George W. Discovers Sudan


In a speech to the American Jewish Committee last Thursday, May 3, George W. Bush made the first step in directly involving this country in stopping the slavery and genocide in Sudan, which he accurately described as “a disaster area for all human rights.”

This follows what Secretary of State Colin Powell told Congress’s International Relations Committee on March 7: “I do know there is no greater tragedy on the face of the earth than the one unfolding in Sudan.”

Bush has been pushed hard by a coalition of human rights organizations—particularly the American Anti-Slavery Group and Christian Solidarity International, along with Amnesty International, black pastors across the country, the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas—and Joe Madison, “the Black Eagle,” of whom there will be more in this column next week.

What Bush has finally done, and this is just a beginning, has been described in the May 4 Washington Post: “Bush said he has appointed the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Andrew Natsios, as a special humanitarian coordinator to ensure that U.S. aid to Sudan ‘goes to the needy, without manipulation by those ravaging that troubled land.’ ”

The National Islamic Front, which rules Sudan from the north, has not only engaged in slavery and ethnic cleansing in its jihad against the black Christians and animists in the south, but has also used famine as a ruthless weapon of war.

Now, American food aid will go directly to the blacks in the south. Elliott Abrams, chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, said after Bush’s speech on Friday:

“Clearly, more will be needed, because food aid is only part of the Sudanese puzzle, but this is a terrific first step.”

The New York Times—which is no longer a dependable paper of record on this and many other issues—has mishandled and misinterpreted this genocide from the beginning. Accordingly, if you want to know the next steps needed to deal with this “disaster area for all human rights,” I strongly recommend Elliott Abrams’s article, “What to Do About Sudan,” in the May 7 Weekly Standard.

In it, he explains why Bush has issued his order aimed at breaking the control that Khartoum’s National Islamic Front exercises over food supplies going to the south.

“Khartoum’s brazen use of food as a weapon,” Abrams writes, involves that regime having “veto power over food deliveries in Sudanese territory by the UN’s Operation Lifeline Sudan.”

Just before Bush moved to break that veto power with regard to American aid, Abrams pointed out that “an immediate goal of U.S. policy should be the immediate delivery of food and medicine where they are needed, not where Khartoum desires. This means that the UN program, while invaluable, cannot be the only conduit for food. Roughly one-third of U.S. aid (which totals about $100 million a year) now flows outside Operation Lifeline Sudan, and that percentage should continue to rise. The United States should help strengthen nongovernmental humanitarian agencies working in Sudan so they can handle an increased flow of aid”—without lethal interference from Khartoum.

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has a vital proposal by which we can impose powerful economic pressure on Khartoum. During her congressional testimony reported in last week’s column, she said:

“We all know that the United States has placed certain trade restrictions on Sudan. Yet gum arabic is exempted, and it is the number one export of Sudan. Coca-Cola and the other major soft drink conglomerates need gum arabic. So what do we do? We proudly proclaim that we’ve got sanctions on Sudan, but we exempt gum arabic.” (Emphasis added.)

Here is the gum arabic story, ignored by most of the press but reported by DeWayne Wickham last September 26 in USA Today. (My thanks to abolitionist Joe Madison for alerting me to this exposé.)

“To punish the Sudanese government for its support of international terrorism [by harboring terrorists], President Clinton issued an executive order in 1997 blocking the importation of ‘any goods or services of Sudanese origin.’ One of the products covered by this ban is gum arabic, an ingredient used in the making of soft drinks, carbonless papers, pharmaceuticals, and the printing of newspapers.

“In July [2000], the U.S. House unanimously passed a trade bill, H.R. 4868, that includes a provision that lifts Clinton’s ban on importing gum arabic from Sudan. The change is hidden in language that makes no direct mention of the substance, but instead exempts from the president’s ban articles described on two pages of a 1916-page tariff schedule the bill seeks to amend.”

Wickham points out that the congressman who slipped gum arabic out of the list of banned Sudanese products was Representative Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey. He quotes Menendez: “No one should do business with thugs. But if they control a product we can’t seem to live without, the market will find a way to get it to our shelves and newsstands.”

As Wickham emphasizes: “To accept that argument is to condone tacitly the slavery that goes on in Sudan.” Congress, he adds, “should put conscience ahead of corporate profit—and extend the abhorrence this country eventually expressed for the American slave trade to the human bondage that now goes on in Sudan.”

Menendez, it should be noted, has two major gum arabic processing plants in his district.

The Senate also went on to exempt gum arabic from the sanctions on Sudan. But why can’t the growing number of House and Senate members who denounce slavery in Sudan—now joined by the president—get together and pass legislation banning imports of gum arabic from that country?

That too is only a beginning, but the fire of freedom can no longer be extinguished—even by the UN, which has just added the government of Sudan to its Human Rights Commission while kicking off the United States! And silent Kofi Annan wants another term as head of the UN.

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