Date: Thu, 7 Nov 1996 10:57:59 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 7, 1996 A M E
Date: Thu, 7 Nov 1996 10:57:59 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for November 7, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#194 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 11/7/96
In This Issue... A Special Report
* Another Robertson Fling With Authoritarian Politics
* About This List...
MOBUTO-ROBERTSON ~~ A CHRISTIAN ''DANCES WITH DICTATORS'' SAGA
The Chaos In Zaire Highlights Links Between Televangelist Pat
And A Thuggish African Dictator
When the "soft money" scandal linking President Clinton and the Democratic
National Committee to foreign interests like the powerful Riady family hit,
the media all but ignored similar ties involving powerful televangelist Pat
Robertson. While Robertson's Christian Coalition was calling "foul" over a
Buddhist temple fund-raiser which funneled money into DNC coffers, few people
realized that Robertson's International Family Entertainment, Inc. was a
partner with the Riady Family, the Indonesian dynasty which runs the Lippo
Group, to market television programming in China and other Asian countries.
Now, Robertson's international connections are once again highlighted due
to the avuncular preacher's links to Zaire's megalomaniac dictator, Mobutu
Sese Seko. To borrow a Christian Coalition phrase, Zaire is now in
"meltdown" following decades of strongman rule by Mobuto, and ethnic civil
war, along with the influx of over a million refugees displaced by fighting
in the eastern part of the country.
If anything, Mobutu is just another example of the penchant of religious
right leaders -- in this case Robertson -- to involve themselves with figures
and causes which represent the most repressive social and political agendas.
The "Great Leopard"
A former army commander, Mobutu seized power in a 1965 coup and
immediately began to nurture a "cult of personality" around himself. He
ordered schools to replace Christian crosses with his portrait in every
classroom, and he appropriated the title of Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngfbendu Wa
Za Banga, which roughly translated means "the all-powerful warrior who, by
his endurance and will to win, goes from conquest to conquest leaving fire in
his wake.." His promises of African populism quickly turned sour. A tribal
secret police force was soon jailing and executing political dissidents, and
money was flowing from government coffers into foreign accounts belonging to
Mobutu and his cronies. Bizarre laws instructed the 40 million Zaireans how
to dress, even what names they could use. The Christian Science Monitor notes
in today's edition that "His influence is such that many Zaireans fear him
even when he is thousands of miles away. A network of spies and secret
police keeps residents in the capital looking over their shoulders when they
talk of the 'Great Leopard,' as Mobutu is known."
Despite this, Mobutu served as a key U.S. ally on the African continent
during the cold war, and attracted the interest of both foreign intelligence
services and the American religious right. For both groups, the dictator was
seen as a check on socialist Angola; both Zaire and the United States
supported the rebel movement UNITA under the leadership of Jonas Savimbi.
In the early 1980's, Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network was
already a key player in an alliance of business interests, intelligence
operatives and "private aid" networks proping up "anticommunist" mercenary
forces throughout the world, especially in Latin America. Robertson was
rubbing shoulders with this cabal of freebooters, which included the
Unification Church (Rev. Moon), John Singlaub (World Anti Communist League)
and paramilitary outfits like the Civilian Military Assistance. CBN was
beating the drums on behalf of "contra" efforts in Nicaragua, and groups like
Committee for a Free Afghanistan which backed the Islamic Mujahadeen alliance
against the Soviet invasion of that country, and the Free Angola Committee
which boosted Savimbi.
When the Angolan government reached an agreement with foreign oil
interests including the giant Chevron firm, it was a major blow to Robertson
and the interests who had been using Mobutu and Zaire as a rebel staging
area. In 1986, Robertson was calling for renewed support of UNITA, and
joined with Howard Phillips' Conservative Caucus to launch a boycott campaign
against Chevron. Phillips was still a Republican operative and was a key
figure in the burgeoning religious right movement, and was already well on
the way toward embracing the extreme Christian Reconstructionist dogmas that
he holds today.
For his role in allowing Zaire to be used as a staging area for aid to
Savimbi, Mobutu became a cause celebre for Robertson and the Christian right.
But change was on the way, and with thaw in the cold war even the U.S State
Department was growing concerned with Mobutu's strongman rule . On April 24,
1990, Mobutu ("under pressure," according to news sources), ended
single-party rule and began to create the illusion of a pluralistic
government, first by appointing opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi as prime
minister, then quickly replacing him with Leon Kengo.
Robertson stayed involved in Zaire through a Christian Broadcasting
Network outreach called "Operation Blessing," and a less-publicized venture
known as African Development Company. ADC operated a diamond-mining project
and forestry range on one of the government's concession tracts, part of
Zaire's $300 million annual trade in the precious stone market. And
Robertson became more of a mouthpiece for Mobutu, a fact which prompted Dr.
Makau Muta of the Harvard Law School's Human Rights Program to declare that
"Robertson is Mobutu's biggest American catch."
By 1995, Robertson was part of a network of boosters for the Zairean
dictator which included a group of paid consultants, religious right
activists and intelligence operatives. In August of 1995, Robertson
announced efforts to persuade the U.S. State Department to lift its ban on
granting Mobutu a visa, reversing a policy which had been implemented two
years earlier. The Washington Post quoted State Department sources who
insisted that contrary to Robertson, "Mobutu hasn't changed...What he wants
is a transition from the second Mobutu republic to the third Mobutu
The Post noted that "The long U.S. bill of particulars against him
(Mobutu) includes massive corruption, personal enrichment on a spectacular
scale at his country's expense, indifference to the physical deterioriation
of what should be a prosperous country, connivance at rearming the murderous
Hutu militias of neighboring Rwanda and repeated maneuvers to the frustrate
the process of transition to democracy that he has promised to support."
A Clinton administration source told the Post that "Robertson's hand is
all over" the visa lobbying campaign. Also helping were some other
operatives with long-standing ties to Robertson groups and the religious
right. They included:
* Paul Erickson ~ political consultant and political director for the 1992
primary campaign for Pat Buchanan.
* Jack Abramoff, former director of Citizens for America (bankrolled by
drugstore magnate Lewis Lehrman), one of the "private aid" groups that was
part of the Oliver North's operation to aid the Nicaraguan contras, and a
Board Member of "Towards Tradition," a religious-conservative Jewish group
that works closely with Robertson's Christian Coalition.
Abramoff, like Robertson, was often an apologist for the former apartheid
regime in South Africa. While chairman of the College Republican National
Committee he traveled to South Africa in order to forge relations with the
extreme right National Student Federation. And he produced the 1989 film
"Red Scorpion," supposedly a loose interpretation of the story of Jonas
Savimbi; the movie was financed in part by the then aparteid government of
But Abramoff was involved even deeper in South African intrigue,
especially efforts to prop up the apartheid regime, portray Nelson Mandela
and the African National Congress as tools of international communism, and
support the role of the Inkatha (Zulu) Freedom Party. Abramoff was involved
in the International Freedom Foundation, founded in 1986 as a Washington
"think-tank," but according to some an overseas asset of the South African
National Defence Force and intelligence service, BOSS (Bureau of State
Security). Newsday revealed that its investigation discovered: "A
respectable Washington foundation which drew into its web prominent
Republican and conservative figures such as Senator Jesse Helms and other
members of Congress, was actually a front organization bankrolled by South
Africa's last white rulers to prolong apartheid..." Involved in IFF projects
along with Abramoff were such Washington heavy-hitters as Rep. Dan Burton
(R-Ind.), Rep. Robert Dornan and presidential candidate Alan Keyes.
Chaos in Zaire
Following thirty years of authoritarian rule by Mobutu and over a decade
of efforts by the American religious right to prop-up the dictators public
image, Zaire is in shambles. Inflation has soared by nearly 100% in the last
several months, and "ethnic cleansing" and warfare is rampant between the
Tutsi and Hutu tribal groups. A staggering amount of the country's wealth
(one estimate is $10 billion) has been looted by Mobutu, who is recovering
from prostate surgery in Europe.
The human rights "Zaire Watch" charges that Mobutu "has used the Rwandan
refugee situation to prop himself up. His policies have created serious
tensions at the borders between Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi. He has
consistently used people who committed genocide in Rwanda to destabilize
Rwanda for the last year and a half. He has also contributed to the crisis
in Burundi by allowing Burundi rebels to attack their country using Zaire as
their staging base..."
Pat Robertson and other extreme political religious interests in America
may be President Mobutu's last and only hope to retain power, or even find a
place to settle if his regime is overthrown. The Swiss have granted a
passport to Mobutu since their banks hold an estimated $4 billion of the
autocrat's money, but most other European nations are either luke-warm of
hostile on the prospect of extending exile status to the ailing dictator. He
may not even return to Zaire, preferring to remain at his palatial
Mediterranean palace on the Cote d"Azur in France.
Ironically, some analysts -- and even citizens in Zaire -- see a Mobutu
return as the only way to stabilize the country and "keep the generals in
line." Zaire may disintegrate into tribal provinces. There is also the
prospect of an international military-aid operation involving French and even
American troops; reports suggest, though, that many Zaireans are resentful of
the French who, they say, want to bolster Mobutu's shaky rule. Regardless of
the outcome, the Zairean tragedy remains a massive violation of human rights,
and another example of Pat Robertson's problematic involvement with corrupt,
authoritarian political interests.
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