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.”

Advertisements

Who Killed More People: Joseph Stalin or Bill Clinton?

Who is responsible for more deaths?:

Joseph Stalin or Bill Clinton

Stalin Clinton
Prison deaths (including during the war years): 86,582 Executions: 4141
Executions: 786,098 Sanctions on Iraq: >500,0002 (plus adults)
Kulak resettlement: 389,521 Rwandan Genocide: >800,0003 (plus those killed after the RPF came to power)
GULAG deaths (including during the war years): 1,053,829 Al-Shifa Pharmaceutical Plant (Sudan) Bombing: >20,0004 (“several tens of thousands” – 20,000 is a low estimate)
First/Second Congo War5: ~2,700,0006
Turkey’s war against the Kurds7: >40,0008
Bombing of Yugoslavia: 1,5009
First Battle of Mogadishu ~50010
Total: ~2.3 million11 Total ~4 million*

By tallying things in this way, we are preceding from two assumptions:

  1. State leaders bare responsibility for deaths while they are in office
  2. Deaths caused directly or indirectly from state policy can be attributed to state leaders

Therefore, following this methodology, we can conclude that both Joseph Stalin and Bill Clinton hold responsibility for the excess deaths caused under their respective terms in office. However, this methodology leads us to conclude that, contrary to popular belief, the death toll under Bill Clinton’s leadership between January 20, 1993 and January 20, 2001 is higher than the death toll under Joseph Stalin’s leadership between ~1929 and March 5, 1953.

5 The Second Congo War continued on to 2003, so not all deaths happened during Clinton’s time in office. However, the vast majority of the fighting and the major campaigns occurred before Joseph Kabila became president of the DRC in 2001.

7 Similarly, not all of the deaths occurred while Bill Clinton was president.

11 All statistics regarding Stalin taken from: Getty, John Arch, Gabor T. Rittersporn, and Viktor N. Zemskov. “Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-War Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence,” n.d. https://web.archive.org/web/20080611064213/http:/www.etext.org/Politics/Staljin/Staljin/articles/AHR/AHR.html.

 

*Conflicts not included, due to difficulty of finding reliable numbers for the time period: Indonesia’s genocide of East Timor under General Suharto, the invasion of Bosnia in 1992, KLA terrorism in Yugoslavia throughout the 90s, bombing of Iraq in 1998, the situation in Somalia following the First Battle of Mogadishu, support for the military dictatorship in Haiti, support for Israeli Apartheid, consequences of NAFTA in Mexico, extension of sanctions on Cuba, bombing of Afghanistan at the same time as Al-Shifa in Sudan, bombing of Iraq in 1993, support for the Colombian government throughout the 90s.

Just sayin’.

Stalin

A Critical Analysis of Occupy Wall Street

Negative: 99% WTF?

Occupy Wall Street was most successful in creating the new language of the left-liberal scene: “We are the 99%“. This was their message to the Wall Street bankers: “You are the 1%” and, therefore, the opposition. Of course, not the enemy, because that’s too strong a term.

The only drawback to this language is that it’s incorrect in two ways.

First of all, 99% of the people involved in Occupy Wall Street were not/are not really part of the 99%, because they’re all comparatively well-off compared to most of the world. Let’s be serious, a white 23 year-old with $10,000 of debt from their Ivy League University is not in the same position as anyone in the Third World.

Second of all, the enemy (I’m not afraid of the term) is a lot more than the 1%. The bourgeoisie, petite-bourgeoisie, and other reactionary classes make up significantly more than the 1% on Wall Street. Those who own the means of production make up a more sizeable group than that and those who benefit from the super-exploitation of the Third World make up the entire First World.

We’re talking about imperialism.

Occupy’s sloppy analysis isn’t helpful.

The big problem here is that analysis and language here have a feedback loop – the language is flawed and the more this language is used, the less the analysis reflects reality.

Positive: Reinvigorated some aspects of protest culture

One nice thing that OWS was that it put protests back into the mainstream in a way. Whereas before 2011, there certainly wasn’t a prevalence of protests coming from the Left in the dominant culture, today there seems to be far more of a willingness to protest. I’d be willing to concede that this probably had to do with the prevalence of OWS in the news/popular culture.

Negative: White-washed

Occupy Wall Street

Need I say more?

Positive: Set the stage for Black Lives Matter

I hesitate to draw this line, because it gives Occupy too much credit in my opinion, and it makes it seem (once again) that black people need white people for inspiration and support (which is obviously not the case), but a lot of people have connected these two protest movements. Objectively, OWS did take place before BLM (in other words, before a white pig murdered an unarmed black teenager in Missouri), so OWS was in the news before BLM was.

Negative: Non-ideological

Occupy is not some pan-leftist movement, but rather a washed-up intellectually-vacuous garbage. Case and point: this bullshit.

Positive: Opened up the ideological space

Of course, anything posted on Occupy.com in 2017 isn’t getting very wide readership, so we can rest assured that this “Letter to the American Left” won’t be poisoning much dialogue.

Negative: Undisciplined

OWS had no specific goals, demands, tactics, strategies, analysis, worldview, standards, or ideas about pretty much anything. This led to the conclusion that putting up tents and using unclear language would be a successful (whatever that means) strategy to realizing their goals (whatever those were).

Actually, the major mistake that OWS made was that they said everything, rather than nothing. Different factions articulated different aims and different paths. By saying everything, they effectively said nothing. And, all the while, in this menagerie of ideas, the Occupiers were so frustrated that their “pure” message was being ignored.

Positive: The Left can learn

This broad populist left-liberal space is a minefield.

Left-liberalism is a dead-end.

Capitalism is a losing game.

The lesson here is clear: analyze and radicalize.

Dividing the Left

It’s May Day, which means that it’s the perfect opportunity to discuss the state of the Left. For the past ten years, I’ve often sought to build bridges between disparate groups in order to encourage organization.

Here, however, I want defend dividing the left for the time being.

There are times and places to build united fronts, of course, but at the moment, we need to have the opportunity and space to continue discussing, debating, pinning down ideological points. With sweeping generalizations being made about every event – Syria, Brexit, Trump – it is the time now to swim in polemics.

Now is the time to divide.

I'm voting for the Communist block

In Germany in the 1990s and early 2000s, there were essentially three factions on the Left who were opposed to one another. There were the anti-nationalists, the anti-imperialists, and the anti-Germans.

The anti-nationalists focused, obviously, on nation-states and treated all of them with equal contempt. Anti-nationalists saw all states as equally repulsive, whether the U.S. or Senegal. Since all states are mere constructions in capitalism, then they should all be fought.

The anti-imperialists argued that imperialism is the dominant force in the world, which therefore meant that different states (or non-state actors) occupy different positions in relation to imperialism. Forces that encourage imperialism (mostly stemming from the United States and Europe) should be fought and forces resisting imperialism (whether nominally leftist or not) should receive at least critical support.

The anti-Germans took the position that Germany was the primary entity that ought to be opposed, as Germany was responsible for the most horrific crimes of the 20th century. Anti-Germans were against German reunification, against NATO bombing Serbia, and against EU economic policies, all the while offering uncritical support to Israel, as the Jews had been the primary victims of Germany’s past. After 9/11, Anti-Germans used Marx’s formulation of the economic stages (feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism) to support the Amerikkkan invasion of of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. Since all of these peoples were lumped into “anti-Semitic feudal Islamists”, then the U.S. was going to force the Middle East into capitalism, which would then open the world up for the next stages – socialism and communism.

As you can probably tell, I’m pretty anti-anti-German.

I’m far more sympathetic to the anti-nationalists and anti-imperialists.

In Germany today, the differences between these groups are disintegrating. One of my friends recently told me that he’s happy about this development, because he thinks it’s more important to build coalitions.

I am not so sure.

It seems to me that these distinctions were never made in the United States leftist scene. Ideologically speaking, it’s more difficult for anarchists and communists to come together than anti-nationalists and anti-imperialists, even if those anarchists and communists aren’t sure why.

The political constellations are different and, in my opinion, much more weakly defined.

As a prime example, the tendency in the United States is the endless question of “uniting the Left”. Personally, I’ve sat through countless brainstorming sessions that reached hair-brained solutions to the “factionalism” and “sectarianism” between leftists.

Differences shouldn’t be articulated and politicized, argue these saviors of leftist in-fighting.

But why not? Through polemics, we have leftist groups engaging one another. Communist parties and organizations vie for correct positions and anarchists clarify their positions as they adopt and adapt their adjectives: Anarcho-Syndicalist-Communist-Primitivists!

However, it’s clear that I’m in the minority. A lot of leftists crave “unity”, because they see that as a way of organizing and thereby succeeding. (Never mind the fact that “success” here means something entirely different to every grouping.)

The main point for them is openness.

This openness is the idea that brings us a magazine like Jacobin.

I should mention here that I often like articles on Jacobin and have cited them numerous times on this blog. However, Jacobin represents this tendency and there are plenty of articles on Jacobin that are absolute nonsense.

In the goal of “unity”, Jacobin, posturing as a broad-leftist, big-tent magazine, is careful not to talk too much about characters that are divisive: Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao go almost totally unmentioned. Even Marx and Engels are barely cited.

The usual cast of characters of leftist debate are mostly left untouched, as this might cause division.

Jacobin articles are particularly philosophically empty.

Rather than offering a structured system of analysis in any way, Jacobin magazine leaves us to dwell in a post-modern, non-polemical space.

We are free to take up contradictory political positions based on feelings. Politics in this world are based on convenience. You can check your brain at the door, as long as you’ve brought your heart along.

stalin churchhill fdr

“I don’t know who to support here!”

The Soviet Union is gone, the PRC is totally capitalist, Castro is dead, we don’t have to defend anything icky!

Although in some ways we can see this ideological vacuity an asset, it seems to me rather often to result in the publishing of some rather absurdly silly arguments.

At the same time, because the differences between positions like anti-nationalism and anti-imperialism were never articulated on the American Left, there is no space for a proper discussion on these points between mainstream leftist tendencies.

But Jacobin still encourages its readers to take hard political positions.

A good example is this article, super critical of Hezbollah for not being “proletarian enough” and this other article that calls for general solidarity with the Rojava, while pointing out criticisms from a left-liberal human rights perspective.

So, we are told, we shouldn’t support Hezbollah, based on a Marxist analysis, and we should critically support Rojava, based on a liberal analysis.

Where does that leave us?

Why one and not the other?

Is the PKK/PYD seriously representative of the Kurdish proletariat? Obviously not.

Jacobin does us no favors here. Due to the lack of ideological clarity, we have a variety of positions on a variety of issues and they can range from left-liberal to Marxist, which, it should be noted, are competing and mutually-exclusive worldviews.

(This hypocritically coming from the Muslim communist.)

Without any ideological rigor and in the constant attempts to “unite the Left”, we’re offered almost nothing. All the “solutions” don’t give use anything concrete.

When we’re divided over polemics, we’re at least negotiating ideological space, when we’re “united”, we’re barely saying anything of substance to each other.

So on this May Day, 100 years after the Russian Revolution, I’d like to say to all my fellow leftists:

Let’s remain divided, at least for now.

Bill Oreilly

¡Viva Fidel!

The man who was the leader of a revolution that provided Cuba with universal healthcare and education has died.

The Cuban Revolution lifted countless people out of poverty and now has a higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rate than the United States.

Those who idealize some fantasy about “freedom of speech” or “freedom of the press” might use this opportunity to attack the gains of the Cuban Revolution, but anyone who is concerned about an honest assessment of the the achievements under the leadership of Castro needs to take a look at the real balance sheet.

And while we pretend that democracy only takes place in the capitalist West, consider the fact that the new president-elect of the US wasn’t elected by the majority of Americans.

fidel-and-che

“Yankees don’t understand what freedom means.”

Where does Cuba rank in relation to other Caribbean nations?

Inside of Cuba, the gains were enormous. Economically, Cuba advanced well beyond other countries in Latin America. With regards to social gains, literacy rates in Cuba are now some of the highest in the world. And that’s not to speak of the other gains of the peasants and working class under Castro after the revolution.

Outside of Cuba, the foreign policy under Fidel was heroic. Cuba fought against imperialist oppression in Angola and South Africa. He embraced Nelson Mandela and the ANC against apartheid, while the West was calling Mandela a terrorist. He spoke out firmly against oppression and defended Hugo Chavez when he was kidnapped during a US-backed coup attempt in 2002.

When ebola broke out in West Africa, Cuba sent more doctors than any other country.

This heroism is not in spite of Fidel Castro. This is because of Fidel Castro.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow for those who have tried to undermine his leadership since he overthrew the mafioso military dictator Batista and his American-backed death squads.

where-batista-at

And despite the supposed overtures from the Obama administration, the United States has maintained its brutal sanctions and remains at a low-level state of war with Cuba.

This war began and has continued because Fidel Castro’s successes, not because of his failures.

That isn’t to say that their weren’t failures, but Castro was also willing to admit and accept these failures.

In the 60s and 70s, there was terrible persecution of the LGBTQ community (as there was in the US, the UK, and across Europe). However, unlike many of those countries, Cuba reversed its position. In an interview, Castro personally took responsibility and apologized. I’d challenge you to find another world leader who has done something like that.

Cuba is now one of the leading countries on LGBTQ rights in Latin America.

Since 1959, Cuba has improved by every measurable standard. Today, 48% of Cuba’s Parliament is made up of women. The total GDP has increased since 1970 from $5.6 billion to $77.15 billion today.

Cuba leads the world in most doctors per capita.

Cuba is by no means a paradise. But it would be a grave mistake to attack Cuba when it is time to defend Cuba.

Today is a day when we must all stand in solidarity with the Cuban people against imperialism and capitalism.

Today is a day when we must all say, “¡Viva Fidel!”