SUDAN WATCH: The White House denounces Nicholas Kristof

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The White House denounces Nicholas Kristof

The White House has issued a Statement by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley confirming that Nicholas Kristof's portrayal last week of the Bush Administration's response to the genocide in Darfur (A New Chance for Darfur, December 28, 2008) was inaccurate.

Quite right too. Good for them. Kristof makes my blood boil. Why the New York Times continues to facilitate such a self serving political activist with dangerous views masquarading as hard news is beyond my understanding.

True to form, Kristof could not resist responding stupidly on his blog [Ref. Jan. 05, 2009 The White House denounces me] bragging:
"Wow. I’m so flattered [...] my hunch is that President Bush finally weighed in after my column in question or that Hadley became concerned about his own reputation on this matter."
Well, my hunch is that Kristof's hunch is wrong on both counts and that he is a deluded idiot driven by self interest. The high regard I had for the New York Times five years ago steadily evaporated over the years that it published Kristof's naive rants on Sudan. Surely if the New York Times continues to publish Kristof's dangerous political activism, it risks bringing itself into further disrepute.

For the record, here below is a copy of The White House's Statement. I have highlighted in red the part that puts into a nutshell how well the Bush Administration has handled the Sudan crisis. America deserves great plaudits for its massively generous donations and aid to Sudan and to Africa as a whole, and for peacefully helping to bring under control the horrific civil war in Southern Sudan and Darfur, Western Sudan. Thank goodness that President Bush and his Administration never heeded advice from Nicholas Kristof and Eric Reeves [whose latest rant appears at Sudan Tribune Dec. 19, 2008: Genocide in Darfur: International focus on Al-Bashir is too narrow]. God help US President-elect Obama if he listens to either of those two. They'd set the tinder box of Africa alight at the blink of an eyelid. Kristof and Reeves ought to take a leaf out of Alex de Waal's book. Dr de Waal is one of the Brits recognised for exceptional achievement and service to the UK in the New Years Honours List (December 31, 2008). The honour of an OBE has been bestowed on Dr de Waal for his services to development and conflict resolution in Africa. Congratulations to Alex (my favourite reporter on Sudan). See? Love and peace are always better (and more rewarding!) than violence and war.

From The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
January 5, 2009

Statement by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley
Today, President Bush announced his approval of the airlift of equipment for the United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The President also authorized the waiver of the 15-day congressional notification requirements to allow the airlift assistance to proceed immediately, because failing to do so would pose a substantial risk to human health and welfare.

The U.S. provision of airlift will deliver equipment and vehicles that are critical to the UNAMID deployment, and will thus help UNAMID directly protect civilian lives and improve the safe and effective delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid to areas of west Darfur currently inaccessible due to security concerns.

Today's announcement is further evidence that Nicholas Kristof's portrayal last week of this Administration's response to the genocide in Darfur (A New Chance for Darfur, December 28, 2008) was inaccurate. President Bush has been committed to resolving the crisis there since the United States first labeled it genocide in 2004. Even prior to the Darfur crisis, the President showed his commitment to the cause of peace in Sudan by pressing for a historic peace agreement between the North and South that ended the country's 22-year civil war which took more than two million lives.

The President has named three special envoys to advance peace in Sudan: Senator John Danforth, who helped achieved the North-South peace and initiated our efforts on Darfur; followed by the appointment of Andrew Natsios, and finally the appointment of Rich Williamson in January 2008. Prior to Williamson's appointment, more robust military options were considered by the President for Darfur. The decision not to pursue those options was driven by the pleas of the leading church, advocacy, and humanitarian organizations dedicated to Darfur, who argued that United States military action would imperil their ability to deliver the kinds of life saving assistance that continues to keep more than 3.5 million Darfuris alive each year. Experts within the U.S. Agency for International Development were making similar arguments, as was the African Union, which at the time had more than 7,000 peacekeepers deployed across Darfur. And in a meeting just this month with a leading Darfuri human rights activist, the message was once again reiterated that U.S. military action would only worsen the situation for the very people we are trying to save.

This is not to say that increasing pressure on the Government of Sudan to relent in its campaign of violence is not a crucial element of U.S. policy toward Sudan. It is. U.S. financial sanctions against Sudan are among the toughest we have. Over the last five years, hundreds of millions of dollars in Sudanese transactions have been blocked or disrupted. Last year, the President further tightened these measures, announcing sanctions against dozens of companies tied to the Bashir regime or linked to violence in Darfur. Sudanese companies lost access to international markets and financing, including one of the regime's primary bankers in Europe. Within months of this action, the Sudanese government relented in its opposition to allowing United Nations peacekeepers to deploy to Darfur.

Unilateral pressure alone cannot be our policy. And it is not. That is why we are working closely with the United Nations to ensure that the peacekeepers are actually deployed and that they are trained and equipped effectively to carry out their mandate. It is also why we are supporting the work of the U.N./AU Mediator, Djibril Bassole, who has slowly gained the trust and confidence of government officials and rebel leaders alike. Bassole knows that, regrettably there are no silver bullets or quick fixes to this great human tragedy. The United States will continue to lead the international community to stand by the people of Darfur and to deploy and support the U.N. peacekeeping operation.
- - -

Here is a copy of Nicholas Kristof's blog post (followed by readers' comments that I agree with) published at nytimes.com

January 05, 2009
The White House denounces me
By Nicholas Kristof
Wow. I’m so flattered. Here’s a statement the White House just put out, in the name of National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley:

Today, President Bush announced his approval of the airlift of equipment for the United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The President also authorized the waiver of the 15-day congressional notification requirements to allow the airlift assistance to proceed immediately, because failing to do so would pose a substantial risk to human health and welfare.

The U.S. provision of airlift will deliver equipment and vehicles that are critical to the UNAMID deployment, and will thus help UNAMID directly protect civilian lives and improve the safe and effective delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid to areas of west Darfur currently inaccessible due to security concerns.

Today’s announcement is further evidence that Nicholas Kristof’s portrayal last week of this Administration’s response to the genocide in Darfur (A New Chance for Darfur, December 28, 2008) was inaccurate. President Bush has been committed to resolving the crisis there since the United States first labeled it genocide in 2004.

Look, I’m delighted that the White House is, belatedly, organizing this airlift. It sure smells of a desperate effort to burnish the administration’s legacy on Darfur, but better late than never. This particular step is one that the White House and Pentagon have resisted for months, so my hunch is that President Bush finally weighed in after my column in question or that Hadley became concerned about his own reputation on this matter.

The fact is that President Bush has seemed genuinely interested in Sudan and Darfur. He used the word genocide to refer to Darfur, which some officials were afraid of doing for fear that then they would have to do something about it. (They needn’t have worried: events showed that the president can use the g-word as a substitute for action rather than a spur to action.) Bush has also been good about sending relief supplies, and just last month he met in the White House with an extraordinary Darfur survivor, Halima Bashir, whom I’ve written about. But when you go to Darfur and see children with bullets and shrapnel, it seems incredibly inadequate to be always sending bandages and nothing more. What Bush hasn’t done is actually take steps to stop the killing. (In fairness, European countries haven’t shown much interest in this, either, and the Bush administration has done better than many governments.) President Clinton has said that his biggest regret in foreign policy was his paralysis during the 100-day Rwandan genocide; President Bush has been similarly paralyzed for five full years of Darfur’s slow-motion genocide.

What I hear is that Bush has repeatedly raised Darfur in White House meetings and asked about taking tougher steps. And each time, Condi Rice and Steve Hadley have discouraged him. The State Department’s Office of Policy Planning suggested some serious diplomatic moves, but they were ignored by the White House. Likewise, Michael Gerson when he was in the White House suggested a prime time speech on Darfur, which at least would have spotlighted the issue, but that was rejected. And this year, as I wrote in last week’s column, Ambassador Richard Williamson has listed a series of tough steps to put pressure on Sudan. They haven’t even had a serious hearing because of Hadley and Rice.

So I applaud today’s announcement about the airlift, and I hope that the Obama administration takes up where Bush leaves off — and doesn’t just stand at the sidelines, expressing regret. We have a chance now to work with Europe and Arab states such as Qatar to enforce the upcoming International Criminal Court arrest warrant for President Bashir — and end this genocide in 2009.
Readers' comments at nytimes.com

Here is a copy of the comments that I agree with, especially the last one No. 22 (except the part about Iraq: I supported intervention in Iraq and still do)

5. January 5, 2009
Mr Kristof,

While I consistently enjoy reading your column, this one irked me a bit, particularly this sentence:

(In fairness, European countries haven’t shown much interest in this, either, and the Bush administration has done better than many governments.)

This point seems quite important to your claim that the Bush administration has not done enough in Darfur, yet you only include it as a parenthetical side note.

You also write that “President Bush has been similarly paralyzed for five full years of Darfur’s slow-motion genocide.” But what about our other commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past five years? Despite the colossal mistake that is the Iraq war and despite how you may feel about our commitments there, given that we have soldiers on the ground, should Iraq not receive more of our administration’s attention than Darfur?

This may seem cold-hearted, but realistically, we cannot save every war-torn country from itself, can we? It seems as if you’ve been blinded by your idealism. I am 27 years old, voted for Obama, have peace corps aspirations, and have followed your column with great respect. But this time, I’m not so sure what to think.
— sella
15. January 6, 2009
Wow. You actually think a contract for airlift of hundreds of containers under UN control can be negotiated in one week? Your lack of knowledge is only out done by your self importance. The combination of ignorance and arrogance is truly amazing. Congratulations indeed.
— Reality
16. January 6, 2009
“Wow. I’m so flattered.”
Sorry, but this sounds extremely juvenile.

Whatever you think of Bush, he has done more for Africa than any other US president.
— Sam
22. January 6, 2009
Mr. Kristof,

Your reactions to the White House announcement for airlift support are truly shocking. Your claim of credit smacks of smug self importance and is a disservice to the countless U.S. public servants at the State Department, National Security Council, and USAID that have been laboring long and hard to resolve the Darfur crisis. The previous comment about taking one week to negotiate a complex airlift agreement is spot on. This commitment must have taken months to get through the burdensome UN bureaucracy. Given that you have spent many years covering international issues across 120 countries, one would think that you would have acquired a better sense of how international processes work.

From what I’ve seen, the Bush Administration has fought hard to secure strong UN action in Darfur (most of your readers are multilateralists are they not). They are providing hundreds of millions of dollars to support the UN and African Union peacekeeping missions and have applied significant diplomatic pressure to secure additional troop contributions from countries across the globe. Moreover, they’ve applied strong economic sanctions against the rogue Sudanese regime. Instead of blaming President Bush, you should take a close look at how the UN system should be revamped to improve responsiveness and prevent bad actors (Russia and China) from blocking more aggressive action.
— George
See Sudan Watch Jan. 07, 2009: Warmongering New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is gunning for Khartoum
- - -

FAREWELL AND THANKS TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH

As a tribute to the George W Bush era, here are some of my favourite photos from Sudan Watch archives.

US President GW Bush aboard Air Force One

Photo: US President George Bush speaks to Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, regarding the recent progress towards peace in Darfur, while on board an Air Force One May 6, 2006. (Reuters) Ref Sudan Watch archives: Bush thanks African leaders for Sudan work - in a call from Air Force One - May 06, 2006

Soccer Balls

Photo: Senior Airman Mike Meares, of the 86th Air Expeditionary Group public affairs office, shows a local child his photo on the back of his digital camera July 28, 2005. The group donated soccer balls, soccer nets, candy and toys to the children attending the Nonko Primary School of Kigali-Kanombe, Rwanda. The United States provided transportation for 1,200 Rwandan forces to and back from Sudan in support of AMIS 2, the African Union Mission in Sudan. Full Story at Hilltop Times "Airmen donate soccer balls, supplies to African children" Thursday August 4, 2005. (Photo by by SSgt Bradley C. Church) Ref Sudan Watch archives: Alex de Waal on John Garang: Death of an Enigma - August 04, 2005.

Bush and Bono

Photo: Bono rubs shoulders with Bush at G8. Don't miss Brendan O'Neill's article Welcome to the People's Republic of Bono posted at Spiked and copied at Ethiopia Watch, a sister blog of Sudan Watch - June 14, 2007

Prime Minister Tony Blair in Khartoum Oct 2004

Photo: Prime Minister Tony Blair in Khartoum, Sudan October 2004, the first visit to Sudan by a British leader since Sudan gained its independence from Britain in 1956. Mr Blair said the fact he had travelled to Khartoum showed "the seriousness with which this is taken".

Tony Blair in Khartoum Sudan

Photo: Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir shakes hands with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the presidential palace in Khartoum in Sudan October 06, 2004. (AFP). 

Payback time for US on Iraq

Photo: Tony Blair must tell George Bush to repay British support over the war on terror by backing moves to end African poverty, campaigners have demanded. The Prime Minister flies to Washington today for White House talks with the president of the United States tomorrow. Picture: Mark Wilson/ Getty Images: Blair to visit Bush for talks at White House tomorrow. "Tony Blair has got to go there [the White House] and make George Bush sit up and notice public opinion here" - Sir Bob Geldof, Live 8 organiser. Story in full at The Scotsman June 06, 2005.

Blair and Brown

Photo: British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown worked tirelessly together for over a decade to help improve the lives of people living in poverty both at home and abroad, especially in Africa in tandem with Sir Bono and Sir Bob Geldof, pictured here below as part of the Live8 concerts.

Sir Bob Geldof and Sail 8

Make Poverty History March

Photo: Make Poverty History march Scotland. UK 2 July 2005.

East Africa a front in war on terrorism

Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Adam Reed, from Sidon, Miss., Jan. 17 with Somali farmers in Sankabar, Ethiopia, to check on the water pumps the U.S. military helped install in their fields. (Photo by EVELYN HOCKSTEIN courtesy KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS/Seattle Times)  Feb 5, 2006 the Seattle Times publishes East Africa a front in war on terrorism authored by Shashank Bengali, Knight Ridder Newspapers. This story was featured here at Sudan Watch a few days ago. It is about the war on terrorism that most Americans (or the rest of us) haven't heard of. It's a must-read.

Ramstein team aids peacekeeping mission in Darfur

Photo: Ramstein Airmen assist Ugandan civil police with their baggage while transfering at Kigali International Airport, Rwanda. The Ugandan civil police are returning home after a one-year deployment to the Darfur region. Airmen from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, are deployed to Kigali, Rwanda, to provide airlift support for the African Union peacekeeping mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Erin Dorrance)

Returning home from Darfur

Photo: Ugandan civil police prepare to board a Botswana C-130 at the airport in Kigali, Rwanda. They were returning home after a one-year deployment to the Darfur region where they were part of the African Union peacekeeping mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Erin Dorrance)

NATO extends Darfur airlift mission

Photo: Rwandan soldiers from the last of the three battalions in Kigali deploying in Darfur western Sudan as part of an African Union mission, 30 September 2005, board a US Air Force C-130 heading for El Fasher, Sudan. When the airlift is completed Rwanda will have deployed more than 1800 men in Darfur. (AFP/Helen Vesperini/Yahoo) 30 Sep 2005

NATO:  2000 AU troops airlifted to Darfur

Photo: 2000 AU troops airlifted to Darfur. First NATO airlift of civilian police into Darfur. Photo courtesy NATO. Sudan Watch August 11, 2005

US airlifts AU troops to Darfur

Photo: Archive photo of Nigerian troops preparing to board a U.S. military plane in the Nigerian capital Abuja, October 28, 2004.

US airlifts AU troops to Darfur

Photo: Kigali International Airport, Rwanda -- Rwandan forces stand by to board a C-130 Hercules from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, here July 19. The Ramstein Airmen were here to provide transportation for 1,200 Rwandan forces to Sudan in support of NATO's response for the African Union's expanded peacekeeping mission in Darfur with logistics and training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bradley C. Church)

The troops were sent off with the music of a Rwandan military band, and marched to the C-17 through a Rwandan military honor guard hailing them with fixed bayonets. The aircraft was from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., and was flown by a crew from McChord AFB, Wash.

"All of our efforts in support of (the mission in the Darfur region of Sudan) underscore our commitment to an important team effort," said Capt. Joel Harper, the group's public affairs chief. "We are working with the international community, specifically the African Union and NATO, to help achieve peace in a unified Sudan."

US airlifts AU troops to Darfur

Photo: Kigali International Airport, Rwanda -- Tech. Sgt. Phillip Derenski talks with Rwandan Lt. Kadhafi Ntayomba on a C-17 Globemaster III from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., after arriving at the airport July 17. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bradley C. Church) During the operation, about 150 Airmen from Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Royal Mildenhall, England; and strategic support from U.S. Transportation Command will move about 1,200 Rwandan troops from Kigali to Al-Fashir, Sudan.
"We're not alone in this mission," Colonel Schafer said. "We're working with our allies in NATO and the AU to ensure Darfur gets help."

US airlifts AU troops

Photo: Kigali International Airport, Rwanda -- Rwandan forces prepare to board a C-17 Globemaster III from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., on July 17. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bradley C. Church) The U.S. airlift is part of the larger multinational effort to improve security and create conditions in which humanitarian assistance can be more effectively provided to the people of Darfur. NATO Secretary Gen. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced June 9 that the alliance would help the AU expand its peacekeeping force in Darfur from 3,300 to about 7,700 in the coming months.

Rwandan troops to Darfur

Photo July 17, 2005 AFP - Rwandan troops of the African Union force wait to board a plane at Kigali International Airport in Rwanda to be dispatched to Darfur. US President George W. Bush directed the Pentagon to spend six million dollars in 'commodities and services' to help transport African Union troops to Darfur. (AFP/File/Jose Cendon)

Germany - US Sudan airlift

Photo: In a picture provided by the U.S. Air Force U.S. Airmen process through a deployment line at U.S. airbase in Ramstein, southern Germany, Friday July 15, 2005 in preparation for a month-long airlift mission to Darfur. Three C-130 Hercules aircraft and approximately 40 airmen departed from Ramstein, southern Germany, for Kigali, Rwanda, July 16, 2005, as part of NATO's response to support the African Union's expanded peacekeeping mission in Darfur with logistics and training. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Master Sgt. David D. Underwood, Jr.)

Germany - US Sudan Airlift

Photo: JIn a picture provided by the U.S. Air Force a soldier signals to a plane as three C-130 Hercules aircraft and approximately 40 airmen depart from U.S. airbase in Ramstein, southern Germany, for Kigali, Rwanda, July 16, 2005, as part of NATO's response to support the African Union's expanded peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan, with logistics and training. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Master Sgt. David D. Underwood, Jr.)

US President & Minni Minnawi

Photo: US President George W. Bush welcomes Sudanese Liberation Movement leader Minni Minnawi to the Oval Office Tuesday, July 25, 2006, in Washington, D.C., meeting to discuss the Darfur region of western Sudan. White House photo by Kimberlee Hewitt. Ref Sudan Watch archive December 03, 2008: France based Darfur war leader Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur dismisses all peace initiatives and proposes none

WATER WILL BECOME SUDAN'S MOST PRECIOUS RESOURCE

Darfur, Western Sudan

Photo from U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum mixed-media event featured as part of virtual reality program (via FUTURE-MAKING SERIOUS GAMES: Serious Games Event At The Infinite Mind Virtual Broadcast Center blog entry 01 Jan, 2007) 

UPDATE JANUARY 08 2009

BUSH PROMISES TO STAY ENGAGED ON SUDAN

Jan 05, 2009 Reuters report by Caren Bohan in Washington - excerpt:
U.S. President George W. Bush promised on Monday not to forget after he leaves office about violence in the Darfur region of western Sudan, which the United States has described as genocide.

Two weeks before stepping down, Bush met Salva Kiir, president of semi-autonomous south Sudan who led rebels fighting for autonomy for Sudan's mostly animist or Christian south from the Muslim north in a civil war that claimed 2 million lives.

Kiir, now first vice president in the Khartoum government, asked Bush whether he was "still going to care about Sudan" after he leaves office.

"And the answer is absolutely," Bush said.

Bush claimed some personal credit for helping to broker the north-south peace agreement, saying it was "negotiated under my watch" and said the United States must pay close attention to its implementation.

Barack Obama takes over from Bush as President on January 20.

On Darfur, Bush thanked Kiir for efforts to bring rebel groups together to negotiate with the Islamist government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and said he supported a long-delayed airlift of equipment to help peace keepers there. (Editing by Alan Elsner)
Presidents Bush and Salva Kiir

On Monday January 05 2009 in Washington, President Bush met with Salva Kiir, who is both the Vice-President of Sudan and President of Southern Sudan. (Source: FP.com) See Salva Kiir Profile (BBC)

Also, see Voice of America report by Paula Wolfson, White House 05 January 2009:  Bush Orders Airlift of Supplies for Darfur Mission.

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