While touring the Holocaust Museum in Washington on April 16, President Bush said Sudanese President Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir keeps "finding new ways to subvert and obstruct the U.N.'s efforts to bring peace to his country. The time for promises is over — President al-Bashir must act." Also present was Elie Wiesel: "Darfur is the capital of human suffering in the world." Of the president's ultimatum to Bashir, Holocaust survivor Wiesel said: "I am a Jew who believes in daily miracles."
The next day, instead of a miracle, the Sudanese government bombed Darfur villages for 10 days, the United Nations reported, leveling a school.
Undaunted, Bush, who says the genocide in Darfur must stop, ordered new sanctions against Sudan on May 29, accusing al-Bashir of being "complicit in the bombing, murder and rape of innocent civilians." These sanctions prevent 31 additional firms owned or controlled by Sudan from engaging in business with United States companies and our banking system.
Speaking for China — to which Sudan sells 60 percent of its oil and 40 percent of its total exports — Liu Guijin, China's special representative in Darfur, said on the same day (Sudan Tribune): "These willful sanctions and simply applying pressure is not conducive to solving the problem. … It will only make achieving a solution more complicated."
With China the world's chief protector of Sudan, it is increasingly evident that a worldwide boycott of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing will be much more effective than sanctions against Sudan. But Bush keeps trying.
In addition to economic sanctions, Bush pledged that we will urge the U.N. Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Sudan, and a prohibition against military flights over Darfur to end the bombing not only of the black Africans' villages, but also of meetings of rebel groups trying to end the fighting among themselves. (The latter armistice is also essential for any chance of long-range peace in Darfur.)
Bush did not detail how he will persuade China and Russia (each on the U.N. Security Council) against vetoing these American proposals. Since his plan does not include any sanctions against those countries, the U.N. Security Council will, as always, be useless in ending the genocide.
In all the press coverage of our president's clearly sincere but ineffective threats against Gen. al-Bashir, I saw no mention of the May 23 Washington Post report "Flights Between U.S., China to Double." Not only will daily flights be more than double, but also — said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters — by 2011, China (by lifting limits on cargo flights and carriers) will provide U.S. cargo carriers "virtually unlimited access."
Among those celebrating this new expansion of our economic ties with China was U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. who, The Washington Post reported, "said the Chinese government agreed to remove a block on new foreign securities firms and will resume licensing them this year" — as well as allowing "licensed foreign banks to immediately begin offering yuan-denominated debit and credit cards."
Since China is the only nation in the world that can compel Gen. al-Bashir to end the genocide and disarm his Janjaweed militia (described by their victims as "the devils on horseback") who have killed and raped untold numbers of black Africans in Darfur, I suggest Bush introduce the secretary of the Treasury to Wiesel, who will instruct him on genocide.
Not all disagreements between China and the United Sates on trade were ended in the two-day economic dialogue, but U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab was pleased: "Suffice to say we had a healthy exchange of views." How this summit meeting on the business of increasing profits for both countries affects the very lives of the surviving people of Darfur was not cited.
I guess business is business, as noted by Jody Williams and Mia Farrow in their May 23 Wall Street Journal column on "Sudan's Enablers." They point out that "China's interests in Sudan are represented almost entirely by China National Petroleum Company and PetroChina … two faces of the same entity."
Yet the admirable philanthropist Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway firm, "which has roughly $3 billion invested in PetroChina — voted earlier this month not only against divesting (in those two enablers of Sudan's genocide), but also against taking any shareholder action on the issue."
Williams and Farrow ask of Buffett how "a man can be a true humanitarian while offering billions of dollars to a company that is underwriting Khartoum's crimes."
I expect that with the expansion of daily flights to China, Buffett will enjoy the very best accommodations, as will Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson Jr.
Meanwhile, every day, the devils on horseback will be riding in Darfur.
Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights and author of many books, including "The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance" (Seven Stories Press, 2004).