‘New York Times’ fails dismally again, this time in Congo

on 17 Comments

I am experienced and world weary, and it takes a lot to leave me speechless.  But once Jodi Rudoren’s Orientalist pop anthropology from Gaza had flabbergasted me, her New York Times colleague in east Africa finished the job.

Jeffrey Gettleman missed the actual breaking news in eastern Congo two days ago, when several thousand armed predators calling themselves the M23 Movement seized Goma, a major regional city.  Once he did show up, he opens his article with a favorable portrait of the M23, describing them as “lean, young rebels in pressed fatigues.” Only right at the end, almost as an afterthought, does he note that those pesky scolds at Human Rights Watch have found M23 guilty of “ethnic massacres, recruitment of children, mass rape, killings, abductions and torture.”

To his credit, Gettleman does note that neighboring Rwanda is masterminding the M23, mainly so it can continue to steal minerals from the eastern Congo.  And he also points out that human rights groups have blistered Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the U.N., for disregarding the crimes of Rwanda and its president, Paul Kagame, a master manipulator who has mesmerized Rice and other U.S. policymakers since the mid 1990s.  

Gettleman did leave out the part of the Human Rights Watch report where the organization warned, “Rwandan officials may be complicit in war crimes through their continued military assistance to M23 forces.”

But Gettleman missed the most important part of the story.  The resurgent violence is sweeping through a region in which more than 5 million people have died since the Second Congo War started in 1998.  That figure is not a misprint, but the result of careful surveys.  By launching the latest attacks, Rwanda and its M23 proxies have guaranteed that many thousands more among the newest refugees will die of hunger and disease.  

(The Nation has just posted my own look at the crisis in eastern Congo. 

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17 Responses

  1. Betsy
    November 22, 2012, 12:20 pm

    Not pop anthropology even. On another thread, I said re/ another equation of Rudoren to an anthropologist:

    not fair to anthropologists. The sign that an ‘actual’ anthropologist is writing –they: learn the languages; ask people what things mean; try to be empathic and to listen; live with the people they are ‘studying'; try to reflect constantly on their own biases, to read local / regional scholars /literature/poetry, theology, etc; try to distance themselves from their own ethno/cultural/class background & identity (both in their own mind & how they present themselves) in order to cultivate habits of openness & engagement; take seriously the public role of someone who is representing realities across cultural divides. The best ‘actual’ journalists I have known also have amazing abilities to immerse themselves, to learn new things….

    She’s not doing any of these things!

    • Annie Robbins
      November 22, 2012, 1:20 pm

      exactly besty, an anthropological discourse was how it appeared to me, from someone completely unqualified in basics. very embarrassing.

      • Betsy
        November 22, 2012, 3:10 pm

        no, no — not embarrassing (what I like about Mondoweiss is how we can share knowledge — no one person can keep up with all of this. I/P understanding requires crowdsourcing) — & the substance of your point is important.

    • yourstruly
      November 22, 2012, 1:31 pm

      “she’s not doing any of these things!”

      someone whose “first tears in gaza were for a friend’s children back in israel” isn’t going to take her role as a journalist seriously. such a person will hold the palestinian responsible for putting those tears in the eyes of her friend’s children, and never mind how many palestinian children also are crying, let alone (due to israeli actions) have stopped crying & will never cry again, nor how & when this horror story began.

    • gamal
      November 22, 2012, 4:52 pm

      While that is true Betsy, lets not idealize anthropologists, the famous case of Christian Snouk Hugronje is instructive, he went to Mecca going so far as to convert to Islam, and his suggestions for how to deal with the people who welcomed and spoke to him were extremely brutal, wiki covers it in a perfunctory way, he was fluent in many languages Arabic and the Malayo-Polynesian of Acheh, anthropology always the “Handmaiden of Imperialism”.
      Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje

      Dutch scholar Snouck Hurgronje.
      Born February 8, 1857
      Oosterhout, Netherlands
      Died June 26, 1936
      Leiden, Netherlands
      Occupation Professor, author, spy, colonial advisor.
      Nationality Dutch

      Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (8 February 1857 – 26 June 1936) was a Dutch scholar of Oriental cultures and languages and Advisor on Native Affairs to the colonial government of the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia).

      Born in Oosterhout in 1857, he became a theology student at Leiden University in 1874. He received his doctorate at Leiden in 1880 with his dissertation ‘Het Mekkaansche Feest’ (“The Festivities of Mecca”). He became a professor at the Leiden School for Colonial Civil Servants in 1881.

      Snouck, who was fluent in Arabic, through mediation with the Ottoman governor in Jeddah, was examined by a delegation of scholars from Mecca in 1884 and upon successfully completing the examination was allowed to commence a pilgrimage to the Holy Muslim city of Mecca in 1885. He was one of the first Western scholars of Oriental cultures to do so.

      A pioneering traveler, he was a rare Western presence in Mecca, but embraced the culture and religion of his hosts with passion, converting to Islam.

      In 1889 he became professor of Malay at Leiden University and official advisor to the Dutch government on colonial affairs. He wrote more than 1,400 papers on the situation in Atjeh and the position of Islam in the Dutch East Indies, as well as on the colonial civil service and nationalism.

      As the adviser of J. B. van Heutsz, he took an active role in the final part (1898–1905) of the Aceh War (1873–1913). He used his knowledge of Islamic culture to devise strategies which significantly helped crush the resistance of the Aceh inhabitants and impose Dutch colonial rule on them, ending a 40 year war with varying casualty estimates of between 50,000 and 100,000 inhabitants dead and about a million wounded.

      His success in the Aceh War earned him influence in shaping colonial administration policy throughout the rest of the Dutch East Indies, however deeming his advise insufficiently implemented he returned to the Netherlands in 1906. Back in the Netherlands Snouck continued a successful academic career.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      • Betsy
        November 22, 2012, 8:52 pm

        all true, gamal, only too true! and there is still much wrong w/ anthropology today :(

        — but Rudoren could learn alot from someone like Amahl Bishara link to aaanet.org or Smadar Lavie link to mondoweiss.net
        or the Association of Middle East Anthropologists (AMEA) link to aaanet.org

        it just really bugs me that she doesn’t seem to know languages, history, culture — or know that she doesn’t know…and this is supposed to be the great newspaper of the US?

  2. Annie Robbins
    November 22, 2012, 1:18 pm

    oh james. this leaves me speechless. god, this world we live in.

    • Mooser
      November 24, 2012, 3:56 pm

      “god, this world we live in.”
      At least a small measure of relief can be obtained if you express that thought correctly: Oy Gevalt!

  3. David Green
    November 22, 2012, 1:25 pm

    Thank you for the great summary article in the Nation. I only disagree with your use of the world “failure” for USFP; these are seen as successes by those who matter, including Obama and Susan Rice.

  4. Keith
    November 22, 2012, 1:28 pm

    JAMES NORTH- Have you also missed the story in the Congo by soft-pedaling US involvement in mass murder for profit? Glen Ford over at Black Agenda Report has a somewhat more harsh appraisal.

    “Barack Obama, like his predecessors George Bush and Bill Clinton, has pulled the strings, paid the cash, and sent the weapons that Uganda and Rwanda have used to cause the deaths of six million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo since invading that country in 1996. Various organs of the United Nations have repeatedly found America’s two top allies in Black Africa complicit in the Congo genocide, and on every occasion, the U.S. and Great Britain have protected the mass murderers. And why not? The genocide in Congo is the deliberate result of American and British policy. Uganda and Rwanda are merely henchmen, who commit mass murder in return for a cut of Congo’s vast stores of mineral resources. Western businesses are the ultimate beneficiaries.” (Glen Ford)
    link to blackagendareport.com

  5. yourstruly
    November 22, 2012, 2:20 pm

    not so long ago the u.s. government was also involved in the blood baths that occurred in the former portuguese colonies of mozambique and angola (circa a half-million lives lost in each), where, after winning liberation struggles against portugal, the people of these new republics opted for the socialist road to freedom & equality. of course the u.s. government (ever in fear of that one good example) could no more allow socialism to blossom in africa than in the americas/europe/asia, & consequent to its involvement, the above mentioned slaughters. the armed forces that the u.s. (& other western nations) trained & supported during this period were notorious for their use of child warriors, whose initiation rites into the ranks of the counter-revolutionaries was sometimes the killing of their own relatives.

  6. ToivoS
    November 22, 2012, 2:20 pm

    This is another example of what it means when the US backs a faction in a civil war. What happened in Rwanda was the result of civil war that was initiated by the same political faction run by Kagame today. This is not said in any way to justify the terrible massacres carried out by the other side but to re-enforce North’s point that when the US finally intervened he backed the Kagame faction, who now having complete control of Rwanda with US and British support, immediately began expanding his control into Eastern Congo. This was already being reported in the mid 90s before the full scale war in Congo erupted. Keith’s point that the Kagame’s goals and likely those of his backers in the West, were the valuable mineral resources in Congo.

    The US and Britain do not do people’s revolutions. What they do is promote Western imperial interests. This is what we see here in the Congo, what we did and are doing in Libya and, yes, even in targeting Serbia during the Yugoslavian civil war and might also see yet in Syria.

  7. eGuard
    November 22, 2012, 3:50 pm

    And all this while Human Right Watch offered their Israel? why not talk about Syria, eh, Congo on a plate.

  8. pabelmont
    November 22, 2012, 4:19 pm

    ONLY THEN “does he note that those pesky scolds at Human Rights Watch have found M23 guilty of “ethnic massacres, recruitment of children, mass rape, killings, abductions and torture.””

    Well, nicely-creased uniforms are so much more important than human-rights observance. Who do you think he is writing FOR, anyhow? Who signs his pay-check? Mann muss essen. Even most reporters. The wonder is that HRW was even mentioned. (On which point, ever notice how much better dressed the Israeli army folks are than those scurvy renegades in Gaza? Gotta have style, you know.)

  9. RoHa
    November 22, 2012, 7:44 pm

    ” a region in which more than 5 million people have died ”

    But they are not the right sort of people.

    • SimoHurtta
      November 23, 2012, 6:18 am

      I once had a discussion with my former neighbor, an extreme Cristian, about Israel/Palestine, just after she had visited Israel on a religious pilgrimage. She claimed, that Palestinian were against the Jewish rule only because they are Muslims and because of Islam. My points, that many Palestinians are Christians and when Palestinians defend their livelihoods and properties it is not the question of religion, it is a question of resisting a robbery, had no “effect”. She was only blaming Islam for everything even of the killing of Palestinian children. Finally I tried to “educate” her that also Christians can kill and steal. I said in Rwanda both sides were Christian tribes and a million were killed. To that she said: African black people are not real Christians. I withdraw from our “theological” debate speechless.

      • Citizen
        November 23, 2012, 5:05 pm

        American Christian fundies don’t think any Arabs are real Christians, and ditto for the self-identified African Christians. You may as well talk to Jewish Israel’s wall.

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