“What we see is the remnants of genocide…”
“At some point, we’re going to have to unwind some of these sanctions, so we can do the very things we need to do…”
“There is no evidence today that Sudan is involved as a state sponsor of terror…”
- United States Special Envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, while speaking at a US Senate Africa Committee Hearing, July 30th 2009
These comments made by a someone who US President Barack Obama refers to as “one of my top national security advisors” sent shockwaves through Washington, and those who have been actively campaigning for foreign military intervention in Sudan mobilized to counter-attack what they saw as a softening of the US position against Sudan. However, after the ensuing commotion, it continues to be clear that the US is not softening its position towards military intervention in Sudan, but is desperately trying to find a way to save its efforts against the African country. By all accounts up to now, it has been a failure.
It wasn’t long before Mr. Gration, a retired Air Force General, gave interviews clarifying that he supported sanctions on Sudan, and would favour amending only sanctions which are preventing the US from sending heavy machinery and other equipment to develop southern Sudan ahead of a 2011 referendum on whether to secede from the north. He also spoke in favour of the International Criminal Court’s March 2009 decision to issue a warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
All of this is happening in the build up to a US administration “policy review” of its Sudan initiatives. There are rumours of heated debates within the administration, but it is crystal clear that all the major players continue to support an aggressive position against Sudan.
President Barack Obama has said, ‘There is no question that the United States military is currently spread thin with our earlier commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. But, that does not mean that we should not be providing the resources that we can…This should be a swift and clear-cut decision. It is not only an issue of saving lives in the Sudan. It is necessary to support our interests in the region.”
Susan Rice, the US Permanent Representative to the UN has promised to “go down in flames” advocating “dramatic action”, and has publicly called for US or NATO airstrikes on Sudan, a possible naval blockade, “and other military options if those don’t succeed.” Vice President Joseph Biden has been somewhat more direct, “I would use American force now.”
Failures on Top of Failures
The current focal point of foreign intervention is the joint United Nations/African Union military force which was pressured into Sudan in 2007. It was supposed to have 26,000 soldiers on the ground, but as of May 2009, the UN’s 192 member nations had only scraped together less than 10,000 uniformed soldiers and police officers. No one has so far been willing to provide even one of the 18 transport helicopters requested by the mission. General Martin Luther Agwai, the Nigerian military officer who is the outgoing commander of the forces showed some frustration when he recently said there is little point in “having boots without capabilities.”
It is understandable that countries would be reluctant to join US-backed military initiatives after seeing the disasters and quagmires in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, and Somalia. Even though Obama has said that Sudan is a good option for countries not wishing to participate in Afghanistan or Iraq, it is clear that projections by UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon that 90% of the forces will be on the ground by the end of the year are deceptively optimistic.
Eric Reeves, a well funded figure in the pro-military intervention lobby in the United States, wrote recently in an op-ed to the Los Angeles Times saying that the UN/AU force “has lost the confidence of most Darfuris.” His solution? More military. This begs the question, has he lifted his head from the sand for long enough to see what has happened in the Middle East with this approach?
ICC, Rhymes with Hypocrisy
The next prong in the strategy against Sudan was the March 2009 issue of a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Bashir and two others in connection with the humanitarian disaster in the Darfur region of Sudan. It is important that we are always clear in not denying the plight of millions of people in Darfur, where drought, poor infrastructure, and government connected militias have accentuated tensions between traditionally nomadic subsistence herders and substance farmers, but in all fairness we must also be clear as to why the ICC singled out Sudan, and what kind of legitimacy the ICC has to begin with.
The ICC is not a comprehensive international body. Member states compromise only 27% of the world’s population, and the vast majority of its budget comes from European parliaments.
There have been 14 people so far indicted by the ICC, all 14 of them are from Africa. The ICC’s creators deemed the waging of aggressive wars, like those waged by imperialist countries in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, to be outside the court’s jurisdiction. In the words of late British foreign secretary Robin Cook, who helped pioneer the court, “This is not a court set up to bring to book prime ministers of the United Kingdom or presidents of the United States.”
So at a time when it is clear that the largest atrocities being committed in the world – the US/UK in Iraq, US/Canada/NATO in Afghanistan, Israel in Palestine, the UN in Haiti, Ethiopia and the US in Somalia – are being completely disregarded by a so-called international court, any of its decisions are suspect and deserve to be considered in the light of the political objectives of the tiny elite who control it. While the US was later able to pressure a handful of African countries to state otherwise, the African Union and the Arab League have both publicly opposed Bashir’s indictment.
The organization ICC Watch has also challenged the chief prosecutor of the ICC Luis Moreno-Ocampo, to account for why he has not launched an investigation into the “clear and all too well documented use of child soldiers by rebel forces in Darfur.” ICC Watch points out that Thomas Lubanga, a citizen of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is on trial in by ICC for allegedly using young boys in his rebel movement, while the ICC ignores that the UN’s Peacekeeping child protection unit has placed Darfur rebels the Jutice and Equality Movement (JEM) on a list of child soldier recruiters.
Who is Stalling the Process?
For all the accusations against the Sudanese government for filibustering and stalling the peace process, it has been the supposed rebel movements who are responsible for the breakdown of peace talks. The AU/UN Chief Mediator Djibril Bassolé met on August 6th with the Sudanese presidential adviser Ghazi Salah Eddin Attabani, to discuss the new developments. It was announced following the meeting that peace talks had been adjourned due to differences between the different rebel factions. It is suspect enough that that US envoy to Sudan Scott Gration has said he was working hard “to unify the (Darfur) rebels so that there is a spokesman for that group,” but this shows that one more of the prevailing justifications for military intervention against Sudan is not what it seems to be on the surface.
What is so Important About Sudan to Begin With?
Fire This Time reported the following in Volume #3, Issue 4
“Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is believed to have oil reserves rivalling those of Saudi Arabia, and 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. It’s obvious these resources are coveted by Western powers, especially since China is currently Sudan’s largest trading partner and has significant control over oil resources there.”
”Sudan also borders nine other African countries (Afghanistan borders six in the Middle East) and has access to the Red Sea and the Middle East beyond it, unlike many land-locked African countries. Conquering Sudan would mean the best head start for any foreign power wishing to expand across Africa. If we see that they are interested in doing this in the Middle East, why would it be any different in Africa?”
This situation has not changed in the past five years of heavy imperialist campaigning against Sudan. The countries who dishonestly continue to cry crocodile tears over Darfur and take advantage of many people with honest humanitarian intentions, also continue to use war and occupation as their primary weapon in solving their economic and political catastrophes. Their failures are obvious around the world, and we cannot allow them to drag Africa down with them. No matter how the U.S. administration comes out spinning its campaign aginst Sudan and the people of Africa, it is the responsibility of people of conscience the world over to demand:
US/UN HANDS OFF SUDAN!
IMPERIALIST HANDS OFF AFRICA!
Back to Article Listing