Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Harriet Tubman Didn't Turn Themselves In, Why Should Edward Snowden?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

If there's one thing House tea party Republicans, liberal Senate Democrats, the White House and corrupt TV talking heads from Fox to MSNBC all agree on, it's that Edward Snowden is an ungrateful thief with an exaggerated sense of his own importance. The fact that Snowden is no heroic whistleblower, is proved they say, by his not going through legal channels, by his theft of government and proprietary secrets, by his wilfull violation of confidentiality oaths and federal laws, and most of all by Snowden's international flight, and his completely unreasonable refusal to turn himself in for possible life imprisonment and likely torture.

Federal cops and/or intelligence officials bringing secret requests under secret interpretations of law to harvest, store and data mine literally every phone call, every credit card transaction, every email, instant message, tweet, web search and digital brain fart of 310 million Americans to a secret court whose dockets and rulings are also secret, which doesn't matter much because the secret court never tells the government no ---- is either not a problem at all, or at worst something we should discuss and address through legal channels. The problem of course, is that if Snowden had not violated the law there would be insider confirmation of official crimes, and if he turned himself over to the tender mercies of the powerful criminals he exposed --- well that simply makes no sense.

A hundred sixty-some years ago Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass violated state and federal laws by stealing valuable property – their own persons – and fleeing north. While living quietly as a fugitive, Tubman armed herself and returned south again and again to steal an estimated 300 more pieces of human property. While also a fugitive Frederick Douglass became a public and highly illegal whistleblower. He lectured audiences on the evils of slavery, and eventually fled to Europe to avoid the long arm of the law. John Brown freed slaves in Missouri, led expeditions against pro-slavery death squads in Kansas and was a wanted fugitive for the remainder of his life.

The very idea of whistleblowers and dissidents needing to be “respectable” in the eyes of law and authority, and even turn themselves in is clearly nonsense. Back in the day, authorities cast aspersions on the characters of Brown and Douglass, and on any slave who rebelled, ran away or otherwise violated his legal obligation to serve. We should treat speculations on Snowden's motives, when they come from those being exposed, the same way we treat a slaveholder's opinion of Tubman, Douglass or Brown.

Every day that Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and John Brown walked the world as fugitives was a victory for real truth and freedom. Every day Edward Snowden remains free to speak and be heard is a hopeful day for all of us. He's no more obligated to turn himself in than the freedom fighters of sixteen decades ago.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at), or via this site's contact page.

Direct download: 20130626_bd_fugitives_from_justice.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:14pm EDT

The Obamas Do Africa

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

The U.S. is not in the business of fair and mutually beneficial trade – it’s about the business of imperialism.”

The President and his family are spending a week in sub-Saharan Africa, with Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa on the itinerary. The focus of the trip, if you believe the White House, is trade, an arena in which the United States has been eclipsed by China since 2009. China, by some measurements, now does nearly twice as much business with Africa as the U.S., and the gap is growing. It is now commonly accepted that the Chinese offer far better terms of trade and investment than the Americans, that they create more jobs for Africans, and their investments leave behind infrastructure that can enrich their African trading partners in the long haul.

No one expects Obama to offer anything on this trip that will reverse America’s declining share of the African market. That’s because the U.S. is not in the business of fair and mutually beneficial trade – it’s about the business of imperialism, which is another matter, entirely. The Americans ensure their access to African natural resources through the barrel of a gun.

So, while the Chinese and Indians and Brazilians and other economic powerhouses play by the rules of give and take, the U.S. tightens its military grip on the continent through its ever-expanding military command, AFRICOM.

To justify its rapid militarization of Africa, Washington plunges whole regions of the continent into chaos. U.S. policies, under presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, have utterly destroyed Somalia, made the Horn of Africa a theater of war, drawn the northern tier of the continent into America’s cauldron of terror, and killed six million people in the eastern Congo.

The Americans ensure their access to African natural resources through the barrel of a gun.”

The face of America in Africa is war, not trade; extraction of minerals by military intimidation, not conventional commerce. Washington’s priority is to embed AFRICOM ever deeper into the militaries of African states – rather than configuring more favorable trade relationships on the continent. But you won’t learn that from the U.S. corporate media, which chooses to focus on the $100 million cost of Obama’s African trip, or to look for human interest angles on Obama’s decision not to touch down in his father’s homeland, Kenya. However, even that angle is too sinister for deeper exploration by the corporate press, because Kenya’s absence from the itinerary is meant as a threat.

The United States is angry because Washington wanted the Kenyan people to elect a different president, one more acceptable to U.S. policymakers. The Americans expected the whole of Kenyan civil society to bend to Washington’s will, and reject the candidacy of Uhuru Kenyatta, simply to please the superpower. When that didn’t happen, it was decided that Kenya must be shunned, despite its past services to U.S. imperialism.

Skipping Kenya was a warning that more serious repercussions may lurk in the future – which is a potent threat, because the U.S. controls most of the guns of Africa. As the U.S.-backed warlord in Somalia said in Jeremy Scahill’s excellent film The Dirty War, “The Americans are masters of war.” War, and the threat of war, is the reality behind every U.S. presidential visit, to Africa and everywhere else. Whether the terms of trade are good or bad, the declining U.S. empire will get access to the resources it needs, or thousands – millions! – will die.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20130626_gf_ObamaInAfrica.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:25am EDT