Canada Congo Olympics
The mainstream media's hypocrisy during the Olympics would have been funny if it weren't so ignorance-producing.
So many words written or spoken about human rights violations, lip-synching, suppression of Tibet, taped fireworks, Communist dictatorship, evil Chinese nationalism and yet what about context? Or what about how Canada might seem to them?
Has any media discussed Canada's decades-long support of British imperialism in China? Opium War anyone? Dividing the country up among European powers?
How about Canadian business, missionary and diplomatic support for Japan's brutal invasion of China in the 1930s? What about the weapons and $60 million Ottawa sent to aid Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang fighting Mao's forces after World War II? Certainly one of the outraged Canadian columnists could have found room to mention Ottawa's refusal to recognize the Chinese Communist government for 21 years?
For many years this refusal to recognize the new government was justified by citing Chinese "aggression" in the Korean War that left four million dead. During that war Canada sent 27,000 troops halfway across the world, partly in response to China's revolution the previous year. China, on the other hand, only intervened after 500,000 hostile troops approached its border with northern Korea.
From historical amnesia concerning Canada-China relations through Tibet and Sudan the media's double standard is glaring.
Does anyone believe that prior to Vancouver's 2010 Olympics we will see a media barrage about the British Columbia land stolen from First Nations? Interviews on all the TV networks with spiritual leaders of the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh? Does it take a graduate degree in history to see the parallels between the actions of the Chinese government in Tibet and the European settlement of Canada?
Or, how about comparing Canada's role in the Congo to China's role in Sudan?
A few days ago Liberal MP Irwin Cotler complained to the Montréal Gazette: "China is Sudan's largest trading partner. It buys Sudanese oil, Sudan uses the revenue to buy Chinese arms, and the arms are then used to kill Darfuris ... this complicity risks turning the Beijing Olympics in to the 'Genocide Olympics.'"
By UN estimates, there have been 300,000 killed in Darfur since 2003, while in the Congo The International Rescue Committee estimates there have been 5.4 million killed since 1998. In the latter conflict Canadian mining companies, diplomacy and military all played a role.
Yet in what mainstream media did you see the following reported?
With the end of the Cold War and weakening of Russian influence, Washington decided it would no longer allow the French to dominate large parts of Africa. Rwanda was viewed as an important staging ground for control over central Africa's big prize: the Congo's mineral resources.
Ottawa, with many French-speaking individuals at its disposal, played its part in bringing the formerly Francophone-dominated Rwanda into the U.S. orbit. The Canadian government helped Paul Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) take power in 1994 after they invaded Rwanda from neighbouring Uganda in 1990 (Kagame, who was head of intelligence for the Ugandan ruling party, was trained by the U.S. military at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas).
Taking direction from Washington, Canadian General [now Senator] Romeo Dallaire commanded the UN military force for Rwanda. According to numerous accounts, including his civilian commander on the UN mission, Jacques-Roger Boohbooh, Dallaire aided the RPF. In his book, Le Patron de Dallaire Parle, Boohbooh claims that Dallaire probably provided the RPF with military intelligence and turned a blind eye to their weapons coming in from Uganda.
Dallaire, Boohbooh concludes, "abandoned his role as head of the military to play a political role: he violated the neutrality principle of MINUAR [UN mission to Rwanda] by becoming an objective ally of one of the parties in the conflict."
In his own book, Shake Hands with the Devil, Dallaire writes, "It had been amazing to see Kagame with his guard down for a couple of hours, to glimpse the passion that drove this extraordinary man." This was published six years after Kagame unleashed a horror in the Congo.
Dallaire was not supporting the RPF on some personal whim. During the worst of the Rwandan conflict, Canadian military aircraft continued to fly into Rwanda from neighboring Uganda, the country that sponsored the RPF. Were they bringing weapons?
The book Tested Mettle notes: "A sizable contingent of JTF II [Canadian special forces] had been deployed into Africa. To provide additional 'security' for the UN mission in Rwanda, MacLean and his team had set up an 'advanced operational base' in Uganda. From there they would launch long-range, covert intelligence patrols deep into Rwandan territory."
After the Canadian-backed RPF took power they helped launch a rebel attack led by Joseph Kabila into Zaire, now the Congo. In early 1997, a few months after launching his invasion from neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, "Kabila sent a representative to Toronto to speak to mining companies about 'investment opportunities.' According to Dale Grant, editor of "Defence Policy Review," this trip "may have raised as much as $50 million to support Kabila's march on the capital of Kinshasa."
A number of Canadian companies signed deals with Kabila before he took power. First Quantum Minerals, with former Prime Minister Joe Clark as its Special Advisor on Africa Affairs, signed three contracts worth nearly $1 billion. With Brian Mulroney and George Bush on its board, Barrick signed a gold concession in northeast Congo with Kabila's forces. Heritage Oil also made an agreement with Kabila over a concession in the east of the country that Kabila's army didn't yet control.
The Canadian military gave substantial support to Kabila's incursion into the Congo. Ottawa organized a short-lived UN force into eastern Zaire that was opposed by that country and welcomed by Uganda, Rwanda and Kabila's rebels. Much to the dismay of the government of Zaire, General Maurice Baril, the Canadian multinational force commander, met Laurent Desire Kabila in eastern Zaire during the guerrilla war.
The book Nous étions invincibles provides a harrowing account of a JTF II operation to bring Baril to meet Kabila. Their convoy came under attack and was only bailed out when U.S. Apache and Blackhawk helicopters attacked the Congolese. Some thirty Congolese were killed by a combination of helicopter and JTF2 fire.
After successfully taking control of the Congo in mid-1997 Kabila demanded his Rwandese allies leave the country. This prompted a full-scale invasion by Rwanda, which unleashed an eight-nation war. To this day, Canada provides assistance and diplomatic support to the RPF despite the millions killed in the Congo and a terrible domestic human rights record. RPF proxies continue to fight in the Congo.
Canadian companies also continue to feed the fighting, largely based upon securing the Congo's immense natural resources. There are more than a dozen Canadian mining companies active in the Congo today. In 2004 Anvil Mining was accused of providing logistics to troops that massacred between 70 and 100.
Ten Canadian companies were implicated in a UN report titled "Report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other Forms of Wealth in the Congo," published in 2002. Ottawa responded to the report by defending the Canadian companies cited for complicity in Congolese human rights violations.
Let's hold Canada to the same standards that we set for China.
Yves Engler is currently finishing a book on Canadian foreign policy tentatively titled Uncle Sam's nephew: tales of Canadian imperialism. He is the author of two books: Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority (with Anthony Fenton) and Playing Left Wing: From Rink Rat to Student Radical.