Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Of Masters, Slaves and Blood Diamonds: Just How Much Did Pat Robertson Know?

How dare the President of the United States tell a duly elected leader of another country to step down...we’re undermining a Christian, Baptist President to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country.
Pat Robertson, 700 Club, criticizing  George Bush for meddling in Liberia's politics

Perhaps Pat Robertson is senile enough to think that the American public buys his stories. Perhaps Pat's God - the works-in-mysterious-ways God - zapped out Pat's memory bank. Perhaps Robertson really didn't know about the horrific crimes of two African dictators. Perhaps ...Oh, hell, there's no alternative: the bastion of Christian Right "rightness" (a la Stephen Colbert) is guilty as sin, but hopes that people won't connect the dots of his greedy, corrupt past.

As the epic war crimes trial of Charles Taylor unfolds (now in its tenth month), Robertson's name keeps coming up as one of Taylor's staunchest supporters. Robertson denies ever having met Taylor, but he has yet to deny that he knew what Taylor was doing to his own populace. He has yet to deny he knew what Mobutu Sese Zaire (Republic of the Congo) did to his own people while they had a  "relationship" back in 1993.  Can a man whose business ventures depend upon slave labor under cruel dictatorships not know anything about those poor creatures who sloughed through mountains of mud every day for food? Even the South's most clueless Simon Legree knew what plight his own slaves went through.

Robertson has breezed by political scandals before, but his association with two mass-murderers should not be overlooked. In fact, his association with Mobutu was even more "unChristian" than his duplicitous relationship with Taylor. And attached to blood diamonds even more than Taylor.

Back in the early nineties, Pat Robertson founded a company called Africa Devlopment Company with the purpose of mining diamonds in Zaire. In order to obtain mining rights, Robertson, (as with Taylor), promised Mobutu Sese Sseko, the president/dictator of Zaire unparalleled access and influence regarding America's foreign policies. Robertson's "sin" during this relationship, however, was in extracting donations from his viewers for relief efforts to war-torn Zaire. Viewers thought that the planes flown by Robertson's Operation Blessing were performing relief operations. 

They were not. Or rather, 40 out of 42 flights were used for transportation of Robertson's (ADC's) mining equipment.

An investigation by the Commonwealth of Virginia's Office of Consumer Affairs determined that Robertson "willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements and other implications" and called for a criminal prosecution against Robertson in 1999. However, Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley, a Republican whose largest campaign contributor two years earlier was Robertson himself, intervened, accepting that Robertson had made deceptive appeals but overruling the recommendation for his prosecution. No charges were ever brought against Robertson.

Then in 1993, 
Mobutu was denied a visa by the U.S. State Department after he sought to visit Washington, D.C. Shortly after this, Robertson tried to get the State Department to lift its ban on the African leader.

We can chide someone like Kathie Lee Gifford about her clothing line being made by child labor, but we must never scold Pat Robertson. He is, after all, a "man of God." Doubtless his faithful followers will trot out the old if-he-didn't-employ-them-they-would-have-starved-to-death meme. 

But the questions still remain: how much did Robertson know about the slave labor in BOTH mining operations? How much did he know about the atrocities? And, if he did know about them, how complicit was he by staying silent, by actually allowing them to go on, by overtly supporting the men responsible for them? Finally, has he thrown enough money at enough influential people so that he can squeak by the Taylor trial without being called in as a defendent? 

Robertson not only maintains that he never met Taylor, but that he spoke to Taylor only once when Taylor called him up allegedly about the gold mining leases. He's also stated he only dealt with papers to members of Liberia's government. But a casual reference to Taylor crumbles under the weight of Robertson's SOLE support of Taylor back in 2003:

from Christianity Today:

In an interview yesterday, Robertson told Cooperman that Freedom Gold was intended to fund humanitarian and evangelical efforts in the country, such as a February 2002 Liberia for Jesus rally, where Taylor reportedly told 65,000 of his subjects, "I am not your president. Jesus is!"

"There are people who say that's phony baloney, but I thought it was sincere," Robertson told Cooperman. "He definitely has Christian sentiments, although you hear of all these rumors that he's done this or done that.


Coucil for Secular Humanism:

Robertson attempted to bring Charles Taylor to Virginia Beach for a big VIP treatment, without success.

Taylor's own testimony:

"Mr. Taylor, indeed at one point you said that you can count on Pat Robertson to get Washington on your side," he was asked by the lead prosecution counsel, Col. Brenda Hollis, a former U.S. Air Force officer. Taylor replied: "I don't recall the exact words, but something to that effect."

Bottom line: Pat Robertson knew about "blood diamonds" before anyone else because he knew what was happening in Zaire with Mobutu and didn't care. He knew about Charles Taylor's evil regime and didn't care. He knew how Zaire and Liberia worker/slaves were treated (and non-compensated) and didn't care. 

Pat Robertson knew about everything.

And didn't care.

We've heard a lot about Mia Farrow vs. Naomi Campbell and "blood diamonds," during the Taylor trial. Well, I'm sorry, but...BFD. The real story lies in the testimonies of the other 90 witnesses who spoke of the wanton cruelty and inhumanity of Taylor's regime. Here's a snip:

the Slate:

The prosecution's case depends on proving two things: first, that crimes were committed in Sierra Leone; second, that Taylor had direct involvement in their execution. Of the 91 witnesses called by prosecutors, some of the most disturbing testimonyJoseph "Zigzag" Marzah, one of Taylor's former Liberian militia commanders. Much of Marzah's time on the stand was spent establishing that Taylor was a truly horrible leader of Liberia. Marzah described roadblocks adorned with human intestines and severed heads and said Taylor had ordered a pregnant woman to be buried alive behind the presidential palace for a sacrifice. He also claimed that Taylor had ordered his Liberian soldiers to eat their slain enemies in order to instill fear in the population. Marzah detailed how human bodies were prepared. "We lay you down, slit your throat and butcher you," Marzah said, "put it in a pot and cook it." Salt and pepper, he explained, are added to taste.
Go to Diamonds for Africa to find out how horrible life is in Sierra Leone and the rest of West Africa.

Kanye West knew about the situation even before Taylor's trial. Below is his video about "blood diamonds." You'll notice that the backdrop for the video was the beautiful city of Prague. What the video does not show you, however, is the famous diamond monstrance of Loreto (pictured above). I'm sure West tried to have it photographed, but the church refused. He must have been struck with "shock and awe" as well as a bit of disgust. Years ago, that same monstrance caused a man to cry about the abomination of organized religion when he set eyes on it.

I will never forget that moment in my life. Never.