In September 2004, the president was the first world leader to accuse the government of Sudan of the genocide of black Africans in Darfur. Despite all the U.N. Security Council resolutions and the earnest but naive negotiations by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the killings and rapes continue amid the spreading chaos, which now encompasses Chad. It is all the more startling that George W. Bush has now accepted an invitation by Chinese President Hu Jintao to grace next summer's Olympics in Beijing.
Bush must know that China is making elaborate, expensive preparations including reducing air pollution in Beijing for this legendary international event. There is an intense expectation among China's leaders that hosting (and sharing in) the glories of the quest for the gold medals will change China's image in the world, from a merciless dictatorship to the embodiment of the Olympic spirit of harmonious relations among nations.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino says that, although Bush spoke to the Jintao "in a forceful way" during a recent private meeting in Australia about China's disdain for human rights and religious freedom, Bush was not going to attend the Olympics to make a political statement.
Michael Green, former Asia director at the National Security Council in the Bush administration, told the New York Times (Sept. 7), "The bottom line is (the president) just loves sports, and I'm sure he wants to go, like any other guy, because it's going to be exciting. I think he's going to watch."
It would be even more exciting if, during what I and others are calling the Genocide Olympics, officials held an event to test the synchronizing skills of Sudan's camel-riding Janjaweed militias as they burn villages, kill the men, rape the women, carry away the livestock and sometimes throw children into the fires. Sudan's Khartoum government has pledged to disarm the Janjaweed but has shown no inclination to so, let alone punish the leaders.
President Bush is certainly aware that Sudan's chief investor in Sudan and leading arms supplier is the host of next summer's Olympics. China's leaders are nervous about plans for a worldwide campaign to shame China into exerting its enormous influence to compel the Sudanese government to join civilization. This nervousness extends to a growing movement to boycott the Olympics because of China's obvious complicity in the genocide.
By hobnobbing with the leaders of the People's Republic of China at the Summer Olympics, the sports-loving president will as Sophie Richardson, an Asia expert at Human Rights Watch, puts it, be giving "an enormous propaganda opportunity" as China strives to erase the image of the young pro-democracy protestor standing in front of the army tanks at Tiananmen Square.
Some years ago, it was George W. Bush, on learning more of the details of the Rwanda genocide, who wrote on what he was reading: "Not on my watch." How can he not realize that in going to watch the exciting games in Beijing, the hosts with whom he consorts will, in time, be responsible for more corpses than the executors of the genocide in Rwanda?
Amid all the current talk by Ban Ki-Moon about constructive efforts by the government of Sudan to engage in peace negotiations with the rebels and tribes, also warring with one another, Reeves the pre-eminent historian of this genocide wrote in the Sept. 6 Boston Globe that "though violence in Darfur has mutated ... ethnically targeted violence, orchestrated by (the Khartoum government), continues to be chronicled by human rights investigators. ... The regime continues its indiscriminate aerial bombardment of African villages."
Under increasing danger are the extraordinarily brave humanitarian workers who are also the victims of the violence. Some have been forced to leave; and Eric Reeves quotes Jan Egeland, former head of the U.N. humanitarian operations, that "hundreds of thousands would die in the event of humanitarian collapse."
Maybe Mr. Bush, sitting in his box seat at the games, will be moved to make "a political statement" to Hu Jintao, urging him to tell the government of Sudan that China is considering disinvesting from Sudan if it continues the genocide. The president of China may listen politely, but it continues to be China's unwavering insistence that it will continue, at the U.N. Security Council, to protect Sudan from forceful punishment of its crimes against its own people.
Bush should reconsider and not let his presence at the Genocide Olympics in Beijing be recorded as having been on his watch.
I also hope that, on reflection, a growing number of the athletes winning a place at the Summer Olympics will decide that receiving a gold medal at an event hosted by a partner in genocide will not be worth the trip.