U.S. foreign policy in the Sudan provides a powerful case study of the functional role of the concept of ‘international terrorism’ within world order under U.S./Western hegemony, the domestic process of legitimising that hegemony, and the anti-humanitarian procedures pursued to comprehensively sustain hegemony. This paper analyses the case of Sudan by focusing on the U.S. cruise missile attack on Sudan in August 1998, and examining its relations within the wider framework of U.S.-Sudan relations. The paper discusses how the U.S. deliberately fabricated a terrorist threat in the Sudan to justify its anti-humanitarian policies toward the country. It highlights the deceptions and implications of the U.S. bombing of al-Shifa, and analyses its role in a wider ongoing U.S. military strategy involving the support of the southern rebel movement. The paper concludes that figures such as Osama Bin Laden é who was wrongly linked to the target of the U.S. attacks on Sudan – rather than playing an adverse role, actually play an integral functional role that is essential for the U.S. to exploit as justification for its policies – without the terrorist threat, there can be no pretext for military interventions. Hence, ‘international terrorism’ plays the role of providing justification for U.S. terrorism abroad, perpetrated in the name of strategic and economic interests.
On 20 August 1998, the United States launched an attack on Khartoum in Sudan, bombing the al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant under direct orders from President Bill Clinton. The U.S. attack was initiated a week after bomb blasts at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 260 people, blamed on the CIA-trained Saudi dissident and Taliban favourite, Osama bin Laden. The al-Shifa plant was totally destroyed in the American attack. A senior U.S. intelligenaffefficial affirmed that: “[T]he Sudanese target, the Shifa Pharmaceutical plant, is used to make precursor chemicals for the deadly nerve gas VX,” and that “there is no evidence that the plant actually makes commercial pharmaceuticals. It is fenced and guarded by the Sudanese military.” Hence, the targeting of the plant in response to the U.S. embassy blasts was justified as a proportionate retaliation against prime suspect Osama Bin Laden. On August 20, 1998, the U.S. Navy launched 75 cruise missiles, against what President Clinton described as “terrorist-related facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan.” Justifying the attack on Sudan, the President stated: “Our forces also attacked a factory in Sudan associated with the bin Laden [terrorist] network. The [Shifa] factory was involved in the production of materials for chemical weapons.”
However, several months after the U.S. attack, it was revealed that the al-Shifa plant was not a chemical weapons factory at all, but was, indeed, nothing but a pharmeceutical plant. The London Times, for instance, reported that: “A catalogue of intelligence blunders and wayward political analysis by agents and senior American Administration officials led to the cruise missile attack on a pharmaceutical factory”. Kroll Associates’ investigation of the U.S. missile attack had apparently demonstrated the sheer vacuum of evidence allegedly linking the facility or its owner to international terrorism, chemical weapons production, and Osama Bin Laden. According to the New York Times although “senior national security advisers [had] described Al Shifa as a secret chemical weapons factory financed by bin Laden”, “State Department and CIA officials [now] argue that the government cannot justify its actions.” Rather than manufacturing chemical weapons, the al-Shifa plant “made both medicine and veterinary drugs, according to U.S. and European engineers and consultants who helped build, design and supply the plant.”  Other experts pointed out that the chemical structure of Empta closely resembles Fonofos, an insecticide on sale in Africa.
The Independent thus noted that according to scientific opinion, the soil sample simply did not indicate that the plant was a chemical weapons factory: “Chemical weapons experts believe the evidence presented so far is not strong enough. They point out that key components of chemical weapons have ‘dual use’ and are also used in medicines, even bubble bath and shampoo.” The New York Times also cited experts who challenged the U.S. pretext: “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.” The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons affirmed that Empta could be used “in limited quantities for commercial purposes”, such as in fungicides or anti-microbial agents.
Malcolm Clark, writing in the New Statesman, noted other facts illustrating the inconsistencies in the U.S. allegation that al-Shifa was producing chemical weapons:
“Government ministers [from Sudan] had turned up to tour the site the day after the attack, as the plant was still smoking; it was hardly the behaviour of people afraid of chemical weapons in their midst. Then there was [Sudan’s] open invitation to the UN to send a team of investigators. There was also the testimony of a British engineer, Thomas Carnaffin, who had helped build the plant and who pointed out that the very minimum requirement for a chemical weapons plant was that it should have airlocks. The doors on this plant led directly into the streets of a busy Khartoum suburb.”
Clark went on to approach some of the leading scientific experts on malaria to question them about the possibility that the al-Shifa had actually been producing – among other medicines – anti-maleria tablets (chloroquine): “Was there any chance, I asked, that Clinton and Blair were wrong? Could the Sudanese government be right when it said the plant was making chloroquine? Well, yes, actually. Every last white-coated one of them was convinced it was a terrible mistake.”
It is worth noting that the U.S. allegations against Sudan were incredible even without taking into account the convolution of science that they employed. There was no soil outside the plant. Most of the area around al-Shifa was paved with only a small amount of open land to cultivate rose bushes. As Sudan’s Interior Minister observed in surprise at the U.S. pretext: “The American claim is totally unfounded. If you look around, you will not see any soil in the immediate vicinity of our factory premises.” IAC Co-ordinator Richard Becker observed that in light of the revelations:
“é the edifice of lies constructed by U.S. national security officials seeking to justify an unjustifiable act has crumbled. The factory’s U.S. designer, the British technical manager for the plant’s construction, and the Jordanian engineer who supervised production, are among those who have testified that it was impossible for Al-Shifa to have been a chemical weapons plant”. He continued:
“It was a very simple mixing, blending and dispensing pharmaceutical facility. It wasn’t a large plant. Part of it was used to make veterinary medicines and ointments and part for human medicines. There was never anything like that (making precursors). It was a very open situation. Many people from different countries visited the factory. It would have been a very difficult thing to do (making precursors). That wasn’t the intent of the factory at all.” To this day, the number of civilians who were killed in the U.S. attack is unknown. As U.S. Professor Noam Chomsky records:
“[T]he actual toll in the Sudan case can only be surmised, because the U.S. blocked any UN inquiry and few were interested enough to pursue the matter. That the toll is dreadful is hardly in doubt… One can scarcely try to estimate the colossal toll of the Sudan bombing, even apart from the probable tens of thousands of immediate Sudanese victims.” Richard Becker more specifically observed that al-Shifa “had raised Sudan’s self-sufficiency in pharmaceuticals from 3% to 50%”, “producing 60-90% of the country’s drugs for treating the seven leading causes of deathé Al-Shifa produced all of the country’s veterinary medicines. The Sudan’s large herds of camels, cattle, goats and sheep – critical to the food supply – are plagued by treatable infestations of parasites.” The plant was crucial as “an exporter of human and veterinary drugs to other African and Middle Eastern countries, and was recently contracted by the UN Sanctions Committee to ship medical supplies to Iraq.” Al-Shifa was also a packaging plant, receiving “processed materials, mixing and packaging them as tablets, capsules and syrups.” According to Dr. B. A. Salam of Sudan’s Central Medical Supply al-Shifa “did not even have equipment to synthesize milk into cheese.” But as Becker points out, “it enabled the country to obtain critically needed drugs at 20% of the purchase cost on the world market.”
Without the al-Shifa plant, Sudan – along with other African and Middle Eastern countries é is now dependent on foreign goods to meet its health needs. Yet it is impossible for Sudan to import replacement pharmaceuticals, since per capita gross national product amounts only to around $300. The result has been immensely devastating. The ultimate consequences of the U.S. missile attack on Sudan has been the ongoing death of thousands of innocent Sudanese civilians who due to the destruction of the al-Shifa plant, have no access to medicines that would otherwise have been made easily available by the plant. The death toll, in other words, of the U.S. missile attack, has continued to increase to this day.
British engineer Tom Carnaffin, with “intimate knowledge” of the plant, noted that: “[T]he loss of this factory is a tragedy for the rural communities who need these medicines.” Head of the Sudanese humanitarian relief organization, the Near East Foundation, Jonathan Belke, reported that a year after the U.S. bombing:
“[W]ithout the lifesaving medicine [the destroyed facilities] produced, Sudan’s death toll from the bombing has continued, quietly, to rise… Thus, tens of thousands of people – many of them children – have suffered and died from malaria, tuberculosis, and other treatable diseases… [The factory] provided affordable medicine for humans and all the locally available veterinary medicine in Sudan. It produced 90 percent of Sudan’s major pharmaceutical products… Sanctions against Sudan make it impossible to import adequate amounts of medicines required to cover the serious gap left by the plant’s destruction…. [T]he action taken by Washington on Aug. 20, 1998, continues to deprive the people of Sudan of needed medicine. Millions must wonder how the International Court of Justice in The Hague will celebrate this anniversary.”
Indeed, the U.S. missile attack on Sudan appears to have been only one part of a wider ongoing military strategy against the country, designed to topple the current government. In a Bay Guardian Op-Ed, Richard Becker recorded that:
“The bombing of Al-Shifa was neither a mistake nor an ‘intelligence failure’. It was instead part of an ongoing war against Sudan. U.S. arms are fuelling a devastating civil conflict that has made more than 10% of the country’s 28 million people refugees. U.S. economic sanctions block the acquisition of insulin, sutures, blood derivatives, and countless other medical supplies. This war is largely hidden here [in America], but it is a daily reality for the Sudanese people. Sanctions, destabilization and war – these are the same deadly tactics that have been used against Nicaragua, Angola, Cuba, Iraq and other developing countries which have had the audacity to seek an independent path. The objective is to make them bow before the dictates of Washington. No single act could have been more devastating to the health of the Sudanese people than the destruction of the Al-Shifa plant.” John Prendergast, director of East African affairs on the National Security Council, admitted in 1997 that the government of Sudan was viewed as “the principle threat to U.S. security interests on the Continent of Africa today”. Explaining the context of U.S. hostility to Sudan, Director of the London-based Sudan Foundation Dr. Sean Gabb records that:
“Sudan’s civil war had rekindled in 1983 with the formation of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) led by John Garang. The government gradually civilianised itself and established a modern Islamic republic in Sudan. The independence of the Sudanese government and the threat of a democratic Islamic model to America’s absolutist and authoritarian allies in the Middle East marked it out as a target for American displeasure.” From the early 1990s onwards, the U.S. implemented a two-pronged strategy against Sudan designed to destabilise its government. The policy enlisted the support of three of Sudan’s neighbours – Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia é and involved support for rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) fighting in the south. According to the National Security News Service (NSNS) reliable reports in the French media show that: “[T]he SPLA rebels receive political and indirect military support from the United States, via American military assistance to Uganda, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.” The NSNS reports that U.S. military support of the SPLA has been confirmed by Roger Winter, Director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees, and was further confirmed when U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright officially met SPLA leader John Garang in January 1998 during her trip to Africa. Africa Confidential, for example, reported that in Uganda the SPLA “has already received U.S. help via Uganda”, while U.S. special forces are on “open-ended deployment” with the rebels. Eritrea and Ethiopia are used similarly to provide military assistance to the SPLA. The Sunday Times reported that: “The Clinton administration has launched a covert campaign to destabilise the government of Sudan… More than $20m of military equipment, including radios, uniforms and tents will be shipped to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda in the next few weeks. Although the equipment is earmarked for the armed forces of those countries, much of it will be passed on to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which is preparing an offensive against the government in Khartoum.” A 1998 NSNS report on Sudan records that mounting efforts by the U.S.-backed SPLA in the south “place the civilian population at heightened risk”. According to reports from Egypt, an Egyptian delegation to the Sudanese government in Khartoum discussed the existence of a U.S.-Israeli plan to provide direct military support in the near future to mercenaries fighting on behalf of the Sudanese opposition, with the objective apparently being to install SPLA leader Garang as “the new leader of Sudan.” Africa Confidential further confirmed that: “The United States pretends the aid is to help the governments concernedé to protect themselves from Sudan. It is clear the aid is for Sudan’s armed opposition.” Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has observed that U.S. aid to these countries constitutes “a tacit demonstration of support for the overthrow of the Khartoum government.” The London Guardian similarly noted: “Welcome to the 1980s. Long live Ronald Reagan. Remember the scenario – a rebel group being trained and armed by the CIA to topple a sovereign government, cross-border incursions from secluded camps, and the whole de-stabilisation exercise backed by international sanctions and a massive propaganda campaign. It sounds like Nicaragua or Angola circa 1984. In fact it’s Sudan 1998.” The civil war has thus been drastically exacerbated as a result of U.S. support for the SPLA, with devastating consequences for the Sudanese people. Estimates indicate that 1.5-2 million Sudanese have been killed since 1983 and 85 per cent of the southern population have been displaced. “Some two million Sudanese – nearly 8% of the country’s population – have lost their lives to war or famine-related causes since 1983, when fighting resumed in Africa’s longest running civil war. Millions more have been displaced, many fleeing to neighboring states”, reports Sudan specialist Dan Connell. “Massive injections of U.S. and Soviet arms have kept the war raging between northern and southern Sudan for nearly a half-century.” Democratisation can hardly be integral to U.S. objectives. It is well known that the three neighbouring countries being used as surrogates in the U.S. destabilisation project are severely lacking in democratic and humanitarian credentials. The London Times reported during President Clinton’s 1998 visit to Sudan’s neighbours that: “[Ugandan leader] Mr Museveni is openly hostile to the concept [of multiparty politics] and has developed with American approval, a non-party pluralism. Few of the other Washington favourites in Ethiopia and Eritrea appear to be making ‘strides’ towards democracy.” “All three of the regimes most recently involved in what could be termed American-backed ‘military adventurism’ against Sudan are run by gunmen who seized power through the barrel of a gun, and whose exposure to politics was within intolerant guerrilla movements. Authoritarianism and intolerance has been the hallmark of all three governments, with the resultant serious problems with regard to human rights and civil liberties. Attempts by Western governments and media to explain the anti-Sudanese stance and activities of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda as being in some way related to the fact that Sudan is an Islamic republic, and alleged to be supporting Islamic destabilisation within their countries, are simply not credible, particularly given the fact that these countries have come into similar conflict with neighbouring countries in which religion cannot be said to have been an issue.
“All three regimes are essentially minority political regimes, with clear ethnic or tribal agendas. As such they can be seen as doing what minority regimes have always done throughout history in similar circumstances, which is to project themselves externally in an attempt to unify their countries. Within the conditions thus created the governments can cite ‘national security’ as a catchall to stifle domestic political opposition. Both Eritrea and Ethiopia have significant, and possibly majority, Muslim populations, sections of which may have been seriously alienated by governmental policies. It is then convenient, especially with American encouragement, to blame domestic unease at repressive policies, ethnicity, political authoritarianism and human rights abuses as somehow being the fault of Sudan. Uganda has made similar claims.”
It is instructive to consider in some detail the conduct and activities of southern SPLA rebels in receipt of U.S. military support. An inspection of the record reveals that the principal perpetrator of atrocities and terror in the Sudanese civil war is not the government, but the SPLA. As the New York Times noted, SPLA leader John Garang’s “explicit strategy was to render south Sudan ungovernable, and in that he succeeded. The South today is not only ungovernable but virtually uninhabitable.” The Economist observes that the SPLA is “little more than an armed gang of Dinkasé killing, looting and raping. Its indifference, almost animosity, towards the people it was supposed to be ‘liberating’ was all too clear.” Eight U.S.-based humanitarian organisations in Sudan – including CARE, World Vision, Church World Service, Save the Children and the American Refugee Committee – report that the U.S.-backed SPLA has “engaged for years in the most serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, beatings, arbitrary detention, slavery, etc.“ SPLA leader John Garang – with whom U.S. Secretary of State Albright met in December 1997 and January 1998 in signification of the U.S.-SPLA alliance é has been described by the New York Times as one of Sudan’s “pre-eminent war criminals”. Numerous incidents of SPLA terror have been documented. The U.S. State Department’s 1990 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices reported that the SPLA “conducted indiscriminate mortar and rocket attacks on the city of Juba, killing more than 40 civilians and wounding many others. These attacks…seemed intended to terrorize the inhabitants”. There had also been “extensive pillaging and shooting of civilians by SPLA/M forces along the Sudan-Ethiopian border”.
Describing an incident typical of SPLA conduct, the United Nations records that the SPLA attacked two villages in the southern region of Sudan, ultimately massacring 30 men, 53 women, and 127 children – a total of 210 villagers:
“Eyewitnesses reported that some of the victims, mostly women, children and the elderly, were caught while trying to escape and killed with spears and pangas. M.N., a member of the World Food Programme relief committee at Panyajor, lost four of her five children (aged 8-15 years). The youngest child was thrown into the fire after being shot. D.K. witnessed three women with their babies being caught. Two of the women were shot and one was killed with a panga. Their babies were all killed with pangas. A total of 1,987 households were reported destroyed and looted and 3,500 cattle were taken.” Amnesty International, African Rights, and Human Rights Watch have similarly provided extensive documentation of the SPLA’s war against civilians. Amnesty for example reported similar acts of terrorism where SPLA gunmen lined up 32 women from the village of Pagau, 12 kilometres from Ayod in southern Sudan. The gunmen shot each woman once in the head. Eighteen children were locked in a hut that was then set on fire. Three children attempted to escape and were shot, while the rest burned to death. SPLA forces also burnt to death 36 women in a cattle byre in Paiyoi, an area north-east of Ayod. Nine others were clubbed to death. East Africa director of the NSC John Prendergast, then a development aid consultant with extensive experience in Sudan, thus noted that the SPLA:
“é was responsible for egregious human rights violations in the territory it controlled. If conventional human rights standards were applied to the SPLA as a government of the territory it controls (a status it confers on itself), non-humanitarian aid would have been prohibited by the U.S. Congress long ago on human rights grounds.”“The SPLA has a history of gross abuses of human rights and has not made any effort to establish accountability. Its abuses today remain serious… This pattern makes the provision of any aid to the SPLA wrong, because it would support an abusive force and make the United States complicit in those abuses.” The United States cannot claim ignorance of this long record of SPLA war crimes. U.S. Sudan expert Prendergast, formerly of NSC and later of the State Department, admitted that the SPLA “was responsible for egregious human rights violations in the territory it controlled” and that the rebel group “has received a tidal wave of accusations and condemnation from international human rights organizations and local churches over its human rights record.” The contrast between the SPLA and the Sudanese government can be well gauged from a 1994 study by Human Rights Watch, Civilian Devastation: Abuses by all Parties in the War in Southern Sudan. In this 279-page report, 169 pages are devoted to documentation of human rights abuses by the SPLA. In comparison, violations by the Sudanese government are dealt with in 52 pages. In other words, about 76 per cent of the HRW study was focused on SPLA violations, while only 24 per cent sufficed to cover government violations. The contrast is instructive, for it reveals the vacuity of the humanitarian justification for U.S. support of the SPLA, expressed for example by Roger Winter. U.S.-backed SPLA terrorism far surpasses the scale of violations attributable to the Sudanese government. While we are certainly not condoning human rights violations by the Sudanese government, it is clear from this comparison that human rights violations by the U.S.-backed SPLA are enormously preponderant.
This fact can be derived from many other issues related to the Sudanese conflict, such as a comparison of governmental and rebel policies in response to the current famine in Sudan. It has often been alleged that the famine is the product of government policies. Yet there is considerable evidence to the contrary that the current famine, which partly had its root in the drought of 1997-98, is the direct result of SPLA policies. Independent observers report that the famine immediately followed an SPLA attack on the city of Wau in Bahr al-Ghazal, in January 1998. SPLA commander Kerubino Kuanyin Bol led the attack against the city resulting in intense fighting, which in turn severely deteriorated the security and food distribution in the region. Newsweek reported that: “Aid workers blame much of the south’s recent anguish on one man: the mercurial Dinka warlord Kerubino Kuanyin Bol.”
The government has in contrast illustrated genuine concern for the impact of the famine on the Sudanese people. The government’s co-operation with international agencies was indicated in 1998 by Philip J. Clark, the World Food Program (WFP) Representative in Sudan: “Let me take this opportunity to thank the Government of Sudan for its co-operation in facilitating the efforts of the United Nations to meet the urgent food needs of thousands of people in Southern Sudan who require our help.” Indeed, in accordance with Operation Lifeline Sudan – an agreement between the government, the UN and the SPLA – the government has been coordinating thousands of flights over southern Sudan with humanitarian aid, providing thousands of tonnes of its grain as food relief to 180,000 southerners. In July 1998, the Roman Catholic Church in southern Sudan publicly stated that the SPLA was stealing 65 percent of the food aid going into rebel-controlled areas of southern Sudan, food aid aimed at the most famine-affected Dinka communities in Bahr al-Ghazal. “On the whole, SPLA commanders and officials of the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA, its humanitarian wing), have seen relief flows as simple flows of material resources. The leadership has also used aid for diplomatic and propaganda purposesé A large proportion of their consumption was food aid. Sudanese who were in Itang during that period later reported they routinely saw trucks being re-loaded with food at the camp stores: at times on a daily basis. Often they were just going to the nearby training camps, but relief supplies were also sometimes sold, or used on military operations in EasternEquatoria and Upper Nile. The SPLA ‘taxed’ the supplies for the refugees, reselling substantial amounts of food on the market and earning millions of Ethiopian Birr. This income was used to purchase vehicles and other equipment for the SPLA Much relief was sold in Ethiopia: traded for cash, clothing, cattle and other items. By 1990, the Itang camp manager was even managing to raise enough revenue to buy vehicles for the SPLA, and was publicly commended by John Garang for doing so.” The SPLA has even shot down two civilian airplanes carrying humanitarian aid, killing dozens of passengers and crew members, and has attempted to down several more. These incidents have occurred during the worst period of a famine, and led to the government having to temporarily forestall deliveries due to fear of planes being shot down. The primary cause of the violence, terror and famine in Sudan is thus the southern rebel movement supported by the United States both directly and through regional surrogates, not the Sudanese government – many of whose policies are attempting to seriously alleviate the famine and come to a mutually agreed peaceful solution to the conflict. While there have been allegations that the government is complicit in the forced displacement of civilians in southern oil-producing areas through a combination of ground and aerial bombardment, available data supports the view that either there is no such displacement, or otherwise the primary initiator of violence and perpetrator of displacement has been SPLA rebels. This certainly does not mean that the government has not committed human rights abuses in these areas, but rather that the initiator of violence é and the party primarily responsible for human rights violations é is the SPLA as opposed to the government. In February 2001 for example, amidst numerous accusations against the government of scorched earth operations in Bentui, Reuters reported that: “A spokesman for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which operates around Bentiu, about 770 km (480) miles southwest of Khartoum, where much of the drilling is located, said the WFP was not aware of forced displacements.” 
It is, however, a matter of record that the claims of government-sponsored scorched earth operations within the oilfields supported by oil companies have been disproved by a recent scientific analysis of satellite pictures taken over a number of years in the areas of Sudan concerned. The study, commissioned by one of the oil companies involved in the Sudanese oil sector, was undertaken by a leading British satellite imagery analysis company, Kalagate Imagery Bureau, to analyse a series of satellite photographs of oil producing areas in southern Sudan. The photos – which included recent images acquired by U.S. military intelligence satellites and civilian satellite images of the areas in question é contained intricate detail, with ground resolution varying from about 3-10 feet. Lower resolution Landsat images from the 1980s and Radarsat images from 2000 were also included. These detailed satellite images of the key areas of controversy in the Sudan conflict were analysed by leading British satellite imagery analyst Geoffrey John Oxlee. Oxlee was an analyst for the Royal Air Force (RAF), retiring from the Force with the rank of Group Captain (Colonel in U.S. terms); is former head of the United Kingdom Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre; and is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Expert Witness Institute. He concluded that “[T]here is no evidence of appreciable human migration from any of the seven sites examined.” Indeed, examination of the images showed that the facts were entirely the opposite of the allegations against Sudan: “[O]nce the sites were developed, then people did come into the area, and in fact it looked as if people developed around the oil sites rather than going away from it.” When asked if there was a chance that he had been provided with doctored images, Oxlee responded that the satellite photographs he had analysed “are genuine pictures. Having looked at hundreds of thousands of satellite pictures, there’s no way these pictures have been doctored. Absolutely none. We check these things out.” Oxlee further affirmed his willingness to stand by his conclusions in court if need be. “WFP provides food assistance to displaced people in a number of locations in Unity state including Bentiu and Rubkonaé Our position on displacement around the oil fields in Sudan is that we have witnessed an increasing number of the internally displaced people who have required food assistance in these areas. These are indeed people forcibly removed from their homes due to war.
“As southern Sudan remains embroiled in almost 20 years of civil war, which is rendered even more complex by widespread inter-factional and inter-tribal fighting and militia activies, tragically, populations are being displaced almost continuously. The oil-rich area of Sudan has seen a great deal of population displacement and in fact, is currently one of the most insecure areas in Sudan. Therefore, it is entirely possible and feasible that oil interests in this area have exacerbated the uprooting of people from their homes. In what way? This is precisely what the Canadian government and other parties have been investigating, and what WFP and other humanitarian agencies are most anxious to know. At this point in time, however, there is unfortunately far too little information available.”
It is noteworthy in this respect that the numerous reports of aerial bombardment by Sudanese forces in the oil-producing areas of the south, suffer from a variety of inconsistencies. Former U.S. Congressman Jon Christensen of Nebraska, a harsh critic of Sudan who returned from a visit to Khartoum at the beginning of 2001, has described Sudan’s fleet of Antonoff planes as troop transport aircraft, and has admitted he knows of no bomber craft in Sudan. “Gabriel Meyers is a New York based public relations agent for one alleged victim, Bishop Max Kasis, founder of Sudan Relief and Rescue Mission. On December 29, 2000, Mr. Meyers released a report that 14 bombs were dropped in the vicinity of the village of Turalei, the site of the mission in Southwestern Sudan. According to the widely-circulated report, two of these bombs made direct hits at the Bishop’s school at 11:00 a.m. while 700 students were in the school. The report suggested massive destruction. The implication was that the devastation was so great that the loss of life was inestimable. No follow-up release came to our attention.
“However, in a telephone interview several weeks later, Mr. Myers startled us. He admitted the outcome was ‘not as bad as we originally thought’. It turns out no one was killed or even injured, and no estimate of damages (if any) was ever released. It appears no correction of the original report was circulated, if it was made at all. But the alleged bombing of this school continues to be used as a fundraising ploy by many Mail-order Missionaries who allude to it all the time.”
Neither Meyers nor Kasis can be described as friends of the Sudanese government. For many years Bishop Kasis was a Sudanese dissident in Khartoum whose evidently inconsistent reports were nevertheless considered damaging enough to lead him to testify before the U.S. Congress. Kasis’ public relations agent, Gabriel Meyers, is of course paid to present the Bishop’s allegations as lucidly and powerfully as possible. Meyers issued a report on Kasis’ bombing claims wrongfully suggesting a massive scale of casualties and destruction. Such reports are commonly taken seriously by human rights groups and other observers. However, in an interview with WHTT under heavy questioning, Meyers admitted some crucial facts in relation to the bombing.
“Mr. Meyers – who claims to be a veteran war correspondent and veteran of Bosnia and Croatia – said he has seen combat, though not in Sudan. Mr. Meyers told us that the Sudanese air forces are so primitive that its bombings had ‘no military value’ and only serve to scare people. He said Sudan’s entire air fleet is believed by his group to consist of only six ‘Antonoff’ troop transport airlines, and no bombers at all.
“Mr. Meyers stated that bombs dropped on the mission were, in fact, ‘very crude barrel bombs’, which are literally rolled out of the planes by hand via the loading gate, usually from great height. He told us eyewitnesses believed the barrels were dropped from about 20,000. He admitted that from such height there was virtually no possibility of hitting a target, and he volunteered that such bombings had ‘no military value.’é
“It does not take a War College graduate to know that without specialized bomber aircraft equipped with sophisticated precision bomb release mechanisms and computerized optic sights, no target could be hit from 2,000 feet, to say nothing of four miles highé It appears the GOS [Government of Sudan] is not even capable of purposefully bombing churches in Sudan, even if they desired to do so. Yes, there have been occasional crude bombs dropped in Sudan, and a very few may have hit buildings that are used as churches, schools and hospitals, and a few people have been killed. One would expect occasional injuries or deaths in and around churches in any war. But there appears to be little chance of anyone being hit in church except by accidenté [T]he reports of wide-scale church, school, and hospital bombings are all based on a few incidents reported over and over again as though they were new occurrences.” Indeed, despite the paucity of available information noted by the WFP, there are reliable reports indicating that the primary initiators of violence and displacement are SPLA rebels undertaking a systematic scorched earth policy in oil-producing areas in Sudan. In February 2000, a Reuters correspondent in Sudan reported how she had witnessed “a pillar of smoke rising from the besieged town of Mayom, subject to daily bombardments by rebels as they try to advance eastwards to the oil development.“ By July 2000, Caesar Mazzolari, Roman Catholic Bishop of Rumbek in the south reported that thousands of civilians were fleeing the town of Wau due to fears of a possible SPLA attack. The Associated Press reported that the conflict spread to include oil-producing areas of the south due to the fact that the SPLA made a tactical decision to target oil fields. That the government has attempted to defend these areas under rebel attack is not at all surprising. However, as is known to Sudan specialists, the NDA is merely a political front for the SPLA, meaning that U.S. assistance was being directly channeled to southern rebels. U.S. Sudan expert Stephen Morrison, head of the Sudan project at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies has, for instance, observed that: “The NDA is a bit of a phantom. It is basically the SPLA and a few elements.” As with the year before, the SPLA attack led to the massive displacement of southern Sudanese civilians. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported on 8 June that the attack had resulted in the displacement of at least 20,000 civilians. Humanitarian relief work in the region was also ceased due to the attack. According to the Sudanese Catholic Information Office: “[L]ocations from Tonj northwards remain no go areas forcing both church and humanitarian agencies to suspend their flights to the region.” By 13 June just under 60,000 civilians had been displaced under the SPLA attack according to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rumbek, Caesar Mazzolari, who added that the newly created refugees were in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
In light of such reports, it is possible to deduce a plausible sequence of events. The oil industry became a strategic target of the SPLA, particularly when oil began to be pumped and exported. Consequently, SPLA forces became militarily active within oil-producing areas, inflicting as much damage as possible, also involving attacks on civilians such as the bombardment of towns. The Sudanese government in response inputted forces into these areas leading to military confrontation between government forces and the SPLA. Subsequently, large numbers of civilians chose to flee the war zone. The SPLA’s role in consistently initiating the violence in these areas, thus being primarily responsible for the mass displacement of thousands of civilians, demonstrates that this rebel movement supported by the United States is the principal aggressor in the Sudanese civil war. U.S. policy has therefore only served to perpetuate the conflict, escalate human rights abuses and sabotage a peaceful solution. Indeed, emboldened by U.S. support, the SPLA has accumulated an extremely dire record in relation to pursuing peace initiatives. Officially, the SPLA are aiming for a referendum through which the south can vote to be either an independent country or an equal federation with the north. The seriousness of this objective can be easily discerned in light of the SPLA’s responses to repeated offers since 1997 by the Sudanese government for just such an internationally-supervised referendum. The offer was even included in Sudan’s new 1998 constitution. It is therefore not surprising to see that Garang is on record as admitting to deliberately foiling a peaceful agreement. After the failed talks in Nairobi in 1997, the BBC quoted him declaring: “We intended not to reach an agreement. This is what we did and we succeeded in it.” SPLA-rejectionism continues in spite of a political climate conducive to a peaceful solution. Former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi who was ousted by the present government and is now the leader of the largest opposition party in Sudan, the Umma Party, recently noted that: “There are now circumstances and developments which could favour an agreement on a comprehensive political solution.” “The people in Sudan want to resolve the conflict. The biggest obstacle is U.S. government policy. The U.S. is committed to overthrowing the government in Khartoum. Any sort of peace effort is aborted, basically by policies of the United States… Instead of working for peace in Sudan, the U.S. government has basically promoted a continuation of the war.” Carter additionally noted that:
“If the United States would be reasonably objective in Sudan. I think that we at the Carter Center and the Africans who live in the area could bring peace to Sudan. But the United States government has a policy of trying to overthrow the government in Sudan. So whenever there’s a peace initiative, unfortunately our government puts up whatever obstruction it can.” The result, concludes Carter, is that: “Garang now feels he doesn’t need to negotiate because he anticipates a victory brought about by increasing support from his immediate neighbours, and also from the United States and indirectly from other countries.” It is thus worth noting the conclusions of a U.S. official in connection with Sudan: “Peace does not necessarily suit American interests.” The desperation behind this attempt to tie Sudan to some sort of vague terrorist connection is clear from the fact that similar such “elements” of alleged terrorist organizations also find refuge in the United States and United Kingdom, as noted by the Reader’s Digest. Yet neither the governments of the U.S. nor UK believe this qualifies them as supporters of terrorism. In one of its later annual reports the State Department was again compelled by the facts to grudgingly concede that: “There is no evidence that Sudané conducted or sponsored a single act of terrorism in 1994.”
The next day’s edition of the newspaper further stated that: “So far, no major terrorist incident has been traced to the Islamic regime in Sudan. The Sudanese lack the logistical abilities to run terrorist networks… even if they wished”.
Indeed, when former U.S. President Jimmy Carter attempted to obtain evidence from administration officials for Sudan’s listing, he was informed that 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. I think there is too much of an inclination in this country to look at Muslims as inherently terrorist or inherently against the West.” Two years later near the end of 1998, the New York Times reported the ongoing duplicity of the U.S. position:
“[T]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.” Thus, the key U.S. justification for its war-by-proxy on Sudan é that Sudan sponsors international terrorism é is baseless. The inclusion of Sudan on the State Department’s list of terrorist states is therefore clearly a politically motivated maneuver, with no connection to national security, designed to justify U.S. policy in the region that is geared to secure U.S. strategic and economic interests.
III.II Islamophobic Propaganda
To legitimise the U.S. strategy, much misinformation and propaganda has been galvanised against Sudan. The civil war in Sudan has not only been blamed almost entirely on the National Islamic Front, but has been construed as the results of the government’s attempts to violently impose Islamic Shariah law on the unwilling population of the primarily Christian south utilising massive ground and aerial bombings of civilian structures in the process. The SPLA and other rebel groups are characterised as freedom fighters defending southern Sudan from the state-terror of the central despotic Islamic government. This narrative suits the requirements of U.S. elites and their strategic interests very well, but as already illustrated above, it is in fact quite untenable. Most of this disinformation originates from naive sources deriving their information on the conflict from SPLA rebels or those who sympathise with them. Yet as has been explained by Dr. Peter Nyaba, a SPLA national executive council member, the SPLA is penetrated by a “sub-culture of lies, misinformation, cheap propaganda and exhibitionism”. Dr. Nyaba elaborates that: “Much of what filtered out of the SPLM/A propaganda machinery… was about 90% disinformation or things concerned with the military combat, mainly news about the fighting which were always efficaciously exaggerated.”
It is important to note first of all that the common claim by supporters of the U.S. policy é that the south is predominantly Christian é is inaccurate. Both Christians and Muslims are minorities in the south, with a maximum of 15 per cent of the southern population being Christian. The majority of the south are in fact animist. Prior to the passing of the Twelfth Constitutional Decree, the 1991 Criminal Law Act (CLA 91) provided the basis for Sudanese criminal law. Since then, the power to make and enforce criminal laws has been delegated to the states. As British Sudan expert Dr. Sean Gabb reports: “In 1991, the Government amended and liberalised the sharia laws by exempting the largely animist southern Sudan from its application.”
A cursory inspection of various examples of Sudanese criminal law clarifies that the implementation of Islamic Shariah law in Sudan é encompassing such issues as the prohibition of alcohol and the harsh penalties against criminals é are by and large applicable only to Muslims. CLA 91 s78(1), for instance, stipulates that: “Whoever manufactures, possesses or consumes alcohol shall be punished if he is a Muslim.” This law is clearly intended to apply only to Muslims. CLA 91 s78(2) stipulates that: “Whoever drinks alcohol shall be punished if he disturbs the public peace.” This article is implemented in a general manner irrespective of religion with the clear intention of safeguarding public order, and is therefore only relevant to acts performed in public. The Evidence Act 1993 s9(a) guarantees that: “Any piece of evidence illegally obtained shall not be received in any criminal proceedings.” In conjunction with CLA 91 s166 – which makes invasion of privacy a criminal offence é these laws mean that non-Muslims are exempt from the application of alcohol prohibition as long as they do not disturb public order.
As Gabb elaborates: “All these provisions mean that Christians can drink at home, and that even Moslems are safe if they break the law in private – bearing in mind that informers are discouraged.” There is, however, an additional prohibition on the brewing of native alcohol that is not fully enforced in the south, which is justified on public health grounds. But the origin of this law has little to do with the current Sudanese administration. Indeed, the prohibition was in place before the present government came to power, originating in the Sudanese Penal Code established by British colonialists during the Anglo-Egyptian Condominum in Sudan from 1899-1956. Accordingly, the prohibition was “in force throughout Sadiq Al Mahdi’s time in officeé
“It predates the imposition of the Sharia in 1983 by President Nimeiri. It predates his coming to power in 1969. It even predates Sudanese independence in 1956. Its origin is in the Sudanese Penal Code enacted by the British during the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium that ruled Sudan between 1899 and 1956. It is at least strange that international complaints against this prohibition began only in the 1990s.”
Elaborating on the implementation of Islamic hudud punishments according to the Sudanese application of Shariah law, Gabb points out in detail that for the most part non-Muslims are simply exempt from their implementation:
“As for harsh Islamic punishments, these also so far as possible are confined to Moslems. They apply only in the Northern States, and Christians and pagans are even there exempted from some aspects of their application. Of course, the chief complaint about the Sharia laws is not whether they apply to non-Moslems, but the fact that they exist at all. Amnesty International, for example, has called on the Sudanese Government to abolish cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments in law. While this is something to be desired, those calling for it must recognise that such punishments are accepted by public opinion in the Islamic world, and that they appear to work. It must also be accepted that there is a solid majority in the United Kingdom for restoring the death penalty for murder; and there seems to be some approval for the idea of castrating rapists and mutilating thieves – especially housebreakers. Furthermore, there is a strong undercurrent of opinion in this country that would object to cruel and unusual punishments not in themselves, but only so far as they are applied without fair trial and to trifling or nonexistent crimes. Here also, the case against Sudan is weak. And it must be said that many of the more severe punishments prescribed in Sudanese law are rarely carried out.”
Another common charge against Sudan is that in accordance with its alleged ‘holy war’ to impose Islamic law in the south, the government is actively promoting slavery. Yet again, the accusation is devoid of any clear evidence and constitutes convolution of the facts. Sudan specialist and Co-Director of the London-based African Rights, Alex de Waal, noted with regard to the allegations of slavery against the Sudanese government that:
“[O]vereager or misinformed human rights advocates in Europe and the U.S. have played upon lazy assumptions to raise public outrage. Christian Solidarity International, for instance, claims that ‘Government troops and Government-backed Arab militias regularly raid black African communities for slaves and other forms of booty.’ The organization repeatedly uses the term ‘slave-raids’, implying that taking captives is the aim of government policy. This is despite the fact that there is no evidence for centrally-organized, government-directed slave raiding or slave trade.” In a submission to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Anti-Slavery International warned that:
“There is a danger that wrangling over slavery can distract us from abuses which are actually part of government policy – which we do not believe slavery to be. Unless accurately reported, the issue can become a tool for indiscriminate and wholly undeserved prejudice against Arabs and Muslims. [We] are worried that some media reports of ‘slave markets’, stocked by Arab slave traders – which [we] consider distort reality – fuel such prejudice.”
The 1992 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices further affirmed: “Sudanese law prohibits forced or compulsory labor and there was no evidence of organised or officially sanctioned slavery.”
This assessment has been corroborated by other investigators. Former researcher in the British Parliament Dr. David Hoile – Director of the London-based European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council (ESPAC), specialist in Sudanese affairs, and author of several studies of African and international affairs – has conducted a meticulous review of the human rights literature containing allegations of government-sponsored slavery in Sudan. In a report published by The Sudan Foundation in London, from which it is worth quoting copiously, he documents a combination of internal contradictions within, and substantial lack of essential evidence for, such allegations:
“Far from proving their case, the material presented by Human Rights Watch/Africa in fact contradicts the claims that the government of Sudan supports or condones slavery in Sudan. Despite lurid claims that the present government is implicated in the slaving of thousands of Southerners, the specific evidence produced by Human Rights Watch/Africa proves that military forces loyal to Sadiq al-Mahdi were directly involved in the kidnapping and abduction of southern Sudanese children. The specific evidence provided by Human Rights Watch/Africa in two reports also clearly demonstrates that the present government’s local government and police authorities have directly intervened on several occasions, occasions documented, in passing, by human rights groups, to release women and children detained by tribal militiasé And, lastly, Human Rights Watch/Africa has also provided ample evidence that in case after case when evidence has been produced of illegal abduction, kidnapping or detention, the government has acted to free those victims of an earlier government’s excessesé The various key human rights organisations have quite simply not produced any credible evidence of state-sanctioned or condoned slavery or slavery-like practices. What these human rights groups have documented contradicts such claims. These human rights groups have shown repeated interventions by government authorities to free people detained by tribal militias. They have also documented that due process of law exists in Sudan, whereby Sudanese courts have repeatedly freed people held illegally. The cases reported by groups such as Human Rights Watch/Africa also show that many of the children freed by Sudanese courts under this government were abducted by militias and forces loyal to Sadiq al-Mahdi before the present government was in power.”
Another authoritative source on the slavery allegations is the February 2000 report of the Canadian government’s Special Envoy to Sudan, John Harker. One of the primary objectives of Harker’s fact-finding mission in Sudan was to “independently investigate human rights violations, specifically in reference to allegations of slavery and slavery-like practices in Sudan.” The Harker Report, like the British McNair Report, confirms the baseless nature of these allegations and condemns the fraudulent nature of the ‘slave redemption’ campaigns of many Christian missionary aid groups in Sudan:
“[R]eports, especially from CSI, about very large numbers were questioned, and frankly not accepted. Mention was also made to us of evidence that the SPLA were involved in ‘recycling’ abductees… Serious anti-abduction activists… cannot relate the claimed redemptions to what they know of the reality. For example we were told that it would be hard not to notice how passive these ‘slave’ children are when they are liberated or to realize how implausible it is to gather together so many people from so many locations so quickly – and there were always just the right number to match redemption funds available!é Several informants reported various scenarios involving staged redemptions. In some cases, SPLM officials are allegedly involved in arranging these exchanges, dressing up as Arab slave traders, with profits being used to support the SPLM/A, buy weapons and ammunition… We did speak with an eyewitness who can confirm observing a staged redemption and this testimony conformed with other reports we had from a variety of credible sources. The ‘redeeming group’ knew they were buying back children who had not been abducted or enslaved. The exchange was conducted in the presence of armed SPLA guards. The ‘Arab’ middle man/trader delivering the children for ‘redemption’ was recognized as a member of the local community even though he was dressed up in traditional Arab costume for the event.”
It is thus clear that the abundance of exaggerations, distortions and overall propaganda against the Sudanese government are rooted primarily in incredible and inconsistent reports by SPLA rebels and/or their sympathisers and associates, under the guise of concern for human rights and democracy, but in reality motivated by self-interest, self-aggrandisment and ultimately what appears to be a modern version of the anti-Muslim ‘Crusade’ mentality so characteristic of the Middle Ages.