The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 20, 2001 Issue
Guest Viewpoint

Wisconsin needs to get on to a better investment stock

Wisconsin is now the only state that owns stock in an oil company that fuels war

By Thomas Szyszkiewicz

This is becoming a trend. For the third year in a row, an editorial and major story have appeared in the La Crosse Times Review on Sudan around Easter. It's not a good trend. It indicates that the situation in that war-torn country is not improving.

It also indicates that the people of Wisconsin are keeping quiet on the situation.

Why should the people of Wisconsin care? Because their tax dollars are being invested in a company that supports the war. Talisman Energy is a Canadian firm that owns a large stake in the oil pipeline that comes from southern Sudan and goes 1,025 miles up to the Port of Sudan.

Nothing wrong with that, you say. It's a good investment, especially since they're finding an awful lot of oil down there. It is a good financial investment. But it is also an investment in the destruction of human beings.

As the Times Review has been reporting over the last two years, the government of Sudan is conducting a war on its own people. At least 2 million have died over the last 20 years, 5 million have been displaced and now many are targeted for starvation.

Their crimes? They are three-fold. They are, by and large, black Africans. They are mostly Christians and animists. They live where the oil is.

The Sudanese government is run by Arab Africans who have been making slave raids to the south and selling these people in the north. The government is also Islamic and they are trying to impose Islamic law on the entire country.

The government ministers are also greedy and want to win this war at all costs, which is why they want the oil and are using every means possible to get to it - including engineered starvation and random bombings of villages, schools and hospitals - the usual methods of scorched-earth warfare.

Talisman Energy has been implicated in directly helping the government of Sudan (GOS) by letting GOS use Talisman airstrips and building roads in areas where the government wants to go. The CEO of Talisman has denied the GOS is really doing anything wrong.

The response of the public entities that held investments has been nearly unanimous - pull out of Talisman. At the beginning of this month, New York State pulled out 300,000-plus shares from Talisman. This move leaves Wisconsin as the only public entity to maintain shares in what one Sudan analyst has called the GOS's partner in shame.

The reply I have been given by the people in charge of the Wisconsin Investment Board is that the state doesn't look at the morality of a company when it invests. In fact, they don't even watch over this particular stock. They had contracted with an independent investment firm to handle this one.

Since it has the "ignominious distinction" (as one analyst called it) of being the only public entity to hold shares in this company, perhaps the state of Wisconsin will begin looking at the morality of their stock holdings.

Using our tax dollars to support a war against innocent civilians is not only an unwise investment - it's immoral. So let's move on, Wisconsin. Find something better in which to invest.

(Szyszkiewicz is editor of the Times Review, newspaper of the La Crosse Diocese, where this article originally appeared.)

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