Quantifying Human Destruction and Suffering in Sudan: The Grim Calculus of International Policies an
Towards the end of her long chapter on the Rwanda genocide in “A Problem From Hell” (2002), Samantha Power renders a moment from this terrible international failure that has long haunted me. It is both unforgettable in its implications and points to far too much that is unforgivable. The moment occurred in late July 1994 as the U.S.
under then-President Bill Clinton finally managed to step away from its absurd sophistries and the moral cowardice that had defined American policy during the horrific months of carnage, which were at this point essentially over. Prior to the deployment of 200 U.S. troops to protect the Kigali airport, the UN force commander of UNAMIR, Lt.-General Rómeo Dallaire, received a phone call:
A U.S. officer was wondering about precisely how many Rwandans had died. Dallaire was puzzled and asked why he wanted to know. “We are doing our calculations back here,” the U.S. officer said, “and one American casualty is worth about 85,000 Rwandan dead.” (page 381, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide)
I see no reason to doubt Dallaire’s recollection, offered less than eight years after the events of spring 1994—and certainly not having met with Dallaire and encountered the searing authority and detail of his soul-destroying memoire, Shake Hands with the Devil: Humanity’s Failure in Rwanda. Moreover, what struck me as such an obscene calculus on the part of the U.S. military in 1994 no longer seems so strange. Indeed, in one form or another, it governs current actions by the U.S. military—in all its dimensions and guises—every day. The assessment of civilian casualty risks in U.S. drone strikes on suspected terrorist locations is only one example. No, what seems strange to me now is that any U.S. military officer would venture to be so specific about a calculus that included such a ratio: “one American casualty is worth about 85,000 Rwandan dead.”
UN force commander of UNAMIR, Lt.-General Rómeo Dallaire
Perhaps the savage cynicism in such a calculus was simply too conspicuously in evidence. Certainly Susan Rice, then young in her government career, came to regret an equally cynical comment—recorded by Power in the same chapter, about actually “doing something,” even daring to use the word “genocide” (this in late April of 1994):
…Susan Rice, a rising star on the NSC…stunned a few of the officials present when she asked, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] elections?” Lieutenant Colonel [Tony] Marley remembers the incredulity of his colleagues at the State Department. “We could believe that people would wonder that,” he says, “but not that they would actually voice it.” (page 359)
[Power’s paragraph concludes: “Rice does not recall the incident but concedes, ‘If I said it, it was completely inappropriate, as well as irrelevant.’” – Yes…yes indeed…]
What I attempt here is an overview analysis of the quantitative implications that follow from continuation of such a ghastly and cynical calculus in other forms, specifically the forms it takes in the Sudan policies of various international actors of consequence. For in fact, this cynicism lies behind the disingenuousness, mendacity, and deliberate ignorance of so much that defines the Sudan policies of Western nations, the UN, the African Union, the Arab League, and the Organization of Islamic Conference. It is finally the same cynicism as experienced by General Dallaire and given voice by Susan Rice.
The Savage Calculus at Work
The calculus I adumbrate is certainly not peculiarly American. European countries, particularly the UK and Germany, are desperate to stem the flow of African refugees to the European continent; and they have calculated that the benefits to stanching this flow justifies a policy of rapprochement with the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in Khartoum. To be sure, European policy is also animated by commercial and other economic interests. Europe has never seen an obligation to impose economic sanctions on the Khartoum regime, even when in 2004 the Parliament of the European Union, almost unanimously, declared that the actions of that regime in Darfur were “tantamount to genocide.” Economic and commercial interests have long prevailed, despite unctuous public pronouncements of concern by various European leaders.
So conspicuous has the hypocrisy of Europe been that French banking giant BNP Paribas was emboldened, in the interest of huge profits, to abandon all concern for any atrocities committed by the Khartoum regime. In doing so it deliberately chose to violate U.S. financial sanctions on a massive scale—from within the U.S. itself. This led to the 2015 criminal conviction of BNP Paribas by the U.S. Justice Department—for violations so flagrant that the Deputy Attorney General described BNP Paribas as Khartoum’s “central banker” abroad, thereby insulating the regime from the most serious consequences of the most significant element of U.S. sanctions. There was no moral calculus at all—no regard whatsoever for the destructive consequences of providing “financial save haven” to a regime has engaged in brutal, finally genocidal counter-insurgency wars on Sudan’s peripheries since 1989. The details for the years 1997 – 2007 are outlined in extraordinary detail in a class action civil suit filed on behalf of Sudanese victims (in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Case 1:16-cv-03228-AJN; full text of the Complaint is available upon request).
Senior official of BNP Paribas--before the guilty plea that would cost the bank some $9 billion in forfeitures and fines
The Sudanese Economy Without BNP Paribas as de facto Central Banker
The Sudan policies of most European governments are guided by the willfully ignorant and self-serving economic “calculation” that somehow the people of Sudan will be helped if a savagely repressive, self-enriching, and genocidal regime is preserved. The evidence to the contrary here is simply overwhelming and makes nonsense of any such calculation as it informs European policies, whatever fig-leaf of “country concern” is provided. The realities are that the regime continues to function conspicuously as an extremely powerful kleptocracy, with policies of self-enrichment that are now badly undermining the country’s economy
That economy is in an irreversible nose-dive, a collapse catalyzed by the desperately inadequate investment policies of the past decade and more, indeed since oil revenues began pouring into Khartoum in 1999. There has been no meaningful investment in agriculture; the sector that should be the backbone of the economy is collapsing, even the famous Gezira Scheme. At the same time, severe water shortages are constantly reported from around the country; these are but one reflection of the regime’s refusal to invest in infrastructure projects than benefit the general population of Sudan. The current, widespread outbreak of deadly cholera in Sudan can be traced directly to the failure to provide adequate supplies of clean water, especially in places like Port Sudan, where the minority Beja population is so numerous. Nor was any adequate refining capacity built during the years flush with petro-dollars; now Sudan is forced to import large quantities of refined petroleum products, including cooking fuel, prices for which have skyrocketed for a number of years.
In refusing to plan for the loss of oil revenues that came with the 2011 secession of South Sudan, Khartoum set in motion a series of cascading economic crises. Foremost among them was the sharp decline in the influx of hard currency. Without the foreign exchange currency (Forex) that had been generated by large oil exports, Khartoum has been unable to purchase sufficient quantities of critical items from abroad, including not only cooking fuel, but urgently needed medicines, and even wheat to make into flour for bread, the staple food for many. Bread prices have also seen an enormous spike, and there are severe shortages as well as long lines for purchase. Broader inflation is likely in the range of 50 percent, and perhaps higher.
There are no reliable inflation figures from either the regime or the IMF, the latter another corrupt actor in international policy views of Sudan. In an October 2013 “IMF News Release,” Edward Gemayel, the IMF's Mission Chief for Sudan, declared that: "Sudan has a long track record of implementing sustainable economic policies” (http://www.4-traders.com/news/IMF-International-Monetary-Fund-Press-Release-Sudan-Meeting-of-the-Technical-Working-Group-on-E--17345158/). Preposterous and demonstrably false declarations such as this have served the Khartoum regime well for the past two decades. But economic realities are not hard to discern, despite the mendacity of men like Gemayel.
How, we must wonder, would Gemayel characterize the current military and security budget for the Khartoum regime as demonstrating “a long track record of implementing sustainable economic policies,” particularly in light of the allocation percentages and the final remark by President al-Bashir? —
Sudan allocates $1.8 billion for defense in 2017 | Sudan Tribune, December 23, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan has appropriated more than 29 billion pounds (SDG) (about $1.8 billion) to defense and security which represents the largest single spending item in the 2017 budget. According to Sudan’s 2017 budgetary estimates seen by Sudan Tribune, 5 billion pounds have been allocated to the sovereign sector while 2.3 billion was appropriated for agriculture and forests spending. Other budget spending items includes 1.9 billion for the economic sector, 5.5 million for culture and information, 5.3 million for health, 828 million for education, 1.7 billion for minerals and 1.7 billion for transport, roads and bridges.
It is noteworthy that the combined education and health spending represents about 3% of spending on defence and security.
The Sudanese army has been fighting Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan since 2011 and a group of armed movements in Darfur since 2003. Sudan’s security apparatus has expanded vastly and military expenditure continued to rise as the government relies increasingly on militias such as the Popular Defense Forces (PDF) and the Rapid Support Forces (SRF) in military operations.
Last year, Sudan’s President Omer al-Bashir said,
“If 100% of the state’s budget was allocated to the army to secure the country, then that is still not enough.”
The Khartoum regime's leading "economist," indicted génocidaire and President Omar al-Bashir
Given such budgetary priorities, it is hardly surprising that the value of the Sudanese Pound—the best barometer of the general availability of hard currency (inside and outside the Central Bank of Sudan)—has been declining precipitously for several years, reaching record low after record low—all thoroug