Using ‘human rights rhetoric’ to cover-up racist lies

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By Dr Tafataona Mahoso

ON August 6 2019, a US citizen and voter, who is also a friend and colleague from my university days in that country, wrote a letter to me titled ‘Sad Country’.   

Part of the letter reads as follows:

Perhaps you have read or heard from the international news that here in the US we just had two mass shootings during the weekend, one in El Paso, Texas, and another in Dayton, Ohio.  

Both shooters were young white males, and the shooter in Texas purposely targeted people of Mexican descent.  

(The one in Ohio targeted mostly people of African descent).  

My country is being destroyed from within.  

It is shockingly sad.

Many Democrats (i.e members of the US Democratic Party) are decrying the President’s rhetoric as a cause of the current domestic terrorism.  

The President, on the other hand, issued a statement (saying) that racism, white supremacy and hatred have no place in America.  

But the President’s rhetoric has been (racially) divisive since day one, and his statements often smell of racial insult, if not hatred.” 

Now, this same white racist President by the name of Donald Trump is represented in independent Zimbabwe by an ambassador whose African face is, to most Zimbabweans, a living reminder of the diabolic legacy of the enslavement of Africans in the US for over 300 years.  

The ambassador’s name is Brian Nichols. 

As recent as last Friday, October 4 2019, Nichols was still not ashamed to be associated with propaganda stories against Zimbabwe such as the one in The Zimbabwe Independent titled ‘Human rights violations strain Zimbabwe-US relations’. 

On the face of it, one could be tempted to think that The Zimbabwe Independent’s story is about MaDzimbahwe objecting to an African-American ambassador of the white-dominated US who is not honest enough to own up to the fact that in the country he presents men and women like him are murdered and shot like rats and dogs on the streets solely on the basis that they are ‘people of colour’!

One incident representing what my colleague called Trump’s rhetoric ‘smelling of racial insult if not hatred’ was a tweet on July 15 2019, just ahead of the August shootings.  

In that tweet, Trump directly attacked four members of the US House of Representatives: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, born in the Bronx in New York, 12 miles from where Trump was born; Rhashida Tlaib; Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar. 

These four women included one who is of Hispanic descent; one of Latino descent; one of African-American descent and one of Arabic descent. 

It can be said that where US white supremacist gunmen were selectively shooting ‘people of colour’ on the streets of Dayton and El Paso, the President of the US was selecting, for racial attack, female legislators of colour.   

After the attack on the four women, the US President proceeded to urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ban the same legislators from visiting Israel.  

The Israeli Government obligingly did exactly what Trump instigated them to do.

Back in Zimbabwe, the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings, which depressed my university friend this August, were not the reason for the diplomatic strain headlined by The Zimbabwe Independent.  

Here is what the paper had the temerity to give us as the cause of the ‘strain’:

“The US Government says it is alarmed by the ill-treatment (not deliberate racist taunting and mass shootings) of the country’s citizens by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, indicating its bad human rights record has left relations between Harare and Washington DC heavily strained.”

The human rights record of the US has been consistently racist since the founding of the country over 400 years ago.  

The August 2019 mass shootings represent only the latest case.  Several such shootings happen every year in that country.

But, coming back to Zimbabwe-US relations and The Zimbabwe Independent’s story, it is significant for The Patriot readers to note that this local paper did not even bother to point out that, currently, the whole of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is mobilising its nationals for mass demonstrations against the US sanctions decree called the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) which is a piece of unilateral white-law intended to enforce, since 2001, a white racist economic war against the resettled African farmers of Zimbabwe for their daring to reclaim and re-occupy their land which white settlers looted and monopolised for 100 years.

The Zimbabwe Independent did not seem to see a human rights story in a situation in which only white Anglo-Saxon countries agreed to by-pass the UN and impose unilateral sanctions on African peasants who have reclaimed land stolen from them for over 100 years. 

White supremacy has, for centuries served as the crudest instrument of imperialism.  

The sanctions against Zimbabwe did not just by-pass the UN, they are also racial.  

China and Russia have come out in support of Zimbabwe and SADC against these sanctions.  

So the US feels challenged by the October 25 Anti-Sanctions Day at a time the same US has also imposed sanctions on China, Russia, Iran and several other non-Western countries.   That is why local media in Zimbabwe need to put the October 25 SADC Anti-Sanctions Day and US reaction in proper historical context.

Historical context 

The Sunday Mail of January 21 2018 published an opinion piece by its assistant editor titled, ‘Stop whining about Donald Trump’.

The introduction to the piece reads as follows: “When lemons are thrown at you, you squeeze them as much as you can and make lemonade.  

Throwing tantrums will not take them away or turn them into oranges.”

The writer then used the example of former South African President Nelson Mandela to justify her homily about lemons, saying further that: “Remember the US Congress only agreed to remove Nelson Mandela from its terrorist list in June 2008, long after he had ceased to be even President of South Africa.  If Madiba had decided to spend his entire life moaning about his placement on the list, he would have only enjoyed five years of real freedom as he was to die in 2013.”

The Sunday Mail assistant editor, however, admitted that Trump’s outburst vilifying Haiti, El Salvador and Africa is the escalation of systematic attacks he has issued against other groups and peoples ever since he assumed the US presidency.  This admission directly contradicted the thrust of the article which tried to represent Trump’s racist slurs as benign and reckless but not warranting serious analysis.

λ First, the Trump phenomenon is neither metaphorical nor anecdotal. It is historical. The scandal of ‘Trumpism’ is not even about Trump. It is about a white supremacist movement which has shown its ascendancy in US history at various times with serious global consequences during the Nixon era, the Reagan era, the Bush-Blair era and now in the Trump era.  

λ Second, Trump is a media person, a communicator who aims to shock left radicals, white liberals and people from what used to be called the Third World.

λ Third, this kind of communication is meant to incite and inspire all ‘Reaganites’, ‘Trumpkins’ and other white supremacists of the world against those being attacked.

λ Fourth, such racist utterances help to justify historic US support for racist regimes around the world, as in the case of US support for South African apartheid and Rhodesian UDI.

The messages and outlets carrying these signals and attacks have been characterised by many scholars.  

One is Professor George Gerbner in his paper called ‘Violence in and by the media’: 

“They serve as projective devices that isolate acts and people from meaningful contexts and set them up to be stigmatised… Stigma is a mark of disgrace that evokes disgraceful behaviour.  

Labelling some people as barbarians makes it easier (for racists and imperialists) to treat them as barbarians would (treat them)… classifying some people as criminals permits dealing with them in ways otherwise criminal;  it make it legitimate to attack and kill them… Stigmatisation and demonisation isolate their targets and set them up to be victimised.”

The most important feature of US policy on Southern Africa was not the placing of Nelson Mandela on the US terrorist list as our Sunday Mail writer suggested.  

It was the condemnation of all of Southern Africa’s liberation movement as communist terrorist movements, as enemies of both Christianity and capitalism which condemnation baptised white racist settler regimes as Christian allies of the ‘free world’ and of capitalism and the Christian faith.  

These mere labels had far-reaching, even catastrophic, consequences for our people.  We hear now that evangelical ‘Christians’ in the US remain staunch supporters of Trump.

Trumpism has a long history

What appeared to be a far-fetched position of the white South African regime in 1951 was reaffirmed by the Nixon administration of the US in US National Security Memorandum 39 of 1969, otherwise known as the Kissinger Study of Southern Africa, which concluded, among other things, that:

“The whites (in Rhodesia, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa) are here to stay and the only way that constructive change can come about is through them.  There is no hope for the blacks to gain the political rights they seek through violence, which will only lead to chaos and increased opportunities for the communists.”

Just as now, in 1969 the US Government and its ambassadors and advisors also doubted the determination of the Africa people of this region (including Zimbabweans) to define their interests and objectives and to pursue the same to the end.  

Moreover, the 1969 Kissinger study did not see the African people as the drivers of change. It therefore concluded that:

“Military realities rule out black victory at any stage.  Moreover, there are reasons to question the depth and permanence of black resolve.” 

In this context, the Chimoio massacre was justified not only because the Rhodesians were fighting ‘communism’ but also because US policy under Nixon and Reagan especially did not view Zimbabweans as justified to wage war to liberate themselves.

In the words of former US Ambassador Elliot P. Skinner who was also the Franz Boaz Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University (USA) in 1979:

“Our (Western) tragedy is that, whether we like it or not, the US has inherited the role of ‘metropole’ (or mother country) of all the whites in Southern Africa.  

This is not a role we welcomed, but it is one we cannot avoid…we are the ones who have led the discussions about the future of these countries (Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa).”

Professor Gerald Horne in his study, From the Barrel of A Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980, calls this white ‘mother country’ role a synthetic Pan-European solidarity which the late former UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson called the ‘kith-and-kin’ bond.  

It is the US which through its Cold War posture provided the over-arching synthetic ideology which made it possible to protect all white settlers from Kisangani to Cape Town under the banner of white racist supremacy, anti-communism and anti-socialism.  

When Ian Smith’s Foreign Minister P K F V Van der Byl wrote his last appeal to the Western white empire to save white Rhodesia from the freedom fighters of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and from the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) on January 12 1979, he couched his appeal in terms of a struggle between the ‘Christian’ faith and ‘communism’. 

Van der Byl wrote:

“The attacks which are presently being mounted on Rhodesia, a Christian nation, are by terrorists trained and supplied by anti-Christian communists.  

Determined to root out and destroy Christianity whenever it is found, these terrorists have targeted many of their attacks on innocent missionaries and their families in Rhodesia.

The future of Christianity in Rhodesia will be influenced by the actions of the US Government in supporting the majority rule Government of Rhodesia.  

It will be tragic if the greatest Christian nation on earth (that is the US) turned its back on its Christian brethren in Rhodesia.”

The overall ideological and political umbrella provided to white regimes by the US Government and its white allies meant that white Rhodesian war crimes would be swept under the carpet and white hate language to demonise the African freedom fighters would be put on reserve and be dusted up for use by foreign sponsored parties and agents during the land revolution and even now.  

When George W. Bush was declared winner of the US Presidential election in 2000, a white farmer in Odzi deliberately crushed a war veteran called Mapensauswa with his vehicle as a way of celebrating Bush’s election and anticipating that the Government of Zimbabwe would be overthrown by white powers in order to return white settler-farmers to farms now being occupied by war veterans.

The Western press prides itself as a committed defender of human rights.  

This can be shown to be false not only by looking at media manipulation during the election campaigns of US President-elect Trump and his campaign rival Hillary Clinton.

Our readers may remember the white North-American televangelist-cum politician, Reverend Pat Robertson, in 2005 declared that it would be a good thing if Venezuela President Hugo Chavez were to be eliminated.  

Later we were also informed that US President George W. Bush had also confessed that God told him to invade Iraq and so he did.

These two white men and those cheering Trump represent a huge counter-revolutionary movement which has swept not just politics and economics but also the media.

Before Rev Robertson there was in the 1970s another white racist preacher and media  personality called Dr Carl McIntyre whose support of the Rhodesian and South African apartheid regimes could be heard on more than 600 radio stations across the US for 30 minutes every day for six days a week.  

The US hosted one of the biggest lobbies supporting white supremacy in all of Southern Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. 

In conclusion, the policy of US President Richard Nixon toward Southern Africa inspired white South Africa to invade Angola in 1976 with the help of the US Central Intelligence Agency.  US President Reagan’s policy of ‘constructive engagement’ with the apartheid regime of South Africa prolonged South Africa’s illegal occupation of Namibia and its war against Angola and therefore delayed Namibia’s independence.  

It also incited and encouraged white racists in South Africa, with South African President P. W. Botha openly saying to his Cabinet on August 8 1985:

“We do not pretend like other whites that we like blacks.

Nevertheless it is comforting (for apartheid) to know that behind the scenes, Europe, America, Canada, Australia … and all others ….are behind us in spite of what they say.  For diplomatic relations, we all know what language should be used where.

To prove my point Comrades, does anyone of you know of a white country without an investment in South Africa (under apartheid)?”

This defiant racist language is not about lemons or terrorist lists. It is about white racist evil and real life and death issues such as Chimonio, Nyadzonia, Kasinga, Sharpeville and genocide.

Our readers should read the 1989 Commonwealth report titled, Apartheid Terrorism:  A Report for the Commonwealth Committee of Foreign Ministers on Southern Africa by Phyllis Johnson and David Martin.

The terror and destruction documented in that book was inspired and condoned by US administrations under Trump’s predecessors: Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.  

‘Trumpism’ represents a movement going back to Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush.

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