Tuesday, 26 February 2008

US enemy of Zim democracy

US enemy of Zim democracy

By Caesar Zvayi

JAMES MCGEE, born August 11 1950, is an English novelist known for historical novels about a fictional investigative officer, Matthew Hawkwood.

McGee’s books are set in Regency London, at a time Britain was at war with Napoleon. The hero, Hawkwood, is working as a Bow Street Runner, an early investigative officer working out of London’s Bow Street Magistrates’ Court who is called upon to solve a number of civil crimes, including murder, body-snatching and highway robbery.

His previous military experience also makes him ably suited to investigate issues of national security.

McGee’s imagination is excellent as can be seen in the way he portrays his characters and wartime London, which is why McGee’s three novels received critical acclaim.

Reading an op-ed piece from a man who shares the British novelist’s name, James D. McGee, the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, one would be mistaken for thinking it was extracted from the British writer’s latest manuscript.

McGee from Washington wrote a 505-word piece that was reproduced in full yesterday lecturing Zimbabweans on the elitist conception of democracy, electoral democracy, how government should be by the consent of the governed, and dismissing Zimbabwe’s capacity to hold free and fair elections, among other things.

McGee’s unwarranted lecture was strange in two respects.

Firstly, the US ambassador seemed blissfully ignorant of the fact that his adopted country has no moral ground to lecture Zimbabweans on any form of democracy as Zimbabwe had to wage a 14-year war of attrition against a white minority regime that had the overt and covert support of four US administrations from Lyndon Johnson (1963-69); Richard Nixon (1969-74); Gerald Ford (1974-77) to Jimmy Carter (1977-1981).

A bit of history may help the historically naive McGee appreciate the destructive role his war-mongering country played during Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and how those actions served to delay the dawn of independence at a cost of over 50 000 innocent lives, the same way Washington’s illegal sanctions today seek to torpedo Zimbabwe’s quest for economic independence.

When Rhodesian prime minister Ian Douglas Smith made his Unilateral Declaration of Independence on November 11 1965, the progressive world was naturally outraged and the UN Security Council promptly responded by slapping the Smith regime with a raft of sanctions beginning that year till the brief restoration of British rule in December 1979.

Though the terms of the sanctions forbade trade or financial dealings with Rhodesia, the US supported the beleaguered settler regime regardless and covertly channelled assistance through apartheid South Africa.

US allies among them Portugal — then under Marcello Caetano, Israel, and Iran then under the US proxy — Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi — also assisted and traded with Rhodesia. In an attempt to bypass the UN sanctions, the US passed the so-called Byrd Amendment in 1971 and continued to buy chrome from Rhodesia in violation of the UN sanctions arguing that the mineral was a strategic raw material yet it went on to adorn the chrome-plated bumpers of America’s monstrous vehicles.

As if that was not enough, Washington also contributed to the establishment of an armaments industry in Rhodesia that enabled the Rhodesian Front to decimate over 50 000 black Zimbabweans whose only "crime" was daring to demand black majority rule.

The US also provided the technical knowledge and support, again through apartheid South Africa, toward establishing the 700-kilometre Border Minefield Obstacle along Zimbabwe’s borders with Zambia and Mozambique in an attempt to stop aspiring cadres from crossing to training camps and to blow-up trained combatants who were crossing back into Zimbabwe. Furthermore, other American mercenaries and US servicemen joined the Rhodesian Security Forces ranks, with many of them bringing back to Rhodesia military ideas and concepts from Vietnam where the US had just been routed in 1975.

To get a detailed expose of the extent of US destabilisation of the Second Chimurenga, McGee should get hold of a 2001 book titled ‘‘From the Barrel of a Gun — The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980’’ that was authored by a fellow African-American, Gerald Horne, and published by the University of North Carolina Press at Chapel Hill.

McGee doesn’t even have to order a copy from the US; he can easily borrow one from the Centre for Defence Studies at the University of Zimbabwe, about 7km from his base in Herbert Chitepo.

The bottom line is Washington not only significantly contributed to Rhodesia’s national income, which enabled the Smith regime to buy more weapons to pulverise freedom fighters; it actually assisted Rhodesia’s fight against Zipra and Zanla combatants.

As such as this writer said in an earlier instalment, McGee must read history before exercising his jaws on Zimbabwe. By acquainting himself with history, McGee will find that his government, which today is at the forefront of demonising Zimbabwe to the extent of enacting a sanctions law — the so-called Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act which decrees that the sanctions can only be lifted if land tenure is restored to pre-2000 levels — openly supported Zimbabwe on land at the Lancaster House Constitutional Conference, with the then US president Jimmy Carter promising that Washington would significantly fund land reforms and also urged the British to do the same.

Carter’s promise — which was delivered by the then US ambassador to London, Kingman Brewster — was made after the Patriotic Front leaders threatened to walk out of the Conference when the British sought to scuttle demands for land reforms. All this was recently revealed in a report aired by BBC on August 22 last year at 12:23GMT, which McGee can access at http://news.bbc.co.uk.

Secondly, McGee — who was sent to Harare by a man holding the distinction of being the first unelected president of the US having lost the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000 — has no moral ground to lecture anyone on electoral democracy. Without the help of his brother John Ellis "Jeb" Bush, the then governor of Florida and George H. W’s appointments to the US Supreme Court, George W. would not have been in the White House today as he lost the popular vote to Gore by over 500 000 votes.

George W. also bears the distinction of being the first president, in the history of the US, to bar UN election inspectors during the 2002 US election which was again equally scandal-ridden as electronic voting machines were reportedly manipulated by right-wing politicians with the connivance of several voting machine manufacturers.

For want of space, this writer will not delve into Bush’s human rights record apart from reminding McGee that Bush is again the first US president to prevail on the UN to remove the US from the then Human Rights Commission; withdraw the US from the International Court of Justice, and to refuse to allow inspector’s access to US "prisoners of war" being held in various bases in and out of Iraq as required by the Geneva Conventions.

Many believe Bush has scant regard for due process because of yet another infamous first, he is the first US president to assume office with a criminal record.

So McGee, as a resident of a glass house, must not throw stones.

McGee also appears to have a warped conception of democracy as he claimed, ‘‘democracy cannot flourish unless at election time the people educate themselves about their choices and express their preferences by voting.’’

He seems to believe that Zimbabweans are suckers for the narrow conception of democracy the Westerners always try to ram down the developing world’s throat. A truncated conception that focuses only on civil and social rights to the total exclusion of economic and cultural rights.

According to the minimalist school of thought, to which McGee is sold, democracy is basically a method of making decisions whose most important characteristic is free and fair elections for choosing government officials, a process where the elites compete for votes to win political office. According to this view, ultimate power rests in the hands of the people at election time but after vote counting the people cede decision-making authority to the elites ‘‘who are well-versed in matters of governance.’’

Westerners favour this minimalist view of democracy for the developing world not because it is ideal, but because they use it as a red herring that diverts people’s attention from interrogating the source of their poverty. Developing world poverty is then simplistically blamed on ‘‘corrupt’’ governments but not on centuries of plunder and the fact that the Westerners all but own developing world economies which they manipulate to suit their ends — the way American billionaire George Soros almost single-handedly wrecked Asian economies precipitating the so-called Asian economic crisis.

The obverse of minimalist democracy holds that democracy is much more than a political system with free and fair elections, but is an economy and society that reflects a democratic desire for equality and respect for political differences, which differences should not be on matters of national interest, what is called conflict within consensus.

For this school, democracy means much more than going to the polls every few years. It means citizens owning their resources and participating in the institutions of society such as corporations, unions, factories, in fact, all aspects of economic, social and cultural production.

The former is what is commonly known as limited democracy while the latter is popular or expansive democracy. McGee, being an African-American, should have no problems understanding that in a developing country like Zimbabwe, what the populace needs even more than elections, is total empowerment not only in decision-making but also in economic, social and cultural production. This is the path Zimbabwe has taken, which path has invited the fierce backlash from the West as the McGees of this world eagerly hand Uncle Sam fresh whips to lacerate Zimbabwe’s backside.

For McGee’s own information, Zimbabwe has held democratic multi-party elections whenever they were due since 1980, and the forthcoming March 29 poll will be Zimbabwe’s 10th in 28 years, showing Zimbabwe has a rich democratic tradition that gives people the chance to choose their leaders time and time again.

To put things into perspective, very few African countries, some that were independent since the 1960s have held as many suffrages as Zimbabwe has. Most had their first multiparty elections during the neo-liberal decade 1990 to 2000 but only because multilateral lending institutions made it a pre-condition for balance of payment support and aid. While many others had leaders obtain power through bloody coups, but not so in the case of Zimbabwe which is why McGee’s amateur lecture is misplaced.

This writer also found ironic, McGee’s assertion that, ‘‘a growing chorus of voices is expressing doubt about the coming poll.’’ McGee should have been more specific by identifying the source of the ‘‘chorus.’’ Is it emanating from Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe or Rushinga? Aren’t the voices coming from 172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue and its opposition embeds? In case McGee has forgotten, only last year the US State Department confirmed in its report titled, "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The US record-2006," that it has the entire opposition camp in its pocket and the noises the so-called activists make are merely sponsored psalms for their supper.

The State Department report revealed that the US sponsors the MDC; and so-called civil society groups comprising non-governmental organisations and ‘‘non-governmental individuals,’’ so-called advocacy groups, newspapers, newsletters, some Church leaders and journalists to ‘‘present economic and social analyses discrediting the government’s excuses for its failed policies."

In fact only last week, British premier Gordon Brown revealed that his government had released £3,3million pounds into opposition coffers to help them intensify their anti-Zimbabwe campaigns by producing damning reports trashing Zimbabwe’s democratic record, the human rights situation, rule of law and judiciary to create self-fulfilling prophecies that would help the MDC explain imminent loss at the polls.

There you have it; the chorus you claim McGee is a sponsored one and can be traced back to your offices and those of your allies. It is not coming from Mbare or Makokoba.

McGee’s howler was his concluding paragraph that claimed, among other things, ‘‘while the Zimbabwean people do not have the power alone to ensure that democracy prevails, it will surely not prevail unless they play their part.’’

Who has that power Jimmy? Aren’t you here simply presenting a lame case for your country’s meddling in other countries internal affairs? Are you prepared to reverse the scenario and say ‘‘Americans alone do not have the power to ensure that democracy prevails in the US come November?’’

This is why earlier on, this writer said you are historically naïve, it is Zimbabweans, and Zimbabweans alone who have the right to chart their own destiny, they do not need Uncle Sam’s supervision. The days of the master and slave are long gone, or hadn’t you noticed?

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