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Sweet debate special: Dems debate--Will China Olympic boycott help stop Darfur genocide? Report 5.

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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
Coalition.

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.

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

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
major issue.


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
world.

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
enormously important.

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
the world.


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
like this.

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.

(CROSSTALK)

DODD: ... cancel the Olympics.


DODD: That's not a bad question. You asked the question.

(CROSSTALK)

DODD: I'd like to know how my colleagues would feel about it.

BLITZER: If you agree that the U.S. should consider boycotting
Asian Olympics...

(CROSSTALK)

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
necessary.

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.

(APPLAUSE)

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
have.

5 Comments

There was never any doubt that today's Incredibly Stupid Statement would originate in last night's Democratic presidential debate. I was surprised, though, at the source ...

In April 1978, there was a Soviet-backed coup in Afghanistan, along with an increase in human rights abuses against Jewish dissidents, such as Alexander Ginsburg, Yuri Orlov and Anatoly Scharansky. At that time, when Moscow was preparing for a Summer Olympics that were still two years away, there were two cities in the world that could have played host in lieu of Moscow: Munich and Montreal. Given the fact that the murder of eleven Israeli athletes in Munich was still fresh in the minds of many, Montreal was probably the only real alternative to Moscow, but it was enough.

President Carter could have and should have pressured the International Olympic Committee to consider moving the 1980 Olympic Games to Montreal back then; instead, he did nothing until January 1980, weeks after Soviet President Leonid I. Brezhnev's invasion of Afghanistan. Mr. Carter's last-minute boycott campaign ended up doing nothing to get Soviet troops out of Afghanistan but did end up making our president look in the eyes of many around the world as if he were afraid to have American athletes compete against the Soviets in Moscow and lose. Also, the U.S. boycott didn't result in the cancellation of the Moscow Olympics; instead, the Soviets simply racked up more medals.

The Moscow Olympic boycott was thus a spectacular failure, and similarly, it may already be too late for a Beijing Olympic boycott to work, as the Bush administration has done absolutely nothing to prepare for it. Imagine if the sixty-five nations that boycotted the Moscow Olympics had participated but had refused to allow their national anthems to be played or their national flags to be flown at the opening, closing, and medal-awarding ceremonies, substituting instead the Olympic hymn and the five-ringed Olympic flag: the Soviets would have been deeply embarrassed every time three Olympic flags were hoisted for a medal-awarding ceremony, and our athletes would not have been deprived of their opportunity to compete. This is the action we might consider taking if it is already too late to move the 2008 Summer Olympics from Beijing to Athens or Sydney.

There was much excitement at the Democratic debate over taking immediate action in Darfur and creating a no fly zone. In an interview aired this morning, Mahmood Mamdani, a professor at Columbia University who was presented as a scholar on African affairs, spoke at length regarding problems in Darfur. (Watch the interview or read a transcript at http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/06/04/1334230 .) Beyond his study of the political application of the term “genocide” to some war-torn areas of the world where civilian casualties are great and not others, his response included the following: (1) the African Union troops have had some success in stabilizing Darfur but are in need of greater international support and funding; (2) funds sent by Americans and others to the Save Darfur Coalition are used to purchase PR rather than provide direct assistance; (3) Bush’s sanctions were presented at a time when progress was beginning to take place and are likely to do more harm than good; and (4) any attention given to problems in Darfur by the Bush administration is intended to subvert the African union’s ability to gain control of the situation. Given the foreign policy record of the Bush administration, I suspect Professor Mamdani is correct.

Boycott the Olympics? That falls under the People Unclear on the concept umbrella - and imo disqualifies them from contention for the President of the U.S. competition.

According to MSNBC and the NYT, only Richardson and Edwards raised their hands in support of a possible boycott:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/us/politics/03demsdebate_transcript.html

All of the debaters have their various strengths and weaknesses, but I haven't seen any reason to change my mind that Obama and Clinton are the most credible candidates.

REGARDING CHINA, DARFUR, THE OLYMPICS, AND BILL RICHARDSON

BOYCOTTING THE OLYMPICS?

I agree with Richardson’s innovative idea, given the general silence among
nations vis-à-vis China’s ghastly atrocities in the human rights realm,
especially towards Tibetans, and especially with its dozens of prisons which
for Tibetans are exactly like Auschwitz and Dachau. I posited the same idea
in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, in correspondence to His Holiness, the Dalai
Lama, and to many, many, heads-of-state, that the moral indignation of the
nations in the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 could be harnessed into at least
the threat of a boycott, perhaps worded more diplomatically. Sen. Edwards
essentially agreed with this point by Richardson during the recent debate.

Make no mistake: this is probably the last chance in human history to do
anything constructive about Tibet, to prevent henceforth the genocidal
treatment of Tibetans remaining in Tibet, which has since 1959 seen 1.2
million Tibetans killed, roughly 20% of the entire population of Tibet.

If American political powers and their pundits won’t use the remains of our
powers of moral suasion in the world at large, and if we are to once again
docilely capitulate to dimwitted politicians who say that the Olympics is
only about sport, and not about politics, we are no better than the many
nations who were oblivious to the growing obviousness of the genocide of Jews
in Europe before and during World War II.

Actually, the USA was for many years oblivious in this regard, all of which
is thoroughly documented in Arthur Morse’s book, While Six Million Died. In
that light, we think Richardson is on the right track, and even more so,
when you consider the dead pets and the poisoned toothpaste from China. That
is just not “about politics:” that was life and death for many!]

News: In what may be its most audacious Olympic act yet, China’s Ministry of
Public Security has issued an incredible directive that lists 43 categories
of unwanteds who are to be investigated and barred from the 2008 Beijing
Olympics, the Falun Dafa Information Center has learned. Pariah groups
include:

- eerily vague “key individuals in ideological fields”
- “overseas hostile forces”
- “counter-revolutionary” figures
- the Dalai Lama and all affiliates
- members of “religious entities not sanctioned by the state” (e.g. Roman
Catholics)
- “individuals who instigate discontentment toward the Chinese Communist
Party through the Internet,”
- and even certain types of “handicapped” persons.

Members of the Falun Gong would be barred, as would “family members of
deceased persons” killed in “riots” — a euphemism for events such as the
Tiananmen Massacre — and Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province, which the
regime brands “national separatists.” Only at the very bottom of the
directive does it identify “violent terrorists” and members of “illegal
organizations” as targets for investigation and possible barring.

Stephen Fox
New Millennium Fine Art
217 W. Water St.
Santa Fe, NM 87501
505 983-2002

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on June 4, 2007 2:27 AM.

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