A Challenge to ‘Radical’ and ‘Pan-Africanist’ Obamites

An “Open Letter to the People of Zimbabwe,” widely circulated on the Internet in February, demands “the U.S., British and other imperialist governments” end economic sanctions against that nation and otherwise keep their “hands off Zimbabwe!” Although honest progressives may differ on the political character of Robert Mugabe’s regime — now joined in a power-sharing relationship with the opposition, whose leader’s allegiances are likewise subject to dispute — there can be no equivocation about the Zimbabwean people’s “right to self-determination and sovereignty without any imperialist interference.”

Washington’s blatant and longstanding campaign for regime-change must be denounced and resisted in all its manifestations — no ifs, ands or buts. The economic sanctions are, as the letter describes them, “collective punishment of the Zimbabwean people.” The signers correctly and “unequivocally denounce these sanctions as war crimes and the officials who initiated them as war criminals.”

Well said — but there’s a great disconnect between the words and some of the names listed as endorsing the letter. A number of the signers are full-throated, religious-like followers of Barack Obama, one of the “war criminals” that has supported and, as president, extended U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe.

These unabashed Obamites, several of whom I debated at a large forum in Harlem in December, make a great noise about “imperialists” in general while pledging undying “solidarity” in the struggle against such “criminals”, yet in their daily practice labor mightily to absolve President Obama of culpability for his crimes. It requires rivers of obfuscation and oceans of purposeful omission to separate the Commander-in-Chief and President of the United States from the crimes planned and carried out in his office. The perpetrators of this bizarre fantasy — that the “imperialists” are out to get Mugabe, but Obama isn’t one of them — deepen confusion among the public, especially African Americans, and make a mockery of true solidarity. In the light of ever-unfolding events, they make themselves and progressive politics appear ridiculous, as they tiptoe around the mountainous facts of Barack Obama’s actual presidency — not the wishful one they have invented.

Obama’s implacable hostility to Zimbabwean independence and sovereignty is undeniable. He has consistently spoken and acted in lockstep with George Bush on the subject, and as president is preparing new ground for aggression against that country and elsewhere in Africa and the developing world.

On June 24, 2008, following a US-UK-led United Nations Security Council resolution declaring that violence fostered by Mugabe’s government had made fair runoff elections “impossible”, candidate Obama took South Africa to task for failure “to pressure the Zimbabwean government to stop its repressive behavior.” The U.S., he said, should tighten its economic sanctions. Obama told the press: “If fresh elections prove impossible, regional leaders backed by the international community should pursue an enforceable, negotiated political transition in Zimbabwe that would end repressive rule and enable genuine democracy to take root.” That’s regime change.

Obama’s behavior was in perfect synch with the Bush Administration, and with Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s statements on the issue.

At the United Nations on July 10, Russia and China vetoed punitive American and British sanctions against Zimbabwe. Frustrated and outraged, Bush used his executive powers to expand U.S. sanctions, joined by Britain and the European Union.

On January 15 of this year, days before Obama took the oath of office, his nominee for Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, told a confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill it was still possible that Russia and China might be persuaded to change their votes on Zimbabwe sanctions. There can be no doubt she was speaking for the incoming administration, which looked forward to winning sanctions where George Bush had failed.

On January 26, Mugabe and the opposition agreed to form a unity government, threatening to derail the U.S.-British strategy to further isolate and then topple Mugabe. When the unity talks briefly fell apart, Obama, now president, let it be known that he hoped the opposition would remain out of government, so that momentum toward UN sanctions might be revived. That would be Susan Rice’s job. “Susan is extremely aware of what is going on in Zimbabwe and she feels very strongly that there is a tremendous miscarriage of justice in that country and that it has to end,” an Obama foreign policy aide told The Times [UK]. “Once she has her feet on the ground she is going to turn her attention to this issue.” The January 28 story was titled, “President Obama leads US drive to topple Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.”

When, a few days later, unity talks successfully resumed with the support of African organizations, the Obama administration reacted with bitterness and frustration. “Mugabe is not getting a reprieve from President Obama,” said an aide. For the time being, however, UN sanctions were off the table, and the momentum of American aggression was spent.

But not necessarily for long. Susan Rice, an ardent supporter of AFRICOM, like her boss, is a leading advocate of “humanitarian” military intervention, the doctrine that big powers have a duty to intervene when a government fails to protect its people from . . . whatever. In the run-up to unity talks, the Brits and Americans appeared to be trial-ballooning Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak as a pretext for intervention — but in Africa, a “humanitarian” rationale for imperial interference can always be found, or invented.

It is beyond dispute that Obama, as candidate and president, has been a fierce proponent of sanctions against Zimbabwe. George Bush’s sanctions by executive order are now Barack Obama’s sanctions — fully qualifying the new president as a “war criminal,” as defined by the signers of the recent “Open Letter to the People of Zimbabwe.” Yet some of the signers are apparently capable of compartmentalizing facts as it suits them, in order to avoid painful confrontation with the truth: Obama is not only our first Black president, but also our first Black war criminal president.

Who are these deeply conflicted persons? I am specifically referring to five signatories of the Open Letter, whose irrational Obama-Love I have personally witnessed in the context of debate over Obama’s foreign and domestic policies, the first four at Harlem’s Great Debate in December, the last encounter at Audubon Ballroom, Harlem, in early 2008.

Prof. Dr. Leonard Jeffries, City College CUNY. Dr. Jeffries refuses to present any substantive critique of Obama’s actual policies on Africa or any other issue. He proclaims that every Black person should study “Obama-ology,” meaning “how Obama does things.”

Dr. James McIntosh, Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People (CEMOTAP). Dr. McIntosh tells audiences to look out for Obama’s “winks” — those confidential messages meant especially for Black folks. The rest is just Obama doing what he has to do.

Viola Plummer, December 12th Movement. Ms. Plummer has the uncanny ability to call for revolution and declare the near-divinity of Obama in the same breath.

Atty. Malik Zulu Shabazz, New Black Panther Party. Atty. Shabazz and his party bear no resemblance to the original. His evaluation of Obama: “He is a good father and husband.”

Amiri Baraka, playwright & poet. The one-time Prince of Schisms now pillories Cynthia McKinney for failing to get on the Obama-wagon. His capacity for both insult and reason appears to be failing.

Not one of these five people, all prolific speakers with followings in their own arenas, would call President Barack Obama a war criminal in the usual course of their political work. Instead, to varying degrees, they publicly praise and even express adoration for him. Yet they sign an Open Letter affirming solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe in the face of sanctions by “war criminals” — like Obama. Such solidarity is worthless on its face, because it means less than nothing in their actual domestic practice, which is filled with expressions of love for the war criminal and endless excuses and rationalizations for his behavior.

One line of the Open Letter is especially poignant in light of the contradictions personified by the Five Obamists: “We face the same enemies at home as do the people of Zimbabwe — the worldwide clique of bankers and bosses who put their greed for profits before meeting people’s needs.”

The Obamites are fully capable of damning the banksters till midnight, all the while pretending that Barack is not Wall Street’s protector and co-conspirator. Resisting reality, they spread further confusion.

Glen Ford is Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article first appeared. He can be contacted at: Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com. Read other articles by Glen, or visit Glen's website.