Sudan has one "last chance" to follow U.N. directives, President Bush said Wednesday. That kind of tough talk preceded Bush's invasion of Iraq and the nightmarish quagmire that has resulted.But this ultimatum - if it is an ultimatum - isn't backed by the threat of a reckless invasion. At best, it would precede stronger economic sanctions. That is a modest response to the Sudan's crimes against humanity.
At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Wednesday, President Bush issued some of his strongest words to date on the genocide in Sudan's Darfur region: "The brutal treatment of innocent civilians in Darfur is unacceptable - it is unacceptable to me, it is unacceptable to Americans, it's unacceptable to the United Nations."
If the U.N. secretary general can't persuade Sudan to honor its promises - including a modest force of 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers - Bush said he would impose tougher economic sanctions on Sudan. The president said he would also seek a broader arms embargo and a no-fly zone over Darfur.
Since 2003, at least 400,000 Darfurians and perhaps as many as 500,000 have died - from violence, starvation and disease - in a genocidal war against non-Arab tribes. The Sudan government-backed Janjaweed militia has engaged in systematic rape and killing, and an estimated 2.5 million people are refugees.
The world has slumbered through much of the genocide, but in August, the United Nations approved a peacekeeping mission in Darfur. Until recently, Sudan has repeatedly rejected the idea, arguing that such a force would compromise its sovereignty. As if its sovereignty deserved respect.
Sudan's government and its proxies have worked to harass and obstruct humanitarian relief workers. If the aid is blocked, the suffering will skyrocket.
So far, Sudan has allowed only 7,000 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, which is the size of Texas. That force can't even monitor the carnage, let alone prevent it.
Just this week, however, Sudan said it would accept a small U.N. peacekeeping force. That ostensibly good news was tempered by Sudan's atrocious record, which was highlighted by a secret U.N. report just leaked to The New York Times. The report alleges that Sudan has been flying military equipment into Darfur in violation of U.N. demands. It also reports that Sudan has been painting its military aircraft to look like U.N. planes.
All of this suggests dim prospects for genuine cooperation from Sudan, which has been largely indifferent to world opinion. Sudan has oil, and it has paying customers in China and Russia, both of which profit by ignoring the genocide, and both of which have vowed to veto stiffer U.N. sanctions.
President Bush's visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum came during Holocaust Awareness Week and coincides with rising public concern about Darfur. Universities and states nationwide, including Colorado and its premiere university, have divested from companies doing business in Sudan.
The president has condemned Sudan previously but so far has not followed his strong language with commensurate action.
"Our experience is that the president's actions have not kept pace with his words," David C. Rubenstein, executive director of the Save Darfur Coalition, told the Washington Post. "We are counting on the president to do what he can to end the crisis."
So are the desperate and dying in Darfur. Clint Talbott, for the editorial board.
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