Monday, February 26, 2001
A diverse panel of policymakers and advocates discusses the situation in Sudan and what can be done to end the genocide. The panel featured Jerome J. Shestack, John J. Hamre, Senator Bill Frist, Congressman Frank R. Wolf, Chester A. Crocker, J. Stephen Morrison, Francis M. Deng, Ibrahim Elbadawi, and Roger Winter.
JEROME SHESTACK: Good morning. Welcome to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. I’m Jerry Shestack, and I have the honor of chairing the Museum’s Committee on Conscience. The Committee’s function is to alert the national conscience to the offenses of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and those horrendous crimes that the world so often ignores. Arousing the national conscience is not an easy task. Too often one’s conscience becomes one’s accomplice rather than one’s guide. Our principal function is not to resolve a policy, but to call attention to the need for the policy makers of this nation, and the international world, to resolve potential crimes of genocide, and crimes against humanity, and war crimes that have such disastrous and tragic effects in our history.
We are addressing the problems of a solution to the horrendous situation that has arisen in Sudan, with millions of people deprived of their lives and subject to abuses of the most horrendous kind. We are not recommending a policy, but we are recommending strongly that it is a situation that needs to be addressed in a world forum, and on a world scale, in a dimension that can solve problems, bring a just peace to Sudan, and end the crimes that are existing and taking place there on a daily basis.
We have a very distinguished panel today. We will have our opening remarks by John Hamre, the president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and by Senator Bill Frist, and Congressman Frank Wolf, both of whom have been tremendous advocates on Capitol Hill for those suffering in Sudan.
We will then have a panel discussion chaired by Chet Crocker who is chairman of the United States Institute of Peace and a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Then we will open the floor for discussion. We want to move on, and we want the audience to participate, and have the opportunity to ask questions, and to make short comments as well.
So, without further delay, it is my pleasure to introduce John Hamre, the president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Dr. Hamre has a long and distinguished career of public service. Most recently, before assuming the leadership of CSIS, he served as Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 1999. Dr. Hamre.
JOHN J. HAMRE: Thank you very much. Good morning to all of you and thank you very much for coming today. I’m very proud that CSIS is able to present this program. I’m especially pleased that we’re able to hold it here at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
If I might, just on a very personal note say, it’s wonderful that this town has this Museum. But if all we do to remember those who were swept up and whose lives were lost in the Shoah is to have a Museum that would not be an adequate tribute to them. We need to undertake acts of remembrance every day. Not just remember every day, but do acts of remembrance every day, concretely doing things to try to address the little mini-Shoahs that are going on all around us. It is for that reason that we are so pleased that we can be here.
I would like to especially thank the leadership of the Holocaust Museum, Rabbi Irving Greenberg, who is not able to be with us today. He is the chairman of the board. But, my sincere thanks. Jerry Shestack, who is the chairman of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience, so crucial as part of the whole program for the Holocaust Museum. Jerry Fowler, Tom Kuney, and Linda Lesar have been just fabulous in working with us.
Let me especially say thank you to Senator Frist and to Congressman Wolf. It’s not possible for me to tell you how unusual it is to have this sort of leadership coming from these two national figures. Most members of Congress come and they spend their day, understandably, working for those issues that matter to back home. That’s why we hire them. That’s what we want them to do. But, we also expect them to be national leaders.
In some rare instances, people choose to be international leaders. These two gentlemen have done that in an area, that, frankly, there’s not a vote to be made, in looking at Sudan. Not a vote to be made back home, and yet, they’ve taken upon themselves in a very serious and dedicated way to make this an effort on behalf of the entire government, to try to bring sense. And I want to thank both of you. Not just for being here today, but for being leaders in a town that frankly needs this quality of leadership. We’re very, very grateful to have you here.
I would also like to thank Chet Crocker and the U.S. Institute of Peace. They were instrumental in getting this program working. I also have to say that Chet Crocker is one of our great alumni. He is one of the brighter stars in the firmament at CSIS, having been the chair of the Africa Program and really the founder of the Africa Program there many years back, before he became Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
I would also like to thank Francis Deng, Roger Winter, Ibrahim Elbadawi, and Steve Morrison and Jennifer Cook for their remarkable service here. We’re looking forward to what they have to say.
I am the least qualified person here to talk about the substance of this program. I’m also probably emblematic of the problem. I probably am like 99.8 percent of most Americans who don’t know a darn thing about Sudan and frankly don’t care. Until I got into this job, I didn’t know anything about the Sudan. I didn’t know anything about the problems. I became like so many Americans, who became very comfortable with simply treating it as one of those bumper stickers. It’s one of the T-7 terrorist states you know and that’s the only time you think about it.
You kind of memorize the formula, you know, to criticize them. What we’ve done in the process of that is -- I’ve done -- I won’t say anybody else -- I have done this. I have let somebody else do my thinking for me, rather than do my own thinking about the problem. I let somebody else define it, because I wasn’t that interested. They decided what I thought.
Well, that’s wrong. I need to have the responsibility to think through these issues. I should have the obligation to think through these issues. Frankly, one of the great problems in Washington today, is that we’re too content to let a small community define an issue for everyone else, and the rest of us just tag along, and we don’t think about it ourselves.
Well, that’s what CSIS is trying to get at -- this central problem when it comes to the Sudan. We’re not going to try to advocate one solution or another. But, we have to have a debate -- an open debate where everybody is involved intellectually in trying to come to the right answer on the Sudan. Not simply let other people decide for me, and for you, and for every other person in America, what we think about this subject. But, instead, to get actively involved ourselves. Unfortunately, we decided to cast the Sudan as simply being one of those rogue states. The rest of us stopped thinking about the problem. Unfortunately for now 18 years, we’ve had what you could only call a genocide underway in the Sudan.
Once you look at the facts, you’re embarrassed to see what’s been going on, and how little we’ve known about it, or how little we have cared about it as a nation. We’ve got to break out of that mindset where somebody else has decided what we’re going to think about it, and start thinking for ourselves. That’s what today’s session is about.
That’s why you’re going to see a cross range of views represented on this panel. This is not an advocacy panel with one point of view. We’re going to try to get other people’s perspectives to the table so that we can all do our job, which is to think about this policy ourselves, freshly. Not simply repeating the mantras of the past that we’ve inherited as the only solution, but to think about what would we do if you were to sit this afternoon with the President of the United States and tell him what should we be doing for American policy in the Sudan. It’s your responsibility and this session today is designed to try to help us think that through.
I thank you all very much for coming. It’s enormously important and gratifying to see so many people here. Let me again say how deeply thankful we are to you Congressman Wolf, Senator Frist, for your national leadership in being willing to take us into this area that all Americans ought to think through. Thank you very much.