Hamza Mustafa Njozi (2008-02-12)
It would seem to me that there are certain moral limits beyond which no one can cross without forfeiting one’s honour and human dignity. Our seemingly voluntary decision to invite and to entertain a hated war criminal for four days in our beautiful land will probably go down in history as marking the darkest moment in our political history so far. I recall, not without pride, that in 2003 as members of the University of Dar es Salaam Academic Assembly [UDASA], we prevented the then U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania from visiting the Mlimani main campus. The university’s long-standing intellectual tradition was too noble to be soiled by a representative of a war criminal who was, and still is, butchering innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is as it should be. Intellectuals should keep the beacon of freedom and justice burning even during the darkest night of unbridled tyranny.
And now, Kwame Nkrumah’s worst fears have come to pass. Tanzania, a former Frontline State, is feverishly preparing itself to participate in a macabre dance with the deadliest twenty-first century harpy, “a monster who entices its victims with sweet music.” Tanzania is apparently following the footsteps of Uganda and Ethiopia. In whose interest? Let us begin by listening to the sweet music as performed by the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania and sickeningly echoed by some of our leaders.
The Sweet Music of Economic Gain
According to the American Ambassador, Mr. Mark Green, President Bush’s visit to Tanzania will stimulate investment because for four days the world media would focus on Tanzania. Of course, Mr. Green dismissed claims about Bush’s keen interest to station AFRICOM in Tanzania. Instead, Bush’s noble intentions include intensifying the fight against malaria and Aids. To this end, Tanzania will receive $818.4 million to fight Aids. During the visit, Bush would also highlight his country’s commitment to improving health in Africa. In summary, the iron spine of the argument justifying Bush’s trip is economic gain, both, actual and prospective.
Unless if Tanzanians wish to fall prey to racist reasoning, Mr. Green’s story is nothing but an attempt to disguise ignoble motives beneath a glittering façade of altruism. Why should Mr. Bush be so concerned about improving the health condition of Tanzanians and at the same time use the most sophisticated weapons to kill and maim, with zest and ruthlessness, the Iraqis and Afghans and now the Somalis? Why? Is it because we are black and they are Arab? In his recent State of the Union Address, Mr. Bush, amid cheers from his sycophants, vowed to heighten his hawkish policies world wide. And yet, Mr. Bush is so kind and altruistic to Tanzanians. Why? Of course we know from history that even the sordid intentions of tyrants are always dressed up in glowing principles. Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia because he wanted to promote peace and social welfare for all; Mussolini invaded Ethiopia because he wanted to liberate the savages; Japan invaded China to create an earthly paradise; the US and UK invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction; and so on and so forth.
Thomas Jefferson on Profession of Noble Intent
Commenting on the famous claim by the British Imperialists that they were fighting for the liberation of mankind, Thomas Jefferson, wrote, as quoted in Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival, "We believe no more in Bonaparte’s fighting merely for the liberties of the seas, than in Great Britain’s fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth, and the resources of other nations."
“A century later,” writes Chomsky, “Woodrow Wilson’s secretary of state, Robert Lansing, commented scornfully on ‘how willing the British, French or Italians are to accept a mandate’ from the League of Nations, as long as ‘there are mines, oil fields, rich grain fields or railroads’ that will make it a profitable undertaking.’ These ‘unselfish governments’ declare the mandates must be accepted ‘for the good of mankind’: ‘they will do their proper share by administering the rich regions of Mesopotamia, Syria, & c.’ The proper assessment of these pretensions is ‘so manifest that it is almost an insult to state it’. (p. 48)
To their credit, American leaders saw through such pretensions, and dismissed them for what they were. They knew the real motive was to grab the wealth and resources of other nations. We should apply the same standard in assessing the noble intent of Mr. Bush.
The Transparency of American Motives
Since the Americans know that their real motive is to pillage and loot the wealth and resources of other nations, they have often demonstrated by their behaviour that they must have unhindered access to all resources of the world. To achieve this end, they have stationed military bases all over the world. The goal of their grand strategy is to prevent any challenge to the power, position, and prestige of the United States. Since securing the supplies of oil enables the Americans to have power over her rivals and competitors, successive US governments have bombed, occupied or controlled countries with rich oil deposits. According to a government daily newspaper Habari Leo of 21 July 2007, an American oil company Helvey International and Petronet International of South Africa have signed a $313 million oil exploration contract in Tanzania. In view of how American oil companies have fleeced other oil rich countries like Ecuador, this does not augur us well. No wonder, suddenly, Bush, loves Tanzanians! Why not invite the Chinese who need no military bases, who have invaded no country and who give the best offer? If what has befallen other countries is any barometer, the Americans will need a military base in Tanzania. Military presence is necessary to ensure total control of this vital resource as well as the continued pillage of our gold mines.
Of late USAID has increased its activities in Tanzania. Commenting on the role of USAID in promoting the American Empire, John Pilger notes in Freedom Next Time:
Illuminating how America exported ‘democracy to the world’, the head of USAID, Andrew Natsios, described ‘aid’ as ‘a key foreign policy instrument’. Wishing to leave no doubt about what he meant, he said, ‘Foreign assistance helps developing and transition nations move toward democratic systems and market economies; it helps nations prepare for participation in the global trading system and become better markets for U.S. exports. (p.265)
John Perkins has lent to the same verdict the weight of his considerable weight as a professional Economic Hit Man [EHM]. He says the job of an EHM is:
To encourage world leaders to become part of a vast network that promotes U.S. commercial interests. In the end, those leaders become ensnared in a web of debt that ensures their loyalty. We can draw on them whenever we desire – to satisfy our political, economic, or military needs.
Acccording to John Perkins, EHM “funnel money from the World Bank, UASID, and other foreign ‘aid’ organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources” (p. ix).
Bush’s Visit and AFRICOM
The U.S. Ambassador has repeatedly and vehemently dismissed the disquieting reports that one of the objectives of Bush’s visit to Tanzania is to persuade our leaders into accepting to host the hated AFRICOM. Still, the signs and portents are too consistent to brush aside. According to Assistant Secretary of Defence for African Affairs, Theresa Whalen, the mission of AFRICOM will be to promote diplomatic, economic and humanitarian aid for African countries. In recent months, the U.S. Ambassadors, Michael Retzer and Mark Green have conspicuously [ and somewhat undiplomatically] attempted to show the shiny face of the U.S. Army. On 20 July, 2007 the US Ambassador opened a primary school in Chake Chake, Pemba. The school was built with the support of the US military base in Djibouti. The U.S. Navy Captain Wright from the U.S. CJTF-HOA, and the Country Director of USAID attended this important humanitarian function! Mwananchi of 10 November 2006 reported about a Tshs. 3.2 billion U.S assistance to the police laboratory. Habari Leo of 28 November 2007 reported that our police force received 100 hand-cuffs, 50 tape-recorders, 2 laptops, and a camera. Mwananchi of 8 December 2007, reported about the U.S. pledge to increase military assistance to Tanzania to the tune of $70 million under the Acota programme. Mwananchi of 6 December 2007, the U.S. Ambassador addresses students of Kinondoni Secondary school who are under USAID’s Stay Alive programme. Mwananchi of 22 November, 2007 the U.S. Ambassador visits and assists an orphanage in Arusha. Mwananchi of 22 November 2007, the U.S. Army helps a Handeni Hospital with equipments worth Tshs. 6 million. The U.S. Army stationed in Tanga involves itself with helping in the repair and rehabilitation of schools, dispensaries, bore holes and other social activities. Mwananchi of 12 January 2008, an American Army officer distributes toys to school children of Mbagala. Mwananchi of 17 January 2008, USAID officials give academic prizes to outstanding science students. Mtanzania of 10 January 2008, USAID praises the educational achievements of Zanzibar. USAID was handing over text books for Zanzibar secondary schools published by the University of South Carolina. The ceremony was part of the celebrations to mark 44 years of the Zanzibar Revolution. The Zanzibar Minister of Education did not seem to notice the tragic irony of the entire ceremony!
It may be instructive to recall that on 6 November 1933, Hitler responded to his political opponents by saying,
“Your child belongs to us already…What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.”Four years later he said
“This new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”Yes, new textbooks were written and new curricula developed.
After 44 years of Independence we are delegating this role to USAID. And USAID has nothing but praise for us!
The Boomerang Effect of the Global Media
The prediction that Tanzania would benefit economically because for four days the world media would focus on Tanzania is nothing but a cruel hoax. If this claim were true, Bush himself would have been the first beneficiary. He enjoys the publicity of the world media throughout the year. Yet, he is probably the most hated leader alive today. He is so hated that he becomes a huge security risk wherever he goes. In their book, America Alone, Harper and Clarke note that America’s militarism has brought about such a rise in world-wide anti-American feeling that:
When the president travels, he must do so in a locked-down security bubble: eight hours here, sixteen hours there, never more than thirty minutes from an airport, no press conferences, no meeting the people, no seeing of the sights. American representative overseas tell us that in many small ways their jobs have become more difficult…(p. 311).
Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere received very negative publicity from Newsweek, Time, The Economist, and other leading Western magazines and newspapers. And yet, as a nation we commanded respect throughout the world. The U.S. print and electronic media had nothing but praises for Tony Blair. And yet, unlike the leaders of Germany and France who took a principled stand against America’s unprovoked military aggression in Iraq, Blair’s enduring political image is that of a contemptible poodle of Uncle Sam and his otherwise great country as the 51st State of America!
In 2001 the U.S. Congress passed a bill which directed the government to cut off military aid to all countries which ratified the International Criminal Court treaty, unless they pledged never to surrender American criminals to the International court. Tanzania took a principled stand. It refused to bow to American pressure. Uganda bowed to the U.S. Bush praised Museveni as a shining example of African statesmen. To the rest of the world, Museveni had metamorphosed from a revolutionary African leader to a docile American pupil. In this regard, for some of us, it is a huge embarrassment when the number one war criminal in the world, who should be facing charges in the Hague, showers praises on our leader. No amount of positive media coverage may possibly help Senator Obama win votes in the U.S. if he were for four days to dine and go sight-seeing with Osama bin Laden in the beautiful land of Afghanistan! The situation would certainly be far worse if Osama were to shower praises on him. Likewise, Tanzania will irreparably tarnish her image by allowing the blood-drenching Bush to land in Tanzania, let alone to entertain him for four dark days.
When Fidel Castro or Nelson Mandela visited Tanzania, the country virtually came to a standstill. Thousands upon thousands of Tanzanians braved the rain and the scorching sun to welcome them at the airport. The rest thronged the streets out of respect and admiration. What a contrast with the forthcoming visit of Mr. Bush. For the first time since Independence, a state visit by a foreign head of state is greeted with fierce debates about the wisdom of allowing him to come! His presence is not an asset but a political liability.
Ominous Signs on the Wall
One ominous result of our close association with the American Empire, which may not be intended but inevitable, is the radical shift in our foreign policy. You cannot unequivocally support the rights of the Palestinian people against the Zionist occupation of their land and at the same time win the praise of Mr. Bush as an exemplary statesman. America is backing Israel to the hilt. We used to support the Palestinian people. To this day there is in Sinza area a hospital named after Palestine. The Palestinian people provided us with their doctors in appreciation of our political solidarity with them. We have to make a choice. We either maintain our stance against oppression and foreign occupation and court the displeasure of Mr. Bush or join the oppressors and win the unqualified praise from Mr. Bush and his so-called world media. It seems we value the empty praises of Mr. Bush more. This is a political tragedy.
The clearest example of this shift was observed when in 2006, the Israelis with the open support of the U.S. and UK launched their ill-fated war against Hezbullah in Lebanon. Tanzania was at a loss. The incompatibility of running with the hare and hunting with the hound confronted us. As country after country issued statements to condemn Israel, Tanzania kept quiet. And when we could no longer keep quiet, we issued a feeble and disappointing statement which provoked the anger of most Tanzanians. For the first time, Tanzania spoke with an uncertain voice. We condemned both, the aggressor and the victim! Even that feeble statement was eclipsed in virtually all print and electronic media! The Americans were happy. We were on the side of oppressors. We qualified to send a peace-keeping force to Lebanon! This, again, is a very bad omen indeed.
On the question of Somalia, once again, Tanzania is supporting the war-lords who were recruited and funded by the U.S. The Somali people rejected and defeated them. Peace returned in Somalia. The U.S instructed Ethiopia to intervene militarily. As a result, the biggest humanitarian crisis now is not in Darfur but in Somalia. However, since the principal architect of the crisis in Somalia is America, the suffering of the Somali people is not covered in the so-called world media. Uganda has dutifully sent her army to Mogadishu to give political life support to the American puppets. Tanzania has accepted the role of training the police force of Bush’s henchmen in Mogadishu. We are allowing America to divide us. In whose interest?
In short, as we go closer and closer to the armpit of the U.S. we shall quite inevitably, recede further and further from our former Third world allies. Americans and Europeans are granted visa at the airport here in Dar es Salaam. Egyptians, our long-standing allies and fellow Africans have to apply for visa and await clearance before they can travel to Tanzania. We invite investors from America, and we organize the Sullivan meeting. We discourage investors from the Middle East. America does not like them. The president has made many trips abroad. I do not recall if he has visited Iran, where we do not even have an Embassy. And yet, Iran bailed us out at a very critical moment when the country had no fuel. When our president was in Cuba to attend the NAM conference, he did not pay a courtesy call to Fidel Castro! From Cuba he went to the U.S. These are ominous signs on our political wall.
The Hawk and the Pigeons
In the Fables of Aesop there is a story of the hawk and the pigeons which is worth recalling as we invite Bush in Tanzania:
Some pigeons had long lived in fear of a hawk, but since they had always kept on the alert and stayed near their dovecote, they had consistently managed to escape their enemy’s attacks. Finding his sallies unsuccessful, the hawk now sought to use cunning to trick the pigeons.
“Why,” he once said, “do you prefer this life of constant anxiety when I could keep you safe from any conceivable attack by the kites and falcons? All you have to do is to make me your king, and I won’t bother you anymore.”
Trusting his claims, the pigeons elected him to their throne, but no sooner was he installed than he began exercising his royal prerogative by devouring a pigeon a day.
“It serves us right,” said one poor pigeon whose turn was yet to come.
The moral of the story is that some remedies are worse than the disease itself.
Let me end as I began with a quotation:
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”
*Hamza Mustafa Njozi is a Senior Lecturer in Literature and current Chair in the Department of Literature at the University of Dar es Salaam.