On 29 October 2002, President George Bush chose to extend
President Clinton's Executive Order 13067 which declared
a "national emergency" with respect to Sudan.
President Bush stated that Sudan continued "to
pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national
security and foreign policy of the United States".
In doing so President Bush illustrated both the double-standards
and the grotesquely-distorted domestic politics within the
United States with regard to Sudanese affairs that have
long been at the heart of American-Sudanese relations. It
is regrettable that Bush would appear not to have risen
above either of these impediments to constructive and meaningful
dialogue with Sudan, a country with a clear insight into
the Islamic world. Moreover, Sudan has been one of Washington's
most effective allies in the "War on Terrorism".
The most benign reading of Bush's decision is that he is
pandering to several domestic political constituencies pursuing
a grotesquely-distorted agenda with regard to Sudan. In
so doing, the Bush Administration undermines its credibility,
and that of its campaign against international terrorism,
within the international community, and particularly Arab
and Islamic countries.
It is all too obvious that Clinton's 1997 Order was motivated
more by propaganda than reality. The Order, for example,
"declared a national emergency with respect to Sudan
pursuant to the International Emergency
Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the
unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security
and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the
actions and policies of the Government
of Sudan". The Executive Order cited "continuing
concern about the presence and activities of certain terrorist
groups, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and
the prevalence of human rights violations, including slavery,
restrictions on religious freedom, and restrictions on political
freedom." In October 2002, President Bush
stated that "[b]ecause the actions and policies of
the Government of Sudan continue to pose an unusual and
extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign
policy of the United States, the national emergency declared
on November 3, 1997, and the measures adopted on that date
to deal with that emergency must continue in effect beyond
November 3, 2002." Quite how one of the poorest countries
in the world that has
never harmed a single American citizen qualified as an unusual
and extraordinary threat to the world's Superpower has never
been articulated. It also followed on the passing by the
United States Congress of the so-called "Sudan Peace
Act", legislation which provides questionably-motivated
Sudanese rebels with hundreds of millions of dollars in
assistance. On a human level, the Executive Order continues
to impose comprehensive American economic sanctions on Sudan,
to the obvious detriment of the Sudanese population.
This decision by the Bush Administration is regrettable
for several reasons.
First and foremost, it perpetuates a transparently discredited
position. The Bush Administration is fully aware that the
Clinton Administration's Sudan policy was a farcical failure
which succeeded only in demonising
Khartoum. (1) The previous Administration's claims about
Sudan and terrorism were exposed for all to see by the fiasco
of its cruise missile attack on the al-Shifa medicine factory,
the fact that over one hundred CIA reports alleging Sudanese
involvement in terrorism were subsequently found to have
been fabricated. Its unforgivable
incompetence was manifest when it repeatedly rebuffed Sudanese
offers to extradite Osama bin-Laden and share intelligence
on the al-Qaeda organisation. Similarly, Clinton claims
that Khartoum was the obstacle
to peace in Sudan were exposed by former President Carter's
repeated observations that Washington was the biggest single
obstacle to peace. Despite being aware of all this and much
more, the Bush Administration
appears to be content to let crassly ill-informed domestic
constituencies dictate American foreign policy towards Sudan.
The Clinton White House, and its officials, had long shown
criminaldishonesty with regard to Sudan, especially regarding
its claims of Sudanese involvement in terrorism. (2) The
Bush Administration's lack of leadership on Sudan is also
clear. It has demonstrated a lack of courage and intellectual
honesty in not addressing what it must know were unjust
and unwarranted claims about Sudan and "terrorism",
knowingly full well that these sorts of claims have fuelled
anti-Sudanese sentiment domestically. The Clinton Administration
listed Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism in August 1993.
It was clear, however, that Sudan was listed without any
evidence of its alleged support for terrorism. As much was
established by former United States President Jimmy Carter.
Long interested in Sudanese affairs, Carter went out of
his way to see what evidence there was for Sudan's listing.
He was told there was no evidence: "In fact, when I
later asked an assistant secretary of state
he said they did not have any proof, but there were strong
allegations." (3) The United States ambassador to Sudan
at the time of Sudan's listing, Donald Petterson, also stated
on record that he was "surprised"
that Sudan was put on the terrorism list. (4) Nevertheless,
the Clinton Administration's listing of Sudan set the tone
for all future American claims about Sudan and terrorism.
Not only was this a clear abuse of United States anti-terrorism
legislation for propaganda reasons, it also badly damaged
American claims about "terrorism" within the wider
international community, including its closest allies. In
February 2001, for example, the British government stated
that it would be "quite wrong" to describe Sudan
as a terrorist state. (5)
The Clinton Administration's spin-doctoring over Sudan
had disastrous consequences. In January 2002, 'Vanity Fair'
published a devastating expose of the Clinton Administration's
mishandling of repeated offers by
the Sudanese government, some dating back to 1996, to provide
Washington intelligence on terrorism - particularly with
regard to the al-Qaeda terrorist network. (6) Part of what
was offered to the Clinton Administration were several hundred
Sudanese files on al-Qaeda and its members. (7) The Administration
also passed up the opportunity of interrogating two al-Qaeda
members who had clearly been involved in the 1998 bombings
of the U.S. embassies in east Africa. Washington also turned
down repeated Sudanese government requests that the United
States send CIA and FBI counter-terrorism teams to Sudan
to investigate and
follow-up any information they may have about Sudan's alleged
involvement in terrorism. In keeping with its very questionable
Sudan policy the Clinton Administration rejected all of
Sudan's repeated offers (the request for a continuous American
anti-terrorist presence was eventually taken up in June
2000) (8). The implications of this
studied indifference are clear. As 'Vanity Fair' stated:
"September 11 might have been prevented if the U.S.
had accepted Sudan's offers to share its intelligence files
on Osama bin Laden and the growing al-Qaeda files."
It had also earlier been revealed that in addition to offering
the Clinton Administration intelligence on al-Qaeda, the
Sudanese government had in 1996 also offered to arrest Osama
bin-Laden and hand him to Washington (there was no reason
to suspect that Khartoum would not, given that it had extradited
"Carlos the Jackal" to France in 1994) (9) This
offer was also rejected by the Clinton Administration. Former
President Clinton described his Administration's refusal
to accept Sudan's offer as "the biggest mistake"
of his presidency. (10) The
Administration was party to one of the most serious foreign
policy failures in American history. Had they not put spin
before truth the events of 11 September may well not have
In August 1998, the Clinton Administration vividly illustrated
howunreliable its claims about Sudan were. Its cruise missile
attack on the al-Shifa medicine factory in Khartoum followed
the murderous bombings of
the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Clinton
Administration erroneously claimed that the factory was
owned by Osama bin-Laden and produced chemical weapons.
The Clinton Administration failed to produce any evidence
for these claims, and blocked any subsequent United Nations
inspection of the factory. Every one of the American claims
about the al-Shifa factory subsequently proved to be false.
carried out on the factory by a distinguished American chemist
showed no traces of anything associated with chemical weapons.
(11) Agence France Press reported that "Western diplomats
in Khartoum and other analysts
have rejected the US claims that the factory was used for
such a purpose". (12) It is now accepted that the attack
was a disastrous blunder by the American government. (13)
The degree of incompetence on the part of the American
intelligence community with regard to Sudan also subsequently
emerged. The 'New York Times' and the London 'Times' reported
that the Central Intelligence
Agency had secretly had to withdraw over one hundred of
its reports alleging Sudanese involvement in terrorism.
The CIA had realised that the reports in question had been
fabricated. (14) The 'New York Times' observed: "the
Central Intelligence Agency...recently concluded that reports
that had appeared to document a clear link between the Sudanese
Government and terrorist activities were fabricated and
unreliable...Washington has conspicuously failed to prove
its case." (15)
In continuing to actively project Clintonian disinformation
and lies about Sudan, especially about terrorism, the Bush
Administration only damages its reputation further within
the international community. It also undermines the ethos
of Washington's much-hyped "War on Terrorism".
This sort of double standard on the part of the United States
merely perpetuates the problem Washington faces, making
its European allies uneasy and fuelling Arab and Muslim
The transparently dishonest nature of the Executive Order's
citing of terrorism is but the tip of the iceberg. Executive
Order 13067 also cited political and religious restrictions.
In July 2002 a somewhat more objective and independent assessment
of the Sudanese political situation by Associated Press
stated that "Sudan has come a long way since its militant
heyday in the 1990s...the changes in this country...are
too sweeping and popular to be rolled back. Human Rights
and civil society groups operate openly. Press censorship
has been lifted and independent newspapers freely criticize
government policies." (16) With regard to religious
freedom, the 'New York Times' journalist has observed: "Khartoum's
churches on Sunday are filled to overflowing with Christians,
worshipping freely, and those congregations are growing.
One measure of the strength of Christianity here is that
in recent years Catholic priests have been performing more
than 7,000 baptisms of new-borns every Easter, church officials
said...In dozens of interviews, Christians acknowledged
they do not face overt oppression. By and large they are
free to go where they please and to worship at the existing
One would have hoped for considerably more leadership on
the part of President Bush. His renewal of comprehensive
economic sanctions based on claims that are deeply questionable
where not transparently false
devalues his reputation and that of the United States within
the international community at a particularly crucial moment
in time. It is time that his Administration cut away the
dead wood of anti-Sudanese propaganda that for so long obstructed
1 For a critique of the Clinton Administration's Sudan
policy, see David Hoile, 'Farce Majeure: The Clinton Administration's
Sudan Policy 1993-2000', The European-Sudanese Public Affairs
Council, London, 2000
(available at www.espac.org).
2 See 'The Clinton Administration and Sudan: A Systemic
Intelligence Failure', The European-Sudanese Public Affairs
Council, London, January 2001 at www.mediamonitors.net/espac1.html
3 'The Independent' (London), 17 September 1993.
4 Donald Petterson, 'Inside Sudan: Political Islam, Conflict
and Catastrophe', Westview Books, Boulder, 1999, p.75.
5 See comments by Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs,
House of Lords Official Report, 26 February 2001, column
6 David Rose, "The Osama Files", 'Vanity Fair',
December 2001, pp 50-55.
7 These offers had also been documented in "Resentful
West Spurned Sudan's Key Terror Files", 'The Observer'
(London), 30 September 2001, and "US Rejected Sudanese
Files on al-Qaeda", 'The Financial Times' (London),
30 November 2001.
8 See, for example, "US Intelligence Delegation Still
in Sudan: FM", News Article by Agence France Presse,
16 August 2001.
9 See, for example, "In '96, Sudan Offered to Arrest
bin Laden", 'International Herald Tribune', 4 October
10 "US Missed Three Chances to Seize Bin Laden",
'The Sunday Times', (London), 6 January 2002.
11 See, "U.S. Evidence of Terror Links to Blitzed
Medicine Factory Was 'Totally Wrong'", Andrew Marshall,
'The Independent' (London), 15 February 1999; "No Trace
of Nerve Gas Precursor Found at Bombed Sudan Plant",
'Chemical & Engineering News', 15 February 1999.
12 "Khartoum Doubtful Over Likelihood of US Strike
on Sudan", News Article by Agence France Press, 16
13 "Clinton Bombed Civilians on Purpose. American
Tests Showed No Trace of Nerve Gas at 'Deadly' Sudan Plant.
The President Ordered the Attack Anyway", 'The Observer'
(London), 23 August 1998.
14 'The Times', London, 22 September 1998; 'The New York
Times', 21 and 23 September, 1998.
15 "Dubious Decisions on the Sudan", Editorial,
'The New York Times', 23 September 1998.
16 "Seeking Friends in the West, Sudan Tempers its
Islamic Zeal", News Article by Associated Press, 13
17 "Christians Face Difficulties in Arab Khartoum",
'The New York Times', 5 April 1998.