September-October 1997
U.S. Was Godfather of Colonial Enslavement of the Congo! 

Today, Washington lectures the new bonapartist rulers of the Congo (formerly Zaïre) on the need for “democracy” (defined as U.S.-supervised elections) and “human rights,” cynically professing concern for the fate of Rwandan Hutu refugees being slaughtered by the new regime’s forces. Yet for three decades, U.S. imperialism backed the dictator Mobutu, installed with the aid of the CIA, who trampled on the human rights of all the peoples of the Congo as he and his cronies plundered the wealth produced by toilers of the mines and plantations. This pattern is nothing new. The United States has always traded on its undeserved “anti-colonial” reputation due to the fact that unlike its European imperialist allies and rivals, the U.S. did not have direct colonies in Africa. Of course, Liberia, set up in the early 1800s by former slaves “repatriated” to the west coast of Africa by the American Colonization Society, was a U.S. colony in all but name. And in the 1880s support from the United States was instrumental in establishing the rule of Belgian King Leopold on the Congo, the bloodiest colonial tyranny in the continent, all in the name of fostering “free trade” and eliminating slavery! 

In 1876, as the European powers were avidly slicing up Africa among themselves, the Belgian king founded the International African Association, professing scientific and humanitarian concerns, “to open to civilization the only part of the globe where it has not yet penetrated, to pierce the darkness shrouding entire populations,” what he termed “a crusade worthy of this century of progress.” The Anglo-American explorer H.M. Stanley was dispatched to the Congo to sign treaties with the African tribal rulers to open the way for occupation. But as the British were relentlessly pushing to extend their control from the Cape to Cairo and the French were racing from West Africa to establish a foothold on the north bank of the Congo River, the late-comers to colonial carve-up (Germany, Belgium and the United States) joined to demand a share of the spoils in the Berlin conference of 1884-85. The U.S. favored the Belgian claims by recognizing King Leopold’s IAA, a private company, as a sovereign state. The former American ambassador to Belgium joined the board of Leopold’s enterprise. 

The host of the Berlin Conference, German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, declared: 

    “All the Governments invited here share the desire to associate the natives of Africa with civilization, by opening up the interior of that continent to commerce, by furnishing the natives with the means of instruction, by encouraging missions and enterprises so that useful knowledge may be disseminated, and by paving the way to the suppression of slavery, and especially of the slave trade among the blacks.” 
The American delegate to the conference, John Kasson, justified the U.S. interest by calling up the dangers of a scramble for the Congo: 
    “It was evident that very soon that country would be exposed to the dangerous rivalries of conflicting nationalities. There was even danger of its being so appropriated as to exclude it from free intercourse with a large part of the civilized world. It was the earnest desire of the Government of the United States that these discoveries should be utilized for the civilization of the native races, and for the abolition of the slave trade and that early action should be taken to avoid international conflicts likely to arise from national rivalry in the acquisition of special privileges in the vast region so suddenly exposed to commercial enterprises. If that country could be neutralized against aggression, with equal privileges for all, such an arrangement ought, in the opinion of my Government, to secure general satisfaction.” 
Thus under the banner of freedom of commerce and anti-slavery, an entire continent was enslaved! And just as U.S. rulers called for an “open door” in China in order to compete with the European colonial empires which had arrived earlier, in Africa they demanded their share of the spoils by championing “equal privileges for all.” All the budding imperialist powers should have a chance to rake in fabulous profits from the superexploitation of African labor. 

Out of the Berlin Conference came the Congo Free State, one of the most oppressive regimes in the history of mankind, under its sovereign, the King of the Belgians, Leopold II. American president Grover Cleveland wrote to the king of the “lively interest” of the U.S. in “the vast region now committed to your Majesty’s wise care,” and boasted that the U.S. was “the first among the Powers to recognize the flag” of the new state. Far from abolishing slavery, the leading Arab slaver in the eastern Congo was added to the board of Leopold’s Congo Association. Soon forced labor was introduced on a massive scale in order to secure ivory, palm oil and rubber for export. And having gained equal access to this booty via the Berlin Conference, an American Congo Company was formed, headed by Guggenheim, Morgan and Rockefeller interests, securing “general satisfaction” in the high spheres of finance capital by producing general calamity for the African population, their victims. 

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