by Rafael Medoff
Four months have passed since the Obama administration launched its Atrocities Prevention Board–yet the new agency has not yet said a word about the need to arrest Sudan’s president, perpetrator of the Darfur genocide. Yom HaShoah offers an opportunity to reflect on this disturbing fact, and its implications for the one country that is under the threat of genocide today, Israel.
Omar Hassan Bashir, president of Sudan, might be described as the least-wanted most-wanted man in the world. Although indicted in 2009 by the International Criminal Court for his central role in the Darfur genocide, Bashir not only remains in power, but travels openly, evidently with no fear of being arrested.
Not only has the Obama administration made no attempt to capture Bashir–it hasn’t even criticized countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia for hosting him, even though those nations have received substantial U.S. aid. In the last few months, Bashir has traveled to Libya and Iraq, two countries that would still be under the rule of Muammar Gadaffi and Saddam Hussein, respectively, if not for the United States.
Eighty-five leading Holocaust and genocide scholars, mobilized by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, signed a letter to the president urging him to respond to the Libya visit. “Especially in view of the role the United States played in bringing about the overthrow of the Gadaffi regime,” the scholars wrote, “the U.S. has a right, and a moral obligation, to demand that the new Libya join us in treating perpetrators of genocide as pariahs.” The petition urged President Obama to “speak out publicly against Libya’s embrace of Bashir and to make it clear to the international community that the U.S. regards the hosting of visits by Bashir as unacceptable.” But President Obama chose to remain silent.
To make matters worse, the U.S. envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman, recently told the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat: “Frankly we do not want to see the ouster of the [Bashir] regime, nor regime change…It is not in our interests to see the ouster of the regime in Sudan, for this will only create more problems.”
Lyman’s statement should have prompted outrage from anti-genocide activists including, first and foremost, the administration’s own Atrocities Prevention Board. After all, how can anyone seriously expect to prevent future atrocities if the perpetrators of recent atrocities are let off scot free? Yet there was hardly a peep of protest.
The issue is not just future atrocities, but present-day atrocities as well. Bashir’s forces are now bombing the non-Arab tribes that inhabit the Nuba Mountains region at the border between Sudan and South Sudan. The obvious way to end Bashir’s atrocities is to put Bashir behind bars. U.S. forces have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to apprehend fugitive terrorists and dictators–just recall their capture of the Achille Lauro hijackers, near Egypt, and Manuel Noriega, in Panama.
But the Obama administration is apparently unwilling to risk angering Bashir’s allies. Russia and China provide Bashir with military and economic aid. The Arab League gives him diplomatic support.
It might seem as if the plight of the Nuba Mountains people has little to do with Israel. But consider this. The president is pressuring Israel to refrain from striking Iran’s nuclear facilities. And he is asking American Jews to support his re-election, based on his pledge that he “has Israel’s back” with regard to Iran. In the months ahead, American Jewish voters –including those who could tip the balance in key battleground states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida– will be debating what his pledge means, and how far Mr. Obama really would go to protect Israel. On this Yom HaShoah, the U.S. abandonment of Nuba is not a good omen.