One of the reasons for the questionable course of American
policy towards Sudan for much of the 1990s - especially
during the Clinton Administration - was the poor standard
of what passed for research and
analysis within the United States regarding Sudanese affairs.
This misrepresentation has been within both the private
and government sectors. While one would expect a wide range
of personal bias, prejudice and competence amongst individuals
and organisations with their own private agendas, it is
disappointing to note that a similar prejudice and unprofessionalism
has characterised American government institutions. At the
heart of this governmental ineptitude has been the Congressional
Research Service (CRS).
The service describes itself as "the public policy
research arm of the United States Congress" created
to provide Congress with "its own source of nonpartisan,
objective analysis and research on all legislative issues."(1)
CRS also specifically states that it seeks to "provide
products and services that can be relied upon to be free
of partisan or other bias" and that are "reliable,
current and comprehensive". It is clear that this has
not been the case with regard to its work on Sudan. Its
principal "expert" on Sudan has for some years
been Ted Dagne. He
has authored most of Congressional Research Service's documents
on Sudan. They have been noticeably partisan, stale and
Sudan has been wracked by civil war for decades. Since
1983 the war in the south has been fought against the Government
of Sudan by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Congressional
documents undoubtedly served to underpin the Clinton Administration's
skewed Sudan policy within Congress. (2) No less a commentator
than former President Jimmy Carter was very candid about
both the lack of objectivity in this policy: "If the
United States would be reasonably objective in Sudan, I
think that we at the Carter Center and the Africans who
live in the area could bring peace to Sudan. But the United
States government has a policy of trying to overthrow the
government in Sudan." (3) Carter bluntly described
Clinton's Sudan policy as the "biggest obstacle"
to peace in Sudan.
It is a conflict that has cost the country dearly in lost
lives and millions of displaced civilians. Dagne's bias
towards the SPLA position is clear. In November 1997, for
example, Dagne spoke in a seminar on Sudan at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace. Former Congressman Mervyn
Dymally, a past chairman of the House of Representatives
Africa Sub-Committee, said of Dagne's presentation that
instead of an "objective presentation, one would think
that Ted represents the SPLA here." It comes as little
surprise that former
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman
Cohen confirmed that Dagne was a "good friend"
of SPLA leader John Garang, and that Dagne would host meetings
for Garang in his Washington home. (4)
Quite what CRS's analyst is doing singing the praises of
the SPLA is unclear. It is an organisation described by
The New York Times as "brutal and predatory" which
has "behaved like an occupying army, killing, raping
and pillaging." (5) Human Rights Watch stated that:
"The SPLA has a history of gross abuses of human rights
and has not made any effort to establish accountability.
Its abuses today remain serious". (6) The New York
Times described John Garang as one of Sudan's "pre-eminent
war criminals". (7)
The Congressional Research Service's poor track record
on Sudan spans the 1990s, and has, apart from misanalysis,
included the repetition of undiluted disinformation. An
early example were claims that thousands of
Iranian revolutionary guards were present in Sudan. The
Congressional Research Service served as a conduit for this
sort of propaganda in the early 1990s. (8) By 1994, however,
'The Independent' newspaper in London was reporting that
"intelligence assessments...say that reports of Iranian
revolutionary guards [in Sudan]...are without foundation".
(9) This is supported by the memoirs of the former United
States ambassador to Sudan, Donald Petterson, in which he
commented on this particular instance of disinformation:
"Reports appeared in the media that hundreds, even
thousands of Iranians, many of them Revolutionary Guard
military and security police advisers, had come to Sudan.
Reports also persisted that the Iranians were training Palestinian,
Egyptian, Algerian, and other radical Islamist terrorists
at sites in Sudan, some of them quite large. The reports
were based in part on information provided by Egyptian intelligence
sources, which were conducting an assiduous disinformation
campaign against Sudan. The truth was something far less
alarming. There were Iranian advisers and technicians in
Sudan, and Shiite propagandists and clerics as well, yet
their numbers were relatively small, certainly nothing like
the numbers being reported by the Western press." (10)
The reality is that the number of Iranians of all sorts
in Sudan at the time could be numbered in tens rather than
hundreds or thousands. The "Iranian revolutionary guards"
affair was only one of many examples of questionable claims
made about Sudan by the Congressional Research Service.
Dagne's selectivity, and that of the CRS, regarding Sudan
is equally clear. While reviewing Sudan, "terrorism"
and the Clinton years, for example, Dagne cites Osama bin
Laden's stay within Sudan, but does not mention any of the
well-documented offers made by Khartoum to extradite him
to the United States, nor Khartoum's attempts to co-operate
in counter-terrorism, including repeated offers from 1996
onwards to share information on the bin Laden network. (11)
Indeed, he keeps to the revisionist line, denying that any
such offers were made. (12)
In this crass attempt to rewrite history (and to keep doggedly
to an anti-Sudanese line) Dagne ignores the fact that President
Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger not only
publicly admitted that such an offer was made but went so
far as to provide a lame excuse for not accepting bin Laden.
Berger was quoted in 'The Washington Post', for example,
as saying: "In the United States, we have this thing
called the Constitution, so to bring him here is to bring
him into the justice system. I don't think that was our
first choice." (13) Even former
President Clinton admitted there had been such an offer,
stating that his Administration's refusal to accept the
Sudanese offer was "the biggest mistake" of his
presidency. (14) It is also worth noting that in his 2002
book on CIA activities in the 1990s, senior CIA officer
Robert Baer also confirmed with regard to bin Laden that
Khartoum "offered him to us on a platter". (15)
Attempts to rewrite history are a constant theme in the
Congressional Research Service's misanalysis of Sudan. Dagne,
for example, claimed that Sudan was involved in the 1993
World Trade Center bombing (16) - despite this having been
denied by the American government. (17) Dagne also ignored
the clear statement made on 30 April 1996 by Ambassador
Philip C. Wilcox Jr, the Department of State's counter-terrorism
supremo it very clear that there was no involvement by Sudan
in the World Trade Center bombings: "We have looked
very, very carefully and pursued all possible clues that
there might be some state sponsorship behind the World Trade
Center bombing. We have found no such evidence, in spite
of an exhaustive search, that any state was responsible
for that crime. (18)
Dagne also conspicuously avoids any mention of the al-Shifa
fiasco. (19) In August 1998 the Clinton Administration vividly
illustrated the unreliability of its claims about Sudan.
Its cruise missile attack on the al-Shifa medicine factory
in Khartoum followed the murderous bombings of the American
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Clinton Administration
erroneously claimed that the factory was owned by Osama
bin-Laden and produced chemical weapons. The Clinton Administration
failed to produce any evidence for these claims, and blocked
any subsequent United Nations inspection of the factory.
Every one of the American claims about the al-Shifa factory
subsequently proved to be false. Independent tests carried
out on the factory by a distinguished
American chemist showed no traces of anything associated
with chemical weapons. (20) Agence France Press reported
that "Western diplomats in Khartoum and other analysts
have rejected the US claims that the factory
was used for such a purpose". (21) It is now accepted
that the attack was a disastrous blunder by the American
Far from seeking "reliable" sources, Dagne's
lack of professionalism is also manifested by his continuing
citing of the heavily discredited Christian Solidarity International
(CSI) organisation as a source of information on Sudan.
(23) The reliability of Christian Solidarity International
has long been questioned by independent observers. One of
these was the Canadian government's special envoy to Sudan,
John Harker, who noted that "[R]eports, especially
from CSI...were questioned, and frankly not accepted."
(24) The respected human rights expert, and Sudan specialist,
Alex de Waal, while co-director of the human rights group
African Rights, referred to CSI as being "overeager
and misinformed"." (25)
Dagne has even gone so far as to co-author critiques of
Sudan policy with anti-Sudan activists such as Eric Reeves.26
With people such as Dagne providing "research"
and "analysis" on Sudan to Congress it is
unsurprising that the legislation on Sudan passed by Congress
has been as skewed as it has been. What is surprising is
that there was no apparent oversight on his work. It is
equally disappointing that the Congressional Research Service
has clearly not been subject to any meaningful Congressional
The CRS and people such as Ted Dagne have played their
part in prolonging one of the world's longest-running conflicts.
In so doing they also bear a responsibility for the famine,
war and disease that has devastated Sudan. There is little
doubt that the Bush Administration has now decided on a
constructive engagement with Sudan and within the Sudanese
peace process. There is a need for clear, accurate and,
above all, reliable information and analysis on Sudan. The
Congressional Research Service must be held to account for
its shaky and partisan
record to date and urged to demonstrate far more professionalism
in this respect.
1. "About CRS", Congressional Research Service
website at http://www.loc.gov/crsinfo/whatscrs.html
2. For a critique of the Clinton Administration's Sudan
policy, see David Hoile, 'Farce Majeure: The Clinton Administration's
Sudan Policy 1993-2000', The European-Sudanese Public Affairs
Council, London, 2000
(available at www.espac.org).
3. "CARE Seeks Political Fix in Sudan", 'Atlanta
Journal-Constitution', 7 October 1999.
4. Herman J. Cohen, 'Intervening in Africa: Superpower
Peacemaking in a Troubled Continent', Macmillan, London,
5. "Misguided Relief to Sudan", 'The New York
Times', 6 December 1999.
6. "Rights Group Warns US Against Feeding Sudan Rebels",
News Article by Reuters, 14 December, 1999.
7. "Misguided Relief to Sudan", Editorial, 'New
York Times', 6 December, 1999.
8. "Sudan: Civil War, Famine, and Islamic Fundamentalism",
Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington-DC,
13 September 1993.
9. See, "'Innocent Sudan' Exploits Carlos Case",
'The Independent' (London), 23 August 1994.
10. Donald Petterson, 'Inside Sudan: Political Islam, Conflict,
and Catastrophe', Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1999,
11. "The Osama Files", 'Vanity Fair', December
2001, pp 50-55. These offers had also been documented in
"Resentful West Spurned Sudan's Key Terror Files",
'The Observer' (London), 30 September 2001, and "US
Rejected Sudanese Files on al-Qaeda", 'The Financial
Times' (London), 30 November 2001.
12. "Sudan and Terrorism", News Article by Voice
of America, 7 October 2002.
13. See, for example, Barton Gellman, "'96 Bin Laden
Offer Fell Through", 'The Washington Post', 3 October
2001 and "In '96 Sudan Offered to Arrest bin Laden",
'The International Herald Tribune', 4 October 2002.
14. "US Missed Three Chances to Seize Bin Laden",
'The Sunday Times' (London), 6 January 2002.
15. Robert Baer, 'See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground
Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism', Arrow Books, London,
16. Ted Dagne, 'Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks,
Terrorism,and U.S. Policy', Congressional Research Service,
Library of Congress, Washington-DC, 23 January 2003.
17. See, for example, 'The New York Times', 'The Washington
Post', 25 June 1993.
18. 'Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1996 Briefing', Press
briefing by Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox Jr, Washington-DC,
30 April 1996 on US Government Home Page, at http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/96040.html
19. Dagne's only mention of al-Shifa was in September 1998,
when he followed the Clinton Administration line to the
letter, citing the two or three news articles at the time
which repeated the Administration line, while studiously
ignoring the dozens of American and foreign articles which
comprehensively rebutted White House claims about the factory
(See, 'Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks, Terrorism,
and U.S. Policy', Congressional Research Service, Library
of Congress, Washington-DC, 4 September 1998).
20. See, "U.S. Evidence of Terror Links to Blitzed
Medicine Factory Was 'Totally Wrong'", Andrew Marshall,
'The Independent' (London), 15 February 1999; "No Trace
of Nerve Gas Precursor Found at Bombed Sudan Plant",
'Chemical & Engineering News', 15 February 1999.
21. "Khartoum Doubtful Over Likelihood of US Strike
on Sudan", News Article by Agence France Press, 16
22. "Clinton Bombed Civilians on Purpose. American
Tests Showed No Trace of Nerve Gas at 'Deadly' Sudan Plant.
The President Ordered the Attack Anyway", 'The Observer'
(London), 23 August 1998.
23. Ted Dagne, 'Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks,
Terrorism, and U.S. Policy', Congressional Research Service,
Library of Congress, Washington-DC, 23 January 2003, p.12.
24. John Harker, 'Human Security in Sudan: The Report of
a Canadian Assessment Mission', Prepared for the Minister
of Foreign Affairs, Ottawa, January 2000, available at http://www.dfait-maeci.gc-foreignp-
3110186-e.pdf, p. 1.
25. Alex de Waal, "Sudan: Social Engineering, Slavery
and War", 'Covert Action Quarterly' (Washington-DC),
26. See, Ted Dagne, Eric Reeves and Roger Winter, 'A Critique
of the CSIS Report on Sudan', 25 February 2001, available
at the Africa Action/Africa Policy Home Page http://www.africaaaaction.org/docs01/sud0102b.htm.
For a critique of the activities of Eric Reeves, see 'The
Return of the "Ugly American": Eric Reeves and
Sudan', The European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, London,
November 2000, available at www.espac.org