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Next week, Athletes from around the world will compete in a myriad of events. President Bush will attend the Opening Ceremonies, as will many other foreign leaders, despite the moniker “Genocide Olympics” entering into global consciousness.

Few dispute the complicity of China’s government in propping up the Khartoum regime. Organizations like Save Darfur, to the Enough Project, and Dream for Darfur, along with President George W. Bush have declared the situation in Darfur a genocide.

But tomorrow’s leaders have opinions too.  Both Senators Obama and McCain have spoken out forcefully regarding the ongoing genocide in Darfur.  Both have spoken in defense of the Dalai Lama and decried oppression of the Tibetan monks.   The ‘Genocide Olympics’ issue is one laden with political beacons that must be navigated precisely.

Senator Barack Obama, despite his reported $5 million purchase of air time during the Olympics, declared on July 7th, via the Hindustan Times:

“I would have wanted to see serious progress by the Chinese government before I make a commitment to attend the opening ceremonies. In the absence of some sense of progress, in the absence of some sense from the Dalai Lama that there was progress, I would not have gone,” the senator from Illinois said.

Obama said that Washington failed to exert serious pressure on the Chinese government to arrive at a solution during its talks with Tibetan spiritual guru the Dalai Lama.

“We were not aggressive in encouraging the Chinese government to make serious concessions in its talks with the Dalai Lama,” he said at an interactive session in St Louis, Missouri.

However pure Senator Obama’s intentions regarding the Olympics – the purchase of air time during the Olympics begs questions about just what sort of message he’s sending.  Does Senator Obama seek a standard for himself, that applies to no one else?  Will his campaign’s direct purchase from NBC – which, coincidentally is owned by GE – another corporation with ties to state sponsors of terror, utilize the time to inform the American people about China’s complicity in the Darfur Genocide, or talk about the Dalai Lama?  Or will the Obama campaign simply play standard bio ads – as he did during the Superbowl?

The Obama campaign has not returned a comment for the record, despite acknowledging the request.  So, that’s a ‘no comment.’

Senator John McCain also discouraged President Bush’s attendance at the Opening ceremonies.  To be clear, I have placed repeated calls to his campaign for commentary on the propriety of Senator Obama’s ad buy.  On Monday, I expect to have a statement for the record – but we shall see.  The obvious follow up question, beyond what the campaign thinks about the Obama ad buy is this: Has the McCain campaign purchased air time during the Olympics as well?  From NBC?  Or a cable buy that would include NBC’s Olympic coverage?

Senator John McCain has gone on the record about Darfur, previously – in an Op-Ed he wrote with former Senator Bob Dole in 2006.

Throughout the world, people of conscience were shocked by and ashamed of our failure to stop the genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. We must not repeat these mistakes. In Darfur, the moment of truth is now.

Senator McCain’s wife, and potential First Lady Cindy McCain recently returned from Rwanda – her first visit since 1994, when she was in-country during the slaughter. She has spent a lifetime devoted to human rights issues – and the uplifting of women and children in third world and war-torn countries. Unlike other political figures, Cindy McCain has done much of her work without notice or a phalanx of enthralled media and adoring fans. When Doctors without Borders ( ou, en Français -Médecins Sans Frontières – MSF) called Mrs. McCain in 1994, she went herself. Dubbed The Quiet Humanitarian by The Wasington Post, Cindy McCain – and her husband, have demonstrated a lifetime of service in this arena.

Their record contrasts greatly with Senator Obama’s recent foray into international affairs. Surely, his supporters are not suggesting Senator Obama’s five hours in Paris, and a couple of meetings with Sarkozy and Kouchner (founder of Doctors without Borders/MSF) imparted Jeffersonian-level knowledge of Human Rights intricacies. By purchasing the air time directly from NBC, Obama’s campaign demonstrated a blatant hypocrisy, or perhaps it is as simple as being ill-prepared to serve.

The perspective of folks within the Human Rights arena should also be taken into consideration. I have spoken with senior representatives from ONE – whose focus is on the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals. I have also spoken with senior representatives at Save Darfur, and am regularly speaking with folks from the Genocide Intervention Network, Dream for Darfur, and other human rights experts around the country. Many of the folks were in absolute agreement on one thing: they are drawing a distinction between the Opening/Closing Ceremonies and the Games themselves. They wish to be supportive of the athletes – but be very clear that the spectacle being staged by the Chinese government is not an appropriate venue for our leaders to support.

On Thursday, August 7th at 3PM Eastern – I will be joined by M. Allyn Brooks LaSure, of the Save Darfur coalition, to discuss the urgency in Darfur – and the importance of being informed about the facts on the ground. We’ll discuss Mia Farrow’s amazing work, and her activities in Eastern Chad and in Darfur during the Olympics.

The stakes for our nation are very high this November. Vote wisely.

—Media Lizzy

Cross posted at HeadingRight