The Role of the U.S. In the Rwandan Genocide and the Congo Wars

In my last post comparing the death tolls under Joseph Stalin and Bill Clinton, I decided to include the deaths of the Rwandan Genocide and the Congo Wars.

I took the position here that Clinton and the administration in Washington acted (or failed to act) out of either gross negligence or perhaps out of interest in allowing both the genocide and the wars to occur (at least in the way that they did).

Clinton Kagame

“I won’t tell if you won’t!”

With regards to the Rwandan genocide, there are generally two competing narratives. The dominant narrative has been very public: the administration (and Clinton himself) expressed time and again that they made an egregious mistake by not intervening. So, if we accept this narrative, then I think it’s fair to include the deaths that they admit that they didn’t stop.

However, if we accept an alternative narrative, presented in books like The Politics of Genocide by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, then the U.S. intervened fairly heavily. For example, according to Herman and Peterson, the United States was very involved in helping the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) assassinate Habyarimana in 1994 and then militarily conquer the country and subsequently massacre Hutus, Pygmies, and even Tutsis in reprisal killings, which, they argue, probably outnumber the 800,000 killed in the genocide. By accepting this narrative, although much more controversial, we would be able to attribute far more deaths to Paul Kagame and, by extension, Bill Clinton.

This is why I decided to include the death toll of the events in Rwanda under Clinton’s name.

Following this, Kagame and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda decided to invade Zaire in order to remove Mobutu from power. This is what is referred to as the First Congo War. As is discussed very in depth in Africa’s World War by Gérard Prunier, the U.S. very heavily backed Kagame and Museveni during the First Congo War. Prunier argues that Clinton saw an opportunity to get rid of Mobutu, of whom the U.S. was embarrassed for supporting throughout the Cold War. In fairness, pretty much everyone was in favor of ousting Mobutu in 1996/1997 and Kagame and Museveni got support from pretty much everyone except France.

"Our Guy" in Africa

“Our Guy” in Africa

Rwanda and Uganda installed Laurent-Désiré Kabila as president, who renamed the country as the Democratic Republic of Congo and who proved to be an uncooperative puppet in Kinshasa.

The Second Congo War began when Kagame and Museveni agreed to get rid of puppet #1 and try to set up puppet #2. This war, however, was much more complicated and the sides were much more convoluted – with Angola, Zimbabwe, and Sudan maintaining their support of Kabila. The big players officially took a much more hands-off approach during the Second Congo War. Nevertheless, both the RPA and the Ugandan government were able to rely on their backing of the U.S.

This is obvious, because Clinton could have roped in Kagame and Museveni (both during the genocide and the subsequent wars). Or he could have continued to give aid to the DRC. But instead he traveled himself to Rwanda in 1998 and sent officials to Kigali and Kampala after the most brutal parts of the wars. Bill Clinton could have made sure that the United Nations thoroughly investigated Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Army. But instead, he actively blocked UN investigations to continue with regards to RPA’s massacres in the Kivus and their reprisal killings.

Those are the reasons I decided to include his involvement as sharing responsibility for the deaths in Rwanda and the DRC.

Ultimately, comparing the death tolls was an exercise in showing the absurdity of “death counts” in the way they are commonly used. When I was teaching, I often heard students repeat the completely ludicrous claim that “Stalin was responsible for more deaths than Hitler”. This, of course, is nonsense. Nazi Germany, as shown by even anti-communist historians, killed many millions more than the Soviet Union.

It seems to me that a huge fallacy is being made when we decide to attribute deaths to state leaders. When we analyze deaths, both as the direct and indirect result of state policy, they need to be placed in their greater context – especially during the 20th century, where “death counts” often lead to counter-intuitive assessments.

The highest example of this is shown by Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze in their book Hunger and Public Action, where they argue that there have been more deaths from low-level hunger in India than from the largest famines under Mao and that fewer people would have died if India had pursued similar (communist) policies as the People’s Republic of China. They even conclude “that every eight years or so more people die in India because of its higher regular death rate than died in China in the gigantic famine of 1958-61. India seems to manage to fill its cupboard with more skeletons every eight years than China put there in its years of shame.”

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The Liberation of Afghanistan

I once heard a description of the recent history of Afghanistan begin, “Under the communists, women appeared on television uncovered. Under the Mujahideen, women appeared on television covered. Under the Taliban, there were no televisions.”

The dominant narratives regarding Afghanistan in the West possess the unfortunate characteristic of neglecting basic facts. Instead, the timeline goes a little something like this:

1. I don’t know anything about Afghanistan before I need to.

2. The evil Soviet Union invaded.

3. The heroic United States supported the freedom fighters.

4. Something, something, something.

5. TALIBAN!

6. The heroic United States kicked out those bad Taliban and gave Afghanistan democracy.

This timeline might even be giving too much credit to people (including the numbskull in the white house) who feel qualified to talk about Afghanistan, despite knowing next to nothing about one of the countries that has defined so much of last century (directly and indirectly).

That should terrify you. It should also give us a moment to think about the Liberation of Afghanistan and what that ought to mean.

At different points in history, one might point to an Afghanistan that has been called “liberated”. In 1919, Afghanistan wins its independence from the British Empire. Many have called this “liberation”. As the Kingdom of Afghanistan, the country is pushed through slow waves of modernization and conservative push-back. In 1978, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan takes power and pushes through real modernization efforts. Many have called this “liberation”. Under quick succession, Nur Muhammad Taraki, Hafizullah Amin, and Babrak Karmal try to push through sweeping land reforms, women’s rights, and social programs. This is, of course, met with terrible resistance from the “traditional” power structures and clan networks throughout the country.

It was during this period, by admission of Zbigniew Brzezinski, that Amerikkka begins funding the Mujahideen, who fight against the socialists on behalf of these misogynistic, feudal power structures.

After the Mujahideen receive support from the U$, the Soviet Union decides to send troops on December 24th, 1979 to intervene in the budding civil war. Many have called this “liberation”. Following the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the country is pulverized by becoming a flashpoint of the Cold War.

From 1979 on, there has essentially been endless civil war up until today.

In 1996, the Pakistan-backed Taliban (remember Benazir Bhutto) gains power and uses that power to destroy huge swaths of the country. Many have called this “liberation”. The remaining parts are destroyed by the U$-backed Northern Alliance. Many have called this “liberation”. And, most spectacularly, the full-fledged Amerikkkan imperialist occupation begins in 2001. Indeed, many have called this “liberation”.

At every major point in Afghan history, we’ve heard many say that “this (finally, this!) is the Liberation of Afghanistan.” However, pretty much every time, the deception became apparent almost immediately. To paraphrase Zizek in one of his essays after 9/11, one of the most grotesque and tragic states of existence is that of the family in Afghanistan who, when a plane passes overhead, does not know if it will drop bombs or containers of food and supplies in some faux humanitarian gesture.

The few bright moments in Afghanistan over the past century were always quickly dimmed by bullets and bombs. Afghanistan has been thrown into chaos and tragedy unequivocally due to the Amerikkkan Empire – anyone who doesn’t admit this is either lying or stupid. As Malalai Joya said in her interview above with Democracy Now!: “Imperialism and Fundamentalism have joined hands.”

The Liberation of Afghanistan, if it is ever to be a reality (rather than merely a name without that reality), will never come about as long as Amerikkka is involved. The Liberation of Afghanistan will come from the Afghan people alone, not from imperial machinations designed for the benefit of oil and gas pipelines and regional instability.

Imperialist occupation is never the solution to any problem.

When the incoherent fascist in Washington spews his bile, we should keep in mind that when he says, “The Amerikkkan people are weary of war without victory” – he means that he intends to continue this occupation by any means necessary.

We should fight exclusively for the Liberation of Afghanistan and against Dumbass Trump’s infinite stupidity.

Venezuela’s Problem is Capitalism

No matter what people are saying, the economic crisis in Venezuela is clearly rooted in capitalism, not socialism. Anyone who wants to say that this crisis is strictly a result of the social-democratic policies of the Venezuelan government is manipulating the facts.

The most obvious fact dispelling this is the other left social-democratic economy: Bolivia. At the moment, Bolivia’s economy is thriving, due to a boom in the demand for minerals.

evo-shhh

Evo’s little secret

As the price of minerals has shot up, the price of oil has plummeted. Oil, of course, has been the primary mover in making the social programs in Venezuela possible. The collapse of oil prices was not because of Venezuela’s social system, but rather because of the world market and geopolitics.

The policy crystallizes when we take a look at the words of Ali al-Naimi, who was the Minister for Petroleum and Mineral Resources in Saudi Arabia: “As a policy for Opec – and I convinced Opec of this, even Mr al-Badri [Opec secretary general] is now convinced – it is not in the interest of Opec producers to cut their production, whatever the price is.”

If you refer to the above links (both of which are BBC, hardly a leftist news outlet), we can see that the levels of production maintained by OPEC are entirely intentional. Oil prices are artificial, as OPEC countries over-produce. The rationale for such a move is, according to the BBC, the Gulf states’ attempt to keep their market-share.

However, that article also clearly demonstrates who the losers are when over-production happens: Russia, Iran, and Venezuela are at the top of the list.

Where does that leave us? Is it reasonable to assume that the drop in oil prices is entirely manufactured in order to not only maintain Gulf states’ market-share but also to destabilize countries that don’t nicely fit into U.S. global hegemony?

We shouldn’t take the right-wing baiting that Hugo Chavez’s mistake was nationalizing industries – Chavez’s mistake was rather assuming that the global powers weren’t intent on destroying his gains.

Chavez’s mistake was that he didn’t completely do away with capitalism in Venezuela.

Since the beginning of the social programs instituted by the Bolivarian government under Chavez, the West sought to undermine ever step of progress – even to the point of attempting to overthrow him in 2002.

Remember that throughout all of this:

The U.$. doesn’t hate Venezuela for the bad things it has done, but for the good things it has done.

Obama Legacy in Latin America

Muslims Outside of Western Culture

American capitalism hasn’t figured out how to integrate Muslims yet.

This exclusion perhaps ought to be something we celebrate today.

In 20 years, we may very well be decrying our total inclusion into globalization.

i-forgive-trump

For the record, I don’t forgive Trump. Fuck him.

The dominant logic of liberal activism is one of perfect integration into capitalism, rather than challenging that capitalism.

Take, for example, the petition for hijabi emojis.

The struggle for inclusive emojis will have the consequence of making a more inclusive capitalism. A more inclusive capitalism will be more vicious, all-pervasive, and dynamic.

I understand that there’s an argument for normalizing hijab in order to make society more accepting of women who choose to wear hijab (or niqab or burqa).

To what lengths must we go?

Should we even be using smartphones made in sweatshops with conflict minerals?

Where’s the critical action against imperialism?

Making Facebook status updates and blog posts (like this one) are not solving the problem.

Can we normalize Islam without integrating into capitalism? If not, perhaps we should choose not to normalize and, rather, embrace our exclusion.

As Alain Badiou has argued, the ban of the niqab and burqa in France was directly related to the inability of capital forces to successfully exploit Muslim bodies to sell products. Aside from the mere desire to force women to put their bodies on display, it’s exceedingly difficult to sell Coca-Cola with a model in niqab. 

This, I think, is a good thing.

This Coca-Cola advertisement in Afghanistan was specifically aimed at Muslims celebrating Ramadan. Meanwhile, another location where Coca-Cola was widely available was the luxury hotel complex that ISIS had opened in Mosul.

Why is no one asking the obvious question: How is ISIS so easily obtaining Coca-Cola? Is it that Coca-Cola saw a wonderful business opportunity in a new market (not unlike Nazi Germany)?

As Slavoj Zizek has noted, ISIS is totally integrated into post-modern global capitalism.

Without global capitalism, there would be no terrorism as such.

Without global capitalism, there would be no ISIS.

Since this is the case, it seems to me that the true path that we (as Muslims and non-Muslims) should be taking is that against the dominant economic structures. We will never be emancipated until we dismantle capitalism and we will always be viewed as some sort of fifth column in the West as long as there is terrorism performed by Muslims.

We should be throwing away our smartphones. Not asking for ones that reflect our image back at us. We shouldn’t see ourselves in the globalized market.

Back to clothing.

bikini-top

Thus far, clothing that targets Muslims has remained isolated from greater society.

Abercrombie and Fitch isn’t selling any hijabs, thawbs, chadors, or shalwar kameezes yet.

For this, I think we should be grateful.

Update (January 4th, 2017): This process has already begun.

What are the Arabs Dreaming About?

Today, January 16th, marks the referendum in Egypt on the new constitution and, unsurprisingly, that new constitution received roughly 97% approval vote of the 38% of Egyptians who voted. Let’s pretend for a moment that these results aren’t totally fraudulent (which they totally are). What does this mean? It means that Egypt will now go forward with presedential and parliamentary elections for a new government in the coming weeks and months, with the army back at the helm.

One step forward, two steps back, right? Or is it two steps forward, one step back?

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve probably also noticed some interesting things happening in Libya. Particularly, what I was calling “intentional destabilization” on the part of those who really benefited from the Arab Spring. Who exactly? Why don’t you ask this 32 year old who is currently “sitting on billions of dollars of oil” and who has “declared independence” for his area? And Syria? Was this the plan all along? But those protests in Iraq, didn’t they lead to something better?

I guess if you consider Fallujah under siege from al-Qaeda to be something better!

In fact, the only place that seems to be any better is the place where it all started: Tunisia. And even there, the successes of the Arab Spring are notably minimal and tenuous.

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I know that this is an unpopular position.

Plenty have suggested to me that I’m too cynical. Some of my dearest friends have pleaded with me to be patient. “The French Revolution and Russian Revolution took years! Give the Arabs some time!” I don’t find this a compelling argument at all, but especially because I don’t think the Arab Spring could aptly be described as a “revolution.” Indeed, I think Asef Bayat was right to characterize them as “refolutions“. They’re rather non-ideological, deformed mimicries of revolutions.

The Arab Spring is what happens when passive political ignorance becomes active political ignorance.

When the initial teemings of demonstrations were forming in Tunisia and Egypt, I too was excited and enthralled by the images, hoping for a new chapter in the Arab world. I imagined Arabs claiming what was rightfully theirs in huge masses. Popular justice and self-determination would replace the rampant imperialism of the American Empire. The Egyptians would throw out Hosni Mubarak and ally themselves with the Palestinians rather than continuing the support of Israeli Apartheid.

But it became increasingly evident that the U.S., England, and France wasn’t going to let this pass by so easily. As quickly as it came, it was recuperated by the Western powers and immediately started to serve their interests.

The Arab Spring wasn’t going to help the Arabs, it was just going to restructure the mechanisms of oppression.

This was something I could see happening in front of my eyes and yet I had no power to change it. It is impossible to take delight in predicting these disasters. The countless deaths and tragedies that resulted have been nothing less of catastrophic. Was the pre-Arab Spring world desirable? Not at all. However, the scale is tipped between the two awful choices of bad and worse.

ImageAlmost exactly one year ago, Army General David Rodriguez claimed that the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) needed to step up its engagements in Africa in order to fight al-Qaeda. I wrote a response that I think is still applicable:

“Ultimately, the United States did a wonderful job of destabilizing Libya and is now using this instability as grounds for “greater engagements” throughout Africa. Predictable? Of course. The conflict in Mali is a direct result of the collapse of the Libyan state and provides the West with wonderful positions to reassert control over North Africa, which will inevitably lead to a reified hegemony over the Middle East. Why is this important?

This is important for putting the Arab Spring into context. Some people hailed the Arab Spring unconditionally without pausing to to see how U.S. involvement was going to shape the upheavals throughout the Middle East. In Tunisia and Egypt, rather than challenging Western imperialism, the new governments have embraced free trade agreements and bought into neo-colonialist “development”. Libya has become a vacuum for Western oil and military interests to finally be fully realized after years of wrestling with Gaddafi.

This also has affects events slightly East of North Africa. Bahrain receives little-to-no media attention, most of all because the government there is directly under U.S. control and the population is considered to be sympathetic with Iranian politics. Meanwhile, rising Sunni protests against the dominant government go unreported in Iraq – and God forbid we in the West actually pretend to care about Iraq now that we’ve secured our oil interests. Israel responded to any Palestinian uprising with swift and merciless bombing campaigns. Syria has spiraled into perpetual civil war with almost 80,000 reported deaths – let’s not forget that the U.S. previously insisted that Bashar al-Assad was a “reformer” before shifting the party line to require his death in order for any peace deals to be achieved.

This is why it’s important: because no one cares. Why does no one care? I have no clue. Apparently, as long as things aren’t widely reported, no one bothers to look into them on their own time. Maybe you could tell me. The United States government continues to act in its own interest, regardless of the rest of the world and American citizens seem to think that it’s just dandy. “Arab Spring” and “Revolution” both became little buzz-words in the media and everyone hailed shifts in politics without question.

There’s one hard fact here, though: people are dying…needlessly. That means that while you’re sitting here reading this, innocent people are dying in the Middle East for nothing other than failed states and botched revolutions. There’s one more hard fact: Americans don’t seem to care. If Americans do care, they obviously don’t care enough to force our government to do anything productive. And don’t think for a second that pressuring our government is enough – because they’re still going to act in the interests of “the American people”, which loosely translated means: “rich, white assholes who control this economy.”

At the end of this, I have support for no one. I don’t support these governments (Gaddafi, Assad, Maliki) and I don’t support these rebels (FSA, LNC, Muslim Brotherhood). I don’t support the United States and I don’t support NATO. None of these groups represent the interest of real people, they instead represent the interests of people in power. As long as this is the situation, those who care will be forced to continue to shout at the deaf and wave at the blind.”

A friend asked me if I had any hope for the region and I responded with fierce cynicism. I still hold that cynicism.

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Unfortunately, the game has only just begun.

The Arab world has no chance of recovering as long as it remains in this paradigm of post-colonial nation-states that serve the Imperial Powers of the United States, England, France, and Germany. The Arab Spring has only proven itself to be nothing short of a catastrophe.

In 1978, Michel Foucault wrote a piece for Le Nouvel Observateur called “What are the Iranians Dreaming About?” It began with the paragraph:

“They will never let go of us of their own will. No more than they did in Vietnam.” I wanted to respond that they are even less ready to let go of you than Vietnam because of oil, because of the Middle East. Today they seem ready, after Camp David, to concede Lebanon to Syrian domination and therefore to Soviet influence, but would the United States be ready to deprive itself of a position that, according to circumstance, would allow them to intervene from the East or to monitor the peace?”

This is still the world in which we are living. The Soviet influence is gone, but the oil remains. As long as the oil remains, so shall the United States. That is, at least, until the Arabs stand up against imperialism, not just dictatorships.

The Syrian people, the Iraqi people, the Palestinian people, the Lebanese People, the Bahraini people, the Saudi people, the Egyptian people, the Libyan people, the Tunisian people, the Algerian people, and the Moroccan people will never get anywhere as long as they remain divided and subservient to their historical conquerors. This is not my call for ardent nationalism, but strident internationalism against external domination.

Until that day, the Arabs will continue to drown in their own blood while the Americans continue to swim in their oil.