RE: An Open Letter about the June 21, 2006 event:

Witnessing Darfur: A Benefit for the People of Darfur

 

 

Sunday, 18 June 2006

Dear Friends,

 

We are writing to express our concern over the upcoming June 21 benefit event: WITNESSING DARFUR, to be held at Smith College, for which many local religious, cultural or political organizations are as co-sponsors (see bottom). Like you we deeply believe in the need to alleviate the people of Darfur's suffering, however, we strongly feel that the position being taken, which many local organizations have supported, namely that the Islamic government of Sudan is committing genocide against the "African" people of Darfur, does not accurately reflect or fully address the complexities and realities of the situation.

 

We strongly believe that the situation in Darfur should be placed in a wider context and the role of the United States and other external actors MUST be acknowledged and dealt with honestly if there is to be peace and stability in Darfur, Sudan or indeed an improvement of basic conditions. We encourage people to think carefully and examine the history of humanitarian aid organizations before making any financial contributions: it is well documented that certain organizations working in Sudan have been involved in very dubious activities counterproductive to expressed or publicized humanitarian aims.

 

We respectfully ask that people actively seek out and examine different points of view. We emphasize that we are not trying to malign or attack either any sponsor of this event, the producers of the film(s) to be shown, or speaker Dr. Eric Reeves of Smith College; rather we are calling for an open dialogue now and in the future. If the U.S. wants to end the violence in Darfur and elsewhere its first step should be to stop participating in it. We believe that our first step as US citizens and residents should be to speak openly and honestly and to hold the US government accountable. We find it increasingly difficult to do so within the United States: can we expect that it will be done in a far away, oil-rich country like Sudan? (Petroleum is one of Darfur’s several coveted resources.)

 

We respectfully encourage all those who wish to allocate funds for aid in Darfur to do so, but to donate them after careful examination of ALL the facts. We respectfully ask the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts to HOLD all Sudan Aid Funds received, to date, or subsequently, for the same reasons. We call on co-sponsor Mayor Clare Higgins <mayor@northamptonma.gov> and the town of Northampton <office@uunorthampton.org>, to hold a public hearing, immediately, where the entire spectrum of issues can be openly and publicly aired. Given the gravity of the situation and people's desire to alleviate the very real suffering in Darfur, we ask the sponsors of this event, and people concerned about the Darfur situation, to press for this hearing to occur immediately.

 

We urge you to read the SUPORTING DOCUMENTATION we have provided below; this is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive sampling of relevant issues. We also ask that you circulate this letter widely, forward to your organizations' mailing list, to all interested parties, and the press.

 

With sincerity and best wishes,

 

Deborah Chandler, graphic designer and activist, Northampton, MA

<deborahchandler@comcast.net > 413-584-9160

 

Dimitri Oram, writer & researcher, Northampton, MA

<dadima23@yahoo.com >, 413-330-2034

 

Doug Wight, writer & activist, Northampton MA

"Doug Wight" <wellness15@yahoo.com>

 

Keith Harmon Snow, genocide & human rights investigator, Williamsburg, MA.

<ksnow_srintl@yahoo.com >< www.allthingspass.com >, 413-626-3800.

{Contractual experience in the human rights arena includes: [a] Consultant on Genocide, United Nations: Ethiopia, 2005; [b] Genocide Investigator, Genocide Watch <www.genocidewatch.org >: Sudan & Ethiopia, 2004; [c] Genocide Investigator, Survivor’s Rights International < www.survivorsrightsinternational.org >: Sudan and Ethiopia, 2004; [d] work at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (2001). Also independent human rights researcher in the Dem. Rep. of Congo, 2004-2006; ten years experience in 17 countries in Africa.

 

***************************************************************

 

SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION

 

Undisclosed information about the current geopolitical realities regarding the Darfur conflict include the facts about the U.S. was funding and supporting forces in Southern Sudan (Sudan People’s Liberation Army & Movement: SPLA/M) throughout the 1990s and beyond. We believe the US is still supporting rebel forces in Darfur thus actively contributing to the conflict. We are aware these are strong charges but there is plenty of documented evidence for the former charge and a good deal of circumstantial evidence for the latter. A quick sampling reveals:

 

v     "The Clinton administration has launched a covert campaign to destabilize the government of Sudan which it considers a key supporter of international terrorism and instability in the Middle East. More than $20 million of military equipment, including radios, uniforms and tents will be shipped to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda in the next few weeks. Although the equipment is earmarked for the armed forces of those countries, much of it will be passed on to the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which is preparing an offensive against the government in Khartoum." (James Adams "Americans Move to Destabilize Sudanese Regime," Sunday Times, Nov. 17, 1996);

v     "U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had a surprise meeting in Kampala [Uganda] Wednesday with Sudanese opposition leaders including SPLA rebel chief John Garang in what was seen as a move further pressuring Khartoum's Islamic fundamentalist leaders. Albright told reporters that Washington sought to show top-level support for efforts to secure political change in Sudan, where Garang's Sudanese People's Liberation Army in the Christian and animist South has fought troops of the Moslem North since 1983." (Dec. 10, 1997, Deutsch Presse Agenteur);

v     "Welcome to the 1980s. Long live Ronald Reagan. Remember the scenario—a rebel group being trained and armed by the CIA to topple a sovereign government, cross-border incursions from secluded camps, and the whole destabilization exercise backed by international sanctions and a massive propaganda campaign. It sounds like Nicaragua or Angola circa 1984. In fact it's Sudan 1998." (Jonathan Steele, "Stop this war now; The US could remove the threat of starvation for thousands of Sudanese May 1, 1998 The Guardian);

v     "[T]o the peril of regional stability, the Clinton Administration has used northern Uganda as a military training ground for southern Sudanese rebels fighting the Muslim government of Khartoum...The people in Sudan want to resolve the conflict. The biggest obstacle is US government policy said former president Carter in an interview last week in Mozambique ”The US is committed to overthrowing the government in Khartoum. Any sort of peace effort is aborted, basically by policies of the United States" Kurt Schillinger "Carter, Others say Clinton has faltered on Africa" Dec. 8, 1999 Boston Globe).

 

A confirmed and egregious violation of international law was the U.S. bombing of Sudan's sole pharmaceutical plant in 1998 with all the misery and death that followed. With a background like that isn't it possible that the U.S. is still covertly intervening in Sudan especially Darfur? Is it mere coincidence that the rebels in Darfur launched their first major attacks the month that USAID set up its mission in Darfur?

 

v     "Under the Bush administration, the work of USAID has become increasingly politicized. But over Sudan, in particular, two of its most senior officials have long held strong personal views. Both Natsios, a former vice-president of the Christian charity World Vision, and [Roger] Winter have long been hostile to the Sudanese government." (U.S. 'hyping' Darfur Genocide Fears by Peter Beaumont, 03 October 2004, The Observer) http://www.guardian.co.uk/sudan/story/0,14658,1318643,00.html

 

The U.N., the European Union, Medecins Sans Frontieres, aid groups, U.N. officials and human rights groups have all questioned the genocide claims.

 

While no one doubts there is horrendous death and suffering in Darfur use of the word genocide has been used to put all blame on the government, exonerate the rebels and prevent peace. Indeed, as Emily Wax writes "that label only seems to have strengthened Sudan's rebels; they believe they don't need to negotiate with the government and think they will have U.S. support when they commit attacks. Peace talks have broken down seven times, partly because the rebel groups have walked out of negotiations." (Washington Post, "5 Truths About Darfur," April 21, 2006)

 

The African Union “peacekeeping” mission in Darfur includes U.S. military personnel; training and logistical support by the U.S. military has also been provided. (See: Department of Defense, “U.S. Transports Rwanda Forces to Sudan”:

<http://www.pentagon.gov/home/photoessays/2005-07/p20050718b1.html >

 

Rwandan Defense Forces sent to Darfur are themselves responsible for crimes against humanity and acts of genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and these troops are highly linked to the U.S. military (Rwanda New Times, 15 May 2006). The U.S. military’s European Command (EUCOM) is also partnered with Uganda, and working with Ugandan troops, and Uganda’s role in Sudanese affairs mirrors its role in Congo: clandestine guerrilla activities, massacres, rapes, extortion, gun-running and plundering of natural resources. These have all been widely documented by numerous international human rights bodies.

 

The African Union mission also included supporting operations by private military contractor Dyncorp: Dyncorp was caught running a sex slave ring in Bosnia, was sued for illegally spraying toxic herbicides in Ecuador, believed to have smuggled drugs from Colombia and is generally accused of brutal behavior wherever it goes. Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE) is also on the AU job. According to Corpwatch: PAE “has a history of being accused of overcharging.” Also, PAE "already provides[d] staff for a so-called Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) which monitors human rights in Sudan under the State Department contract. The CPMT office is run by Brigadier General Frank Toney (retired), who was previously commander of Special Forces for the United States Army and organized covert missions into Iraq and Kuwait in the first Gulf War."

 

Could these mercenary groups be involved in helping the rebel groups?  It is also uncomfortable that a State Department official connected to Sudan issues who wished to remain anonymous said: "We are not allowed to fund a political party or agenda under United States law, so by using private contractors, we can get around those provisions. Think of this as somewhere between a covert program run by the CIA and an overt program run by the United States Agency for International Development. It is a way to avoid oversight by Congress." (CorpWatch Oct. 21, 2004)

 

It's also true that a number of humanitarian groups are far from impartial. Several of them were and probably still are smuggling weapons into Sudan and working toward regime change. Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) was caught red-handed and its role in supplying arms to the SPLA was the subject of a 1999 Norwegian television documentary, entitled 'Weapons Smuggling in Sudan'. "CSI [Christian Solidarity International], along with the U.S.-based groups Voice of the Martyrs and Samaritan’s Purse (run by Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham), are among a handful of Christian groups that have taken sides in the dispute. They work exclusively in southern Sudan—and provide not only humanitarian aid but also political and sometimes logistical support for the southern rebels...Even during the peace talks, they’ve lobbied the U.S. government to provide military aid and weaponry to the SPLM...According to Human Rights Watch, the SPLM, like Khartoum, has committed numerous human-rights violations." (Fighting a Peace Plan: Some Christian aid groups are supporting the rebels, by E. Benjamin Skinner, August 18, 2003 NEWSWEEK INTERNATIONAL.)

 

To the best of our knowledge Eric Reeves has never discussed the active US role in destabilizing Sudan despite his years of research.  We feel compelled to ask why this is the case. We also believe that he has not dealt straightforwardly with past SPLA crimes including attacks on humanitarian aid workers, sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers, bringing them up only while asserting that "there is no equivalence" between the rebels and the government of Sudan. We are also worried by Eric Reeves's publicly stated position of “regime change,” where Sudan's government be "removed by whatever means are necessary", and by his call for "comprehensive economic sanctions" and the formation of a new government by external powers (Washington Post, Aug. 23, 2004). We feel such a stance is antithetical to an antiwar movement based on opposition to imperial violence and intervention in the affairs of other nations.

 

We do not excuse violence, murder, or sexual atrocities committed by any side, but we question the predominant version of events in Darfur—which we believe is grossly disinformational and one-sided—presented by the mass media and by both Right- and Left-wing political factions in the United States. We want to know where money marked for "Sudan Aid" is going, and we do not so quickly accept some of the answers that are being given. We are greatly disturbed by the fact that the ultra-Right Wing organization Center for Security Policy, a strong proponent of multi-billion dollar programs in National Missile Defense and a tool of the military industrial complex is advocating divestment from the same firms Eric Reeves has and is targeting. [1]

 

We note that the organization Save the Children is closely tied to USAID, its board of trustees includes one retired Rear Admiral, and almost all the others (15) are connected to the mainstream US media (ABC, CBS, Hollywood). More concerning, Save the Children is funded in part by Exxon-Mobil (according to an Exxon-Mobil corporate report) to build a road through neighboring Chad—a country with a heavy U.S. military involvement—to the Darfur region: we are concerned that this may be for strategic and military purposes cloaked under the banner of humanitarian aid and poverty alleviation.

 

The role of USAID official Roger Winter with the U.S. Committee for Refugees includes organizing support for the Rwanda Patriotic Front invasion of Rwanda in 1990; the U.S. Committee for Refugees remains a highly unusual political organization with a specious agenda.

 

The director/advisers of the International Rescue Committee include Henry Kissinger.

 

 

[1] See: < http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.jsp?section=papers&code=01-F_68 >;

please also examine the CSP's take on the antiwar movement

<http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.jsp?topic=peacemvmt§ion=featured>.

 

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Sponsored by Congregation B’nai Israel Darfur Action Group

Co-sponsors include: Al-Baqin Mosque Š American Friends Service Committee, Western Mass. Š Amnesty International USA/Group 76 Š Beit Ahavah Š Catholic Social Justice Committee of Greater

Northampton Š Edwards Church Š Episcopal Peace Fellowship of Grace Church, Amherst Š Hampshire Interfaith Council Š Jewish Family Services of Western Mass. Š Mayor Clare Higgins Š National Association of Social Workers, Pioneer Valley Chapter Š Northampton Committee to Stop the War in Iraq Š Northampton Friends Meeting Š Physicians for Social Responsibility, Pioneer Valley Š Progressive Christian Voice Task Force, The First Churches Š Safe Passage Š Smith College Š Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence Š The Vestry of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Northampton Š Western Mass. Darfur Coalition