Let me be very clear, I am a ONE supporter. It’s not the cool t-shirts or the white armband. It was the images in my mother’s National Geographic that I saw as a child, the news stories my grandmother would read aloud. My father’s global travels to places I could scarcely imagine – places where the timber industry flourished or failed, many places I don’t recall. The news was more than background noise.
My entire life, Africa languished while the world obsessed over political correctness, the glorification of promiscuous starlets famous for being drunk or going to rehab for drugs and anorexia. The world was so busy decrying America and her arrogant American children that it forgot to watch over the most vulnerable, the most in need.
Remember the songs about ending Apartheid? Remember the famine and starvation in Ethiopia. And Somalia. The rise of militant and violent strains of Islam consumed one small population at a time, stamping out centuries old traditions. The world looked away as Africa was consumed by civil war, famine, preventable diseases, the spread of HIV/AIDS and a million small things – occurrences that could have been prevented. If only the world walked the walk, instead of talked the talk.
The rise of terrorism is not about religion, it is about a catastrophic loss of our humanity. The next American president follows in the footsteps of great men, who saw Africa as a regal and wondrous place – worth defending and embracing. I think of John Quincy Adams’ brilliant and poignant arguments during the Amistad case. In modern history, George Walker Bush – despite his failings in other arenas – has made Africa a true priority.
The world has forced this crossroads. Which is more important? Hating America, and our President? Or loving and preserving the birthplace of humanity, Africa?
The candidates for the presidency, Democrat and Republican, must be held accountable for their investments. For their beliefs. For the associations they seek out of political expediency.
Enter Rudy Giuliani. Recently, he accepted – with fanfare – the endorsement of Pat Robertson. Robertson is best known as a polarizing, hyper-evangelical, proselytizing right winger that blames America’s homosexuals and abortion for causing God to allow 9/11. America’s Mayor – Mr. 9/11 – is all kinds of excited because Robertson will help him get a few votes on the far right. If it were only Robertson’s bizarre 9/11 declarations, I suppose I could let it go. (Since I am voting for Thompson in the primary anyway)
But Robertson represents more than that. He represents the hypocrisy that cost Republicans control of the US House, US Senate, state legislatures, governorships, and the priceless trust of the American voter. While Robertson is an evangelical pastor, an astute business man at the head of a media empire – he is also a man who contributed in small ways to the very un-Holy pain of Africa. He’s defended brutal dictator Charles Taylor. He’s invested in diamond mines where the conditions were, to be very polite, abhorrent and inhumane.
Case in point, this article by Max Blumenthal in The Nation:
Far from the media’s gaze, Robertson has used the tax-exempt, nonprofit Operation Blessing as a front for his shadowy financial schemes, while exerting his influence within the GOP to cover his tracks. In 1994 he made an emotional plea on The 700 Club for cash donations to Operation Blessing to support airlifts of refugees from the Rwandan civil war to Zaire (now Congo). Reporter Bill Sizemore of The Virginian Pilot later discovered that Operation Blessing’s planes were transporting diamond-mining equipment for the African Development Corporation, a Robertson-owned venture initiated with the cooperation of Zaire’s then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
The value of an endorsement generally lies in the earned media it generates, the organizational assets it brings, and the confidence it will build among donors. Not necessarily in that order. Giuliani’s campaign seems very concerned with making Rudy look palatable to the Republican “base.” And not concerned at all with the very negative impact on earned media and donors.
To be clear, it isn’t only Rudy who has problems here. Hillary Clinton, who is touting her time as First Lady as “experience” may also find that the human rights issue weighs her down. Mitt Romney’s blind trust holds assets in the Sudan – and Iowa Democrats highlighted that problem as recently as a couple of weeks ago. (check the links below)
But Hillary may have the most to lose. Former President Bill Clinton did little to forestall any of the current crises in Africa. He left Somalia. Looked away during the Rwandan genocide. Did nothing as Sierra Leone and Liberia and Uganda became war torn. Did nothing as hundreds of thousands of children were forced to dig for diamonds. Nothing as children were kidnapped and turned into soldiers. Nothing as women were systematically raped. Nothing as preventable diseases spread. Nothing.
It was not until President George Walker Bush came into office that America began to lead again. Today, there are nearly Two Million people receiving the anti-retrovirals. During the Clinton regime, there were just 50,000 with access to much needed medicine. With regard to diamond mines, it was President Bush’s signature on Executive Order 13312 that helped make the Kimberly Process real.
Americans are just weeks away from casting votes that will decide on nominees for president. They should consider which candidates best understand the Constitution, will most faithfully adhere to and protect the Constitution, and will be a strong force for change. Let our allies and adversaries know that the time for critiques and posturing has come and gone.
Africa needs us. All of us. Now.
— Media Lizzy
Ms. Magazine: Robertson’s ties to Charles Taylor
Washington Post: Pat Robertson’s Gold
Washington Post: Pat Robertson and his Business Buddies
Virginian Pilot: In the Jungle, Robertson’s Diamond Mining Failed
The Nation: Robertson, African Development Corp., Operation Blessing and Virginia Republicans’ Ghost of AG Past.
Iowa Politics: Iowa Dems Blast Romney’s Sudan Investments