Our guest blogger, Tom Lantos (D-CA), is the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee and the founding co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.
More than ever, attention is focused on Darfur. Thousands came to rallies across the country this weekend, George Clooney has added his tremendous star power to the chorus of voices, and the White House has made pronouncements on the matter three times within two weeks. But actions speak louder than words, chants, and songs. We need to harness this surge of interest in the issue and bring the suffering in Darfur to an end.
I was asked to take a prominent part in the events of the last few days because I have been pushing for NATO involvement in civilian protection in Darfur for two years, because I have been engaged in human rights causes for several decades, and because I am a survivor of genocide.
After the Holocaust, the world declared that never again would we stand by and let genocide take place. Yet, during the past three years in Darfur, the government of Sudan and its criminal militia, the Janjaweed, have slaughtered an estimated 400,000 people because of their African identity, displaced more than two million, and driven 200,000 into refugee camps in neighboring Chad.
As the Holocaust taught us, a villainous government that persecutes its own people cannot be counted on to protect them; it must be compelled to do so.
Between now and this fall, when United Nations troops are to be deployed to assist the overmatched African Union presence in Darfur, we need to dispatch NATO forces to protect internally displaced women, children, and men.
But this is not all that needs to be done:
· Diplomacy: A peace deal between the Sudanese government and Darfur rebel groups hangs in the balance. The United States, the European Union, and the AU must press the parties to establish and maintain lasting peace.
· Divestment: The divestment campaign must continue to ensure the government in Khartoum does not profit from its oil resources while its military and proxies carry out their atrocities. I urge all government, university, labor, religious, and civic organizations to make sure their investments are not aiding the government of Sudan.
· Congressional action: Members of the public can press Congress to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act of 2006, which will block assets and deny visas to government and Janjaweed commanders responsible for the genocide. And Congress needs to pass H. Res. 723, which proposes NATO support for the AU using ground and air assets to protect civilians, and NATO countries need to follow suit, to let the world know the Darfur genocide is an international tragedy that requires an immediate international response.
Sixty years ago, when the Holocaust unfolded, there were no rallies, there were no demonstrations, there was no legislation, there was just silence and indifference. I salute everyone who has stood up during these last few weeks and months to tell the oppressors, “We shall no longer mourn this genocide, we shall stop it.”
– Tom Lantos