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Jewish World Review Nov. 26, 2001 / 11 Kislev, 5762

Nat Hentoff

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Our new terrorist ally


http://www.NewsandOpinion.com -- SOON after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Colin Powell harshly named Sudan as one of the seven nations sponsoring terrorism. And in 1996, the United Nations had placed sanctions on its Khartoum government for the same reason.

But now, having enlisted Sudan in the war against terrorism, the Bush administration has killed the Sudan Peace Act, penalizing Sudan. The bill, which was passed by the House (422 to 2) on June 13, would have banned foreign oil companies investing in Sudan's oil explorations from American capital markets.

And on Sept. 19, when the United Nations Security Council removed its sanctions on Sudan, the United States abstained -- thereby further exculpating our new partner in the war against terrorism for Sudan's own continuing responsibility for the enslavement of black Christians and animists in the South. Gang rapes and ethnic cleansing of black Sudanese from lands under which there are oil reserves accompany these raids.

Khartoum already gathers some $2 million in oil revenue per day from its partnership with such oil companies as Talisman Energy of Canada and the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation. In the New Republic issue of Oct. 22, Michael Rubin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, reported -- after recently returning from Sudan -- on the government bombing of a village in the South "near a church packed with children listening to a Sunday sermon." Fifteen children were killed in another bombing in the week of Oct. 15.

Reporting from the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference in Kenya, the Sept. 28 issue of National Catholic Reporter quoted Macram Max Gassis, a bishop from the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan, many of whose parishioners have been killed or enslaved. He said, "We Catholic bishops are united in mind and heart that the oil business is fueling the war in Sudan. There is no way we shall shy away from this reality."

Colin Powell and George W. Bush have, however, managed to shy away from a passionate statement by the secretary of state earlier this year: "There is perhaps no greater tragedy on the face of the earth today than the tragedy that is unfolding in the Sudan."

And House Majority Leader Dick Armey said of state terrorism in Sudan before Khartoum became our ally: "People are being tortured, mutilated and killed solely because of their Christian faith."

But the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group -- which, for years, has brought Americans the horrifying news of these atrocities, including the testimony of rescued slaves -- has not shied away. These abolitionists illustrate the shame of the silent and complacent world, including many of our current allies in the war against terrorism.

On Nov. 7, the American Anti-Slavery Group filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Talisman Energy Inc. of Canada in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Among the plaintiffs was the Presbyterian Church of Sudan. The Reverend John Sudan Gaduel, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan charges:

"Talisman is on the front lines of abuses in southern Sudan, and it is time they are held accountable for their role in the brutal 'jihad' that is killing my people."

On Oct. 4, Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha inspired a brigade of marauders on their way to southern Sudan, "The 'jihad' is our way and we will not abandon it and will keep its banner high." This man is among one of our allies now.

The lawsuit charges Talisman with violations of international law for participating in the ethnic cleansing of black and non-Muslim minorities in Sudan. Eventually the plaintiffs -- says attorney Stephen Whinston -- could be expanded to millions "whose families have been broken, whose lives have been shattered, and whose villages have been burnt."

Mr. Whinston and Carey D'Avino, the other lawyer representing the victims of the barbarous Khartoum government, were among a team of attorneys who successfully sued German and other corporations that, during the Nazi regime, had compelled many people into being forced and slave laborers. Those victims won a $4.3 billion settlement under the Alien Tort Act, which allows non-U.S. citizens to sue in this country for crimes against them committed abroad.

I trust that Colin Powell and George W. Bush will not be offended by this lawsuit. Our ally in Khartoum certainly will be. There is no question that we are in a war against a network of quintessentially evil enemies; but let us not hide from ourselves the evildoers we have asked to join with us. Nor must we forget those innocent people who continue to be their victims -- while we avert our eyes.



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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