Wow, this is the first time I've heard a liberal Democrat call for the US to reconsider its membership in the UN. The disgust and corruption is getting to be too much even for them...
We've come full circle: Stop the genocide in Darfur (by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee)
An op-ed from today's "Houston Chronicle"...
As the last three national elections have demonstrated, the United States remains a divided nation on many political issues. But there is widespread and broad-based consensus in America and between Democrats and Republicans that the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan, is intolerable and must be ended. Thus, one area in which there is ample opportunity for Congress and the Bush administration to work in a bipartisan fashion to achieve a humanitarian result is in responding to the suffering in Darfur.
Not since the Rwandan genocide of 1994 has the world seen such a systematic campaign of displacement, starvation, rape, mass murder and terror as we are witnessing in Darfur for the last three years. At least 400,000 people have been killed; more than 2 million innocent civilians have been forced to flee their homes and now live in displaced-persons camps in Sudan or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad. And more than 3.5 million men, women and children are completely reliant on international aid for survival.
Unless the world stirs from its slumber and takes concerted and decisive action to relieve this suffering, the ongoing genocide in Darfur will stand as one of the blackest marks on humankind for centuries to come. The people of Darfur cannot wait. The time has come for decisive leadership from the United States.
It has been more than two years since I and my colleagues on the Congressional Black Caucus Darfur Taskforce met with then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to press successfully for the Bush administration to declare that the ethnic cleansing and atrocities carried out against civilians primarily by the government of Sudan and its allied janjaweed militias is genocide.
It has been more than a year since I flew to Chad and walked across the border to Sudan and met with African Union troops who pleaded for more peacekeeping authority and the resources to protect the refugees from violence, rather than merely monitor it. Afterward, I worked with other members of Congress to secure increased funding to aid the thousands of Sudanese displaced to refugee camps in Chad and to provide additional funding to assist Chad in responding to the humanitarian crisis.
It has been almost two years since the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1556, demanding that the government of Sudan disarm the janjaweed. This demand was later followed by Resolution 1706, which authorizes a 20,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force. It has been six months since the Darfur Peace Agreement was brokered in May 2006 between the government of Sudan and one faction of Darfur rebels.
But still the violence continues; indeed, the violence is escalating. It is making it even more dangerous, if not impossible, for most of the millions of displaced people to return to their homes and for humanitarian relief agencies to bring food and medical aid. According to Jan Egeland, the U.N.'s top humanitarian official, the situation is "going from real bad to catastrophic."
We have come full circle. Violence is increasing, peace treaties are falling apart, and again as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus Darfur Taskforce and a ranking member on the House Judiciary immigration subcommittee, I have been meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in seeking an increase in the number of refugee visas for Darfur students to come to the United States to study. I will continue my ongoing, unceasing efforts to end the suffering in Darfur and bring peace to Sudan.
These efforts include intensifying my discussions with Rice, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, representatives of the Arab League, and humanitarian groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and various African public policy groups to discuss ways in which to increase pressure on Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to allow in U.N. peacekeepers, or alternatively, a peacekeeping force of similar size comprising Arab and Muslim troops under the auspices of the Arab League.
It is also not too early to begin the hard thinking and hard work needed to transform the Darfur region from a killing field to an economically, politically and socially viable and peaceful community. This work will, of course, require the active and purposeful engagement of the United States and other key stakeholders, such as China and the Arab League. In this connection, an ongoing dialogue with government representatives of Egypt has already begun, a dialogue that has already yielded significant dividends.
For example, Egypt has implemented several fast-track projects in southern Sudan in sectors involving health, agriculture, electricity, irrigation, infrastructure and education to make unity an even more attractive option to the people of south Sudan. Interestingly enough, these constructive measures might not have been taken by Egypt had Congress adopted the Obey Amendment over the objection of the Bush administration and advocates for the people of Darfur. The amendment, which had no real chance of being adopted, would have punished Egypt by slashing its economic and military assistance funding by nearly 50 percent. I am proud to have played a leading role in defeating this unwise legislation.
It must be noted that no just and lasting peace in Sudan can be achieved without the intervention of China. For too long, China, which is Sudan's biggest oil customer, has also served as its enabler and protector by preventing the U.N. Security Council from imposing more serious sanctions on Sudan in response to the genocide in Darfur. As former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick stated in a major policy speech on China a year ago: "China should take more than oil from Sudan it should take some responsibility for resolving Sudan's human crisis." Based on meetings with Zhou Wenzhong, China's ambassador to the United States, I am hopeful that China can be persuaded to provide constructive leadership in Sudan befitting a great power.
Finally, we must be bold and imaginative in fashioning a solution commensurate with the scale of the problem. The way to do that is to develop a Marshall Plan in Sudan. But the United Nations and the international community must draw a line in the sand and act to stop the genocide in Darfur. If the nations of the civilized world cannot unite to stop such a clear-cut case of genocide, then it might be necessary for the United States to rethink the value of continuing to pay dues to that body. The words of President Lincoln speak to us from the ages: "(W)e cannot escape history. We, of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation."
Jackson Lee, a Democrat, represents the 18th Congressional District in Houston