The Fate of the Sudan Peace Act: In the Balance
Thousands of letters have already been sent to US senators, urging that the Sudan Peace Act as passed by the US House of Representatives be supported by the Senate. But a good deal more pressure yet will be needed if the Senate is to accept the House provision for denying American capital market access to oil companies operating in Sudan, i.e., de-listing them from our stock exchanges. The House version of the bill says, in effect, that American dollars will not support the foreign oil companies that are presently complicit in the genocidal destruction of southern Sudan. This bill passed by the overwhelming margin of 422 to 2 on June 13, 2001.
But the Senate must act as forcefully if the bill is to become law. All members of the Senate should be urged to act, but a handful of senators are particularly important. These include Senators Bill Frist (R-Tennesse and sponsor of the original Senate version of the Sudan Peace Act, which had language on capital market sanctions); Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin and Chairman of the Africa Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut), and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas)—all were cosponsors with Senator Frist of the original bill. Also critically important are Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senators Frist, Feingold, Biden, and Helms are almost certain to be named to any conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate versions of the Sudan Peace Act. Postal and mail addresses/access for them appear below:
Senator Bill Frist:
416 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4205
221 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0802
413 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3301
Senator Russell Feingold:
505 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4904
Particular efforts should also be made to contact Senate majority leader Tom Daschle. He will play a major role in the legislative fate and timing of the Sudan Peace Act. Senator Daschle’s postal and email addresses are:
509 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4103
Those who care about the fate of southern Sudan, those who believe that American capital should have no role in fueling ongoing human destruction and suffering, must convince the Senate to accept the House recommendation—either by taking up the House bill directly after the August recess, or by accepting the House provision for capital market sanctions in a conference committee. In addition to writing to your own senators (sample letter below), writing to these six key senators is the most effective way to see that this happens.
Paper mail, as opposed to e-mail, will register more fully with senators. A website for obtaining both postal and e-mail addresses for all senators can be found at:
Northampton, MA 01063
I wish to express my strong support for the House version of the Sudan Peace Act, which contains specific provision for US capital market sanctions against oil companies working in Sudan. I believe that our country must make clear that no American capital will be allowed to support the operations of oil companies that are deeply complicit in the destruction of southern Sudan.
Many human rights groups have authoritatively documented the massive scorched-earth warfare that serves as “security” for these oil companies. Further, it is all too clear that oil revenues now sustain the cruel and tyrannical Khartoum regime, which has used these new revenues to increase its military spending, and has intensified Sudan’s appallingly destructive civil war as a result.
I urge you to support the House version of the Sudan Peace Act in all possible ways, including taking up the bill directly when Congress reconvenes after the August recess. If the Senate does not take up the House bill, then I strongly urge that you support the appointment of senators to the congressional conference committee who will support capital market sanctions.
American dollars must not be allowed to support the ongoing oil-driven destruction of Sudan.
Why the House version of the Sudan Peace Act? An answer below—–
The Washington Post, August 20, 2001, Monday, Final Edition
SECTION: EDITORIAL; Pg. A15
HEADLINE: Capital Crime In Sudan
BYLINE: Eric Reeves
A long-overdue American legislative response to Sudan’s catastrophic civil war has become enmeshed in what may seem a peculiarly complex controversy. The Sudan Peace Act, as passed by the House in June, contains provisions for capital market sanctions against oil companies operating in Sudan.
The effect of the sanctions in the bill (which passed 422 to 2) would be to deny these companies access to the U.S. capital markets — that is, they would be de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. Predictably, an alliance from Wall Street and the business community reflexively opposes such sanctions, and it has swayed the Bush administration. The argument of these opponents is essentially that such sanctions would create a dangerous precedent and send us down some “slippery slope” toward capital market corruption.
All the companies that would be affected are foreign, because U.S. sanctions already prevent any U.S. commercial exchange with Sudan. All have been authoritatively linked to massive scorched-earth warfare in southern Sudan, where the oil fields are located. And all are content to supply significant oil revenues directly to the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum, the obdurate party in an 18-year war that has seen more than 2 million people perish and more than 4 million displaced.
The logic of the argument against the House sanctions would suggest that even genocidal destruction can’t be allowed to ruffle capital-market
feathers. If in 1944 it had been discovered that a NYSE-listed company in a neutral country (perhaps Switzerland) was shipping Zyklon-B to Nazi Germany, apparently exchange de-listing could not have been supported. American capital would have been allowed to sustain a firm manufacturing and delivering a key ingredient in the extermination of Jews in Eastern Europe.
This is an object lesson in how those with an exaggerated fear of “slippery slopes” find themselves locked into untenable moral and political postures. Yes, capital market sanctions against oil companies sustaining Sudan’s agony would create a precedent, but so, too, would a de-listing decision in 1944 have been a precedent.
In extreme cases, nearly everyone would agree that the humanitarian
stakes overwhelm the usual concerns about politicizing financial markets. The question is whether Sudan’s war is such a case.
This is the issue now before the Senate, which should feel obliged to take up the House version of the Sudan Peace Act. It has so far contented itself with subsequently (and quietly) passing a version of the bill without any provision for capital market sanctions. This inattention to the key feature of the House version is odd given the legislative history of the bill. The bill originally was introduced into the Senate in 1999 by Sen. Bill Frist, long one of Capitol Hill’s stalwarts on Sudan. He had as co-sponsors Sens. Sam Brownback, Joseph Lieberman and Russell Feingold. The bill had explicit language concerning capital market sanctions.
So where is Frist’s voice today? The senator has fallen strangely silent. And yet the case for capital market sanctions has grown stronger since he himself made it two years ago. Khartoum’s aerial bombardment of civilian and humanitarian targets has escalated, leading to the further disintegration of southern Sudanese civil society and the attenuation of relief efforts. Warfare in the oil regions has expanded, killing and displacing more than 200,000 people. And Khartoum’s notorious policy of “engineered famine” is today even more threatening. In the Nuba region alone, 85,000 people are at immediate risk of starvation because Khartoum has denied all humanitarian access.
Frist and his co-sponsors know that oil development in Sudan is an engine of human destruction that has been chronicled authoritatively by numerous human rights groups. They must face the same question before all those in the Senate: Is Sudan not the egregious case? Is the oil-driven destruction of the people of southern Sudan not sufficient cause to declare that American capital will not be allowed to support foreign companies that have turned a blind eye to such destruction?
This is not a question that can be finessed by politics or compromise.
American capital markets either will or will not host companies complicit in what is, finally, genocide. By all accounts, oil is now fueling Sudan’s civil war and has convinced the Khartoum regime that it can acquire the revenues to effect a military solution to its southern problem.
The House version of the Sudan Peace Act should be considered by the
Senate in its morally imperative terms.
[The writer is a professor of English language and literature who has taken a leave to write and do research on Sudan.]