Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Is President Obama Saying To Sudan?

A week ago I referred to the problem of genocide in Sudan as President Obama’s “practice test” in foreign policy. The President, like Sec. of State Clinton said of Sudan’s rulers, “they will be held accountable for the lives lost." During his campaign he used Darfur to distinguish his policies from Bush’s. He agreed with Joe Biden that we should help “enforce a no-fly zone.”

Yesterday well known civil libertarian Nat Hentoff made that proposal the centerpiece of his demand that the President back up words with action that would save lives. He noted that the no-fly zone proposal was proposed again by yet another Obama adviser, General Merrill A. McPeak writing in the Washington Post on March 5.

Obama’s UN ambassador Susan Rice who once envisioned a bombing campaign to save Sudanese Africans now restricts herself to futile talk with African nations in the UN. Hentoff notes that as Vice President Biden has been silent while the Sudanese government uses its helicopter gunships and bombers to abet the slaughter of black Africans. Hentoff notes that now that France has decided to join NATO, its airbase in Chad would be an ideal place from which to enforce a no-fly zone.

With a voice familiar and respected among civil rights advocates, Hentoff asks, “What, if anything, do you have to say, President Obama, about helping to energize the creation of a no-fly zone so that, on your watch, we can finally say ‘never again’ - and mean it?” Jerry Fowler, the president of the Save Darfur Coalition who supported Obama during his campaign, recently said, "We need presidential engagement and we need it now."

Darfur is quickly passing from the President's practice test to a practical test. So far the president has said little, but his choice of a friend and close adviser as special envoy to Sudan may be a sign that something's in the air. Retired Air Force General Scott Gration is a former fighter pilot.

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