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Sixty years ago, at the end of the Holocaust, world promised “Never again.” The deaths of 11 million people systematically slaughtered by the Nazis constitute the worst failure of humanity in world history. Afterwards, humankind promised that the atrocities of the Holocaust would never happen again. Never again would civilization stand idly by as fellow citizens of the world were needlessly and cruelly massacred by their enemies for no offense besides having the unfortunate luck to have the “wrong” race or religion. Never again would we overlook the suffering of our fellow human beings just because it was inconvenient to take action. Never again would we turn a blind eye to violence and agony in countries on the other side of the world. Never again would we step back from a genocide and say, “Not my problem.”

Yet since the end of WWII, it has happened again and again. Bangladesh. Cambodia. Iraq. Bosnia. Rwanda. And now we have a new name to add to that list: Sudan. The situation in Darfur constitutes a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. According to UN reports, 3.5 million people in the Darfur region are without sufficient food or water. 2.5 million have been displaced so far. And the death toll has pushed past 400,000.

On September 9, 2004, President Bush’s then-Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that the actions of the Arab Janjaweed militias against the black African Sudanese, conducted with the approval or support of the Sudanese government, constitute genocide. Yet since then, Bush has done little. During his first year in the White House, President Bush wrote in the margins of a report on the Rwandan genocide, “Not on my watch.” But he has not lived up to that promise. Words are not enough, Mr. Bush. Action must be taken.

Militias in Darfur are systematically starving, raping, and killing millions of black Africans in Sudan. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Darfur has documented an increasingly deteriorating situation in the region of worsening security, growing hunger, and an ever-rising civilian death toll. The government of Sudan is doing little or nothing, failing to prevent or even supporting the violence, and blocking aid to those desperately in need. Every day we fail to act, the crisis spreads. We cannot stand idly by any longer.

We in America are blessed with an abundance of resources with which to take action. Our unique role on the world stage enables us to take special action. The Comprehensive Peace in Sudan Act of 2004 was a step in that direction, authorizing President Bush to address the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur, making aid to the region contingent upon the action of the government of Sudan. UN Resolution 1556 demanded that the government of Sudan make every effort to disarm the Janjaweed militias, and also demanded that the government allow humanitarian aid to access the region. But this has not been sufficient. The Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, currently in conference committee, is a necessary move in the right direction. Sens. Durbin and Leahy’s $50 million supplemental amendment to the $123 million requested by the president to help fund African Union peacekeepers in Darfur should also be applauded.

Yesterday, many Democrats, including myself, joined between 10,000 and 15,000 of our fellow Americans on the Mall to demand that President Bush take action in Darfur. Though a small rally by Washington standards, it was a powerful one. As I walked around the crowd, I saw skullcaps, turbans, headscarves, and crosses alike. I saw faces that were black and white and brown and every color under the sun. I saw children pushed in strollers all the way up to elderly Holocaust survivors. I heard people speaking everything from Spanish to Hebrew. Yet yesterday in front of the Capitol, we were not black or white or Democrat or Republican; we were Americans. For a brief afternoon, we put aside our differences to remind President Bush of our nation’s commitment to Never Forget.

Now it is up to President Bush to act. Bush met with advocates for Darfur in the White House on Friday, but this is not enough. Additional sanctions must be placed on Sudan. President Bush must also push harder for a multinational peacekeeping force to be sent to Darfur. It is up to all of America’s politicians to pressure the president into taking the morally correct action in Darfur. Democratic politicians like Reps. Tom Lantos, John Olver, Sheila Jackson Lee, James Moran, and Jim McGovern, who were all arrested in front of the Sudanese Embassy on Friday while joining a protest designed to call attention to the genocide in Darfur, are providing an excellent example. Rep. Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, issued a statement following the incident, saying “After the Holocaust, the world declared that never again would we stand by and let genocide take place. And yet the slaughter in Darfur continues.”

Rep. Lantos and the 15,000 Americans who joined his call for greater US action on the genocide in Darfur yesterday cannot be ignored. President Bush must take action to save Darfur.


OrSkolnik said...

Nothing more needs to be said, but this is how the Republican Senate is prioritiizng Darfur: http://thinkprogress.org/2006/05/03/darfur-spending/.

Apparently, pork projects are more important than saving hundreds of thousands of human beings. So much for being pro-life.