The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) “is a country of tragedy and promise on a massive scale.” So begins the foreword to the Center for Preventive Action’s report “Congo: Securing Peace, Sustaining Progress” (Council on Foreign Relations, 2008). The report continues, that “the DRC is home to important tropical forests, vast hydroelectric potential, and resources ranging from diamonds to zinc.” Almost as an afterthought, it adds: “It is also home to an ongoing humanitarian disaster.” The solution to this “country’s social, economic, and security challenges,” readers are told, lie in the US government adopting two policies: “combating insecurity in the east and promoting sustainable development.”1) One should not be too surprised to discover that “important U.S. strategic interests are at stake.” Bearing this in mind, it is appropriate that John Bellamy Foster described the reports originators, the Center for Preventive Action, as being “devoted to overthrowing governments opposed by Washington by political means (or where this is not practicable, using political low intensity warfare to soften them up for military intervention).” (For further criticisms, see “The Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for Preventive Action.”)
Fittingly, the author of this report, former USAID mission director for the Congo (2001-04) Anthony Gambino, provides a whitewash of the Congo’s recent history. He notes that since the Congo gained their independence from Belgium in 1960 their history has been “marked by periods of great instability and insecurity accompanied by grave violations of human rights,” but he forgets to mention the how the US facilitated these horrific abuses by assassinating their democratically elected leader Patrice Lumumba in 1961. This is not to say that Gambino is totally uncritical of foreign interventions in the region, as he notes how Mobutu Sese Seko, who “overthrew the elected government” with “heavy support from key Western allies, including the United States” came to power in 1965 and remained their till 1997 acting as a critical “ally of the West.” Yet despite the Congo being “endowed with vast lodes of important minerals, including copper, cobalt, cassiterite, columbite, tantalum, diamonds, gold, and uranium,” Gambino thinks that with the end of the Cold War, the West “lost interest in the Congo.” Evidently there is no more to the story then: the Cold War ends and US corporations are no longer interested in exploiting Africa!
According to Gambino, President’s Mobutu’s successor Laurent Kabila came to power with “large-scale assistance from Rwanda and its then ally Uganda.” Gambino says that at this time “no Western state supported Mobutu,” but he fails to mention that the West had not simply lost interest in the region. Instead, in 1996, with active US-support Kabila had been “plucked out of a bar in Dar es Salaam, where he was owner/manager, and installed as the Congolese figurehead of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL).” This help does not figure in Gambino’s recollection of events, as he considers that the United States only “chose to engage with Laurent Kabila’s government” once it had assumed power, “albeit without providing much in terms of foreign assistance.” He neglects to mention that in the West Kabila had been initially “cheered and canonized for ousting Mobutu” but later, as Keith Harmon Snow points out, he was “declared a ‘dictator’ because he steered Congo on an independent course.” However Gambino does recognize that once Kabila had rejected his foreign backers the situation “changed radically” and the United States “focused its engagement on two activities: helping broker a ceasefire arrangement and providing humanitarian relief.” Thereafter, apparently after “Joseph Kabila, his son, became president in 2001… the West developed an ever-clearer understanding of its role in assisting this process.”
It is not coincidental that Gambino’s report refers to the 5 million Congolese who “have died since 1998” — citing the International Rescue Committee as their source. This is because, as Keith Harmon Snow reminds us, the CIA-linked International Rescue Committee’s work in this area “considers only the period of 1998 to 2007, excluding the first phase of the war, the U.S.-backed overthrow of Zaire and coup d’etat against Mobutu Sese Seko, 1996-1998.” In the International Rescue Committee report — from which the 5 million deaths is derived — “not a word” is made “about the causes of the ongoing strife or the structural factors which have made this holocaust possible, and perpetuate it”; very much like the Center for Preventive Action’s own report. Many more than 5 million people died to enable the West to profit from the Congo’s resources, but for pragmatic reasons it is easier to only consider deaths from 1998 onwards to avoid unnecessary complications. Ignorance is profit.
Moving back to Gambino’s report we are informed that during Mobutu’s dictatorship, “the government existed as a structure for individual enrichment and patronage.” Gambino writes that to this day little has changed, and Congolese officials benefiting from this corruption have “shown little interest in fundamental change.” One might also add, although Gambino doesn’t, that the foreign owned corporations that have profitably operated in the Congo since the 1960s have benefited immensely from this corruption and have no intention of allowing their profitable situation to fundamentally change. But in Gambino’s mind, the West has been reluctant to profit from murderous wars in the Congo. In fact, he says corporations have been wary of investing there because of instability? This of course may be the case for most businesses, but there is no doubt that many Western owned mining corporations have reaped massive financial rewards from the Congo’s instability. Either way, now that the country has a government which is once again amenable to Western interests the time for “stability” has come – a situation that enhances capitalist exploitation, like for instance that seen in Brazil. Likewise in a similar way that formally ending apartheid in South Africa increased foreign profits, by improving stability in the Congo even more Western corporations will be able to grow as a result of environmentally minded destruction (read: sustainable development). Seen in this light, concern with the environment provides a useful fig leaf for economic exploitation, and Gambino writes that US diplomacy “can assist Congo in fostering an environment conducive for continued foreign investment to sustain economic growth.”
Given this economic interest it is appropriate that many of the members of the advisory committee assembled to supervise the production of Gambino’s report should have active financial interests in the “sustainable development” of the Congo. Most notably the committee includes W. Russell King who serves as senior vice president of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. That said, most of other representatives on the advisory committee appear to have a commitment to the expansion of the US military-industrial complex and the concomitant multiplication of US investment opportunities. For example, advisory committee member Chester Crocker is the former director of African studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (1976-80), former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1981-89), and former chair the imperialist US Institute of Peace (1992-2004); and he recently led the African Growth and Opportunity Act Coalition Inc that lobbied for the creation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), an Act that was “created to expand US economic and strategic interests in Africa.” Similarly another advisory committee member is former US Ambassador to the Republic of Burkina Faso (2002-05), J. Anthony Holmes, who helped Burkina Faso accept the “benefits” of AGOA, and presently acts as the Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities for the US African Command.
Other obvious members of the military establishment who advised Gambino on his report include Joshua Marks, Ambassador Robert Oakley, and Carlton W. Fulford, Jr. — the latter whom previously served as the Deputy Commander in Chief of the US European Command, and is the former head of the National Defense University’s Africa Center. With regard to the backgrounds of the other two military-linked aforementioned advisers, Joshua Marks is a former faculty associate of the Africa Center, and is presently the Central Africa program officer at the infamous National Endowment for Democracy; while Robert Oakley is based at the National Defense University and is a member of the board of overseers of the International Rescue Committee.
It is also worth observing that National Endowment for Democracy board member, Howard Wolpe, sat in on Gambino’s advisory committee having formerly spent ten years serving as the chair of the Subcommittee on Africa of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Moreover, Wolpe’s work has been widely celebrated by the free-market environmental organizations like the National Audubon Society and the Sierra Club. This is fitting given Gambino’s rhetorical commitment to the environment, which meant that the Center for Preventive Action’s advisory committee included one full-time member of the free-market environmental movement, Richard Carroll; who is the managing director for the World Wildlife Fund’s Congo Basin program. According to his WWF biographical note, “Richard considers the formation of the Congo Basin [Forest] Partnership [launched in 2003 by Colin Powell, was] the ‘fulfillment of a 20-year dream,’ or at least one of them.” (For a critique of both WWF’s pro-corporate environmentalism and of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, see “When Environmentalists Legitimize Plunder”).
Although ideologically speaking it is clear where the priorities of the Center for Preventive Action’s report lie, nevertheless they appear to be committed to well-informed strategizing which perhaps makes their work even more dangerous. Thus the reports advisory committee also includes Herbert Weiss, the author of one of the first in-depth examinations of the Congo in his book, Political Protest in the Congo: The Parti Solidane Africain During the Independence Struggle (Princeton University Press, 1967), which built upon his field research in the region since 1959. Although Professor Weiss continues to write about the Congo for conservative think tanks like the Hoover Institution, a newcomer to the field is Séverine Autesserre who completed her doctorate in 2006, and is publishing the forthcoming book The Trouble with the Congo. Local Violence and the Failure of International Peacebuilding (Cambridge University Press, June 2010). Her research is research is currently being funded by the US Institute of Peace.
Finally, pharmaceutical giant Merck was invited to place an employee (Kay Boulware-Miller) on the Gambino reports advisory committee. Merck has just the right type of experience to engage with such an elite project as Merck’s former head of international organization relations (until 2008), was Susan Crowley, an individual who is counted as a founder of the imperialist Business-Humanitarian Forum and who had served on advisory board of the Global Alliance for Women’s Health – a group’s whose recent treasurer was the former US Ambassador to the Congo, Kenneth Brown (1981-84), who happens to also be a recent board member of Anvil Mining which has mining interests in the Congo. Moreover in 2008, it is significant to note that notorious Israeli diamond mogul Dan Gertler had a 25 per cent stake in Anvil Mining. Although neither Crowley not Gertler were involved in the production of Gambino’s report, these connections do demonstrate the intimate involvement of US and Israeli elites in the Congo. However, given the direct involvement of Freeport-McMoRan with Gambino’s report the following section will briefly outline the current interests of foreign extractive corporations in the region by following a lead from Freeport-McMoRan recent activities in the Congo.
Freeport-McMoRan recently brought there way into the Congo when in 2007 they purchased Phelps Dodge Corporation enabling them to “gain rights to the Tenke Fungurume project in the Congo, one of the world’s largest known copper-cobalt deposits.” This is noteworthy because prior to their acquisition, Phelps Dodge’s CEO, J. Steven Whisler, had been, and still is, a board member of International Paper Company (the “largest forest products company in the world”). For those who are not aware, International Paper is currently harvesting Brazilian and Russian forests, and they are no doubt highly interested in the “sustainable management” of the Congo’s potential paper (I mean trees).2 I make this assumption because since 2003 American Enterprise Institute trustee John Faraci3 has managed International Paper’s operations while simultaneously serving as the chair of the logging front-group the American Forest and Paper Association; an association whose commitment to protecting the environment is more than belied by the fact that their president, Donna Harman, is a board member of the American Council for Capital Formation. Harman’s ties to the latter conservative think tank is intriguing as they apparent work to promote “strong capital formation, a balanced regulatory regime, and cost effective environmental policies”; that is, in plain language, environmental “protection” that does not inhibit economic growth. Other board members of this “conservation” outfit include the head of the National Association of Manufacturers, and the notorious former head of President Nixon’s US Environmental Protection Agency, William Ruckelshaus. One might add that the profitable conservation policies catalysed by the American Council for Capital Formation are epitomized by their board member, former US Senator Bill Archer (Republican, Texas), who until recently served as the chair of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation.
The International Conservation Caucus Foundation makes no secret of its commitment to free-market environmentalism, and their advisory council is host to only the largest advocates of green capitalism, these being the World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and the Wildlife Conservation Society (see “The Philanthropic Roots of Corporate Environmentalism”). Individual advisers to the Caucus bring to the fore well-known democracy-manipulators like JPMorgan Chase’s executive vice president, Rick Lazio, and the former House Majority Leader, Dick Gephardt (Democrat, Missouri), who is the chair of the National Endowment for Democracy. Corporate sponsors of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation’s work include Honeywell, ExxonMobil, the American Forest and Paper Association — whose former CEO, Red Cavaney, has served as the head of the American Petroleum Institute (from 1997 until 2008) — and the WILD Foundation. Although the latter group is strictly speaking a not-for-profit corporation, when it comes to the environment they act in much the same way as their corporate counterparts; which explains why the WILD Foundation’s board member, David Barron, is the president of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation.
Although I have critiqued the WILD Foundation elsewhere, it is significant that until recently their board members included Francine Kansteiner, the wife of the former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Walter Kansteiner III. As Keith Harmon Snow points out, Walter Kansteiner III is “the son of a coltan trader” (a valuable mineral that can be found beneath the forests of the Congo) and is a board member of Moto Gold (which is “operating in [the] blood-drenched” Ituri province of the Congo). Thus in the context of this article it is appropriate that David Barron should have also played a key role in gathering support and momentum for the US-lead Congo Basin Forest Partnership.
Of course, the Congo Basin Forest Partnership is being advanced by free-market environmental groups with the aid of the American Forest and Paper Association and other logging trade groups like the Society of American Foresters. Here one might add that the latter front-group was previously headed (in 2006) by Marvin Brown, who is a board member of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (which counts John Faraci as a former board member). As one might guess this group is very interested in sustainable management of the Congo’s forests, and their former chair, John Luke, Jr., is a trustee of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, former chair of the National Association of Manufacturers, and former chair (now board member) of the American Forest and Paper Association. Luke in turn sits alongside Faraci and Ruckelshaus on the corporate council of The Conservation Fund, a group whose long-serving president, John Turner (1993-2001), happens to be a board member of the International Paper Company.
Here the story of corporate intrigue become even more sickening as the current president of The Conservation Fund, Larry Selzer, is the chair of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and the vice president of the pro-corporate Natural Resources Council of America. However, the most interesting board member of The Conservation Fund is the world-renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle; because in addition to Earle being connected to numerous “big green” organizations, from 1999 until 2006 she was a board member of Kerr-McGee — an energy company that was involved in the exploration and production of oil and gas resources (and has now been acquired by Anadarko Petroleum).4 Notably, during her years of service at Kerr-McGee, the lead director of the company was William Bradford, a person who had until 2000 served as the chairman of the most influential corporate member of the military-industrial complex, Halliburton. (Halliburton’s former CEO, Dick Cheney, left the company in 2000 to become vice president of the United States.)
Finally one should observe that Patrick Moore, who sits on the board of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative serves on JPMorgan Chase’s national advisory board, and is a board member of Archer Daniels Midland (“one of the world’s largest processors of oilseeds, corn, and wheat”). Here at Archer Daniels Midland, he used to serve alongside the former Prime Minister of Canada (1984-1993), Brian Mulroney, who is a board member of The Blackstone Group, and who, until last year, was a board member of the leading international gold mining company, Barrick Gold. For a detailed review of Barrick Gold’s activities in the Congo, see “Mining in the Ituri Province of the Congo-A Contemporary Profile.” Of particular interest here are the direct connections that Barrick Gold has to the Council on Foreign Relations through current and former board members, Howard Baker Jr., Gustavos Cisneros, William Cohen, and Vernon Jordan Jr., Edward Ney, and former CIA Director Richard Helms. One might also point out Barrick Gold’s connection to the king-pin of “sustainable development,” Maurice Strong, as Paul Melnuk, the former CEO of Barrick Gold, is currently a board member of Strong’s old haunting ground, Petro-Canada. Little wonder that the Center for Preventive Action’s report suggests that the U.S. government should adopt two policies in the Congo: “combating insecurity in the east and promoting sustainable development.”
As this article has demonstrated the Center for Preventive Action provides a useful tool for capitalist elites to enhance the efficient exploitation of foreign countries (in this case the Congo). In the light of this obvious statement it is perhaps controversial to point out that Council on Foreign Relations board member, Peter Ackerman, currently serves on the Center’s advisory board. This is controversial because Ackeman is the founder and primary funder of an organization called the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, a group that “facilitate[s] the activity of civilian-based, nonviolent movements.” Therefore, in the light of the fact that so many progressive activists have affiliated themselves with the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, one might only hope that they reevaluate their commitment in the light of the information provided in this article.
- Richard Haass from foreword to Gambino, Congo: Securing Peace, Sustaining Progress, p.vii. Although the report was sponsored by the Center for Preventive Action, Gambino writes that “the publication was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.” (p.x [↩]
- Archie Dunham who had been a board member of Phelps Dodge from 1998 until 2007, was president of Conoco (since 1996), and after their merger acted as the chair of ConocoPhillips (2002-04). Longstanding head of Phelps Dodge, Douglas Yearley, served as a board member of Lockheed Martin since 1995 until his death in 2007; and likewise, the former chairman of Lockheed Martin, Norman Augustine, is a board member of ConocoPhillips. Clearly the interconnections between mining, oil, and military contractors is intimate to the say the least. [↩]
- In addition, John Faraci is a board member of the major US defense contractor, United Technologies Corporation: two other notable board members of this corporation are the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard B. Myers (who is also a board member of Northrop Grumman), and Harold McGraw III (who is also a board member of ConocoPhillips). On the environmental front, Faraci is a board member of the National Park Foundation, a group that was founded in 1967 with an initial $1 million contribution from Laurance Rockefeller. (For more on Rockefeller’s problematic environmental pedigree, see “Laurance Rockefeller and Capitalist Conservation.”) [↩]
- Chairman emeritus of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Robert Allison, Jr., is currently a board member of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. [↩]