What’s behind the Darfur campaign
Published Jul 17, 2006 7:34 PM
A well-attended forum entitled
“Darfur, An Open Discussion on Intervention, Regime Change & the
Politics of Genocide” was held July 6 at Smith College in Northampton,
The goal of the event organizers was to answer those clamoring for
U.S. intervention in Darfur. According to independent journalist Keith Harmon
Snow, the forum was organized in response to a June 21 event, “Witnessing
Darfur - A Benefit for the People of Darfur,” which he said raised $10,000
for groups such as Human Rights Watch.
Panelist Sara Flounders,
co-director of the International Action Center, gave a historical materialist
overview of the underdevelopment of African nations by the U.S., Britain, and
European colonial powers. She explained that the word “genocide” is
being used for war propaganda, and posed a question to the audience: “How
could anyone dare say that they were not against ‘genocide’?”
She added that by claiming this as a “moral imperative,” the U.S.
corporate media is shaping the issue on Darfur.
Flounders brought up that
it is the U.S. that is militarizing the area by funding and arming rebel groups
in Chad and Darfur. She went on to say that, in fact, the U.S. caused more than
half of the deaths in Sudan—when under President Bill Clinton, the U.S.
military bombed the El Shifah pharmaceutical plant in 1998, which supplied 60
percent of Sudan’s medicines.
Smith College Professor Elliot
Fratkin gave a detailed history of Sudan covering almost a thousand years and
emphasizing interethnic and intertribal conflicts. He was the only speaker on
the panel who supported sending UN troops to Darfur to mediate among the
Sudanese forces in Darfur.
The next panelist to speak, Keith Harmon Snow,
emphasized: “People need to know they are being lied to [in regard to
Darfur]. ... Sudan and the Darfur region have a lot of oil, and it has
two-thirds of the world’s supply of high-quality gum arabic. Corporations
such as Coke, Pepsi, and Pfizer rely on cheap supplies of gum arabic.” He
went on to say that “The mass media and Hollywood are fooling the public
about what’s really happening in Sudan. ... The CIA and USAID [U.S. Agency
for International Development] are the real forces who want to overthrow the
government of Sudan.”
When asked what he thought was important
about holding Thursday’s forum, organizer and panelist Dimitri Oram
replied, “For the first time, one of these events on Darfur is really
shining a light on the U.S. role in Darfur and other African nations.” He
continued, “The Rwandan Defense Forces sent to Darfur are themselves
responsible for crimes against humanity and acts of genocide in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, and these troops were trained and are highly linked to the
U.S. military.” Oram compared the U.S. claims of genocide in Darfur to the
war propaganda used to justify U.S. military intervention in Bosnia and in
The last speaker on the panel, Dr. Enoch Page, Associate
Professor of Anthropology at UMASS Amherst and expert on the anthropology of
genocide, brought up the fact that the people of the United States do not need
to look abroad to find cases of genocide. He pointed out that the 1949 United
Nations definition of “genocide” has been and continues to be
carried out against African Americans here in the United States. He reminded the
audience that part of the UN definition includes killing members of a racial
group; causing psychological damage to members of the group; and creating
conditions of financial hardship for members of the group.
raised the “attempt at systematic destruction of African Amer ican people
by the U.S.” and stressed that, “We must talk about that fact
whenever there is a discussion on ‘genocide.’”
Professor Page suggested, “Africa is still being punished for its
brave resistance and overthrowing of its colonial oppressors.” When asked
what information coming out of the forum he thought was important, Professor
Page replied, “That the U.S. is causing the conflict in Darfur, and wants
to overthrow the Islamic government there because it has a vested interest in
the region, not because of ‘genocide.’”
question and answer period, Sara Flounders responded to the suggestion that UN
troops should be sent in to Darfur by reminding the audience of past military
interventions in which UN troops, pressed by U.S. resolutions, were involved:
four million Koreans killed in the “UN Korean Conflict,” the 1991
war on Iraq, the 13 years of UN starvation sanctions imposed on Iraq with 1.5
million deaths, along with the massacre of civilians by UN troops in Haiti and
Organizers of the forum included Keith Harmon Snow, independent
photojournalist, human rights and genocide investigator; Deborah Chandler,
graphic designer; Dimitri Oram, writer and researcher; and Doug White, member of
the Northampton Committee to Stop the War in Iraq.
The entire meeting is
available on audio at www.traprockpeace.org.
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