Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Big Oil on Trial For 1995 Nigerian Executions

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The multinational oil corporation Royal Dutch Shell faces civil charges of complicity in Nigerian government crimes against its citizens, most notably the execution of writer/activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and others in 1995. Shell will no doubt present itself as a victim. "It is a false dichotomy to separate the corruption of Nigeria's governments - military or civilian - from the predatory presence of Big Oil. The two are locked in the deepest embrace." Both the paymasters and the thugs are equally guilty of the crime.

Big Oil on Trial For 1995 Nigerian Executions

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Shell can be compared to a businessman who hires a hit man to kill a union organizer.”

The Royal Dutch Shell oil corporation is on trial, in New York, charged in a civil suit with complicity in the death of Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight comrades in 1995. Saro-Wiwa’s execution drew world attention to the environmental catastrophe that oil production has brought to the delta region of the Niger River, home to the Ogoni people. Saro-Wiwa and his co-defendants were tried by a military government, but Shell oil is charged with collaboration in the hangings, and in the torture of many other Ogonis – all to facilitate multi-billion dollar profits. Multinational corporations everywhere are following the case, fearing they too may called to account for their symbiotic relationships with murderous regimes in the resource-rich regions of the world.

Nigeria’s environmental degradation is a by-product of the moral and political rot that flows from neocolonialism. It is the physical manifestation of the total surrender of national sovereignty to foreigners – like Shell oil – by those native classes that rule the land for the benefit of foreigners. To put one’s country’s resources at the disposal of foreigners is the ultimate corruption – which leads to every other conceivable crime.

It is a false dichotomy to separate the corruption of Nigeria’s governments – military or civilian – from the predatory presence of Big Oil. The two are locked in the deepest embrace. The foreign corporations pay the regime to maintain peace – and the regime reciprocates by imposing on the people a “peace of the dead.” There are other sources of corruption in the developing world, other contradictions between people and their governments, but the dominance of economic resources by foreigners exacerbates every other division in society. The competition to get into the foreigners’ money flow becomes the Great Game of national political life. The bigger the money flow, the greater the imperative to keep the people in check. The police and army serve as paid thugs for the foreigners’ protection. The national debasement is total. Nigeria’s most important city, Lagos, is also one of the most expensive in the world – yet 70 percent of Nigerians subsist on a dollar or less a day. There is no greater corruption imaginable.

To put one’s country’s resources at the disposal of foreigners is the ultimate corruption.”

In court, Shell oil will seek to present itself as an innocent party – even a victim of African brutality and corruption. Shell is more properly compared to a businessman who hires a hit man to kill a union organizer. The businessman and the hit man are both guilty of capital murder. The greater onus is on the businessman, whose money made the crime possible.

In the Niger Delta, Ogoni rebels have cut Nigeria’s oil production in half, putting the squeeze on U.S.-based Chevron Oil (where, incidentally, Condoleezza Rice used to work). According to Amnesty International, hundreds of civilians have been killed in the fighting. The Nigerian government has declared the entire delta a military zone. No doubt, great crimes are being committed, at the behest of Big Oil. Before he was put to death, Ken Saro-Wiwa predicted it would come to this.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.



Direct download: 20090527_gf_ken-saor-wiwa.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:33am EDT

Obama Out-Bushes Bush on Preventive Detention

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Constitutionality aside, Barack Obama's preventive detention proposal is "damn near criminally irresponsible" and "like lighting a match in a room full of gasoline." The United States was founded on the principle that "lesser" or "dangerous" peoples should be "detained" for the good of the nation - on reservations or in slavery. Were it not for "rampant race hatred directed against Arabs and spilling over to all Muslims...there would be no serious discussion of preventive detention in the United States, today." The nation's first Black president is provoking a racial whirlwind.

Obama Out-Bushes Bush on Preventive Detention

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Calling for preventive detention in the United States is like lighting a match in a room full of gasoline.”

If George Bush had had the gall to propose changing the laws of the United States to allow people to be detained for long periods without even the intention of putting them on trial, progressives across the nation would be howling that the fascist hordes were at the gates. And they would be right. Even the do-nothing, scared-of-nearly-everything Congressional Black Caucus would be up in arms. George Bush and Dick Cheney empowered to imprison people without trial? Progressives everywhere would be justified in crying out against the threat to civilization as we know it. But when Barack Obama last week proposed the very same thing, preventive detention without trial, there was relative silence. People pretended it was just another Wednesday.

The best thing that can be said about President Obama’s preventive detention remarks is that they are damn near criminally irresponsible. Calling for preventive detention in the United States is like lighting a match in a room full of gasoline. No nation in the industrial world has a history more entwined with detention of whole classes of people, than the U.S. More Americans are incarcerated than any other inhabitants of the planet – in raw numbers, and as a percentage of population. African Americans alone make up one out of every eight prisoners on Earth, as a direct result of decades of deliberate public policy. Japanese Americans were detained for no crime but their ethnicity. Native Americans – those that were not killed outright – were forcibly “detained” on reservations that were in fact open-air prisons. Slavery was the greatest detention of all – a lifetime of house or field arrest, at hard labor, with no prospect of escape for oneself or one’s children – detention without trial for centuries.

Slavery was the greatest detention of all.”

It was the deeply ingrained belief among whites in the necessity of lifetime Black detention under slavery that conditioned Americans to tolerating – or demanding – the harshest criminal justice system in the developed world. Race saturates the American criminal justice conversation – so much so, that one’s race has more impact than one’s crime on whether or not one is ultimately detained in a U.S. prison. Were it not for rampant race hatred directed against Arabs and spilling over to all Muslims, and to those who are mistaken for Muslims, there would be no serious discussion of preventive detention in the United States, today. We would not have witnessed the spectacle of almost the entire U.S. Senate figuratively jumping on top of tables, screaming in terror at the prospect of a few Guantanamo Bay inmates being transferred to maximum security prisons in their states. These senators were exhibiting a kind of primal fear that is both irrational and racist in nature – and a lot scarier than any combination of detainees pacing in a cell. This is America, land of everlasting detention, and preventive execution – where evidence has never been necessary.

Is President Obama aware of the racial whirlwind that he is unleashing with his talk of preventive detention? Or does he care? On thing is certain: on this issue, Obama has proven himself to be worse than George Bush.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20090527_gf_detention.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:29am EDT

Racist Symbolism Posing as Memorial Day Tradition

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The so-called "tradition" of U.S. presidents honoring the Confederate war dead began with the Dixiecrat Woodrow Wilson, in 1914. Wilson, born in Virginia, brought segregation to Washington's federal bureaucracy, and praised the Ku Klux Klan-celebrating movie, Birth of a Nation. The Confederate Memorial at Arlington was designed to honor those who fought to "save Anglo-Saxon civilization" - meaning, white rule. President Obama carries on the tradition.

Racist Symbolism Posing as Memorial Day Tradition

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Obama cannot possibly harbor genuine respect for Black Union dead if he conveys the same honors on Confederates.”

Most of what presidents do is about wielding power, but a great deal of being president is symbolic. Barack Obama is as attuned to symbolism as any of his predecessors – maybe more. When President Obama delivered a wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, on Memorial Day, he knew was playing a very cynical game of incompatible symbols. One cannot pay sincere tribute to the memory of the Black soldiers that fought for the Union in the Civil War, while giving equal honors – or any honors at all – to the soldiers of the Confederacy. But Obama tried to do both. Obama thinks he can finesse anything – which is an indication that he truly respects nothing. He cannot possibly harbor genuine respect for Black Union dead if he conveys the same honors – in the form of a wreath – on Confederates.

Obama is also disrespecting those of us who possess an awareness of history.

The Confederate Memorial was paid for by the Daughters of the Confederacy, and presented as a gift to the federal government in 1914. Woodrow Wilson was president – the most demonstrably racist resident of the White House of the 20th century. The Jim-Crowing of the South was by then all but complete. Wilson was a Democrat – or rather, a Dixiecrat, born in Virginia – and he lost no time imposing segregation on the federal bureaucracy in Washington, DC, where it had not previously existed. Wilson put up walls and partitions to keep Black and white office workers apart, and instituted separate bathrooms. When D.W. Griffith screened his white supremacist epic, Birth of a Nation – a celebration of the Ku Klux Klan – at the White House, President Wilson gave the film its best review. "It's like writing history with lightning,” said Wilson. “And my only regret,” he continued, “is that it is all terribly true."

President Wilson was embracing a national reconciliation with the Confederate cause – at Black people’s expense.”

In short, President Wilson was a low-down, Ku Klux Klan loving, racist dog. It was, therefore, totally in character for Wilson to become the first president to lay a wreath at the Confederate Memorial. The practice began as a political act, celebrating the new consensus among whites, North and South, that the race problem – the “Negro problem” – would no longer divide them. Instead, the South, and Woodrow Wilson’s Washington DC, would be allowed to divide Black people from whites at every level of society – and to lynch those that objected. That’s the spirit behind Woodrow Wilson’s embrace of the Confederate Memorial. He was also embracing a national reconciliation with the Confederate cause – at Black people’s expense.

Barack Obama now continues the symbolic practice, which celebrates the definitive triumph of white supremacy over all vestiges of Black Reconstruction, at the highest level of the U.S. government. African Americans are supposed to accept that the first Black president sends a wreath to honor Confederates, because he also sent a wreath to the Black Unionists’ memorial. Obama doesn’t think we’ll notice that that puts the Black Civil War dead on an equal basis with the people who were trying to put them back into slavery. He pretends not to recognize that that’s an insult to every decent American. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.



Direct download: 20090527_gf_confederate_memorial.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:24am EDT