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The Invisible War

Posted on Jan 23, 2008

By Amy Goodman

It’s the deadliest conflict since World War II. More than 5 million people have died in the past decade, yet it goes virtually unnoticed and unreported in the United States. The conflict is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Central Africa. At its heart are the natural resources found in Congo and multinational corporations that extract them. The prospects for peace have slightly improved: A peace accord was just signed in Congo’s eastern Kivu provinces. But without a comprehensive truth and reconciliation process for the entire country and a renegotiation of all mining contracts, the suffering will undoubtedly continue.

  In its latest Congo mortality report, the International Rescue Committee found that a stunning 5.4 million “excess deaths” have occurred in Congo since 1998. These are deaths beyond those that would normally occur. In other words, a loss of life on the scale of Sept. 11 occurring every two days, in a country whose population is one-sixth our own.

  Just a little history: After supporting the allies in World War II, Congo gained independence and elected Patrice Lumumba, a progressive Pan-Africanist, as prime minister in 1960.  He was assassinated soon after in a plot involving the CIA. The U.S. installed and supported Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled tyrannically for more than 30 years, plundering the nation. Since his death, Congo has seen war, from 1996 to 2002, provoked by invasions by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, and ongoing conflict since then.

  A particularly horrifying aspect of the conflict is the mass sexual violence being used as a weapon of war. Congolese human-rights activist Christine Schuler Deschryver told me about the hundreds of thousands of women and children subjected to rape:

  “We are not talking about normal rapes anymore. We are talking about sexual terrorism, because they are destroyed—you cannot imagine what’s going on in Congo. We are talking about new surgery to repair the women, because they’re completely destroyed.” She was describing the physical damage done to the women, and to children, one, she said, as young as 10 months old, by acts of rape that involve insertion of sticks, guns and molten plastic. Deschryver was in the U.S. as a guest of V-Day, Eve Ensler’s campaign to end violence against women, in an attempt to generate public awareness of this genocide and to support the Panzi Hospital in Deschryver’s hometown of Bukavu.

  Maurice Carney is executive director of Friends of the Congo, in Washington, D.C.: “Two types of rape, basically, are taking place in the Congo: One is the rape of the women and children, and the other the rape of the land, natural resources. The Congo has tremendous natural resources: 30 percent of the world’s cobalt, 10 percent of the world’s copper, 80 percent of the world’s reserves of coltan. You have to look at the corporate influence on everything that takes place in the Congo.”

  Among the companies Carney blames for fueling the violence are Cleveland-based OM Group, the world’s leading producer of cobalt-based specialty chemicals and a leading supplier of nickel-based specialty chemicals, as well as Boston-based chemical giant Cabot Corp. Cabot produces coltan, also known as tantalum, a hard-to-extract but critical component of electronic circuitry, which is used in all cell phones and other consumer electronics. The massive demand for coltan is credited with fueling the Second Congo War of 1998-2002. A former CEO of Cabot is none other than the Bush administration’s current secretary of energy, Samuel Bodman. Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan, which took over the Phelps Dodge company’s enormous mining concession in the Congo, is also in on the game.

  The United Nations has issued several reports that are highly critical of illegal corporate exploitation of the Congo’s minerals. A Congolese government review of more than 60 mining contracts call for their renegotiation or outright cancellation. Says Carney, “Eighty percent of the population live on 30 cents a day or less, with billions of dollars going out the back door and into the pockets of mining companies.” An important question for us in the U.S. is: How could close to 6 million people die from war and related disease in one country in less than a decade and go virtually unnoticed?

  Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 650 stations in North America.

  © 2008 Amy Goodman

  Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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By Wanda Woodward, M.S., January 28, 2008 at 5:52 pm Link to this comment
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Deaths of millions of poor people are a planned strategy of evil men with great power and privilege.  How so?  All things evolve.  That is an immutable law and only fools ignore it.  Capitalism replaced mercantilism and socialized democracy will replace capitalism.  It is only part of the evolution of economic systems.  Marx was correct when he said that the seeds of destruction were built into capitalism because he knew that either greed or limited resources would eventually cause its demise.  Socialism failed in the Soviet Union for the simple, but tragic fact that its leaders were fascists who were only interested in feathering their own beds while ignoring the good for the all.  They were narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths and, thus, fell somewhere on the spectrum of masculine pathology.  Capitalism is predicated upon the theory of “unlimited growth.”  The concept of unlimited growth is a euphemism for unbridled greed fueled by unfettered consumerism.  Unfettered consumerism, to be successful, is based upon a world in which there are unlimited natural and mineral resources.  And so here we find the end of capitalism.  We live in a world in which there are currently 6 billion people.  Most of the world lives in poverty.  With 6 billion people, we have decimated large swathes of forest, fished out 90% of the large fish in our oceans, poisoned massive amounts of soil from toxins in landfills and from agricultural run-off, polluted our oceans with waste and toxins which has resulted in the killing of significant marine life, heated the oceans from the rise in carbon dioxide emitted from overuse of fossil fuels and forest decimation, and placed at risk significant amounts of potable water such that many people will not have access to drinkable water within the next several decades.  Again, this is with 6 billion people.  It is projected that there will be approximately 8 billion people living on this tiny planet by 2050.  Additionally, in the next several decades, robots will replace millions of human laborers.  Capitalism and overpopulation are mutually exclusive.  There are only two ways to solve the global problem that faces the entire world: 1. hundreds of millions of people have to die, or 2. capitalism has to die.  Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and several thousand privileged and powerful males in contemporary society who are extremely wealthy and who rely on capitalism to maintain their massive fortunes would prefer the first option and would likely prefer, with little or no confrontation to their conscience, that hundreds of millions of people die.  Ebeneezer Scrooge’s uncharitable comment in A Christmas Carol about being rid of the “excess population” most closely depicts these men who are in power and who rule much of our world.  Meanwhile, 99% of the rest of the world’s population would prefer that capitalism die its natural death.  Naomi Klein’s “disaster capitalism” is a strategy of evil men.  I suspect that the handful of males who are in the most powerful positions in the world and who have a stranglehold on power and ruling this planet know that more people are coming to understand the choice between either the death of millions of people or the death of capitalism.  And as a result of knowing this truth, more people are going to revolt against the powers of corruption, deception, exploitation, domination, and destruction so that we can forge a new stage in the evolution of economic systems and, thus, a new stage in the evolution of human consciousness.  This will be a consciousness which seeks to share power between genders, races, ethnicities, religions, and nations.  It is a more mature consciousness which wants to empower others and collaborate toward a common good for the all instead of excess for a few versus exploitation, poverty, hunger, disease, and death for the rest of the world.  DO I HEAR THE WORDS “GLOBAL REVOLUTION?”

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By Urban Mari, January 25, 2008 at 11:39 pm Link to this comment
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How demented.

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By cyrena, January 25, 2008 at 8:27 pm Link to this comment

Dear Sara Kenny,

Thank you for these links. This is certainly a starting point, along with some of the other organizations that have been mentioned in a couple of other posts.

Whomever mentioned the boycotting of any of these US firms hit on a tried and oftentimes successful method.

But, at the end of the day, it’s a matter of making people aware, and of course that doesn’t seem to exist in the American media of the past 20 or so years.

Until our media and communications systems become more responsible, we’re screwed, and limited to working huge and horrific problems with a handful of people and no resources.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try, (with those handful of us, as the networking that we CAN manage) so I’ll keep following this, and any additional information that anybody can come up with, will be much appreciated.

Just as an addition, there is a book and/or a documentary on this, and if memory serves me, the title has something like Blood Diamonds in it. I’m not sure that it relates to the Congo specifically, since the rape of African resources is widespread. Still, it’s something to add to the knowledge base. I’ll have to look it up again to refresh my own memory.

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By Dominick J., January 25, 2008 at 8:11 pm Link to this comment

Sara Kenney,
Thank you for all the websites one was in 2000 and one in 2002.
The most recent was 2008 but it’s a website, Africa Action, out of Washington and then there is something from the BBCnews.
The out cry I’m asking for is from our own news national media CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN!  Sports players get more air time then this not to mention the folley of Britanny Spears Nicole Anna Smith and now her daughter.

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By P. T., January 25, 2008 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment

Darfur gets more attention for political reasons:  It is seen as a chance to bash Muslims.

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By Paracelsus, January 25, 2008 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment

Outcry? The black leadership can’t even be bothered with the Guinea Pig Kids. This was a horror about forced experimentation of AIDS drugs on mainly black children in foster families. The Incarnatin Orphanage has a graveyard filled with the corpses of children who had died from poisonous experimental drugs. In many cases the children refused to take the drugs by mouth so a surgical procedure enabled a tube to be directly connected to the stomach.

I am tired of Al Shaprton’s face. If there weren’t racism in the world, he would have to look for a real job.

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By Dominick J., January 25, 2008 at 11:22 am Link to this comment

Where is the outcry from the African Americans in all this?  Why aren’t they helping to bring this to the attention of the media and the candiates running for the Presdency.  The same thing with Darfur?

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By Woody Collins, January 25, 2008 at 7:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

An interesting article about the rape of natural resources.  The author starts with the recent IRC mortality study as a background.  She then launches into the issue of rape, women and natural resources.  The Executive Director for Friends of Congo points out a big player, a US corporation, in the rape.

How do we deal with the Cleveland-based OM Group?  Are they gulity of funding the war?  Would a boycott be effective?  What are differences between OM Group and the US oil industry?

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By Paracelsus, January 25, 2008 at 4:49 am Link to this comment

The graphic is very disturbing.

http://img411.imageshack.us/img411/1943/daughtercutoffhandsxq5.th.jpg

At one time the Congo was called the Belgian Congo. This was one man’s real estate holding, that of King Leopold. The Belgian Congo was run like a vast concentration camp. Punishments of the slaves were horrendous. Most infamous in punishment was the cutting off of the right hands of rebellious laborers. Even children were not spared this mutilation. This vast plantation of perverse cruelty served as the setting for Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
The photograph is credited to Anti-Slavery International, an advocacy group dedicated in part to ending the business practices of King Leopold.

The explorer who mapped out the Congo was Sir Henry Stanley. His cruel nature is illustrated by the story of his treatment of his pet dog, which had its tail chopped off, cooked and fed to him. We are still gamed and tormented by a pychopatic upper class to this day. It matters not which group of adventurers we vote into office, the same lunacy prevails. I think we may have have anyone, who seeks to power to besubjected to testing for psychopathy.

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By Blackspeare, January 24, 2008 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment

Africa is the forgotten continent.  An example of colonial empire building that left the land in shambles and basically ungovernable and the US didn’t help with their friendship and support for any totalitarian regime that was anti-communist.  Too bad for Patrice Lumumba he had the statue and motivation to be a leader, but alas he was a bit too socialistic for the US, but he has plenty company!

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By Mudwollow, January 24, 2008 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment

More like bugs or something. The sooner they go the way of the American indian the sooner we get their, uuh that is, our resources.

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By cyrena, January 24, 2008 at 5:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Good questions P.T. The corporations involved, (at least a couple of the US corporations) are in fact named. What we don’t know from the article, (though I’m going to try to find out) is exactly how this results in the horrific rape of these women and children, with the sexual violence as a means of terror.

I admit that I’d like to understand that myself, and it would probably take a more lengthy piece to do that. I honestly don’t know or understand it, though it somehow seems like I should.

The rape of the resources of course is DECADES old, and it’s not just the mining, but so much more. The fish, the forests, the oil, the humans… everything that might be present in terms of natural resources in Africa…a huge Continent. It’s been under rape conditions for centuries.

For this particular phase of it specifically by the multinationals and for the past decade, we do need to understand more of the specifics, since as Amy notes, it’s gone virtually unreported in the U.S. media. (no surprises there).

So, it sounds like a lot more work is in order, to bring the specifics to the full knowledge of the American public, since there’s no doubt that along with these other national rapers, the US is probably the major criminal. That’s nearly always the case.

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By P. T., January 23, 2008 at 10:08 pm Link to this comment

Who is the fighting between?  Who did the corporations make deals with in Congo?

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By Joe, January 23, 2008 at 7:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Japan and China have their greedy little hooks in this deal, as well. Japan is one of the production locations for these metals and China is buying tons of this stuff for magnets, capacitors and high-stress aircraft components. Nobody seems to care about the Africans.

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