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Saturday, September 04, 2004

Flash-Back Labor Day Weekend At The Node

We welcome one and all to Flash-Back Labor Day weekend, where we'll be covering the best and brightest of past U.S. efforts to spread "Democracy". We start with a mid-80's gem, straight out of neon-pink big hair heaven, featuring that late, great 80's one-hit-wonder Jonas Savimbi. And you thought Ahmed Chalabi was the first to record a hit record on the Mighty Wurlitzer:

'In what is becoming a crescendo to the acrimonious debate over U.S. policy towards Angola, Washington is preparing to play host for two weeks to the man who stands in the center of the controversy -- a burly, bearded guerrilla chieftain of considerable charm named Jonas Malheiro Savimbi'

'Heralded by President Reagan as an exemplary "freedom fighter" and embraced by conservatives as "the Che Guevara of the right," Savimbi is vilified as a "terrorist" by the Soviet and Cuban-backed Marxist government he has fought for a decade. To most of black Africa, he is a "stooge" of South Africa's white rulers.'


'Conservative groups, such as the Heritage Foundataion, the American Conservative Union and the American Security Council, are orchestrating a welcome for Savimbi unlike anything Washingon has ever seen for an African guerrilla leader. After his arrival Tuesday, Savimbi will use his appearances before the groups and elsewhere as a platform from which to launch his plea for military assistance in the United States.'


'Savimbi is already assured a Sunday night segment on CBS' "60 Minutes," followed by appearnces on ABC's "Nightline" and PBS' "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour," as well a possible cover story in Time magazine. He is giving the keynote speech at the Washington banquet of the American Conservative Union one night after Reagan addresses the group.'


'Leading the pro-Savimbi campaign in the House has been Rep. Mark D. Siljander, a conservative Republican from Michigan, who has gathered 109 cosponsors for a bill that would provide Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) with $27 million in open military assistance.'

'In the Senate, Malcom Wallop (R-Wyo.) on Dec. 10 introduced an ammendment cosponsored with 12 colleagues that would have authorized $50 million in military and other assistance to Savimbi, although the measure died for procedural reasons.'

'On the same day, three key Senate members tried to pass a resolution of support for Savimbi intended to lead to an aid program.'

'Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chariman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. David F. Durenberger (R-Minn.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sponsored the measure, which favored providing "material assistance" to Savimbi early this year if the Marxist Angolan government refused to engage in "good faith negotiations" with UNITA and continued to prepare a new offesive against the guerrillas. The resolution was defeated 39 to 58.'(The Washington Post, January 26, 1986)


'The promotion of Mr. Savimbi is, of course, partly a product of the times; it would have not worked without a conservative Administration pledged, as Mr. Reagan said in his State of the Union Message Tuesday, "to support with moral and material assistance" the cause of "freedom fighters" around the world, including Angola.'

'But it is also very much the product of a firm called Black, Manafort, Stone, Kelley Inc. of Alexandria, Va., which opened the doors, set up the television and newspaper interviews, procured hotel rooms and limousines and stood ready, had the need arisen, to provide a private security detail to protect Mr. Savimbi in his visit.'


'According to one source, the Saudi Arabians, who are believed to have sent Mr. Savimbi considerable amounts of aid, have been urging him for several years to hire a Washington lobbying concern. That advice was underlined by Howard Phillips, a leading conservative activist, when he talked with Mr. Savimbi last July in Jamba, headquarters of Mr. Savimbi's South African-backed rebel movement, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, usually known as Unita after its Portuguese acronym.'


'On arrival, Mr. Savimbi was greeted not as a revolutionary without official status but with considerable panoply of state. Selwa Roosevelt, Chief of Protocol, met him as he stepped from a limousine escorted by Federal security agents at the State Department's diplomatic entrance.'

'Mr. Savimbi is also meeting with editors and reporters of major newspapers, including The New York Times, and with executives of news agencies. And he has appeared on such television programs as CBS News's "60 Minutes" and ABC News's "Nightwatch." At each opportunity, he sought to picture himself not as a friend of Pretoria but as the foe of the Soviet-backed Angolan troops and their Cuban allies.'

'In only two instances did Black, Manafort not get the access sought. Lane Kirkland, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., refused to se Mr. Savimbi, and so did the Congressional Black Caucus, which described him as a "surrogate for South Africa", hostile to the interests of blacks. But their dissenting voices were hardly audible over the media barrage.'(The New York Times, Friday, February 7, 1986)

Boy, was that Savimbi guy popular or what? And what was with those Congressional Black Caucus members, the A.F.L.-C.I.O., and all those other African countries anyway? What party-poopers! However, Savimbi was unable to sustain his fame:

'...For UNITA, however, more than 20 years of nearly continuous guerrilla combat had seen it become dependent on the rural authority of traditional chiefs (sobas)[italics original] for local political support and contaminated by the atavistic practices of burning, dismembering, and drowning "witches" and "sorcerers" suspected of disloyalty. The movement internalized values and practices at sharp variance with the democratic credo it espoused when presenting itself to American and other Western patrons. A reverential cult had developed around UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, a consummate political survivor and sometime acolyte of Mao Zedong and South African President P.W. Botha. Initially hailed as an anti-Communist hero and later denounced as a brutish psychopath by his British biographer, Fred Bridgland, Savimbi said of himself, "When you speak of UNITA, you speak of Savimbi." UNITA radio referred to him regularly and grandiloquently as "Supreme Guide, Comrade, Dr. Jonas Malheiro Savimbi.'

'Evidence that a sinister malaise had taken hold of the movement mounted in 1989 when a popular UNITA Washington lobbyist, Tito Chingunji, fell from grace; he was recalled, tortured, placed under house arrest, and ultimately met his death at UNITA hands. His fate fit into a pattern of disappearances and deaths -- or for the more fortunate, defections -- among talented, Western-educated UNITA leaders such as Luciano Kassoma, Jorge Sangumba, Anito Vakulukuta, and Wilson dos Santos, to name some of the more prominent examples. Unable to conceive that a movement they still patronized as a champion of democracy might have become a brutalized and brutalizing perpetuator of war, UNITA's backers in the United States Congress rejected counsel that they investigate the guerrilla group and press it as well as the MPLA to reach a political accommodation.' (John Marcum, in Current History, Vol. 92 No. 574, May 1993)

Jonas Savimbi met his doom in February 2002, killed in combat after almost constant war with the government since 1976. A true rock star of "Freedom Fighters", Savimibi's death provoked great outpourings of feeling in Angola:

'Raucous celebrations in Luanda's poor neighbourhoods greeted the first reports of the death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi.'

'Red flares - presumably supplied by the military - lit up the sky over districts where electric light is a rarity. '

'People took to the road in cars and minibuses which travelled in procession, sounding their horns as people leant out of the windows, chanting and shouting.'

We'll be back with more hits after these messages...

Andrew 3:21 PM : |


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