Bush’s obfuscation

During a recent interview with the BBC’s Matt Frei, President Bush talks about his upcoming trip to Africa and his stance on the genocide in Darfur. Even though one might be inclined to applaud Bush for his African AIDS policy (which I do think is admirable, particularly for this administration), his response on the Darfur issue is ridiculous with regards to both content and his unceasing negative characteristic of the left, who are the most ardent supporters of a peaceful end to the violence in Darfur.

Frei: You were very tough in your speech about Darfur. And, yet again, you called what’s happening there genocide?

Mr Bush: Yeah.

Frei: Is enough being done by your administration to stop that?

Mr Bush: I think we are. Yeah. You know, I had to make a seminal decision. And that is whether or not I would commit US troops into Darfur. And I was pretty well backed off of it by – you know, a lot of folks – here in America that care deeply about the issue. And so, once you make that decision, then you have to rely upon an international organisation like the United Nations to provide the oomph – necessary manpower… You know, I read – did call it (SOUND GLITCH) genocide, and I think we’re the only nation that has done so. Secondly, I did remind people that we’re sanctioning leaders. That we have targeted [Sudanese] companies and individuals, including a rebel leader, who have yet to be constructive in the peace process. We [are] beginning to get a sense of these things as they’re affecting behaviour. We’re trying to ask others, by the way, to do the same thing. Some of who are reluctant; some who aren’t. And then, finally, I pledged that we’ll help move troops in. And yeah, and as I also said you might remind your listeners, that I’m frustrated by the pace.

Frei: I’ll get on to that in a minute. But, I mean, genocide is just a loaded – it’s such an important word. And you have committed troops – American troops around the world in other cases throughout… Afghanistan. Why not in this case?

Mr Bush: Well, that’s a good question. I mean, we’re committing equipment, you know? Training, help, movement. I think a lot of the folks who are concerned about America into another Muslim country. Some of the relief groups here just didn’t think the strategy would be as effective as it was. I mean, actually, believe it or not, listen to people’s opinions. And chose to make this decision. It’s a decision that I’m now living with. And it’s a decision that requires us to continue to rally the conscience of the world and get people to focus on the issue. You know, you’re right. I mean, we sent marines into Liberia, for example, to help stabilise the country there. And Liberia’s on my itinerary where I’ll meet with the first woman, you know, elected president in Africa – history. And – but, I just made the decision I made.

Frei: Yesterday, Steven Spielberg – the Hollywood director – pulled out of the Beijing Olympics over Darfur. He said the Chinese aren’t doing enough to stop the killing in Darfur. Do you applaud his move?

Mr Bush: That’s up to him. I’m going to the Olympics. I view the Olympics as a sporting event. On the other hand, I have a little different platform than Steven Spielberg so, I get to talk to President Hu Jintao. And I do remind him that he can do more to relieve the suffering in Darfur. There’s a lot of issues that I suspect people are gonna, you know, opine, about during the Olympics. I mean, you got the Dali Lama crowd. You’ve got global warming folks. You’ve got, you know, Darfur and… I am not gonna you know, go and use the Olympics as an opportunity to express my opinions to the Chinese people in a public way ’cause I do it all the time with the president. I mean. So, people are gonna be able to choose – pick and choose how they view the Olympics.

Personally, I find it difficult to take the President’s position on Darfur seriously. Even though he’s admitted that genocide has taken place in Darfur, his continued lack of pressure on Sudan, and his fairly obvious disinterest in committing military personnel gives his entire position a hollow, political feeling. Not unlike Clinton’s stance and repeated obfuscation on the Rwandan genocide.

Spielberg exits Olympic games

As many of us expected, Steven Spielberg announced that he will be withdrawing from any involvement with the Beijing Olympics because of China’s continued support of Sudan and their genocidal policies. The acclaimed director of Schindler’s List was supposed to be an advisor for the opening and closing ceremonies for the games, but he commented that his conscience wouldn’t allow him to continue to work with the Chinese.

“At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies but doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.

“Sudan’s government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering.

“I have decided to formally announce the end of my involvement as one of the overseas artistic advisors to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games.”

Even though the Chinese have appointed a special envoy to oversee the Games, and have put increased pressure on Sudan to accept an international peace keeping force, they continue to do business with Khartoum and show little (if any) concern for the flow of violence in the Darfur region.

China’s small movements

As pressure continues to build over China’s involvement with Sudan, and activists continue to paint the upcoming Olympics as a genocide event, Beijing seems to be showing the first signs of potential movement.

China, in response, has denounced these efforts to link the games with its foreign policy, saying such a campaign runs counter to the Olympic spirit.

“There are a handful of people who are trying to politicize the Olympic Games,” Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told reporters, stressing that the Games are a time to celebrate friendly ties between nations. “This is against the spirit of the Games. It also runs counter to the aspirations of all the people in the world.”

But protestations aside, it seems someone in Beijing is listening. Shortly after Farrow’s op-ed appeared, China appointed a special envoy to Darfur and reportedly stepped up efforts to persuade Khartoum to accept international peacekeepers in Darfur.

Pressure over the Olympics could help cause a shift from China’s noninterference policy, says Reeves. “To date, what we’ve seen are largely cosmetic efforts, trying to ‘respond to Darfur’ on the cheap … but as shame and dismay intensify, as the pain grows, we’ll see a good deal more than cosmetics.”

It’s unlikely that China will pull its investments from Sudan, especially considering the amount of money they have tied to the oil industry, but perhaps they can push Khartoum in the direction the United Nations needs in order to quell the violence.

China unyielding

As activists and diplomats alike continue to exert pressure on China over its continued support for Sudan, the Chinese government continues to present an unyielding position. Interestingly enough, the Sudan Tribune reported today that part of the reasoning for this goes back decades.

Beijing’s principle of non-interference in the affairs of other countries was established more than 50 years ago by then foreign minister Zhou Enlai.

For China, Darfur is a matter for Sudan in the same way that Beijing views its own troubled regions as off limits to the international community, says Yitzhak Shichor, an East Asia expert at the University of Haifa.

“Beijing’s response toward the situation in Darfur reflects not only its pragmatic (economic) interests, but also its fundamental and ideological concerns,” he said in a recent commentary.

“For instance, in a hypothetical case of a conflict in Tibet or Xinjiang, China would never permit UN peacekeeping forces onto its territory.”

It’s not particularly surprising to hear that the Chinese government would take a similar stand to a UN resolution that attempted to target them; however, as John Prendergast and Don Cheadle point out in their recent book Not On Our Watch, China has been known to change its position when properly pressured.

Call for Falun Gong genocide

David Kilgour, the former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific, along with his collegue Edward McMillan-Scott, the vice-president of the European parliament, are calling on the United Nations to begin investigations into reports that China has been killing Falun Gong practitioners and harvesting their organs.

Mr Kilgour’s earlier investigation relied on the telephone interviews with the former wife of a surgeon who allegedly removed 2000 corneas in two years and testimony from the family of Falun Gong members who say they saw bodies of their loved ones riddled with holes.

He concedes the evidence is “circumstantial”, not least because the Chinese government refused him permission to travel to China.

As well as the testimony, he points to 41,500 transplants undertaken in China in the six years to 2005 where no source of the organs was identified and the high number of executions that take place in China.

Along with testimony that Falun Gong are being executed for their organs, comes testimony that they’re living in appalling conditions in forced labor camps, under the threat of being deported to remote north-west China.