The coup de grace By William Bowles

10 May 2003

When in Baghdad?
Whatever pronouncements USUK have made over the past months, all are exposed for what they are, utter shams. Shams moreover, that they have been forced to make under public pressure, though it’s of little comfort and makes little difference.

Two issues are at stake here: one is the oil (obviously) the other is strategic. It’s interesting to note how the media have dealt with the proposal USUK have taken to the UN. The BBC was perfunctory in its coverage, content to merely ‘report’. No reading between the lines for the voice of the political class on this issue.

What is entirely missing from any coverage in the corporate or the state-controlled press are these two central issues. So the Independent for example (10/5/03) (the paper I like to ‘unpack’ simply because it professes some kind of ‘liberal’, anti-war stance) in its editorial, and sounding like a whipped puppy, which I suppose is what it really is, can just about summon the following bleat:

‘Tony Blair and George Bush both promised, at their joint news conference in Belfast on 8 April, that the UN would have a vital role in post-war Iraq.’

It continues:

‘Yet it is plain that, whether or not the draft resolution is passed, Iraq will be governed for at least the next year by the United States…. It will only reinforce the perception [sic] that the US is engaged in an imperialist adventure…. Suspicions of American and British motives in Iraq will be further stoked by the provisions of the draft resolution on the Iraqi Assistance Fund…[as] [t]he fund would not be a UN fund…. Thus it would not be under the control of the UN’

‘Governed’? Where is the government? And note that it doesn’t say, ‘occupied’ and of course it’s only a ‘perception that the US is engaged in an imperialist adventure’. What has to happen before perceptions turn into a reality that is acceptable to the editors of the Independent? Hoisting the Stars and Stripes over Baghdad and opening a MacDonald’s?

And with a final whimper of submission to realpolitik, we are told:

‘As with the betrayal [sic] of the promise of a ‘vital role’ for the UN in governing Iraq, Mr Blair’s boast of being able to influence [sic] the American hegemony has been weakened…The Prime Minister has some awkward explaining to do…but he has been forced aside by a President who brooks no restraint on American power.’

‘You promised (whine-whine). Now you’ve made us look like the idiots we are (more whining).’ And can we expect an ‘explanation’ from Tony? Hell will freeze over first. But as a sop to the real world, we are at least told that Bush brooks no restraint. Well at least we’ve got that bit sorted out.

Torpid words on the ‘Dark Continent’
Ironically, the piece next door to the Independent’s editorial has the following headline:

‘My guilt over the way we abandoned the unluckiest country in the world’

By Fergal Keane who is a BBC special correspondent, which means he gets to travel a lot to exotic places at taxpayer expense, but as you’ll see below, the ones in Africa are really difficult to get to.

And what country is it pray, that Fergal feels so guilty about? Why it’s the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now this is the same country whose dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, the US supported for decades. The same dictator who allowed his country to be used by apartheid South Africa to invade Angola from and to supply UNITA with weapons (obtained from the US). ‘Unlucky’? Keane goes on to say incredulously that:

‘All manner of killers have been floating around the torpid waters of post-Mobutu Congo.’

The language positively drips off his word processor with loud plops into the ‘sluggish’ (another word for torpid according to my thesaurus) waters of the Congo River doesn’t it. ‘Torpid’? What kind of racist garbage is this? What of Mobutu’s reign of terror prior to the country’s collapse? A collapse moreover, triggered by the policies of the IMF and the World Bank and the US’ sudden indifference to the plight of its population, once it no longer had a puppet that it could control. Okay, we’ll give Keane his due, he does go on to catalogue the horrors of Mobutu, the dismemberment of the country by the CIA and Belgium, and how the West ‘conspired to murder his left-wing predecessor, Patrice Lumumba.

But what of the country’s bad luck? Keane waffles on about how it was a pawn of the Cold War and how once the Cold War was over, the West lost interest etc. So the country’s ‘bad luck’ is that the Cold War ended?

He then us tells that the, ‘UN struggles to monitor the ‘peace process’ but that, ‘the Americans – [the people who really count] are too preoccupied with terrorism and Iraq to care much.’

My main objection to this piece of racist garbage is his language. Africans are presented as savages and in the most savage language:

‘Numerous women and children were killed by gun, machete and club. It happened in a place that was, by Western standards at least, very remote.’

Remote from ‘Western standards’ or remote geographically? Draw your own conclusions.

Or, this gem:

‘…Corpses are lying out in the open. This, it has to be said, is par for the course in the Congo of the past few years.’

Past few years? The past century and half would have been a lot closer. Par for the course? Well it is Africa we’re talking about, where such things are obviously ‘par for the course’. And the Holocaust or the Slave Trade? Was that par for the course too? King Leopold (the 19th century one) is reputed to have slaughtered at least 3 million people in his lust for diamonds and gold.

Kabila is described as, ‘a corpulent lump of greed and viciousness.’ Now I had no love for Kabila and I do not seek to defend his actions but this language is rooted in the deeply racist culture of Britain and the West.

Keane’s mea culpa consists of the following:

‘The media don’t often go to the Congo and have never really told the full story of the country’s epic [sic] tragedy – it’s very dangerous, physically hard to get at and we’ve all been preoccupied with Afghanistan, Iraq and everywhere else.’

‘Hard to get at’? Oh I forgot, the Congo is in ‘darkest Africa’ isn’t it. You’ve gotta chop your way through the jungle with your trusty African ‘beasts of burden’ to assist you. Never told the real story? What an out and out lie this is. And anyway, I understand you’ve been really preoccupied with ‘everywhere else’. Except the Congo. But not to worry, Keane feels a,

‘[P]ersonal guilt about this and I know some other Africa hands do as well.’

Well it’s nice to know that Keane and his ‘other Africa hands’ feel some guilt over the plight of the Congo and its people. Not to worry, maybe if you ask your boss at the BBC nicely, now that everywhere else has been dealt with, he’ll hire some porters for you and you can chop your way through the jungle to Kigali or some other hard to get at place. Maybe you’ll bump into a ‘corpulent lump of greed and viciousness on the way’ and should you survive the encounter, you’ll have a juicy story to tell us of torpid goings on in darkest Africa when you make it back to ‘civilisation’. I just can’t wait.

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