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NYT says Charles Taylor Conviction is ‘a watershed case for modern human rights law’

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Charles Taylor in court at his war crimes trial in The Hague. Photograph: Reuters

On the front page of today’s New York Times is a story about how former Liberian President Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years of prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity which he committed in the Sierra Leone civil war that lasted from 1991-2002, and which resulted in the deaths of around 50,000 people.

The article, “Ex-Liberian Leader Gets 50 Years for War Crimes,” written by Marlise Simons and J. David Goodman, says the conviction was “a watershed case for modern human rights law,” and that “Mr. Taylor was the first former head of state convicted by an international tribunal since the Nuremberg trials in Germany after World War II.”

The article even quotes a Sierra Leone politician, Ibrahim Sorie, who was present at the sentencing, as saying, “It restores our faith in the rule of law, and we see that impunity is ending for top people.”

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to not have “faith in the rule of law,” or to believe “that impunity is ending for top people.” Because all you have to do is look and see if criminal leaders from other sides of the Sierra Leone conflict are being held accountable. Sort of, but not really. Those who the West backed, like the government forces, were never indicted or tried, even though they too committed serious crimes.

Furthermore, the trial revealed that, starting in the 1980s, Charles Taylor worked for the CIA. This gets confirmed by the U.S. when, in the trials proceedings, Taylor tells his life story. He talked about how he fled to the U.S. in the mid-1980s, and how the CIA helped him break out of jail, where he then went back to Liberia to start a war. Simons’ and Goodman’s article make no mention of this fact—even though Simons reported on this in 2009. So while Taylor was busy starting a much deadlier war in Liberia, which killed around 200,000 people, those crimes were never prosecuted.

This is much like Saddam Hussein. A former ally of the United States, he is supported through the worst of his crimes. When he attacked Iran in 1980, the U.S. provided military and political support. But when his usefulness was worn out, he quickly became the epitome of evil and had to be brought to justice. And much like Taylor, Saddam’s trial was carefully crafted to avoid embarrassments. A memo to former Iraqi Prime Minister al-Jafari which was published in Foreign Policy magazine in July of 2005 states, “The special tribunal is full of legal holes and is tainted by American influence,” and that,

Erase the American Footprint: There is no denying that the IST is an American creation. The now defunct Coalition Provisional Authority established the tribunal in consultation with the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. Its statute allows the appointment of foreign judges to the tribunal and mandates the presence of international observers. No foreign judges have yet been appointed, but the possibility is being seriously considered. The possibility itself is an insult to Iraqis. Even in Europe, which is increasingly bound together legally and culturally, it would be unacceptable to have, for example, a French judge on the bench for a German criminal trial.

The tribunals statute was drafted in English and modeled on the American adversarial legal system. The U.S. government provided $75 million and dispatched teams of prosecutors and investigators to help the tribunal prepare for the trials of senior regime officials. These American officials are dedicated, but they know little about Iraqs legal traditions. The tribunals provenance and the presence of American personnel have fostered the view that it serves U.S. rather than Iraqi interests.

And even if you go back to Times articles about the Liberian civil war at the time you see a differential treatment towards Taylor. When he was still a CIA asset.

In the article “Strategic Interests Tie U.S. to Liberia,” which was published on June 13, 1990, the NYT notes that, “even as American officials privately voice criticism of the nation’s embattled President [Doe],” Washington was finding it difficult to cut ties because “strategic interests tie Washington to the Liberian crisis” in the form of “landing and refueling rights for military aircraft and ships on 24-hour notice, the only nation in sub-Saharan Africa that accords Washington such rights,” as well as “a navigational station that emits low-frequency signals that guide ships and aircraft in the Atlantic.”

On one hand the U.S. is backing both sides of the conflict. President Doe was provided “$500 million worth of military and economic aid between 1980 and 1985,” but the relationship was becoming strained. So as rebel forces led by Taylor make ground we begin to see attitudes quickly change at the “paper of record.”

In “Rebel Forces in Liberia Surround the Capital and Begin an Attack,” which was published on July 3, 1990, it is reported that, “Mr. Taylor, who has accused General Doe’s Government of brutality and large-scale corruption, has promised a thorough political house-cleaning but has equivocated about his intention to hold national elections.”

For Washington insiders this is music to their ears. Again, a CIA asset is deriding the government of “brutality and large-scale corruption” while promising “to hold national elections” if only he can get in power.

Then on August 21 of the same year the Times publishes the article “Some Liberians Accuse the U.S. of Betrayal,” which notes that the Bush administration “has made clear it will not intervene militarily to end the civil war” even while “daily fighting between the factions led by Mr. Taylor and by Prince Johnson and the forces loyal to President Doe has resulted in massacres of thousands of civilians.”

It is not until Charles Taylor gets on the wrong side of conflicts that he becomes a criminal who must be brought to justice. When Taylor’s forces go to Sierra Leone and fight against the Western-backed government it is much like Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. A line was crossed. Now that Taylor is our enemy Simons and Goodman inform us about “a secret bonding ritual in Liberia during which [an aide who testified to the court that] he and others joined Mr. Taylor in eating a human heart.”

The differential treatment also shows in the trial of Taylor, who got a fifty-year sentence. While Simons and Goodman report that “the tribunal is to be shut down,” it’s worth noting that not one government official was indicted or tried, despite the fact that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created before the the Special Court for Sierra Leone was set up, and in their findings they note that, “All factions specifically targeted civilians.” It wasn’t just those who weren’t on the West’s side, like Charles Taylor. Even the Western-backed government forces were found to be “responsible for systematically plundering and looting” and “for either authorising or instigating human rights violations against civilians.”

This is the “watershed case for modern human rights law” which is supposed to have restored “our faith in the rule of law,” and where “we see that impunity is ending for top people”: only those not allied with the West are tried. This is not an exception. This is the norm. To date, not one ally of the U.S. has been indicted at the ICC. Not one. And certainly not leaders from the U.S. itself.

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NYT calls Rwanda’s Paul Kagame ‘Darling Dictator of the Day’

May 30, 2012 1 comment
Most opposition political parties were barred from registering for Rwanda’s 2010 presidential election, in which Paul Kagame won 93 percent of the vote. Photo: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

That the New York Times published an op-ed by Marc Sommers calling Rwanda’s Paul Kagame “The Darling Dictator of the Day” is significant. As is the comment that “he does not merit his reputation as a visionary modernizer” because, “The reason is simple: his state is all about force.”

Sommers, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, wastes no time in pointing out that, “There’s no question who’s in charge in Rwanda.” Sommers stresses that, “The government’s commanding presence in Rwandan lives is aggressively maintained by Kagame and a clique of other former Tutsi refugees from Uganda.” He even notes that, Kagame’s government asserted its power in the run-up to the 2010 presidential elections, when authorities barred most opposition political parties from registering for elections, closed down many independent newspapers, and witnessed the flight into exile of several prominent government officials who said they “feared for their lives.”

There were also three suspicious pre-election shootings. One of the exiled officials, Kagame’s former chief of staff, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, was shot in the stomach in South Africa after openly criticizing the Rwandan government. A Rwandan journalist, Jean Léonard Rugambage, was killed shortly after his article, which pointed to government complicity, was published. The deputy leader of the Green Party, which was among those unable to register, was found not only dead but with his head partly severed.

Probably most important is the comment that, “Soon after the election [where “Kagame garnered 93 percent of the vote”], an exhaustively researched United Nations ‘mapping exercise’ report led the veteran Rwanda expert Filip Reyntjens to state that ‘there is overwhelming evidence of responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity’ against Kagame. A foreign expert (who asked not to be named) also reported the disappearance of ‘a large number’ of Rwandan civil society members in 2007.” That the Times published a piece which referenced not only the UN mapping report and Kagame’s complicity is significant. The conflicts in Democratic Republic of Congo, which have been steadily going on for nearly twenty years, have been the most bloody since World War Two—with around ten million killed. Noting Kagame’s “overwhelming evidence of responsibility” is an important fact to publish.

This could well signal the end of Paul Kagame’s love affair with America. Like Saddam Hussen, Suharto, Mobutu Sese Seko, and other dictators who lost favor with the American Empire, the media did not begin to acknowledge the skeletons in their closets until after they had become the boogeyman—which was often long after the worst of their crimes and human rights abuses had been committed, and which often had Western complicity in their tyranny sanitized from the record.

Thus, it was common to condemn former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein for “gassing his own people,” but references to how the U.S. government supplied the dictator with chemical weapons, or initially blamed Iran for the Halabja massacre, and so on were not facts the media was prone to point out. In the preface to After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology, the second volume of “The Political Economy of Human Rights” series, writers Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman wrote that, “The Free Press has fulfilled its primary obligations to the state by averting Western eyes from the carnage of the war and effacing U.S. responsibility.”

For now, the New York Times continues to avert “Western eyes from the carnage of the war and effacing U.S. responsibility” in regards to Rwanda. Sommers continues to reinforce certain lies. Chief among them deal with the Rwandan war and genocide. Sommers writes that Kagame led “a remarkable recovery from war and genocide in the heart of Africa,” and that his “government is renowned for reducing corruption, expanding security, addressing genocidal crimes and increasing women’s rights.” Sommers even says that, “Kagame is no Idi Amin or Charles G. Taylor.” But neither of the two men ever amassed the record for murder and genocide like Paul Kagame.

The truth of the matter is that Kagame is the instigator of the war and genocide in Rwandan and Democratic Republic of Congo. It was the army he led, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) that invaded Rwanda in 1990 and carried out extensive acts of terrorism and sabotage; who routinely violated ceasefire agreements; and who assassinated President Habyarimana in 1994 and within two hours conducted a massive military offensive that swept across the country in one hundreds days of genocidal violence. Not to mention the “overwhelming evidence of responsibility” of Kagame’s crimes in Congo, where, again, an estimated ten million have died.

As Sommers notes, “The government’s commanding presence in Rwandan lives is aggressively maintained by Kagame and a clique of other former Tutsi refugees from Uganda.” Here, Sommers is referring to the political and military leaders of the RPF. These men were part of the Ugandan national army, and the RPF was an arm of the Ugandan military. They wore Ugandan military uniforms. And it was this event, the 1990 invasion, that is integral to understanding all of what is transpiring. That, and the subordination to the U.S.—who is not only the main backer of the Museveni regime in Uganda, but Kagame in Rwanda.

When Uganda invaded Rwanda, its goal was to destabilize the government, and then overthrow it. This is what Museveni did in Uganda. And from October 1990 to April 1994 that is precisely what happened in Rwanda via the RPF. This is also what happened in Democratic Republic of Congo, when Museveni and Kagame invaded and overthrew President Mobutu, and conducted some of the most brutal crimes that were committed.

The second-in-command for United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, Col. Luc Marchal told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR): “From my experience, my conclusion is that the RPF had one goal, seizing power by force and keeping it to themselves.” Marchal also stated that, “Not once, never have I sensed the desire to make concessions, to smooth rough edges, to reach a consensus.” He told the court that, “It was almost a daily struggle, and I received remarks because of the violations of the agreement”, and that, “All these elements led me to the conclusion that their goal was certainly not to concretize the peace process.” Marchal believes it was Kagame who assassinated President Habyarimana.
He is not alone in this regards.

There is also James Lyons, an FBI agent who came to the same conclusion.

Another UN investigation headed by Michael Hourigan, came to the conclusion as well. It’s report buried.

And former Rwandan genocide prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, who was removed from her ICTR duties after she insisted on prosecuting Kagame for the assassination and various other war crimes.

Robert Gersony, an American consultant hired by the UN, concluded that Kagame’s RPF committed genocide. He reported a “scene of systematic and sustained killing and persecution of civilian Hutu populations” by Kagame’s forces. Like Hourigan, his report was buried.

It was during this time, and acting on Gersony’s report, that UN forces were blocking refugees from returning. This was reported in the New York Times in late September of 1994:

the United Nations has stopped encouraging Rwandan refugees to return and is refusing even to assist those who wish to go home because of a report that the new, Tutsi-dominated Government in Rwanda has killed thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group.

The timing of this is important because earlier that month George Moose, a State Department official, sent a memo to Secretary of State Christopher Warren in which it was noted that the “RPA and Tutsi civilian surrogates had killed 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month, with the RPA accounting for 95% of the killing.”

Spanish and French courts have even ruled on various matters related to the Rwandan and Congo conflicts (more so for the Spanish court), and both found the RPF responsible for the assassination of President Habyarimana, and the genocide that followed. And issued warrants.

It is for these reasons, and more, that it is unfathomable for Sommers to claim that Kagame is “addressing genocidal crimes” when Kagame’s crimes, and that of the RPF he commands, have gone unpunished. And it is cynical beyond belief for Sommers to imply that punishing the victims of the RPF—the government Kagame overthrew and those accused of “genocide”—makes the case. But not once has any RPF soldier been indicted at the ICTR or ICC. As noted, Carla del Ponte made an attempt to do so, but was systematically removed.

The ICTR has yet to find a plan to commit genocide in Rwanda. After nearly twenty years they have not uncovered a conspiracy to commit genocide. They have also refused to consider a RPF conspiracy, which there is significant evidence of.

And if you look at their biggest trial of top military personnel—Bagosora, et al—the ruling is revealing. For one, all were acquitted on conspiracy to commit genocide, the gravest charge.

The court acknowledged that “a cycle of ethnic violence against Tutsi civilians has often followed attacks by the RPF,” and that “[f]ollowing the October 1990 RPF invasion, there were mass arrests as well as localised killings at the time and in subsequent years in several northern communes,” and the court ruled that “the alternative explanations for the events have added relevant context to a few allegations against the Accused.”

The ICTR judges admit that the military preparations by the Rwandan government were “consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle,” and that “in the context of the ongoing war with the RPF, this evidence does not invariably show that the purpose of arming and training these civilians or the preparation of lists was to kill Tutsi civilians,” and that “in the context of the immediate aftermath of the RPF’s violation of the cease fire agreement, it does not necessarily show an intention to use the forces to commit genocide.” What it shows is an intention to use the forces to stop the RPF’s efforts of overthrowing the government by military force—i.e. defend Rwanda against RPF aggression.

This is backed by what a couple of American analysts who closely studied the conflict found. In their piece “What Really Happened in Rwanda?” Christian Davenport and Allan Stam write that,

Perhaps the most shocking result of our combination of information on troop locations involved the invasion itself: The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR seemed to escalate as the RPF moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased. The data revealed in our maps was consistent with FAR claims that it would have stopped much of the killing if the RPF had simply called a halt to its invasion. This conclusion runs counter to the Kagame administration’s claims that the RPF continued its invasion to bring a halt to the killings.

Furthermore, the statement that Kagame is “increasing women’s rights” is disputable in one name: Victoire Ingabire. Here is a Rwandan woman who ended her exile by coming back to be a political opponent and fight for national reconciliation and democracy. A mother, she now sits in jail awaiting the conclusion of a kangaroo court trial that will surely convict her of Rwanda’s so-called “genocide ideology laws” that Human Rights Watch has warned is “a broad and ill-defined offense [which is used] as a tool to silence independent opinion and criticism.”

While there is a lot of important details missing from Sommers op-ed, and not all of his comments pan out, it still is an extraordinary development at the “paper of record” that Paul Kagame would be called the “Darling Dictator of the Day” who is clamping down on dissent at home while committing serious crimes in Democratic Republic of Congo. But again it could be a sign of the Darling’s day having ended, and if this is indeed the case, it is important to not only hold Kagame to account, but also U.S. officials who have facilitated him, backed him, and quite possibly directed him.

The NYT Makes Excuses for Rwanda’s Genocide in Congo

Companies who “do business” in Democratic Republic of Congo

On page eight of the New York Times May 29, 2012 edition is a story about a leaked United Nations report which shows Rwandans were recruited by the Rwandan government to go fight in Democratic Republic of Congo, or the D.R.C.

Josh Kron’s article “U.N. Report Says Rwandans Recruited to Fight in Congo” reports that “rebel soldiers who have defected told United Nations officials that they were Rwandans who had been sent across the border to fight in a mutiny in eastern Congo that has displaced tens of thousands of civilians.”

Kron also reports that “Rwandan authorities have been seemingly complicit in recruiting soldiers for the new Congolese rebel leader, Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

It is rare to read this level of criticism of the Rwandan government in the New York Times. Rwanda is an important U.S. ally in Africa, and the “paper of record” often complements U.S. interests by providing differential treatment towards allies and foes.

So it comes as no surprise to see Kron makes excuse for Rwanda’s genocidal involvement in D.R.C.—a resource-rich African country which has suffered considerably and continuously since the late 1800s ever since colonial powers discovered the country’s wealth—and get a number of other issues wrong in the process.

For Kron, the reason Rwanda is even in D.R.C. is for self defense.

Tensions [between Rwanda and D.R.C.] began soon after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in which an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were killed by Hutus. Many organizers of the genocide fled across the border and later established a Hutu rebel group in eastern Congo bent on overturning the Rwandan government. Various militias supported by neighboring countries have been organized in Congo over the years. Rwanda in particular was accused of supporting Laurent Nkunda, a Congolese rebel who is also an ethnic Tutsi, and his movement, known as the National Congress for the People’s Defense, or the C.N.D.P., which in 2008 threatened to overturn the Congolese government.

There are quite a few things wrong with this statement. For starters, “800,000 ethnic Tutsis” is 200,000 more Tutsis than there were in the 1991 census. And with a reported 300,000 survivors that leaves the figure half-a-million high. Of the roughly one million killed in the Rwandan genocide, the majority were Hutu’s. The significance of this exposes a gaping hole in the official version of the Rwandan genocide: If the majority of the killed were Hutu, then who killed them and why?

Rwanda’s dominant politicay party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (R.P.F.), which is headed by the country’s President Paul Kagame, has its roots in Uganda. The R.P.F. was an official arm of the Ugandan military, and consisted largely of Rwandan exiles that were a part of the U.S.-backed National Resistance Army, which was led by now Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni. Paul Kagame was the head of military intelligence for the N.R.A., which was an armed militia whose goal was to seize power in Uganda. After they successfully did so in the mid-1980s, the R.P.F. was created to carry out a similar plan in Rwanda. And on October 1, 1990 the R.P.F. invaded Rwanda from Uganda. And for nearly four years the R.P.F. conducted a plan to destabilize and overthrow the government, which came to a crescendo on April 6, 1994 when the R.P.F. assassinated President Habyarimana, and carried out a massive military offensive.

A couple of American analysts, Christian Davenport and Alan Stam, who studied the conflict closely noted in their article “What Really Happened in Rwanda?” that,

Perhaps the most shocking result of our combination of information on troop locations involved the invasion itself: The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR seemed to escalate as the RPF moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased. The data revealed in our maps was consistent with FAR claims that it would have stopped much of the killing if the RPF had simply called a halt to its invasion. This conclusion runs counter to the Kagame administration’s claims that the RPF continued its invasion to bring a halt to the killings.

It was the R.P.F. who was the main antagonist in the conflict, and who largely outgunned the Rwandan military—which explains how they were able to overthrow an entire government in less than 100 days, and send their military forces fleeing to neighboring countries.

And this pattern, which occurred in Uganda, and repeated in Rwanda, was again carried out in Democratic Republic of Congo when Uganda and Rwanda invaded, overthrew the government of President Mobutu, and began butchering people. This was facilitated through men like General Ntaganda, who Kron describes as once having “military ties to [Paul Kagame’s] government.”

Kron goes on to write that, “Although [Ntaganda] was accused of orchestrating a massacre in eastern Congo as a rebel in 2008, General Ntaganda became a senior officer in the Congolese Army, working alongside the United Nations as well as Rwanda to subdue the Hutu rebels.”

This is very misleading, especially the word “although.” It is inaccurate to give the impression that Ntaganda’s record as a war criminal is an aberration in regards to his relationship with Kagame’s Rwanda. The leaked report and a previous U.N. report show that the Rwandan government is deeply involved in human rights abuses in the neighboring country. According to the U.N. Mapping report, which describes “The systematic attacks, in particular killings and massacres perpetrated against members of the Hutu ethnic group”:

These attacks resulted in a very large number of victims, probably tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, all nationalities combined. In the vast majority of cases reported, it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons. The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or pyschological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten. Very large numbers of victims were forced to flee and travel long distances to escape their pursuers, who were trying to kill them. The hunt lasted for months, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of people subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading living conditions, without access to food or medication. On several occasions, the humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked …

And unlike Kron’s article, the mapping report also deals considerably with mineral exploitation. Democratic Republic of Congo is a very wealthy country, and the report states that, “A growing number of foreign actors became directly involved in exploiting the D.R.C.’s natural resources.” The report then names Rwanda and Uganda as doing so “either through the intermediary of their Congolese partners [writers note: e.g. Ntaganda] or connections or by directly occupying a part of the country.” In sum, the report stresses that, “Given the weakness and corruption of the central government, the D.R.C.’s wealth was within the grasp of any group violent and determined enough to impose its control by force.”

Another misleading aspect of Kron’s excuse for Rwanda’s involvement is the comment about “organizers of the [Rwandan] genocide fled across the border” to D.R.C. It is worth pointing out here that there are no “organizers,” at least as long as we keep to the official version which claims a Hutu conspiracy. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (I.C.T.R.) has not convicted one person for the conspiracy or planning of genocide. The largest trial to date, that of Colonel Théoneste Bagosora and a few other former high-ranking Rwandan military officials, ended with an acquittal on charges of planning a genocide. The inability to uncover a plot to commit genocide, however, is largely due to the court’s unwillingness to consider or prosecute an R.P.F. conspiracy—where evidence is abound.

Furthermore, Rwanda was targeting a lot more than so-called “organizers of the genocide” in their effort “to subdue the Hutu rebels.” Australian soldiers doing United Nations peacekeeping work bore witness to the carnage of Rwandan forces against unarmed civilians. As reported in Australia’s Herald Sun:

By early 1995, the displaced persons’ camp at Kibeho was the biggest in Rwanda, sprawling for 9sq km and containing 80,000 to 100,000 people.

The 32 Australian soldiers and medical officers arrived there as part of the UN peacekeeping force on April 18, 1995.

There were daily random killings by the Rwandan soldiers, but the slaughter exploded out of control soon after 10am on April 22. The Australians had a grandstand view of the nightmare from the Zambian compound.

The RPA soldiers murdered women and children right up to the UN wire. Bodies were everywhere. For the Diggers behind the wire, the next few hours were agonising.

For the refugees, there was nowhere to run.

As the Australians collected the wounded from among the piles of dead, the crisis began to escalate as panic-stricken Hutus overran the Zambian compound, driven forward by machete-and rifle wielding militia.

Hundreds were killed in the crush and the Australians were forced to repel at bayonet point the terrified victims they were supposed to be protecting, pushing them back into the RPA killing zone.

The RPA went wild and cut loose with another hail of fire on the panicking crowd.

All of this, and more, goes a long way to explaining why, as Kron put it, “The relationship between Rwanda and Congo has long been considered crucial to the stability in one of Africa’s least stable regions, an area laid waste by militias over the last two decades.” This is partially accurate. The problem here is that Rwanda is not at the top of the political pyramid. While the Times will publish Kron acknowledging that Rwanda is recruiting forces for militias in D.R.C., what is inconspicuously missing from the article is that the destabilization of Congo—which has seen around ten million killed and millions more displaced since the Rwandan and Ugandan invasion in 1996—is part of a U.S. imperial project to control and exploit the wealth of the Great Lakes region.

The unwillingness to identify Rwanda as a subordinate of the United States (in fact the U.S. and U.S. businesses are completely missing in the article), or a major component of the “conflict mineral” wars, or to provide accurate information on the Rwandan genocide (which is absurdly used to explain why Rwandan forces are in D.R.C.), and such, leaves the article void of any means for readers to understand what is really going on.

The impression that is given, that Rwanda is merely involved to protect itself from “a Hutu rebel group in eastern Congo bent on overturning the Rwandan government” and thus supporting criminals like Ntaganda (who have gone astray from their noble purpose), is simply not true. Not only is the R.P.F. a considerably more powerful military force than the Hutu forces, as the events of the last 20 years show, but the narrative is a total distraction from what really happened and is happening, and why.

When it comes to "genocide," Guardian UK’s George Monbiot has pulled a Hitchens

May 22, 2012 7 comments
George Monbiot having a fit

There is just something about British left intellectuals.

Christopher Hitchens fell from grace when he allowed his atheism to become a tool for Western imperialism.

Now The Guardian UK’s George Monbiot has pulled a Hitchens by allowing his outrage of “genocide” to become a tool for Western imperialism.

It started last year with his tirade against writers David Peterson and Edward Herman over their book The Politics of Genocide. George just couldn’t believe they wrote what they did. By challenging the popular narrative of what happened in Rwanda and Srebrenica they were guilty of being “genocide deniers.” (See “George Monbiot and the Guardian on ‘Genocide Denial’ and ‘Revisionism’ ” for Peterson’s and Herman’s rebuttal)

Monbiot still buys the propaganda narrative put out by the West, and has been foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog ever since. His obsession has infected him like a virus, and now Monbiot has even published an email exchange he had with Noam Chomsky, who wrote the foreword for The Politics of Genocide. (Really bad form, George.) Monbiot tries and tries to get Chomsky to turn on Herman and Peterson, to which Noam says he will not because to do so “would be sheer cowardice.”

As someone who has read The Politics of Genocide (a few times), and who has checked the notes, I see nothing controversial. In fact, I highly recommend the book—especially the second edition because it has a new introduction with the compare and contrast of the conflicts in Libya and Sri Lanka.

I have also read The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics, the book on Srebrenica that Herman contributed to. Again, I don’t see what the fuss is about.

In regards to Srebrenica, Herman, Peterson and the others who contributed to The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics point out a few important facts.

In The Politics of Genocide, Herman and Peterson write that,

The case for eight thousand “men and boys” being executed at Srebrenica is extremely thin, resting in good part on the difficulty in separating executions from battle killings (of which there were many in the July 1995 Srebrenica actions), partly on highly contestable witness evidence (much under coercive plea bargaining), and an interest and passionate will-to-believe the worst of the thoroughly demonized Serbs.

This is why Herman, Peterson, et al. challenge the narrative. With such incomplete information it makes perfect sense to challenge the narrative that they were 8,000 Bosniaks who were the victims of “genocide” by Serb forces.

This is also quite possibly why Chomsky wrote to Monbiot that,

A second point raised in my letter to you (and in the article) is the vulgarization of the phrase “genocide,” so extreme as to amount to virtual Holocaust denial, and the reason why I rarely use the term. Take a concrete case: the murder of thousands of men and boys after women and children are allowed to flee if they can get away.

I’m referring to Fallujah, different from Srebrenica in many ways, among them that in the latter case the women and children were trucked out, and in the former case the destruction and slaughter was so extreme that current studies in medical journals estimate the scale of radiation-related deaths and diseases at beyond the level of Hiroshima. I would not however call it “genocide,” nor would you, and if the word were used, the more extreme apologists for western crimes, like Kamm, would go utterly berserk. Another of many illustrations of the two basic facts.

And of course, the information available on Rwanda is so overwhelming it’s astounding. There are just too many holes in the popular narrative which claims there was a genocide of Tutsi’s at the hands of “Hutu extremists” who planned the assassination of President Habyarimana and the violence that followed. Which is why I seriously doubt George Monbiot has read The Politics of Genocide, followed up with the notes, or anything. If he has, then I can only conclude that he is being intentionally dishonest.

Because had he read the Gersony report, he would have read about a “scene of systematic and sustained killing and persecution of civilian Hutu populations” by Kagame’s forces.

Had Monbiot read the U.S. State Department Memo to Secretary of State Warren Christopher he would know that “RPA and Tutsi civilian surrogates had killed 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month, with the RPA accounting for 95% of the killing.”

George also could have read the affidavit of U.N investigator Michael Hourigan which notes that he found “considerable detail about information implicating President Kagame” in the assassination of former President Habyarimana. This was the event that kicked off the genocide, and which was quickly followed by a massive, organized RPF invasion within two hours.

This was confirmed by an FBI investigator, James Lyons.

And it also happens to compliment what UNAMIR official Col. Luc Marchal told the ICTR in his testimony to the court: “From my experience, my conclusion is that the RPF had one goal, seizing power by force and keeping it to themselves.” Marchal also stated that, “Not once, never have I sensed the desire to make concessions, to smooth rough edges, to reach a consensus.” He told the court that, “It was almost a daily struggle, and I received remarks because of the violations of the agreement,” and that, “All these elements led me to the conclusion that their goal was certainly not to concretize the peace process.”

As well as former ICTR prosecutor Carla del Ponte, who insisted on prosecuting Kagame and RPF officials for the assassination and their war crimes.

And I have yet to see Monbiot deal with any of this, or the Davenport-Stam work that shows the majority of deaths were Hutu. This is something Monbiot often refers to. But rather than address Christian Davenport’s study “Rwandan Political Violence in Space and Time,” which is the basis of Herman’s and Peterson’s comment, he just shoots the messengers. In their piece “What Really Happened in Rwanda?” Davenport and Stam write that,

According to the census, there were approximately 600,000 Tutsi in the country in 1991; according to the survival organization Ibuka, about 300,000 survived the 1994 slaughter. This suggested that out of the 800,000 to 1 million believed to have been killed then, more than half were Hutu. The finding was significant; it suggested that the majority of the victims of 1994 were of the same ethnicity as the government in power.

They also noted that,

Perhaps the most shocking result of our combination of information on troop locations involved the invasion itself: The killings in the zone controlled by the FAR seemed to escalate as the RPF moved into the country and acquired more territory. When the RPF advanced, large-scale killings escalated. When the RPF stopped, large-scale killings largely decreased. The data revealed in our maps was consistent with FAR claims that it would have stopped much of the killing if the RPF had simply called a halt to its invasion. This conclusion runs counter to the Kagame administration’s claims that the RPF continued its invasion to bring a halt to the killings.

In the summer of 1994, the RPF killings were so widespread and devastating that UN peacekeepers were blocking refugees from returning, citing the RPF killings and their fear for their safety.

Going back to the Gersony report, we know that the RPF carried out “large-scale indiscriminate killings of men, women, children, including the sick and the elderly,” and they did so with tactics like,

Local residents, including entire families, were called to community meetings, invited to receive information about “peace,” “security,” or “food distribution” issues. Once a crowd had assembled, it was assaulted through sudden sustained gunfire; or locked in buildings into which hand-grenades were thrown; systematically killed with manual instruments; or killed in large numbers other means.

What readers have got to understand is that the RPF were an official arm of the Ugandan military, and consisted largely of Rwandan exiles that were a part of the National Resistance Army, which was led by now Ugandan Dictator Yoweri Museveni. The NRA was an armed militia whose goal was to seize power. After they successfully did so in Uganda in the mid-1980s, the RPF was created to carry out the same plan in Rwanda. And on October 1, 1990 the RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda. And for nearly four years the RPF conducted a plan to destabilize and overthrow the government, which came to a crescendo on April 6, 1994 when the RPF assassinated President Habyarimana, and carried out massive military offensive.

And this pattern, which occurred in Uganda, and repeated in Rwanda, was again carried out in Democratic Republic of Congo when Uganda and Rwanda invaded, overthrew the government and began butchering people. According to the UN Mapping report, which describes “The systematic attacks, in particular killings and massacres perpetrated against members of the Hutu ethnic group”:

These attacks resulted in a very large number of victims, probably tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, all nationalities combined. In the vast majority of cases reported, it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons. The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or pyschological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten. Very large numbers of victims were forced to flee and travel long distances to escape their pursuers, who were trying to kill them. The hunt lasted for months, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of people subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading living conditions, without access to food or medication. On several occasions, the humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked …

Now, considering all of the above, and how the ICTR has yet to uncover a plan to commit genocide in Rwanda, or how not one RPF official has been prosecuted for well-documented crimes (del Ponte was actually fired for her insistence in prosecuting the RPF) there is a considerable basis for Herman and Peterson to challenge the official narrative on the genocide that occurred in Rwanda.

And nearly all of the above is mentioned in The Politics of Genocide, which, again, leads me to conclude that either George Monbiot didn’t read the material, or he is being intentionally dishonest in his smear campaign, which now not only includes Herman and Peterson, but Noam Chomsky as well. var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-32113110-1’]); _gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]); (function() { var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true; ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })();

NYT on Kissinger-TSA Incident: ‘TSA screeners have yet to catch a terrorist’

Former Secretary of State, and notorious war criminal, Henry Kissinger

Yesterday it was widely reported in the news that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was given a full pat down by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents who didn’t know who the famous statesman was. Even the New York Times briefly covered it in a 129-word blog by one of their editors, Juliet Lapidos.

Lapidos writes that, “TSA screeners have yet to catch a terrorist.”

This is a half-truth since apparently TSA let Henry Kissinger board the plane. Had the TSA agents detained Kissinger they would’ve arrested one of the most criminal terrorists in modern history; a man who once told a Congressional committee about the high crimes and misdemeanors he was intimately a part of: “Covert action should not be confused with missionary work.”

The National Security Archive website over at George Washington University is filled with declassified examples. Nearly a dozen of them deal specifically with Kissinger.

There were plannings on terrorizing Chileans, and bringing Hell to the South American country if the citizens were to vote the wrong way. The people of Chile did vote the wrong way (at least by Nixon’s standards), and on September 11, 1973, the U.S. government did unleash terror on the population, which lasted for decades in what Chileans call “the first 9-11”.

Secretary Kissinger is quoted as telling Argentine generals that, “If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.” There were, and they did. The results were deadly. The generals had quality teachers: Nazi’s who escaped Europe via the ratlines. And like their predecessors, the Argentine military rounded up tens of thousands of leftists and dissidents and summarily killed them.

Another publication has Kissinger quoted as telling the generals: “The quicker you succeed the better.”

In one of the biggest genocides in the last half of the 20the century—where roughly a quarter of the population was killed—we find it was President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who gave the “green light” for Indonesia to invade and occupy East Timor for a quarter century. Writing in his retrospective on the tragic affair, Noam Chomsky, noted that,

There was no need to threaten bombing or even sanctions. It would have sufficed for the US and its allies to withdraw their active participation, and inform their close associates in the Indonesian military command that the atrocities must be terminated and the territory granted the right of self-determination . . .

Chomsky was correct. A few years after noting the significance of U.S. support there was a truth commission, with documents supplied by The National Security Archive. The report concluded that U.S. “political and military support were fundamental to the Indonesian invasion and occupation” of East Timor.

Following the quick defeat of Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the Six-Day War in the summer of 1967, Israel used their military success to continue rejecting peace offers. And in 1971 when Egypt offered Israel peace, the latter rejected. It was this refusal to make peace that paved the way to the Yom Kippur War in 1973, which if it were not for last minute U.S. support, Israel would likely have been defeated. And it should come as no surprise that it was Henry Kissinger himself who gave the “green light” for Israel “to breach a cease-fire agreement arranged with the Soviet Union,” and carry out the major military offensive.

In probably the most incriminating piece of evidence, there is the occurrence where Kissinger followed President Nixon’s order to carry out a “massive bombing campaign” in Cambodia, which the President ordered the attack to target “anything that flys [or] anything that moves.” Just as the American war in Afghanistan is spilling over into neighboring Pakistan, the American war in Vietnam spread to Cambodia and Laos. In Cambodia, the U.S. took sides in a civil war, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

As for the last comment on Cambodia, the New York Times is well aware of it since they quoted it in a piece they published just shy of eight years ago: “Kissinger Tapes Describe Crises, War and Stark Photos of Abuse.”

Few statesmen in the world have this kind of easily accessible documentation showcasing their terror, aggression and criminality. Had this kind of evidence existed for Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milošević, or various Rwandan government and military officials—all subjected to victor’s justice—the trials would’ve been open and shut.

Rather than note the criminal background of Henry Kissinger, and how he has never been brought to justice, Lapidos illustrates the quality and integrity of a staff editor for one of the largest and most prestigious news sources when she takes a jab at the TSA for “patting down octogenarians.”

Pro-democratic Uprisings in the NYT Propaganda System

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) shakes hand with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in Washington on May 9, 2012.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hand with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in Washington on May 9, 2012


Usually when it comes to matters of the American Empire the New York Times cannot help but rely on the U.S. government as a source of information. In their classic work on propaganda, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, writers Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman show that sourcing is one of the primary filters in propaganda systems—along with ownership, advertising, ideology and flak. Chomsky and Herman call this use of “official sources” a “symbiotic relationship.” There is a world of information out there, but what determines what is “all the news that’s fit to print” is that which conforms to those five filters. Having a central source works for the media outlet, since they can’t be everywhere all the time, and it works for the government too, since having outlets to spread their propaganda helps dominate the narrative and reach a broader audience.

But in Kareem Fahim’s and David Kirkpatricks latest article, “Saudi Arabia Seeks Union of Monarchies in Region,” which appears on page 5 of today’s New York Times, there is not one mention of Uncle Sam. No comment from a White House official, or lackey (though there is a comment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which is known for its strong ties to the U.S. government).

And that’s not really surprising, considering the subject matter of the article. Beyond the Cold War that the Saudi kingdom is having with Iran, Fahim and Kirkpatrick tell readers that,

Saudi Arabia pushed ahead Monday with efforts to forge a single federation with its five Persian Gulf neighbors as the conservative monarchy seeks to build a new bulwark against the waves of change sweeping the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia isn’t wanting it to limit it to just the monarchial governments of Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. According to the article:

Saudi Arabia has already made moves to try to stretch the Gulf Cooperation Council far beyond its original regional mission to try to turn it into an alliance of monarchies that might band together against the democratic trend. Its diplomats have made overtures to include the kingdoms of Morocco and Jordan.

And that gets to the heart of the problem for the Times, and why they chose to be silent on the U.S. It does the Empire no service to point out that a hand-full of U.S.-backed dictatorships are banding “together against the democratic trend,” especially since droning on and on about democracy and human rights is a central feature in the Empire’s repertoire. Just last month the U.S. government blocked Cuba fom the Summit of the America’s on the grounds of the islands democratic deficit (despite Honduras’ attendance).

One has to be careful when reading the Times. Because, even while reporting on attempts by monarchies to create an axis of tyranny, it is not so much what they do say, but what they don’t say. Once you’ve become accustomed to how propaganda works it’s astonishing to witness it.

For example, it’s not fitting to point out that the monarchies are important regional allies to the U.S. government, or to inquire as to whether the Empire backs this move. Since the “paper of record” is an important component of the Western establishment, and looking into the role of the U.S. to undermine pro-democracy movements would be uncouth, it doesn’t happen. For those familiar with the work of NYTimes eXaminer this is not new.

There is another angle to this story that also demonstrates the propaganda value of the mass media, which is not only missing from Fahim’s and Kirkpatricks article, but from the entire New York Times establishment (and beyond). Namely, the recent revelation through FOIA requests that the White House and Democrats conspired with local and state law officials across the country to put down the Occupy protests. As far as I can tell there is not one mention of these documents in the Times, which is why the story is published at Counterpunch—an independent leftist media source.

Apparently it’s not just that the NYT is silent on the role of the U.S. in anti-democracy activities in the Middle East, but here at home too.

President Obama on Gay Marriage: It’s Called Electioneering, Stupid!

It didn’t take long for sensible people to fall all over themselves with praise for President Obama today.

According to the New York Times: “Obama Says Same-Sex Marriage Should Be Legal.”

Naturally, Mitt Romney, his Republican “opponent,” has to contrast himself by taking an opposite stand. According to the Times, “Hours before the president’s announcement, Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, restated his opposition to same-sex marriage in an interview with KDVR-TV, a Fox News affiliate in Colorado.”

Such silliness.

When it comes to politicians and electoral politics we have decades of experience to draw from. And when a politician makes a comment like saying he supports same-sex marriage, it should be taken with a grain of salt.

Even limited to Obama himself we have enough to judge for ourselves.

Remember back in November 2007 when Barack Obama said that, “If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America”?

In Madison, Wisconsin the only sound you can hear are crickets chirping.

Remember back in the summer of 2008 when presidential candidate Barack Obama said, “It is time to pass Employee Free Choice Act in the Senate, and I will make it a law of the land when I am President of the United States of America”?

Well, he was elected, and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, and there was not one attempt “make it a law of the land.” Whoops!

Remember during that same period when Obama said, “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program,” and that, “I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its gross national product on health care, cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody”?

Oh wait, that’s right. After he was elected he sung an entirely different tune:

What are not legitimate concerns are those being put forward claiming a public option is somehow a Trojan horse for a single-payer system. I’ll be honest. There are countries where a single-payer system may be working. But I believe — and I’ve even taken some flak from members of my own party for this belief — that it is important for us to build on our traditions here in the United States. So, when you hear the naysayers claim that I’m trying to bring about government-run health care, know this – they are not telling the truth.

Remember on January 22, 2009 when President Obama issued an executive order which stated that, “The detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order,” and that, “If any individuals covered by this order remain in detention at Guantánamo at the time of closure of those detention facilities, they shall be returned to their home country, released, transferred to a third country, or transferred to another United States detention facility in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States”?

Not only are the detention facilities at Guantánamo still open and active, but detainees, like Inayatullah, are killing themselves to stop the torture that is still going on a year after Obama had ordered the torture center to close. Inayatullah wasn’t returned home, or released, or transferred to a third country, or to the U.S. in compliance with law. He remained at Guantánamo, enduring God knows what, until he finally freed himself by taking his own life.

Even more recently, within the last month, and in regards to President Obama and the LGBT community, the New York Times published Jackie Calmes’ article “Obama Won’t Order Ban on Gay Bias by Employers,” where readers are told that, “President Obama disappointed and vexed gay supporters on Wednesday with his decision, conveyed to activists by a senior adviser, not to sign an executive order banning discrimination by employers with federal contracts.”

It goes on and on and on like the song that never ends.

It is no secret that politicians say one thing and do another. And it’s no big secret as to why that is. Campaigns are costly. For his column at Salon, Glenn Greenwald wrote in his latest article—”Obama ‘evolves’ on marriage“—that, “It may very well be true that Obama took this step not out of any genuine conviction, but because he perceives that high levels of enthusiasm among the Democratic base generally and gay donors specifically are necessary for his re-election.”

Consider Obama’s pro-rhetoric on Labor above, or his executive order on closing Guantánamo. Politicians are constantly responding to power, which generally comes in two forms: the power of money and the power in numbers. They are professionals, and know how to pick their battles. In the absence of an organized national movement mobilized around working class, or environmental, or LGBT issues, or whatever, it should come as no surprise that shrewd, calculating politicians, like President Obama, don’t bite the hands that feed them. The Military Industrial Complex is stronger and better organized than human rights activists. Therefore, Guantánamo remains open. Capital is stronger and better organized than Labor. Therefore, Obama didn’t dare put on his comfortable shoes and occupy Wisconsin’s capitol. The power and influence of “employers” is greater than the LGBT movement. Therefore, President Obama didn’t sign an executive order on gay bias last month.

Besides, there is a caveat that folks are forgetting to consider. President Obama himself kept emphasizing the words “for me personally,” and as CNN reports: “The president said he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own.”

Translation: President Obama will not lift a finger to actually give LGBT people the rights he “personally” supports them to have.

Because of the political implications of his comment during a presidential election, and because there is no organized social movement to counter the influence of the religious right, President Obama has determined that it is only safe enough to say what he “personally” feels is right, but that it’s up to the states to decide.
And considering that fourty-two states outlaw same-sex marriage, with thirty states now having a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage thanks to North Carolina’s recent amendment, President Obama’s “support” for states to decide makes his “support” for same-sex marriage a rather meaningless, empty gesture—which will probably secure a few more votes from kind-hearted folks who didn’t take the time to read the fine print.

Furthermore, it should be noted, so as to pull things into perspective a bit, that Obama’s views has only “evolved” to what was former Vice President Dick Cheney’s view just a few weeks shy of three years ago.

It’s also worth noting that Obama’s historical comparison is Stephen A. Douglas, who personally disapproved of slavery but said that the institution or abolition of slavery should be decided by the state. That position weakened him in the eyes of abolitionists, and cost him the 1860 election—and rightly so. It’s a typical fairweathered response we would expect from a politician; it’s refusal to take stand; a go along with popularity, not morality. And that’s how I feel about President Stephen A. Doubama.