Rene — Doing business with Africa's Hitler

Topic(s): Genocide | Comments Off on Rene — Doing business with Africa's Hitler

Doing business with Africa’s Hitler
Wire Services
Saturday, October 21, 2006 6:38 AM CDT
Public pension funds shouldn’t support genocide
In the Sudan’s government ceaseless genocide in Darfur – while the
world watches in horror but does not act – 80 children under age
5 die each day, estimates the United Nations Children’s Fund (Sudan
Tribune Web site, Oct. 7). As more relief agencies pull out because of
the growing violence, more children older than age 5 will die. Yet,
just before leaving for midterm elections, the Senate stripped out
a vital part of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act.
As previously passed by the House with wide bipartisan support and now
signed by the president, the bill blocked assets and froze visas of
anyone connected with these mass murders and rapes of black African
But what Richard Lugar, R-Ind. – chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee – removed from the Senate version was a section
in the House bill that protected the right of our individual states
(six already, with more on the way) to divest public pension funds
from international companies doing business in murderous Sudan.
Successfully lobbying against this provision was the National Foreign
Trade Council, representing more than 300 multinational companies,
some of whom eagerly do business with Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the
architect of this genocide, which has not killed as many as Hitler’s
Holocaust. But the willingness of international corporations to profit
from the dealings with the Hitler of Africa reminds me of a magazine
headline I saw in the late 1930s: “Would you do business with Hitler?”
Also opposing individual state divestments is the National Association
of Manufacturers. In the Sept. 27 issue of The Hill, Bill Primosch,
that organization’s director of international business policy,
dismissed state divestment laws as not having “a practical impact;
it becomes a symbolic gesture.” And another lobbyist crowed of the
removal of this section of the House bill: “It is a big win.”
The biggest winner, the National Foreign Trade Council – which is suing
the state of Illinois on its divestment law – claims, moreover, that
individual states have no right to interfere with national foreign
policy. (The Bush administration did not object to the stripping of
the House bill on this issue.)
However, years ago, during the debate on state divestments against
South Africa’s apartheid regime, Gerald Warburg, on the staff of
California Sen. Alan Cranston, said: “The bottom line is that local
authorities already have a clear legal right and moral obligation to
exercise discretion in how they invest THEIR OWN money.”
And California U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat – and a determined
prime mover in the states’ and national divestment campaigns
– emphasizes: “Concern about the constitutionality of state
divestment campaigns is just a smokescreen to cover for efforts by
the financial-services industry to quietly kill a divestment movement
it sees as an inconvenience” (San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 26).
Lee, who has traveled to Darfur twice, says: “So many people have
died that it’s our duty to make sure pension funds don’t have blood
in their banks. It is the blood of genocide.”
Even if this were only a “symbolic gesture,” would divestment at
least tell the world of the horrified concern by many Americans in
these divesting states that day after day, the corpses mount in Darfur?
But significantly, Sudan’s monstrous Gen. Al-Bashir does not see these
state laws as emptily symbolic – like the continually useless United
Nations resolutions on Darfur. Adam Sterling, executive director
of the nonprofit National Sudan Divestment Task Force, tells the
Washington Post (Oct. 7):
“We are already seeing a response from the Sudanese government. Last
April, a press release from the Sudanese Embassy here urged
institutions to stop divesting. And in a recent discussion with our
campaign leader in Indiana – (home of Sen. Richard Lugar, killer of
the divestment section of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act) –
divestment was the only topic the Sudanese ambassador was interested
in addressing.”
Lee is not giving up. She has introduced a bill, the Darfur
Accountability and Divestment Act – whose fate I will follow in a
future column – that, she says, “would bar international companies,
whose business in Sudan directly or indirectly supports the genocide
in Darfur, from receiving taxpayer-funded federal contracts.”
Meanwhile, on Oct. 9, Reuters reported attacks by the Sudan
government’s militia in Darfur that – according to the U.N.’s High
Commissioner for Human Rights – were “massive in scale,” possibly
killing several hundred, and also resulting in scores of missing
Do the National Foreign Trade Council lobbyists, so pleased with
their “purifying” the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, ever give
a thought to the blood on the profits their clients reap from their
business ventures in Sudan?
Are they wholly oblivious to the mass murders and rapes – and the
slaughter of the very, very young?
When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine American companies doing business
with Hitler. Growing up, I found that some did. So I’m not shocked now.
Just disgusted.
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