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.

Bookmark and Share


  • wow...
    thank you for bringing this to my attention - I had missed this in the media here. How preposterous! So now above and beyond doing nothing, congress in the land of separation of church and state is legislating weekends of prayer-encouragement? The time and expenditure involved in the passage of an act through both houses of congress could have been spent on relief efforts, education of the American public, and calling for accountability in Darfur, perhaps? I quit. Only truth could be stranger than fiction...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:32 AM  

  • "The only thing in abundance in Darfur is weapons. It's easier to get a Kalashnikov than a loaf of bread."
    -- Jan Egeland, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, July 2004

    Well I'm Canadian so I can't really demand accountability from D.C.. P. Martin was there in November but I'm still having trouble finding sustantive actions that are being taken by the Canadian government. Hmmmm more info here: http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/canadasudan/menu-en.asp I haven't actively tried to follow and encourage the Canadian gov't's role in international crises but I'm trying to follow this one.

    Mr. Stickings, perhaps you are more capable of assessing Canada's role so far with Darfur in comparison to its past track record? Do you think they are doing enough right now? I guess nobody's doing enough until this tragedy starts to abate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:58 PM  

  • I take your impression seriously, Nate. You've been one of my most loyal readers, and I've always enjoyed reading your comments. Let me address two things here:

    1) Europe does have two million troops available, but there's hardly any unity to European foreign and military policy. The E.U. is in many ways still a charade, and so what we're talking about is a loose confederation of sovereign states, each with its own military. But my point is this: I gave up on Europe a long time ago. European impotence with respect to the former Yugoslavia was enough to show me that Europe couldn't even take care of its own backyard. Britain is the obvious exception, of course, and the E.U., which I support in theory, may yet figure itself out. For now, though, the U.S. is the world's superpower -- and, whether anyone likes it or not, the world's leader. Now, I'm not blaming the U.S. for not acting militarily. I'm blaming Congress (and the White House) for blocking the DAA and for responding to genocide with a call to prayer. That's astoundingly irresponsible. One of the great things about the Coalition for Darur is that it was put together by a left-wing blog (Demagogue) and a right-wing blog (Southern Appeal). It's meant to be a non-partisan effort to keep up awareness of what's going on in Darfur. Look, I want Europe to do more. Absolutely. And I want the U.N. to do more. And I want the African Union to do more. But my post was about what the U.S. is doing -- or, rather, not doing -- and it's largely directed at an American audience.

    2) Which leads into my next point? Have I shifted left? If so, it hasn't been intentional, but, looking back over my recent posts, I'm just not sure that I have. I admit that I am critical of Bush. I've never made any secret of that, and, generally, I side with the Democrats on most issues. But in terms of this blog the perspective I take is one of commenting on those in power. Right now, Bush and the Republicans are in power, and so I comment on them from the left. Back in the early-'90s, when Clinton and the Democrats were in power, I was commenting on them from the right. Really, I'm in the middle (or perhaps just to the center-left), but it's all a matter of perspective.

    Again, though, I actually think I've been quite fair lately. And I've made a conscious effort to be fair. The big stories in the news have been Rovegate, SCOTUS, Iraq, terrorism, and the G8. Let me take them one by one:

    Rovegate: I've been critical of Rove -- and I admit that I detest him and his dirty tricks -- but I've done so while defending the freedom of the press to protect anonymous sources (this is where Marc and I have fundamentally disagreed). But I haven't attacked Bush, and even my comments on Rove have been preliminary. It seems that he was the leaker, though I haven't labelled him a criminal, as many on the left already have. I've praised the White House press corps for, well, pressing the issue, but only because it's about time they challenged the White House on something. (I'd be saying the same thing if a Democrat was getting a free ride in the White House, and I was enormously critical of Clinton back in the '90s.)

    2) On the Supreme Court, I've been quite fair. I object to many of the leading candidates, but I've come out and defended Gonzales (whom I previously opposed as attorney general) and, more recently, Luttig. I've even posted on some old-fashioned conservatives who should be considered.

    3) I haven't written much about Iraq lately, but, like to many others, I have been critical of the "occupation" (which is what Bush once called it). But I've never denied that I supported the war to start with. I wrote a short post on the Iran-Iraq link, but just because that boggles the mind (and I did say that I was keeping an open mind).

    4) On terrorism, I've largely been silent. I could criticize Bush, as many others have, for failing to secure Afghanistan and for shifting resources to Iraq when they should have been directed at catching Osama. But I haven't. And I certainly didn't want to use the London bombings to make partisan points.

    5) On the G8, yes, I was critical of Bush, largely for his refusal to do anything about climate change (an important issue to me), and for failing to back up rhetoric on African aid with much in the way of substance. But that was one post.

    Otherwise, my most controversial post was probably the one on America's response to terrorism. I thought that Mary at Pacific Views had written a couple of thoughtful posts, and I wanted to raise the issue here. But I made a point of distinguishing between the government and the people (as you know, I'm very much pro-American, and in that post I said that "Americans are a truly virtuous people who are capable of the highest expressions of humanity". But this is where I do think that Bush has failed. Whatever we think of Iraq or the conduct of the war on terror, his inability (nay, his refusal) to prepare the American people for the challenges of war has been an enormous blemish on his record.

    One other post to mention: I criticized Hillary Clinton for likening Bush to Alfred E. Newman. (And Marc rightly pointed out that politics is becoming too soft.)

    Anyway, I suppose it is important to explain myself every once in a while. And it may be that at times I shift one way or the other. But, again, much of my criticism is directed at Bush and Republicans because they're in power. Although I lean to the left, generally speaking, I think that I am above all non-partisan and independent. But that will make me look more like a liberal Democrat when the Republicans are in power and more like a conservative Republican when the Democrats are in power.

    I hope that one of the virtues of this blog is that my independence separates me from so much of the vitriolic partisanship out there in the blogosphere. I want people to come here because they know that they're going to get some intelligent, thoughtful commentary on a variety of issues. But also because they know that they can comment on my posts, and even criticize me if they see fit, and that, throughout, I will respect them and their views.

    You got me thinking tonight, Nate, and I know that I'm writing this as much for myself, to figure out what I'm doing with The Reaction, as for you and my other readers. But I hope I've addressed your concerns, and I certainly hope you keep coming back.

    Take care.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 12:06 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home