February 26, 2009
Frist, Argue May Join Obama Foreign Policy Team
Today, there are reports that GOP Rep. Frank Wolf is pushing to have Bill Frist (left), an MD and former Senator Majority Leader, to be named as the Obama administration's special envoy on Darfur.
The Sudan Tribune reports:
There is no special diplomat for Sudan since the former envoy stepped down at the end of George Bush's term. Calls for appointment of a high-level envoy with particular deputies began just after Obama's election win in November last year. In an open letter to Obama issued today, Rep. Frank Wolf called the delay "simply unacceptable." "I've witnessed the nightmare with my own eyes," Wolf wrote of Darfur. "Every day that passes, more men are killed, more women are raped, and more children die of malnutrition. This is simply unacceptable. The time to act is now. John Prendergast, a former White House official and current activist, and Roger Winter, a former diplomat to Sudan, are top contenders, the Associated Press speculated. Activists have signaled that a top envoy with high stature in the US political circles could rally international leverage against Sudan's government, which they accuse of genocide. Wolf, the co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, today recommended former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist for the post.
Meanwhile, religious freedom advocates have been questioning who is on the short list to become the next ambassador for international religious freedom. I keep hearing word that Don Argue (right), the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals who has been very close to Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, is on the short list of potential nominees.
Of course, the nomination of Argue for this incredibly important post for religious freedom would be a strong break with the way the Bush administration managed religious freedom concerns.
Outgoing ambassador John Hanford, granted did some important work on Vietnam, but honestly, there were many evangelical leaders and policy-makers in Washington who are glad to see him go.
For reasons undisclosed, Hanford was unable or unwilling to make international religious freedom a highly visible and urgent issue. His behind the scenes strategy seems to have accomplished little on the ground. Christians in India, China, Sudan, North Korea, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan are much at risk. The honor roll of modern martyrs is long enough, thank you very much.
The appointment of Don Argue, based on what I am hearing, would be welcome indeed. Email me here if you have an opinion on this.
Update: Thursday, Feb. 26.
Today, CT senior writer Tony Carnes spoke on the record with US Rep. Wolf, R-Virginia, and Wolf had some very hard words for Secretary of State Clinton about her recent visit to China and her comments about the situation in Darfur, the western region of Sudan, where genocide continues.
Wolf told Christianity Today:
What she said on China was unbelievable. She has really created a problem. It has an impact on Darfur and all of the career people are going to be sensitive about what they say. It is bad, very bad. The Chinese government gives her great praise and if you go onto the wire today, you will discover an article "15000 flee southern Darfur." She went over with a tin cup and she didn't want any interference.
The reaction from the Obama administration to my Senator Frist proposal has been very positive. Frist handled the genocide resolution and has been out there in Sudan several times.
Frist's name is known in Khartoum and in Juba. The guy cares. If you had Frist being announced to do this with Secretary Clinton one side and President Obama on the other side, I think it could make a critical difference. President Bashir is somewhat on the ropes and this is the opportune time to really push. You also have the north-south issue and it is unraveling. I think the person appointed should also have the north-south portfolio. Whoever can conclude this conflict would be a Nobel peace prize winner. We need someone out there all the time, hopefully Senator Frist.
I do believe that Bashir has been responsible for atrocities and an International Criminal Court action would be helpful in pressuring him. A very positive thing to send a message to dictators that they can't do bad things indiscriminately. Some of the people in those refugees camps have been there for five years since they were started in 2003.