Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Howard Dean - Europe should act on Darfur

Howard Dean wrote the piece below almost a year ago, in August 2004, when he was a former Presidential candidate but not yet the head of the Democratic National Committee. Unfortunately, what he wrote then remains entirely on target today.

The shameful failure to do anything serious to stop the unfolding atrocity in Darfur has been a failure for the entire "world community." The US government has at least tried to focus attention on the issue (though less so recently), but it should certainly be doing much more. However, any possibility of serious measures will also require the active support of western European governments. And in this respect, the pervasive failure of western European public opinion (with rare exceptions) to become aroused about the Darfur atrocity--even to the extent of public opinion in the US--and to put pressure on European governments to take constructive steps has been absolutely devastating. Changing this situation is crucial.

Some western Europeans have even tried to use their opposition to the Iraq war as an excuse for inaction about Darfur. (Somehow, I am told, the US war in Iraq makes it impossible for European governments to do anything to help stop the ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing, mass murder, mass rape, and deliberate mass starvation in western Sudan.) As Howard Dean correctly pointed out last year, the nicest thing one can say about this rationalization is that it is dishonest and absurd.

Europeans cannot criticize the United States for waging war in Iraq if they are unwilling to exhibit the moral fiber to stop genocide by acting collectively and with decisiveness. [....] Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics. And every day that goes by is a day in which George Bush's contempt for the international community, which I have denounced every day for two years, becomes more difficult to criticize. [....] My challenge to the U.N. and Europe is simple: if you don't like American diplomacy under George Bush, then do something to show those of us in opposition here in the U.S. that you can behave in such a way that unilateralism is not necessary.

In this connection, I would repeat something I said in July 2004:

Again, to give credit where credit is due: The US government (for complex reasons of US domestic politics and long-term diplomatic involvement in Sudan) has begun to play a significant constructive role. (The mobilization of an unusual coalition linking African-American groups, Christian groups from right and left, and Jewish groups opposed to the genocidal mass murder of ethnic minorities, has had a significant impact in this respect.) It has openly condemned the campaign of ethnic cleansing and ethnic cleansing in Darfur, explicitly recognizing that it is not only a humanitarian crisis requiring massive relief aid, but also--and fundamentally--a deliberate crime requiring a political solution. The US delegation at the UN strongly protested Sudan's reappointment to the UN Human Rights Commission . The US sent the Secretary of State to Darfur, a significant gesture, and while Powell was in Sudan he said forthrightly to the Sudanese government that the Janjaweed (the government-backed Arab militias who play the main role in this atrocity) "must be broken." And the US is attempting to coordinate more international pressure on the Sudanese government (so far without many visible results). [Unfortunately, there are signs that the executive branch may be starting to give up on this, though there is still support in Congress for serious measures. --JW]

The US government should be pressed to do more, as the articles by Siegle and Moore [among others] correctly urge. But the larger situation is that, as far as I know, at this point the US government is the ONLY one that has undertaken ANY serious initiatives to stop this atrocity and to prevent a gigantic, entirely foreseeable, humanitarian catastrophe in the coming months. This is a scandal. Those of you who are citizens of European countries, in particular, should do what you can to urge your governments to do something serious (in terms of diplomacy, political pressure, and urgent humanitarian relief, at the very least) ... or, at the minimum, not to obstruct a serious response. Obviously, only a JOINT response by some significant segment of the "international community" can address this crisis in any constructive way.

In the meantime, humanitarian relief organizations like Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, and so on have played a very useful role, not only though their directly humanitarian efforts, but also because their people on the spot have been in the forefront of bringing news about this atrocity to the world. (The Sudanese government understands this, which is a major reason why they are trying to prevent people from relief and human-rights organizations from getting into Darfur.) Contributions to them would, therefore, indirectly help to promote a political solution, which is the fundamental necessity. [Of course, it is also necessary to prevent the Sudanese government from harassing, imprisoning, and killing relief workers, which has increasingly become its strategy for dealing with the problem they pose. --JW]

Cordially but urgently,
Jeff Weintraub

========================
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Howard Dean on Darfur
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 12:56:19 -0400
From: Jeff Weintraub


I was about to write a message that said something along these lines, but Howard Dean beat me to it. Obviously, we have different judgments about the Iraq war. But that makes what he has to say here all the more powerful:

Europeans cannot criticize the United States for waging war in Iraq if they are unwilling to exhibit the moral fiber to stop genocide by acting collectively and with decisiveness. President Bush was wrong to go into Iraq unilaterally when Iraq posed no danger to the United States, but we were right to demand accountability from Saddam. We are also right to demand accountability in Sudan. Every day that goes by without meaningful sanctions and even military intervention in Sudan by African, European and if necessary U.N. forces is a day where hundreds of innocent civilians die and thousands are displaced from their land. Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics. And every day that goes by is a day in which George Bush's contempt for the international community, which I have denounced every day for two years, becomes more difficult to criticize.

Now is the time for the world community to act if they are serious about encouraging an enlightened leadership role for the United States. My challenge to the U.N. and Europe is simple: if you don't like American diplomacy under George Bush, then do something to show those of us in opposition here in the U.S. that you can behave in such a way that unilateralism is not necessary.

Yours in struggle,
Jeff Weintraub

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http://www.passionofthepresent.com/
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Gov. Howard Dean, M.D., August 16, 2004
The Forgotten Crisis

By Gov. Howard Dean M.D.

As everyone who reads this column knows, I strongly opposed the war in Iraq because I did not believe the president was being truthful with us about the potential dangers Saddam Hussein posed to our safety. I also criticized the president for not using institutions such as the United Nations in a cooperative way to help accomplish a goal most Americans shared, which was to limit the destructive role Saddam played in the region and in his own country.

However, I have also said that the U.N. bears a portion of the blame for the Iraq war. The U.N. did not understand that sometimes action is necessary and talk is not enough. There is often too much dithering in the European Union and at the U.N. when action is needed. The shameful reluctance of the European Union to intervene forcefully in Bosnia in order to stop genocide is one such instance. The ultimate failure of the entire world community, including the United States, to stop the massacres in Rwanda is another example.

The U.N. does not seem to learn very fast.

In Sudan, Africa's largest nation geographically, a terrible ethnic cleansing has been going on for more than a year in the western Darfur region where government sponsored Arabic speaking Sudanese militias have been systematically moving black Muslim Sudanese off their traditional lands. Over one million people have been displaced. Systematic rapes, burning women and children alive, and other forms of murder and intimidation are the preferred methods of the roving gangs called the Janjaweed. These gangs, supported sometimes directly by Sudanese government forces, are burning villages and sending their populations either to mass graves or, for the lucky ones, to foul refugee camps along the border with Chad.

This spring, the U.S. pushed a resolution through the U.N. Security Council threatening sanctions on Sudan for their disgraceful conduct. The already weak resolution was watered down at the request of a number of countries, including the Europeans.

Europeans cannot criticize the United States for waging war in Iraq if they are unwilling to exhibit the moral fiber to stop genocide by acting collectively and with decisiveness. President Bush was wrong to go into Iraq unilaterally when Iraq posed no danger to the United States, but we were right to demand accountability from Saddam. We are also right to demand accountability in Sudan. Every day that goes by without meaningful sanctions and even military intervention in Sudan by African, European and if necessary U.N. forces is a day where hundreds of innocent civilians die and thousands are displaced from their land. Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics. And every day that goes by is a day in which George Bush's contempt for the international community, which I have denounced every day for two years, becomes more difficult to criticize.

Now is the time for the world community to act if they are serious about encouraging an enlightened leadership role for the United States. My challenge to the U.N. and Europe is simple: if you don't like American diplomacy under George Bush, then do something to show those of us in opposition here in the U.S. that you can behave in such a way that unilateralism is not necessary.

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates. Email Howard Dean at howarddean@democracyforamerica.com Copyright 2004 Howard Dean, All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively by Cagle, Cartoons, Inc. www.caglecartoons.com, contact Cari Dawson Bartley 800 696 7561 cari@cagle.com for publishing or posting.

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