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2004-10-01

Candidates Briefly Debate Sudan Policy But Where Was the Discussion of the Coup in Haiti?

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Both Sen. Kerry and President Bush admitted genocide is taking place in Sudan during the debate but differed on how to tackle the issue. Neither candidate mentioned the bloody coup in Haiti or the current humanitarian disaster befallen the country. We speak with TransAfrica president Bill Fletcher. [includes rush transcript]

  • Presidential debate, candidates discussing Sudan.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We move now to the last segment, a clip of the two candidates, Kerry and Bush, being questioned by Jim Lehrer, and their discussion of Sudan.

JIM LEHRER: Senator Kerry, you mentioned Darfur, the Darfur region of Sudan. 50,000 people have already died in that area. More than a million are homeless. And it’s been labeled an act of ongoing genocide. Yet neither one of you or anyone else connected with your campaigns or your administration that I can find has discussed the possibility of sending in troops. Why not?

JOHN KERRY: Well, I’ll tell you exactly why not, but I first want to say something about those sanctions on Iran. Only the United States put the sanctions on alone, and that’s exactly what I’m talking about. In order for the sanctions to be effective, we should have been working with the British, French and Germans and other countries. And that’s the difference between the president and me. And there, again, he sort of slid by the question. Now, with respect to Darfur, yes, it is a genocide. And months ago, many of us were pressing for action. I think the reason that we’re not saying send American troops in at this point is severalfold. Number one, we can do this through the African Union, providing we give them the logistical support. Right now all the president is providing is humanitarian support. We need to do more than that. They’ve got to have the logistical capacity to go in and stop the killing. And that’s going to require more than is on the table today. I also believe that it is — one of the reasons we can’t do it is we’re overextended. Ask the people in the armed forces today. We’ve got Guards and Reserves who are doing double duties. We’ve got a backdoor draft taking place in America today: people with stop-loss programs where they’re told you can’t get out of the military; nine out of our 10 active duty divisions committed to Iraq one way or the other, either going, coming or preparing. So this is the way the president has overextended the United States. That’s why, in my plan, I add two active duty divisions to the United States Army, not for Iraq, but for our general demands across the globe. I also intend to double the number of special forces so that we can do the job we need to do with respect fighting the terrorists around the world. And if we do that, then we have the ability to be able to respond more rapidly. But I’ll tell you this, as president, if it took American forces to some degree to coalesce the African Union, I’d be prepared to do it because we could never allow another Rwanda. It’s a moral responsibility for us and the world.

JIM LEHRER: 90 seconds.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Back to Iran, just for a second. It was not my administration that put the sanctions on Iran. That happened long before I arrived in Washington, D.C. In terms of Darfur, I agree it’s genocide. And Colin Powell so stated. We have committed $200 million worth of aid. We’re the leading donor in the world to help the suffering people there. We will commit more over time to help. We were very much involved at the U.N. on the sanction policy of the Bashir government in the Sudan. Prior to Darfur, Ambassador Jack Danforth had been negotiating a north-south agreement that we would have hoped would have brought peace to the Sudan. I agree with my opponent that we shouldn’t be committing troops. We ought to be working with the African Union to do so, precisely what we did in Liberia. We helped stabilize the situation with some troops, and when the African Union came, we moved them out. My hope is that the African Union moves rapidly to help save lives. And fortunately the rainy season will be ending shortly, which will make it easier to get aid there and help the long-suffering people there.

JUAN GONZALEZ: That was President Bush and John Kerry last night at the first presidential debate. We’re joined now by Bill Fletcher, president of TransAfrica. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Bill.

BILL FLETCHER: Juan, good to hear from you.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, your reaction to the discussion on the Sudan. Also the failure to discuss Haiti, or for that matter, practically any issue that deals with the third world other than the Middle East, like the crushing debt problems that Africa and so many other third world countries are suffering from right now.

BILL FLETCHER: It’s interesting, Juan. I was actually surprised that they even would discuss the issue of and conflict in Darfur. I would say that in listening to the comments, there were no remarkable differences between the two. I think that both Kerry and Bush have been under a great deal of pressure both domestically as well as internationally around this question. And they have essentially adopted a position of supporting the African Union, and U.S. troops not being a main factor in what’s going to happen, what’s going to be resolved. I think that’s correct. This has to be resolved by the African Union. The issue of Haiti, though, you know, Juan, I feel like Haiti about two weeks, ten days after the coup in March essentially vanished from the U.S. screen. And there’s been no discussion of the 3,000-plus people that have been murdered in political killings since the coup. The only thing that we get is the photos of the victims of Hurricane Jeanne, but there’s no context. So, I mean, for both the democrats and the republicans, there seems to be this attitude towards Haiti of essentially limited sovereignty, some level of pity, and while Kerry after the coup did take a strong stand against the way that the Bush administration had had been handling it, they really did not continue with their critique.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the issue of debt relief. There’s probably no bigger problem confronting the vast majority of the people of the world today than the declining standards of living in the third world and governments being squeezed by international debt obligations. I found it kind of surprising that that wasn’t even touched upon.

BILL FLETCHER: Well, you know, I actually — I don’t think that it should be surprising, only in this sense. The issue of debt relief, or I would say cancellation. They’re playing games with us now with debt relief for the so-called deserving poor, if that sounds familiar. And this issue of debt cancellation, while there are some groups in the United States that have raised this, most notably Jubilee U.S.A., and Africa Action. The reality is that this is not taken on as a real movement. It has not been fully integrated for example, into the anti-war/anti-occupation movement. It really has not been brought to the table for political discussion in the time leading up to the election. So, it feels to me that part of what we have to do, part of the obvious task following November 2, is to help this issue to re-emerge. Because you’re right.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Fletcher, we’re going to have to leave it there, but we’ll continue the discussion, because it is an absolutely critical one. Bill Fletcher, TransAfrica, as we wrap up the show. Democracy now!

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