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In the process of recognizing Harvard Professor Martin Kilson’s many valued contributions to The Black Commentator, we did a grave injustice to our first Guest Commentator, New York City writer Patrice D. Johnson. Ms. Johnson’s piece, “Racial Profiling,” graced ’s inaugural issue, April 5, 2002. Her examination of the consequences of “Talking While Black” in America is as good a read today as it was fifteen months ago.  

Dr. Kilson’s piece, “How to Spot a Black Trojan Horse” exposed Hard Right front man Cory Booker’s stealth campaign to become Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and appeared in our second issue, May 8, 2002. In our July 31 e-MailBox column, we mistakenly cited the Kilson piece as ’s first Guest Commentary. The reasons are – inexplicable, possibly neurological, and certainly not justifiable by the catchall excuse of haste.  

We are humbled to relearn a lesson: one should be careful not to slight one dear friend in the rush to honor another. Our apologies to Ms. Johnson, a friend and colleague of more than two decades, for treating her like “chopped liver.”  

Black progressives will not be gagged

As this column was being prepared, a judge appointed by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe ruled that the government may press forward with treason charges against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The judge dropped charges against two others accused in plotting to kill Mugabe.  

Mugabe insists that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) recognize the legitimacy of his presidency as a prerequisite to talks sought by the Presidents of South Africa, Malawi and Nigeria – a concession that elements of MDC’s leadership have resisted. The opposition’s demands, submitted to Zimbabwean church leaders seeking to mediate the political crisis, include “normalization of relations” with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, according to  

Clearly, there is a lot more going on in Zimbabwe besides the “plight” of white farmers, whose numbers have been shrunk by more than half – and their holdings by far more than that – over the last three years. Yet many Black Mugabe supporters in the U.S. are weirdly bonded with the corporate media in their mutual determination to limit discussion of Zimbabwe to seizures of land from the dwindling white commercial farmers, to the exclusion of all other issues of urgency to 12 million Zimbabweans, their neighbors, and activists in the Diaspora.  

As reported by the June 27 Final Call, the December 12 Movement has “been in the forefront in orchestrating the response to a June 3 letter sent to Pres. Mugabe” that harshly criticized his repression of civil society in Zimbabwe. The letter was signed by prominent African American progressives, including Bill Fletcher, President of TransAfrica Forum; Salih Booker, of Africa Action; former Ambassador Horace G. Dawson, director of the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University; Patricia Ann Ford, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union; Julianne Malveaux, TransAfrica Forum board member; Rev. Justus Y. Reeves, executive director of the Mission Ministry of the Progressive National Baptist Convention; the Coordinating Committee of the Black Radical Congress; and William Lucy, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.  

considers the slanders unleashed by December 12 Movement activists and others against the signers of the Open Letter a kind of crude and unacceptable “gag rule” that is “designed to shut down African American discourse on the subject of African development and democracy, itself.” As we wrote in “The Debate on Zimbabwe Will Not Be Throttled,” July 31:  

“Espousing a twisted kind of Black “solidarity” that mirrors the ‘patriotism’ of the white Right in the U.S., these groups claim that criticism of Mugabe gives aid and comfort to American and British schemes against the national independence of Zimbabwe. Since the Americans and British are always scheming to commit crimes against Africa, the threat to Black American critics of Mugabe and other African Strong Men is meant to be a permanent injunction. Under these terms, the time will never be right for progressives in the Diaspora to make common cause with the African people, if that involves strong critiques of specific African governments.”  

Mark Anderson made good use of the summer pause to compose a commentary-length response to our Cover story and its five companion documents:  

I saw your story on Zimbabwe while reading one of my favorite websites I just wanted to thank you for putting it together, including a range of perspectives and in a format that hopefully can spark a more serious level of discussion in the Pan-African World. Lord knows we need it, because ignorance is our greatest internal threat.

As an informed observer of the situation in Zimbabwe and the debate taking place within our community, I have been disappointed by what has been happening. In my view, many of those most critical or supportive of the current government who have spoken/written in the public, have used arguments based on analyses that are insufficient to raise the level of consciousness in our community to a level where we could actually mobilize concrete support for the people of Zimbabwe. 

Your story helps address those weaknesses in the debate and opens up deeper questions which we need to begin raise, such as:

1. How is our community going to tackle our conditions as African people in the 21st century world, if our discourse, debate and even definitions of "progressive leaders and governments" are still based on 20th century terms, labels and rhetoric? 

I would be the first to salute Mugabe's historical role in the liberation of Zimbabwe from colonial political rule. At the same time, if liberation is defined as a process (not an event), I can also be the first to be constructively critical of Mugabe today given the current realities in the society which ZANU-PF (as leaders) must accept a "share" of responsibility for. In addition, I can raise the question of the value in evaluating whether Mugabe's leadership represents a constraint or source of support on the continued development of Zimbabwe in the future?

In the real world, just because someone is outspokenly critical of imperialism does not put them above criticism nor make them inherently progressive. Nor should anyone who criticizes someone who has a record of "anti-imperialist statements" be labeled as an "imperialists."

Some have compared Mugabe to Fidel Castro as leading "progressives," "revolutionaries" and "anti-imperialists." While they both may share such labels based on their public rhetoric, in my view that is insufficient to base such a position.

I would define Castro as a "revolutionary" not because of his anti-imperialist rhetoric. It is because of what he has been able to do to help empower the people of the Cuban society. I believe it is what he has been able to do in terms of improving the conditions of life for the masses of Cuban people which is what makes him progressive, and at the end of the day is what gives him the support to articulate an anti-imperialist position to the world. In a sense the underlying source of him being a "revolutionary" is not what he says about the west. It is what he has done for the people of Cuba that enables him to be critical of the west.

That to me is the kind of 21st century definition and method of evaluation that our community needs to develop about leaders and governments in Africa, if we want to help African peoples to be empowered to control their societies. The people of Zimbabwe can't eat, get health care, and receive education based on how much anti-imperialist rhetoric the government or political parties produce.

2. When is our community going to "learn" how to deal with that fact that people/leaders/organizations in our community can have different views, without allowing our differences to become sources of division in our community? If we do not learn this lesson from history, our community is doomed to repeat past errors and to be divided and ineffective like we did over the MPLA/UNITA split in Angola and Idi Amin in Uganda.

I mean today we have many people and groups at the top in our community arguing different positions, based on different perspectives and perhaps even agendas. That is a reality along with the fact that many people do not like to deal with contradictions. However, the cost of that reality or not dealing with that reality of contradictions is an issue that many in this debate seem to down play. I mean how can those who support Mugabe not call into question the fact that he was paying big bucks to Washington-based lobbyists that used to be members of the Reagan Administration and supported Apartheid? At the same time, how can those who are critical of Mugabe not also call into question how much of the economic plan for Zimbabwe developed by the MDC opposition party is little more then an IMF and World Bank structural adjustment program. If "capitalists" can have huge divisions among themselves as they do today with the current administration, and yet still not be divided, why can't we in our community? 

In my view a real cost of the collective weakness, is that the masses in our community are not learning the truth about what they need to know in order to effectively deal with the structural internal and external issues facing the people of Zimbabwe. In the absence of knowing, our people just remain followers of whoever is arguing one side or the other, which does not truly empower our community to get informed, to think and maybe to act. 

Your article is a great contribution to that and I can only hope that all of the groups and individuals who are either for or critical of the current government in Zimbabwe will pick up this effort to educate our people, not just debate each other with simplistic generalizations and labels. As one informed person noted in the debate, we should not blindly assume that everything starts and ends with being supportive or critical of Mugabe. There are other political forces in addition to ZANU-PF and the MDC (which we don't hear about in the media) in the Zimbabwean society that may offer a more progressive vision than both.

It remains to be seen if either ZANU-PF or the MDC offers a real progressive alternative path for the future of the Zimbabwe society. A path which seeks to address the underlying structural issues facing the society. We in the Diaspora can and should play a supportive role in that kind of process, but it starts with us really educating ourselves.

As much as I have ongoing friendships with people who are supportive and critical of Mugabe, (some might be critical of this letter) I hope that we can all agree on the value of raising our collective level of consciousness in our community. The issues of Zimbabwe are not just about Zimbabwe, just as the issues of land in Zimbabwe are not just about who owns the land. One good place to start in terms of learning, would be to explore and discuss the analysis presented in Prof. Horace Campbell's new book entitled: "Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation."

Given that some in our community have labeled Prof. Campbell an "imperialist" because he has been critical of Mugabe, I hope that won't prevent people who are either supportive or critical of Mugabe to explore the analysis in the book and using it as a tool for informing our communities about issues which affect the all societies and communities in the Pan African world in the 21st century.  That might be one of the most "revolutionary" things both sides of the debate could agree on and do together.

Prof. Campbell’s paper, “Need for Debate on Realities of Life for the Zimbabwean Working Peoples” was among the documents reviewed in our piece. The Syracuse University political science and African American studies professor prepared the paper for the June 20 national conference of the Black Radical Congress. We consider the document to be an ideal basis for serous discussion on contemporary Zimbabwe.  

The Likkud’s American agents

Our email indicates that lots of people have gotten the mistaken impression that is somehow connected to Cynthia McKinney’s political operations. The truth is, the former Georgia Congresswoman keeps turning out such fine speeches, we can’t resist publishing them.

In her address to the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation organizers’ conference, in Washington (“No Safety Without Peace. No Peace Without Change,” July 31) McKinney recalled last summer’s primary election, when the America Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) “targeted me for defeat.”

“The point I’m trying to make here is that what happened to me will happen over and over and over again unless you make a stand.  You say you want a better US foreign policy, but what are you willing to do about it?  What are you willing to risk about it?”  

For decades, AIPAC and its predecessors have marked for political death U.S. elected officials who even mildly oppose Israeli government policy. Journalist Gettye Israel shares with us her research on the subject.  

It was good to finally read McKinney's response to the recent political attack that she and [former Alabama Congressman Earl] Hilliard received from pro-Israeli organizations, namely AIPAC.

However, these organizations have not limited their crusade to black elected officials who do not tow the line. Both blacks and white who have dared to question or criticize the state of Israel have been targeted. Hilliard and McKinney are simply the latest political victims of this Zionist onslaught.

Authors George W. Ball (former Under Secretary of State) and Douglass B. Ball wrote in The Passionate Attachment (America’s Involvement with Israel, 1947 to the Present), “Faye Williams, a 1986 candidate to become Louisiana’s first female black member of the House. Jewish groups viciously attacked her in the November election because her campaign manager, Sam Burgan, was an American of Jordanian extraction. Although she supported Israel and opposed the PLO, Sheldon Beychok, head of a pro-Israel [organization], sent mailgrams urging her friends to withdraw their support because she was a PLO sympathizer.”

To my knowledge, the first political victim of pro-Israeli organizations was white incumbent, Paul McCloskey [Republican] of California.  He criticized the Israeli lobbyists for blocking America’s Middle East policies. Although he had consistently voted for aid to Israel, he was critical of Israel for using the funds to expand illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories. He suggested that U.S. economic aid to Israel be reduced by the amount Israel continued to spend on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.  The Anti-Defamation League accused McCloskey of being anti-Semitic.  “I had hoped that the American Jewish community had matured to the point where its lobbying efforts could be described and debated without raising the red flag of anti-Semitism,” he stated.  McCloskey was defeated by the former San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, who was heavily financed by the pro-Israeli forces, according to authors Ball and Ball.

Former Congressman Paul Findley of Illinois, a former white incumbent, was also a target of the pro-Israeli forces.  Although Findley had routinely supported pro-Israel legislation, he made the identical mistake of former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, who subsequently lost his post. In 1980 he met publicly with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and called for the recognition of the PLO.  Consequently he was labeled a “practicing anti-Semite” and referred to as “one of the worst enemies that Jews and Israel have ever faced in the history of the U.S. Congress.”  In 1982 Pro-Israel supporters financially backed Richard Durbin, the challenger, and provided him with $685,000 of the $750,000 total contributions that he received. Findley wrote a book about his ordeal, None Dare Speak Out.  In 2000 Senator Durbin received $232,671 from the pro-Israel lobby.

Former Congressman Gus Savage, also of Illinois, was targeted by Pro-Israeli organizations.  Savage had been an outspoken critic of the biased U.S. policy towards the Middle East conflict.  He also criticized U.S. aid to Israel and its miniscule support of Africa.  In the early 90’s the pro-Israeli organizations threw their support behind a younger, well-educated, pro-Israel black challenger, Mel Reynolds.  According to Richard H. Curtiss’ Stealth PACs: Lobbying Congress for Control of U.S. Middle East Policy, Reynolds received $41,550 from pro-Israel Political Action Committees (PAC), with 87% coming from sources outside of Illinois.  Subsequently, Reynolds defeated Savage.  However, Reynolds did not complete his term; he was incarcerated for having phone sex with a minor.

Comparatively, other Black Congressional Representatives have received significantly fewer funds from Pro-Israel organizations.  However, when compared to pro-Arab PACs, Jewish organizations have contributed a lot more. From 1978-2000 black Congressional Representatives have collectively received $589,458 from pro-Israel PACs.  Congressman John Lewis has received more funds from pro-Israel PACs than any other black Congressman. Comparatively, only two Black Congressional Representatives, Earl Hilliard ($2,500) and Cynthia McKinney ($1,000) received contributions from the Arab/Muslim-American PAC in 2000.   For election periods, 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1990 black Congressional Representatives received a career total of $10,300.

(Figures taken from Stealth PACs: Lobbying Congress for Control of U.S. Middle East Policy, and Washington Report On Middle East Affairs, October/November 2000 Issue).

Pro-Israel organizations have one major goal: to control Middle-East policy so as to ensure that the military occupation continues.  Further, both democratic and republican administrations, senators and representatives have been bought by these organizations.  During the 2000 election cycle, pro-Israel organizations contributed $3,545,733 to Democrats and $2,192,769 to Republicans.

The payoff includes presidential contenders Braun, Graham, Kerry, Lieberman and Gephardt who received a cumulative total of $777,814 from pro-Israel organizations and individuals between 1990-2202. (Center for Responsive Politics).

Any politician who dares questions the government of Israel will become the target of an “anti-Semitic” smear campaign in which the objective is to silence and eradicate all opposition to Israel's continued dominance and oppression of the Palestinian people, the rightful heirs of the land, mistakenly known as Israel.

Revenge of the rich

There’s nothing the Bush men hate worse than taxes – except poor people. To further divert the Internal Revenue Service from the pockets of its friends, the White House set the IRS loose on millions of working families that have been, since 1975, collecting modest Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC), averaging around $2,000. As we reported in our July 31 commentary, “Bush Uses IRS to Push Around Poor People,” the scheme demands that the poor provide extensive documentation to prove that they are entitled to monies “that they have already earned through years of Social Security payments.” 

“The Bush men are carrying on the tradition of harassing the poor away from programs that might better their lives. While congressional strangulation has crippled the IRS’s ability to audit rich individuals, whose cheating costs the public an estimated $30 billion a year, the Bush Treasury Department proposes to force the poor to jump through impossible hoops to receive help in caring for their children.

ACORN successfully lobbied against some of the wickedest rule changes, including a requirement that caretakers prove they are related to the children they are raising ‘by submitting marriage certificates from marriages that occurred many years ago, or in other countries, or between two people other than the person filing the forms,’ said ACORN spokesman David Swanson. There can be no purpose to such torture by paperwork than to drive deserving families out of the program.”

Bush’ grotesque assault on EITC is yet more proof of the utter cynicism of the Hard Right, as they  “conspire to weaken both the extended families of the poor and the neighborhood ties that support these families.”

Michele Quinn has a metaphor to fit the crime.

Sometimes I just want to bury my head in the sand – but they keep taking away the sand.

It gets awfully tiring just living in this country any more and finding out nearly daily about some other way people are getting screwed.  One wonders just how long it can continue.

I think I see a possible loophole for the poor in this idea, though: ”However, under the proposed rules neighbors who also care for children cannot sign affidavits attesting to the child’s residency unless they are licensed providers. (Ministers are exceptions!)”   Several years ago my son told me about a website where anyone could get licensed as a minister.  I wonder if it still exists.  If you’re forced to play the game….

Which brings me to another issue I have a problem with in this country – the complaint of the duped Republican lower-middle class folks who decry the ruses that the poor sometimes use to collect welfare.   It doesn’t seem to be so much of a problem when the rich play the system.

The Bush regime is what happens when the Pirates seize the state, and employ it as their own weapon.

Rich, secessionist white men

Last month’s Democratic Leadership Council “National Conversation,” in Philadelphia, gathered together the collective dead weight of the Democratic Party to mourn the plight of the insecure white male. Not content to own and control vastly more than is their due in every premium space in society, the white male longs for a Democratic Party that is more like – the Republican Party! DLC pollsters spit out numbers based on ridiculously biased surveys indicating that minorities and unions offend the sensibilities of white males. Insufficiently warlike behavior on the part of Democrats will force white males to cling to George Bush’s flight suit in 2004, said the DLCers, darkly hinting that, should one of their own fail to win the nomination, the right wing of the party might just follow the white male herd.

They’ve done it before, and we hope they do it again. That was the gist of our July 31 commentary, “The DLC’s National White Man’s Conversation: Let the rich rump of the party go where they belong.

“The white voters that the DLC invokes have already left the Party, especially in the South. Thus, even if Blacks and progressives were willing to once again sacrifice their own agendas to appease the insecure (actually, just plain racist) whites of both sexes, the electoral rewards would be minimal. The U.S. already has one White Man’s Party. The DLC cannot build another one with a white rump of “swing” voters – and this year, Blacks and progressives are determined to stop them in the attempt.

We made liberal use of “A More Perfect Union,” the 2001 book authored by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr, with Frank Watkins, that also inspired elements of Rev. Al Sharpton’s presidential campaign platform. Congressman Jackson looked back with hindsight at his own father’s maneuvers within the Party.

“The shortcoming of his two presidential campaigns was the failure to build a sustained grassroots political organization that specifically helped find, train, and elect genuinely progressive candidates; something highly politically organized within the Democratic Party just short of a third party. Had he created a lasting progressive wing of Democrats, conservative Democratic presidential candidates – and conservative Democrats generally – could not say to progressives that they need to get on board because 'they have no place else to go.' Under such circumstances, progressives just might be able to go someplace else.

“Am I suggesting that that means progressives should, at some point, consider bolting the Democratic Party en masse for a third party? Not necessarily. Perhaps we should try something never tried before, seriously organizing political progressives within the party so we will be respected for what we bring to the table and treated as full participants in the existing Democratic Party. Conservative Democrats have much more of a destructive history of leaving the party (and the Union) than progressives. Ralph Nader is the rare modern-day exception.”

Reader Marjie Colson, like , searches for signs of a Democratic Party that is not just “someplace else to go,” but a place worth staying in.

Just read your comments on the DLC and appreciated them.  They (DLC) sit like a heavy wet blanket on the rest of us.

But what about the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives? I used to know John Lewis and liked him, and admire Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee.  It looks to me like there is promising leadership developing in the caucus.  Wishful thinking, maybe?

I deserted the party in 1996 and 2000 to vote for Ralph Nader.  Gore was such a loser and so dishonest I couldn't vote for him.  I was proud to vote for Ralph.  I think he is one of the great men of our times.

I am glad to have found your web site and will continue to enjoy reading it.

 Shirley Smith wishes good riddance to the DLC.  

I love your paper. I am sick at what has become of the Democratic Party – namely, the DLC. I don't consider the DLC as being Democrats. The DLC are very proud about putting people in their places in the Democratic Party.

I am a Liberal. I don't buy into the propaganda that has tried to make Liberal a dirty word. The DLC is Right of Center – right close to Bush. They lost the last election due to many of their own ads quoting Bush and telling voters that they agreed with Bush.

The Republicans didn't need to spend any money on the election – the Democrats did their campaigning for them. I should say the DLC.

Did the DLC learn a lesson? No. They will not listen to anyone, much in the same way that Bush and his cabal refuse to listen to Americans or people around the world. The DLC would rather listen to the professional groups who are consultants to the DLC. They worry about the voters who can't make up their mind.  They should be worrying about all of the voters who quit voting because the Democratic Party refuses to act like Democrats.

Republicans are the Corporate Party and corporations are entities and couldn't care less about Americans. Who needs the Republicans or the DLC? Someone please take them.

A death in Vietnam, remembered

Just when the Vietnam generation is about to slip into commercial irrelevancy, with at least one foot in the mass marketers’ least-sought-after demographic category, a resurgent imperialism threatens Apocalypse, Now and Forever, making old voices sound like oracles.

co-publisher Glen Ford’s July 3 commentary, “Fear of a Black Street Army” recalled the 1965 troop buildup that boosted U.S. ground forces above half a million, a largely Black infusion that was designed to avoid excessive loss of white middle class lives, but resulted in creation of a “Black Street Army” that effectively “shut down the war.”

Today, the Bush-Cheney Pirates plan unending warfare, to be waged by an all volunteer military that Ford describes as “a Confederacy in arms,” drawn disproportionately from the white South.

“Forty-two percent of the U.S. military enlisted from southern states in 2000, up from 31 percent in 1980. Dixie’s military dominance dwarfs all other regions – the Northeast accounts for just 14 percent of recruits, the West, 23 percent, and the Midwest, 20 percent.  

“Although African Americans comprise 26 percent of the Army (and 22 percent of the combined services), that proportion is halved among the ‘combat’ specialties such as infantry and armored gun crews, and sliced further in the elite units that form the cutting edges of war. The good old boys rule in these outfits – by design.”  

This is in stark contrast to the Vietnam era, when elite Army units were disproportionately – often majority – Black. In addition, the 80 percent white officer corps, wrote Ford, has become thoroughly politicized along Republican lines in the three decades since the end of the draft.  

The article prompted Bruce Foote, of Landover, Maryland, to travel back into his own archives.  

I just read Glen Ford's article "Fear of a Black Street Army" and it reminded me of my time in Vietnam and my many visits to the welcoming oasis we knew as the "Soul Bar". For many of us who were stationed in Saigon, a visit to the Soul Bar was part of our daily routine.  After going through the ritual of giving some "dap" to everyone in the place, we could just chill and listen to the juke box playing the latest "soul" music that was available. The bar girls didn't hassle you too much for "Saigon Tea," and white GI's were not allowed.  For a while it was located directly on "Plantation Road" but later the Soul Bar moved to a place down an alley off Plantation Road.  I will always have fond memories of the place.

But unfortunately there's also an unpleasant memory of a Black soldier from Newark, NJ being gunned down by the MPs a few weeks before his tour of duty was scheduled to end.  He was spending the night at the Soul Bar and the MPs raided the place looking for soldiers who may have been violating the curfew.  The brother went to the roof trying to get away and he was shot from the roof by an MP. 

Those of us stationed in or visiting Saigon were not permitted to carry weapons.  So the MPs were searching for fellow Americans who they knew were unarmed.  Yet they shot and killed an unarmed Brother whose only threat was that he might get away from them and escape the consequences of getting caught violating curfew. And they got away with it.  We don't know what kind of story the Army gave the parents about how their son died.

Racist societies beget racist wars that spawn more racist murderers, who then return to the scene of the original crime.  

Keep writing.  

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Black Planet

Democratic Underground

Black Electorate

Liberal Oasis


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