A Congo Lesson for Bush (like he’s gonna listen…)

This is a great op-ed from the LA Times that I just couldn’t pass up:

First, as you now know, the long effort by King Leopold II of Belgium to bring Congo under his control was driven by his avid quest for a commodity central to industry and transportation: rubber. Does that remind you of anything?

What’s more, the king justified his grab for Congo’s natural resources with much talk about bringing philanthropy and Christianity to darkest Africa. Now what did that remind you of?

Leopold cleared at least $1.1 billion in today’s dollars during the 23 years he controlled Congo, and his businessmen friends made additional huge sums. Much of the money flowed into companies with special royal concession rights to exploit the rain forest. Final question, for extra credit: Do those companies remind you of anything? If you mentioned Halliburton or DynCorp, you’re right again.

As a reader of history, you must have been interested, I’m sure, in something else in the Congo story: the case of another world leader facing his own Abu Ghraib scandal.

Of course, some backstory is needed for all of this. Adam Hochschild is the author of among other books, of “King Leopold’s Ghost: a Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa”, that explores the exploitation of the Congo Free State by Leopold II of Belgium. Basically King Leopold justified his grab of Congo’s natural resources – notably rubber – with talks of bringing Christianity & philanthropy to Africa.

Then why Hochschild’s op-ed? Because George W. Bush supposedly read his book. So Mr. Hochschild was very pleased that Dubya read his book, and he not only compares Dubya with King Leopold, but has a couple of suggestions for Bush as well:

For your next assignment, Mr. President, how about a different sort of reading? Ask Laura to stuff your Christmas stocking with books about people who’ve had the courage to change their minds. One former tenant of the house you live in, Lyndon B. Johnson, entered politics as a traditional segregationist but ended up doing more for civil rights than any American president of his century. Another, Dwight D. Eisenhower, spent half his life in the U.S. military but gave us (a little late) an eloquent warning about the military-industrial complex.

Another ex-military man, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler of the U.S. Marine Corps, won the Medal of Honor twice, but then ended up denouncing the oil companies and agribusiness corporations he realized that he had been fighting for in U.S. interventions in Central America.

You think Bush is going to listen to Hochschild? Of course not – the man barely listens to what the American people say of him.

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