What To Do In The Southern Sudan

by Hugh Fitzgerald (December 2010)


A month from now, in the Sudan, a referendum is scheduled to be held, on whether or not the inhabitants of the South Sudan wish to become independent, freeing themselves of rule by the northern Arabs. The referendum itself was promised in 2005 by the government of the Sudan, under great Western pressure. At the time the Sudanese Arabs - that is, those who consider themselves to be Arabs, who use Arabic, have Arab names, identify with the Arabs and, of course, are Muslims - who have ever since independence in 1956 always controlled the government in Khartoum - thought that a promise for a far-off referendum would not mean much, that in the end they would figure out how to disrupt the plans, undo the referendum, do something - anything - to make sure either that it would never be held, or be held in such conditions of violence and confusion that the government would not have to honor the result, or that, if it were to be held and the results to be obvious, nonetheless they would simply find a way not to honor it, by making demands - chiefly about the "sharing" of the oil that has always been under the land of the black African south, but through various means has now come to be talked of as if it in an area that straddles north and south - that the Southern Sudanese cannot, and should not, be expected to accept.

The expectation of the Northern Arabs of the Sudan, too, must surely have been that the Americans will still be tied down in Iraq, in Pakistan, and Afghanistan, not to mention whatever they might finally decide they will have to do, dare to do, to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and being able, what's more, to put those nuclear weapons on missiles that can travel far - another nightmare, but much more nightmarish, than Pakistan with its "Islamic Bombs" that so keep people in the Pentagon up a-nights.

And they expected, too, that just as their fellow Arabs had stood by them during many decades of mass-murdering of black Africans in the Sudan - it took a long time, and many deaths - for any attention to be paid to the southern Sudan - and continued to do so in recent years when the Arab Muslims used the Janjaweed militias to kill hundreds of thousands of non-Arab Muslims in Darfur, and to drive out a million more - they would be able to count on that Arab support as they faced down the West in any contest over the referendum and its results.

It should be clear to everyone except possibly the American government that the Sudanese government has no intention of letting the southern Sudan go free, and that the Arab League members, just as they always have, will try to deflect attention, diminish any pressure, do whatever they can to protect fellow Arabs. No one should be fooled, for example, by the attempt of Egypt to pretend to be putting pressure on the Sudan. Egypt does not want any part of the Sudan to fall out of Arab control. Egypt sees the Sudan, not merely as its neighbor but as its rightful domain, and in the great contest to come when the black African states - Ethiopia and Uganda among them - decide that they, too, are entitled to divert some of the waters of the Nile for irrigation - Egypt would like Arab power to extend as far south as possible, so as to intimidate the black Africans whom the Egyptian Arabs have always treated with such contempt, a contempt they did not hide at the last meeting attended by the Nile's black African riparians who were shocked at the behavior of the Egyptian government.

So what should be done?

Anything?

Nothing?

In the southern Sudan, over the past several decades, more than two million black Africans have been killed in what the American papers misleadingly continue to call "a civil war." It was not a "civil war" but a long-running massacre. The well-armed Arabs of the North waged war against southerners who were only trying to defend themselves, and who had almost no modern weaponry. This was not a "civil war" between sides that were able to inflict something like the same damage on each other. It was, rather, a hopeless attempt by the southerners to fight back against Arab oppressors and to oppose the measures meant to make the lives of Black Africans difficult, or even impossible. The Arabs of the north were in the habit of enslaving those black Africans they seized, and tens, or even hundreds, of thousands, we know, were so enslaved, and for a while Americans and Europeans would contribute to funds to buy some of the black Africans their freedom.

When the oil was discovered in the southern Sudan, this did not lessen the rapacity of the northern Arabs. It made them, in fact, even more desirous of pushing out, or killing, as many black Africans as they could in the south, so that the oil wealth would not have to be shared. They became more determined than ever to make sure the black African Christians and animists would never be independent. And it made them more eager to look at Darfur, too, populated by inferior, because non-Arab, Muslims, which it was thought might contain oil or other natural resources. And that is how the war in Darfur began,with the Arab government using as its instrument the "militias" or Janjaweed, who were armed and encouraged by the Sudanese government, which nonetheless spoke about them as if those Janjaweed were somehow acting on their own. Everyone knows how the Janjaweed went out to loot, rape, commit arson, and murder, as many helpless black Africans in Darfur as they could. We are told that 400,000 people were murdered and more than a million driven out of the Sudan altogether, into Chad.

And all of this has taken place with much more attention being focused on Darfur, and all kinds of famous Westerners visiting the region. One wonders why the attacks in Darfur received so much more attention from abroad than did the attacks in the southern Sudan, but nonetheless, any attention from the outside should be welcomed. The attention to the Darfur outrages had the effect of confusing Western understanding of the main conflict which was mostly an attempt by the southerners to oppose what the North was imposing. The Northerners seized black Africans and enslaved them, and took whatever resources they could that the south offered. And when oil was discovered, the new wealth that the Northern Arabs helped themselves to did not calm them down but made them even more desirous to destroy, or drive out, the black Africans from the lands neighboring the oil, and in any case, all deals with foreign oil companies ended with the revenues going to the Northerners, just as in Nigeria the revenues from the oil fields under the lands of the Christian South, go largely to pay for Muslim politicians and military men, with a handful of Christian politicians getting a much smaller cut.

Is it possible, a month from the referendum, to guess at what will happen? I think it is. I think the Sudanese government will do more of what it has been doing, arming various factions in the south and encouraging them to go after one another, so that the "threat of violence" can be used either as an excuse to delay the referendum, or if it is held, to claim that because of all the "violence" by the southerners themselves, the results of the referendum cannot be taken seriously. So far that strategy has not worked. And so the Northern Arabs are trying other things too. There are two million southerners living in Khartoum. They are not being permitted to vote, and must go to the South - for many, a long and impossibly expensive and arduous journey. They are being discouraged in every way from participating in the vote. And this, even though one might think that southerners living in Khartoum would have a stake in voting against independence, if they want to remain in Khartoum. Perhaps their fury over what the Northern Arabs have done in the Sudan to the black Africans trumps all other concerns.

And if the referendum is held, and if the vote - if it is fair, if foreign observers can keep things honest - is for an independent southern Sudan, then what? Will the Western world do anything when the North ignores the referendum, or tries in a hundred sundry ways not to allow the southerners to depart or, if they do, to force them to leave most of the oil wealth with the North?

We know what the Arabs - the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula -- will do. For the past decade, when more and more people in the West began to notice, and protest, what was happening in Darfur and then, taking another look at the southern Sudan, other Arabs have had no trouble supporting the Arabs in Khartoum. Egypt has run diplomatic interference for Sudan, all the while pretending to distance itself from that government. The members of the Arab League have no intention of letting part of any territory now ruled over by Muslim Arabs ever be allowed to become sovereign under non-Muslim rule. And they have big plans for the Sudan. Little has been written in the Western press about it, but the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula see the Sudan as a place where they can establish large agricultural communities, use the blacks as slave labor - Arabs are not great farmers (see Xavier de Planhol on Islam and agriculture), and have always preferred to live by raiding-parties, or by the modern equivalent, the easy money of Western aid, and oil and gas revenues, the receipt of which requires no effort on their part.

But what of it? Could the Arabs actually insist that they have a divine right to rule over black Africans? Attempts to do so would merely heighten the suspicion of Islam among black African states. Some of them - Kenya and Tanzania - have been victims of Arab terrorism. In others,the local Christians look with alarm on the transformation of their Muslim co-nationals into fanatics, the result of Saudi mosques and imams (as in Niger), or of Libyan money (as in Togo), or simply in the greater attention being paid to the texts of Islam by formerly more easygoing Muslims, as is happening in northern Nigeria.

During the Gilded Age, one of the Robber Barons - possibly Jay Gould or one of his associates - declared when asked about some particularly outrageous behavior that "I seen my opportunities, and I took 'em." The American government has a chance, in the Sudan, to see, and then to seize, an opportunity to push back against the Camp of Islam, and to do it in a place, and at a time, when it badly needs to demonstrate an economical and effective way to weaken the forces of Islam.

For the ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have been wrong-headed every which way. And in a time of austerity and scarcity all over the Western world, even those who do not understand that it is a misunderstanding of Islam that explains the follies of Iraq and Afghanistan, and who don't see what makes those efforts mere ventures in squandering (of men, money, materiel, morale), will nonetheless be forced to support a new policy - withdrawal of American forces - even if they base that simply on a recognition of the need to conserve resources, rather than understanding why whatever "victory" may be achieved over the forces of Islam in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, will come not when the Americans remain, but when they leave, and the forces of internal disruption and decay within those countries are allowed to work their inevitable magic.
Eventually, however, those who finally decide to support a policy of withdrawal out of a desire to save money -- and that includes, I think, the Obama Administration - an understanding of what best justifies this policy will follow, and in following, those who want us out, possibly for the wrong reasons, will have to defend their policy with the right reasons. And the right reason is that it makes no sense to try to create unified nation-states in Muslim lands, still less to help them become prosperous. It was only after many Muslim states started to acquire great wealth that Islam became a danger in the modern world, and it is only that oil wealth, and the wealth that is added to it by misguided Infidel nations busy propping up Muslim lands, that allows them not only to disguise their own economic failures (attributable to Islam, explained by Islam) but to pay for campaigns of Da'wa, and mosques and madrasas and small armies of hirelings, in the West, without which Islam would not spread, would not be able to target identifiable groups (such as black prisoners, or Hispanic immigrants, in America) or individuals in the West (usually, those crackbrained Spiritual Searchers who have been seeking a Simple Solution of the Universe) for conversion to Islam.

The American government has not been able to come with a convincing definition of "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither under Bush nor under Obama. And successive American administrations have been unable to think clearly about the ideology of Islam, what it inculcates, and its powerful hold on the minds of its 1.2 billion adherents, and how that ideology is reflected in Muslim attitudes and Muslim behavior toward non-Muslims. In part, this reflects the topsy-turviness of things. Those who are considered to be "tough-minded" or "conservatives" or "Republicans" or some such immediately rallied around the Bush policy of invading, and then - disastrously - remaining in Iraq and Afghanistan. And once they had committed themselves to a policy of loyally supporting these efforts in Iraq (the Light-Unto-the-Muslim-Nations Project that makes, that made, no sense) and in Afghanistan (because Al Qaeda had once had bases there, it was insisted that Afghanistan had to be held, for it was in Afghanistan where, it was not argued but merely assumed - that Al Qaeda would return to, and re-establish bases, and that would be a threat. No one made the argument that there was no need to keep tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan, at great cost, for Westen forces could simply remove themselves, monitor the situation, and whenever necessary come in, from afar, and preferably by air, to inflict whatever damage they needed to. No one noted that just because Bin Laden had once been in Afghanistan, that did not mean he or those like him - in Al Qaeda, or in dozens of other groups just as dangerous to Infidels as Al Qaeda - had to return to Afghanstian, that Afghanistan was somehow an irreplaceable base that was critical to Muslim terrorists. It wasn't, and it certainly isn't, as any glance at the last thousand terrorist attacks or attempted attacks by Muslims would show - almost none of them have been planned in, or prepared for in, Afghanistand. Nor has the American government dared to recognize that it is not terrorism alone, but all the other instruments of jihad that are used by Muslims to attain the same ends as those sought by Al Qaeda, that must be identified and their employment in the West made more difficult, if not undone.

The spectacle of Iraq, where the Sunnis will never acquiesce in their new, inferior position, and where the Shi'a will never give up the power - political and also naturally economic - that they have obtained, and where the Arabs will never allow the Kurds the degree of autonomy that they demand - is a useful one. When Americans wake up in the morning, and hear of the latest endless political maneuvering in Iraq, when they read of the bombs that go off, in Mosul or Kirkuk, in Baghdad or (to a much lesser extent) Basra, when they come to realize - when officers and men who spent precious parts of their lives trying to accomplish the impossible, an impossible that furthermore made no sense, start to speak out about the folly of Iraq, no longer willing to repeat that oft-heard line about how "Iraq has to be a success, otherwise my friend's life was given in vain" and come to understand what a folly, what a waste, it all has been.

And in Afghanistan, where General Petraeus continues to imitate Alec Guinness as he works to build a bridge over the River Kwai, without recognizing the larger context that counts (that context is the world-wide challenge of Islam, and the instruments of jihad such as the money weapon, campaigns of da'wa and, above all, demographic conquest which is helping to create a situation in Western Europe that is perilous and, to use a word that has become quite the fashion, potentially "transformative")-the results in Iraq will be seen, thank god, as casting in doubt the Afghanistan mission as well.

But what happens if the Americans, having left Iraq, then leave Afghanistan? What happens, that is, to the narrative told by Muslims and by non-Muslims? Muslims will be told that just as they drove the Russians out of Afghanistan, they have now driven the Americans out of both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Americans need to make clear, before they leave Afghanistan, that they will not be leaving because they were driven out, but leaving because, having now come to their senses about Islam, they are willing to use methods that are much less expensive - minimally invasive surgery - that rely mostly on seizing opportunities that the Muslims themselves present, and that rely, whenever possible, on pre-existing fissures and weaknesses in the Camp of Islam.

It is in the Sudan that an ideal opportunity now exists.

For the Arabs of the north, who may, despite all they have done, have to hold that referendum on independence for the South on January 9, will never voluntarily allow the South to become independent. They will make demands, demands so outrageous - beginning but not ending with an unmerited share of the South's oil wealth - and attempting to create discord, and encouraging violence, among the southern tribes, so as to keep things roiling and boiling. And this, the Arabs hope, will cause the Western world, while continuing to express support for the South, to lose interest, to let the Arabs do as they wish, as they have done ever since the Sudan was granted its independence in 1956.

They may be right in their calculations. And certainly Egypt, which sees the Sudan as a kind of future satrapy, a place where the Egyptians can dominate, a place through which the Nile flows, and where Egypt's excess population might go, and from there, help to pressure countries further south, to make sure they do not divert Nile waters for their own use - for Egyptian Arabs see the Nile as belonging exclusively to them, and will do what they can to prevent Ethiopia and Uganda, among other riparian states, from using Nile water for their own irrigation projects. Meanwhile, the Saudis and other Arabs who have complacently regarded the Sudan as a permanent Arab agricultural colony, will not accept - unless they are forced to, and unless their fear of Iran makes them temporarily more worried about offending the American government - a dimidiated Arab Sudan. No Muslim Arabs will be happy to allow the Christians (and animists) of the South to liberate themselves from Arab Muslim oppression. What might it lead to? And what if the black African Muslims in Darfur were to decide that they, too, wished to be independent of the Arabs, perhaps even preferring a federation with the black African Christians of the South? What might other non-Arab Muslims, as the Kurds and Berbers, enduring the Arab yoke, and coming to recognize, fitfully, fitna-fully, that Islam is, inevitably, a vehicle for Arab supremacism, start to think?

Right now the Americans give no signs of having understood that in the southern Sudan, and unlike in Iraq and Afghanistan, military intervention makes sense. It makes sense because the people of the southern Sudan, being victims of Arab Islam rather than Muslims themselves, will be grateful in a way that neither Iraqis nor Afghans ever could have been. They will not expect an instant makeover, as did so many Iraqis who expected the Americans to turn Baghdad into New York, and Iraq itself into an advanced Western country, when to do so would have required constraining, even getting rid of, the main source of Muslim backwardness, paralysis, fatalism, and violence, that is Islam itself.

Such intervention would be offered if some - enough - of the southern Sudanese asked for it, which is likely to happen if the northern Arabs try to ignore or deliberately misinterpret the results of the referendum. Where else can the southern Sudanese turn, but to the West to keep the Arabs from again attacking the southern Sudanese? The African Union soldiers are not up to the task, and would be unwilling to try. Imagine what it would do to the morale of the Sudanese government if, in an hour, the Americans wiped out what there is of the Sudanese airforce? And while they are at it, the Americans could take a moment or two to destroy the planes belong to Badr Airlines, which is based in the Sudan. The latest batch of Wikileaks "show US diplomats expressing concern that huge cargo planes operated by Badr Airlines of Sudan were flying weapons from Tehran to Khartoum, from where they were shipped to Hamas in Gaza. The US asked countries in the region to deny overflight rights to the airlines. Jordan and several other countries agreed, but Yemen declined, a February 2009 cable reported." Why not end Badr Airlines, put it out of its misery, once and for all, as a sign that the Americans are no longer going to worry and try to cajole countries to deny it overflight rights, but will find a simple and elegant solution to the problem.

After that kind of display of power, what could the Sudanese government do? Could it move in troops without planes and helicopters, with American planes now patrolling the skies over Sudan? It could not. How many American soldiers would have to be airlifted into the southern Sudan? Surely not more than a few thousand, with the implied promise of all kinds of hell breaking lose, right in Khartoum, if the Sudanese government tried to attack the Americans or have others do so? How would the locals react? What would the world's press unavoidably have to record? There would be throngs of grateful and smiling black Africans, surrounding the American soldiers, clearly delighted. Unlike the Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, who showed no real gratitude, and who have constantly been trying to inveigle more and more aid from the Americans, the Southern Sudanese, having been rescued from monstrous oppression, are likely to provide the Americans with a continuing public-relations coup. Meanwhile, the forces of organized Islam will be tongue-tied, for how can they deny that non-Muslims - black African non-Muslims - have a right to have their wishes, expressed at the ballot-box - respected? And if the Arabs and other Muslims do howl in protest, other black African Christians and states, such as the igbo in Nigeria, or those in Ethiopia worried about the demographic changes in their country, will feel heartened, convinced that the policy of the West, which ever since the Biafra War has been to take the side of the Muslims, or at least never to openly help protect the Christians (while Egyptian pilots in Egyptian Migs strafed Igbo villages, the British government - see the Scott Report -supplied the Nigerian military (Muslim, and engaged in suppressing the Biafrans) with twelve times as much weaponry and military equipment as it had received before the Biafra War).

And there would be other effects, too. Egypt would be put on notice that it cannot count on Western indifference to its attempts to bully Ethiopia, Uganda, and other riparian states of the Nile. China, which has been conducting a ruthless campaign to buy up, and then to exploit, as much of Africa's natural resources as possible (and treating the local Africans with great contempt), and in the Sudan, it has sided with the Northern Arabs in order, so the Chinese calculated, to make sure that they would have the best access to Sudanese oil. But if, by force of arms, the Americans ensure that the oil under the southern Sudan becomes the rightful property of the southern Sudanese, those southern Sudanese, in turn, might well prefer to favor American rather than Chinese oil companies.

And there would be consequences within the Western world, too. As is by now well known, one of the main targets of Da'wa - the Call To islam - have been black populations, especially black prisoners - in the West. They have been seen as a pool of the already alienated, who are ripe to find a Simple Solution which also allows them to justify - as fulfillment of a religious duty - what otherwise might simply be seen as criminal behavior. Now attacks on Infidels can be interpreted as proleptic helping oneself to the Jizyah that in a well-run Islamic state would be theirs by right. But if the American soldiers enter Sudan to rescue black Africans, and if the newspapers are full of articles, week after week, about the atrocities committed by the Arabs in the Sudan against the black Africans, and if black American soldiers, including black Muslim soldiers, are in the Sudan and come into contact with witnesses to the behavior of Muslim Arabs, that can only help to immunize black populations in America, and Great Britain, and elsewhere, to the siren-song of da'wa. That is yet another benefit of an American military effort to protect the southern Sudanese, and to make sure the referendum results are respected.

And then, too, it is likely that the southern Sudanese, out of both gratitude and intelligent calculation, will want to offer the Americans the possibility of an airbase. It is clear from Wikileaks that the American government rightly does not trust Qatar - the country which plays not a double but a triple game, and which, as the cables reveal, has the worst record in the Gulf in aiding the Americans against Muslim terrorists (one member of the ruling Al-Thani family even warned a member of Al Qaeda as the American agents were on the verge of coming to get him, and he escaped), where the American navy can now dock. And the other place where the American military have been allowed to stay, Kuwait, is almost as doubtful and untrustworthy as Qatar. The Americans do not and will not have a base in Iraq, despite all the talk about a half-dozen such bases being built. Every American base in an Arab land has been closed down. In Morocco it happened in 1967. In Libya, the gigantic Wheelus Air Base was closed by Khaddafy in 1970. The use of bases in Saudi Arabia depends on the whims of the Al-Saud, and it has only been a certain thing when the Al-Saud felt themselves to be in peril, as they did during the Gulf War. It is impossible to believe that any Arab country would allow the Americans to keep a base permanently, without severely constraining the uses to which the forces stationed at that base might be put. But in the southern Sudan, the Americans would have a permanent and secure base, in a Christian land, one that would allow them to project power right across the Red Sea to Yemen, or to the south in Somalia, or to the north, in Egypt and Libya, or across to the Arabian Peninsula, all the way to the Gulf. It would be an anchor for American efforts in the Middle East and East Africa, from Cairo not quite to Capetown. 

But the main result of an American military incursion into the southern Sudan would be to signal, to the world's Muslims, that they cannot assume that a withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanisetan means what they otherwise will take it to mean, a sign of Western defeatism and appeasement. The Obama Administration will have to explain such an action in the southern Sudan, and only one explanation is both politically palatable. And that is this: we entered the Sudan, we seized the southern Sudan and will hold it, until such time as a government can be formed, not necessarily a "democratic" government, but one consisting of local worthies who will be able to properly exploit the oil wealth - so much of which has been stolen over the years by the Arabs of the North - and not rely on Western aid (this assurance is important for the American public, fed up with the amounts squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan). Neither Al Qaeda, nor any other Muslim group, will be able to gloat. Instead, if the move into Sudan begins to help change minds in Washington about how best, most efficiently, at the lowest cost, most imaginatively, exploiting local situations and circumstances that may not come again, to weaken the Camp of Islam, this will stun the world's Muslims for they have, until now, been enjoying the spectacle of so much squandering, waste, and confusion, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan.

This is worth thinking about, in all of its aspects, not in a few months, when the Arabs are in the middle of trying to foil the black Africans of the southern Sudan and to keep them permanently in thrall, but right now.

There's time. That's what Christmas vacations are for, or should be, if you are among the high and mighty in Washington. Fewer basketball games, a little more reading of history books, possibly starting with "Islam and Dhimmitude" by Bat Ye'or. That's the ticket. That's how to start to prepare yourself to do get things, and then do things, right.



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