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Selective Perceptions Have Been There For A While: The EU Illegal Sanctions Regime On Zimbabwe

29 July 2012

By Reason Wafawarova

UNSURPRISINGLY the EU has extended its illegal sanctions regime on Zimbabwe, and the decorum in the official utterances is of course the noble rhetoric on the need to help Zimbabweans to fight for respect of human rights in their country, even at a time those who have previously claimed victimhood to human rights abuses are making public utterances that there are in fact no human rights abuses being carried out in the country.

Of course the perception of Zimbabweans, whether from members of the sanctioned Zanu-PF politicians and their supporters; or from the Western-assisted members of the supposedly persecuted MDC does not really matter in the context of civilised perception from the most advanced Western world.

The apparent human rights abuses in Bahrain, where people power continues to be ruthlessly thwarted by a ruthless police force and military, does not really amount to human rights abuses in the context of civilised opinion from the advanced West, just like the numerous assassinations and reckless killing of innocent civilians by Libyan rebels in 2011 did not really amount to human rights abuses in the eyes of Western civilised perception.

What amounted to human rights abuses was the much-publicised intention of Gaddafi to carry out genocide in Benghazi, an assertion that was deemed so true that there was no need for any evidence. Those asking for such evidence are collectively labelled enemies of Libyan freedom.

This kind of selective perception has been there for quite some time, and Zimbabweans who are shocked by this unbecoming levity must be told about the real intentions of the sanctions pretext so they can measure it correctly against the declared intentions.

Australian Minister of Trade Craig Emerson aptly put it when he explained the logic behind his country's sanctions on Zimbabwe.

He said: "If he (Morgan Tsvangirai) indicates to us that there is a case for easing some sanctions, that is to reward the reformers and show the hardliners that reform does actually pay dividends, then we will be open to those sorts of arguments."

Reform in this case is clearly defined as compliance with Australian foreign policy in particular, and with Western foreign policy in general.

Morgan Tsvangirai himself was trying to walk the rope of compliance with an impressive sense of law-abiding, spectacularly playing the artful funambulist, balancing between the popular politics of condemning sanctions at home, and the need to maintain them in line with compliance to Western diktats.
"Suspend these measures, but tie them to free and fair elections," he said. "And, if the election is free and fair, fine . . . remove them permanently."

The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was exceedingly impressed with this kind of exceptional wisdom from the Zimbabwean politician, and she showered the man best known for his consistent inconsistency with all manner of praises.

"You are a hero," she told a Parliament House lunch in Tsvangirai's honour. "Like Nelson Mandela, like Aung San Suu Kyi, like Xanana Gusmao you are one of the remarkable figures of our times."

Politicians whose political careers are strictly guided by values and interests of the Western world are indeed exceptionally remarkable in the eyes of civilised perception. What have been elevated most about Nelson Mandela are the rainbow compromises that left white economic hegemony completely safe in South Africa.

Any politician who can achieve such a civilised feat is remarkable indeed. Like Nelson Mandela, the revolutionary Xanana Gusmao is legendary to Australians for allowing the Western outpost country to steal Timorese oil under an arm-twisting deal that bars East Timor from taking Australia to court for at least 50 years. For securing such deals one is a remarkable hero in the eyes of Westerners.

And Tsvangirai played the hero when he made his public appeal for Australia to come to the "rescue" of Zimbabwe.

"I am hoping that with your assistance, and with the assistance of all the goodwill in the international community, we should be able to rescue the country," he said.

Tsvangirai is a hero in the mould of Armando Valladares of Cuba, the prisoner who wrote very touching memoirs about his time in prison.

The memoirs became a media sensation and Noam Chomsky provided a number of quotes describing how the US mainstream media went berserk with excitement.

He quoted the Washington Post and the New York Times, providing such quotes as the declaration that Valladares's revelations were "the definitive account of the vast system of torture and prison by which Castro punishes and obliterates political opposition."
In fact the account was defined as "an aspiring and unfortunate account" of the "bestial prisons."

Castro was definitively described as having "created a new despotism that has institutionalised torture as a mechanism of social control," and the former Cuban leader was unquestionably described as a "dictatorial goon."
Just in case there could be some Western intellectuals who could per adventure be irresponsible enough to doubt the contents of Valladares book, the Washington

Post pointedly warned that "only the most light-headed and cold-blooded Western intellectual will come to the tyrant's defence."

It really does not matter from a perception of civilisation that the judgment of Castro was in this case being made on the basis of an account of what happened to one man, assuming all that is in the book is true.

So conclusive was the judgment against Castro that Ronald Reagan chose a Human Rights Day occasion at the White House to single out Valladares for his courage in enduring the devilish brutalities of a bloody tyrant, and Regan instantly elevated the Cuban hero to US representative at the UN Human Rights Commission.

For making all sorts of claims against Zanu-PF's rule and for criminalising President Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai got nominated alongside Barack Obama for the Nobel Peace prize in 2009; finally won by Obama at the beginning of his presidential term. The reasons for winning were described by the organisers as achievements that the US president was expected to make in the future a post-dated award, so to speak.

After being posted to the UN Human Rights Commission in 1986, Armando Valladares's main assignment was to perform diplomatic services in the defence of the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala against charges of mass murder and atrocities themselves so egregious that they made what Valladares claimed to have suffered in a Cuban prison look like child's play.

It so happens by definition that any government that is a Western ally cannot carry out human rights abuses, like Israel cannot exactly be accused of human rights abuses against the Palestinians.

Armando Valladares did not even care that the same month he was appointed US representative at the UN human rights body, Herbert Anaya, the director of the Human Rights Group of El Salvador had just witnessed his colleagues killed in cold blood and he himself was tortured ruthlessly.

The Cuban-turned US representative worked so hard to help suppress the voice of Anaya, and to silence his case.

Herbert Anaya and his colleagues continued with their human rights work in prison, gathering 430 affidavits confirming gross torture of as many inmates, including electrical torture.

The sworn testimonies, together with a secretly recorded video tape, were smuggled out of prison and distributed to all major media outlets.

According to Noam Chomsky in the book "Media Control," the US national Press refused to cover the story.
The US intellectual community was at this time so responsibly occupied by the daunting task of singing praises for the wondrous works of Napoleon Duarte and Ronald Reagan, two men so deeply committed in stopping the tyranny of communist dictatorships across the world.

As for Anaya, he was just another worthless victim of human rights abuses like all those people summarily killed by Libyan rebels for the sole crime of being suspected to be Gaddafi supporters, or that worthless Zimbabwean police officer who was stoned to death by suspected MDC-T democrats whose peaceful gathering he was accused of disturbing.

Not even a single Western newspaper saw it newsworthy to report on the stoning incident, precisely because the sin became holier than the one sinned against.

In fact the human rights abuses worth reporting about are to do with defending the rights of the murder suspects, described relentlessly as victims of police insensitivity and not as suspects in a gruesome murder case.

Anaya was not invited as a guest to any Human Rights Day activity in the West, and he was not appointed to any position to do with the promotion of human rights.

Civilised perception did not recognise him as a worthy case study of human rights abuses. Instead he was released from prison, only to head straight for a gruesome assassination by US-backed security forces. His death did not make it in most of the Western mainstream media, and was largely downplayed in the few stories that appeared in a few publications.

This is how consent manufacturing works, and only those whose political position is deemed to be against Western interests are painted as despots and devils worth the condemnation of the world.

The denunciation of Zimbabwe as a country with egregious human rights abuses is hardly supportable by any shred of evidence, especially on a scale exceptionally different from any other average African country. The denunciation is more political than it is criminal, and the solution sought in ending the isolation of Zimbabwe is a political one and not a human rights matter.

In fact Zimbabwe will need to reform its economic policies in a way biased towards Western interests. This is why elections are placed as central to the lifting of sanctions. Elections in themselves do not matter in this equation.

What matters are elections that will result in a leadership deemed compliant to Western interests in Zimbabwe. With such a leadership in place there is hardly any need to talk about human rights abuses. There are always higher priorities than human life in poor countries.

These same priorities justify the ruinous nature of the illegal economic sanctions against Zimbabwe. The sanctions serve higher priorities than the lives of the many Zimbabweans whose death they have caused.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in Sydney, Australia.



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