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Jewish World Review April 24, 2001 / 2 Iyar, 5761

Nat Hentoff

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Congress discovers slavery -- DICK ARMEY, the House majority leader, and Charles Rangel, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, are two of the most visible and powerful members of Congress. They differ strongly on most issues. But on March 22, both led a press conference on slavery, ethnic cleansing and other pervasive violations of the human rights of black Christians and animists in southern Sudan.

Dick Armey stated: "Sudan today is a horror without parallel. It is the only place in the world in which religious genocide is taking place. People are being tortured, mutilated and killed solely because of their Christian faith. It is a place where two million people have been slaughtered -- more than in Bosnia, Rwanda and Somalia combined.

Said Charles Rangel, "In the Sudan, the world is faced with a human-rights nightmare of the first order. We have the opportunity, indeed the responsibility, to use our international leadership to help end the civil war and the heartbreaking enslavement of women and children, which has intensified as a result of the hostilities."

One would think there would have been considerable press coverage of such passionate denunciations of the Islamic government in northern Sudan -- the source of these horrors. But there was only slight attention in the media, although many other statements by Armey and Rangel are reported regularly.

On March 7, at an International Relations Committee hearing in Congress, Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., asked Secretary of State Colin Powell about slavery, the bombing of schools and hospitals, and other atrocities in Sudan.

Powell responded, "I do know there is no greater tragedy on the face of the Earth than the one unfolding in Sudan."

One would think that so anguished a statement by the much-respected Colin Powell would be significant news; but have you seen any commentary on it -- or any serious mention at all -- in newspapers, or on television or radio?

On April 3 -- at a session of the Joint Subcommittee on International Operations, Human Rights and Africa -- Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., spoke of the government of Sudan's forced removal of black Christians and animists in the South from rich oil fields; the investments of foreign companies in the oil fields; and the way the National Islamic Front uses the proceeds from the investments to intensify its terrorism against civilians on these lands.

"Clear evidence now exists," said Rep. McKinney, "of massive forced displacement; aerial bombardments; low-level strafing of villages, hospitals, schools and churches from helicopter gunships armed with heavy machine guns; and thousands of individual acts of murder, torture and rape. The violence against women has been particularly brutal and includes allegations that women have been raped and their infants nailed to trees with spikes." Have you seen news stories on her testimony?

I have heard from Charles Jacobs, head of the American Anti-Slavery Group, who recently went to Sudan on a fact-finding trip. He was told by the interviewer of a rescued black woman whose baby's throat was slit by an Arab raider. The raider then cut the toddler's head off. The mother, after being raped, was forced to carry the head of her child on the march north, and eventually was ordered to throw the child's head into a fire.

That story is not surprising in view of the testimony of the many rescued black slaves who have endured gang rape and other forms of brutality. What are the reactions of American feminist leaders to what is happening to women in Sudan?

Again, where is the American press's coverage of Rep. Cynthia McKinney's factually precise testimony? Where are Ted Koppel, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw? Except for a few limited media reports, the terrifying facts on the Sudanese ground have not been told to Americans.

When she was secretary of state, Madeleine Albright said that the atrocities in Sudan are "not marketable to the American people." But how can the American people know about this holocaust unless the press reports on it regularly and in horrifying detail? Perhaps now the Rev. Al Sharpton's first-person accounts of slavery in Sudan will awaken the media.

JWR contributor Nat Hentoff is a First Amendment authority and author of numerous books. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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03/13/01: Supreme Court rewrites Constitution
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12/26/00: Media should stop misleading public about High Court's actions
12/18/00: A government that executes children
12/11/00: Caucus speaks out on slavery in Sudan
12/04/00: This year, give the gift of the Constitution
11/27/00: Is capital punishment a deterrent?
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11/06/00: Joe Lieberman's excommunication
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03/03/00: The ACLU violates its principles --- yet again!
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10/26/99: Disappeared Americans
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09/20/99: ACLU better clean up its act
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08/23/99: Lawyerly ethics
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08/02/99: What are the poor people doing tonight?
07/26/99: Lady Hillary and the press

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