Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Real Colonialists 

The Transatlantic Intelligencer discusses the reports of French troops in Ivory Coast firing on a crowd of protestors in Abidjan, making the observation that the press would not have the same relative silence on the event if it had been American troops involved. He also questions the accusations of "decapitation" made by Ivorians and the French response that these allegations are "outrageous" and "strips [the Ivorians] of all credibility ... consist[ing] of disinformation." I think, however, it is the French government engaged in purposeful disinformation concerning the matter.

In the amateur video widely available (both spliced together and compressed on Free Will), one scene clearly shows an individual whose head had essentially been destroyed, presumably the result of a high caliber round. It seems clear that the Ivorian accusations refer simply to the removal/destruction of an individual's head without regard to the method. It seems equally clear that the French officials are intentionally misinterpreting these allegations and trying to make them sound similar to the sort of beheadings seen recently in Iraq. In the comments, the author, John Rosenthal, notes that the same French word could be applied to both, making me wonder if the French might be counting on the possible confusion of terms, especially when their comments are translated into English. That the author of this post had the exact same confusion the French seem to be promoting unfortunately indicates this gambit may be having some success.

That this event could still have so many unanswered questions surrounding it seems almost incredible.
That the French characterize the Ivorian claims as "racist [and] xenophobic remarks" is not nearly as amazing as the complete silence of any contrary opinion that perhaps the apparent wanton disregard for civilian safety demonstrated by the French forces (all of which I saw on the video were white) perhaps had a racial element to it. Don't get me wrong, I am the first to get decry groundless charges of racism that are often used in an effort to silence and demonize one's opponents, but the fact is that throughout the history of Western presence and intervention on the African continent there has always been either an explicit or implicit racial element, pitting the civilized white man against the savage black man.

Besides that, what is the purpose and mandate of the French intervention? By UNSC Resolution 1528, they are specifically charged with the following:
So, under which of these provisions did they essentially destroy the Ivorian Air Force, a major issue of the protests? One might say "protection of ... civilians" except this mandate specifically refers to civilians in "imminent threat of physical violence." I think it is clear that we have here a French effort to protect its political and economic interests in a former colony under the guise of a UN "peace keeping" mission. And the world, for the most part, remains in silent complicity.

Taken as a pattern, how can one look at UN inaction in the face of violence against black Africans not only in Rwanda and Sudan but by its own forces in Côte d'Ivoire and not feel that this disinterest is not racially or ethnically influenced? The sad fact is that as long as the victims are poor and dark and the perpetrators aren't the hated Americans or Israelis there really isn't much concern or interest on behalf of the world.

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