July 2, 2002
In response to the obscenely disingenuous commentary from Jim Buckee,
CEO and President of Talisman Energy,
an Open Letter from Eric Reeves to:
The Honorable Henry J. Hyde
Chairman, Committee on International Relations
US House of Representatives
Dear Chairman Hyde,
I wish first to thank you for the generous opportunity you and your Committee afforded me to testify at the June 5, 2002 hearing on Sudan. I believe this critically important hearing was a success in many respects.
Precisely that success, however, has brought you a response from Jim Buckee, President and CEO of Talisman Energy (Calgary) concerning the specifics of my own testimony, which focused in part on the role of oil development in exacerbating conflict in southern Sudan. Mr. Buckee would have you believe that I was “factually inaccurate and misleading” in my characterization of their activities. But it is Mr. Buckee and Talisman that are deeply disingenuous in their response and reprehensibly distorting of the terrible human realities that they have helped create.
 Mr. Buckee notes that “there are no airstrips or roads in the country that are owned or controlled by either Talisman or GNPOC [the operating consortium that includes Talisman and its Chinese, Malaysian, and Sudanese partners].” Thus, Mr. Buckee would have you believe, there can be no culpability on Talisman’s part for the activities that originate from or utilize these airstrips and roads. But this statement could hardly be more disingenuous. Talisman, along with its partners, built, maintains, and uses these airstrips and roads. They are, in a profoundly important sense, Talisman’s roads and airstrips.
So why would Talisman wish to deny, in this purely technical sense, ownership of these airstrips and roads? Because they have been used for an exceedingly great number of offensive missions directed against the indigenous civilian populations of the oil regions in which Talisman operates. The evidence for this is indisputable. Indeed, the report of a major Canadian human rights assessment mission to southern Sudan (commissioned by then Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy) found that:
“Flights linked to the oil war have been a regular feature of life at the Heglig airstrip, which is adjacent to the oil workers’ compound and operated by the [GNPOC] consortium [Heglig is the nerve center of Talisman’s operations in southern Sudan]. Government of Sudan helicopter gunships and Antonov bombers have armed and re-fueled at Heglig and from there attacked civilians. This is totally incontrovertible.” (Harker Report, Ottawa, January 2000)
“This is totally incontrovertible,” the Harker Report authoritatively concludes about the offensive military use of the airstrip at Talisman’s Heglig headquarters for attacks on civilians. It’s not hard to see why Talisman and Mr. Buckee do not want to acknowledge their building, maintaining, and using these militarily important parts of their infrastructure.
Other, more recent human rights reports have confirmed the findings of the Harker Report. For example, a meticulously researched analysis (“Report of an Investigation into Oil Development, Conflict and Displacement in Western Upper Nile, Sudan,” October 2001, by Georgette Gagnon [Canada] and John Ryle [United Kingdom]) found that:
“there was an increase in the number of recorded helicopter gunship attacks on settlements in or near [the oil development] area. Some of these gunships have operated from facilities built, maintained and used by the oil consortium [Talisman Energy, China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petronas, and Sudan’s Sudapet]. The attacks are part of what appears to be a renewed Government of Sudan strategy to displace indigenous non-Arab inhabitants from specific rural areas of the oil region in order to clear and secure territory for oil development.”
The Gagnon/Ryle report also notes that:
“This investigation has determined that at least two of the government’s helicopter gunships have been based at oil facilities in Heglig. This is the center of Talisman’s operations and the site of a government military garrison. Soldiers who had defected from the Government of Sudan army base at Heglig on April 25, 2001, told the investigators that they were ordered to attack locations in the rural areas of Pariang by the
operational brigade commander at Heglig, a Lt. Colonel Haj, acting on a directive from Khartoum.”
Finally, the Gagnon/Ryle report finds that:
“The new [Government of Sudan military] strategy in Western Upper Nile is both more violent and more territorially focused, involving coordinated attacks on civilian settlements in which aerial bombardment and raids by helicopter gunships are followed by ground attacks from government-backed militias and government troops. These ground forces burn villages and crops, loot livestock and kill and abduct people—mainly women and children.”
The movement of these ground forces against the indigenous civilian populations has been greatly facilitated by the roads built, used, and maintained by Talisman Energy and its GNPOC partners.
 Talisman denies that the El Obeid refinery, which draws all its crude oil from the GNPOC pipeline that passes through the town, produces jet fuel: “The refinery does not produce jet fuel.”
This also is deeply disingenuous on the part of Mr. Buckee and Talisman. El Obeid—in addition to being on the route of the oil pipeline and the site of a very significant refinery—is also the location of Khartoum’s forwardmost military airbase. It is from El Obeid that Khartoum wages much of its aerial war on civilians and humanitarian relief in southern Sudan, and in the oil regions in particular. The weapons of choice are deadly Antonov bombers, as well as helicopter gunships that rotate into the oil regions regularly from El Obeid. The idea that fuel for these terrible weapons of war isn’t refined at El Obeid is simply not credible.
To be sure no one—including Talisman—has access to the highly restricted areas of El Obeid, including its refinery and the military part of its air base. Nothing can be established on the basis of first-hand knowledge because the Khartoum regime is extremely restrictive of access to this strategic complex. But the claim, implicit in Talisman’s denial, that the very substantial 10,000 barrel/day El Obeid refinery does not produce military fuel defies common sense as well as the facts as we can establish them.
Why would Khartoum not use a refinery immediately adjacent to its key forward military air base to refine the various forms of “av-gas” (aviation fuel) necessary for its turbo-prop Antonovs and HIND helicopter gunships? The alternative would require conveying this fuel long distances overland by truck. This makes absolutely no sense, and all evidence indicates that the El Obeid refinery does in fact make all fuel for the Antonovs and helicopter gunships, as well as diesel for the armor, tanks and other military vehicles used by Khartoum in the oil regions to the south. Essential lubricants for military aircraft and vehicles are almost certainly refined at El Obeid as well. Can Talisman offer a shred of evidence that the Khartoum military has committed itself to the immense, and gratuitous, logistical task of trucking aviation fuel and diesel fuel from Khartoum? Of course they cannot.
Moreover, as one military expert has asserted:
“In Africa there is a very close tie between the region’s meager infrastructure and military capability. Any airstrips, roads, communications facilities, storage depots, and other facilities to support the oil industry will also accrue to the military benefit of Khartoum.”
 Finally, Mr. Buckee takes issue with what has been universally accepted outside the myopic corporate boardroom of Talisman Energy, viz. that oil revenues, provided to Khartoum by Talisman and its partners, are being used for vastly increased military expenditures. Mr. Buckee says that “although it is true that oil revenues could be used for this purpose” he and Talisman have encouraged more productive uses for these revenues.
But this is truly spectacular disingenuousness. Mr. Buckee knows perfectly well what every organization studying the matter knows: military expenditures have more than doubled in the time that oil revenues began flowing in August of 1999. Indeed, just over a year after this inaugural date, the IMF in a very thorough analysis of Sudan’s economy (November 2000), notes a doubling of military expenditures. Many analysts have concluded that military spending—enabled by oil revenues—has now much more than doubled. They point, for example, to the April 2002 shopping spree in Russia by Khartoum’s defense minister, which resulted in the purchase of 12 highly advanced MiG-29 aircraft, as well as additional helicopter gunships, armored personnel carries and other weapons. Domestically, military production has skyrocketed in the last three years.
The distinguished International Crisis Group, which has studied the Sudan crisis extremely closely, highlights massive military expenditures by Khartoum in its most recent (July 2002) report on Sudan. Various other studies, with differing policy perspectives on the Sudan crisis, have universally highlighted Khartoum’s massive use of oil revenues for military expenditures. For example, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (February 2001) finds that: “oil is fundamentally changing Sudan’s war. It is shifting the balance of military power in favor of Khartoum. It has prompted Khartoum to focus its military efforts, including forced mass displacements of civilians, on oil fields and the pipeline.” CSIS concludes that the consequences of such military acquisitions create a disincentive for peace negotiations on the part of the Khartoum regime.
The Gagnon/Ryle report reaches a similar conclusion: “In the present circumstances, oil development and the associated presence of foreign oil companies in Sudan is damaging to the people of the oil areas. For their part, the companies effectively assist the Government of Sudan war effort, thus exacerbating the suffering of the inhabitants of the oil area and ***making the prospect of peace more unlikely*** [my emphasis].”
In short, Talisman has had absolutely no restraining effect on Khartoum’s military purchases, even as it has had no positive influence on human rights. As the UN Special Rapporteur for Sudan (Gerhart Baum) has unambiguously declared in his most recent report (January 2002): “oil has seriously exacerbated the conflict while deteriorating the overall situation of human rights.”
It is hardly surprising that Talisman Energy and Mr. Buckee are discomfited by these realities; but that does nothing to change the basis facts of their presence in Sudan. Talisman, as I declared in my testimony to your committee, “stands as the very embodiment of western corporate evil in Sudan.” The extraordinarily disingenuous response Talisman has made to that testimony serves only to indict them further for complicity in the genocidal destruction presently occurring in southern Sudan.
Northampton, MA 01063
cc. The Honorable Christopher Smith
The Honorable Tom Lantos
The Honorable Donald Payne
Jim Buckee, Talisman Energy