Blood from a Stone
The hard work of freedom still calls us forward…
US President George H.W. Bush
There is only one thing more scary than the self-righteous. That is the self-righteous that hold public office. When the gods were handing out pithy do-gooding, US politicians picked up a Jimmy Swaggert-sized portion.
I still remember vividly the big bad wolf, Saddam Hussein. We had to huff and puff and blow his house down to save the world's oil supply, despite the fact that a week before his invasion of Kuwait, the US ambassador to Iraq, on orders from George Bush and James Baker, did everything but give Saddam the checkered flag at the border [see notes below]. Then there was Manuel Noriega, on the CIA payroll for years, who the US kidnapped at the cost of many innocent Panamanian lives and in clear violation of all international law (so much for those Republican claims about the 'rule of law').
We Americans sport a Norman Bates-sized case of schizophrenia. What do you say about a nation that considers itself the last bastion of freedom, and yet imprisons more people than any other democracy on the planet? We are a "family values" country which holds a Cuban boy against the will of his own father, and yet which turns Mexican and Chinese immigrants away in droves. Our state pushes its deadly tobacco on other nations and yet arrests marijuana smokers in ever-increasing numbers. We bay and moan about Chinese spying in the US, and yet maintain the world's largest overseas spy network. For Satan's sake, we are a puritan nation that considers sex to be dirty and yet has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the industrial world. And now certain members of our government, which has set itself up as the Miss Manners of the world stage, are telling the diamond community to keep its elbows off the table. In this case, the transgression is dealing in "blood diamonds" ('conflict diamonds') from African flashpoints.
We Americans sport a Norman Bates-sized case of schizophrenia. What do you say about a nation that considers itself the last bastion of freedom, and yet imprisons more people than any other democracy on the planet?
Don't get me wrong. Americans are not the only ones calling for a boycott, nor is the US government the only one guilty of shady behavior overseas. But as an imperialistic Yankee running dog, I presume I have the right to comment on my government's behavior (I will leave it to the Brits, French, etc. to deal with their own dirty laundry).
Before we Americans participate in such an embargo, there are a few questions we should be asking. Where did the rebels get their weapons? As the US is the world's largest arms dealer, per chance did they get them from us? Should we be banning our lead trade along with the carbon crystals?
If diamonds are so bad, then what about all the other countries in Africa that have no diamonds, or any other resources to loot and yet have atrocious human rights records (Somalia and Ethiopia, for instance). By Jove, how do they do it?
And why are such rebels fighting the government? Are they just poor sports, the whole bloody lot of them, or per chance might they have a valid gripe or three? Is there a history there, and if so, what is it?
Are we really so naïve as to believe that because certain members of the world diamond trade say they will no longer trade in "blood diamonds," that miners will stop mining them and traders will stop trading them? Anyone in the business can tell you that diamonds are smuggled far more easily than any other substance. Dogs can't sniff them, they set off no metal detectors and gemological labs are virtually helpless to pinpoint origin. Under current conditions, banning diamonds from a single source is the equivalent of chasing a few raindrops out of a hurricane. No matter how sweet or righteous the thought, enforcement will be like converting the Pope to Islam. Sorry, ain't gonna happen.
And now certain members of the US government, which has set itself up as the Miss Manners of the world stage, are telling the diamond community to keep its elbows off the table.
I hate to break it to y'all, but diamond mining in totalitarian Africa will continue, embargo or no embargo. Diamonds will flow out of those countries like water running downhill, for the simple reason that there is high demand for diamonds and thus lots of money to be made. Yes, the US government can ban blood diamonds, but get ready for those same diamonds to start popping out of the ground in Liberia, Russia or some other place. We delude ourselves if we believe otherwise.
Been there, smoked that
No better example exists of the folly of such bans than the so-called US war on drugs, the McCarthyism of our day, a subject which cannot even be discussed in a rational manner without someone being labeled the modern-day equivalent of a commie. In America, a goodly percentage of the population is convinced that if we can just grab this drug kingpin, if we can just send a few more helicopters to that country, we can stop the drug trade. And yet the trade continues unabated. Like water running downhill, it finds its own path.
Think about this. Here we have a country with a president, Bill Clinton, who has admitted smoking pot and a vice president, Al Gore who has done everything but say that he slept with his bong after he returned from 'Nam. On the opposition side, the main candidate, George W. Bush, suffers Reagan-like Alzheimer's attacks each time he is queried about his past drug use. Yet the public policies of each of these so-called leaders is to lock up anybody who so much as touches an illegal drug. Hello? If I am the doctor and one of these distinguished leaders sits down on my couch and starts telling me he knows what's best for the planet, I give him a few bursts with a hypocrite gun and then get busy with a full frontal lobotomy.
Here we have a country with a president, Bill Clinton, who has admitted smoking pot and a vice president, Al Gore who has done everything but say that he slept with his bong after he returned from 'Nam. On the opposition side, the main candidate, George W. Bush, suffers Reagan-like Alzheimer's attacks each time he is queried about his past drug use. Yet the public policies of each of these so-called leaders is to lock up anybody who so much as touches an illegal drug.
So just what is this bloody diamond business all about, anyway? It's amazing the speed with which it has become an issue. The more cynical among us have suggested that the whole thing may actually be a De Beers conspiracy. The great South African giant recently announced it was abandoning attempts to buy up the entire world's supply of diamonds. Instead, it would be concentrating on production from its own mines and branding of the same. Smart, eh? By giving up their monopoly, they will now be permitted to sell directly into the lucrative American market for the first time in history. But what is pure genius is that by going public against blood diamonds, they have simultaneously tainted much of the competition. What better way to brand your product than to suggest that everyone else's diamond is covered with the blood of innocent Africans? How about this for a new slogan: "De Beers diamonds are a girl's best friend – the competition funds baby killers."
What better way to brand your product than to suggest that everyone else's diamond is covered with the blood of innocent Africans? How about this for a new slogan: "De Beers diamonds are a girl's best friend – the competition funds baby killers."
Bloodied but not broken
I am not quite so cynical. But in the case of "blood diamonds," before we rush willy-nilly down a slope with more grease than a crooked politician's palm, we need to think things out. Most of us have never been to Africa and probably know little of what is occurring there. But boycotting blood diamonds strikes me as just a little too simple an answer to be realistic, a feel-good solution for the naïve or politically disingenuous. It's time we remind both the do-gooders and bad guys in our government about that old adage, you know, the one that says that you can't get blood from a stone.
In the words of American singer David Baerwald:
"This… is dedicated to Dean Acheson, Paul Nitze, John J. McCloy, John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, Henry Kissinger, James Baker III, and George Bush, in the sincere hope that there is a God and that He is vengeful beyond all comprehension."
Published in GemKey Magazine (2000, Vol. 2, No. 6, Sept.–Oct., p. 45, 86), this was installment #12 of my Digital Devil column. Since writing this in the Summer of 2000, De Beers has taken great efforts to buy larger shares of diamond mines in both Canada and Australia. In late July, 2000, journalist Edward Jay Epstein published a front-page piece in the New York Times suggesting that De Beers has much to gain from a world ban on blood diamonds.
Some readers are possibly interested in the statement about the US ambassador to Iraq giving Saddam Hussein the green light to invade Kuwait, so I am pleased to reproduce the following transcript of the meeting between Saddam Hussein and then-US ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie. It took place on 25 July, 1990, eight days before Iraq invaded Kuwait, and was obtained by British journalists:
Glaspie: I have direct instructions from President Bush to improve our relations with Iraq. We have considerable sympathy for your quest for higher oil prices, the immediate cause of your confrontation with Kuwait. As you know, I have lived here for years and admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. We know you need funds. We understand that, and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of troops in the south. Normally that would be none of our business, but when this happens in the context of your other threats against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us to be concerned. For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship not confrontation regarding your intentions: Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait's borders?
Hussein: As you know, for years now I have made every effort to reach a settlement on our dispute with Kuwait. There is to be a meeting in two days: I am prepared to give negotiations only this one more brief chance. When we [the Iraqis] meet [with the Kuwaitis] and we see there is hope, then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not accept death.
Glaspie: What solutions would be acceptable?
Hussein: If we could keep the whole of the Shatt al Arab, our strategic goal in our war with Iran, we will make concessions [to the Kuwaitis]. But, if we are forced to choose between keeping half of the Shatt and the whole of Iraq [i.e., including Kuwait], then we will give up all of the Shatt to defend our claims on Kuwait to keep the whole of Iraq in the shape we wish it to be. What is the United States' opinion on this?
Glaspie: (Pause, then she speaks very carefully) We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.
On 29 August, 1990, the Miami Herald reported that the US State Department had been ordered to give its files concerning the 25 July, 1990 meeting between Hussein and Glaspie to a federal judge to decide whether they must be released.
The Associated Press reported that the State Department was fighting a lawsuit filed by Public Citizens, which contended that the files must be released under the Freedom of Information Act.
US District Judge Charles Richey, on 28 August, stated that he needed to review the documents to determine whether the State Department properly withheld them from release. State contended that the documents were either "classified in the interest of national defense or foreign policy, or reflected the agency's deliberative process."
Richey wrote that Glaspie's public testimony may have "so thoroughly covered the subjects addressed in the withheld documents that the defendant may have waived the exemption."
The meeting in Baghdad between Glaspie and Hussein has been a critical issue in the debate over whether the United States led Hussein to believe it would not interfere if he invaded Kuwait, which he did a week later.
An Iraqi-released transcript of the meeting quoted Glaspie as saying that the United States would not take sides in "Arab-Arab" conflicts such as the border dispute with Kuwait.
However, Glaspie declared in congressional testimony that she also told Hussein that the United States would insist that any dispute be settled peacefully.
On 2 September, 1990, one month after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, British journalists obtained a tape and transcript of the above Hussein-Glaspie meeting. Astounded, they confronted Ms. Glaspie:
Journalist 1: (Holding the transcripts up) Are the transcripts correct, Madam Ambassador? (Ambassador Glaspie did not respond).
Journalist 2: You knew Saddam was going to invade [Kuwait], but you didn't warn him not to. You didn't tell him America would defend Kuwait. You told him the opposite, that America was not associated with Kuwait.
Journalist 1: You encouraged this aggression – his invasion. What were you thinking?
US Ambassador Glaspie: Obviously, I didn't think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait.
Journalist 1: You thought he was just going to take some of it? But, how could you? Saddam told you that, if negotiations failed, he would give up his Iran [Shatt al Arab waterway] goal for the "whole of Iraq, in the shape we wish it to be." You know that includes Kuwait, which the Iraqis have always viewed as an historic part of their country!
(Ambassador Glaspie said nothing, pushing past the two journalists to leave)
Journalist 1: America green-lighted the invasion. At a minimum, you admit signaling Saddam that some aggression was okay, that the US would not oppose a grab of the al-Rumeilah oil field, the disputed border strip and the gulf islands, territories claimed by Iraq?
(Again, Ambassador Glaspie said nothing as a limousine door slammed and the car drove off.)
The US invasion of Panama was far more bloody than was generally reported. To learn more about it, see the following:
For those interested to explore the US war on drugs, may I suggest you investigate the writings of former DEA agent Michael Levine, whose brother died of a heroin overdose.
A couple classics in the literature of the US war on drugs:
October Surprise anyone? Why not read about how George Bush, William Casey and other members of Ronald Reagan's election staff inexplicably disappeared on the same day in October, 1980 (hint: they were in Europe, negotiating with the Iranians to hold the American Embassy hostages until after the November 1980 election):
An intriguing two-part article by British journalist, Christopher Hitchins, appeared in the February and March 2001 issues of Harper's Magazine. It's title was most provocative: The Case Against Henry Kissinger (Part I: The making of a War Criminal; Part II: Crimes Against Humanity). Among the least of the crimes documented was how Henry Kissinger secretly passed information to Richard Nixon's campaign regarding the incumbent Democratic peace negotiations with North Vietnam. The Republicans then passed this information along to the South Vietnamese, who immediately pulled out of the peace talks. The result? A Republican victory in the 1968 US presidential elections. It also meant several years of continued war in SE Asia, 20,000 additional American deaths, uncounted Vietnamese deaths, the invasion of Cambodia and the subsequent rise of the Khmer Rouge (detailed in William Shawcross's excellent Sideshow: Nixon, Kissinger and the Destruction of Cambodia ).
As Hitchins' states: "I can already hear the guardians of consensus, scraping their blunted quills to dismiss this as a 'conspiracy theory.'" Read them and judge for yourself. Unfortunately, while Hitchins' articles are not available online, they can be had at virtually any public library. In addition, a panel discussion of them featuring Hitchins is available online at the following link:
And for those who wish to explore CIA involvement in Angola, check out:
Want to know more about the Bush family tree? Check out:
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