if a journalist writes an article about genocide in Sudan and mentions neither the word "oil" nor the word "China," he's either naive or being deliberately obtuse.
This morning, Nicholas Kristoff chastises the media for writing so little about genocide and Sudan. He's right to do that, of course. But he also fails my Sudan Test: if a journalist writes an article about genocide in Sudan and mentions neither the word "oil" nor the word "China," he's either naive or being deliberately obtuse.
Sudan has oil. Lots of oil. How does Kristoff describe Rice's trip to Sudan:
Condi Rice finally showed up in Darfur a few days ago, and she went out of her way to talk to rape victims and spotlight the sexual violence used to terrorize civilians. Most American television networks and cable programs haven't done that much.
While I'm all for the world knowing more about the abundant use of sexual violence for political ends in Africa, does Kristoff believe that she was sent there to talk about rape?
Here's the problem: Sudan has all this oil. "We" (i. e. the Cheney energy commission) want it. But the local authorities have some very bad habits, one of which is genocide. When you do read about genocide in Sudan in the US media, it is usually framed in terms of Arab terror. The reality is a lot more complex. I gather that the problem for a company doing business in Sudan is that the local authorities will slaughter people and raze villages for the convenience of oil companies. And there is no good way for squeamish companies to keep them from doing this. (See Madelaine Drohan's chapter "Talisman in Sudan" in her book Making a Killing: How and Why Corporations Use Armed Force to Do Business.) So companies from countries that make decisions based on human rights have been forced away from the trough.
Luckily for the Sudanese oiligarchy, the Chinese government doesn't care much about the human rights of Africans, and the Chinese oil companies are happy to take up the slack. My impression of Cheney's secret energy plan is that it allows the US to have an ever-rising need for petroleum and that our two Humvees in every driveway will partially fueled by African oil. And so there is a conflict between our goals and there goals. (China has a really large population: what must China's energy goals look like?)
This does not stop some enterprising individual Western entrepreneurs such as Mark Thatcher from horning in on the action. More recently, British businessman, Friedhelm Eronat bought oil rights in Sudan. What is Eronat's real nationality?
The Guardian reports:
Documents seen by the Guardian suggest that Mr Eronat, who lives in a £20m house in Chelsea, swapped his US passport for a British one shortly before the deal was signed with the Sudan regime in October 2003.
US citizens are barred from dealing with Sudan under sanctions dating from 1997.