Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bush Gets An "F" For Moral Leadership on Sudan

Chad's falling off a cliff - and it's not a man I'm talking about. It's a nation. I'd wager that most people would have trouble finding Chad on the map of the world, but if there's one thing we surely have in common with the people who live in the African nation, it's that we are human beings. Even though you may live worlds apart, you can enter a young man's world at the point where you both understand what hatred means. Imagine your neighbors being hunted down day and night by people who want to kill you. When the innocent - the helpless and hopeless - lose faith in their fellow man to help them, there is little option but to fall victim to hatred, extremism, and violence.

We all can avoid this from happening if we want - if we will work together. If Chad collapses into civil war for years to come, there will be millions more deaths in surrounding nations. This kind of hatred and chaos has an easy way of spreading if it goes unchecked. As much and as hard as General Colin Powell tried when he was our Secretary of State, our White House either could not or would not act as a moral leader on behalf of people in this world who have no voice and are no better off than wild hunted animals under constant threat from the janjaweed in places like the Sudan-Darfur/Chad border region.

Two years after declaring a genocide in the region, the Bush administration is still only relying upon unsuccessful economic sanctions and has recently sent the new special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, on a dog-'n-pony trip to Sudan, where he met - low-key - with government officials and visit war-torn Darfur who have long refused to allow 20,000 U.N. troops to replace a poorly funded, ill-equipped African Union force of 7,000.

This is not moral leadership. The whole world's watching. People are dying in front of our eyes. We can delicately tap dance around the Sudanese govenment only for so long before the tap dance is seen as the greatest sin we could all ever have committed together.

Nichlas Kristof has a recommendation for those who aren't sure what they can do:

The most common question I get from readers about Darfur is: What can I do? The simplest answer is to write or call the White House and members of Congress. (See how your representative does on the issue at www.darfurscores.org). Imagine if Mr. Bush had made Darfur an important issue at the Asian summit meeting last week, if he had returned via Cairo for a meeting with Arab leaders, if he had dispatched Condi Rice to Chad to shore it up.

Beyond pushing our own government, we can write the embassies of countries like France and Egypt that could play especially crucial roles. The same is true of China, which provides Sudan the guns used to shoot children like Ismail. We in the news business, including Arab and European television networks, could use a few pokes to appreciate that genocide is newsworthy.

Related sites [for NYT Select subscribers]

NYT On the Ground
Darfur Videos
Kristof Columns

You can see, from the very latest news, that the U.S. is still not presenting a strong moral voice to stop this genocide.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he expected Sudan's government to respond within two days on outstanding issues of an agreement signed last week that would allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur. [..]

[..]The United States has said it is prepared to move to a "Plan B" for dealing with Sudan if no agreement is reached by Jan. 1, but has yet to specify what that would entail.

"We need to put a time limit on where this is going," presidential envoy Andrew Natsios said Monday, declining to describe what consequences Sudan would face if the deadline was not met. "Making threats is not a wise thing to do."

Making threats is "not a wise thing to do"?

Boy, I wish Bush had believed in that theory during the lead-up to the insanely unjust Iraq War. The way I see it, this President makes threats when they're worth it to his political advantage and when we look to him for clear moral leadership in the world, all of a sudden it's not good to appear threatening.