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.

How Big Corporations Avoid Tax

The Tax Free Tour

Film Review

VPRO-Marijee Meerman 2013

The Tax Free Tour is an hour long Dutch documentary (in English) about the highly specialized field of corporate tax avoidance. I found it astounding how many American corporations use overseas tax havens to avoid paying tax in the US. Some of the better known names include Walt Disney, Wells Fargo, Google, AT&T, Apple and even companies that promote themselves as socially responsible, like Starbucks and Amazon.

Apple, one of the worst offenders, pays only 1.9% of their annual income in corporate tax. As a US company headquartered in Silicon Valley, Apple should be liable to the standard 35% corporate tax rate. Their secret is diverting nearly all their income to a subsidiary in Ireland (which has one of the lowest corporate tax rates) – after first passing their royalty income through a Netherlands subsidiary (the Dutch charge virtually no tax on intellectual property revenue), a company listed in Virgin Islands and back to Ireland. In the accounting trade, this is known as a Double Irish with a Dutch sandwich.

The filmmakers calculate that profits offshored for tax avoidance purposes totaled more than $20 trillion in 2010. Approximately 100 of the world’s largest companies have subsidiaries in the Netherlands, owing to their low taxes on intellectual property royalties. Walmart has six Dutch companies, even though they don’t have a single Dutch store. Starbucks also diverts all their royalty income to the Netherlands. Because they have a trademark on “frappuccino,” they declare a certain percentage of the price as a “royalty” (and pay no tax on it).

My favorite part is near the end when a British Select Committee challenges a Starbucks executive on his claim that their British coffee houses have been running at a loss for fifteen years. After asking why they don’t close their British stores, she gets him to admit they avoid $1.6 million pounds in corporate taxes by diverting their UK income to the Netherlands. He won’t tell her how much tax they pay the Dutch government. Allegedly Starbucks and the Dutch government have a secret agreement not to disclose the amount. The committee chair sternly reminds the executive of all the free public services Starbucks receives in the UK, at the expense of other taxpayers.

Amazon avoids corporate tax by diverting a sizable portion of their revenue to Luxemburg. Google shelters their profits in Bermuda. Other favored corporate tax havens include Cyprus, the Cayman Islands, Mauritius, Singapore, Hong Kong, the UAE and Kenya.

The irony is that most of this income can’t be transferred to shareholders. Paying it out as dividends would necessitate repatriating the revenue to the company’s home country – and paying the prevailing corporate rate. Thus much of this money is loaned (as treasury bonds) to deeply indebted western countries – who struggle to balance their books owing to the trillions of dollars lost from tax avoidance.

Crossposted at Daily Censored