The U.S. role in Darfur, Sudan
Published Jun 3, 2006 6:21 AM
What is fueling the campaign now sweeping the
U.S. to “Stop Genocide in Darfur”? Campus organizations have
suddenly begun organizing petitions, meetings and calls for divestment. A
demonstration was held April 30 on the Mall in Washington, D.C., to “Save
Again and again it is said that “something”
must be done. “Humanitarian forces” and “U.S.
peacekeepers” must be deployed immediately to stop “ethnic
cleansing.” UN troops or NATO forces must be used to stop
“genocide.” The U.S. government has a “moral responsibility to
prevent another Holocaust.”
Outrage is provoked by media stories of
mass rapes and photos of desperate refugees. The charge is that tens of
thousands of African people are being killed by Arab militias backed by the
Sudanese government. Sudan is labeled as both a “terrorist state”
and a “failed state.” Even at anti-war rallies, signs have been
distributed proclaiming “Out of Iraq—Into Darfur.” Full-page
ads in the New York Times have repeated the call.
Who is behind the
campaign and what actions are they calling for?
Even a cursory look at
the supporters of the campaign shows the prominent role of right-wing
evangelical Christians and major Zionist groups to “Save Darfur.”
A Jerusalem Post article of April 27 headlined “U.S. Jews Leading
Darfur Rally Planning” described the role of prominent Zionist
organizations in organizing the April 30 rally. A full-page ad for the rally in
the New York Times was signed by a number of Jewish organizations, including the
UJA—Federation of NY and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
it wasn’t just Zionist groups that called it. The rally was sponsored by a
coalition of 164 organizations that included the National Association of
Evangelicals, the World Evangelical Alliance and other religious groups that
have been the strongest supporters of the Bush administration’s invasion
of Iraq. The Kansas-based evangelical group Sudan Sunrise helped arrange buses
and speakers, did extensive fund raising and co-hosted a 600-person
This was hardly an anti-war or social justice rally. The
organizers had a personal meeting with President George W. Bush just before the
rally. He told them: “I welcome your participation. And I want to thank
the organizers for being here.”
Originally the demonstration was
projected to draw a turnout of more than 100,000. Media coverage generously
reported “several thousands,” ranging from 5,000 to 7,000. The rally
was overwhelming white. Despite sparse numbers, it got wide media coverage,
focusing on celebrity speakers like Academy Award winner George Clooney. Top
Democrats and Republicans gave it their blessing, including U.S. Sen. Barack
Obama (D-Ill.), House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Assistant
Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer and New Jersey Gov. Jon
Corzine. Corzine, by the way, spent $62 million of his own money to get elected.
The corporate media gave this rally more prominence than either the
anti-war rally of 300,000 in New York City on the day before or the millionfold
demonstrations across the country for immigrant rights on the day after.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, former Secretary of State Gen.
Colin Powell, Secretary of State Condo leezza Rice, Gen. Wesley Clark and
British Prime Minister Tony Blair have all argued in favor of intervention in
These leading architects of imperialist policy often refer to
another model when they call for this intervention: the successful
“humanitarian” war on Yugoslavia that established a U.S./NATO
administration over Kosovo after a massive bombing campaign.
Holocaust Museum in Washington issued a “genocide alert”—the
first such alert ever issued—and 35 evangelical Chris tian leaders signed
a letter urging President Bush to send U.S. troops to stop genocide in Darfur. A
special national curriculum for students was established to generate grassroots
support for U.S. intervention.
Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have embraced the campaign.
Liberal voices such as Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Rabbi Michael Lerner of
TIKKUN and Human Rights Watch have also pushed the campaign to “Save
Diversion from Iraq debacle
invasion and massive bombing of Iraq, the destruction of its infrastructure that
left the people without water or basic electricity, and the horrible photos of
the U.S. military’s use of torture at Abu Ghraib prison created a world
outcry. At its height, in September 2004, then Secretary of State Gen. Colin
Powell went to Sudan and announced to the world that the crime of the
century—“a genocide”—was taking place there. The U.S.
solution was to demand the United Nations impose sanctions on one of the poorest
countries on earth and that U.S. troops be sent there as
But the rest of the UN Security Council was
unwilling to accept this view, the U.S. “evidence” or the proposed
The campaign against Sudan increased even as evidence was being
brought forward that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was based on a total lie. The
same media that had given credibility to the U.S. government’s claim that
it was justified in invading Iraq because that country had “weapons of
mass destruction” switched gears to report on “war crimes” by
Arab forces in Sudan.
This Darfur campaign accomplishes several goals of
U.S. imperialist policy. It further demonizes Arab and Muslim people. It diverts
attention from the human rights catastrophe caused by the brutal U.S. war and
occupation of Iraq, which has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
It is also an attempt to deflect attention from the U.S. financing and
support of Israel’s war on the Palestinian people.
it opens a new front in the determination of U.S. corporate power to control the
U.S. interest in Sudan
Sudan is the largest
country in Africa in area. It is strategically located on the Red Sea,
immediately south of Egypt, and borders on seven other African countries. It is
about the size of Western Europe but has a population of only 35 million people.
Darfur is the western region of Sudan. It is the size of France, with a
population of just 6 million.
Newly discovered resources have made Sudan
of great interest to U.S. corporations. According to Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir, Sudan might have oil reserves as large or larger than those of Saudi Arabia, currently considered to have the worldâ€™s largest reserve. It has large deposits of natural gas. In
addition, it has one of the three largest deposits of high-purity uranium in the
world, along with the fourth-largest deposits of copper.
Arabia, however, the Sudanese government has retained its independence of
Washington. Unable to control Sudan’s oil policy, the U.S. imperialist
government has made every effort to stop its development of this valuable
resource. China, on the other hand, has worked with Sudan in providing the
technology for exploration, drilling, pumping and the building of a pipeline and
buys much of Sudan’s oil.
U.S. policy revolves around shutting down
the export of oil through sanctions and inflaming national and regional
antagonisms. For over two decades U.S. imperialism supported a separatist
movement in the south of Sudan, where oil was originally found. This long civil
war drained the central government’s resources. When a peace agreement was
finally negotiated, U.S. attention immediately switched to Darfur in western
Recently, a similar agreement between the Sudanese government and
rebel groups in Darfur was rejected by one of the groups, so the fighting
continues. The U.S. poses as a neutral mediator and keeps pressing Khartoum for
more concessions but “through its closest African allies helped train the
SLA and JEM Darfuri rebels that initiated Khartoum’s violent
Sudan has one of the most ethnically
diverse populations in the world. Over 400 ethnic groups have their own
languages or dialects. Arabic is the one common language. Greater Khartoum, the
largest city in the country, has a population of about 6 million. Some 85
percent of the Sudanese population is involved in subsistence agriculture or
The U.S. corporate media is unanimous in
simplistically describing the crisis in Darfur as atrocities committed by the
Jan jawid militias, supported by the central government in Khartoum. This is
described as an “Arab” assault on “African” people.
This is a total distortion of reality. As the Black Commentator, Oct. 27,
2004, points out: “All parties involved in the Darfur
conflict—whether they are referred to as ‘Arab’ or as
‘African,’ are equally indigenous and equally Black. All are Muslim
and all are local.” The whole population of Darfur speaks Arabic, along
with many local dialects. All are Sunni Muslim.
Drought, famine and
The crisis in Darfur is rooted in intertribal fighting. A
desperate struggle has developed over increasingly scarce water and grazing
rights in a vast area of Northern Africa that has been hit hard by years of
drought and growing famine.
Darfur has over 35 tribes and ethnic groups.
About half the people are small subsistence farmers, the other half nomadic
herders. For hundreds of years the nomadic population grazed their herds of
cattle and camels over hundreds of miles of grassy lowlands. Farmers and herders
shared wells. For over 5,000 years, this fertile land sustained civilizations in
both western Dar fur and to the east, all along the Nile River.
to the drought and the encroaching great Sahara Desert, there isn’t enough
grazing land or enough farmland in what could be the breadbasket of Africa.
Irrigation and development of Sudan’s rich resources could solve many of
these problems. U.S. sanctions and military intervention will solve none of
Many people, especially children, have died in Sudan of totally
preventable and treatable diseases because of a U.S. cruise missile attack,
ordered by President Bill Clinton on Aug. 20, 1998, on the El Shifa
pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum. This plant, which had produced cheap
medications for treating malaria and tuberculosis, provided 60 percent of the
available medicine in Sudan.
The U.S. claimed Sudan was operating a VX
poison gas facility there. It produced no evidence to back up the charge. This
simple medical facility, totally destroyed by the 19 missiles, was not rebuilt
nor did Sudan receive a penny of compensation.
UN/NATO role in
Presently 7,000 African Union troops are in Darfur. Their
logistical and technical back-up is provided by U.S. and NATO forces. In
addition, thousands of UN personnel are overseeing refugee camps for hundreds of
thousands dislocated by the drought, famine and war. All of these outside forces
do more than hand out needed food. They are a source of instability. As
capitalist would-be conquerors have done for hundreds of years, they consciously
play one group off against another.
U.S. imperialism is heavily involved
in the entire region. Chad, which is directly west of Darfur, last year
participated in a U.S.-organized international military exer cise that,
according to the U.S. Defense Depart ment, was the largest in Africa since World
War II. Chad is a former French colony, and both French and U.S. forces are
heavily involved in funding, training and equipping the army of its military
ruler, Idriss Deby, who has supported rebel groups in Darfur.
than half a century, Britain ruled Sudan, encountering widespread resis tance.
British colonial policy was rooted in divide-and-conquer tactics and in keeping
its colonies underdeveloped and isolated in order to plunder their resources.
U.S. imperialism, which has replaced the European colonial powers in many
parts of the world, in recent years has been sabotaging the economic
independence of countries trying to emerge from colonial underdevelopment. Its
main economic weapons have been sanctions combined with “structural
adjustment” demands made by the International Monetary Fund, which it
controls. In return for loans, the target governments must cut their budgets for
development of infrastructure.
How can demands from organizations in the
West for sanctions, leading to further underdevelopment and isolation, solve any
of these problems?
Washington has often used its tremendous power in the
UN Security Council to get resolutions endorsing its plans to send U.S. troops
into other countries. None were on humanitarian missions.
carrying the UN flag invaded Korea in 1950 in a war that resulted in more than 4
million deaths. Still flying that flag, they have occupied and divided the
Korean peninsula for over 50 years.
At the urging of the U.S., UN troops
in 1961 were deployed to the Congo, where they played a role in the
assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the country’s first prime minister.
The U.S. was able to get a UN mandate in 1991 for its massive bombing of
the entire Iraqi civilian infrastructure, including water purification plants,
irrigation and food processing plants—and for the 13 years of starvation
sanctions that resulted in the deaths of over 1.5 million Iraqis.
troops in Yugoslavia and in Haiti have been a cover for U.S. and European
intervention and occupation—not peace or reconciliation.
and European imperialist powers are responsible for the genocidal slave trade
that decimated Africa, the genocide of the Indigenous population of the
Americas, the colonial wars and occupations that looted three-quarters of the
globe. It was German imperialism that was responsible for the genocide of Jewish
people. To call for military intervention by these same powers as the answer to
conflicts among the people of Darfur is to ignore 500 years of history.
Sara Flounders went to Sudan just after the bombing of the El Shifa
pharmaceutical plant in 1998 with John Parker as part of an International Action
Center fact-finding delegation led by Ramsey Clark.
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