"ROGUE" STATES AND RADICALS
The United States and Sudan
PLUMES OF SMOKE FROM BURNING incense curled into the hazy blue‐ gray afternoon sky, as the magnificent red blaze of the sun cast the shadows of singers and dancers onto the harsh rock and sand of the graveyard. 3 Dry, gnarled trees stood motionless in front of the conical dome of the saint's qubba, or tomb. Roughly hewn, white-painted stones marked the graves. Lines of men, bareheaded, dressed in fine white cotton robes, called jelabias, filed between the graves toward the incense-burner. The raging sun burned the land, and the men shielded their eyes as they gathered in an ever growing circle on the plain, leaving an open space in their center. The slow setting of the sun dictated the timing of the ritual, which slowly gathered pace on the edge of Omdurman, one of the three cities that, divided by the confluence of the Blue and White Niles, form the Sudanese capital—Khartoum, Khartoum North, and Omdurman. The rivers, the desert, and the ritual marked the confluence of cultures and religious practices through which Sudan has evolved, by way of dramatic phases of history, in the face of invasions and the conflict of ideologies, which have both enriched and devastated its land and people.
Sudan is a crossroads of civilizations, where a rich cultural heritage has imposed a great weight upon the course of change. New ideas have been forced to coexist with what has been inherited from the past and have constantly been manipulated by a political elite with an enduring attachment to power. Religion has shaped the course of Sudanese politics, directly or indi