President Obama’s Special Envoy to Sudan created a public relations firestorm last week when he insisted that the situation in Darfur today reflected “remnants of genocide” rather than an ongoing genocide as had been suggested by President Obama and Ambassador Rice.
Gration’s initial comments triggered a spate of press stories about divisions within the administration on Sudan policy as well as a gleeful reaction from the Bashir regime which felt the special envoy was exonerating them from any involvement in genocide. After heated internal discussions that delayed the noon State Department briefing for over an hour, the State Department spokesman issued a clarification, saying, “I think there is no question that genocide has taken place in Darfur. We continue to characterize the circumstances in Darfur as genocide.”
One would have hoped that would have been the end of the story, but Gration was back at it again yesterday, publicly declaring in an interview with NPR’s Diane Rehm: “What I’m seeing personally on the ground is that those conditions [genocide] are not taking place right now.”
It is incredibly unfortunate that the administration, particularly the special envoy, can’t seem to answer this basic question consistently and without creating the damaging impression that administration policy on this issue is badly in disarray. The administration’s public back and forth on the genocide question only serves to embolden Khartoum, alienate the activist community, and distract the administration from leading an international coalition to address the myriad challenges in Sudan that loom from any number of key challenges that need to urgently be addressed.
So, in an effort to help the administration delineate its two options, we offer these audio clips. Here is Special Envoy Scott Gration yesterday, followed by President Obama at a recent press conference in Germany:
Who’s the boss?