JOHN MANLEY’S MORAL FAILURE
Though acknowledging yesterday that Talisman Energy-generated revenues are fueling Sudan’s catastrophically destructive civil war, John Manley refuses to take action to restrain Talisman in any way. Indeed, he refuses even to discuss the massive and growing body of evidence that Talisman’s airstrips continue to be used for offensive military actions against civilians. Instead, Mr. Manley declares that he has “good evidence that if it were not for the engagement of Talisman, it would be a much worse situation.” This judgment is demonstrably wrong, politically expedient, and morally corrupt.
Eric Reeves [May 4, 2001]
Northampton, MA 01063
Talisman invested an exceedingly modest amount of money in social services in the immediate areas of their oil concessions last year, and Mr. Manley refers to this relative pittance in making his assessment. What he does not talk about are the thousands of men, women, and children that we can be sure have been destroyed or displaced because of offensive military missions conducted by the Government of Sudan from Talisman’s concession airstrips. Deadly Hind helicopter gunships, using Talisman’s Heglig and Unity airstrips, have strafed villages and fleeing villagers in the region; and they have transported troops to areas near the oil concessions to conduct the most brutally cruel and destructive attacks on civilians.
How does Mr. Manley put these two facts in any intelligible moral calculus and arrive at his corrupt conclusion about Talisman’s being a force for good in southern Sudan? How can he possibly declare that without Talisman “it would be a much worse situation”? On the one hand, thousands of people murdered or displaced because of the ongoing use of Talisman facilities for offensive military missions; on the other, very local and very modest social services provided.
And this of course doesn’t begin to address the larger realities of Talisman’s presence in Sudan, in particular their complicity in the massive scorched-earth warfare extending far beyond their concession areas. Report after report has documented the fact that the Government of Sudan—Talisman’s business partner and recipient of all Sudanese oil revenues—has provided “security” to Talisman by creating a huge “swath of scorched earth/cleared territory around the oilfields” (conclusion of the Harker Report commissioned by Lloyd Axworthy, page 11; the report is citing at this point the identical conclusion by UN Special Rapporteur Leonardo Franco).
Nor does Mr. Manley draw the larger conclusion that is seen clearly by all who follow the fate of Sudan’s tortured peace process: oil revenues flowing unencumbered to the Khartoum regime provide the greatest disincentive for the regime to negotiate a just peace. This, Mr. Manley, is how Talisman’s revenue-generating presence can create a “worse situation”: a war that is 18 years old, has seen over 2 million beings perish, has produced over four million refugees and internally displaced persons, continues because the regime to which Talisman sends all revenues believes that these revenues will allow it to prevail militarily.
And Mr. Manley, like all apologists for Talisman, refuses to see how relentlessly the Khartoum regime uses Canadian presence as moral cover for genocidal oil development, and as a means of enticing other oil companies to enter. For example, a Reuters report from last year has Abdelbagi Kabir, deputy director of Sudan’s peace and
humanitarian affairs department, saying that “investment by Talisman and others showed there was no truth to the idea that Sudan was a deeply divided state with fundamental internal problems. We (think this) foreign investment could only be evidence of tranquillity and a prosperous atmosphere” [Reuters, Jan 13, 2000].
Mr. Manley owes the people of Canada an explanation of his reasons for not speaking to these realities, and in particular to the reality of Talisman’s airstrips being used for offensive military actions directed against civilians. Here the evidence is quite simply unambiguous, and comes not only from his political officer in Khartoum, but again from the Harker Report, as well as a very recent human rights report by a member of the Harker assessment team, Georgette Gagnon:
“[H]elicopter gunships and Antonov bombers of the Government of Sudan […] have armed and re-fueled at Heglig and from there attacked civilians. This is totally incontrovertible” [page 65 of the Harker Report, January 2000].
“‘Defecting soldiers from the government of Sudan army base in Heglig and victims of gunship attacks testified to us that gunships fly regular sorties from Heglig (the oil project’s base) to attack civilian settlements in a continuing campaign to clear and secure territory for oil development,’ [Ms. Gagnon] said.” [Reuters, May 1, 2001]
Why does Mr. Manley speak so selectively about the realities of Talisman’s presence in Sudan? Why does he avoid addressing the realities that make clear Canada is complicit in the death and displacement of tens of thousands of innocent human beings? Why does he not speak to the larger consequences of Canadian participation in the midst of Africa’s longest and most destructive civil war? This is the moment of moral truth for John Manley, and he is failing.
[Mr. Manley’s email address is: John.Manley@dfait-maeci.gc.ca]