“Every day we don’t act…” How those impassioned those words are. How commanding. The very essence of presidential, moral leadership. Unsurprisingly, such eloquence escaped President Obama’s lips during the weekly address—and for a blink, I had “Hope.” Hope that he would switch from the sexy topic of financial regulation to matters more pressing on the presidential portfolio. Like genocide prevention, crimes against humanity, rigged elections, or just foreign affairs in general. Instead, Obama embraced the domestic politics of the day—and willfully ignored the elections in Sudan.
Disappointing to be certain but not inconsistent with his actions as President. Since the appointment of US Special Envoy Gen. Scott Gration, and the October 2009 announcement of the strategy for Sudan, the Obama administration—with the exception of Gration’s unhelpful statements—has been largely silent. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has been all but invisible. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been notably quiet. Vice President Joe Biden, once an outspoken supporter of ending the genocide is also silent. Instead, there is Press Secretary Robert Gibbs offering a typical avoidance in the White House Press Briefing today, answering to the only question during today’s briefing that the president’s meeting with Scott Gration started about 20 minutes late and he’ll get back to us.
Great. Thanks. I am sure that gives great comfort to the people of Sudan who are facing a spectre of violence few Americans can conceptualize. There are things worse than war. Genocide, rape as a tool of extermination and rampant starvation are horrific. The extreme poverty and helplessness is something President Obama once vowed to address with “unstinting resolve.” Today, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley offered quips and insolence.
He started strong, as reported by Reuters, ““This was not a free and fair election,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “It did not, broadly speaking, meet international standards.”
That, officially, is an understatement.
“That said, I think we recognize that the election is a very important step” toward carrying out a 2005 peace deal that gave the south autonomy, a share of oil revenues and a route to independence via referendum by January 2011, Crowley told reporters.
Crowley seemed unconcerned about the legitimization of Sudanese President Bashir’s role as genocidaire. In fact, he notes the Khartoum regime officials are now, essentially, our partner. They will play “important roles in whether “we have a credible referenda process that, quite honestly, is likely to yield the emergence of a new country.”
“So while we understand that there were flaws and failures in terms of this electoral process, we will recognize that there is a lot of work to be done,” he said. “The United States will continue to work with the government in the north, the government in the south, as we move forward with … the vitally important referenda that’ll happen in January of next year.”
Unbelievable. The lack of conscience in American foreign policy is now officially in question. The complete lack of moral clarity astounds. After years of beating the drum against George W. Bush, president Obama has all but abandoned PEPFAR and now—rather than just keeping his own word—Obama has embraced, by saying nothing and more importantly doing nothing—endorsed, in the name of every American, a genocidaire. On President Bush’s watch the entire human rights community beat the drum about social justice, about Darfur and so many other critical and pressing issues. Few remember Bush’s envoy Rich Williamson—because it was President Bush’s responsibility. Today, the community must be intellectually and morally consistent. They must follow the examples of men like John Prendergast, a scholarly and passionate man for whom the issues of human rights are a moral imperative.
It was my privilege to be one of a handful of journalists who listened in, took notes and asked questions of Prendergast, the exquisite Mia Farrow, Omer Ismail of Enough, Nagi Musa of Girifna, Mark Lotwis of Save Darfur, and the always amazing folks from Investors Against Genocide, who were kind enough to sponsor calls every day last week. It was a reeducation for me about the elections in Sudan.
Prendergast, who must be the hardest working man in human rights, broke my heart with his honest accounting of Sudan. His voice, and the other activists—though each one deserves a special place in whatever heaven exists—is one we must respect. He is direct, open and wise: “Sadly, it remains an open question as to whether President Obama will listen to the Sudanese and international monitors on the ground in Sudan who say this election wasn’t free and fair, or whether he will listen to his envoy in Washington who is arguing to whitewash the results for the sake of expediency…”
“If the U.S. makes yet another moral compromise in its Sudan policy, it will only embolden Sudan’s self-appointed president to escalate the war in Darfur and undermine the upcoming referendum on southern Sudan’s independence.”
President Obama, this is your presidency.
Elizabeth Blackney is best known as a media & communications strategist, political emissary, confidante and commentator. Perceptive and quick on the draw, she served as Political Director for BlogTalkRadio’s 2008 election coverage, and as a a writer for the AOL News Hot Seat. Now a full time opinionista, and Twitter maven, her targets are anti-war liberals, entrenched feminism, moral relativists and solipsistic elected officials and academics. Blackney authored Sex, Lies & Politricks.