Morning Report 6/2/05
Darfur: Starving for Oil
Tough talk from Cheney as we cozy up to bin Laden's pals in Khartoum
Dick Cheney painted for Air Force Academy grads what the Washington Post this morning called a "sober and tough-minded portrait of the mission ahead" in the hunt for terrorists:
- "We will not sit back and wait for future attacks. We will prevent those attacks by taking the fight to the enemy."
Actually, we're continuing to cozy up to several enemies. Cheney's company Halliburton is trading with one enemy, Iran, which also does business with ABB, the Swedish megaconglomerate. Cheney's pal Don Rumsfeld was on the ABB board when it sold two nuclear reactors to another enemy, North Korea.
As usual, Cheney just dipped into his familiar palette of oils for the hardline speech to the Air Force Academy grads. He brushed out the background of our hypocritical buddy-buddy act with yet another enemy, Sudan, ruled by the brutish Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Last September, Colin Powell, testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, put the official label of genocide on the Darfur horrors of death and starvation. As the BBC reported at the time:
Mr. Powell blamed the government of Sudan and pro-government Arab Janjaweed militias for the killings.
"We concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility and genocide may still be occurring," Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Powell's conclusion is based on evidence collected by state department investigators, who interviewed more than 1,800 refugees.
Their testimonies, Mr. Powell said, showed a pattern of violence which was co-ordinated, not random. Three quarters of them said the Sudanese military had been involved in the violence, working with the Janjaweed.
But under the blood-soaked sands of Darfur is oil, and Powell is no longer secretary of state. You don't see the Blair and Bush governments plotting to justify a humanitarian military intervention in that situation. No, we're playing footsie with Sudan's genocidal regime, as Ken Silverstein of the Los Angeles Times reported from Sudan in late April:
The Bush administration has forged a close intelligence partnership with the Islamic regime that once welcomed Osama bin Laden here, even though Sudan continues to come under harsh U.S. and international criticism for human rights violations.
The Sudanese government, an unlikely ally in the U.S. fight against terror, remains on the most recent U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. At the same time, however, it has been providing access to terrorism suspects and sharing intelligence data with the United States.
[In late April], the CIA sent an executive jet to ferry the chief of Sudan's intelligence agency to Washington for secret meetings sealing Khartoum's sensitive and previously veiled partnership with the administration, U.S. government officials confirmed.
Digression: Did I mention that Halliburton does business with still another brutish (there's that word again) ruler, Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, under whom prisoners are boiled to death, and that we send "war on terror" prisoners there to be interrogated? Or that we're eager to sell Lockheed F-16s to still another dictator, Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf, who long ago gave up helping us hunt for bin Laden?
Back to Sudan: Cheney's by-the-numbers rendition in Colorado Springs ignored the sketchy details of how we ourselves long ago gave up an all-out hunt for bin Laden, whom Sudan harbored, to unjustifiably invade oil-soaked Iraq and liberate Halliburton. Fighting over oil is what motivates the Bush regime's neocon artists. Now, the scene is shifting to Africa.
Federico Bordonaro, a Sorbonne scholar, captures that landscape perfectly in "The Darfur Question at a Time of Increasing U.S.-China Competition," a new piece for the Power and Interest News Report:
Today's American and Western attention for the Darfur question has much to do with Khartoum's new commercial and political ties with Iran and—especially— China. Beijing's attempt to gain influence in Africa is in fact one of our age's geopolitical novelties. Its main goal is to acquire African oil and gas at favorable conditions, in regions where Western oil majors must still compete for total control. Beijing's new African policy has been focused on Gabon, Nigeria, and Sudan. It must be said, for the sake of accuracy, that Sino-Sudanese relations are not entirely new, for the arms trade between the two countries has been in place since the late '60s.
Control over oil reserves is at the top of China's wishes—and Sudanese diffidence for the U.S. seems to be a good set-up for Chinese penetration as a power broker. In 2003, China's National Petroleum Corp. planned to invest $1 billion to create Sudan's largest oil refinery. Moreover, as recent declarations from Sudanese Minister of Energy and Mining Awad Ahmed Al-Jazz confirmed, a newly discovered oil field expected to produce 500,000 barrels per day of crude oil is located in the Darfur region. This latter is also the way to Chad, a country well-known for its natural gas reserves.
Keep this in mind when you read about World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz's sudden concern for Africa. On the other hand, "sober and tough-minded" is what I'd call Bordonaro's shrewd estimate of the oil politics being played in Africa:
- At a time of growing strategic partnership between U.S. geopolitical adversaries such as Iran and China, Sudan's importance is understandable in light of its energy assets and strategic position to securitize the "Greater Middle East."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.