We Must Take Action In Darfur

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs this week held a hearing on the situation in Darfur.  It is nothing short of shocking to realize that the slaughter there has gone on for three years, and despite numerous calls for action from Congress and many of its individual members, the Administration and the international community have not summoned up the political will to act.

Humankind is failing the sons and daughters of Darfur horribly.  We have watched as an entire people has been persecuted, displaced, dispossessed, raped and slaughtered.  As a survivor of the Holocaust, I cannot bear silent witness to the first genocide of the 21st Century.

I am sick and tired of waiting for a diplomatic solution to this crisis.  The much-heralded Darfur Peace Agreement did nothing to stop the genocide.  Nobody in the Sudanese government has been held accountable for the mass killings.  There has been no protection of civilians.  And there has been no reversal of ethnic cleansing.

Even targeted sanctions against those responsible for the genocide have had little impact on the Sudanese leaders who find the benefits of their oil dealings with China more profitable than their assets frozen in the United States.

With or without the consent of Khartoum, we need a large number of international troops on the ground to protect the people of Darfur from slaughter, and we need them now.  The UN Security Council has correctly authorized the deployment of such a civilian protection force to Darfur to augment the under-gunned and under-manned African Union troops already on the ground.

But President Bashir and his cronies have rebuffed all entreaties to allow for the deployment of these desperately needed troops.

How can we change Khartoum's mind about the deployment of a civilian protection force?  If we are cynical, we can try the approach used by Chinese President Hu Jintao during his recent visit to Sudan.  While urging Sudanese cooperation with the United Nations, President Hu made a jaw-droppingly generous offer of $17 million to build a new presidential palace, $104 million in debt forgiveness, and a promise to build a new railway line.

I doubt that Sudan's leaders lost much sleep after their meeting with the Chinese president.  Perhaps that night they dreamed of building the new railway line straight to Darfur to hasten the genocide.

There is a better way.  President Bush must call a summit of the world's civilized nations with a simple goal - strong, multilateral sanctions on Sudan.  Investment bans.  Prohibition on travel for Sudan's top leaders.

And most importantly, shutting down Sudan's ability to sell oil and gas on the international marketplace.  I welcome the Administration's announcement today of a "Plan B" approach to block U.S. commercial bank transactions with the Government of Sudan.  This step, if fully implemented, will have a major impact on Sudan's ability to sell petroleum overseas.

I hope that tough sanctions on Khartoum will force the regime to allow an international civilian protection force to enter Darfur.  But we can't count on it.  The United States must therefore work with the United Nations, the African Union and our allies to prepare a contingency plan for the entry of a protection force into Darfur without the Sudanese government's permission.

If we wait much longer, there may be nobody left to protect in Darfur. The innocent civilians there are crying out for our help. We must not continue to fail them.