by John Hawkins | August 28, 2002 7:20 pm
How Is Your Reagan Doing?: Winds Of Change has retired Naval Intelligence officer Lawrence T. Peter doing guest posts about his recent experiences in Sudan and I found a particular part of the story he was telling quite gratifying. No matter what the anti-Americans out there tell you, we do more than people know around the world and there are at least some people who actually appreciate it. Fans of the Gipper will like this post as well for reasons that will soon become apparent…
“Although one hears a lot about how the Sudanese government is difficult, manipulative and hostile toward virtually anything and everything that it perceives may threaten its power, the Sudanese people, by and large, are much different than their government. They love America. This is the story one doesn’t hear. In El Obied, I am one of about three white people in a town of 300,000 or so. Yet, I sense no hostility, no anger, no resentment, only appreciation and a strong welcome for me in my capacity as the representative of the JMC (which for the Sudanese is synonymous with peace) and as an American, which for every Sudanese I have met so far, is about the best thing that they can imagine (that is, an American in their midst). There are not many Washington pinstripers, although from time to time a US diplomat does pass through. On a day-to-day basis I am America, I perform ‘diplomatic representation’ and — you know what? — the Sudanese folks I meet think America can do no wrong. I find myself telling them America is not as great as they think, not because America is not great, but because no reality can be as splendid as the opinion they hold of the USA.
In the late 1980s Sudan experienced a severe drought. Then-Vice President Bush visited Sudan, and actually came to El Obied. According to legend (and that is the character this story has acquired) Bush promised the United States would provide grain and seed to help the Sudanese. The USA delivered on this promise and today, fields of wheat or sorghum or whatever are referred to as fields of Reagan (as in “the Reagan is growing well this year. . .”). Also, because of the promise, many Sudanese families named their sons after George Bush (e.g. Bush al Sa’ad or Bush Ismail Ahmed Elhaj).
Still today, probably 90-95% of all the United Nations World Food Program Sudan relief comes from the United States (my guestimate-WFP had no specific figures to share, but frequent first-hand observations of the WFP distribution sub-office El Obied are the basis of the figure). Much of this grain is re-bagged for airdrop, consequently the end recipients don’t always know from where the relief comes. (If I were king, I would have a small American flag-like a Craker Jack prize–put inside every bag before it was sealed.)
But, even in the deepest corners, the Sudanese know about America. I had a small (12″x18″ US flag sewn inside my vest. When I’ve visited villagers at some small dirt airstrip deep in the bush, and talked with them, eventually I’d be asked from what country I had come. I’d of course tell them America and then take off my vest to show the crowd. This small act always results in cheers. Just the sight of the Stars and Stripes was a nourishment of sorts for these impoverished people.”
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