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E-Letter To Jane Perlez And The New York Times Re: Suddenly In Sudan A Moment To Care

Your article "Suddenly In The Sudan a Moment To Care" is just the latest piece that contributes to the avalanche of misinformation and half-truths on the situation in the Sudan. Although you cloak much of the article with religious language and a focus on an emerging role for Former Sudanese Prime Minister Sadeq al-Mahdi, you leave out so many critical facts that it is hard to take your trial balloon floating al-Mahdi as a peace mediator seriously.

The most glaring omission your story makes is not including the fact that the US is already backing the Sudanese opposition group - with $3 million dollars through one of its private military contractors Dyncorp.

You write:

"Meanwhile, the evangelical Christian right and the Roman Catholic church, both of which the White House is courting for the next presidential election, are at odds. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged the White House to deal with all parties in the Sudan to try to quickly end the fighting. But the evangelicals are just as urgently recommending that the United States arm the Christian rebels in southern Sudan so they can press their fight for separation from the northern government, which is Islamic and has been fighting to extend Islamic law throughout the country."

You also write, "Meanwhile, the Sudan People's Liberation Army leader, John Garang, is looking to supporters in the United States for more assistance that could help him fight back."

Ms. Perlez, the Bush administration has already responded to the Christian right's "evangelicals" who want the US to back the southern opposition group. They are already backing the SPLA. Start by looking at the $3 million dollar aid through the private mercenaries, Dyncorp, who, by the way are wrecking havoc in Columbia in the so-called war on drugs there. And then take a look at the text of the recent bill passed in the House against Sudan, which calls for an additional $10 million dollars to be funneled through the opposition umbrella organization, National Democratic Alliance. You really should get up to date with your reporting.

Second you seem to be unwilling to connect the calls for secession in the south with the desire of American oil companies to get a piece of the oil riches in the Sudan. Because the American oil companies are prohibited from doing business in the Sudan due to the U.S. sanctions on the country, they are totally missing out on the profits to be generated by the enormous amount of oil recently discovered in the country. The only way that these companies can partake in the new riches is if the sanctions are lifted (which is virtually impossible now, due to the work of the Christian "evangelical" right), if the current Sudanese government is overthrown or if the South is given autonomy or secedes from the Sudan and forms its own country.

The last two options are the ones being sought after by the U.S. government and the SPLA and some of the opposition groups. Are we supposed to believe that you are unable to connect the dots and realize that in a Southern Sudan ruled by the SPLA, that US oil companies will not be allowed in and that the US would not lift sanctions? Please. If you were an honest reporter the least you would have done would have been to include the point of view of Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, who makes a plausible argument that the US assistance and recent moves of the SPLA are part of an effort to create a separate southern state or country that would cut the foreign oil companies currently doing business in Sudan out of the region, while bringing U.S. oil giants back into the region.

Surely you did not miss the news just out of Sudan this week that the SPLA has announced that Chinese, Malaysian and Canadian oil companies operating in the south are now "legitimate targets" of its operations. Haven't you noticed the amount of pressure that Canada's Talisman has come under for operating in the Sudan? Don't you see the connection - in terms of the long-term plan to break the Sudan into two countries, with one of those two friendly to the U.S.?

And finally, although you admit that this is a civil war, you seem to be unwilling to place violent acts in that context. Nor do you seem to admit that such activity is taking place on both sides - North and South. You write, "Moreover, there have been recent headline-provoking incidents involving the government's aerial bombardment in the south. Often, relief supplies sent by international aid agencies are the target. In April, a Catholic school was hit and a small plane carrying the Catholic bishop of El-Obeid, Bishop Macram Max, was narrowly missed."

But what about mentioning the fact that the recent June 8th SPLA offensive, aimed at capturing several towns within Bahr al-Ghazal, has resulted in the displacement of 20,000, 30,000, or 60,000 civilians according to the Red Cross, United Nations and Roman Catholic Bishop of Rumbek, Bishop Mazzolari. And guess what? The civilians are now badly in need of humanitarian aid.

And to top it all off, you write,

"But just getting all sides to a peace table won't be easy, let alone persuading them to accept such a formula and then putting the formula into practice - a matter of dividing spoils and protecting religious rights.

This is where the United States comes in. Mr. Mahdi and the C.S.I.S. task force both insist that only the United States has the stature to call a peace conference, and there is reason to think that the Bush administration may go along."

Are you serious? Again, the US government's one-sided approach to this entire matter, which has even been criticized by former US President Jimmy Carter, has almost totally discredited the US, keeping it from being viewed by others as the honest broker that you imagine it to be. Aren't you familiar with the recent reports out of Sudan calling for the U.S. to discontinue its support of the opposition groups as well as those condemning the U.S. for its refusal to criticize human rights violations taking place among rebel opposition groups.

Just last week we learned of the SPLA's refusal to release as many as 7,000 of its child soldiers from its army. Isn't forcing children between the ages of 8 and 18 to fight in wars against their will a form of slavery?

We wonder what you and the Christian right "evangelicals" think of that.

Your effort to raise the profile of Sadeq al-Mahdi notwithstanding, please get the basic facts straight.

It is the poor and imbalanced reporting of US journalists like you that enflame the supporters of both sides of the conflict and which keep the peaceful resolution of the 18-year civil war so far off into the future.


Cedric Muhammad

Sunday, June 17, 2001

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