July 27, 2004

Sudan: Round Gazillion

By Stephen Gowans

The United States and Britain are playing the ethnic cleansing and genocide cards. Again. This time in Sudan.

And while there may indeed be a genocide going on, it's very unlikely either country  cares overly much about ethnic cleansing and the destruction of a people.

After all, they have always been quite willing to live with, even perpetrate, atrocities every bit as vile, if, somewhere down the line, there's a buck in it.

And in Kosovo, where they said there was a genocide planned and ordered by Slobodan Milosevic (but have failed to produce any evidence or testimony to that effect at the Hague Tribunal), and where in the aftermath of the NATO war thousands of Serbs, Jews, and Roma have been driven from their homes, ethnic cleansing has been both a pretext to wage war, and, where it offers no geo-strategic benefit, something to be ignored.

What's more likely to be the case is that the conflict in Sudan provides a compelling pretext for military intervention, one which could eventually see the US and Britain stumble into Sudanese oil wells, while claiming to be rescuing the victims of ethnic cleansing.

Here's what's said to be going on: Arab militias, the Janjaweed, have pursued a campaign of ethnic cleansing, displacing more than one million from their homes in Sudan's Darfur region and driving them into filthy, disease ridden refugee camps in neighboring Chad, (much as numberless Afghans were driven by US bombs into filthy, disease ridden refugee camps in neighboring Pakistan.)

On the surface, it seems simple enough. Ethnic cleansing. Maybe genocide. An obligation on the part of the international community to act. But it's not quite as simple as that.

For one thing, Sudan has oil -- lots of it.

And there's been a 21-year long civil war raging in the country, with the secessionist Sudanese People's Liberation Army, which seeks self-determination in the south, battling the government in Khartoum, not one of Washington's favorites.

The SPLA, backed by the US, is said to employ terrorism against civilians to further its aims -- hardly the kind of organization the US is supposed to be backing, yet precisely the kind of organization the US government takes a shine to, if its interests are served. The US doesn't abhor terrorism so much as terrorism that works against its interests, rather than for them.

And there's China. Dangerously dependent on US controlled sources of oil, it's involved in a consortium developing Sudan's oil. China needs to cultivate sources of supply outside the US orbit.

Problems is, at every turn, the US is there to thwart its plans.

The Shanghai Five,  a security organization China established to protect a planned pipeline to carry petroleum resources from the oil rich Caspian Sea, fell apart when the US invaded Afghanistan and set up bases throughout Central Asia—along the proposed pipeline route.

And China also had a deal to develop Iraqi oil -- one that's unlikely to be honored, now that the US has 141,000 troops in the country, and has installed its own people in Iraq's interim government to look out for the interests of corporate America.

Blocking Chinese oil deals in Iraq, scuppering the Shanghai Five, and working to undermine Chinese oil field development in Sudan serves a strategic goal of the US: to limit the rise of a great power rival. Keeping China (along with the European Union and Japan) dependent on the US for access to oil, is one way of ensuring US primacy remains unchallenged.

Is it any wonder then that China is reluctant to approve a proposed UN Security Council Resolution imposing sanctions on Sudan, or that it refused to authorize the US invasion of Iraq (or that the US is seeking one in Sudan, and sought a UN imprimatur to conquer Iraq)?

Face it. The US doesn't care about ethnic cleansing. It's seeking to dominate the oil producing regions of the world: to secure its own oil supply; to ensure oil sales continue to be denominated in US dollars (thus propping up the dollar in the face of a yawning trade deficit); and to ensure strategic competitors Japan, Europe and China remain dependent on the US for access to oil.

It doesn't give a damn about ethnic cleansing. Look around at who the US steadfastly supports.

Israel, one of Washington's favorites, was founded on ethnic cleansing. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs were driven into squalid, disease-ridden refugee camps in neighboring countries, where they and their descendants still live, many decades later.

If Washington is so concerned about ethnic cleansing, why isn't it threatening Israel with sanctions and military intervention?

And as far as US legislators are concerned, the right of Palestinians to return to the homes they were driven from or fled – a measure that would reverse ethnic cleansing – is completely out of the question.

Indeed, rather than opposing Israel's actions, the US abets the Zionist state, and facilitates the ongoing expansion of its borders -- at the Palestinians' expense. Is this the behavior of a country that abhors ethnic cleansing and genocide?

A closer parallel is Colombia, in which a decades long civil war has raged between the government, right-wing paramilitaries, and Leftist guerilla groups. While the government and paramilitaries have engaged in the same activities the Janjaweed are accused of, US policy has been to support the government, and to oppose the guerillas.

If they can, the US and its British ally will use the civil war in Sudan as a pretext to intervene militarily, to secure control of the country's oil resources, in the same way they've done in Iraq, and in the same way they may soon do – even if there's a Democrat in the White House – in Iran.

Great capitalist powers don't care about the fate of people abroad, or about most people who live within their own borders, for that matter. There's too much evidence of their indifference to believe otherwise.

But what they do care about is markets, and opportunities for profitable investment, and sources of raw materials, especially oil.

Civil wars, ethnic cleansing, and genocide come in handy when the commercial interests of a country's business class can be pursued by military means. They offer a ready made justification for invasion.

But more than that, these grim events are often outcomes of the very same scramble for markets, investment opportunities and raw materials.

The US, UK and Germany were very much involved in fomenting the ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia, encouraging Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia to secede. The US funneled arms to the Bosnian Muslims, facilitated the flow of Mujahedeen into Bosnia, provided intelligence to the Croats, and, with Germany and Britain, trained and equipped the KLA, among other things.

Once the kindling of ethnic conflict was carefully gathered in a pile, and a spark added, the roaring fire was cited as a rationale to hurry to the scene, with fire hoses at the ready. Problem is, the fire hoses were just props -- pass keys to gain entry. The fires were left to rage unchecked.

And the US, as backer of the SPLA, is hardly innocent of involvement in Sudan's long running civil war, or, through the billions of dollars in aid it provides Israel every year, of the ethnic cleansing carried out by Israel in Palestine.

Western intervention in trouble spots, then, can hardly be meliorative. The West itself is in many instances at least partly, if not wholly responsible for the very conflicts it proposes to resolve through intervention.

In the long running serial of imperialist intervention, Sudan is just another episode.

*******

A group calling itself al-Qaeda's European branch has threatened terrorist attacks against Australia if it doesn't withdraw its troops from Iraq.

"You came to our lands to loots its wealth," a communiqué from the group charges, "and God willing we will move the battle to your country as you did to our countries." ("Al Qaeda threatens Australia and Italy," Associated Press, July 25, 2004.)

By this analysis, the war on terrorism is imperialism in disguise, and attacks on the imperialist countries are salvos in a war of national liberation.

What makes this war different from those of the past is that the resistance hasn't limited its attacks to imperialist forces within the occupied countries, but has "moved the battle" to the imperialist countries themselves.

However morally reprehensible the attacks are, they are still an inevitable response to imperialist plunder, and will almost certainly continue so long as the United States and its subalterns loot the wealth of Northern Africa, Western Asia and Central Asia.

The only effective protection against these attacks is to put an end to the imperialism that prompts them in the first place. And since what lies behind the exploiting, subjugating, and plunder is the incessant drive to accumulate that lies at the heart of capitalism, the task of achieving genuine "homeland security" is inseparable from the task of replacing capitalism itself.

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Stephen Gowans