Archive | August 10th, 2016

Morocco and the AU: When the King adds insult to injury

Morocco is seeking to rejoin the African Union, but its motives are suspect. As suggested by an arrogant letter to the AU Chairman, Rabat could be intending to use its membership to strengthen its colonial claims over occupied Western Sahara, an AU founding member state. Moreover, as an ally of Western powers Morocco could be used to sabotage effective African unity from within the AU.

The news about an imminent “return” of Morocco to the African Union has jammed the internet these recent days, leading the Moroccan means of “information” to invent scenes and scenarios that only exist in the minds of their writers about a victorious participation of an alleged Moroccan delegation at the opening of the African Union 27th Summit, held on 17-18 July in Kigali, Rwanda. Various Moroccan media pretended that the delegation gave a speech at the Summit – but it turned out to be a very long and incredible letter from the Moroccan King, Mohamed VI, that was handed over, on Sunday, to the Chadian President and current Chairman of the AU, Idriss Deby Itno, by the Speaker of Morocco’s Parliament, Mr. Rachid Talbi Alami.

Reading the letter was a painful exercise for me as an African first and Saharawi in the second place, because it is simply a long and rude message from Morocco, full of arrogant statements, insults to Africans, to the Organization of the African Unity (OAU) and to the AU.

In the following paragraphs we will try to draw the attention of the reader to the main insults, myths/lies and conditions the Moroccan King shamelessly composed in his letter. The letter was expected to be a formal request from his country to join the AU, but turned out to be a strange self-centered monologue containing open and arrogant insults against AU/Founding Fathers/Member States and erroneous information meant to mislead the Moroccan public more than anyone else to give them the illusion that Africa cannot survive without Morocco.

A necessary background

The Moroccan kingdom voluntarily and officially left the OAU in 1984 protesting against the recognition by the continental organization of the Saharawi Republic. In fact, the African Founding Fathers had been working hard then to decolonize many remaining African colonies, including Western Sahara. When Spain hastily and irresponsibly withdrew from its colony to cowardly leave it vulnerable and not decolonized to the Morocco-Mauritanian occupation, Africa was shocked and tried its best to convince the two African countries to put an end to this adventure and enable the Saharawi people to regain their freedom. Mauritania quickly withdrew from this unjust act of colonization, while Morocco persisted in its defiance and rejection of all African leaders’ initiatives from 1975 to this date.

In many reactions to the African positions and attempts to resolve the conflict, the Moroccan officials, including the highest ones, usually underestimated and even insulted the African institutions and personalities, the last of whom the AU Special Envoy, President Joaquim Chissano, or those leaders who may express positive opinions on the issue.

Lately it was whispered by the Moroccan media, and even some Africans and Europeans, that the Kingdom is coming back to the AU to occupy its place among African nations, having been the only African country outside the pan-African grouping for so many years. These sources also said that the King was convinced by many African leaders and his friends from all over the world that the policy of an empty chair was bringing no profits to the Moroccan case, and therefore the Kingdom must seek to return to the African organization. So, informal debates were going on within the African elite on the issue and many points of view were aired though never officially expressed.

Some said that there was no way Africa could accept the membership of Morocco since it is a colonial state militarily occupying a Member State of the AU, the Saharawi Republic. They argued that Africa and Africans had rejected the membership of South Africa for decades because of its apartheid regime and because of the massive and criminal oppression that regime was perpetrating against our sisters and brothers in South African and its illegal exploitation of the resources of Namibia. These hardcore Pan-Africanists consider that the Kingdom of Morocco has no place among the free nations of Africa unless it ends its illegal occupation and colonization of the territories of the Saharawi Republic. They believe that the fact that Morocco is an African nation cannot push Africans to tolerate or moderate their positions, because colonization and occupation are the same no matter who the colonizer is.

Others say that to the contrary Morocco is an important African State and it must return to the African Union. They further believe that Morocco is capable of bringing a lot to the organization and has many good experiences to share. But maybe they forget that if this same country becomes member it would sabotage all possible resolutions to the longstanding conflict in Western Sahara. It will even attempt to destroy and divide the organization from within with all its well-known and uncovered strategies of corruption and espionage. One can easily go back to the Wikileaks’ information on the methods used by the former Moroccan ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council to have a hint on this possible sabotage Morocco will certainly lead from within the AU if it becomes member.

A third opinion says that it may be good to have Morocco back into the African sphere so as Africans can easily and openly express their opinions to the Moroccan officials who have always refused to listen to any point of view that criticizes or condemns the Moroccan colonial expansionism. And in the end, they argue that the very entry of Morocco to the AU will be a clear recognition of the Saharawi Republic as an irrevocable fact and will even serve to convince many states to recognize the Saharawi government.

Now, Morocco has led a huge campaign in Africa, targeting all influential countries, including the closest supporters of the Saharawi’s freedom such as Algeria, Nigeria, and Kenya, to mention only these three that were formally declared by the Moroccan media. But the letter of the King that the medias have been talking about all this week turns out to be just a long text suggesting that Africa without Morocco was nothing and will be nothing. It is a letter full of insults to the Founding Fathers, to the OAU and to the AU.

Morocco is putting a condition in its letter against the presence of the Saharawi Republic; tomorrow we do not know against which other Member State it may ask the same thing. As an organization the AU may have to create a category of Permanent Member States that have veto right, and of course, if we read between the lines, Morocco sees itself as the one entitled to such possible right.

When the King adds insults to injury

To add insults to injury the Moroccan government arrogantly published the letter in the official Press Agency, MAP, as if it was an open letter and not an official one especially sent to the AU officials and Heads of State and Governments.

“…. with respect to the Sahara issue, institutional Africa can no longer bear the burden of a historical error and of a cumbersome legacy.”(The error here is the membership of the Saharawi Republic).

“This ethical requirement means we should reject and condemn the misjudgments of the past and whatever acts that go against the course of history.” (I cannot imagine anything more insulting to the whole Pan African history and achievements. Morocco estimates here that the Founding Fathers of the OAU were not mature enough when they decided to recognize the Saharawi Republic.)

“Surely the African Union is out of step with international law since this so-called state (SADR) is not a member of the United Nations Organization, nor of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League or any other sub-regional, regional or international institution.” (We wonder what is the international legality Morocco refers to? Also, we wonder whether the King knows that the SADR is hindered from getting membership in many international organizations because it is still colonized!)

“The African Union is thus completely out of step with developments in the Sahara issue at the level of the United Nations Organization. A process is underway, under the auspices of the UN Security Council, to reach a final political solution to this regional dispute.” (The same process Morocco never stopped hampering.)

Worse, the King believes that “the AU is the only organization prejudging the outcome of that process”! How could he possibly come out with this conclusion? Is he expecting Africans to support colonialism in their own continent?

Moreover, he deepens the insult, adding that “history will remember this episode as an act of deceit and as a misuse of procedures to serve interests that are yet to be elucidated – an act similar to the abduction of a child, since the OAU was fairly unseasoned at the time.” (Because it seems that His Majesty sees our Founding Fathers and the OAU as unseasoned and immature when they decided to oppose the Moroccan colonial adventure).

For the King the OAU decision to recognize SADR is an “immoral fait accompli, that coup against international legality, led the Kingdom of Morocco to seek to avoid the division of Africa”.

The Moroccan people and the nation’s driving forces unanimously felt that the admission of a non-sovereign entity, by means of transgression and collusion, was something they simply could not accept.

Insults to Member States of the AU

Morocco is seeking membership to the AU, but it persists in insulting the Member States that do not adhere to Rabat’s colonial claims and fait accompli in Western Sahara.

The King insulted the Saharawi Republic, a founding member of the AU, by saying: “Indeed, it is difficult to admit that the Kingdom – a nation steeped in history – could somehow be compared to an entity that meets none of the attributes of sovereignty and that is deprived of any representativeness or effectiveness.” (So, should Morocco come back to the AU Africans must give it a special Status in the organization because it has finally decided to be modest and humble to accept to join our deteriorated and sick organization. It cannot be compared to other Members, and especially not to the Saharawi Republic, which is under its colonial dominance. Can’t we easily hear here the old arrogant statements of European colonial powers in the early sixties and beyond in this statement?)

The King also insults all other countries that support the Saharawi legitimate rights to freedom, accusing them of being racists: “And yet, notwithstanding all of the above, some countries continue to claim that Morocco is not in a position to represent Africa, arguably because its population is not predominantly black.”

Even among the group of 26 countries that chose the ‘division camp’ in 1984…” (That means that an African country is only good if it supports the Moroccan colonial dreams, otherwise, it is in the division camp?)

Moroccan coming strategy to destroy the AU from inside

“The time has come to reject manipulations and funding for separatist movements and to stop sustaining timeworn conflicts in Africa.”

 “From within, Morocco will contribute to making the AU a more robust organization – one that is both proud of its credibility and relieved of the trappings of an obsolete era.”

“Through this historic, responsible act, Morocco seeks to work within the AU to transcend divisions.”

All these statements indicate that Morocco is now convinced that it has to enter the AU to blow it from within since it could not reverse its principled position on Western Sahara from outside. It should be recalled here that Morocco has never stopped creating and encouraging all sorts of continental structures, conferences or initiatives that have a possibility to divide Africans, or give some continental powers to alternative structures to AU. The debate within the AU about the different partnerships is just a small and revealing example, since Morocco has always made sure all partners deal with Africa as individual states instead of dealing with the AU as a union.

Misleading statements

Mine is a country whose commitment to just causes needs no further proof. Indeed, my country has been and always will be guided by an unshakable faith in Africa.” (I am wondering, when that was ever the case? Morocco colonized an African member State, has always supported the colonial conspiracies in Africa, has always supported the French neo-colonial plans in North Africa, has abandoned Africans during the most critical decades of the life of the OAU…etc)

Finally, true to a longstanding tradition of solidarity and commitment to peace in the world, the Kingdom of Morocco, even after it left the OAU, has continued to launch initiatives to promote stability and security.” (This is perhaps why Morocco has problems with all its neighbors: Algeria, Mauritania, Western Sahara, even some European countries, with the UN, the EU..etc. North Africa is the only region in Africa that never succeeded to build a real African Region rightly because of Morocco’s expansionist tendency and territorial claims in all of these countries during the seventies.)

This is particularly true regarding issues relating to security and the fight against terrorism. The Moroccan expertise, which is widely recognized at the international level and is sought by many countries – including European ones – would be leveraged to promote security and stability in all African countries, particularly those in West and Central Africa.” (Morocco is considered by the UN as the biggest producer and exporter of Cannabis. It is widely known that this criminal production and commerce injects billions of dollars into the Moroccan black boxes and many sources accuse Moroccan officials of being involved in this dirty business. Everyone agrees now that drug trafficking is financing terrorism and organized crime, so how can the above-mentioned statement be relevant? A very big number of terrorists are originating from Morocco and members in all sorts of terrorist groups etc.)

Finally, the King persists and signs that, Morocco firmly believes in the wisdom of the AU and its ability to restore legality and correct mistakes along the way. As the French proverb says, the only proof of truth is obviousness.

For him, Morocco will join the AU with the condition that the later restores a presumed injustice through expulsing the Saharawi Republic outside the AU and paving the way to the great enlightened Morocco in. Because in his view,“On reflection, it has become clear to us that when a body is sick, it is treated more effectively from the inside than from the outside.” And so he ends his letter with a further insult to the AU asserting that it is sick and unable to cure its sickness unless Morocco steps in as the savior and the doctor.


It is obvious that Morocco is trying to get the membership of the AU just to stop the Saharawis from getting support in it, or in the worst cases to destroy it from within. Morocco is getting ready to commit all sorts of dividing acts inside our organisation trying to impose its colonialist views on the organization with or without support from other countries. And more important is that it is asking for the membership, but with conditions. Finally, instead of presenting the request humbly and officially and legally, it opted for the public spreading of this humiliating letter not to Saharawis only, but to Africans and to the AU.

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Why I support the BDS movement against I$raHell


The fight for the Palestinians is our fight. If the Palestinians are not liberated none of us will be liberated. We cannot pick and choose which of the oppressed are convenient or inconvenient to defend. We will stand with all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed.

The Palestinians are poor. They are powerless. They have no voice or influence in the halls of power. They are demonized. They do not have well-heeled lobbyists doling out campaign contributions and pushing through pro-Palestinian legislation. No presidential candidate is appealing to donors—as Hillary Clinton did when she sent a letter to media mogul Haim Saban denouncing critics of Israel—by promising to advance the interests of the Palestinian people. Palestinians, like poor people of color in the United States, are expendable.

Justice for Palestine will never come from the traditional governmental institutions or political parties that administer power. These institutions have surrendered to moneyed interests. Justice will come only from us. And the sole mechanism left to ensure justice for Palestine is the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Sanctions brought down the apartheid regime of South Africa. And they are what will bring down the apartheid regime of Israel. BDS is nonviolent. It appeals to conscience. And it works.

All Israeli products including Jaffa citrus fruits, Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream drink machines, Eden Springs bottled water and Israeli wine must be boycotted. We must refuse to do business with Israeli service companies. And we must boycott corporations that do business with Israel, including Caterpillar, HP and Hyundai. We must put pressure on institutions, from churches to universities, to divest from Israeli companies and corporations that have contracts with Israel. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa was long and hard. This struggle will be too.

Gaza, a year after Israel carried out a devastating bombing campaign that lasted almost two months, is in ruins. Most of the water is unsafe to drink. There are power outages for up to 12 hours a day. Forty percent of the 1.8 million inhabitants are unemployed, including 67 percent of the youths—the highest youth unemployment rate in the world. Of the 17,000 homes destroyed by Israel in the siege, not one has been rebuilt. Sixty thousand people remain homeless. Only a quarter of the promised $3.5 billion in aid from international donors has been delivered—much of it diverted to the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli puppet regime that governs the West Bank. And no one in Washington—Republican or Democrat—will defy the Israel lobby. No one will call for justice or stay the Israeli killing machine. U.S. senators, including Bernie Sanders, at the height of the Israeli bombardment last summer voted unanimously to defend the Israeli slaughter of a people with no army, navy, air force, mechanized units, artillery or command and control. It was a vote worthy of the old Soviet Union. Every senator held out his or her tin cup to the Israel lobby and chose naked self-interest over justice.

Israel, like the United States, is poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It too is governed by a corrupt oligarchic elite for whom war has become a lucrative business. It too has deluded itself into carrying out war crimes and then playing the role of the victim. Israeli systems of education and the press—again mirrored in the United States—have indoctrinated Israelis into believing that they have a right to kill anyone whom the state condemns as a terrorist. And Israel’s most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists are slandered and censored in their own country, just as American critics such as Norman Finkelstein, Max Blumenthal and Noam Chomsky are in the United States.

Those who become addicted to the wielding of the instruments of war, blinded by hubris and a lust for power, eventually become war’s victims. This is as true for Israel as for the United States.

Israel’s goal is to make life a living hell for all Palestinians, ethnically cleansing as many as it can and subduing those who remain. The peace process is a sham. It has led to Israel’s seizure of more than half the land on the West Bank, including the aquifers, and the herding of Palestinians into squalid, ringed ghettos or Bantustans while turning Palestinian land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Israel is expanding settlements, especially in East Jerusalem. Racial laws, once championed by the right-wing demagogue Meir Kahane, openly discriminate against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Ilan Pappe calls the decades-long assault against the Palestinian people “incremental genocide.”

In Gaza, Israel practices an even more extreme form of cruelty. It employs a mathematical formula to limit outside food deliveries to Gaza to keep the caloric levels of the 1.8 million Palestinians just above starvation. This has left 80 percent of the Palestinians in Gaza dependent on Islamic charities and outside aid to survive. And the periodic military assaults on Gaza, euphemistically called “mowing the lawn,” are carried out every few years to ensure that the Palestinians remain broken, terrified and destitute. There have been three Israeli attacks on Gaza since 2008. Each is more violent and indiscriminate than the last. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that a fourth attack on Gaza is “inevitable.”

During its 51-day siege of Gaza last summer Israel dropped $370 million in ordinance on concrete hovels and refugee camps that hold the most densely packed population on the planet. Two thousand one hundred four Palestinians were killed. Sixty-nine percent—1,462—were civilians. Four hundred ninety-five were children. Ten thousand were injured. (During the attack six Israeli civilians and 66 soldiers were killed.) Four hundred Palestinian businesses were wiped out. Seventy mosques were destroyed and 130 were damaged. Twenty-four medical facilities were bombed, and 16 ambulances were struck, as was Gaza’s only electrical power plant. Israel tallied it up: 390,000 tank shells, 34,000 artillery shells, 4.8 million bullets. Most of the civilians who died were killed in their homes, many of the victims torn to shreds by flechette darts sprayed from tanks.

Children were burned with white phosphorous or buried with their families under rubble caused by 2,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs. Others died from dense inert metal explosive, or DIME, bombs—experimental weapons that send out extremely small, carcinogenic particles that cut through both soft tissue and bone. The Israel Defense Forces, as Amira Hass has reported, consider any Palestinian over the age of 12 to be a legitimate military target. Max Blumenthal’s new book, “The 51 Day War,” is a chilling chronicle of savage atrocities carried out by Israel in Gaza last summer. As horrible as the apartheid state in South Africa was, that nation never used its air force and heavy artillery to bomb and shell black townships.

A report by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) found Israel killed and injured more civilians with explosive weapons in 2014 than any other country in the world. Hamas’ indiscriminate firing of wildly inaccurate missiles—Finkelstein correctly called them “enhanced fireworks”—into Israel was, as a U.N. report recently charged, a war crime, although the report failed to note that under international law Hamas had a right to use force to defend itself from attack.

The disparity of firepower in the 2014 conflict was vast: Israel dropped 20,000 tons of explosives on Gaza while Hamas used 20 to 40 tons of explosives to retaliate. Israel’s wholesale slaughter of civilians is on a scale equaled only by Islamic State and Boko Haram. Yet Israel, in our world of double standards, is exempted from condemnation in Washington and provided with weapons and billions in U.S. foreign aid to perpetuate the killing. This is not surprising. The United States uses indiscriminate deadly force in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia that outdoes even Israel, leaving behind civilian victims, refugees and destroyed cities and villages in huge numbers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who during his last election campaign received 90 percent of his money from U.S. oligarchs such as Sheldon Adelson, has internally mounted a campaign of state repression against human rights advocates, journalists and dissidents. He has stoked overt racism toward Palestinians and Arabs and the African migrant workers who live in the slums of Tel Aviv. “Death to Arabs” is a popular chant at Israeli soccer matches. Thugs from right-wing youth groups such as Im Tirtzu routinely beat up dissidents, Palestinians, Israeli Arabs and African immigrants in the streets of Tel Aviv. It is a species of Jewish fascism.

Israel is not an anomaly. It is a window into the dystopian, militarized world that is being prepared for all of us, a world with vast disparities of income and draconian systems of internal security. There will be no freedom for Palestine, or for those locked in our own internal colonies and terrorized by indiscriminate police violence, until we destroy corporate capitalism and the neoliberal ideology that sustains it.

There will be no justice for Michael Brown until there is justice for Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The fight for the Palestinians is our fight. If the Palestinians are not liberated none of us will be liberated. We cannot pick and choose which of the oppressed are convenient or inconvenient to defend. We will stand with all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed. And when we stand with the oppressed we will be treated like the oppressed.

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Empires of conquest, occupation and genocide

James Oatway

For over a century, Europe has been involved in the mass murder of millions of people across Africa in connivance with local elites. The only way to stop these mass murders by empire is for African people to construct for themselves a civilisation where African life is fundamentally sacrosanct.


As the milestones (below) show, the European World-conqueror/conquest state in Africa, right from the outset, in the wake of the notorious November 1884-February 1885 Berlin Conference, is at once an occupying and genocide state.

The lead conqueror-powers – Belgium, Germany, Britain and France, in that chronological order, would directly or indirectly (e.g. French military brigade based and operating in Rwanda, 1994) perpetrate genocide in which millions of constituent peoples in Africa are murdered in designated countries in eastcentral, south and southwestcentral regions of the continent they occupy or quasi-occupy during the course of 138 years, 1878-2016.
Gory “boys” of empires 

In the cases of Nigeria, Rwanda, the Sudan, and Democratic Republic of the Congo, beginning with Nigeria’s inaugural launch of the Igbo genocide on 29 May 1966 in which it murders 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of this nation’s population during 44 subsequent months, the African/African-Arabised-islamist “inheritors” of this conquest-genocide state (latter variant applicable especially to Nigeria and the Sudan), or the “boys” of their respective Europe-based suzerain “massas”, essentially take over as the primary-agent executors of genocide in contemporary Africa. These “boys” of empires  – the Yakubu Gowons, the Olusegun Obasanjos, the Mobutu Sese Sekos, the Obafemi Awolowos, the Mohammed Shuas, the Idi Amins, the Muhammadu Buharis, the Jean-Bédel Bokassas, the Benjamin Adekunles, the Omar al-Bashirs, the Gbadamosi Kings, the Murtala Mohammeds, the Hissène Habrés, the Ibrahim Taiwos, etc have sought zealously and ruthlessly to compete with their “massas” to keep the slaughtering thresholds of these stretches of genocide in Africa at the optimal level.

So, in these past 50 years, i.e. since 29 May 1966, these gruesome “boys” of empires have murdered 15 million African peoples in genocides and other wars across Africa. These “boys” will continue to murder Africans as fiendishly as ever for the dual, shared, interests of theirs and their “massas” until they are stopped.
African agency

They will be stopped by none other than an African agency on the African ground. This agency must dismantle the extant “Berlin-state”, the “curse” in Africa as historian Basil Davidson has succinctly described it, precisely that terror lever that the empires employ to not only expropriate Africa’s gargantuan wealth day in, day out, but, more intrinsically, murder Africans. In the current epoch, the disciplined and focussed Biafran freedom movement articulates the urgency of this agency. As I have argued (see Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, “The mission of Biafra”, Pambazuka News, 28 July 2016), the imperative of the Biafra mission, given the catastrophe of the agelong revolving genocides unleashed by the empires of Europe on the peoples of Africa, is to construct a civilisation where African life, human life, is fundamentally sacrosanct.

Haunting milestones

(1) 1878-1908: King Leopold II-led Belgian monarchy/state-organised genocide of constituent peoples in the Congo basin of central Africa (2,442,240sq km landmass, 80 times the size of Belgium) – 13 million African constituent peoples murdered (see, especially, multiple research by historian and linguist Isidore Ndaywel è Nziem – particularly his Histoire générale du Congo: De l’héritage ancien à la République Démocratique [Paris: Duculot, 1998], p. 344)

(2) 1904-1907: German state-organised genocide of Herero people in Namibia – 65,000 out of 80,000 Herero murdered or 80 per cent of the total Herero population wiped out

(3) 1904-1907: German state-organised genocide of Nama people in Namibia – 10,000 Nama were murdered or 50 per cent of the Nama population destroyed
(4) 29 May 1966-12 January 1970 (phases I-III): Nigeria state-organised genocide of Igbo people, foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, supported, centrally, by Britain under Prime Minister Harold Wilson (diplomatically, politically, militarily) – 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of this nation’s population murdered, representing highest number in genocide fatality of a constituent nation or people in Africa during these past 138 years

(5) 13 January 1970-Present Day (phase-IV): Nigeria state-organised/Boko Haram/Fulani Militia genocide of Igbo people (the duo Nigeria genocidist state allies here, actively since early 2000s) – tens of thousands of Igbo murdered (Boko Haram is presently deadliest terrorist group in the world – has murdered more people in southwestcentral Africa than those murdered by ISIS in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere, according to the New York’s Institute for Economics & Peace study, “Global Terror Index 2015”, November 2015; Fulani Militia, or so-called Fulani herdspeople as often tagged in the media in Nigeria, is also a subject of focus in this study)

(6) 1994: Rwanda state-organised genocide of Tutsi people, with a French military brigade stationed in the country during the period implicated in the perpetration of this crime – 800,000 Tutsi murdered

(7)  Since mid-1990s: Democratic Republic of the Congo/contiguous states/proxy states-facilitated/organised genocide of African constituent peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – 8 million constituent African peoples murdered

(8)  2003-2006: The Sudan state-organised genocide of Darfuri people – 300,000 Darfuri murdered

(9)  Since 2006: The Sudan state-organised genocide of African constituent peoples in the south of the country (Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan, Blue Nile) – tens of thousands of African constituent peoples murdered.

* Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is visiting professor in the graduate programme of constitutional law at Universidade de Fortaleza, Brazil. He specialises on the state and on genocide and wars in Africa in the post-1966 epoch, beginning with the Igbo genocide, 29 May 1966-12 January 1970, the foundational and most gruesome genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa. Among his books are Longest genocide – since 29 May 1966 (forthcoming, 2016), Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature (African Renaissance, 2011), Biafra Revisited (African Renaissance, 2006), African Literature in Defence of History: An Essay on Chinua Achebe (Michigan State University Press, 2001), Africa 2001: The State, Human Rights and the People (International Institute for African Research, 1993), and Conflict and Intervention in Africa (Macmillan, 1990).

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The conspiracy of Katangese nationalism


Having failed to prevent Patrice Lumumba from taking power in Congo, a cabal of European and American politicians and businessmen saw the maintenance of indirect white rule in Katanga as the only means of ensuring their continued profiteering from Congo’s huge mineral wealth. Perpetuating a façade of African nationalism the white lobby supported autocrat Tshombe to plot for secession.

From the early days of the Congo Crisis in 1960, an extensive group of businessmen and politicians across Europe, the United States and white-dominated southern Africa conspired to play African nationalism against African nationalism.

The collapse of governance in the former Belgian Congo following independence was a flashpoint built upon the unfounded fear of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba’s radicalism and anti-West policies. Such a turn of events provided a window of opportunity for the southern, mineral-rich state of Katanga to secede under the guise of ethnic nationalism or tribalism.

The reality, however, was that an international Katanga Lobby had essentially accentuated a fringe nationalist movement to revive the combined Bayeke and Lunda empires from the aspirations of their “lackey” or “stooge”, Moïse Tshombe.

While the newly-formed, secessionist State of Katanga had ostensibly self-determined motives, the region was in actual fact dominated by what historian Matthew Hughes describes as “a shadowy group of businessmen and politicians keen to keep control of the wealth they derived from white rule in Africa.”

Preparations of a lobby

Having failed to prevent Patrice Lumumba taking power in the inaugural Congolese elections, those that were to constitute the Katanga Lobby saw the maintenance of indirect white rule in Katanga as the only means of ensuring their continued profiteering from what was the bulk of the Congo’s mineral wealth.

Even before the country’s independence, a secret delegation of European settlers in Katanga had visited Rhodesian leader Sir Roy Welensky to propose Katanga’s entrance into his Central African Federation, “should certain political developments [take] place.”

Welensky even proposed various loose associations between his newly-formed Central African Federation, Portuguese Angola and Mozambique, apartheid South Africa, and the Belgian community in Katanga. Though these plans were never realised, the combination of monetary and ideological appeal provided a common goal for those who wished to continue the white dominance of Katanga.

The infant state of Congolese multiparty politics and the haste in which the elections were conducted led to the political climate being dominated by pre-existing tribal and/or ethnic cultural organisations, most notably President Joseph Kasavubu’s Abako party and Moïse Tshombe’s Conakat party.

Tshombe, having squandered his family’s fortunes, had long been openly groomed by Belgian settlers’ organisations including the Union for the Colonization of Katanga and the Federation of settlers in the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi.

Tshombe was the son-in-law of deposed Lunda Paramount Chief  Mwata Yamo III, and his second-in command and future Katangese Interior Minister Godeforid Munungo was the grandson of formidable Bayeke Chief Msiri.

Together, they sought to represent those considered “true Katangans” (i.e. members of Katanga’s indigenous tribes) through a mixture of tribalist and regionalist (and eventually autonomist) policies. Belgian settlers meanwhile campaigned for their legitimacy under the comparable slogan “Katanga for Katangans”.

Tshombe’s ambitions coincided with those of international investors, Belgian settlers, white mercenaries, and American and British conservatives who viewed him as the first and only black champion of colonial interests, or in the words of historian David N. Gibbs, an “African Uncle Tom”. Highly corruptible and perpetually indebted to foreign creditors, Tshombe and his long-groomed party were seen ripe for the picking by what was henceforth known as the Katanga Lobby.

Katanga independence day

On July 11, 1960, under the auspice of the widespread military revolt against Lumumba’s central government, Tshombe declared Katanga’s independence.

This was not necessarily the will of the people of Katanga, as the Conakat Party had only achieved a plurality in the local assembly (although Belgium did remedy this by allowing it to rule outright). The idea of secession was also not articulated as a policy of the party prior to the election. Nor had the general public at all been consulted after the election.

Instead, it was the small Belgian community in Katanga that had long called for independence. The Union for Colonisation, which became the supposedly more subtly-named Union for the Collaboration of the Middle Class, served to organise the Belgian settlers into a single organisation. Its leader, a vocal white supremacist, served as an advisor to Tshombe. During the conflict, it became the Katangese Union until finally dropping a title altogether but retaining their cohesiveness, serving as Tshombe’s military leaders in the periodic absence of sufficient mercenaries.

To justify and legitimise the region’s secession, a facade of African nationalism was perpetuated by the white community. Katanga crosses (cast copper crosses used as currency in the region in the 19th and 20th centuries) adorned the flag, coat of arms, coins and air force roundel.

The organisation of the newly-proclaimed State of Katanga was essentially that of a European-dominated police state. Upon independence, Godeforid Munungo, who also served as head of the secret police, apprehended the entire parliamentary opposition. While total imprisonment statistics are unknown, it is known that 950 people were released from incarceration in June 1961.

Belgian officials held almost all other key civilian and security posts, while the few remaining African officials were inexperienced and nevertheless appointed Belgian advisors. This situation led the UN to describe Belgian influence in Katanga as “omnipresent”.

One UN document even read that “the idea that Katangan resistance is a native and African affair is a myth put out for foreign consumption and is scoffed at in private by the Europeans here.”

 A peculiar alliance

Following Katanga’s unilateral declaration of independence, the Katanga Lobby played the all-important role of financing and controlling Tshombe, recruiting military assistance and mercenaries, and garnering diplomatic support.

In an unprecedented backflip, white supremacists seemed unable to suppress their newfound fondness of Tshombe, with Sir Roy Welensky beginning to ‘wine and dine’ him. Welensky also encouraged British politicians such as Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Foreign Secretary Lord Home to support Tshombe, even having the audacity to ask whether they had fallen for the alleged Afro-Asian excuse that Tshombe was a puppet, as well as publishing propaganda pamphlets for distribution in Britain.

Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazaar, under whom Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe had remained integral territory of the metropole, and who viewed natives of the aforementioned areas as “slightly darker Portuguese” rather than African, also began to tout the virtues of Katangese independence.

Welensky facilitated the recruitment of European mercenaries in Southern Rhodesia, as had occurred in South Africa. Both he and Salazaar also shipped arms to said mercenaries, and accommodated them in Northern Rhodesia and Angola, respectively, to launch and retreat from military incursions.

Welensky’s government went so far as to smuggle seven Fouga Magister jets from Europe on behalf of Tshombe, while Salazaar donated several warplanes to be used by the mercenaries.

The corporate octopus

Corporate participation in the Katanga Lobby was merely self-advocacy by those businesses that had long exploited Katanga’s resources under colonial rule.

In 1899, Cecil Rhodes established Tanganyika Concessions Ltd. (or Tanks, for short) to stake out a share of mineral rights in the region. The Belgian Comité Spécial du Katanga agreed to share the Katangese mineral wealth 60-40 through the jointly-run Union Minière du Haut-Katanga in 1906. The committee itself was two-thirds controlled by the colonial administration, with the remaining share consisting of private investors.

The Union Minière eventually expanded to encompass several subsidiaries, of which the following operated in Katanga: Metalkat (operator of coal and zinc mines), Sogelec (electricity provider), Sogechim (chemical processor), Sogefor (agriculture), and the African Metals Corporation (handling trade with the United States).

The Comité Spécial also oversaw a number of other mining operations, including Géomines (exclusive holder of tin mining rights in northern Katanga), Cotongo (cotton growing and processing company which made use of slave labour under the unabashed moniker of “prestation agriculture”), and Bécéka (the dominant railway operator in Katanga), as well as its two subsidiaries: Copagnie du Congo pour le Commerce et l’industrie (promotion of industry and commerce) and Profrigo.

Backing the consortium alongside Rhodes’ British South Africa Company, the monopolist of the Northern Rhodesian copper belt of which Tanks was an offshoot, was the Belgian investment bank and insurance provider, the Société Générale. The Société had controlled almost 70% of business in the Congo leading up to independence, after which it dissolved the Comité Spécial.

This prevented the independent Congolese government from inheriting its colonial predecessor’s stake and in turn profiting from the mineral wealth. The culmination of companies also meant that every aspect of Katangese industry and development was controlled by a small group of foreign businessmen.

Furthermore, this foreign monopoly of Katangese industry was compounded by isolation when infrastructure elsewhere in the Congo had collapsed, as electricity had to be generated from Rhodesian coal and minerals had to be exported via the Luso-British Benguela Railway which ran through Angola.

This complex web of white-owned and run companies was actually less complex behind the scenes.

The intersecting directorates of these operations in the midst of the Katangese secession exemplify the way in which a small group of European businessmen essentially controlled Katanga behind the facade of the Tshombe government.

The Société Générale, which backed the Union Minière through the Comité Spécial (and later directly), shared three of its directors with Tanks. Meanwhile, the Union Minière itself shared six of its directors with the Société Générale and seven with Tanks.

Notably, Belgian industrialists Edgar Van der Straesen and Herman Robiliart served as directors for all three. Robiliart in particular had long voiced concerns to his colleagues as well as the Belgian government regarding the economic devastation he anticipated should Patrice Lumumba be elected.

The Anglo-Belgian partnership that was the Union Minière also saw directors, auditors, reports, shares, and dividends shared between those two countries. It also saw a confluence of business and politics, with Conservative politicians such as Lords Selborne, Clitheroe, Robins, Salisbury, and Sir Ulick Alexander representing the Katanga Lobby. They were led by Captain Charles Waterhouse, who served as a director for both the Union Minière and Tanks during the conflict.

These politicians belonged to a small number of MPs who garnered sympathy for their cause amongst the ranks of the Conservative Party. Their achievements included convincing Prime Minister Macmillan to cancel shipments of bombs to the United Nations peacekeeping forces in Katanga, as well as eventually achieving a general ambivalence towards the UN campaign against Katanga.

The Lobby also saw the participation of other multinationals which did not have large interests in Katanga, but were encouraged by the promise of a free hand in a white-dominated state.

Unilever, for example, had been granted large swaths of land in the former Belgian Congo for palm oil plantations. Despite these concessions being granted mostly outside of Katanga, the company nevertheless positioned its financial might behind the Katanga Lobby.

Similarly, Shell Oil, which was the second-largest distributor of oil in the Congo and a partner in an oil pipeline project with Socopetrol, itself a part of the Petrofina group and thereby linked to the Société Générale, lent support to the lobby. The director of the American Consulate in Katanga, Lewis Hoffacker, who had erred on the side of the Katanga Lobby and introduced Tshombe to the vocally-supportive Senator Thomas Dodd, later became an international affairs consultant at Shell.

Buying muscle

Upon succession, these enterprises paid taxes that were owed to the Congolese Central Bank to the Katangese Treasury instead, thereby financing the secessionist state’s independence. Their revenues were used to purchase weapons, equipment and ammunition, and recruit mercenaries and advisors on behalf of Tshombe (the Union Minière alone accounted for over 50% of the Congo’s monetary output).

One mercenary recruiter, known only as Mr. Bogard, was a former employee of the Union Minière, while another, Marcel Hambursen, was a Belgian industrialist wanted by French authorities.

The recruited mercenaries, alongside Belgian settler employees of the mining concerns, formed a white gendarmerie which became the backbone of the Katangese succession following the withdrawal of Belgian troops due to pressure from the United Nations.

Following further pressure from the UN, Katanga agreed to expel its mercenaries until Belgium slowed the process by replacing UN oversight with its own Consular Corps, which merely sought their voluntary evacuation. This delay saw the expulsion process reversed following a personal bid of support from Welensky, after which Katangese forces were instructed to turn against both UN troops as well as black Katangans who were sympathetic towards the central Congolese government.

Their campaign alone saw the mercenaries force over 25,000 Katangans to seek UN protection in the Katangese capital of Elizabethville (now Lubumbashi). The mercenaries also embarked on a campaign to recapture the infrastructure and property of companies based in Katanga which had come under the control of UN or central government troops. In their expedition into northern Katanga to regain control of the mines, processing plants and railways owned by Géomines, the mercenaries burnt several Baluba villages to the ground in order to rid the area of any hostile forces.

Katanga Lobby in America

In American conservative circles, the hitherto unknown Lumumba was hastily misequated with communism, while the more familiar Tshombe shone as a beacon of free enterprise. Two prominent groups in favour of Katangese independence were conservative advocacy organisation, the John Birch Society, and youth activist organisation Young Americans for Freedom.

Leading the Katanga Lobby in Washington, D.C., was Michel Struelens, a Belgian who served as director of economic affairs in colonial Katanga before claiming to be Tshombe’s personal representative as head of the Katanga Information Service (KIS) on Fifth Avenue, New York City. As a lobbyist Struelens tirelessly advocated for the plight of Katangans, who he claimed suffered from atrocities committed by the United Nations in their struggle for self-determination.

Struelens was funded by Belgian mining concerns, so much so that the Information Service’s monthly expenditures regularly exceeded $100,000. Much of these funds were spent on hiring public relations firms and taking out a large number of full-page advertisements campaigning in support for Katangans, “a brave people that seeks only the right to have a voice in deciding its own destiny.” He became so influential in the United States that he even worked on behalf of the US State Department for a brief period before the two found their goals at odds.

The KIS also founded an activist group in December 1961, the American Committee for Aid to Katangan Freedom Fighters, which received public support from right-wing ideologues such as William F. Buckley, Jr., John Dos Passos, and Republican Senator Barry Goldwater.

The group was headed by African-American activist Max Yergan, a former communist who had toured the Belgian Congo in the 1950s only to praise the colonial administration upon return. Much of their rhetoric emphasised the alleged multiracial harmony, anti-communism and relative order to be found in Katanga, rather than the economic benefits motivating their financial backers.

Another prominent leader of the Katanga Lobby’s US activities was publicist and conservative activist Marvin Liebman, of China Lobby fame. Staunchly anti-communist, Liebman promoted the Katangese secession as being the best example of an independent state in Africa.

A prominent political voice was found in Democratic Senator Thomas Dodd from Connecticut, another staunch anti-communist who also lauded Ian Smith’s Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa. During his time on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Dodd was both in close contact with Belgian business circles and recipient of “a large monthly stipend” from Tshombe himself.

The State Department’s congressional liaison described Dodd’s views as representative of Belgium, dismissing them as “strictly business,” while historian David N. Gibbs concluded that his views were “virtually indistinguishable from those of Union Minière.”

Although the group’s lobbying did contribute to Kennedy’s pressuring of the UN to negotiate rather than militarily defeat Katanga as well as a general weakening of its opposition towards the breakaway state, it had no substantial impact on US foreign policy.

Nevertheless, it did cause waves in the Republican Party, with several pro-Katanga articles being published in official literature and prominent figures such as Richard Nixon and Herbert Hoover endorsing the cause.

It should be noted that some Republicans and Southern Democrats did support Katanga but not in conjunction with the Katanga Lobby, as the conflict was instead used as a pivotal foreign policy issue from which to mobilise voters and as a substitute for supporting the civil rights movement, respectively.

Falling flat?

Despite collective wide reach and political prominence of the Katanga Lobby, no state officially recognised Katanga’s purported sovereignty. Early (and illegal) Belgian paratrooper deployments in Katanga were merely carried out under the guise of protecting the Belgian settler community. This is not to say the Lobby’s goals were not indirectly achieved.

Later financial and political support for Katanga even lacked excuses akin to the Hamitic hypothesis as had been used Ruanda-Urundi to politically favour Tutsis. Secret diplomatic cables instead recommended that “all self-respecting states not lower themselves” to such an extent.

Meanwhile, Belgian politicians continued to publicly commend the “superhuman virtues” of the “splendid people” of Katanga. Nevertheless, Belgium remained, as described by The Economist at the time, “one big Katanga lobby”.

Neither Portugal, South Africa, nor any other like-minded administration recognised Katanga’s sovereignty. A delegation of intermediaries allegedly sent on behalf of Tshombe did try to bribe the government of Costa Rica with $850,000, however this was immediately refused, with one official replying, “Why do you choose Costa Rica, a small country, a democratic country, to propose this dirty matter? Why don’t you try a dictatorship?”

When the secession had failed, Rhodesian forces helped Belgian settlers flee Katanga. Meanwhile, Tshombe was also escorted out by Rhodesian forces, bringing with them the Katangese gold reserves.

Though the parting of Katanga was unsuccessful, the damage had been done. The literal conspiracy of the Katanga Lobby determined the course of international relations between the West and newly-independent Africa for years to come.

In 1962, then-Assistant Professor in Anthropology and Sociology Alvin W. Wolf concluded in Liberation that “every African political leader who tries to free his people from the political and economic bondage in which they are now held will be portrayed in the United States as a ‘Moscow-trained Marxist’, while the monopolistic business structure of that part of Africa will be portrayed as a model of free enterprise. War may start in Berlin or in Laos; it can hardly be avoided in Africa.”

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Rwanda, the Clinton dynasty, and the case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi


Dr. Munyakazi is dangerous to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who justifies his ruthless totalitarian regime by claiming to be the savior who stopped a genocide.  He is also dangerous to the Holocaust and genocide industries, whose false equation of the Holocaust and the Rwandan massacres is at the ideological foundation of “humanitarian” war ideology.

I answered some heartbreaking calls from Dr. Léopold Munyakazi phoning from Alabama jail this week. Dr. Munyakazi is a gentle Rwandan born scholar, with a PhD in linguistics and further advanced degrees French and African linguistics. He has lost his immigration case in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and will all but certainly be deported to Rwanda to face prison or worse.  The Rwandan government accuses him of genocide crime committed in 1994, but they made no such accusations until after he gave several talks on northeastern college and university campuses in which he said that the Rwandan war and massacres of the 1990s were a class conflict, not an ethnic conflict, and therefore not genocide.  These talks constituted a threat to President Paul Kagame’s totalitarian Rwandan regime, to the Clinton dynasty, and to “humanitarian” war ideology.

On the phone Dr. Munyakazi protested his innocence. He spoke of witnesses who had testified that he was not where his accusers said he was and therefore could not have done what he was accused of doing there. I told him that he didn’t have to convince me because I have been following and reporting on cases like his for years.  A Rwandan exile speaks out against Rwandan totalitarianism, disagrees with Rwanda’s constitutionally codified description of the 1994 massacres as “genocide against the Tutsi,” or testifies in defense of another Rwandan, and soon a gaggle of anonymous witnesses say that he or she too was guilty of genocide in 1994 and the Rwandan government demands his or her return to Rwanda.

The Rwandan government has even accused  Lin Muyizere, the husband of celebrated Rwandan political prisoner Victoire Ingabire, of genocide crime, and tried to have him extradited from the Netherlands. Ingabire herself is now in the sixth year of a 15-year sentence in Rwanda for daring to run for president against Paul Kagame in 2010 and for “genocide denial.”  She did not say, like Dr. Munyakazi, that the Rwandan conflict was about class rather than ethnicity, but she did say, in an equally challenging statement, that there were extremists on both sides, Hutu and Tutsi, that there were victims on both sides, and that all the victims must be remembered.  I had the honor of speaking to Victoire many times in 2010, and putting her voice on the air on Pacifica Radio’s KPFA-Berkeley and WBAI-NYC.

Yet another challenge to the Wikipedia/Hotel Rwanda story has come from Professors Allan Stam and Christian Davenport, after 10 years of research in Rwanda. In the 2015 BBC documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story, Allan Stam had this exchange with the BBC’s Jane Corbin:

Allan Stam: If a million people died in Rwanda in 1994 — and that’s certainly possible — there is no way that the majority of them could be Tutsi.

Jane Corbin: How do you know that?

Allan Stam: Because there weren’t enough Tutsi in the country.

Jane Corbin: The academics calculated there had been 500,000 Tutsis before the conflict in Rwanda; 300,000 survived. This led them to their final controversial conclusion.

Allan Stam: If a million Rwandans died, and 200,000 of them were Tutsi, that means 800,000 of them were Hutu.

Jane Corbin: That’s completely the opposite of what the world believes happened in the Rwandan genocide.

Allan Stam: What the world believes, and what actually happened, are quite different.

The Rwandan – and Burundian – Hutu and Tutsi divide

Dr. Munyakazi stated what seemed obvious to many who have studied the history of Rwanda and Burundi.  He said that Hutu and Tutsi speak the same language, share the same culture, eat the same food, and even marry each other, with membership in one group or the other determined patrilineally. Ninety-three percent of Rwandans are Christian. They are distinguished instead, by historical class privilege.  Prior to colonization, the Tutsi were a cattle owning, feudal ruling class; the Hutu a subservient peasant class.  Belgian colonists reified this divide by issuing ID cards that labeled Rwandans and Burundians as Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa.

Rwanda’s third population, the Twa, are traditionally forest people, hunter gatherers, but the Twa are only one percent of Rwanda’s population. They  also suffered in the Rwandan war and massacres of the 1990s, but the war and massacres were fundamentally a conflict between the historically privileged Tutsi and the historically oppressed Hutu.

There is nothing like the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to prevent and punish class war.  Article II of the Convention says that “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”  It says nothing about preventing or punishing the murder of masses of people in order to claim, reclaim or defend wealth and privilege. Nor does it say anything about the murder of masses of people in order to steal what they have, such as oil, land, water or mineral riches.

Dr. Munyakazi told me he believed the U.S. State Department had intervened in his case behind the scenes to make sure that he was sent back to Rwanda, and I told him that wouldn’t surprise me. President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, openly intervened as a litigant to make sure that Pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana was extradited to stand trial at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda in 1999. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark defended Pastor Ntakirutimana in the U.S. and at the ICTR and called his conviction “a tragic miscarriage of justice.”

Dr. Munyakazi threatens President Paul Kagame, Samantha Power and the humanitarian warriors

Since a class conflict is not a genocide, Dr. Munyakazi is dangerous to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who justifies his ruthless totalitarian regime by claiming to be the savior who stopped a genocide.  He is also dangerous to the Holocaust and genocide industries, whose false equation of the Holocaust and the Rwandan massacres is at the ideological foundation of “humanitarian” war ideology, as codified in Obama’s Executive Order — Comprehensive Approach to Atrocity Prevention and Response and in Mass Atrocities Prevention Operations, a Military Handbook, a collaboration between the Pentagon and Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights.  He is dangerous to UN Ambassador Samantha Power, who has built her entire career on a historically inaccurate, decontextualized, and grossly oversimplified account of the 1994 Rwandan massacres, during which U.S. officials “stood by.”  What would come of all their moral urgencies about “stopping the next Rwanda” in Libya, Syria, etc., if “Rwanda” were not the story we were all told?

And the Clinton dynasty

As if that weren’t enough, Dr. Munyakazi is  dangerous to the Clinton dynasty, which is so wedded to the lies about the Rwanda war and massacres that Bill Clinton presented one of his Global Citizen Awards to President Paul Kagame in 2009. For the past 22 years, Clinton has shed crocodile tears and called his “failure to intervene” in Rwanda the greatest mistake of his presidency.  This year, in support of his wife’s campaign, Bill Clinton claimed that she urged him to intervene in Rwanda. She affirmed that claim as evidence of her commitment to humanitarian “intervention.”

Trouble is President Bill Clinton did not “fail to intervene” in Rwanda.  He refused to intervene and stopped the UN Security Council from organizing an intervention, because the U.S. and UK had already intervened in support of General Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Army that invaded Rwanda from Uganda in October 1990.  Clinton was not going to let an intervention stop Kagame from finally overthrowing the existing, Hutu-led Rwandan government and seizing power.  The evidence of this is laid out in Robin Philpot’s Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa, Ed Herman and David Peterson’s Enduring Lies: Rwanda in the Propaganda System 20 Years Later, Peter Erlinder’s Accidental Genocide, Carla Del Ponte’s Madame Prosecutor: Confrontations with Humanity’s Worst Criminals and the Culture of Impunity and Jean-Marie Ndajigimana’s How Paul Kagame Deliberately Sacrificed the Tutsi.

Everything went according to the US/UK plan except that the loss of life in Rwanda was far greater than President Clinton or anyone at the Pentagon had anticipated. A massive cover-up was mounted at the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda, which indicted and prosecuted only Rwandan Hutus, and in the heroization of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.  Like Tony Blair, Clinton has tirelessly extolled the achievements of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, as the BBC reported in Rwanda’s Untold Story Belgian scholar Filip Reyntjens, in the same BBC doc, says that “their closeness is a closeness with what I call the most important war criminal in office today.”

On July 28, 1994, after General Paul Kagame had won the war and seized power in Rwanda, the New York Times reported that “the United States is preparing to send troops to help establish a large base in Rwanda to bolster the relief effort in the devastated African nation.”  Just over two years later, U.S. proxies Rwanda and Uganda invaded Zaire – what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo – in 1996 and then again in 1998, overthrowing first Mobutu, then Laurent Kabila, establishing the U.S. as the dominant power in the region, and leaving millions more dead in the wars and ongoing conflict over eastern Congo’s vast mineral wealth.

“The United States has been the superpower that has dominated what has happened in this area in the Congo and in Rwanda,” says Professor Edward S. Herman. “The American people know almost nothing about the area, and since the United States has had a strong position of support for Kagame and for the invasion of the Congo, that dominated all the institutions that were associated with it.”  Bill Clinton’s so-called “failure to intervene” was in fact a proxy intervention causing massive loss of life.

And what was the justification of Rwanda’s repeated invasion of Zaire and its  plunder and occupation of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo?  Kagame said he was going to hunt down the Hutus guilty of genocide, which the international community had been quick to equate with the Holocaust.

I asked myself what else to say to Dr. Munyakazi, on the other end of a cell phone connection between Oakland and Alabama, except that I know he is innocent?  I could barely hear him because the connection kept breaking up, but I was able to understand that he wants to appeal to the Supreme Court. I said I would speak to his lawyer and some other lawyers, doubtful as I am that the Court would hear his case. I said I would try to produce some radio coverage, but that it would be difficult to garner any attention for his story right now without tying it to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s decades of involvement in the events leading up to his pending “removal” to Rwanda, and that that would do nothing to help his case.  He said that he was committed to telling the truth about what really happened in his country, regardless of the consequences.

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I can no longer remain silent about racism in the World Bank

World Bank

Racial discrimination in the World Bank is a far more systemic and serious issue than any official is willing to admit. Successive Presidents have treated it as a can of worms that’s best kept closed. The Bank’s Administrative Tribunal exists to keep the can closed with a judicial seal and to shield senior management from accountability.

I am faced with a peculiar situation in writing this piece. As a former member of the Bank’s Senior Management Team and an appointed member of more than one of the Bank’s working groups on racial discrimination, I was a part of numerous discussions and reviews on the subject matter of race-based discrimination.

I feel torn between institutional loyalty and social responsibility in discussing one of the Bank’s most thorny issues in public. I feel even more conflicted to do so behind the veil of anonymity. I can only say that the gravity of the matter leaned heavily on my conscience and pushed me over the edge to speak up. I have deliberately avoided naming the principal players in fairness. The presidents are the exceptions.

The trigger point for my pen was a feature article in Pambazuka News by a former Bank staff who wrote under the pen name Faith Moses – “$250 million: The cost of ending racism at the World Bank”.

The article begins with the lack of progress in abolishing racial discrimination. It uses the Bank’s own 2015 diversity report as an alibi and presents two cases from the Tribunal’s 2015 judgments: Ms. DD and Dr. Jane Biko.

The brief summary of the Bank’s 2015 diversity report highlighted that the report rated the Bank “between 2 and 3”, on a scale of 6. A rating of 2 is given to institutions that are merely “tolerant of racial differences.” Those rated 3 take baby steps to make “symbolic changes.” A rating of 4 marks the minimum threshold “where institutions develop an intentional identity as an ‘anti-racist’ institution and begin to develop accountability to [their] racial and ethnic constituents.”

After decades of promises, reaffirmed pledges and “zero tolerance for racial discrimination” pronouncements, the Bank has failed to clear the lowest bar to establish a system of accountability to protect discriminated groups. There is no way to sugarcoat such an indictment coming as it has from the Bank’s own official report.

Moses identified “two cross-fertilizing factors that organically collide to form a stubborn resistance to a systemic change: an endemic culture of racism and the estimated $250 million financial cost of justice.”

I am not aware of any World Bank study that has come up with the stated $250 million or any other cost estimate. This is not to say definitively that there was no such a study. Be that as it may, the fact that financial consideration is a determinant factor is not a farfetched assertion. The evidence presented in the article seems to support it.

The fear of dealing with the proverbial can of worms

Racial discrimination in the World Bank is a far more systemic and serious issue than any official is willing to admit. Successive Presidents have treated it as a can of worms that’s best kept closed. The Bank’s Administrative Tribunal exists to keep the can closed with a judicial seal and to shield senior management from accountability.

Just as the Tribunal protects the Bank, successive Bank Presidents have protected the Tribunal from scrutiny and accountability.

In 1998, former President James Wolfensohn appointed an internal Grievance Process Review Committee with a mandate to examine the Bank’s internal justice system and propose concrete changes to make the system impartial and independent.

At the time I was a member of the Team for Racial Equality. Our report that was issued ahead of the Grievance Committee’s report revealed that, “Many black staff are reluctant to file grievances of racial discrimination through the existing mechanisms.” We recommended “the Bank establish a different mechanism” for racial discrimination claims – such as external arbitration.

I have had discussions with members of the internal Grievance Process Review Committee on the subject matter. More than one person had told me that the Committee was under pressure to avoid criticizing the Tribunal and proposing external arbitration. The Committee looked favorably at external arbitration as an alternative conflict resolution system “for augmenting the independence and impartiality of the system.” Nonetheless, it deferred its recommendation for future consideration.

Mr. Wolfensohn, who is widely credited for taking bold steps, was unwilling to grab the bull by the horns when it came to holding the Tribunal’s feet to the fire. The following passage from the April 2001 Staff Association Newsletter tells the tale. I will quote the relevant parts in extenso.

“Last August, the Staff Association (SA) launched a comprehensive review of the 20-year performance of the Administrative Tribunal. Afterwards, the SA sent a letter to the Bank’s Governors and Board of Directors about several serious problems with the structure and record of the Tribunal. (It is the Governors who control changes to Tribunal rules.) The Directors and Governors in turn notified senior management.

“SA chair also made plans to attend the Annual Meetings in Prague to discuss the problems in person with the Governors. When senior management learned this, they immediately responded that they did not have difficulties with the substance of the SA’s reform proposals. They said they would give the proposals serious consideration on an expedited basis – if [the SA chair] did not go to Prague. Based on these assurances, including some directly from President Wolfensohn, the SA did not attend the Prague meetings.”

The SA expressed regrets that the Bank’s promise was “un-promised” after the Prague meeting. What was believed to be on “the table” was taken “off the table” and “major items were whittled down so much as to undermine the intent of the reform.” It registered its disappointment stating:

“While the Tribunal has been operating in its inadequate way, ironically, the Bank itself has gotten into the business of advising client countries on corruption and judicial reform… The structure of the Bank’ s own Administrative Tribunal should measure up to the principles that the Bank is espousing to its client countries.”

Those of us who have been in the Bank long enough, know the harsh treatment the SA chair endured for challenging the credibility of the Tribunal. The SA was brought to its knees after she vacated the Chair.

In 2010, when the US Treasury and the US Executive Director to the World Bank pushed the Bank to use external arbitration, then Chair of the Staff Association and her Executive Committee sided with management and rejected the proposal.

The Kim Administration

In March 2013, President Jim Yong Kim met with the leaders of African American, African and Caribbean Associations. The two major demands on their agenda were: establishing a high-level external commission and using external arbitration for racial discrimination claims. Kim struck down both requests. As a consolation, the Bank commissioned “a comprehensive internal assessment”. The justifications were as follows.

“There have been assessments of the Bank Group’s diversity and inclusion in the past, such as Bendick and Egan’s 2003 report, ‘Enhancing Inclusion at the World Bank Group: Diagnosis and Solution.’ However, there has not been a comprehensive internal assessment that is specifically focused on race relations. While there have been external assessments, most notably the Government Accountability Project’s (GAP) 2009 report, ‘Racial Discrimination at the World Bank,’ their utility in helping to promote diversity and enhance inclusion is limited due to their narrow focus and lack of internal data.”

This was a bit puzzling, and a lot more disingenuous. The Bendick and Egan’s 2003 independent report was commissioned by the Bank and all data was made available to the authors. There was another World Bank report prepared by an independent party, namely the Dewey Ballantine Law Firm in 1997. There were also several internal assessments, including one by the Team for Racial Equality. There were two more by the Staff Association in 2001 and 2005.

The Terms of Reference (TOR) for the “comprehensive internal assessment” stated that the study would be conducted by a consultant “Under the overall direction of the HRS Director, Strategy, Diversity and Operations, and the Chair of the SA, and the direct supervision of a [senior HR officer].”

The consultant, a nationally recognized quantity in diversity and inclusion and a former senior vice president at AOL, was tasked, among others, to:

•         Identify potential sources of institutional and individual racial bias and impact;

•         Review all previous assessments of race relations and racial discrimination within the Bank Group;

•         Review relevant published Tribunal judgments/orders on racial discrimination;

•         Develop recommendations to address areas of concern and leverage areas of success; and

The deliverable was “A final written report (MS Word) and PowerPoint presentation of key findings and recommendations.”

The final report was unflattering at best. At worst it was damaging for the Bank, and especially devastating for the Tribunal. The Kim Administration embargoed it until it was nudged by the Board to release it under relentless pressure from American civil rights leaders to honor the Bank’s principles of transparency and open data policy.

The Bank’s effort to have the consultant smooth the sharp edges of her report proved unsuccessful. The Bank took the matter into its own hands and liberally edited it before releasing it “for internal use only.” The part that was edited the most was the consultant’s assessment of the Tribunal.

One example would suffice to show what can only be characterized as an extraordinary violation of professional decorum, if not a criminal act.

The report identified a 2009 case as a “blatant and virulent case of racism.” The case was reviewed by the Tribunal in 2010 and summarily dismissed. The section of the report that assessed the Tribunal’s judgments agreed with the judgment, stating that the complaint was a matter of perception on the claimant’s part, not a reality.

What is presented in one section of the report as a “blatant and virulent case of racism” was seen as a mere “perception” in another section of the same report.

The breached report went on to conclude: “The Internal Justice System was found to provide a robust system.” This, in the very institution that the report found “not open to those who challenge the status quo” and “lacking of accountability to discriminated groups.”

The SA had it right when it wrote a revealing article entitled “Can the Leopard, er, the Bank Group Change Its Spots?” Its assessment was that “The Bank’s diversity reforms will work only if senior management were willing to knock the heads of those who resist change – a step that would depend entirely on the will of the Bank president. If the president did take such action, it would likely upset many apple carts in the Bank. But it would indeed be a cultural revolution.”

Indeed, the leopard cannot changes its spots.

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Pentagon bombs Libya again

Under the guise of “fighting terrorism” the war against Africa continues
Compliance Campaign

The renewed bombing of Libya signals the escalation of war against the peoples of the Global South and those oppressed nations and communities within the imperialist states themselves whether in Europe or North America. To counter these provocations an international anti-imperialist movement must be built.

Even before the ink was dry on the meaningless platform resolutions passed at last week’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, the administration of President Barack Obama has bombed the North African state of Libya.

This latest attack continues the more than five-year war against the people of Libya, once the most prosperous state in Africa, now destroyed at the aegis of U.S. imperialism, NATO and its regional allies. Under the cover of fighting the so-called Islamic State (IS), the White House seeks to further cover-up its culpability in creating the worst humanitarian crisis since the conclusion of World War II.

In 2011, the Obama administration deployed hundreds of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) personnel to facilitate the counter-revolutionary militias that were funded by imperialism to overthrow the Jamahiriya government under the late Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Tens of thousands of people died in the war, which relied upon the blanket bombing of the civilian and state institutions reducing the North African state to destitution, impoverishment and the center of destabilization throughout the region.

This latest round of aerial bombardments are being presented to the U.S. and world opinion as a defensive measure against the Islamic extremists who have a base in the embattled country along the western coastal cities including Sirte, the home area of Gaddafi. However, it was the U.S. which created the conditions for the formation of ISIS in their war against Iranian influence in Iraq and the attempts to remove the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

According to the Washington Examiner, “A Pentagon statement says the airstrikes were conducted at the request of the new Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) and were authorized by President Obama acting on the recommendations of Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. Forces aligned with the new government have already captured territory surrounding the city of Sirte, and the Pentagon said American airstrikes were designed to enable the Libyan government-backed forces ‘to make a decisive, strategic advance.’” (Aug. 1)

The article goes on to say that “While the U.S. has conducted unilateral strikes aimed at individual Islamic State members, this is the first time the U.S. has provided air cover for Libyan fighters on the ground. The strikes were described as consistent with the U.S. approach to combating the Islamic State by working with ‘capable and motivated local forces.’ The Pentagon said it plans more strikes in the coming days.”

Nonetheless, as usual, the administration provides no end-game to the bombings. In 2011, Obama called the U.S. involvement in Libya as “limited” and that the Pentagon was “leading from behind.” Yet the deployment of CIA operatives even prior to the beginning of the bombings on March 19, 2011, was revealed in a report published by the New York Times.

The-then NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said of this notion of a limited leading from behind that without the assistance of the Pentagon the mission in Libya could have never been carried out. It is the U.S. that supplies much of the war material such as fighter jets, bombs, intelligence mapping and diplomatic cover in all modern-day wars of regime-change and imperialist conquest.

The Democratic Party and the war machine

These military actions in Libya are by no means a surprise to those who watched the Democratic National Convention (DNC) during the week of July 25. There was never any acknowledgement from anyone speaking from the podium of the failures of Pentagon and CIA military adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other geo-political regions.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who served in the first administration of Obama voted in favor of the intervention and occupation of Iraq carried out by President George W. Bush, Jr. Although Obama claimed that he opposed the Iraq war when he got into office the war was continued despite the drawing down of thousands of ground troops. However, the redeployment of Pentagon troops and intelligence operatives in Iraq is escalating into the thousands.

It was Obama who accelerated troop deployments in Afghanistan where the war also moves forward with an announcement at the recent NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland, that there would be an increase in western troop levels in Central Asia as well as Eastern Europe targeting the Russian Federation in a renewed Cold War. Moreover, Clinton served as the public face of the Pentagon-NATO bombing of Libya to the point of calling for the capturing and killing of Gaddafi, where she joked and laughed in its aftermath on October 20, 2011.

During the week of August 1, it was the Democratic leadership that maintained a posture of support for the families of slain war soldiers. Nevertheless, it has been quite obvious that under the Obama administration the plight of currently serving and discharged military personnel has been far less than adequate. Many Afghan and Iraq war veterans are homeless, incarcerated and suffering from numerous physical and psychological ailments.

Despite the vast funding through the tax dollars of working families and the expropriation of resources of other countries, the services for veterans in many cases are non-existent. Suicide rates among veterans are reported to be as high and over 220 per day in the U.S. This grim set of circumstances involving the economic draft of youth due to the structural unemployment and poverty wages; the deployment to wars aimed exclusively for the acquisition of natural resources, strategic land masses and waterways; combined with blatant disregard towards the needs of the no longer enlisted soldiers has resulted in a human services crisis of monumental proportions.

A political economy of imperialist war

The only rationale for permanent war in the age of imperialism is for economic gain along with maintaining a political advantage over other regional blocs such as the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, political alliances that have emerged in South America, Central America and the Caribbean and the rival European Union (EU). Even though the EU is a subordinate inter-imperialist rival to the U.S., the recent withdrawal from the EU by the British electorate has sent shockwaves through the world capitalist markets.

Consequently, there is the prospect for a continuation and even expansion in the production of military hardware, which will be a source of profit for the defense industry and Wall Street. Declining energy and commodity prices have placed a dent in the profitability margin for the oil industry, which reaped a windfall in the aftermath of the above-mentioned wars waged in the Middle East, Central Asia and the African continent. Other avenues of exploitation are needed by the capitalist system and these are the imperatives which are driving the dominant factions within both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Although the capitalist parties in Britain and the U.S. are facing internal rebellions from both the right and the social democratic left, these institutions appear to have outlasted their functionality as instruments for the social containment of the working class and the nationally oppressed. This is why even the semblance of bourgeois or parliamentary democracy is absent within the context of intra-party affairs. Trump can walk in and take over the Republican Party without ever having to hold public office. Clinton with her laundry list of indiscretions and racism towards African Americans and other oppressed peoples is being sold to the electorate as a defender of “diversity” and stability.

The renewed bombing of Libya signals the escalation of war against the peoples of the so-called Global South and those oppressed nations and communities within the imperialist states themselves whether in Europe or North America. To counter these provocations an international anti-imperialist movement must be built. This is the task of the organizations committed to reversing the tide of imperialist war and economic exploitation.

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World Social Forum in Montreal: “Another World Is Once Again Being Constructed Without Africa”


Map of Africa

One day before the start of this year’s edition of the World Social Forum (WSF 2016), to be held in Montreal from 9 – 14 August 2016, civil society representatives from several African nations have announced their intention to boycott the proceedings, due to the overwhelming number of visa denials for members of their delegations. Reports are coming in that participants from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East have been denied visas to travel to the international gathering as well.

After having carefully prepared their applications over the past year, travelled to sometimes distant Canadian embassies and consulates and paid fees to Canada,  to the WSF organization (entry fees, site rental fees for their conferences or workshops, equipment charges, interpretation fees, and various other charges), as well as thousands in flight, hotel and other transport and accommodation costs, at least 234 community organization leaders and representatives were denied visitor visas to attend and give presentations at the international conference, including persons who were invited and had Canadian sponsors.

The World Social Forum was started in Brazil in 2001 as the “people’s Davos,” an alternative to the World Economic Forum held each year in Switzerland where the world’s wealthiest industrialists get together and arguably decide the fate of the rest of the world. In 2007 the WSF opened up to the rest of the world, with an emphasis on giving voice to the Global South under the banner “Another world is possible.”

This year’s Forum adopted the slogan “Another world is necessary. Together it is possible”. WSF2016 is the first World Social Forum to be held in a northern, western country. Now some are accusing Montreal organizers and the Government of Canada of the kind of institutionalized prejudice and injustice against non-Western peoples that is at the heart of the WSF’s critique and reason for existence.

In the run-up to the event, would-be conference presenters and attendees were alerting Forum organizers that their letters of invitation, an essential part of the visa application process, had not been received. And then many others started to receive rejection notifications from the Canadian government.

While US attendees can enter Canada visa-free, the application process for nationals of other countries becomes increasingly more cumbersome. Europeans can apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for a relatively modest $7 CAD fee, while someone from Bangladesh, for example, would need to submit biometrics (fingerprints and photo, $85 CAD) and make their application for a visa ($100 CAD fee) in person at a Canadian embassy or consulate. Once filed, the consideration process takes 30-90 days or more.

Preliminary responses to a questionnaire published on the WSF website show that 70% of visa applications have been refused by the Government of Canada, primarily on three grounds: previous foreign travel, insufficient financial means and likelihood to overstay the visa. On the other hand, Canada’s immigration ministry claims to provide special assistance to organizing visas for large international conferences, such as the World Social Forum. Canada has outsourced its visa treatment process to private corporation VFS Global, founded in Mumbai but now based in Zurich.

Among those refused is UN Secretary General candidate Aminata Traoré, who was invited to speak at two of the Forum’s major conferences on August 10. Other prominent persons whose visa applications were rejected include union leaders Rogério Batista of Brazil and Palestinian Imad Temiza. France’s Centre for Research and Information on Development (CRID) issued a statement saying that “partners from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Niger, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire, for example, have had their rights to travel denied.”  Ayana Fleur from Congo, already in Montreal, said that 10 of her colleagues were refused and will not be joining her at the Forum.

Writing via skype, Djabi Jalo of the Pan-African Youth Organizations had this to say:

“Concerned with rectifying the injustice and discrimination of the WSF 2016 in Canada, African organisations demand that the WSF 2016 Montreal be indefinitely adjourned to another country that will be able to host participants and organisations from all countries in the world without distinction. Alternatively Africans should commit to launching an African Social Forum to compensate for their absence at the WSF 2016, which has become the G8 Social Forum. Because there can be no WSF without Africa. If there is, to use the term ‘World’ would be an abuse of the word.”

Recalling the Forum’s motto, Djabi continues, “‘Another world is necessary. Together it becomes possible.’ This other world once again is being constructed without Africa.”

Many conferences, workshops, roundtables and other get-togethers at the World Social Forum 2016 Montreal will be streamed over the internet on YouTube and via En direct

A petition calling upon the Canadian government to immediately rectify the situation can be signed here

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Stop Being Partisan on So-Called “Free Trade”

By The Daily Take Team

Delegates hold signs in protest of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)Delegates hold signs in protest of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

In recent days, President Obama and much of the Democratic establishment have doubled down in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), especially in light of Donald Trump’s measured speech Monday about his plan to cut taxes and renegotiate US trade deals. But it’s time to get something straight: This isn’t a partisan issue.

So-called free trade is bad for the US middle class, and it has been ever since Ronald Reagan, the Republican savior himself, declared that:

Almost all responsible economists … are unanimous. They agree that free and fair trade brings growth and opportunity and creates jobs. And they warn that high trade barriers, what is often called protectionism, undermines economic growth and destroys jobs. I don’t call it protectionism; I call it destructionism.

It’s been just over 30 years since Reagan proclaimed that, and every president since then has followed the religious belief that so-called “free trade” will save us all. And 30 years later, it’s pretty clear that Reagan was dead wrong about trade, and so are the Democrats today who are saying the same thing.

The fact is, sweeping trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the TPP and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) only benefit the CEOs of the corporations that are at the negotiating table.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

Democratic proponents of so-called free trade make it seem like the options are either antiquated tariff-based protectionism or forward-thinking globalist “free trade” deals.

But Democrats have historically been the party that opposes these sort of sweeping corporate-managed trade deals and supports the kind of tariff based — or VAT-tax based — trade that made the US the most powerful manufacturing powerhouse that the world had ever seen.

The truth is, the only way that countries can really benefit through trade is if the two countries have different resources or different specialties, what economist David Ricardo called “comparative advantage.”

For example, the soils in France are well-suited for growing grapes for wine, and the soils in Scotland are better for growing barley and wheat.

By applying human labor to fields of grapes and grains, both countries would have used their comparative advantages — their soils and climates — to produce a product to trade with that benefits citizens of both nations. Everybody in both countries can eat bread with their wine.

But what happens if France starts growing wheat in a big way, in addition to making wine? What happens if they can grow it cheaper than Scotland? In a “free trade” scenario, that would lead to Scottish farmers getting wiped out by French wheat exports, which could then lead to hungry, poor Scots fleeing Scotland for the relatively more prosperous France, producing a challenge for both nations.

And that is, by the way, virtually exactly what happened when Mexico and the US signed NAFTA and US corn growers began selling super-cheap corn into Mexico where small, subsistence-level farmers were previously the major source for that staple in the Mexican economy. Our cheaper corn put over a million Mexican farmers out of work, driving some into the slums of Mexico City, and others across the border into the US in search of work.

It seems like a deal that would advantage one country and screw another, and, interestingly, that’s exactly what “free trade” was originally designed to do.

King Henry VII’s “Tudor Plan” of 1485 did that. By placing high tariffs (taxes) on the export of raw wool and on the import of finished woolen products, he discouraged the export of wool and encouraged the manufacture of fine woolen goods in England.

South Korea is a modern example of the impacts of such tariff-based trade policies. In 1960, the country’s average annual income was under $700 a year, about that of Kenya, and South Korea’s major exports were fish and human hair for wigs.

The Korean company Samsung started out exporting fish, fruits and vegetables, but in 1961, Gen. Park Chung-hee embraced tariff-based trade to protect the fledgling Korean economy from being exploited under so-called “free trade.” With high export tariffs on raw materials and high import tariffs on manufactured goods like cars and electronics, South Korea was able to incentivize its fledgling manufacturing industries and quickly develop domestic plants to manufacture electronics, machinery and chemicals. As a result for South Korean citizens, per-capita income grew more than five times in just the seven years between 1972 and 1979.

It worked here, too, only we started it in 1793.

For essentially 180 years, from the time that Alexander Hamilton laid out his 11-point plan for “American Manufactures” that called for tariffs, until the time that Reagan began dropping our tariffs and “liberalized” US trade policies, our country led the world in manufacturing and prosperity because of our tariff-based trade system and our support for domestic industries.

While today “tariffs” have become a dirty word, our trading partners use VAT taxes (value-added taxes) instead of tariffs, with the same effect as tariffs.

The VAT tax in Germany, for example, is 19 percent, so when a US automaker wants to sell a car to a German, there is a 19 percent value -dded tax added onto its price by the German government, effectively a 19 percent import tariff. And when a German-manufactured car is sold to an American in the US, Germany drops the price of the car by that same 19 percent, essentially adding on a 19 percent export subsidy.

German consumers are encouraged to buy German-made cars, because an imported car that cost $25,000 to manufacture would be sold in Germany for $29,750, effectively acting like a “protectionist” import tariff. It also makes German cars relatively more affordable on foreign markets, effectively acting like a “protectionist” export subsidy.

Germany is not alone in this. Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan and most European nations do the same thing. The only developed country without a VAT tax to use as an effective tariff is the US. Nothing protects our workers or manufacturers, which is just fine with the big transnational corporations making billions exporting our jobs.

Leading Democrats, including President Obama, should stop falsely claiming that globalist so-called “free trade” is the only way of the future while slurring progressives (and many conservatives) by calling them “protectionists” who want to “turn back the clock.”

So-called “free trade” isn’t the way of the future; it’s a broken model that global elites have pushed since Ronald Reagan, and it’s forced tens of thousands of US factories to close and cost millions of Americans their well-paying jobs.

If we want to grow the US middle class and create a prosperous country again, it’s time to reject the TPP and withdraw from so-called trade deals to which we are signatory, and it’s time to take a page from our trading partners and implement a VAT tax (or return to tariffs) to make US-made goods cost competitive and bring about an American manufacturing renaissance.

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Olympic Tensions Offer a Window Into Lebanese History


By Denijal Jegić

 The Olympic flag is raised by an honor guard during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 5, 2016. (Chang W. Lee / The New York Times)The Olympic flag is raised by an honor guard during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 5, 2016. (Chang W. Lee / The New York Times)

The beginning of this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro was marked by a now widely publicized situation in which Lebanese athletes refused to share the same bus with their Israeli counterparts before the opening ceremony. While there are different accounts of how the incident developed, it appears that the Lebanese delegation prevented the Israeli athletes from entering the bus. Competing explanations suggest that the reason for this was that the bus was specifically designated for the Lebanese team, or that there were many other buses, or that the Israeli team was trying to cause trouble, or that the nine Lebanese athletes did not want to share a bus with the 47 Israelis.

Israeli media immediately decried the incident as mean, outrageous and racist. Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev was quick to accuse the Lebanese of anti-Semitism. An Israeli coach expressed: “Does this not directly oppose what the Olympics represent and stand for… I cannot begin to express my feelings, I’m in shock from the incident.” Readers of the articles published by Haaretz, Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel filled the comment sections with racist and threatening anti-Arab and anti-Lebanese insults and slurs.

The same Israeli administration that labels such an incident as shameful and un-Olympic has repeatedly blocked Palestinians from participating in the Olympics after having imposed restrictions on their preparations, in addition to the usual limitations on Palestinians’ freedom of movement. This year, Israel also confiscated the equipment of the Palestinian team.

While many have expressed shock at this incident, very few are discussing why the Lebanese athletes may have reacted in this way. One social media comment directed at the Lebanese delegation expressed that “they are involving politics where they don’t belong” — a sentiment repeated often by commenters, along with frequent statements demanding peace and wondering why “they” (people from Lebanon) cannot for once be peaceful, instead of living in perpetual war. These utterances, however, ignore the power relations in the Levant.

Maybe the athletes are involving politics. But who defines where politics belong and where they do not? If Israelis are able to fluidly move from political to non-political spheres, then this reflects their standard of liberty and security. Much of Israel’s liberty and security, however, has been based on the subjugation of Lebanon and its inhabitants. The assumption that Lebanese individuals could decide about war or peace in the region contradicts the geopolitical reality of an Israel that not only is hegemonic in the Middle East, but has exhausted extensive military, political and diplomatic means to occupy Lebanon, and to bomb and kill Lebanese people — without ever being held responsible. The Israeli state apparatus enjoys impunity.

Since its founding, Israel has constantly contested Lebanon’s right to exist. The disastrous Israeli presence in Lebanon over the last decades has been notably evident in: the Nakba and the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis; Israel’s destructive involvement in Lebanon’s civil war; its occupation of southern Lebanon in 1978 and between 1982 and 2000; the 1982 Sabra-Shatila massacre (i.e. Ariel Sharon’s orgy of rape and slaughter that left hundreds, possibly thousands, of innocent civilians dead); the 1993 Operation Accountability;” the 1996 Operation Grapes of Wrath;” the 1996 Qana Massacre; the 2006 war against Lebanon, in which Israel committed war crimes; or the internationally widely criticized 2006 Second Qana Massacre. Israel has regularly targeted civilians, including children. Besides the wars, Israel continues to violate several UN resolutions with the nearly daily crossings of Lebanese land, sea and air territory by Israeli war planes and drones, and through its constant mock air bombings to frighten Lebanese civilians.

The violent Israeli presence has left many people in Lebanon traumatized and threatened. Many have lost relatives and friends. Many have lost their houses and their existence. Many have been displaced. And many have been raped, tortured and humiliated. In fact, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the first Qana Massacre and this week marks 10 years since the second Qana massacre, both of which have left many still suffering from the traumatizing impacts.

The online commenters who are accusing the Lebanese athletes of “involving politics where they don’t belong” should at least be aware of the history and the present reality of the people they are talking about. Those who are claiming that Lebanese people “do not want peace” should be aware that this discussion is taking place in a context of occupation, colonization and military aggression under which Lebanon’s civil society has suffered heavily in the last seven decades.

Furthermore, those who are talking about how “these people do not want peace,” should take a closer look at what “peace” actually means. In the Israeli government’s terms, the “peace” paradigm serves to significantly conceal Israel’s human rights violations, because in the dominant Israeli narrative, peace equals keeping the status quo, which means a continuing colonization and an ethnic cleansing of Palestine without interference from Arabs or the world. So, maybe the Lebanese athletes did not want to accept this narrative of peace. Maybe blocking the bus door meant preventing Israelis from making decisions on their behalf. Maybe this was resistance.

The Lebanese athletes’ gesture must be understood at least in part as a reaction to the oppression to which they have been subjected. Israel has repeatedly violated Lebanese sovereignty, ignored UN resolutions and denounced any condemnation it might receive. Those who are branding the athletes’ behavior as racist must remember that Israel routinely violates Lebanese human rights.

Even if blocking the bus entrance to the Israeli athletes might not have been primarily done in order to gain media attention, it did serve to convey an act of protest within a Western media landscape that favors Israel and denies the Lebanese people, Palestinians, and others equal access to Western eyes, ears and emotions.

The media attention given to the incident now directly provides possibilities for open discussion on the relation between Lebanon and Israel, if we can move beyond knee-jerk reactions to asking why these athletes chose to block the bus.

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