[Marxism] Darfur

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 2 13:58:39 MDT 2004

The mask of altruism disguising a colonial war

Oil will be the driving factor for military intervention in Sudan

John Laughland
Monday August 2, 2004
The Guardian

If proof were needed that Tony Blair is off the hook over Iraq, it came 
not during the Commons debate on the Butler report on July 21, but 
rather at his monthly press conference the following morning. Asked 
about the crisis in Sudan, Mr Blair replied: "I believe we have a moral 
responsibility to deal with this and to deal with it by any means that 
we can." This last phrase means that troops might be sent - as General 
Sir Mike Jackson, the chief of the general staff, immediately confirmed 
- and yet the reaction from the usual anti-war campaigners was silence.
Mr Blair has invoked moral necessity for every one of the five wars he 
has fought in this, surely one of the most bellicose premierships in 
history. The bombing campaign against Iraq in December 1998, the 74-day 
bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999, the intervention in Sierra Leone in 
the spring of 2000, the attack on Afghanistan in October 2001, and the 
Iraq war last March were all justified with the bright certainties which 
shone from the prime minister's eyes. Blair even defended Bill Clinton's 
attack on the al-Shifa pharmaceuticals factory in Sudan in August 1998, 
on the entirely bogus grounds that it was really manufacturing anthrax 
instead of aspirin.

Although in each case the pretext for war has been proved false or the 
war aims have been unfulfilled, a stubborn belief persists in the 
morality and the effectiveness of attacking other countries. The 
Milosevic trial has shown that genocide never occurred in Kosovo - 
although Blair told us that the events there were worse than anything 
that had happened since the second world war, even the political 
activists who staff the prosecutor's office at the international 
criminal tribunal in The Hague never included genocide in their Kosovo 
indictment. And two years of prosecution have failed to produce one 
single witness to testify that the former Yugoslav president ordered any 
attacks on Albanian civilians in the province. Indeed, army documents 
produced from Belgrade show the contrary.

Like the Kosovo genocide, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as we now 
know, existed only in the fevered imaginings of spooks and politicians 
in London and Washington. But Downing Street was also recently forced to 
admit that even Blair's claims about mass graves in Iraq were false. The 
prime minister has repeatedly said that 300,000 or 400,000 bodies have 
been found there, but the truth is that almost no bodies have been 
exhumed in Iraq, and consequently the total number of such bodies, still 
less the cause of their deaths, is simply unknown.

In 2001, we attacked Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden and to 
prevent the Taliban from allegedly flooding the world with heroin. Yet 
Bin Laden remains free, while the heroin ban imposed by the Taliban has 
been replaced by its very opposite, a surge in opium production, 
fostered by the warlords who rule the country. As for Sierra Leone, the 
United Nations human development report for 2004, published on July 15, 
which measures overall living standards around the world, puts that 
beneficiary of western intervention in 177th place out of 177, an august 
position it has continued to occupy ever since our boys went in: Sierra 
Leone is literally the most miserable place on earth. So much for 
Blair's promise of a "new era for Africa".

The absence of anti-war scepticism about the prospect of sending troops 
into Sudan is especially odd in view of the fact that Darfur has oil. 
For two years, campaigners have chanted that there should be "no blood 
for oil" in Iraq, yet they seem not to have noticed that there are huge 
untapped reserves in both southern Sudan and southern Darfur. As oil 
pipelines continue to be blown up in Iraq, the west not only has a clear 
motive for establishing control over alternative sources of energy, it 
has also officially adopted the policy that our armies should be used to 
do precisely this. Oddly enough, the oil concession in southern Darfur 
is currently in the hands of the China National Petroleum Company. China 
is Sudan's biggest foreign investor.

We ought, therefore, to treat with scepticism the US Congress 
declaration of genocide in the region. No one, not even the government 
of Sudan, questions that there is a civil war in Darfur, or that it has 
caused an immense number of refugees. Even the government admits that 
nearly a million people have left for camps outside Darfur's main towns 
to escape marauding paramilitary groups. The country is awash with guns, 
thanks to the various wars going on in Sudan's neighbouring countries. 
Tensions have risen between nomads and herders, as the former are forced 
south in search of new pastures by the expansion of the Sahara desert. 
Paramilitary groups have practised widespread highway robbery, and each 
tribe has its own private army. That is why the government of Sudan 
imposed a state of emergency in 1999.

But our media have taken this complex picture and projected on to it a 
simple morality tale of ethnic cleansing and genocide. They gloss over 
the fact that the Janjaweed militia come from the same ethnic group and 
religion as the people they are allegedly persecuting - everyone in 
Darfur is black, African, Arabic-speaking and Muslim. Campaigners for 
intervention have accused the Sudanese government of supporting this 
group, without mentioning that the Sudanese defence minister condemned 
the Janjaweed as "bandits" in a speech to the country's parliament in 
March. On July 19, moreover, a court in Khartoum sentenced six Janjaweed 
soldiers to horrible punishments, including the amputation of their 
hands and legs. And why do we never hear about the rebel groups which 
the Janjaweed are fighting, or about any atrocities that they may have 

It is far from clear that the sudden media attention devoted to Sudan 
has been provoked by any real escalation of the crisis - a peace 
agreement was signed with the rebels in April, and it is holding. The 
pictures on our TV screens could have been shown last year. And we 
should treat with scepticism the claims made for the numbers of deaths - 
30,000 or 50,000 are the figures being bandied about - when we know that 
similar statistics proved very wrong in Kosovo and Iraq. The Sudanese 
government says that the death toll in Darfur, since the beginning of 
the conflict in 2003, is not greater than 1,200 on all sides. And why is 
such attention devoted to Sudan when, in neighbouring Congo, the death 
rate from the war there is estimated to be some 2 or 3 million, a 
tragedy equalled only by the silence with which it is treated in our media?

We are shown starving babies now, but no TV station will show the 
limbless or the dead that we cause if we attack Sudan. Humanitarian aid 
should be what the Red Cross always said it must be - politically 
neutral. Anything else is just an old-fashioned colonial war - the 
reality of killing, and the escalation of violence, disguised with the 
hypocritical mask of altruism. If Iraq has not taught us that, then we 
are incapable of ever learning anything.


The Marxism list: www.marxmail.org

More information about the Marxism mailing list