocide. Pakistan … warned of the danger in terminating engagement with Sudan. China, the leading foreign investor in Sudan’s burgeoning oil fields, said it might veto a tough security council resolution.”
It’s worth noting that, despite all the evidence of Khartoum’s involvement in the Darfur atrocities — and other atrocities against Christians and animists in other regions of the country — the United Nations has not even seen fit to expel Sudan from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Would Kerry unilaterally send troops or planes to stop the Darfur genocide if the United Nations doesn’t act? It could; the United States has equipment not far off in Djibouti on the Red Sea. If Kerry thinks that Darfur is a Rwanda in the making, he should be willing to threaten such action. So should Bush.
The larger lesson of Darfur is that the United Nations and France can’t be relied upon to do the right thing in this world. Bush understands that. Kerry doesn’t.