Posted by: Randy Allgaier | October 24, 2006

Why Iraq and not Sudan?


Does the Bush administration have inconsistent foreign policy?  I don’t think it takes more than a nanosecond to answer that question in the affirmative.  After the hunt for WMDs in Iraq came up empty, suddenly the rationale for the Iraq War was that Saddam Hussein is a bad man, a corrupt leader, a leader who thumbed his nose at international law by ignoring United Nations resolutions and committed genocide against the Kurds.  All of those heinous attributes are true- but as has been pointed out, Saddam isn’t the world’s only bad guy.

Let’s take Sudan’s leader Hassan al-Bashir.  He has shown complete disdain for international law and has refused to allow United Nations peace keeping troops in war torn Darfur- the location of the 21st century’s first documented genocide.  Genocide, indifference to international law- it all sounds eerily familiar.  But we preemptively invaded Iraq and our policy with Sudan is to stomp our feet and protest the horrific actions of the government in
Khartoum.

Both countries have oil, so they both fit the argument that we only take military action in cases of national interest.  It seems that recently our “national interest” is synonymous with “oil”.  So it goes back to the question Why Iraq and not Sudan?

Saddam Hussein rose to high rank in the Iraqi government and in 1979 he finally assumed the supreme leadership. His dictatorship was marked by extreme cruelty and repression against all his opponents. He waged a long and costly war against neighboring  Iran (1980-88), backed by arms and aid from the US-UK, as well as FranceRussia, Germany and others. No one in
Washington complained about his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs in the 1980s, while he was viewed as a useful ally against the Iranian “threat.” Rather, Washington gave him military advisors, satellite intelligence and even targeting for his chemical weapons attacks against Iranian forces. But Saddam provoked  Washington’s ire when he invaded Kuwait in August 1990, leading to UN sanctions and then a UN-approved military action, led by the  United States. From that time forward the former favorite Saddam was depicted by  Washington as one of the world’s most dangerous and violent criminals.  Additionally, it was well known that Saddam had no use for Osama bin Laden and during his dictatorship. Iraq was in no way a haven for terrorists- if anything it was a dangerous place for terrorists.

Becoming a general by the 1980s, al-Bashir took charge of a Sudanese military coup in 1989. Al-Bashir immediately banned all political parties, repressed the press, and dissolved Parliament upon assuming control of the nation. He then became Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation and assumed the posts of chief of state, prime minister, chief of the armed forces, and minister of defense. On October 16, 1993, al-Bashir became even more powerful when he was appointed president of the country, after which time the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation was dissolved. The executive and legislative powers of the council were subsequently given to al-Bashir, who virtually ruled the nation as a dictator from that point on. He was later “elected” president (with a five year term) in a showcase national election in 1996. In 1998, al-Bashir and the Presidential Committee put into effect a new constitution. In 1999, al-Bashir and the Parliament made a law which allowed limited political “associations” in opposition to al-Bashir and his supporters to be formed, although these groups have failed to gain any significant access to governmental power.  He has long been accused of harboring and aiding terrorists and Islamic extremists. Osama bin Laden lived and operated in Sudan for five years until he was removed and banned from the country in May 1996.

When rebels in the western province of Darfur arose in opposition to the government, al-Bashir gave governmental support and money to Islamic militias, the Janjaweed, to combat the rebels instead of sending the military to intervene (which al-Bashir officially denies). These militias have been accused of ethnic cleansing, and many thousands of people in Darfur have died and been displaced so far as a result of the violence in the region. The United States Government determined in September 2004 “that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility and that “genocide may still be occurring“.  It seems pretty clear the genocide IS STILL OCCURRING.

So why invade a former ally who committed horrible acts and also hated bin Laden and just admonish a country that has given aid and comfort to bin Laden and has committed many of the same horrible acts- if not worse ones?

The answer is not that difficult to figure out.  The Neoconservatives that rose in power with the presidency of George W. Bush had a plan for a foothold in the Middle East.  The Sudan doesn’t offer that same strategic plumb. 

In, Beyond Regime Change, a 2002 piece that appeared in the LA Times, Sandy Tolan and Jason Felch write the following:

“If you want to know what the administration has in mind for Iraq, here’s a hint: It has less to do with weapons of mass destruction than with implementing an ambitious U.S. vision to redraw the map of the Middle East. The new map would be drawn with an eye to two main objectives: controlling the flow of oil and ensuring Israel’s continued regional military superiority. The plan is, in its way, as ambitious as the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement between the empires of Britain and France, which carved up the region at the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The neo-imperial vision, which can be ascertained from the writings of key administration figures and their co-visionaries in influential conservative think tanks, includes not only regime change in Iraq but control of Iraqi oil, a possible end to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and newly compliant governments in Syria and  Iran — either by force or internal rebellion.”

Undoubtedly this is what would have happened in Iraq if the strategy hadn’t met with the reality of those pesky insurgents and been plummeted into a violent sectarian civil war.  But of course the Bush administration still has its eyes on that prize or we would have admitted our reasons for the war were wrong and that we need to withdraw from the situation.

No such prize exists in Sudan.  If one were to rate the horror of a regime it is clear that al-Bashir gets a higher rating that Saddam.  So let’s not be tricked by the rhetoric that we went into Iraq on a noble mission to rid the world of a horrible leader.  If that were the case we would be fighting a war in Sudan.  It was the Neoconservative need to have a foothold in the Middle East that is the real rationale for war.   As the genocide in Darfur continues it makes me sick to my stomach that the Bush administration continues its insulting rhetoric about the Iraq War.  


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