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Jewish World Review Sept. 11, 2001 / 22 Elul, 5761

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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Consumer Reports

Sudan envoy an exercise in futility? -- LAST Thursday, the White House hastily configured a Rose Garden event to announce President Bush's designation of former Senator John Danforth to be his special envoy for Sudan. Unfortunately, unless a House-Senate conference committee expected to convene today [September 11] defies the immense pressure being brought to bear by the Bush Administration, Wall Street, foreign oil companies and trade interest groups, Sen. Danforth can probably forget about doing anything useful in his new capacity. In fact, his mission may actually prove detrimental to the quest for a just peace for the people of Sudan.

The ineluctable fact is that no good can come from an exercise that begins by misrepresenting what is afoot in Sudan. It is no more accurate to describe the situation on the ground there, as Mr. Danforth did last week, as a "conflict" involving two "combatants" than it would have been to use such terms to depict the Nazis' effort to eliminate the Jews.

The reality is that more than two million Christians and animists in southern Sudan have been systematically murdered, raped, brutalized, sold into slavery and banished from their homes by forces loyal to the government of Sudan. This 18-year old genocidal campaign was spawned by the determination of the Islamic supremacists in Khartoum to liquidate what they call dhimmis (or infidels). In recent years, however, the original justification for this bloodletting has been powerfully reinforced -- and its execution underwritten -- by an insidious economic development: The Christians and animists happen to live in areas rich with oil deposits.

As a result, foreign oil companies (U.S. entities are barred from doing business in Sudan) have a shared interest with the Sudanese government in getting access to such areas so as to explore and exploit their reserves. The Khartoum regime clears promising locations of the local population -- either by killing them outright, enslaving them or terrifying them into fleeing. In return, oil concerns like Talisman Energy of Canada and China National Petroleum Company provide cash flow to an otherwise impoverished government, which has stated publicly that these oil-generated proceeds are enabling it to wage war in southern Sudan

In this way, the oil companies are permitting Khartoum both to secure the existing oil fields and to acquire still more territory for further petro-development. Importantly, this revenue stream also affords the Sudanese government the wherewithal to engage in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and sponsor terrorism -- issues of grave and growing concern to American security interests and those of our allies.

Let's be clear: So long as this dynamic is allowed to operate, the most that can be hoped for from Special Envoy Danforth's efforts is that they will give rise to a "peace process" whose principal effect will be to buy time for the regime to continue its oil-underwritten predations in the south.

Such considerations prompted the House of Representatives recently to adopt a provision as part of the Sudan Peace Act (SPA) of 2001 that seeks to disrupt that dynamic. An amendment offered by Rep. Spencer Bachus, Republican of Alabama, would prohibit foreign oil companies doing business in Sudan from fund raising or trading their securities in the U.S. capital markets. The SPA also includes language requiring Securities and Exchange Commission disclosures by companies whose parents or subsidiaries may have financial ties to Sudan so that American investors can make informed decisions about whether to provide their resources for such purposes. The House adopted the bill with these provisions by a remarkable bipartisan vote of 422-2.

As Nat Hentoff notes in these pages, the Senate took no corresponding action, for reasons that appear to have more to do with politics than the merits of the case. Even Senators who have long championed the cause of those suffering at the hands of the Sudanese government headed for the tall grass in the face of opposition from the Bush Administration and well-heeled special interests to capital markets sanctions and securities transparency aimed at forcing Khartoum to desist. Now the matter must be resolved by members of the bicameral conference committee. All other things being equal, the smart money would have to be on the Wall Street financiers and their clients.

The odds may be changing, however. At a Capitol Hill press conference this morning and in subsequent, face-to-face meetings with conferees, an extraordinary coalition of elected officials, prominent public figures and representatives of dozens of human rights, religious freedom, trade union, national security and other organizations will be trying to ensure that Senator Danforth is equipped with the leverage he needs to produce a real and just peace in Sudan.

All the leaders of this effort, and the millions of Americans they represent, are saying is give peace a chance in Sudan. And that chance requires the use of capital markets sanctions and SEC disclosure as leverage. Without that leverage, Senator Danforth might as well stay home. And President Bush and Members of Congress who prefer the appearance of doing something to help Sudan to the reality of it had better prepare themselves for further, politically costly demands that they become part of the solution and stop being part of the problem.

JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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01/30/01: The missile defense decision
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12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
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© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.