Until the world media discovered the Sudanese civil war in mid-1988 and apocalyptic scenes of violence and starvation began to force the State Department to acknowledge the human tragedy, Sudan's plight drew the attention of few Americans outside a small circle of professional relief experts. The State Department's Africa Bureau had a strategic regard for the Sudanese government that overrode consideration of its savage cruelty towards its rebellious non-Muslim citizens. Only in 1991, when the Islamic fundamentalist regime of Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir backed Iraq in the Persian Gulf War, did the State Department withdraw all aid to Khartoum. Burr and Collins, using an impressive collection of unpublished aid agency reports, paint a harrowing picture of the barbaric destruction of villages by northern ethnic militias, mothers "pawning" their children to slave traders in exchange for food, massive displacement of southerners through drought-induced migrations, and as many as a million and a half deaths. The humanitarian efforts of international relief bodies provide a brighter theme, with particular credit going to Operation Lifeline Sudan, launched by the United Nations in April 1989 and tolerated by the Sudanese government until late 1990.
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