Monday, October 15, 2007

Angola: The History the New York Times Simply Omits

by Norman Markowitz

Reporter Sharon LaFraniere filed a story in the Sunday New York Times titled "As Angola Rebuilds, Most Find their Poverty Persists," which really outraged me and should outrage any American with any knowledge of recent African history. The story, which deals also with local elections, mentioned Angola's high growth rate as reported by the IMF based on its oil revenues, the continued poverty of its people, quoting one source that 2/3 of its population subsists on two dollars a day, the loans the the MPLA government has taken from China in exchange for oil in order to rebuild the country's infrastructure, devastated in wars that began with independence in 1975 and essentially ended, with a few interruptions in the early 21st century. The article mentions charges of corruption against the MPLA leadership, while stating that the government has made gains in rebuilding the infrastructure of the country (it doesn't say with the loans from China) since the last war against UNITA, the so-called Union for the Total Liberation of Angola ended in 2004.

You can guess why I am outraged. The article doesn't mention the CIA attempt to keep the MPLA from coming to power after the Portuguese withdraw in 1975 (when it had a both a Marxist orientation and strong socialist leanings and clearly was the group that was committed to unifying the country, as against the followers of the Northern based nationalist, Holden Roberto, brother-in-law of the corrupt tyrant of the Congo, Joseph Mobutu, and the Southern based political adventurer and UNITA leader, Jonas Savimbi, who eventually joined forces with the South African Apartheid regime and the CIA after posing as a revolutionary in order to try to curry favor with China and the Soviet Union. U.S. covert actions in 1975, through both Mobutu and the South Africans, aimed to catch the MPLA in a vise and through force and violence have them take over the government from the departing Portuguese. Only Cuban aid permitted the MPLA government to survive although there was widespread devastation.

Eventually, Savimbi became the center of the CIA and South African directed "Low intensity war" against Angola, with Reagan's Undersecretary for African Affairs, Chester Crocker (who has resurfaced today as a figure in the Iraq occupation) serving as the architect and champion of an appeasement policy toward South Africa, which he called "constructive engagement" and which aided and abetted South African attacks on Angola and other African "front line states" supporting the ANC in its war against the racist dictatorship in Pretoria. In 1987, a UNICEF report noted that "8.5 million Angolans and Mozambicans (another former Portuguese colony with the socialist oriented government under attack)--roughly half the rural population of the two countries have been displaced or are internal refugees in their own countries." And that was by no means the end, the Bush administration followed Reagan in supporting Savimbi's murderous UNITA forces, although the end of Apartheid in South Africa and the destruction of the USSR made Savimbi a liability, even though he and his followers, with nearly two decades of U.S. support, continued to sow death and destruction in Angola, which the MPLA government, even though its socialist commitments are not what they were thirty years ago seeks to repair.

How can you write a story about Angola, its suffering and poverty, and omit this history, as if it never happened, as if the devastation which haunts the country was a product of internal questions and factions? How can you cite Chinese loans with a sense of suspicion and ignore totally what the U.S. ruling class did to the people of Angola for the greater part of two decades and its complete refusal to make any positive contribution to Angola's reconstruction, except to support the activities of its oil companies, who at present keep a very low profile as they seek to maintain business like relations with the MPLA government?

Maybe Lafraniere doesn't know any better. Maybe in her world, Cuba is a dictatorship representing tyranny and poverty and the U.S. is a benevolent champion of freedom and democracy, a friend to the people of Africa. Maybe in her world, Jonas Savimbi was really a Soviet agent, and Chester Crocker a friend of Nelson Mandela. In any case, progressive Americans must remember the crimes that the U.S. government and ruling class committed against Angola and seriously work for the the reconstruction of the country, joining with China and others to fight the poverty of its people.

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