Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Prayer vs. genocide: Congress gets on its knees for Darfur

I've already posted a few times on Darfur, and I acknowledge that some of you have criticized my call for intervention while sharing my moral outrage (see here, for example). And I agree: Full-out military intervention, at least by the United States, is impossible, and we're unlikely to see a concerted European effort to stop the genocide by force. And the United Nations? Uh, no. Not gonna happen.

But is it too much to expect more than prayer? Yes, prayer. Don't adjust your sets. You read me correctly.

According to the Coalition for Darfur (explained here and here), the White House has stalled, and perhaps killed, the Darfur Accountability Act, a next-best effort, short of military intervention, to do something about Darfur and perhaps to put a halt to the genocide. For the recent post, with an explanation of the DAA, see here. Under pressure from the White House, the DAA "appears to be trapped in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Relations, presumably never to be seen again".

Ah, but don't despair! The Senate has stepped up and passed S.RES.186 on July 1, and I'm sure that'll more than make up for the DAA. What does this noble resolution say?

A resolution affirming the importance of a national weekend of prayer for the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, Sudan, and expressing the sense of the Senate that July 15 through July 17, 2005, should be designated as a national weekend of prayer and reflection for the people of Darfur.

Not to be outdone, the House passed H.RES.333 on Monday. What does this equally noble resolution say?

Resolved, That the House of Representatives --

(1) supports the goals and ideals of a National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection for Darfur, Sudan;

(2) encourages the people of the United States to observe that weekend by praying for an end to the genocide and crimes against humanity and for lasting peace in Darfur, Sudan; and

(3) urges all churches, synagogues, mosques, and religious institutions in the United States to consider the issue of Darfur in their activities and to observe the National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection with appropriate activities and services.

Um, right... Hundreds of thousands have died in Darfur -- it's GENOCIDE, in case you haven't been paying attention -- and the best Congress can come up with is "a National Weekend of Prayer and Reflection"? Far be it from me to comment on the power of prayer, but, well, I just don't think it'll be an adequate replacement for, say, an enforced no-fly zone, or assistance to the African Union, or sanctions against the Sudanese government, or support for an expanded U.N. role to protect innocent civilians. Hey, I wonder what would have happened if Ike had gotten down on his knees to pray for the Nazis to withdraw from Western Europe. I'm sure that would have worked just as well as D-Day.

The Coalition for Darfur, with which I am proud to be affiliated, is right, these resolutions "[serve] to highlight the government's utter lack of concern". I'm not saying that the U.S. needs to march into Darfur the way it marched into Iraq, but there are other, less invasive ways to end, or at least seriously curtail, the genocide. The DAA would be a good start, but the White House -- no, the buck stops in the Oval Office -- and its allies in Congress would rather push impotent resolutions that don't accomplish a thing. Prayer is fine, I'm sure, but a show of force, and a commitment to follow through, would do far more to help the poor people of Darfur. It's like having sex and praying that you don't get an STD. Wouldn't a condom be a bit more effective?

With all the focus on Rovegate, SCOTUS, Iraq, and terrorism -- all worthy issues, to be sure -- Darfur has already been relegated to obscurity. Predictable, perhaps, but truly shameful.

We should demand better of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

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