Abramoffâ€™s White Man's Burden
Picture the scene
A top-secret meeting was then underway between Savimbi and his boosters led by a young American Republican activist, none other than Jack Abramoff, a man who could bring down the current GOP Administration. He was there representing an organization he founded, the International Freedom Foundation. Abramoff, and others disguised their identities. His code name was "Pacman."
Unita's strongman, the late Jonas Savimbi, who fancied calling himself Dr. Savimbi, was a masterful guerilla fighter who became the darling of the American right wing as it rallied to the cause of Unita's main ally, racist South Africa. Conservatives dubbed him a freedom fighter, heralding him as their Che Guevara. In the end 600,000 people, mostly civilians would die in this bloody conflict, many as result of atrocities perpetuated by Unita. (I reported from Angola in that period and can confirm it was an awful bloodletting with cities like Lubongo destroyed and thousands displaced.)
Abramoff, an ultra-orthodox Jew recalled an incident when he left the meeting to pray alone in the bush. "They thought, I was a 'mystic,'" he would later write.
According to the Wikipedia:
"Savimbi's U.S.-based supporters ultimately proved successful in convincing the Central Intelligence Agency to channel covert weapons to Savimbi's war against Angola's Marxist government, which greatly intensified the conflict."
His fascination with Africa would lead to a lobbying contract for the Congo's Mobutu Seso Seko, a Savimbi supporter and then the richest and most corrupt dictator on the continent. Mobutu, critics charged, ran a "kleptocracy" based on the violent suppression of human rights while Abramoff represented him.
He saw a chance to make a name and big money for himself with the help of apartheid South Africa. Rocked by uprisings in the townships and challenged by the artists who backed a cultural boycott of South Africa's "Sun City", the top gambling resort and entertainment venue, Apartheid's rulers decided to fight back against the likes of activists, like singer Little Steven Van Zandt, by channeling state funds into media projects they could later deny they were linked with.
Ambramoff then enlisted in South Africa's cultural war and suddenly found himself sitting pretty as the head of Hollywood movie studio called Regency Enterprises. The idea was to make anti-communist films that could denigrate the anti-apartheid movement. Poof, Jack became a credited screenwriter.
Jack Ambramoff's alter ego and fantasy was now on the screen.
Ambramoff has a pattern of first denying sleazy practices until forced to admit them. At first, he publicly denied South African financing. This past week the Mail & Guardian quotes one-time apartheid spy Craig Williamson as now admitting that the money came directly from the South African military:
Why the military? The newspaper reveals: "The IFF was ostensibly founded as a conservative think-tank, but was in reality part of an elaborate South African military intelligence operation, code-named Operation Babushka. Established to combat sanctions and undermine the African National Congress, it also supported Jonas Savimbi and his rebel Angolan movement, Unita."
Abramoff turned to his connections and procured a Soviet-made WWII-era T-34 tank with a 76mm canon for the final battle sequence.
Another citizen-reviewer noted, "Yes, the same man who bribed over 60 congressmen and senators, robbed several native American tribes blind, tried to take out life insurance policies on tribal elders with himself as the beneficiary, and called the Choctaw tribal council 'Monkeys' and 'troglodytes,' had an interesting earlier career.
Last week, pictures of Abramoff and President Bush, photos whose existence was first denied by the White House, turned up on the internet. Yes, they knew each other and met several times. Ambramoff claims Karl Rove was his buddy.
Don't you think there must be a photo somewhere of young Jack with South Africa's apartheid-era President, P.W. "The Crocodile" Botha. Putting those two presidential trophy shots side by side, Botha on one side, Bush on the other, will complete this connection between the ongoing fight for truth and racial justice and the Bush Administration's commitment to "Abramoff Family Values" (AFW) designed to enrich "just us." (The LA Times has since reported that Ambramoff considered Karl Rove a friend.)
"Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Abramoff, denied that Abramoff had ever supported apartheid and called any such implications 'false and defamatory.'"
He added, "Mr. Abramoff's anti-apartheid positions were clear and never contradicted in any forum. Any suggestion, implication or reporting that Mr. Abramoff was ever pro-apartheid or working for the interests of the South African government are false and defamatory."