WHY IS THAT?
By: Justin Raimondo
Two years ago, when I was in Kuala Lumpur as a guest of the
Perdana Peace Forum, I had the singularly unpleasant experience of meeting Robert Mugabe.
Well, "meeting" him is hardly the word: rather, I espied him, sitting directly
across from me, at the opening banquet of the conference. Turning to the person next to
me, I asked: "Isn't that guy sitting over there Robert Mugabe?" My friend
squinted, and replied: "Sure looks like it."
The table was loaded down with lots of really good food: Malaysian fare, with all its
wonderful color and variety. But I seemed to have lost my appetite rather suddenly.
"You mean I have to eat at the same table with that murdering despot?" As is
my wont, I was speaking rather loudly. Mugabe looked up, and straight at me. I felt like
giving him the finger, but, instead, I got up and exited the room. Better not to make a
scene quite yet.
I was upset. I had no idea Mugabe would be attending he showed up uninvited
and if I had I would never have agreed to come. Yet there I was, 8,000 miles from
home, already committed to speak to the conference, and, although Mugabe was nowhere
listed as a speaker or official guest, word of his presence would soon get out. What to
As exhausted as I was from the 15-hour flight, I was quite prepared to get on a plane,
and head home and that's exactly what I determined to do if the conference
organizers could not be dissuaded from allowing Mugabe's participation. As it was, Mugabe
was seated right next to the prime mover of the conference, ex-Prime Minister Mahathir bin
Mohamad, and Mugabe was constantly whispering in his ear, much to the former's apparent
annoyance. There was something distinctly reptilian about the African tyrant's visage and
general demeanor: at any moment, I fully expected him to flick a foot-long tongue at a
After the banquet, and during it, I made my opinion of Mugabe unmistakably clear, and
lobbied the other speakers to appeal to the conference organizers, and threaten a walk-out
if necessary. Most agreed with me on the general subject of Mugabe: only George Galloway
disdained to join the rest of us in opposing the presence of a man whose name has become a
synonym for African despot. Galloway, asked his opinion on the matter, scowled and
declared that it wasn't our place to criticize Mugabe only George W. Bush and the
"imperialists" were fair game. However, everyone else former Australian
prime minister Bob Hawke, former UN assistant secretary-general Denis Halliday, former UN
assistant secretary-general Hans von Sponeck, Daniel Ellsberg, and anti-nuclear-arms
activist and writer Helen Caldicott. were quite disturbed by Mugabe's presence, and
made this very clear to the Perdana organization. The result was that an event at which
Mugabe was supposed to speak was canceled, and a day before the Zimbabwean
President fled the scene in a huff I had a run-in with his "bodyguards,"
who thought they could intimidate me. Boy, were they mistaken!
It was actually kind of funny, albeit a bit on the scary side, when three or four of
these thugs big, ugly-looking brutes to a man suddenly sat down at my table
at a luncheon and tried to push their weight around. Those poor guys soon found themselves
an unwilling audience for a lecture on the basic principles of libertarianism, and why
their country is an economic basket case. Since they couldn't just start clubbing me to
death right there in plain sight although I don't think they would have hesitated
had they found me on the streets of Kuala Lumpur they faced the choice of either
retreating or allowing themselves to be bored to death. They wisely chose the former
At any rate, the whole subject of Mugabe comes up now because he's in
trouble on his own turf, with his ruling ZANU-PF party apparently defeated in the recent
election, in spite of the widespread violence and intimidation engaged in by Mugabe's
militants or, perhaps, because of it. Although a 165,000 percent inflation
rate may also have something to do with it.
Yet Mugabe clings to
power, while his thugs have taken possession of ballot boxes and his government
refuses to release the official results, although everyone knows he and his party were trounced.
The campaign of violence embarked on by ZANU-PF has intensified, and the opposition
has accused Mugabe of pulling off a de facto coup.
In his long and bloody career as first and only President of Zimbabwe, the 84-year-old
Mugabe has engaged in a systematic campaign of murder, racist demagoguery, and wholesale
looting to maintain himself and his cronies in power. Not since Idi Amin has such a
bloody-minded sociopath and mass murderer arisen out of the dark heart of Africa. The
United States, which doesn't mind supporting the continent's worst dictators, from Hosni
Mubarak in Egypt to Meles
Zenawi in Ethiopia, won't touch Mugabe with a ten-foot pole. Indeed, listening to the
Voice of America in Mugabe-land can get you in trouble with the secret police. The US, the
EU, the UN, leaders of neighboring countries all have expressed varying levels of
disapproval as Mugabe's international stock has plummeted to new lows.
Yet he has always managed to retain at least one ally, through thick and thin, one that
remains loyal even now, and that is the government of Israel. They have been a steady
supplier of military equipment, including riot control tanks and water
cannon, which has been used to suppress the democratic opposition and keep the country
under his iron grip. Links between Mugabe and Mossad, Israeli's intelligence agency, go
2002, one Ari Ben Menashe
employed by Israeli military intelligence from 1977 to at least 1987, in spite of
the Israeli government's denials of any connection shot what was purported to be covertly filmed
videotape of opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai supposedly discussing a plot to assassinate Mugabe. This was triumphantly
broadcast on Zimbabwe state television on the eve of elections, followed by a fresh wave
of repression aimed at pro-democracy activists. The tape turned out to have been doctored,
but the broadcast accomplished its task: providing a momentary rationale for Mugabe's
reign of terror, which continues to this day.
So well-known is Israel's unstinting support for Mugabe that the democratic opposition
has accused the government of bringing in computer
the Mossad to manipulate voter rolls. (Which certainly surprised
at least one Israeli software producer.)
What in the name of all that's holy is Israel, a democratic state founded by socialist
idealists, doing supporting one of the most reviled despots on earth one who,
furthermore, is no friend of Israel, at least officially. The answer may be found in
certain Israeli-based economic
interests, which, in turn, could have an inordinate influence on that nation's Africa
in the case of Zimbabwe and the "Democratic Republic of the Congo."
Unfortunately, Israel's policy in regard to Zimbabwe is not the exception that proves
the rule: it is business as usual.
The moral depravity of Israel's African policies are highlighted by the close cooperation
that existed between Tel Aviv and the apartheid regime of South Africa.
the expertise, experience, and technology, as well as other covert military aid, which enabled white
Pretoria to hold off the African National Congress for as long as it did. And, as Jimmy
Carter and others have pointed out, Israel has replicated
its former ally's policy toward black South Africans in the occupied territories.
In reviewing the facts, it is hard to come up with a single despotic government that hasn't
received some sort of aid or assistance from the Israelis: Colombia, where
"former" Mossad agents train government anti-terrorist units and right-wing
paramilitaries El Salvador,
where arms and expertise provided to successive right-wing juntas helped stabilize these
US-supported regimes Guatemala,
where "former" Israeli military and intelligence officers provided security for
the notoriously repressive Guatemalan military dictatorship and the pattern is
South and Central America.
The list goes on: Iran, under the rule of the Shad Reza Pahlavi, was the scene of the
notorious SAVAK's worst crimes: the Iranian secret police reportedly were schooled
in techniques of torture by the Mossad.
What is it with the Israelis? Why do they have a predilection for murderous tyrants?
What seems, at first, like a pattern of sheer moral perversity may be broken down, in
specific cases, into discrete economic, strategic, and diplomatic objectives. Yet one has
to be astonished and more than a little horrified at the complete amorality
that guides the Israeli government's actions around the world.
This record of Israeli support for dictators and despots worldwide is, perhaps, part of
the reason for that country's growing unpopularity on a global scale:
however, in the US, where the Israel lobby wields inordinate power in government and the
media, it's quite a different story. Here, support for Israel is in the 70 percent range
a testament to the supposedly nonexistent power of the Lobby, and the relative
ignorance of and indifference to world affairs exhibited by most Americans.
Justin Raimondo is Editorial Director
He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.
Justin Raimondo may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in the April 11, 2008 issue of Ether Zone
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