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Elected to Congress in 1992 from the Fourth Congressional District of Georgia (largely DeKalb County), she initially shocked some of her colleagues by insisting on wearing pants on the floor of the House.
Twice, in 1996 and 1998, she was denied entrance to the White House by guards whose vision of a member of Congress did not include this sprightly, vividly self-possessed black woman. McKinney quickly and decisively corrected their misapprehension.
As reported in the valuable Almanac of American Politics 2000, she said at the time, "I'm attracted to fights," and "I am absolutely sick and tired of having to have my appearance at the White House validated by white people."
The Almanac accurately describes her as having "a very liberal voting record and a confrontation-prone temperament."
On April 3, Congresswoman McKinney testified before a hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa and the Joint Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights. The subject was Sudan.
For more than five years, I have read hundreds of pages of reports about and from Sudan and have written quite a few myself, but McKinney's testimony is one of the most precise, instructive, and concisely comprehensive in all the analyses of that holocaust.
She began by saying, "I am happy to see that the theme for today's hearing on the Sudan is 'America's Sudan Policy: A New Direction.' "
Under Bill Clinton, there was no direction except for his condemnation of slavery in Sudan in the last moments of his presidency. As for the Bush administration, about all we've had up to now is this statement by Secretary of State Colin Powell at the March 7 hearing of the International Relations Committee:
"I do know there is no greater tragedy on the face of the earth than the one unfolding in Sudan."
But there's been no action since in terms of meaningful sanctions against Sudan and the oil companies that invest there. These companies provide the National Islamic Front government with the fuel and the arms to bomb schools and hospitals in the south to cleanse those oil-rich fields of their black African inhabitants.
Said witness Cynthia McKinney: "At the heart of the suffering is oil from the oil-rich southern regions of Sudan, which is being pumped out of Sudan through the port of Khartoum for consumption by the West. . . .
"And all the while," she went on, "Western oil companies continue to operate within the human rights disaster we call Sudan and pump their precious black gold. We in the West might as well be filling our gas tanks with blood from the hundreds of thousand of poor souls who have lost their lives in Sudan. . . . Amnesty International reported that a shipment of Polish battle tanks arrived in Sudan on the day the first export of oil left the Port of Khartoum. . . . There is no doubt that Sudan's oil shipments are being reinvested in their ongoing war in the south." (Emphasis added.)
She cites, as this column has in the past, one of the most active oil companies feeding the revenues of Sudan's governmentCanada's "Talisman Energy, a corporation from Calgary, which has a number of U.S. citizens in high-level leadership positions. . . . Worse still, we allow Talisman Energy . . . to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange."
And on the stock exchange, McKinney continues, "We allow them to raise vast amounts of capital from U.S. fund groups and individual investors in order that those funds can then be immediately used in their operations in Sudan, such as the building of the roads, airstrips, and other facilities on the oil fields."
Those private American funds profit the Sudanese government, which arms the slave raiders. There is more on those raiders in an April 4 report from Christian Solidarity International, following a fact-finding visit to Sudan from March 29 to April 1 by a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Reverend Walter Fauntroy; syndicated radio broadcaster Joe Madison, who has been quoted in this column; and Dr. Charles Jacobs, founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group.
Among the freed slaves who talked to that delegation was a 20-year-old mother, Abuk Yac Bol: "My brother and I were captured by the Arabs five years ago. On the way to the north, 12 of them forced my brother to rape me while they looked on. After he was finished, the 12 Arabs gang-raped me. When I got to Darafat, Mukadam Ahmed took me as his concubine. His wife was very angry and forced me to have my genitals cut. She beat me virtually every day. I thank everyone who helped free me."
The oil companies were not among those she thanked.
In her congressional testimony, Cynthia McKinney named many other companies she described as "trading in the blood oil of Sudan"Lundin Oil (Sweden), Petronas (Malaysia), OMV- Sudan (Austria), Sudapet (Sudan), Agip (Italy), Elf-Aquitaine (France), Gulf Petroleum (Qatar), Total Fina (France), Royal Dutch Shell (Holland), National Iranian Gas Comp (Iran), China National Petroleum (China), Denim Pipeline Construction (Canada), Weir Pumps & Allen Power Engineering (England), and Europipe (a consortium of European pipe-building corporations), and pipe builder Mannesmann (Germany).