The U.S. and repressive rule

Readers’ Corner

According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the “UN has it wrong: Africa’s problem is repressive rule.” Zimbabwe, Tanzania, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo, and Niger are cited as examples in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer commentary by Claudia Rosett.

A review of U.S. history shows that hostile U.S. policies, and not the United Nations, are at fault. Not only in Africa, but in many other parts of the globe, our tax dollars are used to obtain cheap labor, create dictators and, in return, deny funds to our cities.

In Mexico, our tax dollars were used to protect NAFTA investments. The information comes from a 1994 Washington Post article reporting on the preparations for rebellion by Mexican workers against NAFTA conditions, including 18, 13-ton water cannons from Cadillac Gage Textron in Warren, Mich., at a cost of $500,000 each — $40 million in total — used for crowd control, and several 17-ton Cobra riot control vehicles from Custom Armoring Pittsfield, Mass., each vehicle equipped with plows to destroy barricades, indelible dye to mark protesters for subsequent arrest, and rows of gun ports.

U.S. financial interests control sweatshops in many countries in Latin America. Those financial interests extend to Southeast Asia, where sweatshops provide vast corporate revenues. To prevent revolution, more than 1 million Indonesians were killed in an anti-communist purge backed by the Lyndon Johnson administration. And 200,000 East Timorians were murdered in 1975 on U.S. State Department instructions with President Gerald Ford’s approval. So long as it profits Wall Street, U.S. intervention remains an international threat.

In the Congo, the U.S. was the main supporter of dictator Joseph Mobutu, who used his U.S.-supplied arsenal, including arms, ammunition, sabotage materials and training, to repress his own people and plunder his nation’s economy for three decades. The CIA even hand-delivered $250 million to Mobutu when Congress disallowed the “aid.” The U.S. sent Joseph Kasa-Vubu, Mobutu’s predecessor, “aid” including military equipment used to oust and murder Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, the first legally elected leader in the Congo.

The U.S. helped build the arsenals of eight of the nine governments directly involved in the Congo war that has ravaged the Democratic Republic of the Congo since Laurent Kabila’s 1997 coup. Throughout the Cold War (1950-1989), the U.S. delivered weaponry and training costing billions of dollars to Africa, including to dictatorships in Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan and the Congo (both Kinshasa, DRC, and Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo). The Reagan administration defied the anti-apartheid boycott and provided assistance to South African racists throughout Reagan’s two terms.

U.S. special forces have trained military personnel, under the Pentagon’s Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program, from at least 34 of Africa’s 53 nations, including troops fighting on both sides of the DRC’s civil war — from Rwanda and Uganda (supporting the rebels) to Zimbabwe and Namibia (supporting the Kabila regime).

U.S. military and political intervention has brought about dictatorships for more than 100 years. Wall Street relies on war and military and political intervention as multinational corporations amass great wealth through investments in cheap labor and cheap resources. While Wall Street grows rich, U.S. schools, health care, public transit and the environment suffer. While Wall Street grows rich, cities suffer with poverty and crime.

Lou Incognito, retiree and social justice activist, lives Philadelphia, Pa.