There are dozens of US client states whose leaders fit the description “cruel dictator” who most people don’t know rig elections, jail opponents, close newspapers and start wars. On the other hand, there are a few leaders, invariably elected, who preside over governments that pursue traditional leftist goals of socialism or escape from neo-colonialism or both who many people understand incorrectly to be cruel dictators (Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Alexander Lukashenko, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Robert Mugabe.) Government officials, news media and even many leftists in the West reserve the term cruel dictator for the opponents of imperialism, while saying virtually nothing about the real dictators who defend and promote Western strategic and economic interests at the expense of their own people. This essay focuses on Robert Mugabe, one leader the West vilifies as a cruel dictator, and compares the accusations made against him with the records of such US allies as Hosni Mubarak, Meles Zenawi, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Mikheil Saakashvili and Pervez Musharraf.
By Stephen Gowans
The government of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe is accused by Western governments and assorted left-wing groups of breaching the civil and political liberties of Zimbabweans and of operating a human rights horror show. Were all of the accusations against Mugabe’s government true, Harare’s actions would still pale in comparison to those of scores of other governments that imperialist powers support and the anti-Mugabe left says nothing about. While the left critics of Mugabe are vociferous in their condemnation of the Zimbabwean president, and prepared to accept uncritically all damning accusations against him, they remain virtually silent on the grave assaults on civil and political liberties carried out by US client states.
The charge sheet against Mugabe includes intimidation of political opponents, restrictions on press freedoms and electoral fraud. But there are dozens of US client states whose leaders steal elections, shut down newspapers, arrest bloggers, jail opposition leaders and ban opposition political parties. These assaults on civil and political liberties are as grave, if not graver, than anything the Mugabe government has been accused of, and yet the leaders of these governments are not widely vilified in the West (though they are in their own countries.) The point, here, is not to engage in apologetics by saying that even if we assume all the charges against Mugabe are true his actions are still minor in comparison to those of scores of other governments, but to ask why imperialist powers, their media, and assorted left-wing groups remain virtually silent on the grave human rights violations committed by scores of other governments. Why Mugabe and not Seles or Mubarak?
Those who rail against Mugabe as Africa’s great anti-democratic Satan appear to have failed to recognize that, in every country in north Africa, Islamist opposition parties have been banned. Significantly, these parties are acknowledged to be sufficiently popular to win large parliamentary blocs, if not outright majorities. (1) While Mugabe is accused of using the state to intimidate Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, he has never banned it, though some would say as a Western-created and funded organization, Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change, the MDC, ought to be banned. The MDC was cobbled together through funding provided by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the British equivalent of the US National Endowment for Democracy. The NED does overtly what the CIA used to covertly (i.e., destabilize foreign governments.) Both the Bush administration and the British government acknowledge that they are working with the opposition to bring down the Mugabe government. (2) Certainly, neither the US nor Britain would tolerate outside interference in their own electoral politics. Zimbabwe, held to a higher standard, is expected to, and does.
While Zimbabwe is sanctioned and demonized by the US, Egypt’s government, whose leader Hosni Mubarak rules with an iron fist, is showered with Washington’s largesse, and only occasionally shows up on the radar screens of the West’s anti-Mugabe left. Mubarak, and his son Gamal — who is expected to succeed his father as president, and not through means that would be considered fair in the West — are regarded by Egyptians as US lackeys. (3) Mubarak bans the Muslim Brotherhood, a party strong enough to unseat him, and by implication, to end US domination of Egypt. He also jails opposition figures, locks up bloggers who criticize him, but receives over $1 billion a year in US military aid. The US may present itself as the world’s champion of civil and political liberties, but it rewards dozens of states that severely limit formal political rights with billions of dollars in aid. In return, foreign strongmen keep their countries open to US trade and investment, carry out proxy wars on Washington’s behalf, and repress their own populations.
Late last year, Mubarak announced a full-scale retreat from the social security gains of the 50s and 60s. The socialist principles the country adopted in the 60s would be scrapped to establish conditions more favorable to the profit-making interests of US banks, corporations and investors. (4) This came in the wake of strides the government had already taken to impose neo-liberal reforms, which have seen illiteracy rise and social services crumble, in a country teeming with the poor.
The Muslim Brotherhood, banned since 1954, has moved in to fill the gaps left by the retreating state, setting up clinics, nurseries and after-school tutoring. (5) Hezbollah, in a similar way, has built support in southern Lebanon by providing social services the state won’t provide. Not surprisingly, the Muslim Brotherhood’s popularity has soared. Its members, running as independents, contested 161 seats in the 454 member Egyptian parliament, and won 88 of them. Mubarak countered by rounding up hundreds of party members (paralleling the Israeli practice of jailing Hamas legislators.)
The comparison with Zimbabwe is instructive. The MDC operates freely and has contested elections. But unlike the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the freely operating MDC favors a neo-liberal tyranny. This is no surprise, given the MDC’s connections to the dominant economic interests in Britain and the United States.
In September, an Egyptian “judge ordered a year’s hard labor for the editors of four leading opposition newspapers, saying they had made the ruling party, Mubarak, and his son Gamal, appear dictatorial.” (6) Had Mugabe jailed the editors of Zimbabwe’s opposition newspapers, complaining they had portrayed him as a dictator, the story would be blanketed across the Western media, state officials in the West would howl with outrage, and demands would be made for immediate intervention to turn back Mugabe’s intolerable tyranny. Soon after, three more opposition journalists were sentenced to two year prison terms for impugning Egypt’s justice system. On top of this, an Egyptian human rights organization was banned. One thousand of its members have been jailed over the past year. Perhaps all the indignation of newspaper editorial writers, Western state officials, and various left-wing groups was exhausted in denunciations of Mugabe. It certainly hasn’t been exhausted in denunciations of Mubarak.
Jordan, a centralized monarchy with a largely ceremonial parliament, jailed government critic Toujan al-Faisal for criticizing the state’s auto-insurance policies. Author Ahmad Oweidi, who wrote e-mails critical of the government, was arrested for harming the government’s reputation. (7) By comparison, the Mugabe government not only tolerates critics but also tolerates those who openly call for its forcible removal. Hajia Aminata Sow, a retired Guinean jurist attended NGO meetings in Zimbabwe at which “speaker after speaker openly advocated for forcible removal of Mugabe’s government.” She was astonished the speakers weren’t arrested. (8) The principal leaders of the opposition routinely threaten violence to drive Mugabe from office, but nevertheless remain free to continue to call for insurrection. MDC faction leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s threats began early on, and have continued since. In 2000, he told Mugabe that if he didn’t step down peacefully, “we will remove you violently.” (9) The then Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube told the London Sunday Times that he thought “it is justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe.” He complained that though he was ready “to lead the people, guns blazing” nobody was willing to follow him. (10) Last Easter, the Roman Catholic Church posted messages on church bulletin boards around the country calling on Mugabe to leave office or face “open revolt.” Mugabe’s failure to step down, the Church warned, would lead to bloodshed and a mass uprising. (11) Arthur Mutambara, leader of a breakaway MDC faction, pledged to “remove Robert Mugabe…with every tool at my disposal.” Asked what tools he was referring to, Mutambara replied, “We’re not going to rule out or in anything – the sky’s the limit.” (12) Unlike Jordanians Toujan al-Faisal and Ahmad Oweidi, who were jailed for merely criticizing their government, Tsvangairai, Ncube and Mutambara are free to issue threats to remove the Mugabe government through extra-constitutional means, to call on foreign powers to impose sanctions, and to importune a former colonial power to intervene militarily – a freedom few governments, including those in the West, are willing to grant. In light of revelations that Britain has considered attacking Zimbabwe on several occasions (13) and that the US is bankrolling opposition activities aimed at regime change (14) some measure of restriction on fifth column activities is wholly justified and is a necessary part of defending the gains of Zimbabwe’s program of breaking free of neo-colonial domination. If Mugabe is to be criticized, he should be criticized for allowing agents of imperialism too much latitude, not too little.
On top of the Jordanian government’s other affronts to civil and political liberties, it can be faulted for drawing electoral boundaries to favor rural areas in which support for pro-government parties is strong, threatening to ban election monitors, and ordering soldiers to vote for pro-government candidates. (15) Such blatant contempt for basic standards of representative democracy, displayed by the Mugabe government, would elicit howls of outrage from Whitehall and indignant editorials calling for immediate action, from an escalation of sanctions to military intervention. But Jordan, a US ally, can practice a tyranny that exceeds anything Mugabe is accused of, without comment. George Bush calls Mugabe’s government “a brutal regime.” (16) Washington’s March 2006 National Security Strategy refers to Zimbabwe as a “stronghold of tyranny.” Jordan, which fits these categories, is called neither of these things.
In the Philippines another US ally, president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is waging an all-out war against communist militants. Karapatan, a Philippines human rights organization, has documented 900 cases of extra-judicial killings, in which the Philippine military has hunted down militants and summarily executed them. Human Rights Watch complains that in failing to prosecute members of the military implicated in the killings, Arroyo has failed to uphold international law. But the larger crime lies in the fact that an all-out war (i.e., one outside the rule of law) is being waged to eliminate a militant opposition. (17) Dispatching the military to take out members of a political opposition, even if it is a militant one, would be loudly decried as a heinous crime, meriting military intervention on humanitarian grounds, if undertaken by a leader of a country resisting imperialist domination. Were the Zimbabwean military to hunt down MDC militants for summary execution, there would be no end to the incensed cries for justice from the West. It’s no so outlandish to suggest a war crimes tribunal would be established, and the accused dragged before the court. Arroyo, however, can hunt down and exterminate as many militant opponents as she likes, with little fear anyone in the West will notice, and even less fear of being dragged before a tribunal. Tribunals are reserved for leaders who resist imperial domination, not accept, welcome and promote it.
In Zimbabwe, “there are frequent calls by the opposition party and its allied trade unions for street protests. Once, in what they termed as the ‘Final Push’, the opposition called for a march on the State House, the seat of government, for its overthrow. No government folds its arms in the face of such provocations. And when the police are used to restore law and order, it becomes a human rights violation.” (18) That is, in Zimbabwe and elsewhere outside the US imperial orbit. Inside, it becomes a justified police action to restore law and order.
The Mugabe government was roundly criticized earlier this year for a crackdown on demonstrators, especially when police beat Morgan Tsvangirai, who had tried to force his way past police lines into a police station. Demonstrations had been banned in the wake of several fire-bombing incidents, but the opposition chose to defy the ban. When the police moved in to disperse demonstrators, the opposition, predictably, cried foul, and the Western media, NGOs (funded by Western governments), opposition newspapers, and Western state officials echoed the cry.
Not too many weeks later, 900 German police officers swept down on 40 sites in half a dozen German cities in a “show of force against potentially violent demonstrators” who were planning to protest outside the G8 summit. German authorities said they were investigating 18 people they believed were planning fire-bombings. (19) Although clearly intended to intimidate a civil opposition movement, no hue and cry was raised at the heavy-handed tactics of the German police. The protests that accompanied the actions of Zimbabwe’s authorities were, however, deafening, even though actual, and not anticipated, fire-bombings had occurred in Zimbabwe. A show of force by 900 Zimbabwean police swooping down on hundreds of MDC activists to prevent possible fire-bombings would have been denounced by state officials, journalists and various left groups in the West as blatant political intimidation, the work of a strongman. The German incident passed virtually unnoticed.
Ethiopia and Somalia
The Meles government of Ethiopia receives hundreds of millions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid from the US and Britain. These injections have been used to build one of the largest and strongest armies in Africa, which stands ready to be deployed to enlarge and defend US and British economic and strategic interests in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopian forces invaded neighboring Somalia late last year at the behest of US officials, a blatant violation of international law on par with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, for which Ethiopia has not been censured at the UN, bombed by a coalition of the willing, or sanctioned by the international community. No one has denounced Meles as a strongman, said the world would be a better place without him, or deplored the humanitarian disaster the invasion has touched off. An estimated 850,000 Somalis have been displaced, almost one-tenth of the population. (20) The New York Times acknowledges that “the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa may not be unfolding in Darfur” but in Somalia. (21) The head of the United Nations humanitarian operations in Somalia complains that “if this were happening in Darfur, there would be a big fuss.” (22) But it’s not happening in Darfur, it’s happening in Somalia, as a result of an illegal invasion undertaken by Ethiopia, assisted by US military forces, and at the request of the United States. It’s for this reason there has been no big fuss. Washington had pushed for the invasion to oust a popular Islamist government Somalis had embraced and to restore the rule of the unpopular US-backed government that US firms had been planning undercover missions to support, with the full knowledge of the CIA. (23) For doing the West’s bidding in this and other ways, the murderous Meles was handpicked by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair to sit on Britain’s Commission for Africa, to lead the “African renaissance.”
Meles’ repugnant behavior goes further than this. Following Ethiopia’s May 2005 general election, which the opposition claimed was rigged, Ethiopian authorities opened fire on protesters, killing 193 people. Thousands of opposition supporters and leaders were rounded up and jailed. Meles asked that the death penalty be imposed on 38 opposition leaders, including the founder of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, a former UN war crimes prosecutor and the mayor-elect of Addis Ababa. The court rejected Meles’ request, but imposed life sentences (overturned after the US, embarrassed by its client’s actions, intervened.)
Meles is all that Mugabe is accused of being, and more. He’s a strongman who rigs elections, and then beats, shoots at, jails and threatens to execute the opposition when it protests. He’s a war criminal. And he’s the architect of an unfolding humanitarian tragedy. Yet 99 percent of those who rail against Mugabe have never heard of Meles. How curious that Meles, whose government has engaged in far more repressive actions than any Mugabe has even been accused of, is showered with honors and aid, while Mugabe is treated as Africa’s version of Hitler. How curious that such patently silly charges as come from some fairly visible Western leftists can be made (among them that Mugabe is, appearances aside, an agent of imperialism ), while the same people have next to nothing to say about such conspicuous agents of imperialism as Meles and Mubarak.
Only recently, after Pakistan’s military ruler Pervez Musharraf invoked a state of emergency, has Western media coverage and left-wing commentary got around to lambasting Musharaff for his restrictions on civil and political liberties. Significantly, this sudden concern for human rights coincides with Washington’s realizing that Musharraf has lost control and bungled the war against militants on Afghanistan’s border. The Bush regime is making clear to Pakistan’s military, and in particular, to the favored successor to Musharraf, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, that the $1 billion in military aid it receives every year is in jeopardy, unless Musharraf is gently pushed aside. Washington would like a civilian president to be appointed to douse the flames of growing civil unrest, who would call for new elections. De facto power, however, would remain with the military, and, by implication, with Washington, through the leverage over Pakistan’s military its substantial military aid provides.
One would think the sudden flowering of concern for human rights in Pakistan is a reflection of Musharaff doing a sudden about-face, but the Pakistani strongman is doing nothing new. He has been arresting opposition activists and blocking transmission of TV coverage critical of his rule for some time, and he has been doing so with the full knowledge of his paymasters in Washington. (Pakistanis call their president Busharraf, an acknowledgement of Musharraf’s role as a proxy for Washington.) Even so, the various left-wing groups, and the Western media, who seem to know no limit when it comes to denouncing Mugabe’s government for imagined lapses, have been largely silent on the human rights violations of Musharraf’s government, until now. Now that it serves US interests to harp on Musharraf’s generous abridgment of liberties in Pakistan in order to justify his removal have the Western media and pro-imperialist left decided to loudly condemn Musharraf.
While there are two state-owned newspapers in Zimbabwe, The Herald and Sunday Mail, most newspapers, including the Zimbabwe Independent, The Standard, Financial Gazette, The Zimbabwean and The Mail & Guardian of South Africa are pro-opposition and are sold freely on the streets. You would think, from the tales that are told about Zimbabwe, that there are no opposition newspapers and that they have all been closed by a tyrannical government that brooks no opposition. On the other hand, press freedoms are restricted in dozens of countries in which US strongmen rule as virtual dictators, and yet these affronts against freedom of the press are barely acknowledged, let alone condemned. This is another case of the Mugabe government being demonized for something it hasn’t done, while those who are actually engaged in practices the Mugabe government is accused of, get a pass because they are US client states.
The list of US allies that have jailed journalists or banned newspapers or both is endless. An impartial list, counting only recent crackdowns on press freedoms: Saudi Arabia, a human rights horror show if ever there was one, but one that rarely provokes much complaint from Western state officials, the media and the left groups that deplore the Mugabe government, recently banned a leading Arab newspaper, al-Hayat, because one of the newspaper’s columnists criticized the government.” (24) In September, Egypt’s Mubarak government sentenced four newspaper editors to one year jail sentences, and sentenced three journalists to two-year prison terms, because they criticized the government and made Mubarak look like a dictator. (25) In Georgia, the darling of the Rose Revolution, Mikheil Saakashvili, has moved to crush the Rose Revolution II, in part by violently closing down the country’s most popular television station, because, he said, it was fomenting a coup. (26) Predictably, the people power enthusiasts who thrilled at protests against US target governments in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and Zimbabwe, have shown no interest in the people power protests of Hezbollah supporters against the US-supported Lebanese government or of Georgians against Washington’s man in Tbilisi, Saakashvili. It seems that what represents a genuine expression of people power depends on whether it is instigated and bankrolled by the West and elevated to significance by the Western media.
Saakashvili deserves more attention from the anti-Mugabe left than he gets. The color revolution poster boy is described by many of the tens of thousands of demonstrators who marched against his government in early November in a way that is reminiscent of the picture the anti-Mugabe forces paint of Mugabe. He is described as “domineering and abrasive.” His opponents accuse him of “hoarding and abusing power, and of running the nation through a clique that will neither tolerate dissent nor engage in dialogue with the opposition, which Mr. Saakashvili has repeatedly made clear he despises and considers weak.” On top of that “the government also faces pressure from rising prices and lingering underemployment” and “economic conditions remain difficult enough that many Georgians travel abroad for work.” (27) Surely, those who thunder against Mugabe should be expressing their outraged indignation at Saakashvili, for, in the real world, Saakashvili is all they imagine Mugabe to be. Tony Blair’s chief of staff for 10 years, Jonathan Powell, says that Britain should intervene militarily in Zimbabwe, rather than standing back and watching Zimbabweans suffer. (28) He’s silent on Georgia.
Charges of Economic Mismanagement
On top of accusing Mugabe of rigging elections, repressing the opposition and stifling a free press, the Zimbabwean president is also accused of grossly mismanaging the Zimbabwean economy, turning the breadbasket of southern Africa into a basket-case. Even if you show that all the other accusations against Mugabe are gross hyperbole at best, and that there are dozens of other governments doing with impunity what Mugabe’s government is falsely accused of, one charge remains: Mugabe has wrecked Zimbabwe’s economy by carrying out a misguided land redistribution program.
There’s no doubt Zimbabwe is in the grips on an economic crisis. Food and electricity shortages plague the country. But not all of Zimbabwe’s economic problems are unique. In fact, many of its problems are part of a wider pattern of scarcity in sub-Saharan Africa. Last summer, The Washington Post (29) pointed out that “daily power outages are forcing Zimbabweans to light fires to cook and to heat water.” The result is that wood poaching has stripped nearly 500 acres of conservation woodland. But what the Post didn’t point out was that it’s not only Zimbabweans, but people throughout sub-Saharan Africa, who are stripping forests bare to provide heat and cooking fuel. (30) Because rolling power blackouts are depriving southern Africans of electricity to cook their food, they’re turning to wood fires. Drought, climbing oil prices, and the chaos caused by the privatization of formerly state-owned power companies have created an “unprecedented” power crisis that not only affects Zimbabwe, but Zambia, Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda and Togo. Even South Africa was hit by rolling blackouts in January and sporadic power failures continue to bedevil the country.
But it is in Zimbabwe alone that the electricity shortages are attributed to economic mismanagement. The Washington Post noted that Zimbabwe’s “power, water, health and communications systems are collapsing,” and that “there are acute shortages of staple foods and gasoline.” These problems are attributed to economic mismanagement and Harare’s land reform policies. But acute food and gasoline shortages are common to neighboring countries. If Zimbabwe is short of gasoline, “Uganda’s gas stations are…short of diesel for vehicles.” (31) If there are shortages of food staples in Zimbabwe, there are close to two dozen other sub-Saharan countries that are contending with food scarcity, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization. Since neighboring countries have not pursued Zimbabwe’s fast track land reform policies, and have tended to shy away from the economic indigenization policies Harare favors, gasoline, electricity and food shortages can hardly be attributed to policies uniquely pursued by Harare.
The US and its Western allies use sanctions to pressure Zimbabwe to adopt policies that welcome, promote and defend foreign ownership. The former US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, urged Mugabe to “implement the market reforms the IMF and others, including the United States, have been recommending.” Dell emphasized “the importance of a free-market economy and security of property,” which is to say, abandonment of the expropriation policies Harare has used to redistribute land to Africans. (32) It’s clear that sanctions would be lifted if Mugabe were to return Zimbabwe to neo-colonialism.
The sanctions, imposed by the US and EU, deny Zimbabwe access to international development aid. NGOs, following the Western governments that provide their funding, have also cut off assistance. These aren’t trade sanctions, but even so they have a devastating bite, making region-wide drought and the oil-price-rise-induced energy shortages more acute. It may seem as if Mugabe has mismanaged the economy, but Zimbabwe’s economic troubles are exogenous: drought and oil price increases, worsened by economic sanctions. In a pastoral letter issued last spring, 13 Anglican bishops and one canon of the Anglican Church, observed that Zimbabwe’s economic troubles have “been exacerbated by the economic sanctions imposed by the Western countries” which have “affected the poor Zimbabweans who have borne the brunt of the sanctions.” The clergymen called upon “the Western countries to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.” (33) To paraphrase Tim Beal, who has followed the effects of sanctions on north Korea, sanctions have three great advantages for the West. They cause virtually no pain to Americans and Europeans, they produce no Western casualties, and the results – the misery of ordinary Zimbabweans – can be blamed on Mugabe, which in turn is produced as evidence the sanctions are desirable and necessary. (34)
Edward Herman points out that “in the real world, both Musharraf and the Shah of Iran fit comfortably the category of ‘cruel dictator,’ whereas (Iranian president Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad does not.” And yet when Ahmadinejad visited Columbia University this year he was a called a ‘cruel dictator’ by university president Lee Bollinger. When Musharraf visited Columbia, Bollinger showered the Pakistani strongman with praise, calling him “a leader of global importance” and gushed “it is rare we have a leader of his stature at campus.” (35) Likewise, while in the real world Musharraf, Mubarak and Seles fit the description of cruel dictators, Mugabe, who was elected in a contest the Southern African Development Community declared to be free and fair, does not. Still, if you polled 100 people who claim to be well-informed, 99 would, like Bollinger, echo a line that reflects the interests of Western powers in demonizing a leader who opposes “our interests” and “our values”, to borrow the rhetoric of Blair advisor Jonathan Powell. What it’s important to recognize is that “our” does not refer to you and me, but to the dominant economic interests of the US and Britain, who would profit from Mugabe adopting IMF reforms, a free market, and safeguarding the property rights (of foreign firms and descendants of European settlers.)
What Western state officials and the media who amplify their words say about Zimbabwe should be considered critically and treated with the skepticism that is due highly partial sources that have well-established records of making false accusations (Western governments) and uncritically propagating them (the Western media.) One need point no further than the weapons of mass destruction that never were to make the case that what the US and Britain say and the media passes on should be considered with a healthy dose of skepticism. In taking on the project of liberating the country from neo-colonial domination, the Mugabe government has challenged powerful interests in the West. We should expect that Western governments, Western news media and NGOs (which are funded by wealthy Westerners to promote their privileged interests under the guise of doing good works) to be hostile to the Mugabe government, and to portray it accordingly. By the same token, we should expect these same forces to portray the affronts against international law and civil and political liberties of states that act to defend and promote privileged interests in the West in a dispassionate, if not, apologetic manner, according them little notice. The Bollingers and Blairs of the world will continue to bestow honors and flattery upon cruel dictators who serve US and British interests, while reserving the label ‘cruel dictator’ for leaders of struggles against imperial domination. We need not follow the same pro-imperialist practice. Politicians, state officials, university presidents, CEOs, NGOs, and editorial writers are not politically neutral. When we mimic their positions on foreign affairs, we’re not showing solidarity with all oppressed people, though we might think we are in opposing the people dominant Western interests call ‘cruel dictators’. More often than not we’re showing solidarity with people who are accepting money from Western powers to oppose governments motivated by traditional leftist values of socialism or national liberation. At the same time, we’re failing to show solidarity with people oppressed by strongmen the US has brought to power to ensure Western corporate and financial interests prevail over the interests of local populations.
1. New York Times, April 15, 2007
2. Guardian, August 22, 2002
3. New York Times, September 20, 2006
4. Al-Ahram Weekly, February 21, 2007
5. Guardian, July 19, 2007
6. Washington Post, October 1, 2007
7. Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2007
8. Hajia Aminata Sow, “Zimbabwe: Burying the truth,” New African, November 2007
9. BBC, September 30, 2000
10. The Sunday Times, July 1, 2007
11. The Herald, April 15, 2007
12. Times Online, March 5, 2006
13. According to General Lord Charles Guthrie, The Sunday Mail, November 18, 2007
14. US State Department, “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The US Record, 2006”, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/shrd/2006/
15. New York Times, November 11, 2007
16. Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 25, 2007
17. New York Times, June 29, 2007
18. Hajia Aminata Sow
19. New York Times, May 10, 2007
20. Washington Post, November 14, 2007
21. New York Times, November 20, 2007
23. New York Times, December 14, 2006; Observer, September 10, 2006
24. Financial Times, August 29, 2007
25. Washington Post, October 1, 2007
26. New York Times, November 8, 2007; New York Times, November 18, 2007
27. New York Times, November 3, 2007
28. Jonathan Powell, “Why the West should not fear to intervene,” Observer, November 18, 2007
29. July 28, 2007
30. New York Times, July 29, 2007
32. Christopher Dell, “Response to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe monetary policy statement,” February 7, 2007
33. Pastoral letter issued by 14 Anglican bishops and one canon of the Anglican Church, Province of Central Africa, April 12, 2007
34. Pyongyang Report, October, 2007, http://www.vuw.ac.nz/~caplabtb/dprk/pyr9_4.mht
35. “More Nuggets From A Nut House, reprinted from Z Magazine at http://www.globalresearch.ca, November 17, 2007
10 thoughts on “Looking For Evil In All The Wrong Places”
The book Strange Liberators by Gregory Elich covers Mugabe and Zimbabwe quite well, in agreement with Mr. Gowans, and more.
You call to mind a prosecutor whose case consists entirely of restating the charges.
Judge: Abdiel, please present your case.
Abdiel: Thank-you. The accused is an evil scum-bag who has committed many crimes.
Judge: Yes, and…..
Abdiel: Well, that’s it. A terrible, terrible, man. Please lock him up for a long time.
Judge: That’s your case?
Abdiel: Yes it is.
Judge: Well, don’t you have any evidence to present?
Abdiel: Well, yes I do. The accused has committed many crimes, as I have already said, and many other people have said so too, and I think his crimes are to be deplored, and I hope you lock him up for many years.
Judge: That’s it?
Abdiel: Well, I could go on for days, but I’ll spare the court. The accused’s guilt is obvious.
Judge: And that’s your case?
Abdiel: Well, yes, except that I would like to add, on a personal note, that I deplore these terrible, terrible crimes. I’m for goodness and justice and I would like you and everyone else to know that.
Judge: Okay, thank-you Abdiel. Would the defense like to reply?
Defense: Yes, your honor. Abdiel has made clear what the defendant is accused of. While the onus is not on the defense to prove the innocence of the accused, I would nevertheless like to address some of these charges.
Abdiel (interupting): Please! The lawyer for the defense is being disingenuous. He knows very well that the accused is guilty.
And so on ad nausem.
Oh please. Mr. Gowans,
In your piece citing North Africa, you claim:
“The MDC operates freely and has contested elections.”
You know that this is not true. Mugabe’s faction declared the Daily News, the country’s only independent daily newspaper, “a threat to national security which has to be silenced.” Hours later the Daily News printing presses were destroyed by a bomb. That same September the government denied the irreverent paper a license, and the police shut it down.
The Daily News was a paper that supported the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai has been and is constantly brutalized by the Mugabe regime — physically and politically. To claim that the MDC “operates freely” is a blatant lie.
Again, when referring to the contrast with Jordan you state:
MDC faction leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s threats began early on, and have continued since. In 2000, he told Mugabe that if he didn’t step down peacefully, “we will remove you violently…If Mugabe is to be criticized, he should be criticized for allowing agents of imperialism too much latitude, not too little.”
Once again you fail to expose the violent and egregious assaults to Tsvangirai by Mugabe that led to the splintering of the MDC that ultimately to Mutambara’s ascension to power.
In regarding the Philippians, you write:
In Zimbabwe, “there are frequent calls by the opposition party and its allied trade unions for street protests. Once, in what they termed as the ‘Final Push’, the opposition called for a march on the State House, the seat of government, for its overthrow. No government folds its arms in the face of such provocations. And when the police are used to restore law and order, it becomes a human rights violation.”
You further your intentions by claiming this was because “several fire-bombing incidents, but the opposition chose to defy the ban.”
There was no evidence that Tsvangirai nor any of his supporters were involved in the “fire-bombing.” As far as anyone knows this could have been false flag operations by Mugabe’s own. By implication, you support the violent and deadly actions that day. The supporters of Tsvangirai risked life and limb to participate in peaceful resistance — you, by implication, supported Mugabe’s thug’s murder.
Regarding Somalia and Ethiopia you say that the charges against Mugabe are “silly” as compared to Meles’ behavior. Once again, you discretely present a more favorable account of Mugabe.
Thankfully, regarding Pakistan, you avoided any Zimbabwian connection to Musharraf. Perhaps this is because you stand firm on the Islamic Brotherhood as the real force for change in Zimbabwe.
In your Press Freedom part you claim, “You would think, from the tales that are told about Zimbabwe, that there are no opposition newspapers and that they have all been closed by a tyrannical government that brooks no opposition.”
In fact, the REAL opposition paper was bombed into extinction as shown above. The other papers are tolerated because the Mugabe faction is comfortable with their weak and token opposition that is more nostalgic than profound.
The “sanctions” part of your piece is the most disingenuous. Zimbabwe would do just fine with any and all sanctions would not Mugabe’s dictatorship paralyzed the one thing in the countries favor.
Zimbabwe was once considered the “breadbasket of South Africa.” Because Mugabe’s regime effectively destroyed this force due to his belligerent racism and misconceived act of revenge against the white farmers of the region — farmers who accepted his promise of “equity” — the country is no longer viable to its promise.
Mr. Gowan. Your whole piece is truly disingenuous. And I understand why. It comes early on with your complaint about the “Muslim Brotherhood.” Perhaps you feel that this is a “leftist” argument. But the fact is, you portray the MDC as a Western creation — Morgan Tsvangirai is a native Zimbabwe. He has sought to represent the working men and women — and the suffering.
You have, by your representation of the conflict, portrayed him as a western dupe. And by your unsaid but implicit endorsement, claim the Muslim Brotherhood, the defacto righteous ones.
I stand by my statement — this article is a disingenuous representation of the troubled nation of Zimbabwe.
Abdiel: I could cite a number of false claims in Mr. Gowan’s article regarding Mugabe’s rule in Zimbabwe but that is not the point of my comments.
Steve: Please, go ahead and cite them.
Abdiel: I merely state that I support every country that wishes to be free of Western/Colonial domination, but that does not mean that I will support those dictatorships, like Mugabe’s, that have allowed their own selfish interests to “prevail over the interests of local populations.”
Steve: Since you’re making the claim, the onus is on you to show how Zimbabwe’s government is a dictatorship. Show me.
Abdiel: Mr. Gowan would like unread viewers to believe that Mugabe’s Zimbabwe would be a liberated socialist paradise were it not for the nasty interventions of the Imperialist West (as well as an unfortunate time of drought.) This is extremely disingenuous.
Steve: Where have I ever said Zimbabwe would be socialist, much less a paradise, absent Western intervention?
Abdiel: Mugabe’s role in the unfortunate state of Zimbabwe is indisputably absolute and disastrous. While one can take the case of Venezuela’s Chavez as a wonderful example of a leader set on creating a liberated socialist state, one cannot possibly argue the same for the bloody, oppressive, and damaging rule of Mugabe.
Steve: Where have I made the case that Mugabe is a leader set on creating a liberated socialist state?
So, the US doesn’t benefit?
Don’t forget Israel. Only Israel benefits from these endless Middle East wars. Iraq is the beginning. As we commit war-crimes in Baghdad, the US gov’t commits treason at home by opening mail, eliminating habeas corpus, using the judiciary to steal private lands, banning books like “America Deceived” from Amazon and Wikipedia, conducting warrantless wiretaps and engaging in illegal wars on behalf of AIPAC’s ‘money-men’. Soon, another US false-flag operation will occur (sinking of an Aircraft Carrier by Mossad) and the US will invade Iran.. Then we’ll invade Syria, then Saudi Arabia, then Lebanon (again) then ….
Final link (before Google Books bends to gov’t demands and censors the title):
I always make it an effort to print your papers and share them with fellow Zimbabweans. You are fighting a struggle for us.
comment fronm the ‘left”on zimbabwe is indeed rare that is not pro imperialist.
So more on zimbabwe if you find time.
here in Australia they organise speaking tours for “leftists “to attack Zimbabwe .
Our lovely prime minister is concerned too.
What else can you expect from a country with such a large settler labour aristocracy.
Note the reimposition in Australia of Apartheid and land seizures under cover of “leases” for the first nation peoples own good of course.
What an insightfull article. Thank you my brother. I am in Zimbabwe and I cannot agree with you more.
onece a country joins the uncle sham fan club, aka the teflon club, nothing sticks,