The Genocide Olympics

Eric Reeves, one of the more informed and prolific writers on the ongoing crisis in Darfur recently launched a campaign to put pressure on China for its lack of interest in pressuring Sudan to halt the bloodshed. He writes:

The full-scale launch of a large, organized campaign to highlight China’s complicity in the Darfur genocide appears likely to begin soon. But it’s past time to start thinking about how to tap the creative power of students and other Darfur advocates in this critical initiative. Enough of selling green bracelets and writing letters to those who are content with posturing or avoiding the central challenge of the moment: changing the international diplomatic dynamic in ways that will result in deployment of an international peace-support operation to Darfur, one that can provide adequate protection to civilians and humanitarians. Without such security, humanitarian organizations will continue to withdraw and hundreds of thousands of additional Darfuri lives will be lost.

It’s time, now, to begin shaming China—demanding that if the Beijing government is going to host the premier international event, the Summer Olympic Games of 2008, they must be responsible international partners. China’s slogan for these Olympic Games—“One world, one dream”—is a ghastly irony, given Beijing’s complicity in the Darfur genocide (see the website for China’s hosting of the Olympic Games at The Chinese leadership must understand that if they refuse to use their unrivaled political, economic, and diplomatic leverage with Khartoum to secure access for the force authorized under UN Security Council Resolution 1706, then they will face an extremely vigorous, unrelenting, and omnipresent campaign to shame them over this refusal.

To succeed, such a campaign must be fully international in character. The first order of business, I believe, is to fashion creative means for translating key talking points and broader analyses into a variety of languages and exporting them to as many countries as possible. If people come to understand the connection between China as host of the Olympic Games and China as silent partner in the Darfur genocide, they may well be moved to object to this intensely dismaying double role. But they must understand the connection clearly.

How to proceed? With knowledge comes both power and responsibility; the key task is to transfer knowledge to those presently ignorant of China’s role in Sudan generally and Darfur specifically. Some possible bullet points are offered below. Further below is an analysis of Chinese President Hu’s recent business trip to Khartoum, as well as two opinion pieces on the “Genocide Olympics.”

It is important to remember that this should not, in my strongly held view, be a campaign to boycott the Olympics: a boycott would defeat the whole purpose of the campaign, and be deeply divisive. Moreover, if a boycott were successful (extremely unlikely) the political platform from which to challenge China would disappear. Further, a boycott in and of itself achieves nothing: the challenge is to shame China, to hold Beijing’s leaders accountable, to make them understand that without exerting all necessary pressure on Khartoum, the current campaign will only grow in strength and visibility right up to the Opening Ceremonies.

Nor are athletes the targets. Certainly they can be encouraged to wear a green stripe, of whatever prominence and size they dare, on their athletic attire as a symbol of their support for the people of Darfur. Certainly they should be encouraged to speak out publicly on Darfur. But the Olympic athletes are not the target: the Beijing regime is. The regime alone has the power to change the current diplomatic dynamic in ways that will force Khartoum to allow in the forces that can provide security to the victims of ongoing genocide. China, not the Olympic Games or its participants, is the target.

Reeves sees this as an opportunity for grassroots activism and he puts out the call for everyone who’s interested in contributing their talents — whether it be graphic designing, event planning, letter writing, etc. — to get involved.

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