Who Hijacked Our Country

Monday, March 06, 2006

Civil Wars and Global Corporations

In the Congo, the death toll is now close to six million people. Their civil war has been going on for ten years now, with no end in sight. Most of the deaths have been civilians — killed by starvation and disease.

And you didn’t even know there was a civil war going on in the Congo. (I didn’t either until a few days ago.) Who wants to hear about a civil war killing millions of people in some Third World country?

The war is between the Congolese army and different rebel groups backed by Uganda and Rwanda. This war has been called “Africa’s First World War” and “the world’s most neglected emergency.” They’re fighting over control of the natural resources in the area: diamonds, tin, copper, gold and most of all, coltan (I hadn’t heard of it either).

Coltan is a heat-resistant mineral that’s heavily used in cell phones and laptops. Because of the huge demand, coltan mining is bringing in millions of dollars to the governments and militias fighting over turf.

On the surface this looks like ethnic warfare. But the flames are being fanned by the corporations that are buying these minerals. All of the coltan is bought by just three companies: Cabot Inc. (American), H.C. Starc (German) and Nigncxia (Chinese). These are the only companies that are able to process coltan for use in electronic components. The final product is then sold to Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Sony, etc.

In the “small world” department, Sam Bodman, former CEO of Cabot Inc. is now George W. Bush’s Secretary of Energy. When Bush was governor of Texas, he permitted Cabot and several other major polluters to maintain or even increase their levels of toxic emissions.

Weapons from all over the U.S. and Europe are pouring into the Congo — just what they need.

Congo’s civil war is affecting everyone in the country. Farmers who have been displaced have practically no choice except to work in the mines. Many other people are forced into prostitution. About two million people in the region are HIV-infected.

The deforestation caused by the mining has wiped out endangered species. The increased poverty and desperation has led people to hunt gorillas and other endangered animals for food. The biodiversity of the region is irreversibly damaged.

The Eastern Lowland Gorilla is close to extinction. In 1991 there were about 8,000 of them. As of the year 2000, there were less than a thousand of them left.

This article concludes with:

“Somehow, it’s not surprising that this information isn’t included in the instruction manual that comes with your cell phone. Perhaps mobile phones should be outfitted with stickers that read: ‘Warning! This device was created with raw materials from central Africa. These materials are rare, non-renewable, were sold to fund a bloody civil war and have caused the virtual elimination of endangered species. Have a nice day.’ People need to realize that there is a direct link between the gadgets that make their lives more convenient and the frightening reality of the violence, turmoil and destruction that plague our world.”

cross-posted at Bring It On!


Blogger Anji said...

I'm always amazed how people in the States are the last to know about these wars. I suppose it's because there is no advantage to the government.

A couple of years back I taught a little girl who was half congalese, she was so worried about her Grandma, they'd had no contact for a year or so.

March 6, 2006 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Anji: Yeah, it's true, most Americans just live in their own insular world and have little interest in what's beyond our borders. Other countries? Whatever, what's on TV?

I try to tune into Al-Jazeera and BBC sometimes just to get an international perspective. I also get Canadian newspapers, TV and radion stations since we live near the border. But it's just too easy in this country to be completely surrounded by nothing but celebrity gossip and the sanitized news that the government wants us to hear.

March 6, 2006 at 11:51 PM  
Blogger Mags said...

It's so true - we here in the States have to actively search for information on what's going on in Africa. I had some previous knowledge of the civil war in the Congo, and of coltan, but to be honest, and to my shame, I thought the civil war was over or at least dealt with.

And then there's Darfur, the genocide that we rarely hear about.

Somehow, someone has decided that Africa just isn't "news" here.

Africa, the so-called birthplace of humanity, has always been pretty much ignored. Why this is, I don't understand. It's like nobody cares. Why is that? Obviously the land is rich with natural resources - but if it were rich in oil, would the US and the rest of the world hold Africa in a totally different regard? Is it - and I hesitate to say this, but it has to be said - some form of inherent racism? It's so very sad.

March 7, 2006 at 12:29 AM  
Blogger The Rambling Taoist said...

You bleeding heart Liberal! Don't you know that exploitation, death and war is what makes the global capitalist world spin 'round? It's what makes the "developed" world so damn, filthy rich!!

[Gosh, I've got to stop channeling Karl Rove!]

March 7, 2006 at 1:46 AM  
Blogger Just Chris said...

Wow. Six million people. And not a word on any major media station. Of course, they are all owned by the same 5 conglomates. Discusting.

March 7, 2006 at 2:00 AM  
Anonymous cj said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog this morning. I am absolutely amazed day after day of the things that my coworkers have no idea about that are going on in the world. Somedays I chalk it up to the fact that they are at a point in their life where the world revolves around them... but then again so many don't seem to ever grow out of that. Thanks for posting such a thoughtful article that brings out the tragedy that is going on that no one seems to notice.

March 7, 2006 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mags: I'm sure racism plays a role in this. But mostly I think it's just Americans' ignorance about the world beyond our borders. While the rest of the world is flattening and getting more global, too many Americans are just as insular as they were in the 1950s. And our "media" spends too much time reporting celebrity gossip and government press releases, and not enough real news.

Rambling Taoist: Ah yes, between global exploitation and more tax cuts, the world's wealthiest VIPs will get even wealthier. And that's a good thing, because someday some of that wealth will trickle down to the rest of us. And pigs will fly.

Master C: Yeah, our straightjacketed "media" has more important things to report on. Britney Spears might be pregnant again -- who cares about some civil war in a far off country?

CJ: Thanks. Yeah, it's amazing how many terrible things are going on in the world that our "media" isn't telling us about.

March 7, 2006 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger PoliShifter said...

Who wants to hear about wars when we can tune in to Rita Cosby to get the latest on Natalie Holloway.

Besides, if Fox News doesn't report it, then it is likely just the liberal media making it up.

Joking aside Tom, thanks for bringing this to my attention.

6 million people...I don't think the American People can fathom such carnage.

The sad thing about Rwanda and the Congo is it plays to those psuedo-elite think tanks that aspire to Kissingerims and population reduction.

I am sure there are several reasons why we are doing nothing about.

1) no oil or natural resources we want

2) population reduction

What the American People don't know can't hurt them.

There's always Donny Rumsfeld to tell us there's no civil war in Iraq. Perhaps he can do the same with the Congo.

March 7, 2006 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

PoliShifter: Yup, Natalie Holloway is a lot more tantalizing than some civil war in a country nobody's ever heard of.

It's hard to say which is worse: that we're ignoring this problem and most Americans don't even know about it, or to have the PNAC come up with a huge master plan to bring "democracy" to Central Africa.

March 7, 2006 at 7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had HEARD of the war, thats when I was listening to NPR. But I thought it was over, maybe because I quit listening to NPR Hmmmmmm. If my foreign friends have a point Americans give very little hoot for international affairs and we are just as calloused to 3rd world woes as we are to the late night Sally Struthers commercials begging us to feed these poor little kids of color

In the 60's when there was unrest in Africa somebody asked Dick Gregory if the United States would send troops to Africa and he said "Never" and they asked why not and he replied:




March 7, 2006 at 9:13 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: Unfortunately, most Americans don't have much awareness beyond their own daily routines. I think almost everyone else in the world has a more global/international perspective on things; I hope Americans start thinking more globally at some point.

Good answer by Dick Gregory. I went to one of his speeches in 1967. A very powerful speaker.

March 7, 2006 at 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Larry Baum said...

I was upset about lack of such important international news reporting for years. Finally, I decided to do something--however small--about this problem by creating a news website called Human News that would have an editorial policy giving space to stories depending on how many people are affected.

For example, stories on the Congo War might be thousands of time the length of a story on a plane crash. In fact, the first issue had an article on the Congo War. The latest issue also mentions it.

I hope that eventually media will adopt some sense of proportion in what they cover. Maybe they won't go 100% quantitative as I've done in Human News, but at least they might give a thought to a bit more balance between the neglected and the overcovered stories.


March 8, 2006 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Larry Baum: Thanks for the links. This looks like a great site with in-depth articles.

March 8, 2006 at 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for delving into the background on this. I'm aware of the oil, but didn't know about the specialized rescources...


March 8, 2006 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger zencomix said...

Cue up Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner

March 8, 2006 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Cool Aqua: Thanks.

Zencomix: Thanks for the link (and the information). I liked Warren Zevon but I never knew that song.

March 8, 2006 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger Mike V. said...

Hell, Tom, why stop that particular civil war? It keeps the price of the raw materials down, don't it??

March 8, 2006 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mike V.: Yeah, we need those raw materials. Hell with worrying about some civil war, especially when they all have dark skin and talk funny :)

March 8, 2006 at 6:51 PM  

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