Hear their cries

Genocide can't be ignored

February 18, 2005|By Tom Lantos

AFTER THE Holocaust, the world declared that never again would we stand by and let genocide take place. And yet while dignitaries from around the globe gathered in Poland last month to pay tribute to the victims of the Nazi death camps and those who set them free, genocide was raging unabated in western Sudan.

About the time my wife and I joined dozens of others at Auschwitz recalling the family members we had lost, the government in Khartoum was bombing villages in northern Darfur. It killed a reported 100 people, mostly women and children. Then Sudanese officials kept African Union (AU) monitors from investigating the incident in violation of the cease-fire agreements signed by Sudan and the Darfur rebel groups last year.

The time for weakly enforced agreements has come to an end. As the Holocaust taught us, a villainous government that persecutes its own people cannot be counted on to keep its word; it must be compelled to do so.

Last year, the United States termed the situation in Darfur genocide. Stopping short of that, a U.N. inquiry has just decried "indiscriminate attacks, including killing civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur." So how can we now stand aside and wait for justice?

I say, never again.

The United Nations must immediately implement a clear civilian protection strategy to safeguard the people of Darfur from genocide. This strategy should include three major facets: armed protection for civilians, sanctions on oil and targeted sanctions against regime leaders and an international criminal court to punish those most responsible for these barbaric and monstrous acts.

The AU troops responsible for monitoring the cease-fire in Darfur have neither the mandate nor the capacity to enforce it. More sickening, the AU deployment requires the consent of the sponsors of genocide sitting in Khartoum.

The mandate of the AU force must be expanded under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter to provide extensive protection for civilians. The number of troops must be increased dramatically to meet this challenge from the 1,877 now on the ground. And these will need to be augmented by a military contingent with specialized capabilities, including command, control, communications, intelligence, intratheater airlift and a quick reaction brigade to protect Darfur's civilian population, as was done in Kosovo.

A NATO brigade should handle this duty, and the United States should make a significant contribution to that brigade.

We also need to deter Sudanese air attacks on civilians and humanitarian targets. A U.N. Security Council resolution now under discussion should be broadened to prevent Sudanese aircraft from attacking civilians. The most logical plan would impose and enforce a "no-fly zone" over Darfur. Short of that, a swift reaction brigade can monitor Sudan's military assets and disable or destroy any aircraft determined to have been used in these attacks.

And Sudan should not reap the benefit from its oil as long as the genocide continues. In spite of efforts to impose international oil sanctions, China and Russia have stood in the way, choosing oil and weapons sales over African lives.

The United States should intensify efforts at the United Nations to impose international oil sanctions and to force a public vote for those countries that callously weigh the rape of women and girls against their national interests in oil. If China or Russia blocks such a vote, the United States should pursue a sanctions regime outside the United Nations, as it did against apartheid South Africa.

The Bush administration should assign a special envoy for Darfur to help broker peace between the rebel groups and the Sudanese government. We must use all of our diplomatic weight to the talks between the rebel groups and the government of Sudan to bring a swift and lasting peace to the people of Darfur.

As the world knows from documents and witnesses, the United States had a detailed understanding of what was happening in Auschwitz as early as June 1944. And our planes had been based within striking distance of there since December 1943. We could have bombed the railroad lines that were carrying tens of thousands of victims each month to that evil place. Instead, we bombed oil facilities less than five miles away.

History will judge us no less harshly if we now knowingly stand by as the men, women and children of Darfur suffer and die.

Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, is the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress.

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