Anti-Mugabe propaganda reaches fever pitch

By Stephen Gowans

It's so much easier to recognize faults in others, than in one's self. And so much easier to perceive the base motives, lies, and propaganda that infect politics abroad, than plague politics at home. Foreign leaders are crafty, duplicitous, ruthless. Western leaders  -- when it comes to foreign affairs -- are honest, humanitarian, and stalwart defenders of human rights, freedom, and democracy.

So it comes as no surprise that the shortcomings of pro-Western Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of Zimbabwe's inaptly named Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) should be overlooked in the West, while the country's president Robert Mugabe, who recently told British Prime Minister Tony Blair to "shut up" and "go to hell," should be demonized.

Demons and angels

Count on any leader running  afoul of the Anglo-American Axis of Evil to be tarred as a devil, and any leader willing to surrender his country's economy to the IMF and foreign policy to the US State Department to be angelized.

Count too on a foreign press that says anything nice about the West's demons to be called a vehicle for propaganda.

Take, for example, Karen MacGregor's March 7th Globe and Mail article on the upcoming presidential elections in Zimbabwe. MacGregor has written a series of pieces in recent days, all dark, frightening reports on election violence, intimidation, and, what's said to be Mugabe's personal demon -- his lust for power. Mugabe, with MacGregor's assistance, has become the latest Emanuel Goldstien, on whom we're to vent our spleens, in the most recent Anglo-American Axis of Evil approved two minutes of hate.

One-sided media

Zimbabwe's state media, MacGregor tells us, "is full of good news about the President's campaign for re-election, [but] there is no mention of the electoral violence across the country."  It seems, says MacGregor, the Zimbabwe state media is a tad one-sided.

And yet, it also seems the Canadian media -- which calls itself independent -- is a tad one-sided, as well. MacGregor's articles are full of good news about Tsvangirai's campaign, but there is no mention of Tsvangirai's threats to unleash violence unless the government steps down (made on not one, but two occasions); Tsvangirai being caught on videotape discussing the 'elimination' of President Mugabe; Tsvangirai's connections with London, which has dragged its heels in providing money to solve the land issue; or the campaign violence perpetrated by Tsvangirai supporters.

How odd then that the article should run under the headline, Mugabe propaganda reaches fever pitch. Shouldn't it have read, Anti-Mugabe propaganda reaches fever pitch?

It's clear that London and Washington decided long ago that it was time for Mugabe to go, his expropriation of white owned farms, his falling out with international lenders, and his scepticism of neo-liberal economics, turning him into a pariah.

And so unfolded a plan to run him out of office. Buy the opposition, fund anti-Mugabe NGO's and media, threaten sanctions, accuse Mugabe of electoral fraud. A betting person would predict that an MDC orchestrated insurrection will follow, amid charges that Mugabe stole the election, if, indeed, the election outcome tilts Mugabe's way.

Commonwealth has failed Zimbabwe

Recently the Commonwealth met and discussed sanctions against Zimbabwe. The so-called ABC group of Australia, Britain, Canada (and New Zealand) argued for sanctions, while African members of the Commonwealth argued against. A compromise position was reached. Sanctions would be applied after the election if it was determined the election hadn't been free and fair, though the question of how an election can be free and fair with massive foreign meddling never came up.

And given that London and the Western press decided weeks ago that the election won't be free and fair, the decision amounted to nothing more than temporizing. Sanctions are all but inevitable.

Still, for the Commonwealth not being hawkish enough about applying sanctions before the election, Globe and Mail columnist Michael Valpy declared, "we have failed Zimbabwe." Apparently, letting  the best farm land remain in the hands of the white minority, allowing land reform to be pushed forever to the back burner, and ensuring the black majority sinks ever deeper in poverty, amounts to coming to Zimbabwe's rescue, in Valpy's view.

Indeed, we have failed Zimbabwe, remarked Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, but Mkapa, unlike Valpy, was thinking of the majority.

"We have come to this pass," said Mkapa, " because there has been no Commonwealth initiative on dealing with the core crisis. And it has failed because there has been no funding for land reform in Zimbabwe."

And no funding for land reform is the way Tony Blair, and his man in Harare, Morgan Tsvangirai, plan to keep it.