Transcript: Thom in Darfur 14 March 2008, part 1

Thom calling in from Darfur.

Thom Hartmann in Darfur: 14 March 2008

Thom Hartmann traveled to Darfur in the Sudan with other talk show hosts to bring "Sacks of Hope" and to provide awareness of the Sudanese Refugees (more). Carl Wolfson was anchoring the show at the Portland, Oregon end.

[Carl]: And do we have Thom Hartmann now? Thom?

[Thom]: Hi, hey there Carl.

[Carl]: Hey Thom.

[Thom]: Hey Carl.

[Carl]: Boy, I'll tell you one thing, it's good to hear your voice.

[Thom]: Well thank you, it's good to finally be here. Our plane was delayed for like 6 hours out of Juba. Just, you know, bureaucrats, and people couldn't figure out were we supposed to have this plane or not, and then they discovered the plane was 100 percent at weight which didn't include any people on it, which means it would have crashed when it took off, so they had to offload some stuff, and then it was leaking fuel in the right wing. It's just a wild time. And so we finally left and we're here in a community that I can't name actually because there's some concern that places where aid agencies go end up being bombed. And I'll talk about it on the air next week but we travelled about 3 hours in, strapped into a cargo plane with a couple of tons of food, and in fact a couple of people sleeping on top of the piles, laying on top of the piles of stuff. Here with Ellen Ratner of Talk Radio News and Talkers magazine and a few other folks.

[Carl]: Thom. Thom, you flew into Nairobi, Kenya and then took a flight from Nairobi to Juba, which is in the southern Sudan, is that right?

[Thom]: Yeah. Juba is a town that was essentially recreated after 50 years of war by the United Nations and we met there for about an hour with the President of South Sudan who is the vice president of the whole country, of north Sudan. It's a very interesting political situation. And we met with the US Consul General and we met with the whole UN force there; it was fascinating. Where we are now, is in the middle of nowhere. I mean, we're about a three hour flight into the middle of Sudan. This is a country that is the size of Texas that has ten miles of paved road, period. We are, the closest electric light to us is probably 300 miles and no water, no sanitation, no roads, no nothing and the sun is starting to go down and we just pitched our tents and we just delivered, this is a community that has historically been a community here in Sudan, but now the refugees from Darfur are coming here. We're right on, we're within a few kilometers of the Darfur border, and the refugees from Darfur are coming in and it's creating havoc, I guess, would be one way to say it.

[Carl]: Thom, earlier on the program, on the local program in Portland we spoke to Meredith MacKenzie Talk Radio News, She reported that the presidents of Sudan and Chad had reached an agreement a pact that rebel groups would not attack across the borders. Have you heard that there?

[Thom]: That would be Bashir in Northern Sudan, and that would be good news. That's, that area with Chad is to the, on the west side of Darfur; we're on the east side of Darfur and northern Sudan and this is the area, we're in the area that Nick Kristof wrote about a week or so ago saying this looks like it could go to hell really fast. It's an interesting, its a very interesting, I mean this whole area is so pregnant with promise and the Chinese in particular have recently appointed an envoy to this area to try and help out because oddly, because we have this US sanction against Sudan we are not able to buy the oil from the south which is where most of the oil is, so the Chinese are buying it. And they apparently are trying to become better citizens, or good citizens on this, in part perhaps because of the Olympics, in part because they just want to clean up their image around the world

and that is very good news.

[Carl]: Where the pressure must be applied...

[Thom]: And in the meantime...

[Carl]: To China...

[Thom]: Yeah.

[Carl]: By either through the United Nations or the United States unilaterally; hopefully through a combination of efforts, but the pressure has to be on China and that's good news if they want to be a better citizen.

[Thom]: Well, perhaps, yeah. Those are things I can talk about when I get back. I don't want to make myself and this group a target, frankly.

[Carl]: Thom, can you describe for us where you are right now and what you see?

[Thom]: We're in, we're on the border with Darfur in Southern Sudan and in the central part of Sudan. What I'm seeing around me is a big sky that would make Texas blush, it's just huge, occasional very large trees, a lot of scrub brush, red dirt. A lot of iron in the dirt; that's the stuff that makes our hemoglobin, I mean, this is where human entity began. And we just, outside, we're in a small compound here, outside the compound there's a huge refugee camp. I'd guess, I don't know, 50,000 people or so, something like that and we were just spending some time with some families that literally had arrived today. A large UN convoy came in today with refugees from several villages in Darfur that had just recently been sacked and looted and burned.

[Carl]: Did you talk to any of the refugees, Thom?

[Thom]: Yeah, at some length. In fact, part of the reason I called in late, you know, in part because our plane arrived late, and also in part because we had to pitch our tent here quickly before the dark sets in because once it gets dark there is no light and we can't do anything. So my son who's with me is finishing up that right now while I'm talking to you on the phone and we've got, you know, photos, and video tape and some interviews and I'm making a lot of notes and we'll have a lot of stuff to talk about when we get back. The bottom line Carl, you know, you tell me first of all what we have to do with regard to breaks and things. I don't know what your clock is like and I don't have a watch, I can't see.

[Carl]: We'll let you know. Thom.

[Thom]: OK, where are we at right now?

[Carl]: We're at 40 past the hour right now, abut 3 minutes.

[Thom]: Ah, OK.

[Carl]: Will you be able to stay on and take callers, Thom?

[Thom]: Yeah, I can, as long as the battery in the satellite phone survives, you know, and it may survive for even a couple of hours.

[Carl]: You know, we'll see. You know, Thom, no matter where you are in the world, there's always that battery problem.

[Thom]: Yeah, indeed.

[Carl]: I would love you to...

[Thom]: But, you know...

[Carl]: Go ahead, Thom.

[Thom]: Well, I was just going to say, what's so remarkable is that this is an area, this is a country that is rich in natural resources that basically in 1956, I saw the same thing in Uganda, when I was in Uganda in 1979, '80, '81, or '80 and '81 during the war with Idi Amin, and what happened in '56 was that Churchill was getting all this abuse from the international community for colonizing Africa, so he said, "OK, that's it, screw it, we're out of here" and they just pulled out, unilaterally. And creating huge vacuums: Huge power vacuum, huge economic vacuum, huge, you know, just in every regard. And many of the countries that they left, Sudan being one of them, Uganda being another, essentially collapsed. And you'll recall Sudan was, if my recollection is correct, is a country that we actually, the Clinton administration bombed when we were trying to get Osama bin Laden. And so you have states that we're just dealing with every kind of imaginable problem and a complete lack of infrastructure. The north of Sudan, Khartoum is a beautiful and extraordinary city, at least from what I hear; I've not been there. I've been to much north Africa but not Khartoum. But south Sudan, like I said, an area larger than Texas, ten kilometers of paved road and I was on it yesterday in Juba.

And people who have been living tribally for, you know, 50,000, 1000,000 years and just doing fine thank you very much and have, it's remarkable, you walk through these refugee camps and everybody has their little areas of demarcation. I mean, society always continues. People, you know, the people even when they don't have anything to, I mean they're literally sleeping out in the open on the ground, you know, little twig fires to cook their food and boil water and some of the kids are just heartbreaking, that some of them are so obviously, you know, pussy eyes and, you know. So, anyhow, there you go.

[Carl]: Thom, we're going to take a break. I want to mention again is the place you can donate to "sacks of hope" that Thom and others bring to Sudanese refugees in Darfur right now. Thom Hartmann on the ground in Darfur and when we come back we'll take your calls as well. 866 303 2270.


[Carl]: Welcome back to the Thom Hartmann program. I'm Carl Wolfson in Portland, Oregon. We're speaking with Thom Hartmann who is on the ground in Darfur in Sudan. And 866 303 2270 is the number, 866 303 2270. You can also go to if you'd like to donate to the "sacks of hope" to help Sudanese refugees in Darfur.

Thom, have you distributed sacks of hope?

[Thom]: Yeah, we came in with a plane so full that there was hardly any room for us. The village elders have them, they distribute them according to their local traditions. Joe Madison is here with me by the way. He just walked off toward the latrine, but when he comes back I'm going to try and grab him and put him on the air and there's a couple of other talk show hosts here too if I can get any of them to drop in and say hi.

[Carl]: Thom, we have a question.

[Thom]: And I'm...

[Carl]: Oh, go ahead.

[Thom]: Pardon me if I'm taking softly. I'm in the middle of this compound. It's dark, I'm trying not to be super loud and I just got a, have this god awful infection in my lungs that I'm fighting. But in any case I'm here.

[Carl]: And we are so grateful that you are there, Thom, and we have a call for you from Jeff in Portland, Oregon. Jeff, you're on with Thom Hartmann.

[Jeff]: Hi Thom.

[Thom]: Hey, Jeff.

[Jeff]: First I love your show and I'm just proud that you're out there to see first hand. I have two questions. A real quick one is how can a average citizen actually get to see what you're seeing in Darfur? You're a journalist but sometimes I think seeing things first hand is best. But my second question is more important. Why do you think with the crisis that's going on now, and the numbers show that it's a great crisis, there is less media attention on this than say something that might happen in Palestine or another African country that seems to be of less, I should say nothing is less important, but this is a crisis that's been ongoing for a long time and I was wondering if you could address exactly why you think the media isn't grabbing hold of this as a major concern as opposed to things we hear every day.

[Thom]: The, well, first of all with regards to why there's not more media coverage, I think it's Darfur is a huge area and there's not a lot of press here. This is not, you know, there's not like fancy hotels where the press likes to go and stay; things like that. You're not, you know, it's just, and there are international issues. I mean, there's issues have to do with the United States and China and other things that cause the US not to want to focus on it. I've forgot, the first question was about? Hello?

[Carl]: Jeff, do you have the first question?

[Thom]: You still there?

[Jeff]: Well the first question, well I want to make sure the answer to the second question is just because it is more that the press is too elite to actually, you know, cover something because they might get their hands dirty?

[Thom]: Yeah, OK, yeah. As a matter of fact that's part of the reality of modern day infotainment journalism. I'd say probably three quarters of all the international news bureaus that the big networks used to have have been closed and they take feeds, and they do news from where it's easy to do news from, but..

[Carl]: You know Jeff, Thom...

[Thom]: And the first part? Your first question, that was a good one that I had a good answer for but I just don't remember what it was. sorry, it's been a long day.

[Jeff]: I mean, if somebody, an average citizen, personally...

[Thom]: Oh, I remember, that 's right, and thank you very much for the call. The first part of your question was how can people see what's going on.

Mia Farrow has a great web site over at If you click in the upper right hand corner on pictures, you're going to see where, not necessarily exactly where we are, but what we're seeing. You'll see exactly what we're seeing right now. And she's done a marvelous job with that. Carl.

[Carl]: Jeff, thank you for the call, and in addition to that, most major newspapers may have one reporter in Washington to cover 20 bureaus in Washington. Journalists at newspapers have cut back so much.

[Thom]: Right, right. Carl, do we have enough time for me to call, do we have enough time for me to yell at Joe and get him over here on the phone?

[Carl]: Yes indeed, go ahead.

I was going to say that most newspapers of course have one correspondent for 20 bureaus. You just can't cover it. The good news is that the Internet has jumped in, and Internet reporting and bloggers, those on the beat have made up the difference.

[Thom]: Yeah, I know. Some of us have, we still have a minute or two before? [sound scrambled]

[Carl]: Thom, we have a call from Theresa in Napa California. I know there's a delay here.

Theresa in Napa California, Theresa, you're on with Carl Wolfson, and Thom Hartmann in Darfur.

[Theresa]: Thank you so much for my call, Thom. I, in the words of Michelle Obama, you make me really proud to be American today. and I don't feel that way very often, lately.

[Thom]: Thank you.

[Theresa]: You're precious, you're precious to us, be careful, take care. And also, I wanted to let you know, it looks like the House is going to vote on the FISA bill. It's going to pass, and without the immunity, so that's a ...

[cross talk]

[Thom]: Oh, Boruch Hashem, it's thank God for Nancy Pelosi.

[Theresa]: Yes.

[Thom]: If that's the case, if they're going to pass the FISA bill without immunity, then we should all be calling our members of Congress and saying thank you and telling them that we acknowledge them when they do well.

[Carl]: Yeah, thank you for the call, Theresa. In fact, we have a little POJ poll we do on KPOJ every morning at That was the question this morning, do you think the Democrats will hold the line on granting immunity to telecoms and our listeners here in Portland say they...

[Thom]: So far they've done a good job in the House.

[Carl]: Yes, indeed, and no more caving on this.

[Thom]: After the break can we get to Joe Madison on here?

[Carl]: Thom, we can do anything you want. After the break, before it or doing it.

[Thom]: Ok, Great.

[Carl]: That'd be absolutely fine to have Joe Madison. We're speaking with Thom Hartmann on the Thom Hartmann program. Thom's in Darfur. I'm Carl Wolfson in Portland. You're listening to the Thom Hartmann Program on Air America Radio. 54 minutes past the hour.

This page consists of the first 2 segments that Thom called in - the second half hour of the show. Remaining segments to follow.

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