Actions, not words

July 25, 2005

ARECENT EBB in the violence that has turned the Darfur region of Sudan into a killing field the size of Texas offers little comfort. Fewer tribal villages are being attacked because the murderous militias are running out of targets.

During the two-year systematic campaign against the black Africans of Darfur by the Islamist regime in Khartoum, 2,000 villages have been heavily damaged or destroyed and nearly half of Darfur's 5.5 million residents have been killed or driven out.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was more than justified in her skeptical response last week to promises from Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir to work to end the conflict. In fact, the thuggish manner in which her aides and accompanying reporters were roughed up while the secretary was meeting with President al-Bashir undermines whatever shred of credibility he had left.

Clearly, the regime is simply biding its time, betting that international attention to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur will fade and that the millions of people consigned to miserable lives in refugee camps will be forgotten.

No doubt there is also a calculation that the eagerness of American companies to tap into Sudan's rich supply of oil will ultimately reverse the administration's refusal to lift economic sanctions on Khartoum without a dramatic change in its behavior.

Thus, it is all the more critical for the Bush administration to maintain, and even step up, its pressure for what Ms. Rice described as "actions," not "words."

President Bush and his aides are to be commended for the emphasis they have placed on this crisis. Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick toured refugee camps three times in the three months preceding Ms. Rice's visit last week, each time bringing the international spotlight along with him. The U.S. has also been the major donor of emergency food aid, and is providing logistical support for African Union peacekeepers.

But so much more is needed: additional peacekeepers, perhaps from NATO; a top-level U.S. envoy to broker peace negotiations as former Ambassador John C. Danforth did for the North-South conflict in Sudan, and a jump-start for stalled sanctions approved by the United Nations.

Time might also solve the problem -- but only by ensuring that the genocide in progress achieves its goal.

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