Socialist Worker

Darfur: foreign intervention will mean more pain

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2019

Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright

A clamour is growing to send United Nations (UN) troops to Darfur in western Sudan - whether the Sudanese government agrees or not.

Around 200,000 people have died in Darfur in the last three years and around two million have been displaced. This is the result of fighting between government forces and rebel groups.

Many civilians have suffered and, quite rightly, people across the world want the horror to end.

But it is a huge leap from those tragic facts to supporting the right of Western troops to invade Sudan. Far from aiding the suffering people in Darfur, intervention will make matters worse.

Remember when UN troops went to Somalia in 1992? The invasion began with promises of ending a famine and saving people from warlords.

It ended with Somalis in revolt against the occupiers and atrocities being committed by US, Canadian and Belgian forces.

The warlords were strengthened and Somalia hurled back for a decade.

We should not allow solidarity with Africans to be captured by those who want another war.

Tony Blair says, “I do not understand the government of Sudan’s rejection of the UN force.” Could it be because it fears another round of “regime change”?

Or perhaps it remembers that in 1998 the US launched a cruise missile assault on the El-Shifa pharmaceuticals factory in Khartoum?

The US claimed that it was a terrorist weapons factory.

It soon became apparent that the plant had no sealed doors, no proper security, nor even locks on the windows. El-Shifa produced 50 percent of Sudan’s entire medicine production.

The loss of the plant led to thousands of children dying from malaria, tuberculosis and other treatable diseases.

One of the main motivators for the attack on El-Shifa was Madeleine Albright, then US secretary of state.

She was a major speaker at the Save Darfur Coalition rally in the US last weekend demanding intervention by the UN now. George Bush, who is hardly known for his humanitarian impulses, is fully in agreement.

An invasion by the West would clear the way for US and European oil firms to grasp more of Sudan’s oil.

Sudan has two billion barrels of recoverable oil and currently produces 250,000 barrels a day.

Much of that oil is likely to be tapped by Chinese firms and the US wants to challenge them.

Sudan has become a frontline in the clash between US and Chinese imperialism.

An invasion would also put in place a pro-US government on the shores of the Red Sea, opposite Saudi Arabia.

It could fuse together a bloc of pro-US regimes in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, all of which border on Sudan.

It would demonstrate that the US can still manipulate governments in strategically important areas. Sudan will not wipe away the disaster in Iraq, but Bush hopes it could be some compensation.

To clear the way for intervention, we are bombarded with myths.

Many accounts of the fighting suggest it is between “Arabs” and “Africans”. Some even say it is between Muslims and Christians.

In fact all the people of Darfur are Muslims.

Sudan is presented as a place solely of violence and suffering. In fact for much of human history it has been in the vanguard of civilisation.

Darfur’s suffering is terrible and real, but it cannot be wrenched from a wider context.

Since 1998 some four million people have died as a result of war in Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa.

The US and Britain don’t want to talk about that because the fighting has been fuelled by Western arms firms and multinationals and involves intervention by Western-backed states.

Those who do not want intervention in Sudan are often accused of “not caring” about the suffering and having no solutions. Of course we want to support all forces struggling for justice and democracy in Sudan.

We want a rain of food and medicines rather than bombs.

But here are also some more radical suggestions.

Research for the UN published last week revealed that an extra £3.7 billion of funding could save the lives of 500,000 children in the Third World next year.

So 1.5 percent of what the US has so far spent on Iraq would save half a million lives.

Or we could divert the £25 billion that Gordon Brown wants to spend on replacing Trident nuclear missiles.

Such measures require confronting imperialism, not allying with it. The people who call the shots in the world system that produces war and poverty should not be allowed to control Sudan.

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Sat 23 Sep 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2019
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