Connecting the Dots Part 1

In 1998 I remember watching a news report with my mother about the bombing of a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in the Sudan. It had been an accidental bombing by the U.S. ordered by President Bill Clinton; apparently he and his advisors had mistaken the site for a weapons manufacturing facility. I remember clearly the footage of a uniformed Sudanese man walking about with a look on his face that expressed utter dismay. There was an air from Washington of them shrugging their shoulders and saying, "our bad." My mother and I actually found it funny.
At the time I was about 13 or 14, so I was just beginning to become aware of politics and the American role in global movements. I was strongly influenced by my mother, who was and still is, very well read and very current on what the hell is going on and who is doing it. So I felt that this was not a proud moment for America. It wasn't the worst; it was more like a bumbling error.
Fast forward to 2001 and that infamous date when several airplanes collided with the World Trade Centre, a field in Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. I was... a sophomore in high school, I think? and I remember feeling sort of dubious about it all. It was flashing on tv screens over and over again, and I knew people who lost family and friends in that attack; I received an e-mail through several layers of family from a cousin about his experience escaping the war zone that had become the Pentagon. And yet, the day of, I was talking to a friend on the phone who was annoyed that the show she normally watched on The Food Network wouldn't be on as regularly scheduled. I can only say that it was... a mild, adrenaline filled reaction. Sort of the same way people who are seriously injured, shot, or stabbed, will still find it in them to run at great speed or for an impressive distance to safety. Later we were all wandering around asking, "why us? what did we do to deserve this?" I remember thinking that a punitive invasion of Afghanistan was the only path available to us. It wasn't a nice path, but it was unavoidable.
My mother was in no way as naive. She had a good idea the reasons behind 9/11 and she did not agree that there was no alternative to an explosive regime change. I now believe her to be spot on (as most mothers are).
Fast forward once again to 2003. I was a freshman in college and by now very, very aware of politics, social movements, and how badly America had screwed up its position in the global field. There were moments when anger would overwhelm me because who was going to have to deal with President George W. Bush's humiliating policies? Me, or other travellers like me. Bush would be safely ensconced in his secured motorcade, meeting with other world leaders, none of whom have the balls to say, "you're a moron and actively bringing what was a beacon of freedom and a paragon of democracy to absolute anhilation."
No. People in other countries would walk right up to us and say, "you're country is a terrorist state." (true story) And we knew this to be fundamentally wrong. That's not what we signed up for as Americans.
Fast forward a year later. There were these signs everywhere; on lawns, in windows, on cars, on my friends websites. They all said, "not on our watch," and they were referring to Darfur and the unbelievable atrocities committed there.

The problem was that Sudan is an extremely oil rich country with the funds and means available to reduce the outward flow of information of what exactly was going on in there and even if they weren't heavily leaning on the press, it's so convoluted, to me at least, as to who was on which side and what they were fighting for. I understood that the ruling government was employing means and methods of maintaining power that put a whole new definition of brutality and cruality into my consciousness. I knew there was an element called the Janjaweed that, as far as I knew, were the riders of the Apocalypse. But the Sudanese government denied any support for them, all evidence to the contrary.
Then there were the people of Darfur and Sudan who just wanted to get on with their lives, who wanted a government like everyone else seemingly had; one that would listen to them and operate with the people's best interests at heart instead of their own pockets.
We heard from George Clooney, Don Cheadle and Salma Hayek about just how bad things were. But we had a war of our own to protest. Two of them in fact, and if we didn't keep up the constant scrutiny of our own government it seemed we ourselves were in danger of losing Constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Alright, now flashback to the pharmaceutical bombing in... where? That's right, Sudan.
This was a manufacturing plant that produced medication for, among other diseases, malaria, TB and other treatable diseases. It was the only plant in the country that produced veterinary medication; and I'm not referring to heartworm tablets for pet dogs.
"The only one producing TB drugs- for more than 100,000 patients, at about 1 British pound a month. Costlier imported versions are not an option for most of them- or for their husbands and wives and children who have been infected since..." (James Astill, Guardian, October 2, 2001)
Astill brings up a good point; TB is a contagious, infectious disease. One that is easily preventable and treatable, provided you have the necessary medicine. But fathers and mothers, or husbands and wives can easily transmit it to each other and to their children.
The bombing of the plant also left the country bereft of chloroquine, used to treat malaria, and no nation would send supplies of it to Sudan because they were sanctioned. The lack of veterinary supplies meant they were screwed if any of their livestock became ill. And, again, no one was willing to give them the necessary supplies, which is an act of neglect and cruelty that I can only deem criminal. No doubt the thought process was, "if they get desperate enough they will force their leaders to abdicate or capitulate and then do what we want."
Leaders of the world, WHEN HAS THAT EVER WORKED? Did you see Saddam become gaunt and thin, starving along with his people? Does Omar Barishi look like he's suffering? Sure, at some point their tyrannical regime will end. But before then we have just knowingly, willingly and sometimes gleefully starved a whole people to desperation, forced them into illness, neglected entire generations to death. When will your policies change? When will you stop punishing people for their leader's arrogance and hubris? Because they will not look back on that period and say, "God bless the United States of America for bringing us to the point of despair and making us realize, through starvation and medieval-like pestilence anhilating our populaton, that we need a change of government."
It's not much of a leap of logic to assume that lines were drawn after this "incident." There were surely people in the Sudan who had the means to purchase "costlier imported versions" of medication and who had little sympathy for those who did not have the means. It may also have become apparent to the Sudanese who no longer had any medication that they were systematically being denied other basic needs. It's sometimes difficult to identify the moment when people have had enough, and when they decide to unite and demand change. But I would be highly surprised if this wasn't a factor
Noam Chomsky points out that when fundamental fanatics outside the United States evoke the memory of Al-Shifa pharmaceuticals, people remember, and they nod, and they become grim, and though they won't necessarily agree with the proposed retribution, they do not have much sympathy for us. They knew 9/11 was inevitable.
We should have known, too. The information was always there, it was never hiding. No one ever told us, but that shouldn't have stopped us from connecting the dots ourselves.


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