Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa

 

Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa

by Susan Williams

Hurst and Company London (2016)

Book Review

This book details the author’s extensive investigation into a suspicious 1961 air crash that killed the second UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold. Her first edition, published in 2011, would trigger a new UN investigation, in 2015, into the cause of his death. In 2016, UN investigators concluded that Hammarskjold died as a result of foul play. However owing to US and UK refusal to release classified files, they couldn’t conclusively identify the individuals responsible.

The book begins by setting the stage for what was clearly an assassination. Williams describes in detail the role of foreign mining companies in fighting full independence of the Congo from Belgian rule. Belgian officers loyal to these companies continued to command Congolese troops following “official”  independence in 1960. When these troops mutinied, the UN declined a request for assistance from Congo’s first prime minister Patrice Lumumba.

His appeal to the Soviet Union (and the arrival of Soviet troops) would lead Katanga province (where most of the mines were located) to secede – with the support of Belgian troops and a bevy of white mercenaries from Rhodesia, South Africa, Britain and France.

At this point, the UN Security Council passed resolution 143, ordering Belgian troops to withdraw and installing UN peacekeepers in Katanga to prevent civil war. The CIA’s response was to assassinate Lumumba and Install their protege Mobutu Sese Seko (who would brutally ruled the Congo/Zaire from 1965-1997) as chief of Congo’s military.

Mobutu, in turn, arrested, tortured and executed all the senior members of the Congolese senate. The Security Council responded with Resolution 161, calling for the withdrawal of all foreign advisors and authorizing the UN to take “all necessary measures” to prevent civil war. This included supplying armed UN troops to protect the Congolese government.

When it was became clear the UN troops (who had significantly  inferior weapons) had no chance against the mercenaries’ superior fire power and Belgian air support, Hammerskjold set out for Nolda in Northern Rhodesia to try to negotiate a ceasefire with Katanga’s acting president Moise Tsombe. The secretary general’s jet mysteriously crashed as it approached Nolda airport.

In additions to hundreds of eyewitnesses (including a crash survivor who spent a week in hospital before he died) who saw Hammerskjold’s plane explode before it crashed, the most intriguing evidence comes from radio traffic between a pilot (reporting his attack on Hammerskjold’s jet) picked up by a US NSA operative in Cyprus and an Ethiopiann short wave operator and mysterious telexes* discovered in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation files in 1998. The latter refer to the plot to assassinate the Secretary General as “Operation Celeste,” run by shadowy South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAMIR) mercenaries.

As best as investigators can reconstruct, Operation Celeste planted a bomb on the DC-6 prior to its departure from Leopoldville.** When it failed to explode on take-off, two smaller planes were sent to intercept the jet and prevent it from landing. One pilot fired shots at the DC-6 that triggered the bomb to explode.


* Prior to the advent of the Internet, the telex network was an international system of teleprinters electronically interconnected by telephone lines.

**Leopoldville has since been renamed Kinshasha.

Why Castro and Che Guevara Split

 

 

 

Revolutionary Friends

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This is a documentary about Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and the 1959 Cuban Revolution. In addition to exploring the revolution’s early history, the filmmakers trace how Cuba came to rely on the Soviet Union for its economic survival – and how the Soviets forced Castro to exile Che from Cuba for political reasons.

After traveling extensively through South America, Che Guevara, deeply affected by the extreme poverty and exploitation he saw, was totally committed to “permanent revolution.”* In contrast Soviet leaders were committed to socialism in one country and “peaceful coexistence with the US.” They opposed Che’s guerilla activities in Africa and Latin America owing to the potential threat they posed to US-Soviet relations.

The most interesting part of the film reveals that the CIA initially supported Castro’s guerillas  with arms, funding and US volunteers because they viewed him as “easy to control.” It contains priceless footage of Castro denouncing communism (in English) to an American audience and calling for Cuban “representative democracy.”

In February 1959, the US initially recognizes Castro as Cuba’s new prime minister. A few months later, he appoints Che (an avowed Marxist) to head the Cuban national bank. The US responds by blocking all credit to Cuban banks. Castro retaliates by nationalizing Cuba’s American businesses. The US government, in turn, blocks all Cuban sugar imports.

Given that 90% of the Cuban economy is based on trade with the US, the country is on the verge of collapse. Castro is left with no choice but to ally himself with the USSR to trade Cuban sugar for oil and financial aid.

Under Soviet direction, Castro ends Che’s governmental role in 1963 and sends him on a series of foreign missions.After several speeches critical of Soviet leaders (for failing to support third world guerilla movements), Che angers them further by cultivating relations with China, just as the USSR and China are becoming estranged.

After an unsuccessful campaign with guerilla fighters in the Congo, Castro sends Che to Bolivia, where he and ten fighters who accompany him are stranded without weapons, food, medicine or support from the Bolivian Communist Party. On October 9, 1976, Che is wounded in a firefight with Bolivian security services. He is subsequently captured and executed.


*As envisioned by Leon Trotsky, this refers to a country’s continuing revolutionary progress being dependent on a continuing process of revolution in other countries.

This film can’t be embedded for copyright reasons. It can be viewed free until April 7 at the Al Jazeera website: Che Guevara Fidel Castro Revolutionary Friends

Looting Africa

The Looting Machine: Warlords, Smugglers and the Systematic Theft of Africa’s Wealth

Tom Burgis

Harper Collins (2017)

Book Review

This book centers around something global economists refer to as the “Dutch curse.” In 1959, the discovery of oil in the Netherlands led to massive unemployment outside the oil industry. A big increase in dollars generated by oil exports caused major inflation in the local currency. This made imports cheaper than locally produced goods, shutting down hundreds of Dutch businesses and putting thousands out of work.

It’s typical of mineral and oil/gas mining everywhere (including here in New Plymouth) that these industries require vast capital investment but employ only small numbers of workers. According to Burgis, it was the “Dutch curse” that resulted in Russian’s oil-fueled criminal oligarchy prior to the rise of Putin. As the continent richest in natural resources, Africa, which has been ruthlessly exploited by multinational corporations, has a severe case of the “Dutch curse.”

Although multinationals pay far less than market value for oil, gas and precious minerals, they pay corrupt puppet dictators enough that they don’t need to tax their citizens. Burgis maintains this absence of taxation results in a lack of accountability to their citizenry. Instead of holding leaders to account for their failure to provide basic infrastructure, citizens of “resource states” are far more likely to angle for their share of the loot. Retaining power becomes a simple matter of maintain elaborate patronage (payoff) systems and harsh military/security networks.

Burgis also refutes the myth that Africa’s multiple civil wars stem from tribal and religious conflict. Most African wars are pure resource wars (often triggered by CIA and French and British intelligence), with the conflict used as a cover for resource smuggling and even lower net cost to multinationals.

The US government has attempted to crack down on its own corporations via stricter enforcement (since 2000) of the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and a section of the 2010 Dodd Frank Act that prohibits the the purchase of Coltan* from armed rebel groups. The new law, which has done little to reduce Coltan smuggling, has opened the door to a Chinese monopoly on the Coltan market.

The Looting Machine presents a detailed country by country analysis, as well as an examination of the Chinese company responsible for most private investment in Africa (there’s less publicly available information about investment by state-owned Chinese companies). Both engage in far more infrastructure development than Western agents do.

  • Angola – principle export oil, with 70% of oil ventures owned by Hong Kong billionaire Sam Pa, operating as Queensway Group or Chinese International Fund. Half of Angolan residents get by on less than $1.25/day.
  • Congo – second most important produce of Coltan outside of Australia, also gold, tin, tungsten and diamonds. Residents live on less than $1.00/day.
  • Nigeria – oil and gas. Cotton/textile industry that flourished in 1980s shut down (causing mass unemployment) by continuous flood of smuggled Chinese counterfeit textiles. Sam Pa and the French oil company Total have teamed up to challenge Shell’s longstanding monopoly on Nigerian oil.
  • South Africa – rich gold, diamond and platinum exports financed the creation of the apartheid state, in which a tiny white minority controlled the entire economy. Since the fall of apartheid in 1994, this minority has been joined by a handful of Black entrepreneurs.
  • Botswana – diamonds. Somewhat protected from “Dutch curse” by the creation of value added industries that cut and polish their diamonds prior to export.
  • Guinea – among world’s richest reserves of iron and aluminum. Bought out by Sam Pa as a result of Western sanctions.
  • Niger – rich in uranium and the world’s poorest country. France previously held monopoly on Niger’s uranium industry, being replaced by Queensway group based on agreement to invest in infrastructure development and employ local labor. (In most countries, Chinese investors import Chinese labor.)
  • Ghana – gold. Financed by Chinese Investment Fund after IMF tried to impose structural adjustment conditions** to refinance a World Bank Loan.
  • Zimbabwe – diamonds, platinum, nickel, gold. Mugabe used revenues from export industries to finance particularly brutal security force. Diamond industry bought out by Queensway as direct result of Western sanctions.

*Coltan is a rare precious metal in high demand for cellphones and laptops.

**IMF structural adjustment conditions typically require debtor companies to privatize state owned industries, legislate deep cuts in social services and accept extensive foreign investment as a condition of receiving World Bank loans.

 

 

 

 

Bribery and Corruption: The Clintons are a Textbook Case

Narrated by author Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash explores how former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton granted special concessions to wealthy investors and foreign leaders in return for donations to the Clinton foundation and humongous speaking fees (for her husband Bill).

Examples include

  • State Department approval for Joe Wilson’s mining company to cut a mineral deal with Sudanese warlords in return for large donations to the Clinton Foundation.
  • Waiver of US sanctions against Democratic Republic of Congo – enabling Swedish oligarch Lucas Lundin to access their mineral reserves – in return for a $100 million donation to the Clinton Foundation.
  • State Department reversal of sanctions President Bill Clinton initiated against India for violating the nuclear anti-proliferation treaty – in return for big donations to the Clinton Foundation, millions in speaking fees and illegal donations to Hillary’s senate campaign.
  • Approval of the sale of 50% of America’s uranium deposits to Uranium One, putting 20% of US uranium production under Russian control – in return for millions of Clinton Foundation donations from Uranium One shareholders and a half a million dollars in speaking fees.
  • A favorable State Department environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline – after TD Bank, one of Keystone’s major investors, paid Bill for ten speaking engagements.

The film also details the massive corruption associated with the Haiti Reconstruction Commission, which the Clintons headed after the 2008 Haiti earthquake. Instead of being used to rebuild homes and roads, most of the international aid ended up in the pockets of Clinton corporate benefactors. This includes hundreds of millions for luxury hotels and for a company with no gold mining experience to build the first Haitian gold mine in sixty years. The Clintons also authorized Caracol, a new textile factory in northern Haiti (the earthquake occurred in southern Haiti), which pays sweatshop wages to produce clothing for the Gap, Target and Walmart.

 

The US Rape of the Congo

Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering the Truth

Friends of the Congo (2012)

Film Review

Crisis in the Congo is a heart breaking documentary about the invisible US proxy war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For the last 20 years, the US (and Britain) have been arming and training Rwandan and Ugandan-backed rebels who are plundering DRC’s rich mineral resources (gold, diamonds, cobalt, coltan, copper and tin) for the benefit of the electronic and aerospace industry.

The US has a long ugly history in the Congo, one of the most mineral-rich countries* in the world. After the CIA assassinated Patrice Lamumba, DRC’s first democratically elected president, the US installed the brutal dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. When the cold war ended, the US abandoned their support for Mobutu and sponsored a joint Rwandan/Kenyan invasion to remove him from power.

DRC’s 20+ year civil war has resulted in the death of over six million civilians, the brutal rape of thousands of women and children and the forced induction of thousand of child solders.

Barf alert: there’s a disgustingly hypocritical speech by Obama starting at 18.00, in which he accuses Africans of “pointing the finger” at other countries and reminds them of their responsibility to enact democratic reforms.

Postscript: In 2012. after this documentary was made, Obama briefly reduced aid to Rwanda (based on evidence they were recruiting child solders) but resumed funding in 2013. As of 2015, Rwanda remained dependent on foreign aid (mainly Britain and the US) for 40% of their national budget.

Despite the presence of UN peacekeeping forces, the civil war continues in the eastern DRC. It continues to be regarded as a failed state

Meanwhile, the US continues to increase  military bases and direct troop deployment in Africa and the corporate media largely refuses to report on  it.

Hear Edward Herman talk about his recent book “Enduring Lies,” examining the falsehoods circulated by Western governments about the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and the ongoing use of that event as an excuse for military intervention around the world at Project Censored Radio

Africa’s Hidden History

All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace*

Directed by Adam Curtis

BBC (2011)

Part 3

Film Review

The basic theme of the final video is this series is a bit unclear. Curtis seems to imply, based on flimsy and subjective evidence, that western liberals who provide humanitarian and developmental assistance to third world countries only make their living situation worse.

The main focus of Part 3 is the civil wars in Congo and Rwanda over valuable mineral resources coveted by multinational corporations. There’s a particular emphasis on coltan, a rare earth mineral essential in the manufacture of computers, play stations and smartphones.

The CIA Coup Against Lamumba

The film traces the history of the Congo back to 1960 when it first gained independence from Belgium. In 1961, after the Congo’s first president Patrice Lamumba allied himself with the USSR, the US and Belgium instigated a coup to remove him from power and had him murdered. Fearful that Congo’s rich mineral wealth would fall into Soviet hands, they replaced him with the brutal pro-western dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

The Belgian Role in Rwanda Genocide

Curtis traces Rwandan history from their first episode of genocide, engineered by their Belgian rulers in 1959. Fearful that the Rwandans, like other colonized Africans, would demand independence, the Belgians deliberately instigated ethnic conflict by issuing mandatory race cards and promoting the myth that the Tutsis (which Belgium made colonial administrators) were a superior race that had migrated to Rwanda from ancient Egypt. Meanwhile Belgian aid workers encouraged oppressed Hutus (who comprised 85% of the population) to revolt. After three years of bloody civil war, Belgium granted Rwanda independence in 1962.

In 1994, the Hutus seized control of the Rwandan government and deliberately exterminated nearly a million Tsutsis. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled across the border into Congo, where the UN and western aid agencies set up refugee camps. Curtis maintains it was a mistake to set up refugee camps because there were Hutu assassins hiding among the refugees. Armed conflict between Tsutsis and Hutus spread to rebel armies seeking to overthrow Mobutu. Hoping to win a piece of Congo’s mineral wealth, Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Namibia, Uganda and Libya all dispatched troops to support the rebels. Leaving more than five million dead, the civil war would continue until 2003.

I find it a bit puzzling that Curtis blames the UN and humanitarian organizations for fanning the flames of the Congo’s civil war. Surely most, if not all of the blame lies with the multinationals behind Mobotu’s dictatorship.

The Selfish Gene

Curtis interweaves his discussion of Congo and Rwandan history with relevant scientific research that endeavored to prove that humans are complex computer-like machines.

In 1967, population geneticist George Price allegedly proved that human beings were soft machines run by on board computers (i.e. DNA). A corollary of this hypothesis was that human beings commit murder and genocide because of a “selfish gene” which genetically programs us to hate a kill people who are genetically unrelated to us.

Price worked closely with evolutionary biologist Bill Hamilton who, based on his research, argued against providing medical treatment when people get sick because this causes genetically inferior people to survive and reproduce.

Dian Fossey’s Mountain Gorillas

A third narrative describes the work of primate ethnologist Dian Fossey who was studying Congo’s mountain gorillas during the decade-long civil war. My favorite scene depicts British naturalist David Attenborough stretched out on top of one of Fossey’s gorillas as they share a moment of relaxed contemplation.

*Title of 1967 monograph distributed free by California cybernetics enthusiast Richard Brautigan. Available for $400 from Abe Books