On 19 November 2001, the United States government stated that “we are concerned about the growing interest of Sudan…in developing a biological weapons programme”. (1) This unsubstantiated claim was made by John Bolton, American Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control, at a conference in Geneva. It must be said that such a claim is deeply irresponsible to say the very least, and is very much in keeping with the previous Clinton Administration’s failed attempts to isolate Sudan from the international community by making similarly unsubstantiated claims. It is also clear that the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency has previously played its own part in putting political policy and expediency before science with regard to Sudan. Following Washington’s disastrously inept attack on the al-Shifa medicines factory in Khartoum in 1998, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency made inaccurate and misleading claims which it subsequently had to retract. It should also be noted that John Bolton is an appointee more responsive to United States domestic politics with regard to Sudan than scientific facts. (2) Bolton’s claims also jar with Bush Administration statements that Sudan has been cooperative on security issues.
The cornerstone of the previous Administration’s rationale for its policies towards Sudan were similarly vague, repeated claims that Sudan was a supporter of international terrorism. This was constantly cited both in statements by Administration officials and in media coverage. That much of this imagery was very flawed has become increasingly obvious. The Clinton Administration’s 1993 listing of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism was questioned from the start by former President Jimmy Carter. The 1998 attack on the al-Shifa medicines factory in Khartoum because of alleged involvement with chemical weapons was subsequently revealed to have been a disastrous fiasco, with Washington repeatedly turning down invitations for weapons inspectors to visit Sudan. And it is also documented that over one hundred CIA reports on Sudan and terrorism from 1993-96 had to be withdrawn as unreliable or having been fabricated. This level of incompetence led the London ‘Times’ newspaper to state that such a circumstance “is no great surprise to those who have watched similar CIA operations in Africa where ‘American intelligence’ is often seen as an oxymoron.” (3) There is nothing to suggest that the basis for Mr Bolton’s unsubstantiated claims differs in any way from this pattern of unreliability. American “intelligence” on Sudan is not just unreliable, but disinformation – and what amounts to little more than propaganda – has often been dressed up as “intelligence”, and then used in attempts to justify questionable policy towards Sudan. This has not gone unnoticed by the European Union and other members of the international community. For its own credibility on this serious issue the Bush Administration cannot allow its reputation with regard to arms control and non-proliferation to be sullied for the sake of cheap propaganda attacks on Sudan.
Additionally, a September 2001 article in ‘The Observer’ newspaper in Britain reported that Sudan’s attempts to actually cooperate with the United States on anti-terrorism issues had been rebuffed for several years before being acted upon by Washington in 2000. (4) It has also been revealed that Sudan offered to hand Osama bin-Laden over to the American government in 1996. Amazingly, the offer was declined. (5) After several years of declining repeated Sudanese invitations for American intelligence and counter-terrorist personnel to come to Sudan and investigate whatever they wanted to, joint CIA, FBI and State Department teams have been in Sudan since early 2000. (6) In August 2001 Bush Administration officials confirmed that the Sudanese-American cooperation on counter-terrorism had been positive. (7) In fact, based on this dialogue, the United States had agreed to the lifting of the limited United Nations sanctions on Sudan. (8) They were originally due to have been lifted in the same week as the attacks on America. ‘The Observer’ observed that Washington had given Sudan “a clean bill of health” in May 2001, a long-overdue development.
This American-Sudanese intelligence cooperation was said to have “covered everything”. (9) Given that Mr Bolton is, by statute, defined as advising the Secretary of State on matters “related to international security policy, arms control and proliferation” one would have expected him to have been aware of these key developments pertaining to “international security”. There are simple questions that must be asked. Given that CIA, FBI and State Department investigation teams have been active in Sudan for eighteen months or so (and bearing in mind that the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency is part of the State Department) were the claims in question not raised or investigated? Would queries about biological warfare programmes not be at the top of the agenda for any such investigation teams? If they were raised with the Sudanese government, and Khartoum was uncooperative would Washington have described Sudanese-American cooperation as positive? Surely the American government would not have given Sudan “a clean bill of health” if there had been either any evidence whatsoever of Sudanese involvement in developing a biological warfare programme or if Khartoum had been uncooperative in American enquiries?
Given the seriousness of the claims made by Mr Bolton, especially in the wake of the horrific attacks on New York and Washington-DC, and in the light of previous American intelligence incompetence with regard to Sudan, one would have expected considerably more professionalism from him, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the American government in general. The time of repeating almost ritual, unsubstantiated claims about Sudan is over. One had hoped that the Bush Administration would be distancing itself from the failed policies and propaganda excesses of the Clinton Administration. (10) All this has succeeded in doing is fuelling an already extensively misinformed and increasingly vocal anti-Sudan lobby within the United States which continues to distort American policy towards Khartoum. Such claims also undermine the reputation of the United States within the international community.
In addition to the al-Shifa fiasco, it is also worth noting that there have been several other attempts to propagandistically implicate Sudan with weapons of mass destruction. In February 1998, the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare claimed that 600 Scud missile systems had been transferred to Sudan from Iraq. Even the Clinton Administration had to deny this claim, stating that: “We have no credible evidence that Iraq has exported weapons of mass destruction technology to other countries since the (1991) Gulf War.” (11) In addition to the American government, in February and March 1998, the British government also stated that there was no evidence for any such weapons of mass destruction technology transfers from Iraq to Sudan. This was the view of both the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Defence Intelligence staff of the British Ministry of Defence. On 19 March 1998, Baroness Symons, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, stated in Parliament in relation to claims of weapons of mass destruction technology transfers, including chemical and biological weapons, from Iraq to Sudan, that: “We are monitoring the evidence closely, but to date we have no evidence to substantiate these claims…. Moreover, we know that some of the claims are untrue…The defence intelligence staff in the MoD (Ministry of Defence) have similarly written a critique which does not support the report’s findings.” (12) Baroness Symons also stated that: “Nor has the United Nations Special Commission reported any evidence of such transfers since the Gulf War conflict and the imposition of sanctions in 1991.” (13)
There have also been several claims that the Sudanese government used chemical weapons in southern Sudan in July 1999. (14) In this instance it was possible to take samples from the area concerned. The British government’s chemical and biological defence agency at Porton Down rigorously tested seventeen such samples of water, soil and shrapnel for the spectrum of known chemical agents. In the government’s response, the British Minister of State for Defence stated that “very careful analysis of all the available evidence” led the government to “conclude that there is no evidence to substantiate the allegations that chemical weapons were used in these incidents in the Sudan.” More samples were independently tested in Finland and the United States. These also tested negative. In fact, the British government remarked on “the consistency of results from these three independent sets of analysis”. The British government reiterated its findings in October 2000, when they once again stated that “there was no evidence to substantiate the allegations that chemical weapons were used in Sudan. (15) A United Nations medical team had also travelled to the area in which it was claimed the chemical weapons attack took place. The United Nations stated that: “The results…as reported to the United Nations, indicated no evidence of exposure to chemicals.” (16)
The United States government has been party to a series of blunders, or outright deceit with regard to its claims about Sudan. It is against this background that these, the most recent claims of interest in biological warfare should also be viewed and assessed.
The Listing of Sudan as a “State Sponsor of International Terrorism”
The Clinton Administration listed Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism in August 1993. Sudan joined Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Cuba on the American list. Whatever other states on the list may or may not have done, Sudan was included in spite of the fact that there was not a single example of Sudanese involvement in any act of international terrorism. And it is also clear that Sudan was listed without any evidence of its support for terrorism. This much is a matter of record. Former United States President Jimmy Carter, long interested in Sudanese affairs, went out of his way to see what evidence there was for Sudan’s listing. Carter was told there was no evidence: “In fact, when I later asked an assistant secretary of state he said they did not have any proof, but there were strong allegations.” (17)
It would appear, therefore, that despite no evidence whatsoever of involvement in any act of terrorism, Sudan was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. In addition to former President Carter, Donald Petterson, the United States ambassador to Sudan at the time of Sudan’s listing, stated that he was “surprised” that Sudan was put on the terrorism list. Petterson said that while he was aware of “collusion” between “some elements of the Sudanese government” and various questionable organisations: “I did not think this evidence was sufficiently conclusive to put Sudan on the U.S. government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.” (18) Moreover, it would seem that Ambassador Petterson, the American ambassador to Sudan, was not even briefed prior to the decision to list Sudan being taken. When he queried the decision, he was told by an assistant secretary of state that the “new evidence was conclusive”. (19) One can only speculate as to whether the assistant secretary of state briefing Ambassador Petterson was the same assistant secretary of state who told former President Carter a few days later that the Clinton Administration did not have any proof, but that there were “strong allegations”.
A clear example of an American policy of putting a policy of demonising Sudan before facts.
The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing
The United States government has also both claimed and denied that Sudan had been involved in the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York. At first, the United States government reported that the World Trade Center bombing was carried out by a poorly trained local group of individuals who were not under the auspices of a foreign government or international network. (20) In June 1993, the American authorities again stated there was no evidence of foreign involvement in the New York bombing or conspiracies. (21) In August 1993 it was alluded to that Sudan had in some way been involved in the attack. In late April 1996, however, in the wake of two lengthy trials which convicted those responsible for the outrage, Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox Jr, the Department of State’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism, made it very clear that there was no Sudanese involvement whatsoever in the World Trade Center bombings:
“We have looked very, very carefully and pursued all possible clues that there might be some state sponsorship behind the World Trade Center bombing. We have found no such evidence, in spite of an exhaustive search, that any state was responsible for that crime. Our information indicates that Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and his gang were a group of freelance terrorists, many of whom were trained in Afghanistan, who came from various nations but who did not rely on support from any state.” (22)
Yet, earlier that month, on 3 April, the then American ambassador to the U.N., Madeleine Albright, in meetings at the United Nations, claimed that two Sudanese diplomats had been involved in the World Trade Center bombing, and other “plots”. (23) This presents an interesting situation. The political appointee, Mrs Albright, with a political and policy line to follow, claiming one thing, and the professional anti-terrorism expert, Ambassador Wilcox, saying something completely different.
On an issue as serious as allegations of terrorism such as divergence is totally unacceptable and once again undermines the credibility of American claims with regard to Sudanese “involvement” in terrorism.
The 1998 American Attack on the al-Shifa Pharmaceutical Factory
The American government’s cruise missile attack on the al-Shifa medicines factory in Khartoum in August 1998 provides a case study of an incompetent, bumbling intelligence and policy process concerning claims of Sudanese involvement in international terrorism.
On 7 August 1998, terrorist bombs devastated United States embassy buildings in Kenya and Tanzania. Hundreds of people, some of them American, were killed in the explosion in Nairobi and dozens in the blast in Dar-es-Salaam. Thousands more were injured. On 20 August, American warplanes attacked and destroyed the al-Shifa medicines factory in Khartoum. The American government claimed that the factory was linked to Osama bin-Laden and the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, went on record stating: “There is no question in our mind that facility, that factory, was used to produce a chemical that is used in the manufacture of VX nerve gas and has no other commercial distribution as far as we understand. We have physical evidence of that fact and very, very little doubt of it.” (24)
Sudan requested the convening of the Security Council to discuss the matter, and also requested a technical fact-finding mission to verify American claims. (25) The United States deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Peter Burleigh, dismissed Sudanese calls for independent verification of the site: “I don’t see what the purpose of the fact- finding study would be. We have credible information that fully justifies the strike we made on that one facility in Khartoum.” (26)
The Sudanese government also stated that it was prepared to allow Americans to visit Khartoum to establish whether the al-Shifa factory was involved in the production of chemical weapons. (27) The Sudanese foreign minister also invited an investigation committee from the United States government itself to come and investigate “whether this factory…has anything to do with chemical (weapons).” (28) On 22 August, the Sudanese President invited the United States Congress to send a fact-finding mission: “We are fully ready to provide protection and all other facilities to enable this mission to obtain all information and meet anyone it wants.” (29) In the weeks and months following the al-Shifa bombing, the Sudan repeatedly called upon the United Nations and United States to inspect the remains of the factory for any evidence of chemical weapons production. The Americans have steadfastly refused to inspect the site. This is ironic given that in 1998, the United States and Britain militarily attacked Iraq because that country would not allowed the inspection of certain factories and the remains of factories, but when the Sudanese requested a similar inspection of a site claimed to have been a chemical weapons factory, the Clinton Administration pointedly refused. ‘The Washington Post’ quoted a Sudanese diplomat at the United Nations: “You guys bombed Iraq because it blocked U.N. weapons inspectors. We’re begging for a U.N. inspection and you’re blocking it.” (30)
The American intelligence claims about the al-Shifa factory fell by the wayside one by one. After just over one week of sifting through American government claims, ‘The Observer’ newspaper spoke of: “a catalogue of US misinformation, glaring omissions and intelligence errors about the function of the plant.” (31)
The American Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering went on record to claim that: “The physical evidence is a soil sample, analysis of it shows the presence of a chemical whose simple name is EMPTA, a known precursor for the nerve agent VX….We think that it was this evidence, and evidence like it, which made our decision to carry out this strike on this particular target the correct and proper decision under the circumstances.” (32)
The soil samples were said to have been obtained from the factory itself. (33) An American intelligence official added that: “It is a substance that has no commercial applications, it doesn’t occur naturally in the environment, it’s not a by-product of any other chemical process. The only thing you can use it for, that we know of, is to make VX.” (34) This was immediately challenged by ‘The New York Times’, which stated that: “The chemical precursor of a nerve agent that Washington claimed was made at a Sudanese chemical factory it destroyed in a missile attack last week could be used for commercial products.” (35) ‘The New York Times’ cited the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as stating that the chemical could be used “in limited quantities for legitimate commercial purposes”. These purposes could be use in fungicides, and anti-microbial agents. It should be noted that the OPCW is an independent international agency which oversees the inspections of governments and companies to ensure they are not making substances that contravene the chemical weapons ban treaty.
It also appears that the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency played its part in putting propaganda policy before science. On 26 August, for example, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency claimed that Empta was listed as a so-called Schedule 1 chemical – an immediate chemical weapons precursor with no recognised commercial use – by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency had to change its position within a matter of hours, after OPCW officials confirmed that Empta could have commercial uses. Contradicting the claims made by the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said that the organisation classifies Empta on its Schedule 2b of compounds that could be used to make chemical weapons but which also have commercial uses. The OPCW said that Empta is identified with a process to make plastics flexible and also with some fungicides and anti-microbial agents. (36) Sources at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons also pointed out that Empta is difficult to isolate when in soil. A chemical weapons expert at OPCW also stated that pesticide traces in the soil could result in a false-positive result. (37) Mike Hiskey, an expert at the world-renowned Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States, said that the chemical had commercial uses, including the manufacture of some herbicides and pesticides. (38) ‘The Guardian’ newspaper in London also reported that: “a search of scientific papers showed that it could be used in a variety of circumstances.” (39)
The London newspaper, ‘The Observer’, stated that:
“US credibility has been further dented by Western scientists who have pointed out that the same ingredients are used for chemical weapons and beer, and that mustard gas is similar in make-up to the anti-clogging agent in biro ink. It has also been pointed out that the cherry flavouring in sweets is one of the constituent parts of the gas used in combat. Empta also has commercial uses not linked to chemical weapons.” (40)
On 6 September 1998, ‘The Washington Post’ in an editorial entitled ‘Intelligence Lapse?’, called American intelligence claims about the al- Shifa factory into question:
“the possibility of an intelligence failure in the choice of targets in Sudan is so awful to contemplate…But enough questions have been raised, and the administration’s story has been often enough revised, to warrant further inquiry…How could the CIA not have known more about the factory – not have known what so many ordinary citizens apparently knew? Some officials reportedly pointed to a search of the factory’s Internet site that listed no products for sale. We can only hope that, if the administration could speak more openly, it could make a more persuasive case. At a minimum, there is room here for congressional intelligence committees to inquire further.”
This editorial was amongst the first of many American newspaper editorials and articles explicitly questioning the Clinton Administration’s attack on the al-Shifa factory. In February 1999, extensive tests by Professor Thomas Tullius, chairman of the chemistry department at Boston University, on samples taken from the wrecked al- Shifa plant and its grounds, found that “to the practical limits of scientific detection, there was no Empta or Empa, its breakdown product.” (41) In a 1 September briefing, American Defence Secretary Cohen was forced to admit that the evidence linking bin-Laden to the al- Shifa plant “was a little tenuous”. (42) That is to say, two weeks after the American government destroyed the al-Shifa factory because, in large part, American intelligence claimed that Osama bin-Laden either owned, part-owned, or had a financial interest in, the al-Shifa factory, the best the American Defence Secretary could come up with was that the claimed link was “a little tenuous”.
For the National Security Advisor to have publicly made such a mistake over what should have been the very easily verifiable issue of whether al-Shifa produced medicines or is yet another key indicator as to the quality and accuracy of American intelligence on the factory. A simple telephone call to the Sudanese chamber of commerce would have sufficed.
The al-Shifa incident also provided a further clear cut example of serious claims made by the American government which subsequently turned out to have been false. Following the attack Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering stated that who owned the plant “was not known to us”. When, several days later, the American government learnt, from subsequent media coverage of the attack, who actually owned the factory, that person, Mr Saleh Idris, was then retrospectively listed under legislation dealing with “specially designated terrorists”. On 26 August, 1998, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the unit within the U.S. Treasury Department charged with the enforcement of anti-terrorism sanctions, froze more than US$ 24 million of Mr Idris’s assets. These assets had been held in Bank of America accounts. On 26 February 1999, Mr Idris filed an action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, for the release of his assets, claiming that the government’s actions had been unlawful. His lawyers stated that while the law used by the Clinton Administration to freeze his assets required a finding that Mr Idris was, or had been, associated with terrorist activities, no such determination had ever been made. Mr Idris had never had any association whatsoever with terrorists or terrorism. On 4 May 1999, the deadline by which the government had to file a defence in court, the Clinton Administration backed down and had to authorise the full and unconditional release of his assets. (43)
Given that the credibility of the American government was in question regarding al-Shifa, perhaps the final word about the attack should be given to U.S. Senator Pat Roberts: “[T]he strike in regards to the Khartoum chemical plant cannot be justified…These are pretty harsh words. I know one thing for sure. The intelligence agencies of other countries look at that and they think, ‘Wait a minute, if you hit the wrong target or if in fact the justification was not accurate, it is either ineptitude or, to get back to the wag-the-dog theory, something else is going on. That gets to our credibility. And that is why both the administration and the Congress must insist on a foreign policy where if you draw a line in the sand, if you make a statement, your credibility is tremendously important.” (44)
The American Government Has Previously Had to Withdraw Over 100 “Fabricated” Reports on Sudan
There is ample evidence that American government has repeatedly accepted at face value claims about Sudanese involvement in terrorism which were subsequently revealed to have been fabricated. In September 1998, in the wake of the al-Shifa fiasco, both ‘The New York Times’ and ‘The Times’ of London reported that the Central Intelligence Agency had previously secretly had to withdraw over one hundred of its reports alleging Sudanese involvement in terrorism. The CIA had realised that the reports in question had been fabricated. (45)
A striking example of this was the closure by the Clinton Administration of the American embassy in Khartoum in 1996. This decision was presented as yet one more example of concern over Sudan’s alleged support for international terrorism. CIA reports were said to have stated that American embassy staff and their families were in danger. (46) The Clinton Administration’s spokesman, Nicholas Burns, stated at the time that:
“We have been concerned for a long period of time about the activities and movements of specific terrorist organizations who are resident in Sudan. Over the course of many, many conversations with the Sudanese Government, we simply could not be assured that the Sudanese Government was capable of protecting our Americans against the specific threats that concerned us…[T]he specific nature of these threats, the persistence of these threats, and our root belief at the end of all these conversations that this particular government could not protect them led us to take this extraordinary measure of withdrawing all of our diplomats.” (47)
It is now admitted the reports cited in justifying this decision were subsequently withdrawn as having been fabricated. As ‘The New York Times’ investigation documented:
“In late 1995 the CIA realized that a foreign agent who had warned repeatedly of startling terrorist threats to U.S. diplomats, spies and their children in Khartoum was fabricating information. They withdrew his reports, but the climate of fear and mistrust created by the reports bolstered the case for withdrawing personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, officials said…The embassy remained closed, even though, as a senior intelligence official put it, “the threat wasn’t there” as of 1996.” (48)
‘The New York Times’ also reported that there were similar unverified and uncorroborated reports that the then national security advisor, Antony Lake, had been targeted for assassination by terrorists based in Sudan. Lake was moved into Blair House, a federal mansion across the street from the White House and then to a second, secret, location. ‘The New York Times’ reported that Lake “disappeared from view around the time the embassy’s personnel were withdrawn”. There is little doubt that the supposed threat to Lake was as fabricated as the CIA reports concerning the American embassy in Khartoum. The newspaper stated that: “The threat to Tony Lake had a chilling effect on the National Security Council.”
There is no doubt that the equally spurious “threats” to American diplomats and their children in Khartoum had an equally chilling effect on the State Department and other agencies. The fact remains however that these “threats”, then seen as proof of Sudanese complicity in terrorism, were contained in the over one hundred reports that the CIA later admitted it had to withdraw because they had been fabricated. To have to withdraw one or two intelligence reports on such serious matters is bad enough. To have to withdraw over one hundred such reports can only be described as a massive systemic intelligence failure. One can only but point out that the Clinton Administration used the Sudanese government’s inability to react to “specific” threats made by “specific” terrorist organisations against American diplomats, non-existent fabricated threats, as one more example of Sudan’s involvement with terrorism. The American embassy in Khartoum was subsequently partly re- opened in October 1997, and Antony Lake eventually did come out of hiding. And yet, as late as March 2000, four years after the above intelligence fiasco, the White House was still falsely stating: “In 1996, we removed full-time staff from the Embassy and relocated them to Nairobi for security reasons.” (49) In what could pass for a snapshot of the accuracy of Clinton Administration claims about Sudan and terrorism in general, ‘The New York Times’ stated that:
“the Central Intelligence Agency…recently concluded that reports that had appeared to document a clear link between the Sudanese Government and terrorist activities were fabricated and unreliable…The United States is entitled to use military force to protect itself against terrorism. But the case for every such action must be rigorously established. In the case of the Sudan, Washington has conspicuously failed to prove its case.” (50)
Ambassador Petterson, the United States ambassador to Sudan from 1992-95, clearly documents an earlier example of the Clinton Administration acting upon fabricated and unreliable claims of Sudanese complicity in “terrorism”. In his memoirs of his time in Sudan Ambassador Petterson reveals that in August 1993, “information about a plan to harm American officials led the State Department to order an evacuation of our spouses and children and a reduction of my American staff by one-third”. Petterson stated that “[w]e at the embassy had seen or heard nothing manifesting a clear and present danger from either terrorists or the Sudanese government. But the order was firm and irrevocable”. (51) Petterson also documented that subsequently “new information” had been “acquired” which indicated “an increasingly precarious situation for Americans in Khartoum”. Ambassador Petterson later reveals that the allegations in question were unfounded:
“The months wore on, no credible threat to embassy Americans materialized, and eventually serious doubt was raised about the validity of the information that had led to the evacuation.” (52)
It perhaps goes without saying that for a government to evacuate the spouses and children of diplomats, and to reduce its embassy staff, is a serious matter. It is an even more serious matter when a government totally closes an embassy, withdrawing all diplomats and dependants. This was done on two occasions in Sudan. The partial evacuation happened in 1993. The total evacuation was carried out in 1996. The Clinton Administration ordered both evacuations on the basis of intelligence information received which supposedly warned of threats to American diplomats and their families. On both occasions the Administration also demanded that the Sudanese government somehow deal with these threats, and it was inferred that if Khartoum did not do so this would be more evidence of Sudan’s involvement with terrorism. It is now clear, as outlined by independent sources such as Ambassador Petterson, and ‘The New York Times’ that both the partial evacuation of American embassy staff and dependants in 1993, and the full withdrawal of the embassy in 1996, were the results of faulty intelligence reports based on claims subsequently revealed to have been fabricated.
The American Government Refused Several Previous Requests for American Investigations
After other invitations, in early 2000 the Clinton Administration finally accepted Sudanese invitations to send anti-terrorist and counter-terrorism teams down to Sudan to investigate anything they wished to. It is clear that several other attempts on the part of the Sudanese government to enter into cooperation with Washington on counter-terrorism were similarly ignored or rejected. The Clinton Administration’s poor record and questionable judgement with regard to intelligence and the issue of terrorism was further highlighted by the September 1998 revelation of ‘The New York Times’ that: “In February 1997, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir sent President Clinton a personal letter. It offered, among other things, to allow U.S. intelligence, law-enforcement and counterterrorism personnel to enter Sudan and to go anywhere and see anything, to help stamp out terrorism. The United States never replied to that letter.”
In April 1997, there was another invitation, once again inviting the Clinton Administration to send FBI counterterrorism units to Sudan to verify any information they may have had about terrorism. The letter was addressed to Representative Lee Hamilton, the then chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and is part of the Congressional Record. (53) This offer was eventually turned down four months later. Several other invitations followed before one was accepted.
Within the context of this catalogue of American intelligence blunders, together with Washington’s questionable and increasingly transparent use of serious allegations against Sudan for policy and propaganda reasons, renewed American claims about Sudanese involvement “in developing a biological weapons programme” must be seen for what they are, unsustainable and deeply irresponsible.
1 “US Accuses Iraq, N.Korea, Iran of Building Germ Warfare Stocks”, News Article by Agence France Press, 19 November 2001.
2 For example, Bolton was also previously involved with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federally-funded body that has produced very questionable and deliberately skewed material on Sudan. In his March 2001 nomination hearing Bolton stated that he had met on the issue of Sudan with former Secretary of State Albright and National Security Adviser Samuel Berger while working with the Commission. Both Albright and Berger who have been identified with claims on Sudan that were either distorted or deliberately deceitful. See, for example, ‘Partisan and Hypocritical: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and Sudan’, The European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, 2000, available at www.espac.org
3 ‘The Times’, London, 22 September 1998.
4 David Rose, “Resentful West Spurned Sudan’s Key Terror Files”, ‘The Observer’, London, 30 September 2001.
5 “Sudan Offered Up bin Laden in ’96”, ‘The Washington Post’, 3 October 2001.
6 See, for example, “US Sees Good Progress in Terrorism Talks with Sudan “, News Article by Reuters on 25 September 2001.
7 “Powell Mulls U.N. Action on Sudan After Report African Government is Moving in Right Direction on Terrorism “, News Article by Associated Press on 22 August 2001 and “Sudan Provides Intelligence to U.S.”, News Article by Reuters, 29 September 2001.
8 See, for example, “US Allows UN Council to End Sanctions Against Sudan”, News Article by Reuters on 28 September 2001; “US Ready to End U.N. Sanctions on Sudan Friday”, News Article by Reuters on 28 September 2001; “US Allows UN Council to End Sanctions Against Sudan”, News Article by Reuters, 28 September 2001.
9 “Foreign Minister Says Sudan has been Cooperating with the United States in the Fight Against Terrorism for More Than a Year “, News Article by Associated Press on 25 September 2001.
10 See, ‘Farce Majeure: The Clinton Administration’s Sudan Policy 1993-2000’, The European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, 2000, available at www.espac.org
11 “White House Says No Sign Iraq Exported Arms”, News Article by Reuters on 17 February 1998.
12 House of Lords ‘Official Report’, London, 19 March 1998, cols. 818-820.
13 House of Lords ‘Official Report’, London, 19 March 1998, cols. 818-820.
14 See, for example, Norwegian People’s Aid, ‘Confirmed Chemical Bombing in Southern Sudan’, 2 August 1999, posted on Relief Wet, www.reliefweb.int.
15 House of Lords ‘Official Report’, 31 October 2000, cols. WA81.
16 ‘Note for the Spokesman of the Secretary-General on Sudan’, Note delivered by the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr Philippe Borel, to the Sudanese Foreign Ministry, 17 October 1999.
17 ‘The Independent’, London, 17 September 1993.
18 Donald Petterson, ‘Inside Sudan: Political Islam, Conflict and Catastrophe’, Westview Books, Boulder, 1999, p.69.
20 ‘The New York Times’, 26 March 1993.
21 See, for example, ‘The New York Times’, ‘The Washington Post’, 25 June 1993.
22 ‘Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1996 Briefing’, Press briefing by Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox Jr, Washington-DC, 30 April 1996 on US Government Home Page, at http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/960430.html
23 “U.S. Expels Sudanese Diplomat: Diplomat Implicated in U.N. Bomb Plot”, News Article by United States Information Agency, 10 April 1996.
24 “Sample From Sudan Plant Said to Link It to Weapons”, ‘International Herald Tribune’, 25 August 1998.
25 ‘Letter of H.E. Bishop Gborial Roric, State Minister at the Ministry of External Affairs to the President of the United Nations Security Council on the Flagrant American Aggression Against the Sudan’, Ministry of External Affairs, Khartoum. See, also, “Sudan Formally Asks for UN Meeting, Probe of Plant”, News Article by Reuters on 22 August 1998 at 05:44 pm EST; “Khartoum Seeks Condemnation, Damages and Fact- Finding Team”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 23 August 1998.
26 “US “Reveals” Nerve Gas Evidence”, News Article by BBC World, 25 August 1998.
27 “Sudan Willing to Accept US-led Probe into Factory Attack”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 23 August 1998.
28 “Minister: Sudan Invites an American Verification Committee”, News Article by Associated Press, 22 August 1998.
29 “Sudan President Invites Fact-Finders, Warns of Retaliation”, News Article by BBC Online, 22 August 1998.
30 “Absent at Conference, Sudan is Still Talking With U.S. “, ‘The Washington Post’, 17 March 2000.
31 “Sudanese Plant ‘Not Built for Weapons”, ‘The Observer’, London, 30 August 1998.
32 “U.S. State Dept. Says Soil Showed VX-Sudan Link”, News Article by Reuters, 26 August 1998.
33 “US Strives to Justify Air Strike on Sudan Factory”, ‘The Independent’ 26 August 1998.
34 “US Strives to Justify Air Strike on Sudan Factory”, ‘The Independent’ 26 August 1998.
35 “Chemical Made at Bombed Sudanese Factory had Commercial Uses: Report”, News Article by Agence France Presse, 27 August 1998.
36 “‘Smoking Gun’ for Sudan Raid Now in Doubt”, ‘The Chicago Tribune’, 28 August 1998.
37 “More Doubts Rise Over Claims for U.S. Attack”, ‘The Wall Street Journal’, 28 August 1998.
38 “‘Smoking Gun’ for Sudan Raid Now in Doubt”, ‘The Chicago Tribune’, 28 August 1998.
39 “Expert Queries US Labelling of Sudan Chemicals”, ‘The Guardian’, London, 28 August 1998.
40 “Sudanese Plant ‘Not Built for Weapons'”, ‘The Observer’, London, 30 August 1998.
41 “Experts Find No Arms Chemicals at Bombed Sudan Plant”, ‘The New York Times’, 9 February 1999.
42 “Administration Officials Detail Missile Strike Strategy”, News Article by Associated Press, 2 September 1998.
43 See, “US Unfreezes Assets of Sudan Factory Owner”, News Article by Agence France Press, 4 May, 1999, 20:51 GMT; “US Oks Payout for ‘Sudan Mistake’: Faulty Intelligence Blamed for Air Strike”, ‘The Washington Times’, 5 May 1999; “US Admits Sudan Bombing Mistake”, ‘The Independent’, London, 4 May 1999; “US to Unfreeze Accounts Frozen Over Plant”, ‘The Asian Wall Street Journal’, 5 May 1999.
44 “Roberts Calls US Missile Attack on Sudan Unjustified”, by Dennis Pearce, ‘The Wichita Eagle’, 28 October 1998. Senator Roberts is a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Armed Forces Committees.
45 ‘The Times’, London, 22 September 1998; ‘The New York Times’, 21 and 23 September, 1998.
46 “Withdrawal of US Diplomats – Security Council Condemnation”, ‘Keesings Archives’, Volume 42, 1996.
47 Daily Press Briefing, U.S. Department of State, 1 February 1996
48 “Decision to Strike Factory in Sudan Based on Surmise”, ‘The New York Times’, 21 September 1999.
49 Extract on Sudan from the Daily Press Briefing, the United
States Department of State, 3 March 2000, 12:35 PM.
50 “Dubious Decisions on the Sudan, Editorial”, ‘The New York Times,’ 23 September 1998.
51 Petterson, op.cit., p.71.
52 Petterson, op.cit., p.91.
53 “Perspective on Terrorism – Olive Branch Ignored”, ‘The Los Angeles Times’, 30 September 1998.
The European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council sent this media contribution to Media Monitors Network (MMN)