What can the U.S. do to stop the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan? New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson suggested stepping up pressure on China—one of Sudan’s best oil customers—through a threat to boycott the 2008 summer Olympics in Bejing.
Sudanese economic sanctions, which President Bush stepped up a few days ago haven’t forced the Sudan government to stop the violence.
Plowing fresh ground in a debate where a lot of the questions have been in the news—such as the failure of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to read a National Intelligence Estimate before voting to authorize the Iraq war—the idea to boycott the Chinese Olympics is interesting. It comes as Chicago and the U.S. Olympics Committee is campaigning to land the 2016 summer games in the city. Presumably the USOC does not need a U.S led Chinese Olympic threat headache as it looks for international backing for Chicago. Still, the killings continue and an Olympic boycott threat may shame China into using its leverage over Sudan to stop the murders.
“We need China, to lean on China, which has enormous leverage over Darfur. And if the Chinese don't want to do this, we say to them, maybe we won't go to the Olympics,” said Richardson.
Asked what he thought of the idea, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Ct.) crisply said “I think that goes too far’’ and then pressed for his rivals to answer the boycott question. There was a lot of cross talk and CNN host Wolf Blitzer cut to the chase by asking for a show of hands.
Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton kept their hands down. I think all the others were up.
Here’s the exchange…(transcript from CNN)
BLITZER: Governor, would you use force to save people in Darfur?
RICHARDSON: No, what I would do -- and I was there. I got a
very fragile cease-fire put together there, three months ago.
And we made things a little better. I want with the Save Darfur
This is what I would do. Number one, more U.N. peacekeepers.
The government is refusing to make this happen.
Secondly, economic sanctions. We've imposed them, but they're
weak. We need European countries to make them happen.
RICHARDSON: Third, we need China, to lean on China, which has
enormous leverage over Darfur. And if the Chinese don't want to do
this, we say to them, maybe we won't go to the Olympics. And lastly,
what we need is a country, a foreign policy that cares about Africa,
that cares that 300,000 human beings have died, have been massacred,
that over 2 million have lost their homes.
BLITZER: All right.
RICHARDSON: Gender-based violence, rape. America should care
about Africa, and we don't.
BLITZER: Hold on one second. What about that idea, Senator
Dodd, about possibly boycotting the Beijing Summer Olympic games if
China doesn't use its influence to stop the genocide in Sudan?
DODD: I think that goes too far, Wolf. Here, look. This is a
DODD: There are ways of dealing with this. We're not only going
to elect a president in November of 2008. We're going to elect,
arguably, the most important, if not the most important, leader in the
And it's going to be critically important that we use the tools
available to us to exercise the influence we'd like on China, on
Russia and other nations to be more cooperative and participate in
solving some of these problems here.
That's going to require real leadership based on experience that
knows how to bring people together -- certainly, reminding the Chinese
of the importance of this issue -- utilizing those tools that are
available to us.
But the idea that you go in and stop the Olympics from happening
I don't think gets you there. I think that's more likely to delay the
kind of influence and support China ought to be providing.
BLITZER: Senator Edwards?
EDWARDS: Actually, I disagree with my friend, Chris Dodd, about
that. I think that we should use whatever tools available to us.
And I have to say to Senator Biden, Governor Richardson, I
applaud their being so vocal and out there on this issue. It's
But I think all of us recognize that this is a piece of a bigger
puzzle, which is America no longer has the moral authority to lead in
EDWARDS: Watching a genocide continue has contributed to that,
but it is not the only thing. The spread of HIV/AIDS, I think America
ought to actually lead an effort to make primary school education
available to 100 million children in the world who desperately need
it, including in Africa...
BLITZER: We're going to go back to Jennifer.
But go ahead, Senator Obama, very quickly.
OBAMA: Two things -- one, we are going to continue to see some
of these problems in ungoverned spaces. We've got a security interest
and a humanitarian interest in dealing with this. We've got to work
internationally to figure out how we can get forces to stop genocides
Second point, our legitimacy is reduced when we've got a
Guantanamo that is open, when we suspend habeas corpus. Those kinds
of things erode our moral claims that we are acting on behalf of
broader universal principles, and that's one of the reasons why those
kinds of issues are so important.
DODD: ... cancel the Olympics.
DODD: That's not a bad question. You asked the question.
DODD: I'd like to know how my colleagues would feel about it.
BLITZER: If you agree that the U.S. should consider boycotting
BLITZER: Senator Dodd says he doesn't think that's a good idea.
If you agree that it might be a good idea, raise your hand -- if
BIDEN: Wolf, the reason we have no moral authority is we're not
acting. I heard the same argument with Milosevic. I went over there,
found out there was genocide going on, came to your husband. I said,
"We must act."
Now, look, we acted. Not an American was killed. We saved
hundreds of thousands of lives.
By the time all these guys talk, 50,000 more people are going to
be dead. They're going to be dead. And I tell you, I guarantee you,
we have the capacity by setting up a no-fly zone to shut down the
Janjaweed. That's our moral authority. Exercise it.
OBAMA: Nobody disagrees with the no-fly zone...
BLITZER: I want to go back to Jennifer, but I have to ask
Governor Richardson, you're a former ambassador at the United Nations,
and what I hear you saying, what you're saying is that you would
consider the United States boycotting the Summer Olympic Games in
China unless China starts getting tough with the government in Sudan.
RICHARDSON: Yes, I would. Because China purchases a lot of
their oil -- most of it, a good part of it -- from Sudan.
And my view is that they are a leverage point. And they have not
been strong on the Sudan.
We don't need, Joe -- with all due respect -- another military
involvement. Iraq is enough. And we must get out of Iraq.
What we need to do is move forward with the toughest options. Am
I for a no-fly zone? Yes. I think we need strong economic sanctions.
And we lack the moral authority to build international coalitions, to
fight genocide in Darfur. We should shut down -- I would as first day
as president, I would shut down Guantanamo. I would shut down Abu
Ghraib and secret prisons. That is the moral authority that we don't