Monday, October 16, 2006

Ask human-rights advocates to name their most stalwart friend on Capitol Hill, and Northern Virginia’s own Rep. Frank Wolf, co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, is short-listed time and again. The deeply religious conservative Republican and 26-year House veteran has been a tireless defender of the persecuted and abused around the world.

Mr. Wolf was feted last night at the Cannon House Office Building by a diverse collection of human-rights advocates, including the China Aid Association, the Coptic Assembly of America, the Southern Sudan Voice for Freedom, the Montagnard Human Rights Organization and the International Campaign for Tibet. Among the expected attendees were a witness at Saddam Hussein’s war-crimes trial, a representative of the Dalai Lama, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom John Hanford and other leaders of the U.S. and international human-rights community. Asked to name Mr. Wolf’s proudest human-rights moment, movement veteran and Leadership Council for Human Rights President Kathryn Cameron Porter couldn’t single one out. “It’s his willingness to stand up against all odds, his tenaciousness. He doesn’t take no for an answer,” Mrs. Porter said.

It would be hard indeed to single out one achievement. The inveterate Mr. Wolf is credited in no particular order with helping Tibetans, Kurds, Iraqis, Vietnamese, Darfurians, Bosnians, North Koreans, Cubans and too many other oppressed nations to list. He has visited Beijing’s Tiananmen-dissident-holding Prison No. 1; talked to political prisoners in Soviet gulags before Communism’s fall; and seen teeming Serbian prisons during the war-torn 1990s. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks he has traveled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Israel, Kuwait and Iraq to highlight human-rights concerns.

Much of Mr. Wolf’s achievement is measured in terms of activists not imprisoned, dissidents not murdered and war crimes not committed. Such is the power an American congressman’s spotlight throws on the world’s otherwise dark corners. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — not normally effusive in her praise for Republican lawmakers — last year called Mr. Wolf “an unmatched leader in his commitment to human rights,” an indication of the cross-party appeal his labors hold. Lately Mr. Wolf has urged Virginians to divest themselves of companies doing business in Sudan, where the bloodshed in Darfur continues.

In a year when a bruising Senate race is leaving many Virginians feeling raw, we can be thankful for the conscientious Mr. Wolf. He reminds us that good people can still succeed in Washington.

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