Washington, DC — Tell President Obama Granting Him a Visa Compromises Moral Legitimacy
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) said today that if internationally indicted war criminal Omar Bashir, the president of Sudan, is allowed into the United States, he should be arrested.
In response to media reports over the weekend that Bashir booked a hotel room in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly meeting, Wolf sent a scathing letter to President Obama, acknowledging that while the United States as a host country has certain obligations, allowing someone responsible for genocide into the United States would compromise moral legitimacy, embolden war criminals and entrench Bashir.
Wolf said the clear message to Bashir from the United States should be: “You are an international pariah; not a legitimate head of state. We are not required to embolden evil. Should you choose to come to New York, you will be met by U.S. law enforcement officials and a plane prepared to transfer you to the Hague.”
EDITORS NOTE: Wolf has been a longtime critic of Bashir and Khartoum. He has travelled to Sudan on multiple occasions and was the first member of Congress to visit Darfur, in 2004. Last year, Wolf offered an amendment to the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill which would have cut non-humanitarian foreign assistance to any nation that allowed Sudanese President Omar Bashir into their country without arresting him.
The amendment was adopted with bipartisan support by voice vote.
Notably, the amendment garnered the support of 70 prominent Holocaust and genocide scholars. Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the Wyman Institute, who wrote a letter to the Obama Administration from these scholars expressing support for the Wolf amendment, said: “Halting aid to those who host Bashir would be the first concrete step the U.S. has taken to isolate the Butcher of Darfur and pave the way for his arrest.
If the Obama Administration is serious about punishing perpetrators of genocide, it should support the Wolf Amendment.”
Instead, the administration actively sought to remove the language from the final bill. This year, at Wolf's urging, the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which has passed out of the full committee, included language consistent with the amendment Wolf offered last year.
Wolf has long argued that Bashir should be diplomatically isolated and that the U.S. should utilize its foreign assistance, especially incentivized foreign assistance like the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grants, to press countries to deny travel or pursue Bashir's arrest. In fact, after repeatedly writing the MCC leadership and pressing them to take action when Malawi's late president Bingu wa Mutharika welcomed Bashir to the country, MCC eventually suspended the compact in March 2012. According to MCC's press release announcing the decision, “Malawi's decision to allow Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to attend a trade summit in Lilongwe, despite the International Criminal Court's (ICC) outstanding warrant for his arrest, further deepened MCC's concerns.
The full text of Wolf's letter is below:
The Honorable Barack H. Obama
The White House
Washington DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
When news first broke that Sudanese President Omar Bashir had applied for a visa to attend the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, I expressed my profound opposition to a senior State Department official and was left with the distinct impression that your administration would do the right thing.
Outrageously, it appears that that is not the case. Multiple news outlets are reporting Bashir's assertion yesterday that he has booked a hotel room in New York to attend the General Assembly meeting, which leads me to believe that the State Department may have granted Bashir's visa request.
I understand that there are host country obligations as it relates to the United Nations. Nevertheless, don't we have a higher moral obligation not to allow an internationally indicted war criminal to step foot on U.S. soil unless it is solely for the purpose of arresting him?
Bashir has the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocents on his hand—Christian, Muslim and Animist alike.
From this point forward, the message to Bashir should be: You are an international pariah; not a legitimate head of state. We are not required to embolden evil. Should you choose to come to New York, you will be met by U.S. law enforcement officials and a plane prepared to transfer you to The Hague.
Failure to convey this message will have devastating ripple effects.
Other war criminals will be emboldened, U.S. moral legitimacy will be compromised and Bashir will become further entrenched.
Anything that delays Bashir being brought to justice is indefensible. We must not forget that his government gave safe haven to Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s, and Khartoum was a revolving door for Hamas and other designated terrorist groups. Further Bashir has long brutalized his own people. In June 2004, I led the first congressional delegation with Senator Sam Brownback to Darfur, soon after the world began hearing about the atrocities being committed against the people of that region.
I witnessed the nightmare with my own eyes. I saw the scorched villages and overflowing camps. I heard the stories of murder, rape and displacement. The International Criminal Court prosecutor has described Bashir's crimes in stark terms saying he, “has selected his weapons; they are: rape, hunger, fear. They are the most efficient method of destruction, in the face of international scrutiny.” But Bashir's assault on his own people pre-dates Darfur. Consider the more than 2 million that perished during the North-South war. And his murderous aims persist to this day in the Nuba Mountains.
During your campaign for the presidency, when asked about Darfur, you said, "We can't say ‘never again' and then allow it to happen again.
And, as President of the United States, I don't intend to...turn a blind eye to slaughter." Bashir was the architect of that slaughter.
You have before you a clear choice. Will you turn a blind eye to slaughter and extend diplomatic courtesy to such a man? Or will you seize the opportunity presented by Bashir's brazenness and facilitate his transfer, as is legally permissible, to The Hague, such that he is finally made to account for his crimes?
Frank R. Wolf
Member of Congress