Fight on, Sister McKinney
Afghan dope on U.S. streets
Don't bet Black futures on the market
Rep. Clyburn bears witness to racist crime

Dear Reader,

The electoral defeat of Rep. Cynthia McKinney signals the end of any "special relationship" between African Americans and mainstream organized American Jewry. Plenty of Blacks will make themselves available to tell these mainstream Jewish organizations differently, but the end has come, nonetheless.

(Note my language, carefully: I did not say that we have reached the end of any relationship with "the Jews." I did not make blanket reference to "Jews" in general. "Mainstream" refers to the powerful, established, politically directed institutions that claim to speak for Jewish American concerns. They are well known, and require no listing in this brief letter.)

Many African Americans will say the final break has been a long time in the making, that the relentless attacks on affirmative action mounted by mainstream Jewish groups beginning in the Seventies sundered Black-Jewish connections, decisively. I don't think relationships among peoples are as simple as that. When old ties unravel, they make a mess of the place, leaving frays here and clumps over there. It's hard to be sure what tore when.

But when the relationship is truly over, both parties know it. Sometimes it's nobody's fault, or a shared responsibility. In the case of the massive unraveling that has occurred over the past year - climaxing in the assaults on Rep. Cynthia McKinney - mainstream Jewish groups must take all of the blame.

Jewish American mainstream organizations have fallen under the sway of racist right-wingers in both Israel and the United States. They have acted in concert with the Christian and corporate Hard Right to undermine Black political cohesion and independence. They promote the careers of Black surrogates to thwart the genuine aspirations of the people. This is the conduct of an enemy.

These organizations have acted with cruel, gratuitous arrogance. They have already achieved over-kill levels of congressional influence in Middle East affairs, but insist on grinding the last, mainly Black pockets of opposition into the dirt. They brag and strut, reveling in their power to intervene in the politics of the Black community. Such displays of relative strength - rooted in money and media - are designed to create deep animosities. We will all reap the whirlwind.

Perhaps there has been significant internal protest within mainstream Jewry against this charge to the right, but we have not heard it. Instead, those media organs most closely associated with the Jewish mainstream have spoken with one voice, as if reading from a common script, with words of open contempt for the dignity and aspirations of Black people. They have lied and smeared and, yes, conspired to foist their own candidates upon Black people.

Those once-special ties are becoming especially hostile.

The Black Commentator engages in vigorous critiques of the internal workings of the African American body-politic. We do not shy away from "airing dirty linen in public," because we realize that it is impossible to reach the Black public without everyone else listening in. We also believe it is important to address our white allies - and they do exist - plainly and honestly.

We don't hear the sounds of any equivalent debate from within the centers of mainstream Jewish organizations. Even on the Jewish Left, the near-silence is appalling. To us, that signifies either cowardice or capitulation to the racists of the congregation.

Jews continue to be at the core of white progressivism in America - as individuals. And we acknowledge the many, small groups that proclaim themselves to be committed to peace and justice as Jews. I know that many Jewish progressives recoil in revulsion at the havoc that is being wreaked in the name of the Jews. Their burden has become heavier in the wake of 9 - 11 and the madness that has swept Tel Aviv and Washington.

The dramatic rightward lunge within the American Jewish mainstream affects more than just relations with African Americans. It is intimately connected to the criminal policies of the Ariel Sharon regime in Israel. For a look at the American supporters of Sharon who are behind some of the most horrific distortions in U.S. foreign policy, we recommend "The Men From JINSA and CSP," by Jason Vest, in this week's issue of The Nation - a magazine largely written by Jews who remain on the right side of history.

Cynthia McKinney earned the overwhelming support of Blacks, nationally and within her district. Her stature as a leader has been enhanced for having fought so courageously. The American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its money, the media that it speaks through, and the Republicans and other rightists who combined against McKinney cannot separate her from her constituency, or weaken Black determination to exercise our own political will.

AIPAC has done Jews a great disservice.

A tale of two lawsuits

Two sets of families of 9/11 victims filed suit in federal court, this summer, seeking to prove that culpability for the attacks goes beyond Osama bin Laden's al Qaida. One group went after bin Laden's family business, members of the Saudi Arabian royal family, and the nation of Sudan, demanding $116 trillion. This faction made lots of news.

The second group filed suit against President Bush, Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Norman Mineta, Secretary of Transportation. These families are only suing for $7 billion dollars, but the much lower price tag is not the reason you probably never heard about their litigation.

Both sets of plaintiffs present compelling scenarios to back up their claims. Each group should be seen as having equal moral authority, as relatives of people killed under the same circumstances. But only one of the suits is deemed fully newsworthy.

The group suing the Saudis and Sudan wants to bankrupt both nations, charging they are financiers of terrorism. On the face of things, the anti-Arab litigants would seem like the more wild-eyed parties - $116 trillion is almost 12 times the yearly gross domestic product of the United States, the world's biggest economy. Put another way, the award sought is equal to three years of the entire planet's economic output ($37.7 trillion, annually).

The more modest, $7 billion families charge that Bush and his cronies knew in the months and weeks before September 11 that something horrible was about to happen, and let the crime unfold, anyway. As the online publication Truth Out explains, this is called the LIHOP theory: Let It Happen On Purpose. The 400 anti-Bush family members cite repeated warnings from Israeli, German, Russian and Egyptian intelligence agencies, of plans to hijack airplanes to use as weapons against U.S. targets of symbolic importance.

The 600 anti-Arab relatives refer to evidence uncovered by French intelligence, that the Saudi princes were being shaken down by bin Laden, after having initially funded his activities. The princes were afraid, the story goes, that bin Laden would attack their business enterprises if they didn't pay him hush money.

These two versions of reality are not mutually exclusive. They do not contradict one another, and can be argued on their own terms. Both contain facts that are now obvious: The foreign intelligence warnings were real. Dick Cheney and Presidential-brother Jeb Bush took precautions that make no sense unless they were fearful of something big. Saudi princes did fund bin Laden projects. Sudan did have a financial arrangement with Al Qaida operatives.

Yet major media coverage favors the anti-Arab faction of litigants. It's a lot safer, politically, although the LIHOP theory is at least as rich in evidence.

When it comes to searching for dangerous truths, the corporate media don't want to know.

Fields of poppies, but no news

We have yet to read any breakdown of the percentage of heroin reaching U.S. streets from Afghanistan since the crushing of the Taliban, who by most accounts had seriously attempted to eradicate the poppy crop. Reports from cities around the U.S. indicate that cheap smack is in big supply. As we wrote in our April 5 issue, the CIA's covert arrangements with anti-Soviet Afghans in the late-Seventies and early Eighties succeeded in boosting the Afghan share of the U.S. heroin market to 60 %.

Media dispatches show clearly that pro-U.S. Afghan warlords are cashing in on the country's poppy crop with impunity, their reward for standing by the American-installed government in Kabul. However, the consequent reign of terror on American streets appears to be a taboo subject for most American reporters, in sharp contrast to the British press. "[A] bumper harvest suggests an increased amount of the drug on its way to the UK, where 90% of heroin originates in Afghanistan," reports the BBC. "The new government in Kabul has to rely on a patchwork of militias and factions, some of whom are heavily involved in the drugs trade themselves."

Every warlord in Afghanistan is a paid ally of the U.S. To remain outside the fold means death or a cave-bound existence. The Taliban and al Qaida are in no shape to cultivate or refine poppies. The Afghan heroin on U.S. streets is a result of the way George Bush is running the war. Now, don't you feel safer?

Don't bet Black futures on the market

Last issue, we noted that Burger King, the number two icon of American cuisine and the focus of many Black self-help through franchise-ownership dreams of days gone by, had been unceremoniously gobbled up by a faceless conglomerate. We thought it a sign of the times that BK's selling price, $2.26 billion, represented just 60% of the value of a single, $3.8 billion (felonious) "mistake" on the Expense ledgers of Worldcom, a now-bankrupt multi-national corporation.

We brought this item to your attention to dramatize the cosmic scale of money-manipulation - legal and illegal - under contemporary corporate rule, and to take a dig at those who once (and still) preached Black liberation through private capital accumulation.

No sooner had we published the issue, than Worldcom announced that it had found another "mistake" worth an additional $3.3 billion, bringing the total discrepancy to $7.1 billion - more than three times the value of Burger King!

A whole world of ghetto dreams shrinks to the vanishing point, in such a mad universe. It was with sadness, then, that we witnessed a speaker at the Reparations rally in Washington make the case for the centrality of Black business in the struggle to transform African American lives. All of us are forced to maneuver under the terms of global corporatism; the super-rich invented the rules and run the game. In this framework, we build our little companies to accomplish what we want to do in life. There is no other choice at this point in history, because the rules allow none.

But please, do not spin dreams of liberation based on "the market." We cannot sit down at that table, where Burger King is served up as a snack for the real players.

More free enterprise mythology

We'd like to share with you a portion of one of Black South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn's reports to his constituents. Clyburn does a great service by testifying to the true nature of "free enterprise" in the U.S.

In 1971, Governor John Carl West appointed me the first African American to hold an administrative position on a South Carolina chief executive's staff - at least as far as we know. I feel certain, however, that a memorandum I saw while serving in that capacity was not intended for my eyes. The memorandum had been written by an economic development consultant and listed counties to be avoided when recruiting industry to the state. These counties were all rural and all predominantly black. The theory was that South Carolina, a right to work state, could see the proliferation of labor unions if industries located in these counties because African Americans were deemed to be "joiners." At the time I didn't understand the significance of what I had seen. Today I do.

Some of those counties now fall within Clyburn's district, and are among the least developed in the state. What the congressman describes is organized theft and corruption, glimpsed briefly 31 years ago, resulting in ruination of Black lives in South Carolina to this very day. In the tally of Reparations, what is this single, accidentally witnessed crime worth? How many billions of dollars would be required to address this injustice to Clyburn's hundreds of thousands of Black constituents, alone?

A few more Black businesses in the deliberately blighted area will not begin to make up for such systemic depredation. Far more useful would be efforts to unionize the entire district, state and region, and thus bring about the racists' original, worst nightmare.


Glen Ford, Co-Publisher

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Other commentaries in this issue:

Zimbabwe's Mugabe and White Farmers: by Dr. A. Chika Onyeani, Guest Commentator

The Promise of Reparations

DC's Measure 62: A Green Light for Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation
by Opio Lumumba Sokoni, J.D., Guest Commentator

Commentaries in Issue Number 9 - August 8, 2002

The State of Black American Politics: Dr. Martin Kilson's Report to the National Urban League

Dignity - Plus a Living Wage and Benefits: Home health care workers win victories - for themselves and civilization

A letter to our readers: Burger King digested... Ashcroft stalks librarians... Cory Booker roams wilderness

e-Mailbox: McKinney: A Hero in Need of Money... Rep. Hilliard Rebuked on Ivy League Warning... Forget About Randall Kennedy!

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety on the Past Issues page.