[Documents menu] Documents menu

Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 00:18:14 -0400
Message-Id: <199908270418.AAA16707@lists.tao.ca>
From: Art McGee <amcgee@igc.org>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Year Later, US Attack on Factory Still Hurts Sudan
Sender: worker-brc-news@lists.tao.ca
Precedence: bulk
To: brc-news@lists.tao.ca


Year later, US attack on factory still hurts Sudan

By Jonathan Belke, The Boston Globe, 22 August 1999, F02

Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the US Tomahawk cruise missile attack on the $100 million El-Shifa Pharmaceuticals factory in North Khartoum, Sudan. While the attack killed or injured several people, the loss of the factory has had longer-term consequences for the people of Sudan. Without the lifesaving medicine it produced, Sudan’s death toll from the bombing has continued, quietly, to rise.

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright justified this attack on Aug. 20, 1998, by citing the need to combat terrorism as the war of the future, and claimed this factory was capable of producing nerve gas. Indeed, administration officials claimed that a soil sample from outside the plant contained traces of a substance used in nerve gas production. The bombing was ordered a week after terrorist bombs destroyed US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

But now, a year later, there is not a shred of evidence suggesting that the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan produced nerve gas.

After months of waiting, with little fanfare the US government indirectly vindicated Salah Idris, the owner of the factory, and the Republic of the Sudan. While the government didn’t admit its guilt or confess its blunder, last May 4 it did remove the freeze it had placed on Idris’s assets. (Had the United States not done so, it would have been forced to reply to the factory owner’s lawsuits to lift the freeze.)

While this retreat suggests the United States had no evidence to support its claim that the missile attack was to combat terrorism, it brought to light a whole new spectrum of meaning to the phrase crimes against humanity.

The El-Shifa facility had been called the Pride of Africa at its opening, which drew much fanfare, heads of state, foreign ministers, and ambassadors. The factory even became a supplier of medicine to Iraq as part of the United Nations Food for Oil program.

More importantly, this factory provided affordable medicine for humans and all the locally available veterinary medicine in Sudan. It produced 90 percent of Sudan’s major pharmaceutical products. Sanctions against Sudan make it impossible to import adequate amounts of medicines required to cover the serious gap left by the plant’s destruction.

Thus, tens of thousands of people—many of them children—have suffered and died from malaria, tuberculosis, and other treatable diseases.

Outside America, the US missile attack on El-Shifa still is seen by many as another case of Washington using double standards, which has become omnipresent in US foreign policymaking since 1945. Clearly, Washington would not have accepted a missile attack by foreign powers on, say, the Aldrich Chemical Co. factory in Milwaukee, because Empta—the key ingredient in producing nerve gas, according to US experts—was found in a suspect soil sample.

From the start, the evidence to support the attack was weak. Washington was forced to block any form of UN investigation, and a scant month after the attack, The New York Times reported on Sept. 21, 1998, that top US officials believed the decision to attack El-Shifa was based on unconvincing evidence.

The International Action Center sent a fact-finding group led by former US Attorney General Ramsy Clark to investigate. Clark returned to report that the US decision to bomb the plant was purely a political decision and that there had been no evidence of nerve gas production.

While the US government continues to backtrack from this attack, the action taken by Washington on Aug. 20, 1998, continues to deprive the people of Sudan of needed medicine. Millions must wonder how the International Court of Justice in The Hague will celebrate this anniversary.