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Africa And Aboriginal Tuesdays: Misleading Congress On Sudan


One of the reasons for the questionable course of American policy
towards Sudan for much of the 1990s - especially during the Clinton
Administration - was the poor standard of what passed for research and
analysis within the United States regarding Sudanese affairs. This
misrepresentation has been within both the private and government
sectors. While one would expect a wide range of personal bias, prejudice
and competence amongst individuals and organisations with their own
private agendas, it is disappointing to note that a similar prejudice
and unprofessionalism has characterised American government
institutions. At the heart of this governmental ineptitude has been the
Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The service describes itself as "the public policy research arm of the
United States Congress" created to provide Congress with "its own source
of nonpartisan, objective analysis and research on all legislative
issues."(1) CRS also specifically states that it seeks to "provide
products and services that can be relied upon to be free of partisan or
other bias" and that are "reliable, current and comprehensive". It is
clear that this has not been the case with regard to its work on Sudan.
Its principal "expert" on Sudan has for some years been Ted Dagne. He
has authored most of Congressional Research Service's documents on
Sudan. They have been noticeably partisan, stale and selective.

Sudan has been wracked by civil war for decades. Since 1983 the war in
the south has been fought against the Government of Sudan by the Sudan
People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Congressional Research Service
documents undoubtedly served to underpin the Clinton Administration's
skewed Sudan policy within Congress. (2) No less a commentator than
former President Jimmy Carter was very candid about both the lack of
objectivity in this policy: "If the United States would be reasonably
objective in Sudan, I think that we at the Carter Center and the
Africans who live in the area could bring peace to Sudan. But the United
States government has a policy of trying to overthrow the government in
Sudan." (3) Carter bluntly described Clinton's Sudan policy as the
"biggest obstacle" to peace in Sudan.

It is a conflict that has cost the country dearly in lost lives and
millions of displaced civilians. Dagne's bias towards the SPLA position
is clear. In November 1997, for example, Dagne spoke in a seminar on
Sudan at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Former
Congressman Mervyn Dymally, a past chairman of the House of
Representatives Africa Sub-Committee, said of Dagne's presentation that
instead of an "objective presentation, one would think that Ted
represents the SPLA here." It comes as little surprise that former
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen confirmed
that Dagne was a "good friend" of SPLA leader John Garang, and that
Dagne would host meetings for Garang in his Washington home. (4)

Quite what CRS's analyst is doing singing the praises of the SPLA is
unclear. It is an organisation described by The New York Times as
"brutal and predatory" which has "behaved like an occupying army,
killing, raping and pillaging." (5) Human Rights Watch stated that: "The
SPLA has a history of gross abuses of human rights and has not made any
effort to establish accountability. Its abuses today remain serious".
(6) The New York Times described John Garang as one of Sudan's "pre-
eminent war criminals". (7)

The Congressional Research Service's poor track record on Sudan spans
the 1990s, and has, apart from misanalysis, included the repetition of
undiluted disinformation. An early example were claims that thousands of
Iranian revolutionary guards were present in Sudan. The Congressional
Research Service served as a conduit for this sort of propaganda in the
early 1990s. (8) By 1994, however, 'The Independent' newspaper in London
was reporting that "intelligence assessments...say that reports of
Iranian revolutionary guards [in Sudan]...are without foundation". (9)
This is supported by the memoirs of the former United States ambassador
to Sudan, Donald Petterson, in which he commented on this particular
instance of disinformation:

"Reports appeared in the media that hundreds, even thousands of
Iranians, many of them Revolutionary Guard military and security police
advisers, had come to Sudan. Reports also persisted that the Iranians
were training Palestinian, Egyptian, Algerian, and other radical
Islamist terrorists at sites in Sudan, some of them quite large. The
reports were based in part on information provided by Egyptian
intelligence sources, which were conducting an assiduous disinformation
campaign against Sudan. The truth was something far less alarming. There
were Iranian advisers and technicians in Sudan, and Shiite propagandists
and clerics as well, yet their numbers were relatively small, certainly
nothing like the numbers being reported by the Western press." (10)

The reality is that the number of Iranians of all sorts in Sudan at the
time could be numbered in tens rather than hundreds or thousands. The
"Iranian revolutionary guards" affair was only one of many examples of
questionable claims made about Sudan by the Congressional Research
Service.

Dagne's selectivity, and that of the CRS, regarding Sudan is equally
clear. While reviewing Sudan, "terrorism" and the Clinton years, for
example, Dagne cites Osama bin Laden's stay within Sudan, but does not
mention any of the well-documented offers made by Khartoum to extradite
him to the United States, nor Khartoum's attempts to co-operate in
counter-terrorism, including repeated offers from 1996 onwards to share
information on the bin Laden network. (11) Indeed, he keeps to the
revisionist line, denying that any such offers were made. (12)

In this crass attempt to rewrite history (and to keep doggedly to an
anti-Sudanese line) Dagne ignores the fact that President Clinton's
National Security Adviser Sandy Berger not only publicly admitted that
such an offer was made but went so far as to provide a lame excuse for
not accepting bin Laden. Berger was quoted in 'The Washington Post', for
example, as saying: "In the United States, we have this thing called the
Constitution, so to bring him here is to bring him into the justice
system. I don't think that was our first choice." (13) Even former
President Clinton admitted there had been such an offer, stating that
his Administration's refusal to accept the Sudanese offer was "the
biggest mistake" of his presidency. (14) It is also worth noting that in
his 2002 book on CIA activities in the 1990s, senior CIA officer Robert
Baer also confirmed with regard to bin Laden that Khartoum "offered him
to us on a platter". (15)

Attempts to rewrite history are a constant theme in the Congressional
Research Service's misanalysis of Sudan. Dagne, for example, claimed
that Sudan was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (16) -
despite this having been denied by the American government. (17) Dagne
also ignored the clear statement made on 30 April 1996 by Ambassador
Philip C. Wilcox Jr, the Department of State's counter-terrorism supremo
it very clear that there was no involvement by Sudan in the World Trade
Center bombings: "We have looked very, very carefully and pursued all
possible clues that there might be some state sponsorship behind the
World Trade Center bombing. We have found no such evidence, in spite of
an exhaustive search, that any state was responsible for that crime.
(18)

Dagne also conspicuously avoids any mention of the al-Shifa fiasco. (19)
In August 1998 the Clinton Administration vividly illustrated the
unreliability of its claims about Sudan. Its cruise missile attack on
the al-Shifa medicine factory in Khartoum followed the murderous
bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Clinton
Administration erroneously claimed that the factory was owned by Osama
bin-Laden and produced chemical weapons. The Clinton Administration
failed to produce any evidence for these claims, and blocked any
subsequent United Nations inspection of the factory. Every one of the
American claims about the al-Shifa factory subsequently proved to be
false. Independent tests carried out on the factory by a distinguished
American chemist showed no traces of anything associated with chemical
weapons. (20) Agence France Press reported that "Western diplomats in
Khartoum and other analysts have rejected the US claims that the factory
was used for such a purpose". (21) It is now accepted that the attack
was a disastrous blunder by the American government. (22)

Far from seeking "reliable" sources, Dagne's lack of professionalism is
also manifested by his continuing citing of the heavily discredited
Christian Solidarity International (CSI) organisation as a source of
information on Sudan. (23) The reliability of Christian Solidarity
International has long been questioned by independent observers. One of
these was the Canadian government's special envoy to Sudan, John Harker,
who noted that "[R]eports, especially from CSI...were questioned, and
frankly not accepted." (24) The respected human rights expert, and Sudan
specialist, Alex de Waal, while co-director of the human rights group
African Rights, referred to CSI as being "overeager and misinformed"."
(25)

Dagne has even gone so far as to co-author critiques of Sudan policy
with anti-Sudan activists such as Eric Reeves.26 With people such as
Dagne providing "research" and "analysis" on Sudan to Congress it is
unsurprising that the legislation on Sudan passed by Congress has been
as skewed as it has been. What is surprising is that there was no
apparent oversight on his work. It is equally disappointing that the
Congressional Research Service has clearly not been subject to any
meaningful Congressional scrutiny.

The CRS and people such as Ted Dagne have played their part in
prolonging one of the world's longest-running conflicts. In so doing
they also bear a responsibility for the famine, war and disease that has
devastated Sudan. There is little doubt that the Bush Administration has
now decided on a constructive engagement with Sudan and within the
Sudanese peace process. There is a need for clear, accurate and, above
all, reliable information and analysis on Sudan. The Congressional
Research Service must be held to account for its shaky and partisan
record to date and urged to demonstrate far more professionalism in this
respect.


This article is written by The European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council
who can be contacted via e-mail at: director@espac.org


Notes


1. "About CRS", Congressional Research Service website at
http://www.loc.gov/crsinfo/whatscrs.html

2. For a critique of the Clinton Administration's Sudan policy, see
David Hoile, 'Farce Majeure: The Clinton Administration's Sudan Policy
1993-2000', The European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, 2000
(available at www.espac.org).

3. "CARE Seeks Political Fix in Sudan", 'Atlanta Journal-
Constitution', 7 October 1999.

4. Herman J. Cohen, 'Intervening in Africa: Superpower Peacemaking
in a Troubled Continent', Macmillan, London, 2000, p.83.

5. "Misguided Relief to Sudan", 'The New York Times', 6 December
1999.

6. "Rights Group Warns US Against Feeding Sudan Rebels", News
Article by Reuters, 14 December, 1999.

7. "Misguided Relief to Sudan", Editorial, 'New York Times', 6
December, 1999.

8. "Sudan: Civil War, Famine, and Islamic Fundamentalism",
Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington-DC, 13
September 1993.

9. See, "'Innocent Sudan' Exploits Carlos Case", 'The Independent'
(London), 23 August 1994.

10. Donald Petterson, 'Inside Sudan: Political Islam, Conflict, and
Catastrophe', Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1999, pp.42-43

11. "The Osama Files", 'Vanity Fair', December 2001, pp 50-55. These
offers had also been documented in "Resentful West Spurned Sudan's Key
Terror Files", 'The Observer' (London), 30 September 2001, and "US
Rejected Sudanese Files on al-Qaeda", 'The Financial Times' (London), 30
November 2001.

12. "Sudan and Terrorism", News Article by Voice of America, 7
October 2002.

13. See, for example, Barton Gellman, "'96 Bin Laden Offer Fell
Through", 'The Washington Post', 3 October 2001 and "In '96 Sudan
Offered to Arrest bin Laden", 'The International Herald Tribune', 4
October 2002.

14. "US Missed Three Chances to Seize Bin Laden", 'The Sunday Times'
(London), 6 January 2002.

15. Robert Baer, 'See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in
the CIA's War on Terrorism', Arrow Books, London, 2002, p.360.

16. Ted Dagne, 'Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks, Terrorism,
and U.S. Policy', Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress,
Washington-DC, 23 January 2003.

17. See, for example, 'The New York Times', 'The Washington Post',
25 June 1993.

18. 'Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1996 Briefing', Press briefing by
Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox Jr, Washington-DC, 30 April 1996 on US
Government Home Page, at http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/96043
0.html

19. Dagne's only mention of al-Shifa was in September 1998, when he
followed the Clinton Administration line to the letter, citing the two
or three news articles at the time which repeated the Administration
line, while studiously ignoring the dozens of American and foreign
articles which comprehensively rebutted White House claims about the
factory (See, 'Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks, Terrorism, and
U.S. Policy', Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress,
Washington-DC, 4 September 1998).

20. See, "U.S. Evidence of Terror Links to Blitzed Medicine Factory
Was 'Totally Wrong'", Andrew Marshall, 'The Independent' (London), 15
February 1999; "No Trace of Nerve Gas Precursor Found at Bombed Sudan
Plant", 'Chemical & Engineering News', 15 February 1999.

21. "Khartoum Doubtful Over Likelihood of US Strike on Sudan", News
Article by Agence France Press, 16 September 2001.

22. "Clinton Bombed Civilians on Purpose. American Tests Showed No
Trace of Nerve Gas at 'Deadly' Sudan Plant. The President Ordered the
Attack Anyway", 'The Observer' (London), 23 August 1998.

23. Ted Dagne, 'Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks, Terrorism,
and U.S. Policy', Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress,
Washington-DC, 23 January 2003, p.12.

24. John Harker, 'Human Security in Sudan: The Report of a Canadian
Assessment Mission', Prepared for the Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Ottawa, January 2000, available at http://www.dfait-maeci.gc-foreignp-
3110186-e.pdf, p. 1.

25. Alex de Waal, "Sudan: Social Engineering, Slavery and War",
'Covert Action Quarterly' (Washington-DC), Spring 1997.

26. See, Ted Dagne, Eric Reeves and Roger Winter, 'A Critique of the
CSIS Report on Sudan', 25 February 2001, available at the Africa
Action/Africa Policy Home Page http://www.africaaaaction.org/docs01/sud0
102b.htm. For a critique of the activities of Eric Reeves, see 'The
Return of the "Ugly American": Eric Reeves and Sudan', The European-
Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London, November 2000, available at
www.espac.org


Tuesday, June 10, 2003

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