A few days ago, I published a short story linking to a PRN.fm radio interview I did with noted international law attorney Francis Boyle, whom I pointed out was a drafter of the US Biological Weapons and Anti-Terrorism Act passed into law in 1981, which act supposedly barred the United States from continuing to keep or to develop new germ warfare weapons.
Boyle told me, on last Wednesday’s radio program “This Can’t Be Happening!,” that he believes the Zaire Ebola strain that is wracking Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in west Africa, originally came from one of several BSL4-level bio-research labs operated in those countries and funded by a combination of the Center for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and the US Defense Department, perhaps because of testing of Ebola being conducted there, or because of some containment breach.
Boyle pointed out the oddity that the epidemic is the Zaire strain, which has in the past been limited to Zaire in central Africa, and not a local strain found in fruit bats in west Africa — the alleged vector that news reports have claimed is being suspected of initiating the outbreak of the disease. As he noted, fruit bats don’t migrate, and certainly didn’t fly 2200 miles from central Africa to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
For running this alarming interview with Boyle, I have received some criticism from readers who suggest that Boyle’s facts are weak.
Since then I have been checking out some of his claims and suspicions.
One particularly interesting one is his claim that a BSL4 lab handling Zaire Ebola in Kenema, Sierra Leone, was shut down in July by order of the Sierra Leone government.
I have confirmed that, and attach a screen shot (see below) from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation’s Facebook Page. This press release declares that the ministry was setting up a new operations center in Freetown for responding to the Ebola crisis, and that in the interim before that center was up and running, all Ebola cases would be brought to a treatment center operated by the government in Kailahun.
Significantly, the announcement also said that the move of operations away from Kenema came in response to concerns expressed by “health workers and the people of Kenema.” Even more significantly, it said that Tulane University, which had been operating the lab under US government contract, was being ordered “to stop Ebola testing during the current Ebola outbreak.”
Now just what kind of “testing” of Ebola might that be, it seems fair to ask. I did try, leaving messages with several people in the public relations office at Tulane University, but got no return calls.
UPDATE: On Thursday, a reader who is an MD contacted someone he knew at Tulane, Vice President for Research Laura Levy, asking her to explain what Tulane was doing in Kenema. He later sent me her response, which was a link to a web page on Tulane’s website. It seeks to debunk “myths” about Tulane’s work in West Africa. In that article, it states that it is a “myth” that Tulane has been ordered to leave Sierra Leone. But no one is saying that. Tulane was ordered to shut down it’s Ebola lab in the town of Kenema, not to leave Sierra Leone altogether. The article also states that it is a “myth” that the University and its researchers are “collaborating” with the military in Sierra Leone. It goes on to say that “Tulane is working with Harvard University and others in the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium to develop diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics for Lassa fever and Ebola. Support for the consortium has come principally from the National Institutes of Health.”
But actually the consortium’s own website says that Tulane is the leader of the consortium. It lists a number of partners, including Harvard University, Scripps Research Institute, and a company called Corgenix. No government “partners” are listed. Yet Corgenix, on its company site, lists USAMRIID, the Pentagon’s bioweapons research unit, as a “member of the consortium.”
Curious indeed that Tulane Research VP Levy omitted that important bit of information.
Here’s what Coregenix had to say about USAMRIID:
USAMRIID (U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases), located at Fort Detrick, Maryland, is the lead medical research laboratory for the U.S. Biological Defense Research Program, and plays a leading role in national defense and in infectious disease research. The Institute’s mission is to conduct basic and applied research on biological threats resulting in medical solutions (such as vaccines, drugs and diagnostics) to protect the warfighter. USAMRIID is a subordinate laboratory of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command.
Corgenix and USAMRIID are members of the Viral Hemorrhagic fever Consortium, working to develop state of the art diagnostic products for biothreat agents and emerging pathogens.
Navy Times, hardly a den of conspiracy writers, published an article about Ebola and the US decision to send 3000 troops (not doctors!) to the impacted countries in west Africa, back on August 1. That article states:
Filoviruses like Ebola have been of interest to the Pentagon since the late 1970s, mainly because Ebola and its fellow viruses have high mortality rates — in the current outbreak, roughly 60 percent to 72 percent of those who have contracted the disease have died — and its stable nature in aerosol make it attractive as a potential biological weapon.
Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) have sought to develop a vaccine or treatment for the disease.
Boyle’s contention is that ever since the US signed onto the Geneva Convention outlawing germ warfare, it has used research into defense against germ weapons as a cover for US research into germ weapons themselves.
It’s interesting that Navy Times is reporting that Pentagon-funded researchers at USAMRIID have been trying to develop a vaccine for Ebola for decades, yet how does that square with a report on Oct. 23 in the New York Times that Canadian and US researchers had developed an Ebola vaccine that was 100% successful in monkeys a full decade ago, long after the Pentagon began “seeking to develop a vaccine” and several years after the NIH began a campaign to develop one. And yet, as the Times article states, the promising vaccine “sat on the shelf” for years without being tested in humans, because it encountered a “biotech valley of death” with no drug companies willing to pay for human testing.
So where was all that public US Defense Department and NIH funding, given the promise that this vaccine was showing?
Maybe it was just bureaucratic bumbling, nationalist prejudice (the vaccine was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, for god’s sake!, an concept that is toxic to the US drug industry), or just Washington stupidity. But then, if Boyle is right, then the Pentagon may not really have been all that interested in finding a vaccine, but rather was focussed on doing covert research on bioweapons, including Ebola.
It may seem hard to swallow the idea that your government could be contemplating such awful weapons, but let’s remember that the US is the country that continues to insist on its right to strew highly toxic and carcinogenic depleted uranium dust all over countries it invades or bombs, like Afghanistan, Syria and especially Iraq (according to a new report by David Swanson, the Obama administration is sending DU-armed aircraft to the Middle East again, evidently for use in its attacks on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, as if it hadn’t spread enough of the stuff across the desert already).
As well, the US stands credibly accused of having deployed germ weapons in Cuba, Nicaragua and East Germany over the years, and perhaps in other places too.
And there was one other article in the New York Times — this one pulled, oddly, after it made it into the first edition of the paper on October 17. It reported that President Obama, “Prompted by controversy over dangerous research and recent laboratory accidents,” had announced that he was temporarily halting “all new funding for experiments that seek to study certain infectious agents by making them more dangerous.” He asked those scientists already doing such government-funded research to “voluntarily halt” their work during this moratorium. Could this be a backhanded admission, or at least hint, that something like that might have been done to the Zaire Ebola strain that is circulating now in west Africa?
Got that? Your government has been paying researchers to do genetic modification of dangerous pathogens like avian or pandemic flu strains, SARS…and hemorrhagic fever viruses like Ebola, to make them more deadly and/or more easily transmitted!
A big problem is that this administration is and has been the most secretive since at least the post-Cointelpro reforming of the Freedom of Information Act, with the government under President Obama not just refusing to release information to journalists and the public, but resorting to aggressively pursuing and jailing whistleblowers, and even charging and jailing some under the wretched Espionage Act of 1917, and also threatening journalists themselves with jail, like James Risen of the New York Times.
As former Reagan administration Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts says, given that level of secrecy and prosecution of leakers, it behoves us as journalists and as news readers to be ready to believe the worst of this government of ours.
I believe that while Professor Boyle may in the end prove to have been an alarmist about what this Ebola outbreak really is, and to have been wrong that the US government was behind it, either through deliberate testing gone wrong or because of an accident at an African lab, he is right to raise the issues he’s raising.
Because giving this country’s historic track record, he also might be right.
Dominion Farms arrived in Kenya’s Yala Swamp basin in 2004 with big promises. The company claimed it would turn a defunct state demonstration farm into a modern rice plantation, provide locals with good jobs, and build hospitals and schools. The American owner of the company, Calvin Burgess, presented himself as a ‘man of God’, on a mission to bring US-style progress to Africa. The locals, sold on this grand vision, decided – with some hesitation and dissent – to allow Dominion to farm on 3,700 ha of their lands.
But a decade later, the communities have harvested nothing but hardship.
Yala Swamp (Photo: Janak Communications)
“When Burgess came, we did not object to him taking the lands that had already been allocated to the Government years before for the development of an experimental farm,” says Erastus Odindo, a local farmer. “But Dominion Farms has put a fence around much more land than that. The company has taken over all of our community lands without our consent and blocked our access to water.”
Odindo and other local farmers lost nearly all of the lands that they use for grazing their cattle.
“Burgess mocked our farming methods and said we should abandon our traditional cattle breed because it was backwards,” says Odindo. “But now he’s put a fence around our grazing lands and is using the lands for his own local cattle. We are losing doubly because he then sells the cattle on the local market and undercuts us.”
The agreements that Dominion Farms signed with local authorities were for a large scale rice farm. But the company has also gone into cattle, vegetables, bananas and fish.
“The company produces and sells the same foods we local farmers produce,” says Odindo. “First Dominion took our lands and water away from us, and now it is taking our markets. And they are not doing agriculture in a more efficient way than us local farmers. All the machines they have are just for making noise.”
Dominion’s rice farm now extends right up to the edge of Odindo’s village. “When the company sprays pesticides by plane, it comes directly into our homes, poisoning people and contaminating our water supply,” he says. “Workers also face regular exposure to pesticides.”
The local communities accuse Dominion of polluting their soil, water and air, and of badly damaging the area’s biodiversity. They say that it is now difficult to access clean water because of the pollution by pesticides and chemical fertilisers, and that this is damaging the health of mothers and children.
Odindo says that the company’s promises of good jobs have also proven to be a mirage. Most workers are employed on a casual basis, with only a few watchmen hired as permanent staff. Their pay is irregular and sometimes late. “The company hasn’t been paying wages over the past two months and people have been wondering if it’s in financial problems,” says Odindo.
But Dominion still seems intent on grabbing more lands. Having already taken control of all the lands collectively managed by the communities, the company is now aggressively pursuing deals with private land holders. Odindo says that they believe that Dominion is working with Kenyan millionaires to secure land for large agriculture projects, such as a sugar cane plantation that the company is in the initial stages of implementing.
Meanwhile Dominion Farms is also pursuing a new project for a rice plantation in Taraba State, Nigeria, that would be several times the size of its Yala Swamp venture. Odindo hopes that the communities in Nigeria can learn from what his community has gone through and not be duped by Dominion’s promises.
For further information, please contact:
Erastus Odindo: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Owalla: email@example.com
(Thanks to Chris Owalla of CIAG-Kenya for his help with this interview)
“No records are available to confirm that the biological agents were destroyed.”
Operating out of South Africa during the Apartheid era in the early 1980’s, Dr. Wouter Basson launched a secret bioweapons project called Project Coast. The goal of the project was to develop biological and chemical agents that would either kill or sterilize the black population and assassinate political enemies. Among the agents developed were Marburg and Ebola viruses.
Basson is surrounded by cloak and dagger intrigue, as he told Pretoria High court in South Africa that “The local CIA agent in Pretoria threatened me with death on the sidewalk of the American Embassy in Schoeman Street.” According to a 2001 article in The New Yorker magazine, the American Embassy in Pretoria was “terribly concerned” that Basson would reveal deep connections between Project Coast and the United States.
In 2013, Basson was found guilty of “unprofessional conduct” by the South African health council.
Bioweapons expert Jeanne Guillemin writes in her book Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism, “The project’s growth years were from 1982 to 1987, when it developed a range of biological agents (such as those for anthrax, cholera, and the Marburg and Ebola viruses and for botulinum toxin)…”
Basson’s bioweapons program officially ended in 1994, but there has been no independent verification that the pathogens created were ever destroyed. The order to destroy them went directly to Dr. Basson. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The integrity of the process rested solely on Dr. Basson’s honesty.”
Basson claims to have had contact with western agencies that provided “ideological assistance” to Project Coast. Basson stated in an interview shot for the documentary Anthrax War that he met several times with Dr. David Kelly, the infamous UN weapons inspector in Iraq. Kelly was a top bioweapons expert in the United Kingdom. He was found dead near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003. While the official story claims he committed suicide, medical experts highly doubt this story.
In a 2007 article from the Mail Online, it was reported that a week prior to his death, Dr. Kelly was to be interviewed by MI5 about his ties to Dr. Basson.
Dr. Timothy Stamps, Minister of Health of Zimbabwe, suspected that his country was under biological attack during the time that Basson was operating. Stamps told PBS Frontline in 1998 that “The evidence is very clear that these were not natural events. Whether they were caused by some direct or deliberate inoculation or not, is the question we have to answer.”
Stamps specifically named the Ebola and Marburg viruses as suspect. Stamps thinks that his country was being used as a testing ground for weaponized Ebola.
“I’m talking about anthrax and cholera in particular, but also a couple of viruses that are not endemic to Zimbabwe [such as] the Ebola type virus and, we think also, the Marburg virus. We wonder whether in fact these are not associated with biological warfare against this country during the hostilities… Ebola was along the line of the Zambezi [River], and I suspect that this may have been an experiment to see if a new virus could be used to directly infect people.”
The Ghanaian Times reported in early September on the recent Ebola outbreak, noting connections between Basson and bioweapons research. The article points out that, “… there are two types of scientists in the world: those who are so concerned about the pain and death caused to humans by illness that they will even sacrifice their own lives to try and cure deadly diseases, and those who will use their scientific skill to kill humans on the orders of… government…”
Indeed, these ideas are not new. Plato wrote over 2,000 years ago in his work The Republic that a ruling elite should guide society, “… whose aim will be to preserve the average of population.” He further stated, “There are many other things which they will have to consider, such as the effects of wars and diseases and any similar agencies, in order as far as this is possible to prevent the State from becoming either too large or too small.”
As revealed by The Age, Nobel prize winning Australian microbiologist Sir Macfarlane Burnet secretly urged the Australian government in 1947 to develop bio weapons for use against the “overpopulated countries of South-East Asia.” In a 1947 meeting with the New Weapons and Equipment Development Committee, the group recommended that “the possibilities of an attack on the food supplies of S-E Asia and Indonesia using B.W. agents should be considered by a small study group.”
This information gives us an interesting perspective on the recent unprecedented Ebola outbreak. Is it an organic natural phenomenon? Did this strain of Ebola accidentally escape from a bioweapons lab? Or, was it deliberately released?
The Nigerian military announced on Friday that it reached a ceasefire agreement with the Islamist militant movement, Boko Haram, and that the Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram will be returned to their families.
Air Chief Marshal Badeh first spoke about the truce after a three day meeting between Nigeria and Cameroon. The BBC is reporting that the negotiations were mediated by Chad.
An official with Nigeria’s security forces told Reuters “Commitment among parts of Boko Haram and the military does appear to be genuine … It is worth taking seriously.”
Boko Haram has not made any statement about a truce.
The school girls were abducted from Chibok, a town in the northeastern state of Borno state, six months ago. Through the efforts of Nigerian women activists, the kidnapping of the girls became an international cause and brought Boko Haram onto the world stage. The Nigerian government has been strongly criticized by local as well as international human rights groups for its “lackluster” efforts to retrieve the girls. The release of the girls will be finalized next week in Ndjamena, Chad’s capital.
The Nigerian government spokesperson said that Boko Haram will not be given any land, but that the national government will not say what compromises it has made toward the militant group.
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 and has been fighting with the Nigerians military since 2009. More than 2,000 civilians have been killed this year in this conflict.
Recently I criticised Guardian columnist George Monbiot for lavishing the term “genocide denier” on anyone who disagrees with him about the events in Rwanda 20 years ago. I described Monbiot as a “McCarthy of the left”, after he waged a campaign of vilification of prominent dissident intellectuals Ed Herman and David Peterson for seeking to critically re-examine the west’s official narrative about Rwanda – that the Hutu majority alone committed a genocide against the Tutsi minority – and questioning whether Rwanda’s current Tutsi president, Paul Kagame, and his RPF forces were not also deeply complicit in the slaughter.
Monbiot’s witch-hunt has also targeted others on the left, such as Noam Chomsky, who supported Herman and Peterson’s right to engage in the critical study of what they call the “politics of genocide”.
Monbiot’s efforts to silence these critical voices on the left was thrown a curveball this month when the BBC, one of the biggest enforcers of official narratives, broadcast a programme, Rwanda’s Untold Story, raising many of the same questions as Herman and Peterson. What would Monbiot do?
Well, I have to give him credit: he is consistent. He has joined other journalists, academics and activists deeply committed to the official Rwanda narrative in accusing the BBC and its programme-makers of genocide denial too. In fact, in their letter to the BBC’s director general, Tony Hall, they accuse the BBC team of genocide denial no less than 10 times!
For those who wish to follow the details of this correspondence, the letter from Monbiot et al can be found here. A reply from David Peterson is available here. And there are a further letters to Hall from Theogene Rudasingwa, who was once in Kagame’s inner circle, and from Christopher Black, the barrister for Augustin Ndindiliyimana, a Hutu general acquitted of genocide crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
In this increasingly polarised debate, I recommend reading Justin Podur’s interventions. He is a journalist with a deep interest in African politics who has been following both sides of the argument closely. He does not agree with all of Herman and Peterson’s conclusions but, importantly, he argues that the official narrative about Rwanda is inadequate and that it is vital to create space for a respectful debate about what really happened. That stands in stark contrast to Monbiot’s position, and illustrates my reasons for calling his campaign against Herman, Peterson, Chomsky and others McCarthyite.
On his blog, Podur makes the essential point that, despite the repeated smear from Monbiot and his allies in their letter to Hall, the BBC documentary does not deny Rwanda’s genocide: it simply makes the case that Kagame’s role in the genocide, entirely overlooked in the official narrative, needs reassessing and that his current regime, solidly backed by western powers, should be held to account for committing mass murder in neighbouring Congo and for its totalitarian rule inside Rwanda.
By creating a sacred narrative about Rwanda’s genocide, the BBC documentary suggests, Kagame has provided himself with the cover needed to continue with his rule of terror.
Podur quotes from Monbiot et al’s letter: “Denial… ensures the crime continues. It incites new killing. It denies the dignity of the deceased and mocks those who survived.”
And yet, the letter writers [including Monbiot] do all of those things. If the victims of the RPF don’t count, as they do not seem to to these writers, then what is this except denial? All of the victims in Central Africa – of the defeated Rwandan government, of the RPF, of the RPF’s proxies and of their opponents – all deserve to be acknowledged, not denied. The BBC documentary deserved better than shoddy arguments and mudslinging. Kagame is still in power, and the only function of this letter is to provide him with cover. Rather than a letter about ‘genocide denial’, the authors would have been more honest to write a manifesto of unconditional support for Rwanda’s dictator.
Sierra Leone has waved the white flag in the face of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Its meager infrastructure has buckled under the onslaught of a disease which could have been curtailed. The announcement that infected patients will be treated at home because there is no longer the capacity to treat them in hospitals is a surrender which did not have to happen. Not only did Europe and the United States turn a blind eye to sick and dying Africans but they did so with the help of an unlikely perpetrator.
The World Health Organization is “the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.” Its very name implies that it takes direction from and serves the needs of people all over the world but the truth is quite different. The largest contributor to the WHO budget is not a government. It is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which provides more funding than either the United States or the United Kingdom. WHO actions and priorities are no longer the result of the consensus of the world’s people but top down decision making from wealthy philanthropists.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation may appear to be a savior when it provides $300 million to the WHO budget, but those dollars come with strings attached. WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan admitted as much when she said, “My budget [is] highly earmarked, so it is driven by what I call donor interests.” Instead of being on the front line when a communicable disease crisis appears, it spends its time administering what Gates and his team have determined is best.
The Ebola horror continues as it has for the last ten months in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The cruelty of the world’s lack of concern for Africa and all Africans in the diaspora was evident by the inaction of nations and organizations that are supposed to respond in times of emergencies. While African governments and aid organizations sounded the alarm the WHO did little because its donor driven process militates against it. The world of private dollars played a role in consigning thousands of people to death.
Critics of the Gates Foundation appeared long before this current Ebola outbreak. In 2008 the WHO’s malaria chief, Dr. Arata Kochi, complained about the conflicts of interest created by the foundation. In an internal memo leaked to the New York Times he complained that the world’s top malaria researchers were “locked up in a ‘cartel’ with their own research funding being linked to those of others within the group.” In other words, the standards of independent peer reviewed research were cast aside in order to please the funder.
Private philanthropy is inherently undemocratic. It is a top down driven process in which the wealthy individual tells the recipient what they will and will not do. This is a problematic system for charities of all kinds and is disastrous where the health of world’s people is concerned. Health care should be a human right, not a charity, and the world’s governments should determine how funds to protect that right are spent. One critic put it very pointedly. “…the Gates Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates, do not believe in the public sector, they do not believe in a democratic, publically owned, publically accountable system.”
There is little wonder why the Ebola outbreak caught the WHO so flat footed as they spent months making mealy mouthed statements but never coordinating an effective response. The Gates foundation is the WHO boss, not governments, and if they weren’t demanding action, then the desperate people affected by Ebola weren’t going to get any.
Privatization of public resources is a worldwide scourge. Education, pensions, water, and transportation are being taken out of the hands of the public and given to rich people and corporations. The Ebola crisis is symptomatic of so many others which go unaddressed or improperly addressed because no one wants to bite the hands that do the feeding.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged an additional $50 million to fight the current Ebola epidemic but that too is problematic, as Director General Chan describes. “When there’s an event, we have money. Then after that, the money stops coming in, then all the staff you recruited to do the response, you have to terminate their contracts.” The WHO should not be lurching from crisis to crisis, SARS, MERS, or H1N1 influenza based on the whims of philanthropy. The principles of public health should be carried out by knowledgeable medical professionals who are not dependent upon rich people for their jobs.
The Gates are not alone in using their deep pockets to confound what should be publicly held responsibilities. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he was contributing $25 million to fight Ebola. His donation will go to the Centers for Disease Control Foundation. Most Americans are probably unaware that such a foundation even exists. Yet there it is, run by a mostly corporate board which will inevitably interfere with the public good. The WHO and its inability to coordinate the fight against Ebola tells us that public health is just that, public. If the CDC response to Ebola in the United States fails it may be because it falls prey to the false siren song of giving private interests control of the people’s resources and responsibilities.
Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
It’s not often I praise the BBC for producing real journalism. Further, it is with some disbelief that I find myself applauding Jane Corbin, who I will struggle till my dying day to forgive for her despicable piece of Israeli propaganda parading as reportage a few years back on the Israeli navy’s attack on the Mavi Marmara aid ship to Gaza.
Nonetheless, Corbin has now fronted a truly disturbing revisionist documentary on Rwanda, called Rwanda’s Untold Story. The programme’s argument is that the official story about a straightforward genocide by the Hutu majority of Rwanda’s Tutsis 20 years ago is highly selective and entirely misleading. One scholar suggests that the narrative we have been fed is the equivalent of reducing the Second World War to the Holocaust and claiming nothing else of significance happened.
What the documentary demonstrates forcefully is that Paul Kagame, the hero of the official story of Rwanda’s genocide, was almost certainly the biggest war criminal to have emerged from those horrifying events. Kagame led the Tutsis’ main militia, the RPF. He almost certainly ordered the shooting down of the Rwandan president’s plane, the trigger for a civil war that quickly escalated into a genocide; on the best estimates, his RPF was responsible for killing 80% of the 1 million who died inside Rwanda, making the Hutus, not the Tutsis, the chief victims; and his subsequent decision to extend the civil war into neighbouring Congo, where many Hutu civilians had fled to escape the RPF, led to the deaths of up to 5 million more.
Not surprising then that Kagame is championed by Britain’s own biggest war criminal, Tony Blair. But the rot has spread much further. Rwanda, now praised as a model democracy under Kagame, is in truth a police state, where the president kills or locks up all opponents, fixes the elections, and has made any questioning of the official story he created – that the Tutsis were the exclusive victims of the genocide – a crime.
The BBC has not had to dig up any new information to make this programme. It’s all been available for years. But no one apart from a few experts – academics, UN military personnel who were there, UN investigators, and Kagame’s former, and disillusioned, inner circle – have dared to speak out.
The real criminals, as ever, it seems, have been the western powers and the UN. They have happily paraded their remorse at failing to intervene at the time of the genocide (presumably because their self-confessed error helped to justify the subsequent wave of bogus “humanitarian interventions” in the Middle East). But what the documentary makes clear is that Blair, Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan and many others have helped to whitewash Kagame’s crimes against humanity and provide a veneer of legitimacy to his current oppressive rule. Anyone who has threatened to blow the lid, like Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at the UN’s international tribunal on Rwanda, has been forced out.
But as I watched the programme, one thing struck me forcefully in particular, though it was not referred to by Corbin: what were the journalists who crawled all over the Rwanda story for years doing? How were Blair, Clinton and Annan allowed to forge the myth of a simple Hutu genocide of Tutsis without serious challenge from serious reporters working for serious newspapers that were supposed to be making sense of these events for us?
From my own experience covering Israel-Palestine, I can guess what happened. The reporters on the ground feared straying too far from the consensus in their newsrooms. Rather than telling their editors what the story was (the model of news production most people assume to be the case), the editors were creating the framework of the story for the reporters, based on the official narrative being promoted in political and diplomatic circles. Correspondents who cared about their careers dared not challenge the party line too strongly, even when they knew it to be a lie.
Rwanda also offers a telling example of how such group-think works, and how a non-expert far from real events but schooled in a kind of London or Washington consensus on foreign affairs ends up policing the limits of possible thought in a way that strips us, his readers, of the right to hear a counter-narrative.
The guilty party in this case was George Monbiot, often seen as one of the most radical and original thinkers publishing in the British mainstream liberal media. Two years ago he wrote an ugly attack, entitled “Naming the Genocide Deniers“, on two scholars, one of them the renowned Ed Herman. Monbiot eventually dragged in a host of other thinkers, including Noam Chomsky, accusing them of being “genocide belittlers” for not turning on the pair at his instigation.
The crime committed by this tiny group was that they had raised the possibility that the official story of the genocide in Rwanda – as well as of some of the massacres in the Balkans – might not be entirely historically accurate, and that the accounts might have been distorted for political advantage. Monbiot, uninterested in assessing their claims or addressing the facts, abused them for straying from the official narrative. Monbiot might like to reconsider his behaviour, for which I and others criticised him at the time, and issue a long-overdue apology.
That aside, Monbiot’s disgraceful accusations are a useful illustration of how powerful is the emotional, imaginative and possibly financial grip of the mainstream media on journalists, even those feted for their independence.
It is with that context in mind too that one should tip one’s hat to the BBC and, reluctantly, to Jane Corbin for doing their jobs for once. Rwanda’s Untold Story reminds us how rarely journalists actually engage in the myth-busting, truth-telling work they claim to be bedrock of their craft.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. (Photo: Gerald Ford Library)
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger ordered a series of secret contingency plans that included airstrikes and mining of Cuban harbors in the aftermath of Fidel Castro’s decision to send Cuban forces into Angola in late 1975, according to declassified documents made public today for the first time. “If we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures,” Kissinger instructed General George Brown of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a high-level meeting of national security officials on March 24, 1976, that included then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “I think we are going to have to smash Castro,” Kissinger told President Ford. “We probably can’t do it before the [1976 presidential] elections.” “I agree,” the president responded.
The story of Kissinger’s Cuban contingency planning was published today in a new book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana, co-authored by American University professor William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh who directs the National Security Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project. Research for the book, which reveals the surprising and untold history of bilateral efforts towards rapprochement and reconciliation, draws on hundreds of formerly secret records obtained by the authors. The documents detailing Kissinger’s Cuban contingency planning in 1976 were obtained by Kornbluh through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.
According to the book, Kissinger’s consideration of open hostilities with Cuba came after a protracted effort of secret diplomatic talks to normalize relations — including furtive meetings between U.S. and Cuban emissaries at La Guardia airport and an unprecedented three-hour negotiating session at the five-star Pierre Hotel in New York City. Cuba’s efforts at supporting the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, the authors write, “was the type of threat to U.S. interests that Kissinger had hoped the prospect of better relations would mitigate.”
The book describes Kissinger as “apoplectic” with Castro — in oval office meetings Kissinger referred to the Cuban leader as a “pipsqueak” — for Cuba’s decision to deploy thousands of soldiers to Angola to assist the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party of António Agostinho Neto against attacks from insurgent groups that were supported covertly by the United States and apartheid regime of South Africa. Concerned that Castro would eventually broaden his military incursion beyond Angola, Kissinger counseled Ford that they would have to “crack the Cubans.” “If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favor of clobbering them,” Kissinger told the president, according to a March 15, 1976, Oval Office memorandum of conversation.
In the March 24 meeting with an elite national security team known as the Washington Special Actions Group, Kissinger expanded on the domino scenario. “If the Cubans destroy Rhodesia then Namibia is next and then there is South Africa,” Kissinger argued. To permit the “Cubans as the shock troops of the revolution” in Africa, he argued, was unacceptable and could cause racial tensions in the “Caribbean with the Cubans appealing to disaffected minorities and could then spillover into South America and even into our own country.”
Moreover, the lack of a U.S. response to the global exercise of military power by a small Caribbean island nation, Kissinger feared, would be seen as American weakness. “If there is a perception overseas that we are so weakened by our internal debate [over Vietnam] so that it looks like we can’t do anything about a country of eight million people, then in three or four years we are going to have a real crisis.”
Drafted secretly by the Washington Special Actions Group in April 1976, the contingency plans outlined punitive options that ranged from economic and political sanctions to acts of war such as mining Cuba’s harbors, a naval quarantine, and strategic airstrikes “to destroy selected Cuban military and military-related targets.” The contingency planners warned Kissinger, however, that any act of aggression could trigger a superpower confrontation. Unlike the 1962 missile crisis, stated one planning paper, “a new Cuban crisis would not necessarily lead to a Soviet retreat.”
Indeed, “a Cuban/Soviet response could escalate in areas that would maximize US casualties and thus provoke stronger response,” Kissinger’s national security advisers warned. “The circumstances that could lead the United States to select a military option against Cuba should be serious enough to warrant further action in preparation for general war.”
Back Channel to Cuba was released today at a press conference at the Pierre Hotel, the site of the first official secret meeting to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba in July 1975. The authors suggested that the history of such talks, and the lessons they hold, remain especially relevant at a time when both President Obama and President Raul Castro have publicly declared the urgency of moving beyond the legacy of perpetual hostility in U.S.-Cuban relations.
Document 1: Memorandum of Conversation, February 25, 1976
During a conversation with President Ford in the Oval Office, Secretary of State Kissinger raises the issue of Cuba’s military incursion into Angola, implying that Latin American nations are concerned about a “race war” because of Cuba’s efforts in Africa. “I think we are going to have to smash Castro. We probably can’t do it before the elections.” The president responds, “I agree.”
Document 2: Memorandum of Conversation, March 15, 1976
In another Oval Office conversation, Kissinger raises the Cuban military involvement in Africa and expresses concern that Castro may deploy troops elsewhere in the region. “I think sooner or later we have to crack the Cubans … I think we have to humiliate them.” He continues to argue that, “If they move into Namibia or Rhodesia, I would be in favor of clobbering them. That would create a furor … but I think we might have to demand they get out of Africa.” When President Ford asks, “what if they don’t?” Kissinger responds, “I think we could blockade.”
Document 3: Washington Special Actions Group Meeting, Cuba, March 24, 1976
Kissinger convenes The Washington Special Actions Group-a small elite team of national security officials-on March 24 to discuss a range of options and capabilities to move against Cuba. “We want to get planning started in the political, economic and military fields so that we can see what we can do if we want to move against Cuba,” he explains. “In the military field there is an invasion or blockade.” Kissinger shares his domino theory of Cuban military involvement in the region. “If the Cubans destroy Rhodesia then Namibia is next and then there is South Africa. It might only take five years,” Kissinger argues. In discussing military options, he states, “if we decide to use military power it must succeed. There should be no halfway measures – we get no reward for using military power in moderation.” Kissinger orders the group to secretly draw up plans for retaliation if Cuban troops go beyond Angola.
Document 4: Cuban Contingency Plan Summary, (ca. April 1976)
This document is a summary of the Cuban Contingency survey considering the possible U.S. reactions to continued Cuban and USSR “Angola style” intervention. The summary notes that the U.S. is already engaging in some efforts to dissuade further intervention through “public warnings, signals to the USSR, changes in our African policy and some measures designed to isolate Castro.” While any U.S. response will affect U.S.-Soviet relations, “It is easier to bring pressure on Cuba, as the closer and weaker partner in a tightly interwoven relationship, than on the Soviet Union.”
Document 5: Cuban Contingency Plan Paper 1, (ca. April 1976)
According to this lengthy contingency planning paper, the objective of these plans is to prevent a pattern in which Cuba and the USSR “arrogate to themselves the right to intervene with combat forces in local or regional conflicts.” The contingency plan outlines four courses of action that vary on a scale of seriousness for deterring continued Cuban intervention, including: political pressure, actions against the USSR, a scenario of actions (combining political, economic and military measures), and military steps. Any actions taken towards Cuba could spur greater tension with the USSR. “In short, confronting Cuba — the weaker partner — is an obvious step toward confronting the USSR.” Political measures are presented as the best option for dissuading Cuba because of the increased chances of a U.S.-Cuban “incident” stemming from military actions. Along with the possibility of an incident, this document notes that “one of Cuba’s main foreign policy objectives has been to normalize relations with the countries of this hemisphere.”
The document outlines the option for a quarantine. As Cuba is highly dependent on imports and foreign military equipment (from the USSR), especially by sea, the U.S. would be able to exacerbate Cuba’s greatest vulnerability. On that same theme, the paper points to the U.S. base at Guantanamo as the greatest vulnerability for a Cuban response to any U.S. military actions. Other military steps outlined in the plans include mining Cuban ports and conducting punitive strikes against selected targets.
Document 6: Cuban Contingency Plan Paper 2, (ca. April 1976)
This paper covers several categories of U.S. actions against Cuba: deterrence, pressure to cease and desist, interdiction of Cuban action under way, and retaliation. Any form of deterrence taken by the U.S. would have to be “predicated on a willingness to take some action if the deterrence failed.” However, and reiterated once again, any action taken to confront Cuba would also incite a confrontation with the USSR. The possible military measures presented include three forms of quarantine (selected war materiel, POL imports, maritime blockade excluding food and medicine), mining Cuban ports, and punitive airstrikes on selected targets.
The document notes two important ambiguities — the role of Cuban military involvement in Africa and the threshold to determine the U.S. response to a Cuban provocation. “In sum, there is a good chance the US will be confronted by an ambiguous situation, in which Cuban intervention is not clearly established.” As well, there is “no precise threshold” which would determine the U.S. response, except to state that the threshold would be low if Cuban action were directed against the US or its territories (Puerto Rico), higher in the Caribbean and Latin America, and highest in Africa.
The document states that “we should further make it clear that we are not reverting to the shenanigans of the early 1960’s” and that the U.S. is not violating any international agreements. While the Soviets in 1970 indicated that they regarded the 1962 U.S.-Soviet agreement as still in force, the “failure of the Cubans to permit the UN supervision renders the US pledge technically inoperative.”
Document 7: Kissinger Aide-Memoire to Cuba, January 11, 1975
This conciliatory message drafted by an aide to Kissinger, and approved by the Secretary of State, was given to the Cuban side at the first meeting between U.S. and Cuban representatives, which took place at a cafeteria in La Guardia airport. “We are meeting here to explore the possibilities for a more normal relationship between our two countries,” it begins. The objective is to “determine whether there exists an equal determination on both sides to settle the differences that exist between us.” While the ideological differences are wide, Kissinger expresses hope that such talks will “be useful in addressing concrete issues which it is in the interest of both countries to resolve.” As a gesture to the Cubans, the U.S. will permit Cuban diplomats (accredited to the UN) to travel from New York to Washington and may begin granting additional visas to Cubans for cultural, scientific and education meetings. For Kissinger, “no purpose is served in attempting to embargo ideas.”
Document 8: Memorandum for the Secretary, Meeting in New York with Cuban Representatives, January 11, 1975
In a briefing paper on the first secret meeting at La Guardia airport, Kissinger’s aide Lawrence Eagleburger reports on the tone and exchange of views. The Cubans stated they had no authority to negotiate at that time, but emphasized the importance of removing the embargo as a “sine qua non” for talks. Eagleburger reports that he wanted to “leave both Cubans with a clear understanding that while I had received their message, I was in no way prepared — even unofficially — to accept [removing the embargo] as a precondition to further talks.” Even though at times there was a seemingly difficult tone in the meeting, as Eagleburger explains, “the atmosphere of the meeting was extremely friendly.”
Document 9: Memorandum of Conversation, Pierre Hotel, U.S.-Cuba Meeting, July 9, 1975
This meeting marks the first formal negotiating session to explore normalized relations between the United States and Cuba. To break the ice, Eagleburger suggests that Kissinger is disposed to meet with the Cuban foreign minister during the upcoming UNGA meetings in September. Assistant Secretary of State William D. Rogers begins by explaining that Washington would support lifting multilateral sanctions at the OAS and that the United States would then begin to dismantle the trade embargo, piece by piece, in response to similar gestures from the Cubans. Over the course of the next three hours the U.S. and Cuban officials discuss a series of reciprocal and bilateral improvements of relations, with much of the meeting focused on the Cuban responses to the points raised by the U.S. side. Responding to the piece by piece approach of the U.S., the Cuban representatives reiterate that any precondition for talks remains the lifting of the embargo. “We cannot negotiate under the blockade,” Ramon Sánchez-Parodi argues; “until the embargo is lifted, Cuba and the United States cannot deal with each other as equals and consequently cannot negotiate.”
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa criticized on Saturday a new U.S. government plan to intervene and weaken Latin American governments.
Correa said that Obama’s intention to create six innovation centers for educating new “leaders” in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, and Asia, was clearly intended to interfere with Latin American countries.
“What they want is to intervene in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, because they say we attack freedom of speech; but go and see for yourselves who are the owners of media in United States,” said Correa.
On Tuesday President Barrack Obama said that his government will support civil society in countries where freedom of speech and association are threatened by the governments.
“We’re creating new innovation centers to empower civil society groups around the world,” said Obama during his speech in a plenary session of the Clinton Open Initiative. “Oppressive governments are sharing worst practices to weaken civil society. We’re going to help you share the best practices to stay strong and vibrant.”
President Correa hit back “This is part of the conservative restoration: the insolent announcement of intervention in other countries.” He added “Let us live in peace and respect the sovereignty of our countries.”
Correa also responded that he will propose the creation of an innovation center in the United States to teach the country “something about human rights,” so they might learn about true democracy and freedom of speech, revoke the death penalty and end the blockade on Cuba.
Correa has accused opposition movements in the country of trying to destabilize his government.
President Barack Obama announced in a speech on Tuesday that the United States would be aggressively funding and supporting “civil society” groups around the globe, calling it a “national security” issue.
“It is precisely because citizens and civil society can be so powerful — their ability to harness technology and connect and mobilize at this moment so unprecedented — that more and more governments are doing everything in their power to silence them,” said Obama at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual conference in New York.
Obama singled out Venezuela for allegedly “vilifying legitimate dissent” and said that Latin America would host one of the six Regional Civil Society Innovation Centers, a new initiative that seeks to create a global network to create cross-border partnerships. Other regions targeted for these new centers include Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
However, U.S. assistance to so-called civil society groups, especially in Latin America, has been marred in controversy, especially with regards to leftist governments.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), one of the U.S. bodies that funds and supports “civil society” organizations abroad, funded Venezuelan opposition groups responsible for the 2002 coup attempt against the democratically-elected former president Hugo Chavez.
In 2009, according to USAID documents obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, the group had also funded local regional governments and municipalities in Bolivia at a time when the government of Evo Morales was dealing with right-wing separatist movements in the eastern part of the country. Morales eventually expelled the agency from the country in 2013, a move followed by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa later that year. Correa announced in November 2013 that USAID is required to leave the country by the end of this month.
“Partnering and protecting civil society groups around the world is now a mission across the U.S. government,” said Obama.
He ordered, via a presidential memorandum, agencies such as USAID, the Department of State, and Homeland Security, to work more regularly with civil society groups across the globe. … Full article