Not Waving but Drowning
March 05, 2005
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Not Waving but Drowning


by John Maxwell

February 27 2005 is an historic day. It was the date that the New York Times - in a editorial entitled "Thousands died in Africa Yesterday" - officially recognised the Third World. Perhaps I am being unfairly harsh

Speaking about the enormous response to the Tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia, the Times remarked that in that case, the developed world opened its heart and its checkbooks " Yet when it comes to Africa, where hundreds of thousands of poor men, women and children die needlessly each year from preventable diseases, or unnatural disasters like civil wars, much of the developed world seems to have a heart of stone"

Not every African state was failing, the Times said, most were not. But it did recognise that poverty in much of Africa "challenges not only our common humanity but our security as well". And the paper discusses the need for financial assistance to Africa and chides the United States for its failure even to meet its meagre promises of help. It rehearses the arguments about what some in the developed world call 'famine fatigue' and even mentions the fact that compared with what the west spends on sports and entertainment "meeting many of Africa's most urgent needs seems shockingly affordable. What has been missing is the political will"

The United States is at the bottom of the list of developed donor nations, spending less on aid to poor countries than it citizens spend on cat food.

"Most important, relying mostly on programs like the Millennium Challenge Account, which tie foreign aid to good governance, condemns millions of Africans who have dreadful governments (Liberia, Congo, Ivory Coast) or no government (Somalia) to die. No donor 55 ion is, or should be, willing to direct money to despotic, thieving or incompetent governments likely to misspend it or divert it to the personal bank accounts of their leaders. Strict international criteria of political accountability, financial transparency and development-friendly social and economic policies need to be established and enforced, not just by outside donors but by prominent and influential African leaders, like South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki."

The old, dead horses are ritually and comprehensively flogged - corruption and ineptitude are rightly condemned, but nowhere is it acknowledged that the developed world might have had any part in encouraging, financing and promoting this corruption and ineptitude.

There is no mention for instance, of the part played by the United States, Britain and Belgium in the murderous destabilisation of the Congo. And most editors are too young to remember what France did in Guinea when the people voted in 1958 for independence. The French removed every filing cabinet, all government records and even the telephone instruments and exchanges, leaving Guinea bereft of the apparatus of government. There is, similarly, no memory of Apartheid.

Meanwhile, Dessalines and Christophe are even 200 years after their deaths, excoriated for animalistic savagery. Their accusers do not - conveniently - remember the bloodthirsty French barbarism which provoked the Haitian retaliation.

If anyone wishes to find out what slavery was like he should read, among other accounts, the diary of Thomas Thistlewood, a planter in 18th century Jamaica. [In Miserable Slavery; Douglas Hall, ed.] Thistlewood's slaves were always running away perhaps because he raped and beat them whenever it took his fancy. When they were recaptured Thistlewood had them mercilessly thrashed and often tied them to stakes in the ground . Then, as a sort of grace note, he would defecate into their forced-open mouths, tying their jaws shut afterwards so that they had to swallow his vile eructations.

Blacks are continually being denigrated for blaming so much on the experience of slavery. Folk memory tells Jamaicans - who have no poisonous lizards - that some lizards are poisonous. If they can remember West African reptiles, why shouldn't they remember slavery? What is the origin of the Jamaican proverb "The higher monkey climb, the more him expose" when there have never been monkeys in Jamaica?

The New York Times editorial ends " ... we are the first generation able to afford to end poverty and the diseases it spawns. It's past time we step up to the plate. We are all responsible for choosing to view the tsunami victims in Southeast Asia as more deserving of our help than the malaria victims in Africa. Jeffrey Sachs, the economist who heads the United Nations' Millennium Development Project to end global poverty, rightly takes issue with the press in his book "The End of Poverty": "Every morning," Mr. Sachs writes, "our newspapers could report, 'More than 20,000 people perished yesterday of extreme poverty.' "

"So, on this page, we'd like to make a first step.

"Yesterday, more than 20,000 people perished of extreme poverty."

As Comrade Stalin said, one death is a human tragedy, one million is a statistic.

Decimation by AIDS

Last week the UNAIDS programme announced that nearly 90 million Africans could be infected by HIV in the next 20 years if more is not done to combat the epidemic,

Already, 25 million Africans have HIV,and in 20 years, the likelihood is that 10% of Africans will have the disease which leads to fatal AIDS. The UN recommends that the world needs to commit $200 billion to prevent the literal decimation of Africa.

One wonders how optimistic the UNAIDS figures are, when it is remembered that in Botswana, one of the richest and most progressive countries on the continent, more than 30% of all adults are already HIV positive. This figure may derive from the fact that Botswana has more sophisticated statistical services than most other African countries where the infection rate is alleged to be lower.

These alarming facts do not make much of a dent in the world's consciousness. On CNN for instance, much more time has been spent in the last 72 hours on the "All-American comeback" of Martha Stewart than the network has probably spent in a year on the butchery of men, women and children in Haiti .

And the US government and its satraps are much more interested and involved in spreading mischief about Venezuela and Cuba than in doing anything about the rape of democracy a couple of hundred miles from its shores.

But all is well. Two key figures in the Reagan-era dirty war in Central America have been appointed to advise President Bush on National Security and Intelligence. Mr Elliott Abrams, who narrowly missed jail for his perjury before Congress, is deputy chief of the National Security Council . Mr John Negroponte, former Ambassador to Honduras and regent of Iraq, is now Director of National Intelligence. Mr Negroponte's record in Central America was so awful that his predecessor as Ambassador - a Reagan appointee -opposed his appointment to Iraq because he believed that Negroponte covered up the thousands of murders and other atrocities carried out by the Contras and other US supported forces in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Despite the fact that the American press has not paid too much attention to the human rights crisis in Haiti the anniversary of the coup has produced a trickle of comment from other parts of the world. Many of them, of course, in their attempt to be "even-handed" speak of non-existent atrocities of the Aristide regime, of official corruption and a host of other sins which were, for whatever reason, not visible before the President was overthrown. Many seem to look forward to what they call "free elections " - free, that is, of the man most Haitians regard as their leader, and conducted under the guns of the cannibal armies of La Tortue and his depraved associates.

Since these atrocities are carried out under the auspices of the United States, Canada, France and the UN, they cannot, by definition, be atrocities. While the United States State Department was condemning other countries for their human rights abuses, the United States was able to congratulate itself on its own rectitude. in its annual global human rights report

The Chinese government disagreed and told the US to mind its own business and to remove the beam from its own eyes before trying to clear the motes from others'

The New York Times said on Friday that the State Department's report was "... another sad reminder of the heavy price the United States has paid for ignoring fundamental human rights in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo; in the secret cells where the CIA holds its unaccounted-for prisoners; and at home, where President George W. Bush continues to claim the power to hold Americans in jail indefinitely without the right to trial.

"The administration's refusal to remedy these abuses - or even acknowledge most of them - leaves the 2004 human rights report heavy with irony and saps its authority."

Unfortunately, the movers and shakers of the US depend for their information on papers like the New York Times and networks like CNN - "the most trusted name in News". If these media behemoths don't care, why should the legislators and think tanks? And where would they get to know about them?

Haiti, like the United States, was a founder member of the United Nations, At that time, small and weak countries like Haiti were promised that their interests would be safeguarded by the UN - which would not behave as had the old and discredited League of Nations in relation to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) a decade earlier.

Unfortunately, despite the attempts of the Haitians themselves and the notorious evidence of brazen and systematic abuse of the Haitian people, the United Nations is now represented in Haiti by a mission which has become an accomplice of the cannibal armies and an enabler of their abuses.

At least the League of Nations could not have been similarly accused.

Copyright©John Maxwell

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