[Homestead] Why Should We Shield the Killers?
genegerue at ruralize.com
Wed Feb 2 11:18:50 EST 2005
Why Should We Shield the Killers?
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: February 2, 2005
Two weeks ago, President Bush gave an impassioned speech to the world about
the need to stand for human freedom.
But this week, administration officials are skulking in the corridors of
the United Nations, trying desperately to block a prosecution of Sudanese
officials for crimes against humanity.
It's not that Mr. Bush sympathizes with the slaughter in Darfur. In fact, I
take my hat off to Mr. Bush for doing more than most other world leaders to
address ethnic cleansing there - even if it's not nearly enough. Mr. Bush
has certainly done far more than Bill Clinton did during the Rwandan genocide.
But Mr. Bush's sympathy for Sudanese parents who are having their children
tossed into bonfires shrivels next to his hostility to the organization
that the U.N. wants to trust with the prosecution: the International
Criminal Court. Administration officials so despise the court that they
have become, in effect, the best hope of Sudanese officials seeking to
avoid accountability for what Mr. Bush himself has called genocide.
Mr. Bush's worry is that if the International Criminal Court is
legitimized, American officials could someday be dragged before it. The
court's supporters counter that safeguards make that impossible. Reasonable
people can differ about the court, but for Mr. Bush to put his ideological
opposition to it over the welfare of the 10,000 people still dying every
month in Darfur - that's just madness.
The issue arises partly because the Bush administration, to its credit,
pushed the U.N. to investigate Darfur and to seek accountability for the
killers. The result was a U.N. commission's 176-page report, released this
week, that documents a series of crimes against humanity: people in Darfur
crucified or thrown into fires, victims having their eyes gouged out or
being dragged on the ground by camels, women and girls kept naked in rape
camps, huts burned with children inside, and women forced to hand over
their baby sons to be killed.
"It is undeniable that mass killings occurred in Darfur and that the
killings were perpetrated by the government forces" and by a
government-sponsored militia, the report said.
The U.N. commission then pulled its punches by concluding that Sudan had
not pursued a deliberate policy of genocide - but it added: "The crimes
against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be
no less serious and heinous than genocide." As a result, the commission
"strongly recommends" that the Security Council refer the matter to the
International Criminal Court for prosecution, saying that is "the only
credible way of bringing alleged perpetrators to justice."
At a practical level, it's also a way to pressure Sudan's leaders to stop a
campaign of terror in Darfur that has already claimed at least 218,000
lives, according to a new British study.
Prosecution by the International Criminal Court has strong European
support, but the Bush administration is aghast and desperately suggests
prosecution instead by a court associated with the war crimes tribunal for
Rwanda. Alas, that tribunal could take another year and 120,000 more deaths
to start a Darfur prosecution.
"The I.C.C. could start tomorrow saving lives," said Kenneth Roth, the
executive director of Human Rights Watch. "With the Rwanda tribunal route,
you're talking about another year of killing."
The Bush administration is also struggling to find other Security Council
members who would join it in voting against the referral to the
International Criminal Court. I hope other countries stand firm, because my
conversations with diplomats suggest that if the U.S. stood alone in
opposition, the Bush administration would be too ashamed to exercise its
veto and might abstain instead.
Kofi Annan called this week for consideration of sanctions against Sudan,
and his voice as a leading African carries particular weight with that
country's leaders. So, Mr. Bush, what about you? Will you push harder for a
coalition for sanctions - forcing China to veto them if it so chooses? Will
you impose a no-fly zone to stop Sudan's air force from strafing civilians?
After reading a report on Bill Clinton's passivity during the Rwandan
genocide, Mr. Bush scrawled in the margin: "not on my watch." Now the Save
Darfur Coalition (www.savedarfur.org) has made green plastic bracelets
reading, "Not on My Watch - Save Darfur." Mr. Bush might wear one to his
State of the Union address tonight - and find the courage not just to
denounce evil, but also to confront it.
More information about the Homestead