Monday, June 13

The price of oil in Darfur: the silence of once-good men

"After reading your Finger of Shame essay I am simply horrified at your position on Africa. You write, "there's so much money sloshing around Africa you don't even want to think about it." Clearly you're implying that Africans are more than capable of helping themselves. How much money is sloshing around Darfur? How much money is sloshing around the refugee camps?

It seems to me that you are representative of a breed of American who chooses to address the world's most pressing humanitarian crises by advocating a washing of the hands. This certainly seems to be the case for President Bush, who seems willing to sell America's soul in exchange for help from the Sudanese government in the war on terror.
Nicole in London"

Dear Nicole:
I have expressed support for debt relief for African nations, which President Bush has also supported and acted upon. I have also followed Bush in recommending that aid to nations in Africa be decided on a case-by-case basis. I favor a local or at least regional approach to Africa's problems, rather than a continent wide approach.

I also follow Bush in believing that US policy should treat adults in African countries as if they are adults. The point I made in the essay you quote is that everybody--not just Americans--should be making more demands on governments in all nations in terms of supporting human rights, democracy, and good governance. We should be raising the bar on our own conduct and demanding that others do the same.

With regard to your statement about Bush, he has not cut a deal with Sudan's government, no matter what you've read in the Los Angeles Times. The article quotes another one of those pesky unnamed high level officials at the US Department of State. That article has been alluded to in Wikipedia and cycled and recycled throughout Think-tank land and Europe.

I interject this is what we do in Washington, those of us who don't watch Desperate Housewives. We watch the Beltway Wars. Every time State gets exercised that the President of the United States is trying to take the lead in foreign policy, State goes on the attack using stooges in the CIA and a powerful member of our glorious American news media.

The story with Sudan's president, Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir, is that he has a history of making deals with devils, as he's done more recently with Janjaweed leaders. He used al Qaeda to help him consolidate power. But when he tried to get out of the deal with that devil, he found out he wasn't Daniel Webster. Bashir has been throwing intelligence about AQ at the US ever since, which was 2001.

He continued to throw intel at the US even after September 2004, when the Bush administration rammed through a UN draft resolution threatening Sudan with sanctions on its oil industry if Khartoum didn't cease and desist in Darfur. (The resolution was then watered down and waffled upon by other UN members.)

Bashir will continue to throw intel at the US because he knows his life isn't worth a plug nickel until he's rooted out every AQ cell in Sudan. The problem for Bashir is that Sudan is the largest country in Africa, so finding all those cells isn't easy.

The problem for Bush is that after years of delicate negotiations and arm-twisting, his lead negotiator managed to get a peace accord between the north and south, which ended the civil war in Sudan. The treaty was signed in January of this year.

The treaty hangs by a gossamer thread because now Bashir wants to renege on his agreement to share oil revenue with the south. If the thread snaps, we'll see a fresh outbreak of the civil war, which will claim the lives of many more millions of innocents caught in the crossfire.

I don't know what changed Bashir's mind. I am taking a blindfolded shot in the dark by guessing that it might have to do with the size of the recent petroleum find in Darfur. Maybe further exploration turned up that the find wasn't as big as first assumed. Click on this link for news about the find--and for some indication of how petroleum has affected the situation in Sudan and the Darfur region.

Again, I stress I am taking a wild guess. I am not guessing when I observe that petroleum is a huge factor in the Sudan situation and some would say the overriding factor.

If you look at the inset map of Sudan, which shows the foreign oil/gas concession holders, you see that the oil discovered back in the late 70s is in the south. That was the big bone of contention in the civil war. The fear in Khartoum, which is in the north, was that the south would break away from the north, taking the oil revenue with them.

The Darfur find is also in the south but Darfur is in the western region of Sudan. I don't know how the peace accord carved up the country. But if Bashir was counting on Darfur's oil as a backup, in case the south reneged on the accord and broke away, and if the Darfur find wasn't all it was first cracked up to be--that would explain why he suddenly changed his mind.

Again, I stress that I am guessing because even if the west of Sudan was included in the northern portion for the peace accord, that wouldn't automatically prove I'm right.

What's not speculative is that the Chinese have military in Sudan to protect their large oil interests there, although the number of troops is not as large as Baroness Cox claimed a few years back. And China, along with other foreign oil/gas concerns with stakes in Sudan, wants peace at virtually any price in Sudan.

"Any price" includes sucking up to Bashir's regime and throwing up obstacles at the UN. The map inset is fuzzy on my browser, and the map is old -- October 2002 -- so it doesn't show India's gas concession. But from the map, we've got:

What looks to be Austria (or maybe Australia)

So those would be the embassies you'd want to hit up, if you'd like to see more action taken with stopping the mass murder or at least improving the conditions in the refugee camps. Pointing the Finger of Shame could do some good--maybe shaming Bashir into allowing relief workers in the refugee camps to have rape kits.

According to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Bashir is claiming there been have no rapes, ergo no need for rape kits.

That means there is no way for doctors in the refugee camps to tell if the raped women have been infected with AIDS and of course the doctors have no way to collect DNA evidence on the rapists. Bashir arrested a French doctor because he published a report on 500 rapes that happened over a 4-1/2 month period. Bashir says the doctor fabricated the numbers. Bashir is lying in his teeth but he's lying under pressure from the Arab League.

Muslims and Arabs have had enough bad press in the past few years; they don't want the world hearing about thousands of women gang raped by Arab Muslims after the women's unarmed husbands were slaughtered in cold blood by Arab Muslims.

Remember there's a lot of oil wealth represented in the Arab League, so Brussels doesn't want to cross Bashir, who doesn't want to cross the Arab League. And the African Union doesn't want to cross the Arab League or Brussels.

Bashir has said he doesn't want non-African troops on the ground, and a meeting of Arab leaders in late 2004 determined that the 'troubles' in Darfur were a purely African problem. From the Wikipedia article on the Darfur crisis:
In October 17, 2004 in a meeting between leaders of Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Nigeria and Chad, the idea of foreign intervention was rejected. They stated that they believe it to be a purely African matter. Egyptian presidency spokesman Magued Abdel Fattah said that the international community should, "provide Sudan with assistance to allow it to fulfill its obligations under UN resolutions (on Darfur) rather than putting pressure on it and issuing threats".
China strongly supports that determination because they fear the idea that a nation can be invaded due to major human rights violations and genocide, and so on.

I interject that Beijing has good reason for those fears every time they look in the mirror. They know what they did in Tibet; they know what they supported in Cambodia and what they now support in Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea--and Sudan.

To boil it down, Khartoum wants money from the Western developed nations, and they have agreed to NATO logistical support for African Union troops. But Bashir wants to hog-tie every agency or alliance that can actually stop the genocide, which technically should be called democide. It's government sponsored mass murder, plain and simple, which is going on in Darfur.

But that's why there's nit-picking about definitions. If technically it's genocide, under international law other nations have a right to invade a sovereign country.

So, Nicole, what do you want President Bush to do? Tell the US Department of State to start calling it genocide? But technically it's not genocide because you have to be born yesterday to assume that all this government-sponsored murder has to do with religion, race or tribe. It sounds to me like a government land grab--but it always sounds like a government land grab to me, no matter what the dispute.

In any case, cold hard megacash must be at the bottom of it--else the government wouldn't be spending so much money, after the end of the civil war, to keep clearing out the villages in Darfur even where there are no rebels. Pundita suspects the cash has the stench of petroleum attached to it--although it might have to do with water rights, which are fast becoming more precious than oil in that part of the world.

I would have a good guess as to what Bush could do if the European Union, the African Union, the Arab League, and the United Nations acted with conscience instead of cowardice. I could also guess what John Bolton would have done, if his nomination to the post of UN Ambassador hadn't been held up. But it would be more productive from your end to ask what your government is doing.

How refreshing it would be, if the conscience that prompted the British to outlaw the practice of burning women alive in India manifested itself in the EU Three negotiations with Tehran. Yet it seems the British went overboard in beating themselves up for their sins as colonizers.

So here we are today. Dealing with cannibalism in DR Congo, bride burning in India, booming slave trade in China, genital mutilation of female children throughout the Muslim world--to include right here in the USA and in England, I might add. Not to mention butchering women, children, and unarmed men for the sin of speaking their minds in Iran. And refusing rape kits to doctors in refugee camps.

What we have today the world over is the silence of many once-good men. Men who somehow adopted the idea that if you don't call evil by a name it won't come after you. It is the silence that arms and protects men such as Bashir.

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