This post is a response to Farrow's Darfur Olympics & Our Olympic Shame by Christoper J. Finlay
Interesting perspective, although Mr. Finlay got one thing wrong -- I have never called for an Olympic boycott or believed for one second that a boycott of the games would be an effective or viable notion.. I DID call for world leaders to take a pass on the opening propaganda ceremony . President George W. Bush's ill considered decision to attend the opening ceremonies came in the wake of brutal crackdowns in Tibet, and during a week when seven peacekeepers were murdered in the Darfur region of Sudan, where China continues to underwrite the carnage and deal arms to its perpetrators.
A rising tide of US and international politicians have taken a stand by eschew the opening ceremonies-- the lone component of the games geared not at celebrating the athletes, but at burnishing the Beijing regime's political image; British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper were joined yesterday by EU Parliamentary President Hans-Gert Poettering. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have indicated that absent significant improvement in China's human rights record, they would choose not to attend.
The President's squandered potential for influence has seldom been more apparent. Beijing has been notoriously indifferent to traditional diplomatic pressure, but they have leapt into action to protect the Beijing Games. Early efforts to link Darfur to the Games prompted Beijings hasty appointment of an envoy, the softening of veto threats on the UN Security Council and most significantly, the signing of last years UN resolution authorizing a protection force for Darfur. A boycott of the opening ceremonies might have proved to be a powerful, additional point of leverage with an otherwise intractable regime.
A boycott isolated to the opening ceremony avoids targeting the athletes. It would have sent a strong symbolic statement to Beijing at little substantive cost to US-Chinese relations.
Instead, Bush has made a powerful statement of tacit approval. His decision is regrettable. It was a missed opportunity for the United States of America to stand strong for the anguished people of Darfur and Burma as well as for the Tibetans in their long struggle. It was an opportunity to express solidarity with those Chinese citizens whose human rights are being denied, and for the US to demonstrate moral leadership and represent the values and principles our nation was founded on. It was a golden opportunity now lost.