Sudan was suddenly thrust under the spotlight of the media in August when the US government bombed what the CIA described as a "nerve gas factory" in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. This was US retaliation against the bombing of two American embassies in Africa - claimed by an unknown Islamic fundamentalist group. The "fight against terrorism" had become a pretext for Clinton to resort to great power terrorism.
Within days, however, the papers published the testimony of a British technician recently returned from Khartoum who confirmed that this alleged nerve gas factory had been producing half of Sudan's medicines - that is until it was reduced to dust by the imperialist world order. Even the CIA felt compelled to admit reluctantly to a possible mistake, before this embarrassing issue was swept under the carpet by the media's strident coverage of Clinton's "zippergate".
The destruction of this vital pharmaceutical plant by US missiles is all the more outrageous as Sudan is among the poorest countries in the world (with a GDP per head just above £180) and the most indebted (with total debt twice as large as its annual production). It probably means a drastic shortage of even the most basic medicines for the country's poor population for months and possibly years to come. In any case, this will hardly affect the Sudanese dictatorship which this air strike was meant to target. As to the terrorist groups operating from Sudan - assuming they exist outside the fertile imagination of the CIA - they are unlikely to be bothered by the resulting plight of the Sudanese sick.
But this is not, by far, the only way in which Clinton's world order has turned the screw on the country. Sudan has been the target of US economic sanctions for years. For having established closer relations with Iran after the 1989 military coup, which brought to power its present regime, and its subsequent refusal to join the imperialist line-up against Iraq during the Gulf war, Sudan was added to Washington's list of "terrorist" countries in 1993. US trade with Sudan became subject to severe restrictions; the sales of military equipment was banned as well as all new US investment (in theory at least, because, as usual, Washington proved willing to bend the rules in a few "exceptional" cases, like that of the oil multinational Continental which happens to be a large donator to Clinton's Democratic Party). Then, in 1997, the sanction noose was further tightened with the freeze of all Sudanese assets in the US as well as the total banning of any US trade with Sudan.
As Sudan's economic relations with the US had always been limited, the US economic sanctions worked mainly by proxy, thanks to the willingness of the US regional allies to follow the lead given by Washington. And they certainly contributed to making the economic survival of the country even more precarious. On the other hand the political aim of these sanctions - to increase the Sudanese regime's isolation - misfired. Instead of driving a wedge between the Khartoum dictators and the Iranian regime, the sanctions only resulted in making Sudan more dependent on Iran's support.
But US imperialism did not stop at that. It also played an important, if not decisive role in fanning the flames of the bloody civil war which has crippled the country for fifteen years. This was done by providing an extensive direct and indirect military support to the Southern Sudan guerillas of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA). But in taking sides in this civil war, US imperialism is not just pursuing the aim of imposing its world order on the Sudanese regime. It is also fighting a war by proxy, in alliance with British imperialism, against the influence of their main rival in Africa, French imperialism.
Born out of colonial rivalries
In fact, Sudan itself was originally shaped by the rivalries between great powers. The battle - or rather massacre - of Omdurman, near Khartoum, in which Kitchener's troops slaughtered 10,000 Sudanese soldiers, took place exactly a century ago, on September 3, 1898. This battle marked Sudan's integration into the British empire with the hypocritical status of "Anglo-Egyptian Condominium", meaning that the administration and police were to be staffed and paid by Egypt (then a British protectorate), while British officers, formally attached to the Egyptian army but really only accountable to London, would hold all key positions.
Above all, the British seizure of Sudan marked the last major stage of what is usually referred to as the "scramble for Africa", in which Europe's rival colonial powers fought a war of dirty tricks against one another in order to gain control of the largest possible share of Africa. In this war, Sudan became a major stake in the power game between the two main rivals - Britain and France. London had managed to squeeze France out of the Anglo-French protectorate over Egypt. For the British victory to be complete, it was vital that Sudan and the Red Sea coast should be kept away from French influence.
This was not because Sudan was particularly attractive in itself for the colonial powers. It had no obvious natural resources, no infrastructure, just a very poor, partly nomadic population and a backward rural economy. But who controlled Sudan controlled the upper waters of the Nile at the same time, and was therefore in a position to squeeze the Egyptian economy. Moreover, France's dominant position in western and central Africa meant that it could almost establish its own trade route across the entire African continent, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. To complete this route, France only had to impose its right of way across Sudan. On the other hand, there was an obvious advantage for Britain to seize control of Sudan, in order to link up its Egyptian stronghold to its east African colonies (today's Uganda and Kenya).
So, in most respects, Sudan came into existence as a sort of buffer zone between the French and British colonial empires. It was an entirely artificial construction as is shown by its north and north-west borders formed by over a thousand miles of straight lines obviously drawn with a ruler on a map without any concern for geographic or ethnic considerations. In fact, only the north- western part of Sudan had ever existed as a distinct political entity. The rest of northern and central Sudan included half-a- dozen ethnic groups, some of which were split right down the middle by the borders with today's Chad, Egypt, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Politically, this part of Sudan had always been divided into many, often rival, feudal fiefdoms. The only common point between the various sections of its population had been their long subjection to the ruthless looting of Arab traders and slave merchants from Egypt who, over the centuries, had imposed Islam on a majority and, to a lesser extent, the use of Arabic.
Southern Sudan, on the other hand, was even more heterogenous with a large number of distinct ethnic groups related to those of central Africa rather than to those of the Middle East as in the rest of Sudan. Traditional religions and christianity, rather than Islam, dominated the south, which had never had much contact with the north. On the other hand almost all the southern ethnic groups overlap the border with either today's Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Congo or Central African Republic. The incorporation of this mosaic of black African ethnic groups into Sudan made so little sense that even the British colonial administration worked out elaborate plans to incorporate southern Sudan into a greater Uganda. But partly because this failed to resolve the problem entirely, and partly due to rivalries between the Egyptian and east African sections of the colonial office, these plans were eventually shelved.
Subsequently, the British colonial authorities poured oil on these divisions by playing one ethnic group against another, and the north against the south. Thus, under the pretext of preserving the south from Arab pressures, but really to pre-empt a possible flow of population from the poorer south to the richer north, the south was kept more or less isolated, thereby making it impossible for ties to develop between the populations.
The result of Sudan's artificial construction and the subsequent policy of the British state was to prepare the ground for the present civil war in Sudan. This war really began in 1955, one year before Sudanese independence, when, in response to the policy of "Sudanisation" of the semi-autonomous government (i.e. systematic appointment of northern functionaries to the south), southern soldiers rebelled. Since then, civil war in Sudan has been a near constant feature, except for the 11-year suspension between 1972 and 1983.
The Cold War days
Only two years after independence, Sudan experienced the first of a long series of military coups, under General Abboud. All political parties and trade unions were banned, and a state of emergency was declared, which was to last until Abboud's overthrow in 1964.
The main reason for this coup was probably the growing unrest generated in the population by the deteriorating economic situation and the corruption of the religious parties' coalition government. But there was another reason which was directly linked to the policy of US imperialism. Sudan's strategic position and the boost given to Arab nationalism by Nasser's success in imposing the nationalisation of the Suez canal in 1956, prompted Washington to try to woo Sudan away from its pro-Nasser, non- aligned position, to the pro-imperialist camp. The then US vice- president Nixon visited Sudan to invite the government to sign-up to the "Eisenhower plan", a pure Cold War product which offered economic and military aid (including the setting up of US bases) as a counterweight to the USSR's influence in the Middle-East, exemplified by its military assistance to Nasser. This offer split the ruling coalition down the middle. The Umma Party, the main northern religious party, took a resolutely pro-US stand with the support of the top spheres of the army, and despite the opposition of its coalition partners, agreed to sign the American agreement. Faced with the threat of being thrown out of office by an anti-US coalition, the Umma Party leaders turned to Abboud. Sudan's new pro-US alignment was thus preserved.
There was, however, a current in the army which was opposed to the pro-US stance. Following the example set by Nasser in Egypt, a "Free Officers' Organisation" was set up by young officers in 1959, against Abboud's dictatorship and for a nationalist anti-US policy, state management of the economy and political democracy. Subsequently they participated in a series of attempts at overthrowing Abboud which, although they failed, contributed in weakening the dictatorship's position.
Meanwhile Abboud's brutal methods were mobilising workers and students against his regime. The clandestine Communist Party, the only active opposition to Abboud amongst the population, was successful in taking the lead of mass protests and large-scale strikes, which culminated in a general strike on October 26, 1964, called by the National Front, an unholy alliance between the religious parties, the Communist Party and the illegal trade unions. When the army was called in, the agitation of the "Free Officers' Organisation" in its ranks came to fruition: the army officers refused to order their troops to shoot on the huge numbers of demonstrators who had taken to the streets. Abboud had no other choice than to hand over power to the National Front.
The new government formed included one minister representing each religious party (including the Fundamentalist Muslim Brothers), one Communist Party minister, the general secretary of the Sudanese Federation of Trade Unions and the President of the Gezira Tenants Association, the largest and most militant organisation of tenant farmers, as well as two ministers representing southern political forces. As to the programme on which this government was formed, the National Charter, it advocated a clear break with imperialism, the restoration of all civil liberties and the release of political prisoners. But significantly, it contained no commitment whatsoever to social or economic change.
This programme summarised the entire policy of the Communist Party - in Sudan as in every other Third World country at the time. The relationship of forces in the streets had imposed its representatives and those of the working class organisations on the religious parties, who in reality owed their comeback to office to the mobilisation of the poor. But the Communist leaders were determined not to offer the religious parties the smallest pretext to break from the National Front, even if this meant sweeping their own programme and the aspirations of the poor under the carpet. But then, for all its revolutionary language, wasn't the CP's policy first of all dictated by the needs of the Soviet bureaucracy's foreign policy, which required that Sudan returned to its past non- alignment? The interests of the poor masses only came second to this.
This policy, which gave no perspective to the proletarian masses who had brought the dictatorship down, could only demobilise and disarm them. Soon, once order was restored in the streets, the traditional parties were able to use the old electoral system inherited from the British to shift the balance of power against the Communist Party and the radical nationalist elements. Within three years, the religious parties felt strong enough to risk expelling the 16 Communist Party MPs despite the opposition of the courts.
By and large, this was just a return to the old corrupted regime which had preceded Abboud's military coup. Except that it was no longer the pro-US wing of the religious parties which was in control. The successive government never implemented, except in words, the strong anti-imperialist stance of the National Charter, but they shifted back to a policy of non-alignment. This led to frantic intrigue on the part of western agents in Sudan. Even more so when, after the Six-Day War broke out in 1967, the Sudanese government chose to side with the Arab countries, declared war on Israel, broke diplomatic ties with the USA and sought military and economic aid from the USSR.
From fake radicalism to the Sharia
Once again, in the face of growing discontent over the failure of the traditional parties to address economic problems, the army was called in, from two quarters this time. On the one hand, the US and some elements in the Umma Party were trying to get the traditional military hierarchy to follow the example of General Abboud. On the other hand, the Communist Party together with radical nationalists were offering their support for the "Free Officers' Association" to take power. And in May 1969, colonel Gaafar al-Nimeiry led the Free Officers in a successful coup, with the additional support of the trade unions and farmers' organisations. Nimeiry's first statement was to pledge to "follow the path of socialism". Then he proceeded to rename the country as the Democratic Republic of Sudan, ban all political parties and put in jail the politicians and ministers of the previous regime in large numbers. If this was "the path of socialism" it was a version borrowed from Stalin and adapted to the particular needs of the Sudanese military!
Yet the Sudanese CP leadership should have known better than to fuel illusions in the army by supporting Nimeiry, if only because of the bitter experience of the Egyptian Communist Party, whose leaders ended up singing Nasser's praises from the death row. It did not take long for Nimeiry to follow Nasser's example. In July 1971, an alleged "communist plot" to murder Nimeiry was conveniently discovered. Hundreds of CP activists were arrested and several of its main leaders, including its general secretary, were executed after hastily arranged show trials. At the same time, Nimeiry broke trade relations with the USSR. Within a few months, the US resumed diplomatic and military relations with Sudan, before resuming full economic aid in 1976.
From then onwards, Sudan's one-party state under Nimeiry's Sudan Socialist Union went down not "the path of socialism" but the path of reaction. Following a failed coup organised by supporters of the traditional parties and Muslim Brotherhood in the army, in 1976, Nimeiry embarked on a "national reconciliation" with these parties the following year, introducing Islam in the official phraseology of the regime. The more unpopular the dictatorship became, partly due to its repressive policy and partly to the rapidly deteriorating economic conditions, the more Nimeiry gave ground to the religious parties. Until September 1983, when he eventually capitulated totally to the demands of the Muslim Brotherhood, by introducing the Islamic Sharia as the regime's law.
It must be said in passing, though, that, despite the USA's vocal condemnation of the Sharia, on human rights and moral grounds, in Sudan today, the US leaders said nothing about the introduction of the Sharia by Nimeiry. On the contrary, his dictatorship remained a cherished friend of the USA, for which military aid in particular was always forthcoming! Maybe this had something to do with the support given by the USSR to Mengistu, the dictator of neighbouring Ethiopia at the time? But this certainly exposes the fact that nothing, not even the most reactionary dictatorship, can ever repulse the imperialist leaders when it suits their interests.
In April 1985, however, following three weeks of demonstrations and strikes against the removal of state subsidies on basic food, Nimeiry's chief of staff, general al-Dahab stepped in to remove his former master. Once again, the pendulum swung slightly towards liberalisation and away from utter subservience to imperialism, although much less than after Nimeiry's own coup in 1969. Non- alignment again became the official policy and a parliamentary regime was established the following year, this time under a coalition which includes the National Islamic Front (NIF), the successor of the Muslim Brotherhood. But Nimeiry's Sharia was not even weakened.
The new parliamentary regime had an even shorter life span than the preceding ones. Within three years, in 1989, after a walk-out from government by the NIF, Lieutenant-General Hassan al-Bashir staged another coup, with the behind-the-scenes co-operation of the NIF. Again all political parties were banned, but in addition the republic became officially an Islamic state. Frequent refinements of the Sharia were subsequently introduced, reinforcing in particular the legal discrimination against non-Muslims. And the country fell into a repressive nightmare. It was probably not as overwhelming as the early years of the Iranian regime or of the Taliban's takeover in Afghanistan, as the social basis of the Fundamentalists in Sudan was much narrower, mainly confined to an educated minority. Thus the regime, for all its repression, never managed to prevent entirely the recurrence of hostile demonstrations and strikes. Nevertheless this regime did turn the clock back many decades for a whole section of the poor population, particularly in the urban areas.
The civil war's black hole
One of the conducting threads which runs throughout these events has been left out so far - the civil war in the south. Yet, time and again, this war was a factor, and sometimes a decisive one, in the abrupt political changes which marked the history of Sudan.
Until 1963, the civil war was limited to frequent incidents between armed bands of local leaders and the police. The south was an unsafe place for northern functionaries and police. The army maintained a strong presence in the towns, but rarely ventured outside so that the impact of the civil war was kept to a minimum. In 1963, however, the first southern guerilla movement was formed by some of the insurgents of the 1955 mutiny who had been released from jail. And it immediately won the support of some of the numerous southern political groups which had emerged since independence.
During that period, that of Abboud's dictatorship, repression against southern activists was stepped up. The old British method of creating "safe villages" - really prison camps for targeted populations - was introduced to terrorise the most rebellious ethnic groups. And tens of thousands of southerners were thus forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries. This policy was to backfire drastically on the Khartoum leaders by providing a captive audience to southern nationalists in the refugee camps, thereby allowing the political and military training of the future cadres of the southern guerillas.
The National Front's arrival in power in 1964 did offer an opening, however, by making a public commitment to seek a political settlement. A negotiation process was started in order to find some form of federal arrangement which would be satisfactory to both sides. However when the traditional parties established their control over the regime, the negotiation process came to a virtual halt. But it was resumed by Nimeiry in the early years of his regime and in March 1972, a US-brokered peace agreement was signed with the southern leaders. It provided for regional autonomy for the south and a legal ban on discrimination on the basis of religion. It also gave the US the responsibility to monitor the implementation of the plan and to oversee the resettlement of war refugees. In this the US leaders were not just playing the role of benevolent peace-brokers. They also gained privileged and permanent access to the southern leaders, which allowed them to select, recruit and train a layer of trustworthy cadres in case their existence might come in handy at some later stage. And actually it did.
Indeed, in 1979, the fall of Idi Amin in Uganda resulted in the return to southern Sudan of many refugees who belonged to Idi Amin's ethnic group. What these mostly educated men discovered was that since Nimeiry had by then embarked in his policy of reconciliation with the religious party, there was no longer any space for them in their own country. So they turned to overt political opposition, thereby threatening a prompt return to open civil war. This happened in May 1983, with the mutiny of two battalions of the Sudanese army. The mutinied troops then joined with southern activists to form a new guerilla movement, the SPLA, whose primary stated aim was, for the first time, to unite all southern nationalists within one single movement, to fight for a federal republic for Sudan and a return to secular democracy, free from any trace of Sharia.
Subsequently, after Nimeiry's overthrow, the SPLA was involved in several attempted peace settlements, on the strength of significant gains made by the guerillas against government troops. It was one of these attempts, in 1989, which finally triggered the Fundamentalists to resort to a military coup, because they feared that this attempt might eventually spell the end of their Islamic state and role in government.
Since 1989, the war has never ceased to escalate - regardless of the many negotiating rounds and attempted settlements which were taking place in neighbouring countries. It is impossible to measure the toll taken by this war on the population of southern Sudan, nor on that of the northern population, where the regime has been drafting youth forcibly for a number of years to fight in the south in government-controlled "militias" - the death rate among these youth who are made to fight a war which is not theirs, is said to be enormous. There are no reliable means to measure casualties on such a scale, nor the real numbers of refugees and displaced people. What is certain is that the entire economic and social fabric of the south has been entirely destroyed by the war. What remains is only the handful of towns in which the government army has heavily fortified themselves. But the rest of the area is largely scorched earth.
The escalation of the war has resulted in similar terrorist methods being used on both sides against the population. The use of "safe villages" and forced displacement of entire populations is now used by the SPLA as well, although of course on a smaller scale than the government. With time, the SPLA has increasingly turned into a coalition of warlords rather than the armed wing of a nationalist movement. Many of the SPLA's heavyweights have their own armies and regional power bases, which they seldom leave. When one of these heavyweights falls out with the SPLA, which has happened many times, a bloody war within a war follows, in which the population of the renegade's power basis is often made to pay the price for his dissidence.
The government in Khartoum has even developed a detailed policy aimed at taking advantage of these regular splits between leading warlords in the SPLA - a policy of "peace from within" as they say. This involves offering the dissidents the chance to come over to the side of the government with their entire power base, and to become the head of the government forces in their own strongholds. This has worked so far only with three minor SPLA warlords, and only within certain limits, for once they have crossed to the other side, the dissidents prove unwilling to do more than hold their territory against outside attacks.
Imperialism's bloody hands
The leading figure of the SPLA is a former colonel of the Sudanese Army by the name of John Garang. Garang was one of the refugees whose settlement had been overseen by the US. Shortly after the 1972 peace agreement, he had been sent by his mentors to get military training at Fort Benning in the USA. Then, he had spent another four years, until 1981, in a military academy, in Iowa. Moreover, he was a close associate of the USA's favourite contender for power in Uganda, Yoweri Museveni (who was to become Uganda's strong man in 1986). Clearly Garang was one of the USA's "trustworthy" recruits. But he had other "friends", in fact. Another character who was close to Garang as well as to British intelligence, was the British millionaire "Tiny" Rowlands, still at the helm of the mining and financial multinational Lonrho. Garang was to use Rowlands' private plane many times in the years to come, and Rowlands was even to become an honorary member of the SPLA - presumably on the strength of some generous donations.
However, as is often the case in the policy of imperialist powers, the USA seems to have kept their options open for a long time, at first encouraging the SPLA discreetly, while still supporting the government's side. From 1986, with the arrival of Museveni in power in Uganda, US help became much more comprehensive thanks to Uganda now providing rear bases for the SPLA and becoming its main supplier of weapons (American and probably British as well). But by and large it is only in the early 1990s, at the time of their first sanctions against Khartoum, that the Anglo- American bloc seems to have definitely opted for supporting Garang wholeheartedly. Since then, the SPLA has benefited from other US-related sources of support, like for instance from the new pro-US regime in Eritrea, which has admitted that it had troops fighting alongside SPLA units in southern Sudan.
On the other hand, the Khartoum regime has also enjoyed some political and military help, and not just from Iran, China or the odd Gulf emirate, but from French imperialism itself.
Thus, back in 1994, it was revealed that France had granted a right of passage for Khartoum's troops through the Central African Republic (which is part of the French sphere of influence) to help them attack the SPLA from behind. At the same time, Paris provided the Sudanese army with satellite pictures showing the positions of the SPLA's forces and bases in southern Sudan. It was no doubt due to France's helping hand that in August 1994, the French right-wing president Jacques Chirac was able to pull a stunt by producing in Paris the famous terrorist Carlos after his capture in Khartoum by the Sudanese police on behalf of the French authorities. France's help to Khartoum has not stopped at that. More recently, in 1996, the journal New African revealed that air strips were being used in upper Zaïre by the Sudanese air force to supply troops stationed on the other side of the Sudanese border - meaning that another Paris faithful, the then Zaïrean dictator Mobutu, was helping out Khartoum.
What is at stake here, in the US and British policy, is not just the issue of Khartoum's links with Iran, let alone the terrorist groups that it may harbour. Nor has French imperialism become particularly keen on Islamic Fundamentalist regimes as such. There are much more down-to-earth reasons for their policies, which have to do with their 100-year old imperialist rivalries.
Just as a century ago, Sudan is still today a buffer zone between the anglo-american and French spheres of influence. The issue is no longer that of trade routes or colonial control over territories, but, for instance, which company controls Sudan's natural resources, which gets its state procurement, which sells weapons to it. The US-British imperialist alliance and French imperialism are in direct competition over such issues. They have gambled on the opposite sides of the Sudanese civil war and they intend to make the most of their bets.
In particular, Sudan's natural resources, which have not so far been very much tapped, are targeted by the imperialist rivals. In the 1970s, large deposits of oil were discovered in southern Sudan and also off the Red Sea coast, by the oil giant Chevron. Then, in 1984, Islamic Fundamentalists put pressure on Nimeiry to be less lenient to US multinationals and Nimeiry cancelled Chevron's licenses. Subsequently, in 1992, Chevron sold back its concessions to the Sudanese government. The question was then: who else was going to win the concessions? In the end, several consortiums were formed. The two largest, which took over Chevron's old concessions, are led by two Canadian-based companies - Talisman Energy and International Petrol Corporation (both of which are probably partly US-owned, but not by the US oil majors, although a US major, Occidental, has managed to be allowed to join the Talisman venture).
But there are still plenty of unexploited fields. Besides, several long pipelines, storage and pumping facilities and at least one refinery, will have to be built to take advantage of the oil which is expected to be pumped. Some of these contracts have already been awarded, but there are many more left. Who will get them? There are many candidates, and among them Elf, the French oil company which got Chad's president Idris Deby, to decide that Exxon and Shell would have to give it a 20% share in the venture they had already put together to exploit the largest oil find in central Africa so far - but then Deby was a "very close friend" of France. In any case, north-American companies have every reason to worry about Elf's ambitions in Sudan. Meanwhile, gold has been discovered this year in northern Sudan. The company which won the concession is not one of the US, British or South African gold giants, but a French company called Ariab, no doubt again, due to Paris' friendly gestures toward Khartoum.
This great power game which is being played out by proxy in southern Sudan is only one of several such games in central Africa over the past few years. The Rwandan crisis was another example in which French imperialism clung desperately to a bloody, but loyal dictatorship, while the anglo-american alliance propelled the forces which were to destroy this dictatorship from neighbouring Uganda, thereby taking the Lake Region out of France's sphere of influence, for the time being at least. A similar operation in the former Zaïre was successful in dislodging the French puppet Mobutu, but Kabila, the anglo-american candidate for Mobutu's succession has proved a bit of a wild card. Now the imperialists, have turned to the Rwandan regime, which had helped Kabila into power, to make yet another intervention, this time to dislodge him!
The population of Sudan, Rwanda and Zaïre, have paid an enormous price for the bloody consequences of these inte-imperialist rivalries. What is more, each one of these conflicts, feeds in turn others in neighbouring countries: for instance, while the SPLA is being helped by Uganda, Ugandan guerillas opposed to Museveni's regime are being helped by Khartoum; likewise for Eritrea and probably Kenya as well. So that the inter-imperialist rivalry over Sudan's natural resources could well result in the long term in setting alight part of the African Horn, in addition to Sudan and a few central African countries - at a total cost which runs into millions killed or maimed, more millions forced into a wandering life always running away from one war or another, and the destruction of entire countries.
But what does it matter to the few hundreds of big shareholders in London, so long as they make a bit more than their opposite numbers in Paris or New York, and vice-versa? And if anyone mentions the catastrophes they are generating in Africa, be sure that they will blame them on "incurable ethnic tensions"!