The so-called “President” of the authoritarian regime of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, is under indictment for crimes against humanity by the fledgling International Criminal Court in connection with repression in the Darfur region in his country.
But instead of arresting him the Obama Administration is offering him a new carrot and stick engagement party.
The new administration is continuing its collapse on the human rights front that began with the declaration by Secretary of State Clinton that concern for human rights in China would take a back seat to concerns over climate change and the status of the US dollar holdings of the Chinese stalinists. The new “engagement” policy then hit Burma where the Administration signaled softening on the generals there and then Tibet where the White House told the Dalai Lama he was not welcome in Washington D.C. until after Obama made a pilgrimage to Beijing to sip tea with the Chinese regime.
The National Security Council’s human rights advocate is supposed to be former Harvard University professor Samantha Power who won a Pulitzer Prize for her book on African genocide and urged George Bush to “stand up to Sudan’s government.”
Presumably she will now resign in protest? Don’t hold your breath. In fact, the Administration trotted Ms. Power out to sell the new policy in a briefing to the Darfur human rights activist movement.
Here is a link to an interesting backgrounder on the Bush era policy of being tough with Sudan’s Bashir. (HT: Pundita) The argument is that the US favored a breakup of Sudan and was using the Darfur human rights issue to engineer the split. If Sudan split up then Chinese oil interests there would be damaged in favor of the US.
Although I have my doubts about this theory – there is not much oil in Darfur, it’s in the south, and the US settled its disputes in the South to the pleasure no doubt of the Chinese – let’s nonetheless assume it to be true. Then, the softening of the US stand towards Sudan now under Obama/Power would be consistent with the cozying up to China and Burma and distancing the US from the Dalai Lama and the wider buddhist movement and human rights efforts in Asia. That means the Obama people must think they can do a deal with the Sudanese regime to protect US interests there.
I would also throw into the mix the fact that ex Goldman Sachs banker Robert Hormats is now part of the Obama team – Hormats led the charge on the multi billion dollar PetroChina IPO in 2000 including a scheme later found by the SEC to be fraudulent to hide the oil company’s role in Sudan. (Full disclosure: I represented the AFL-CIO in its campaign to block that IPO in the US and wrote a long article about that you can link to here.)