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Don Cheadle's Crusade to Save Darfur

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 4, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

MARK STEYN, GUEST CO-HOST: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Mark Steyn, in for Sean Hannity tonight.

Actor Don Cheadle teamed up with human rights activist John Prendergast to write the book "Not on our Watch." It's about the atrocities taking place every day in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Don Cheadle traveled to a region that the United Nations has labeled the world's worst humanitarian crisis and returned to America a changed man.

Joining us now are the authors of "Not on our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond," now available in paperback, actor and activist Don Cheadle, and Africa expert John Prendergast.

Don, you made that marvelous movie "Hotel Rwanda," about last decade's "never-again" atrocity. Now we have this decade's never-again atrocity. What lessons didn't we learn from Rwanda that we're missing again this time?

DON CHEADLE, ACTOR-ACTIVIST: Well, in Rwanda, we were looking at something that took place roughly over 100 days, 800,000 killed, the most efficient murder spree that this world has ever seen. This has been a much slower event that we're looking at. It's taken place over four years.

So that's really why we keep wondering, what's the problem? Why is it taking so long to respond? We know what happens. We know what happens when these things go unchecked. And we know how this goes unfettered, and how it bleeds out, and starts to affect the borders around it. And we're asking the same question: Why are we still here talking about this?

STEYN: John, the book proposes plans for action, as you see it, but it recoils from the action that didn't happen, the same action that didn't happen in Rwanda. You talk about getting a real U.N. peacekeeping mission into Darfur. There were U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda, but, under their rules of engagement, they couldn't do anything to save people while they're being massacred with low-tech weaponry. Wouldn't that be exactly the same again this time around?

JOHN PRENDERGAST, "NOT ON OUR WATCH" AUTHOR: Not if you have a force that's large enough and if you have a mandate that is focused on protection of civilians. That wasn't the case, of course, in Rwanda. And as soon as the killing started in Rwanda, the United Nations Security Council pulled the plug and took out most of the armor and the most heavily armed units.

So what we're talking about in Darfur is putting the pressure on the Sudanese government to allow a U.N.-led force in, of sufficient size, which the military experts say is 22,000, that would be able to protect civilians and monitor a cease-fire that needs to be re-brokered by the international community.

STEYN: But does that have to be done multilaterally, Don? Because, realistically, you know, the Sudanese have two vetoes at this Security Council. China, for one, is heavily invested in Sudan and doesn't really want to take action to stop anything.

CHEADLE: But neither China nor Russia has ever vetoed action taken on this level, and it does have to be multilaterally. We cannot go in there as an American force and send troops in there into an Arab-led nation and try to impose something. I mean, that hasn't worked well in the situation we're in now, and we're not advocating that.

We're saying that we have to work with the United Nations Security Council. And we have to implement this Plan B, which is in the wings and on the books, and hopefully the president will sign that, and we'll be able to implement some sort of a punishment and punitive measures that are really going to have...

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Don, you went to China and Egypt, as I understand it. You met with leaders to try to get them to try to bring their influence to that region to bear, because they have relationships. What was the result of that?

CHEADLE: The result wasn't as strong as when Mia Farrow wrote the letter to Steven Spielberg and said that, "You may be the Leni Riefenstahl of 2008." And then we saw, when Steven Spielberg recoiled, that the Chinese sent someone to the Sudan, sent their leadership there to speak with Bashir. And we don't know what was said, but it was interesting that the Chinese did have that reaction.

COLMES: John, forget about the U.N. for a second. What can the United States government itself do? We've got all these resources going to other parts of the world, Iraq, Afghanistan. Big issue of debate now in this country, whether we should be spending $1 billion-plus a week in Iraq. What can we be doing, even by ourselves, in Darfur and Sudan at this point?

PRENDERGAST: Three times in the last 18 years, the length of time the Sudan government has been in power, the international community, led by the United States, has imposed punitive measures or threatened real military action. And three times, the government of Sudan has changed its behavior on issues related to their fundamental security interests.

So I believe, if we impose punitive measures now like we've done before, that have changed the Sudanese government's behavior before, it will actually end the genocide in Darfur now.

COLMES: You know, this is where I believe the United States can really be a force for good around the world. We can bring our resources to bear to stop — wait, how many children starving, how many people suffering, how many people displaced from their homes?

CHEADLE: That's right. Well, you know, the numbers vary, but it's upwards of 200,000 killed and 2.5 million people on the borders of Sudan and Chad in these refugee camps.

COLMES: I mean, what can we do? We feel so helpless, because, you know, just watching this on our television screens and seeing the footage we're showing here.

CHEADLE: We can inject ourselves into the process. I spoke about Plan B. That's some place that we need to make sure the attention is kept on. We have a democratic process in this country, and we have elections coming up. And at least six of the candidates have either traveled to the region or written extensively about it. And we need to hear where they stand on this. We need to...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: John, you don't hear our politicians talking about this, though. It doesn't come up in presidential debates. It's doesn't come up in terms of policy. It almost seems like it's not something that they think is going to get them elected, so it doesn't really come up in those conversations.

PRENDERGAST: Yes, we've talked a lot about how, unless there's a cost for an action, a political cost for an action, you're going to get inaction. So what's the most encouraging thing about Darfur, if there is a bright side, is that it has generated a lot of citizen activism all over this country. Congresspersons have heard that. Senators have heard that. They're pressing the White House. Don talked about Plan B.

What that is, is Bush has to decide whether he wants to change our policy from an incentive-based strategy, trying to change the government of Sudan's behavior, to punishment. Are we going to impose punitive measures and punish the crime of genocide or not?

STEYN: That's something we certainly ought to be doing.

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