June 6, 2006
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 Darfur."
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.
But 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 dinner.
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 Condoleezza
Rice, Gen. Wesley Clark and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have all
argued in favor of intervention in Sudan.
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.
The Holocaust Museum in Washington issued a
"genocide alert"—the first such alert ever issued—and 35 evangelical
Christian 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.
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 Darfur."
Diversion from Iraq debacle
The criminal 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 "peacekeepers."
But the rest of the UN Security Council was unwilling to accept this view, the U.S. "evidence" or the proposed action.
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.
Most important, it opens a new front in the determination of U.S. corporate power to control the entire region.
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. It is believed to have oil reserves
rivaling those of Saudi Arabia. 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.
Unlike Saudi 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 Sudan.
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 reaction." (www.afrol.com)
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 raising livestock.
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 sanctions
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.
Now, due 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 them.
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 Sudan
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
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.
For more 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
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.
U.S. troops 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
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.
UN troops in Yugoslavia and in Haiti have been a
cover for U.S. and European intervention and occupation—not peace or
The U.S. 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 the 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
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.