Call Specter, Santorum to put Darfur “on radar screen’

Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania)
February 24, 2005 Thursday
FIFTH EDITION

Call Specter, Santorum to put Darfur “on radar screen’

By Karen Norvig Berry Special to The Morning Call – Freelance

There is no easy way to talk about genocide. It’s even more difficult
to listen to people asking you to stop genocide. That’s what our
Amnesty International group learned recently when we talked to staff
in the offices of Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Sens. Rick Santorum
and Arlen Specter about the Darfur region of the Sudan.

Author Samantha Power, who studied American reaction to genocides
from Armenia to Rwanda in her book, “Problems from Hell,” says, “The
fear with genocide is the minute you engage, you are going to get
dragged in to do the real deal, to send in troops and to be taking
serious political and military risks.” She calls it a “system shut
down” because the political costs are high to act and zero to do
nothing. That’s the inertia that human rights activists must
overcome.

At the end of one interview, a senatorial staffer told us the Darfur
issue has fallen off the U.S. radar screen. That was a sudden plummet
to those of us who were hoping for action. Last summer, Congress
called it genocide and asked for sanctions. But since then, the news
has been full of the war in Iraq, the constant upset in the Middle
East, the tsunami and Social Security. We are a society that craves
novelty in our news. So although the massacres in the western part of
Sudan, known as Darfur, continue in the form of village strafing by
government planes and attacks by militia and mounted Janjaweed
(private militia), incredibly, we just don’t hear much about it.

The UN report in late January was more than disappointing with its
conclusion that it had no proof of “genocidal intent” on the part of
the Khartoum government of Sudan. This was in direct opposition to
the judgments of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the
Congress who called it genocide last July.

Last summer, both Sen. Santorum and Sen. Specter sent statements
about their commitments to ending the violence in Darfur for public
reading at a Bethlehem vigil jointly sponsored by Amnesty
International and an arm of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh
Valley. Also speaking out against the violence were academics,
religious people (Muslims, Jews and Episcopalians) and an
international charity–CARE.

Sen. Santorum said he was working “to negotiate an international
response to the emerging famine and extreme crisis in Darfur.” He
said he had sponsored the May Senate resolution condemning the
government of Sudan “for its attacks, and for its failure to stop
militia attacks on the innocent civilians in Darfur.” He had urged
Secretary Powell to commit emergency assistance and to “publicly
identify those responsible for the atrocities and impose targeted
sanctions against them.”

Sen. Specter was equally clear: “Today the situation in Sudan
represents the worst humanitarian crisis facing the world and has
left in its wake more than 30,000 dead and over one million
displaced.” He noted that he had been an original co-sponsor of S.
2705, the Comprehensive Peace for Sudan Act which authorized $1
billion “for food, shelter, health services, infrastructure
rehabilitation and disarmament and demobilization assistance for
Sudan.”

So we went to Washington expecting to find some resonance with this
issue. Having just observed the 60th anniversary of the freeing of
Auschwitz, we talked about the similarities to the Holocaust and
genocides in Cambodia, the Balkans and Rwanda and how we Americans
keep saying “never again.” Therefore, shouldn’t the United States,
for humanitarian and moral reasons, take leadership in this crisis,
as President Bush implied, in commenting on earlier atrocities, “Not
on my watch”?

We asked our senators to put this issue on their front burners, to
speak on the Senate floor about Darfur, to urge President Bush and
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to go to Sudan (as Powell did
last July). We extended invitations to both senators to speak here in
the Lehigh Valley on this issue. We asked both to look at the
uncontrolled trade in small arms that makes guns and rockets
accessible to guerrilla groups not only in Sudan, but in many other
African countries where society is in chaos. We supplied them with
two Amnesty International reports on Sudan.

But we fear the issue is “off the radar screen” unless constituents
say they want America to pressure the Sudanese government. The local
phone number for Sen. Specter is 610-434-1444 and for Sen. Santorum,
610-770-0142. Tell them that the people of Darfur certainly is “on
our watch.”

Karen Norvig Berry of Bethlehem is a local coordinator for Amnesty
International USA.

***

“At the end of one

interview, a senatorial staffer told us the

Darfur

issue has fallen off the U.S. radar screen.”

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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