By Michael Roberts
Roberts' Column - African Sun Times, July 10-16, 2003
The recent statement by Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe that painted United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, as an Uncle Tom who does his master's bidding has had the U.S. Administration, and the retired general, in angry stitches. The U.S. Embassy in Harare has angrily called the characterization a racial slur and demanded that the irascible Zimbabwean leader retract his statement. But to the world, the enigmatic and dictatorial Mugabe, who has defied the British and the European Union over the controversial land seizures in his country, has spoken some shred of truth even allowing for his obviously warped and tortured political mind.
The United States must be careful about what it wishes for since Mr. Mugabe's statements about the former general are tame in comparison to some that the tough-talking President Bush has made in respect to world leaders that he considers beneath contempt.
Remember the "pygmy" reference to North Korea's president Kim Jon Il? And what about his consistent labeling of Iraqï¿½s Saddam Hussein as the worst dictator since Adolph Hilter without providing America and the world with any such
evidence? I remember the vaunted National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice blasting
Saddam Hussein on the Sunday talk shows as someone who cuts out the tongues of his enemies as nobody asked her just where the heck she got that one from. And what about the time that Harry Belafonte accused the Secretary of States of
exactly the same things that Mugabe did?
No. When it suits the United States it speaks about elected criminals in glowing terms. For the years the United States supported and armed Angola's Jonas Savimbi, a menacing blood-thirsty thug who was killing innocent Angolans, and
called him a "freedom fighter."
It coddled with the hated Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, perhaps the most infamous mass murderer in Latin American history, even as it now castigates and vilifies Robert Mugabe for far lesser crimes.
Now I'm not saying that Mr. Mugabe is a saint, or that his hands are not stained with innocent blood. But I am saying that the U.S. attacks against him are not based on any honest principle but simply to support the rantings of Britain's Tony Blair and his land-grabbing countrymen who cannot stomach the results when the tables are turned and roles reversed.
Remember, it was these colonial-minded rapists who stole Zimbabwean lands by
any means necessary - from formenting tribal strife to outright murder all sanctioned and approved by the British government. Now that Zimbabweans are reclaiming their lands, their birthright, Bush and Blair arrogantly have problems with that.
However, that said, I believe that Robert Mugabe is just as dangerous a thug as Pakistan's president 'Busharraf' who came to power by unconstitutional means, but who is now the darling of the United States, simply for his role in Bush's war on terror. I believe that Mugabe is just as bad for Zimbabwe as Saddam Hussein was for Iraq. I think he's in the same nasty league as Liberia's Charles Taylor, or for that matter any of the Bosnian tribal warlords now masquerading as legitimate leaders with European and American - blessings. However, the Bush and Powell double standard in foreign policy is to demonize Mugabe while kissing up to their own sponsored dictators who are killing their people
and preside over undemocratic and anti-people regimes.
Maybe Mr. Mugabe got his schooling in the art of the stinging political rebuke from Blair or Bush. Or maybe he was thinking about the hilarious
"intelligence" briefing that the hapless Secretary of State had to deliver last February
to the United Nations and the world that turned out to be built on a tissue of falsehoods, spurious intelligence reports, and outright plagarization from a two-year old college paper. Or perhaps Mugabe, like the rest of the world,
watched in stunned awe as the Secretary General delivered the coup de grace about Iraq's nuclear weapons programs and its procurement of materials for same that turned out to be monumental, but simple, unsophisticated forgeries.
Or maybe he recently saw another attempt at a "WMD smoking gun" when an Iraqi scientist suddenly got a pang of conscience and remembered that he had Iraq's nuclear program buried under his backyardï¿½ or was it front yard? flower
garden at least 10 years ago? And it was the poor Secretary General that was forced to declare this new find that has disappeared from the media just as suddenly as it was floated. So given all these things and the way that the Secretary General was treated by the Pentagon when it declared victory over Iraq with a big celebration by pointedly not inviting the general, can anyone doubt that maybe, just maybe, Mugabe is not wrong on this one?
I have every respect for Secretary of State Powell. I think that he remains a strong example of a positive role model for us Black males. I think that deep down he is driven by a sense of what is right and what is wrong. I also believe that heï¿½s the odd man out in the cabal of rabid neoconservatives that now surround President Bush and run America. I believe that he's at odds with the triumphalist, saber-rattling, and war-hungry stance that folks like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle continue to take. But I don't believe that heï¿½s an Uncle Tom.
Certainly, his approach and reluctance to question or criticize aspects of the Bush Administration's wrong-headed domestic and foreign policy lends itself to the charges of Uncle Tomism. The upstaging of Powell by Donald Rumsfeld, and other lower-level functionaries in the Defense Department, plus the willingness to stick him in difficult, failure-prone foreign policy issues (Israel vs Palestine) also gives the impression that Powell is a "yes man" who just has to blindly, like Uncle Tom, follow the leader.
For many Blacks the label of Uncle Tom that they want to stick to Powell is simply based on the fact that they know he's an intelligent, experienced man, much more so than the president of the United States or the Secretary of
Defense for that matter; and yet he appears to be utterly dominated and forced into doing things that tend to hurt and tarnish his reputation, by
intellectually puny men, and women, who cannot hold a candle to his sterling record of accomplishment.
I doubt that Mr. Mugabe saw it this way. The man simply lashed out at General Powell for purely domestic political reasons. He wants to play political brinkmanship with the American bull to bolster his reputation in the region and at
home. Indirectly, he's also attacking Britain's Tony Blair whose own countrymen have recently accused him of "acting presidential." It is however very dubious what political currency he will ultimately gain from this clearly calculated outburst.
But such are the wiles of Robert Mugabe, an ailing old political dinosaur whose fixed political style explains his advanced age, even as his irregular and enigmatic posturing bespeaks a leader clearly out of touch with all reality.