Press Conference: The Elephant in the Room

Though President Bush has announced that tonight’s press conference will be on Social Security and energy, the press certainly will not limit their questions to those two topics. However, there is one question we are unlikely to hear: Why are you ignoring the ongoing genocide in Darfur?

It has been nearly eight months since then-Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that genocide is occurring in Darfur. But on a recent trip to the region, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick backed away from that conclusion and attempted to downplay the number of victims. The latest estimates place the number of dead at 400,000 — dying at a rate of nearly 15,000 a month — with an additional 2 million Darfuris in refugee camps. Since Secretary Powell’s statement, an estimated 120,000 have been killed by the government-backed Janjaweed militia. Obviously, simply calling it genocide is no substitute for action. In the absence of presidential leadership, Congress has taken the lead — Senators Corzine and Brownback introduced the Darfur Accountability Act, which calls for an expansion of the current African Union mission to include the protection of civilians; a no-fly zone; and meaningful sanctions against the perpetrators. Decisive American action can put an end to the worst humanitarian crisis since the Rwandan genocide eleven years ago.

The press cannot ask this question because it is one they must ask of themselves as well. If reporters are going to critique President Bush for turning his back on these atrocities, then they must do some introspection as to why, in their own capacity, they are not doing more to try and put an end to this genocide. Why are the images not emblazoned on the front page of every paper, every day? Why are editorial pages not demanding action? Why are we not keeping a running toll of the deaths until the sheer number of victims overwhelms our senses enough to reignite what seems to be smoldering moral outrage?

What about Darfur?