Durbin, Snowe Lead Effort to Link President's Legacy to Leadership in Darfur
United States Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) and 27 of their colleagues today sent a letter to the President urging him to use his remaining months in office to bring an end to the genocide in Darfur.
"President Bush has only a few months remaining in office to use the full weight of the presidency to take definitive action and put an end to the violence in Darfur once and for all," said Durbin.
"Ending the genocide in Sudan represents a humanitarian and moral imperative that must be acted on by the United States and its allies in the international community," said Senator Snowe. "Simply condemning the violence being perpetrated against innocent people in Darfur and now spilling over elsewhere in the region is just not enough."
The Senators noted that in the five years since the violence in Darfur began, the House of Representatives, President Bush, and former Secretary of State Collin Powell all called the situation in Darfur genocide. Yet, almost one year after the UN Security Council voted for a historic 26,000 member peacekeeping force, only about a third of that force has been deployed. The delay is due in part to a shortage of helicopters.
"It is simply unimaginable that the United States cannot provide, or work with allies to provide, a handful of helicopters to help fully deploy this critical peacekeeping force," the Senators wrote.
The letter urges President Bush to avoid similar regrets about Darfur that President Clinton expressed upon leaving office in regards to Rwanda.
"If we turn our backs on Darfur today, as we did on the Rwandans in 1994, we too will be left to face the harsh light of history. We urge you to use all the power of the White House to ensure that your legacy includes definitive action in Darfur," they concluded.
Joining the Senators on the letter were Carl Levin (D-MI), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Russ Feingold (D-WI), John Sununu (R-NH), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), John Kerry (D-MA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barack Obama (D-IL), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Gordon Smith (R-OR) and George Voinovich (R-OH),
In March, the United States Senate passed a resolution, introduced by Senator Durbin, calling on the government of Sudan to immediately end the genocide in Darfur by halting all violence, allowing for the rapid deployment of UN peacekeepers, and urging the warring parties to engage in a new round of peace talks. It was cosponsored by 41 other senators.
Durbin is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, the first ever congressional committee focused solely on the issue of human rights. Late last year, the President signed the Sudan Divestment and Accountability Act. That bill, drafted in part by Senator Durbin, gives federal support to state and local governments, seeking to divest from Sudan.
Text of the letter is provided below:
May 22, 2008
President George W. Bush
The White House
Dear Mr. President:
Fourteen years ago the world watched as genocide unfolded in Rwanda. Despite dire warnings and pleas for help, 800,000 people were brutally killed in less than one hundred days. Today the world looks back in painful regret at its failure to take action. Yet, we are likely to face a similarly harsh historical judgment if we do not once and for all take action against the genocide in Darfur.
The crisis in Darfur is now more than five years old. In the time since it began, the world has once again watched a horrific humanitarian crisis unfold. Entire villages have been torched, their populations displaced. Thousands have been raped and tortured. Today, millions are living in sprawling refugee camps, their livelihoods and families having suffered unimaginable consequences. Over the years, you and the Congress have rightly called the actions in Darfur genocide. Both have said we must halt the violence.
Yet today, as we enter the sixth year of this crisis, efforts to bring an end to the violence are insufficient. The 26,000 member UN-African Union peacekeeping team, which was agreed upon last July, has put in place only a third of its forces. In addition to Sudanese obstruction, deployment has been delayed by a shortage of helicopters. It is simply unimaginable that the United States cannot provide, or work with allies to provide, a handful of helicopters to help fully deploy this critical peacekeeping force.
Some years after the genocide in Rwanda, President Clinton visited the country and met with families of the many victims. It was an honorable and important decision. He said, "We in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred in Rwanda in 1994." Later in his life he said that the failure to act in Rwanda was "my great regret in international affairs." If we turn our backs on Darfur today as we did on the Rwandans in 1994, we too will be left to face the harsh light of history.
We urge you to use all the power of the White House to ensure that your legacy includes definitive action in Darfur.