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Jewish World Review
January 14, 2008
/ 7 Shevat 5768
Is your pension fund supporting genocide?
With an extremely rare bipartisan unanimity, the House and Senate passed a bill that is the strongest financial pressure yet on the savage government of Sudan to end its genocide in Darfur. On Dec. 31, the president signed the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act. As he had previously pledged, "not on my watch" would he be silent on the next Rwanda, after the world had done nothing to stop the mass killings of Africans there.
This law mandates that companies doing business with the federal government must certify that they are not doing any with the government of Sudan. As the Washington-based Genocide Intervention Network, a key in getting this law passed and signed, point out:
"The U.S. government has millions of dollars of contracts with...companies that support the genocidal regime in Sudan. A ban on renewal of federal contracts with those companies (would also) increase pressure on (other) foreign companies that fund the genocide."
Moreover, this act making Sudan even more of a pariah government would, the Associated Press reported (Dec. 31), permit "state, county and municipal officials to adopt measures to divest their government investments (including pension funds) in the four sectors that provide vital revenue for Sudan's government oil, power production, mining and military equipment."
Also affected are such huge investment funds as Vanguard and Fidelity. There is a pointed slogan of the Save Darfur Coalition (encompassing more than 170 organizations): "Is your mutual fund funding genocide?" Maybe now more Americans will demand answers.
The president signed this acutely humanitarian legislation despite opposition in his administration. For example, there was the stunningly clueless statement by the State Department's Elizabeth Dribble, principle deputy assistant for international finance and development: "We have serious concerns about attempts to apply new sanctions on the government of Sudan now at this moment. It would send the wrong message to the regime at a time when it is actually being helpful with peace talks and with the African Union/U.N. peacekeeping force."
Sudan President Gen. Omar al-Bashir has been so "helpful" that as of Jan. 1, only 9,000 of the promised 26,000 members of that force are in place due to the continued obstructions of al-Bashir, who has not in the least disarmed his murderous Janjaweed militia. And the force is badly underequipped.
Bush, however, has taken internal resistance to this legislation into account. In a signing statement accompanying the law, he reserved his authority to overrule any state or local divestment decisions that conflict with his administration's foreign policy. "The constitution," he warned, "vests the exclusive authority to conduct foreign relations with the federal government."
But as the president monitors local and state divestments under this new law, he will himself be monitored by an insistently watchful array of such groups as the Save Darfur Coalition, the Genocide Intervention Network, American Jewish World Service, Dream for Darfur and others. As a number of them emphasized in a joint statement:
"The people of Darfur cannot afford an empty law on the books, which is why the president must vigorously enforce this critical legislation."
Also on Dec. 31, the Bush administration in a move that is far more rhetorical than meaningful called on the chronically duplicitous al-Bashir and the conflicting, sometimes murderous rebel groups "to observe a complete and immediate ceasefire" so that the combined U.N. and African Union force can engage in "full and expeditious deployment."
That won't happen for months, if ever, as the genocide goes on.
And, as useful as the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act can be, al-Bashir's crucial economic dependence on China continues. For one of many examples, the tireless historian of this genocide, Eric Reeves, notes in The New Republic (Dec. 18):
"Of the 500,000 barrels of oil Sudan produces every day, China imports roughly two thirds. ... It's no wonder the Chinese have been so keen on funneling money some $10 billion into Sudanese oil infrastructure projects like pipeline construction, all-weather road building, and exploration rigs."
That's why the international pressure by human rights groups on corporations investing in this summer's Beijing Olympics must continue in order to place deep shadow of China's support of murder and rape on those games that China so depends on to demonstrate its innate decency to the world.
Also, since the nations of the Arab world are so indifferent to the atrocities against the black African Muslims in Darfur, isn't it time for economic pressures on those governments? Doesn't Islam insist that all Muslims of whatever color or ethnicity be treated as equal members of the faith? To begin with, where is the rescuing voice of Saudi Arabia?
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Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights and author of several books, including his current work, "The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance". Comment by clicking here.
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