Save Freedonia When it comes to Western Sahara, America's Africa policy isso bad you'd think it was dealing with an imaginary country from a GrouchoMarx movie.*
The Guardian (UK)**
**May 1, 2007 7:30 PM*
Not many people have heard of the Western Sahara dispute and mostcongressmen could not tell it fromFreedonia
- until the lobbyistscame a-knocking.Yesterday, the UN Security Council fought back a Franco-American effort torewrite international law in favour of Morocco and against the people ofWestern Sahara. Morocco has offered dubious"autonomy" to Western Sahara, but isrefusing to holdthe referendum in the territorythat the World Court and the UN Security Council have called for - and towhich Morocco had agreed, until it became clear that it would lose.The compromise resolution did not endorse theMoroccan plan, but called for talks between Morocco and the SahrawiPolisario, "with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptablepolitical solution, which will provide for the self-determination of thepeople of Western Sahara." The Moroccan plan directly precludedself-determination.The US's new pro-Moroccan policy was heralded last week when no less than168 members of congress signed a letter demanding that the White Housesupport Morocco - regardless of international law or previous policy.We can safely assume that at least 160 of them had never heard of WesternSahara a month ago. When the learned members of congress rush to sign afact-free letter on foreign policy, you can be sure that there is a lobby atwork.Not that the lobbies have to work too hard. In foreign policy matterscongressmen can be like urinal walls - you can write anything on them. In1992, a Spy magazine reporter called some two score Republican congressionalnew-comers for the Newt Gingrich revolution and asked them what they weregoing to do about the situation inFreedonia .The neocons had not taken over then, so not one of them suggested regimechange and getting rid of Groucho. Instead, they waffled in a statesmanlikeway about the efforts they would take to ensure stability there.So, on this occasion, who could be too surprised to discover that thelobbyists responsible for those diplomatic triumphs, the war in Iraq, thewar on terror, the embargo on Cuba and America's uncritical support forwhichever nudnik heads the Knesset were also those who garnered the 168signatures?Morocco has put in some $30m into its lobbying effort and, through itssurrogate, the "Moroccan American Policy Center", has been tickling the softunderbelly of the congress.Toby Muffett, a former Connecticut representative who had been elected on aNaderite clean-up-Congress ticket, engagingly described a week in the lifeof a lobbyist inthe Los Angeles Times recently:*I leave and rush to the House side of the Capitol to meet another client,the ambassador from Morocco. We have a meeting with a key member of theAppropriations Committee. Morocco has a good story to tell. It is a reliablefriend of the U.S. It believes that the long-standing dispute with Algeriaand the rebel Polisario group overthe western Sahara must be resolved.We tell the congresswoman and her staff that the region is becoming apossible Al Qaeda training area. ...My idea is to sell this as a chance forDemocrats to resolve a dispute in a critical region, in contrast to thepresident's utter failure to fix anything.*And on the Republican side, ElliotAbrams the "deputy nationalsecurity adviser for global democracy strategy", ahawkish pro-Israeli supporter and one of the neocon devisers of the Iraqwar, has also been pushing the Moroccanplan ,betraying the same insouciance towards legal technicalities that he did whenconvicted over the Iran/Contra scandal.In Washington, the Moroccan Embassy hiredEdelman for$35,000 a month as its lobbyist, which of course had nothing to withthetimely letter from an increasingly conservative and belligerent AmericanJewish Committee weighing in with a letter of support for the king, whocombines being chair of the Organization of the Islamic Conference'sCommittee for Jerusalem with being one of Israel's best friends in the Arabworld.For Morocco supporters, an enemy's friend is a hated foe. Polisario has thedubious benefit of Castro's support and that is enough, (plus a $15,000monthly retainer) to rally the Florida delegation, which has also noticedthat *El Jefe* has a soft spot for the Palestinians as well, with similarresults on their voting patterns.The 168 signatories are almost a roll-call of anti-Castro, pro-Israelimembers of Congress, and their numbers were doubtless boosted when the MACPrecently hired the law-and-lobbying firm of AlbertoCardenas ,a veteran anti-Castro Cuban American who served two terms as head ofFlorida's Republican Party and co-chaired Bush's 2004 effort in the SunshineState.That alone should put in relief his concern for Democracy in north Africa.But just in case you had lingering doubts, Freedom House andsimilar bodies give Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara and Zimbabwe the samehuman rights score, just beating, by a wrenched out finger-nail, Tibet,Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan.If in doubt, of course, invoke terrorism. Most of the letters from theKing's men and women invoke the Polisario-held areas as potential heartlandsof al-Qaida style terrorism. Oddly enough, in the real world, thePolisario's biggest supporter is Algeria, which is battling Islamicextremists with some considerable vigour - indeed a little too much for sometender minded observers - while Polisario itself was, until recently,proclaimed a communist plot by American politicians, which is why they havetacitly supported the Moroccan occupation all these years.But luckily, it's not all Duck Soup onCapitol Hill - even if there are far too many horse feathers around forcomfort. Most of the members of the African subcommittee in the house wereamong the 50-plus who signed an opposing letter demanding US support forSahrawi self-determination. But without Moroccan money behind it, not manypeople heard about the story.
It's no way to rule a world!