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Monday, November 29, 2004

Colonial Warfare pt. 6

A Saab J29 used in the Congo

The UN and Congo

The United Nations Operation in the Congo (Opération des Nations Unies au Congo, or ONUC), which took place in the Republic of the Congo from July 1960 until June 1964, marked a milestone in the history of United Nations peacekeeping in terms of the responsibilities it had to assume, the size of its area of operation and the manpower involved. It included, in addition to a peacekeeping force which comprised at its peak strength nearly 20,000 officers and men, an important Civilian Operations component. Originally mandated to provide the Congolese Government with the military and technical assistance it required following the collapse of many essential services and the military intervention by Belgian troops, ONUC became embroiled by the force of circumstances in a chaotic internal situation of extreme complexity and had to assume certain responsibilities which went beyond normal peacekeeping duties.

1. Establishment of ONUC

The Republic of the Congo, a former Belgian colony, became independent on 30 June 1960. In the days that followed, disorder broke out, and Belgium sent its troops to the Congo, without the agreement of the Congolese Government, for the declared purpose of restoring law and order and protecting Belgian nationals.

On 12 July 1960, the Congolese Government asked for United Nations military assistance to protect the national territory of the Congo against external aggression. Two days later, the Security Council called upon Belgium to withdraw its troops from the Congo and authorized military assistance as might be necessary until, through the efforts of the Government with the technical assistance of the United Nations, the national security forces might be able, in the Government's opinion, to meet their tasks fully. [The Council resolution was adopted by 8 votes in favour (including the Soviet Union and the United States) to none against, with three abstentions.]

In less than 48 hours, contingents of a United Nations Force, provided by a number of countries including Asian and African States began to arrive in the Congo. At the same time, United Nations civilian experts were rushed to the Congo to help ensure the continued operations of essential public services.

2. Operations

Over the next four years, the task of the United Nations Operations in the Congo was to help the Congolese Government restore and maintain the political independence and territorial integrity of the Congo; to help it maintain law and order throughout the country; and to put into effect a wide and long-range programme of training and technical assistance.

To meet the vast and complex task before it, the United Nations had to assemble a very large team. At its peak strength, the United Nations Force totalled nearly 20,000 officers and men. The instructions of the Security Council to this Force were strengthened early in 1961 after the assassination in Katanga province of former Prime Minster Patrice Lumumba. The Force was to protect the Congo from outside interference, particularly by evacuating foreign mercenaries, and advisers from Katanga and preventing clashes and civil strife, by force if necessary as a last resort.

Following the reconvening of Parliament in August 1961 under United Nations auspices, the main problem was the attempted secession, led and financed by foreign elements, of the province of Katanga. In September and December 1961, and again in December 1962, the secessionist gendarmes under the command of foreign mercenaries clashed with the United Nations Force. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld lost his life on 17 September 1961 in the crash of his airplane on the way to Ndola (in what is now Zambia) where talks were to be held for the cessation of hostilities.

3. Termination of ONUC

In February 1963, after Katanga had been reintegrated into the national territory of the Congo, a phasing out of the Force was begun, aimed at its termination by the end of that year. At the request of the Congolese Government, however, the General Assembly authorized the stay of a reduced number of troops for a further six months. The Force was completely withdrawn by 30 June 1964.

Although the military phase of the United Nations Operation in the Congo had ended, civilian aid continued in the largest single programme of assistance undertaken until that time by the world Organization and its agencies, with some 2,000 experts at work in the nation at the peak of the programme in 1963-1964.

The UN was forced to deploy a sizable army to contain the situation which the Belgians didn't only abandoned, but created. They were the ones who had built up these tribal antagonism and refused to provide an infrastructure for a state. They were thinking along the lines of some kind of self-development in 1980, which was a denial of reality which amazing.

The Katanganese were being "aided" by the South Africans, racist Senators in the US and European businesses. Everyone wanted the resources and damn the dead locals. Of course, the rage that those locals felt about a century of Belgian colonialism was vastly underestimated. The Belgians liked a disunited Congo, and pretty much fled the country in a pique in 1960. It took no time for the country to turn into a charnel house.

Why has Belgium never been held accountable for what basically has set the stage for 40 years of war and murder? Why do Belgians feel free to criticize the US over social policy? This is literally a black hole in Belgian history. And the Belgians are hardly alone. We're going to take a look at the Dutch, next (Iraq is at the end of the story, sorry). Because their equally selfish administration created a series of problems there.

Europeans have managed to ignore their colonial past and grow peeved when their former subjects want to live in the home country. Even when you raise the subject, they grow outraged that you bring up the subject. European amnesia about colonialism is so complete that Niall Fergusson can write a book on colonialism equal to Holocaust denial and no one calls it such. Max Boot can talk about "small" wars with no context.

The cost of colonialism is seen every day in AIDS, in wars, in pollution. Yet, few Europeans can or will come to terms with their own bloody histories. It is far easier to point to the Russians or US and decry present evil than to admit the horrors of their pasts.


The legacy of Hitler.

Hitler was the greatest gift to European moral conscience that has ever existed. Even Stalin's murders and forced deportations pale in comparison to the mass murders which Hitler did. Hitler prevents any real examination of the crimes of Europe in the Third World. After all, the Holocaust is the nadir of human conduct. Even the Gulag wasn't designed to make money off of murdered corpses. Hitler shamed us all and showed exactly how far humans could go.

However, Hitler's evil was so great that even Stalin got a pass. His murders were either hidden or justified by people who should have known better. Both in the US and Europe. The idea that colonialism was a big, fat step on the road to Auschwitz goes unnoticed by Europeans. If they are inclined, they may look back to the Armenian Massacre of 1915, but the ongoing death camp of the Congo Free State and the concentration camps of Namibia remain lost to history. Everything Hitler did to the Poles and Jews in 1942, Gen. Lothar von Trotta did to the Hottenttot and Herero in 1904. No, he didn't turn them into ash, but he sure did build concentration camps and starve them to death. Collective punishment? You bet. Auschwitz was the last step in a chain of human cruelty, not the first. And it didn't start with the Nuremburg Laws. It started with people no one noticed or knew or much cared about, savages. It only dawned on Europeans the evils of colonies when Hitler turned their countries into colonies of Germany. All of the techniques used by the Nazis, forced labor, theft of resources, stealing land, well, it began in Africa and Asia. Hitler just did them to Europeans. Who reacted like the colonized, they fought him tooth and nail. Hitler played divide and conquer as well. Pitting ethinicities against each other, recruiting locals to do their dirty work, taking side in local politics.

In a bit of irony, it was the colonies which provided the Europeans a base to oppose Hitler's imperial plans. Algeria, Egypt, Palestine, Bermuda, Canada, all were integral to the war against Hitler. Jamaicans and Australians flew side by side in Lancasters over Germany. Canadians landed on Juno Beach and Canadian officers led Indians in Burma. Algerians and Senegalese liberated Paris. Filipinos led the liberation of their country.

But Europeans have never, to this day, truly faced the bloody legacy of empire building. This doesn't mean Americans have either. But when you hear Europeans exclaim wonder and anazement at US attitude towards Iraq, how many know what Belgians thought about the Congolese or British thought about Kenyans or Malaysians? They were equally as complicit and silent, only a few lonely voices rejecting the horrors of colonialism. Why should Americans be any better or different?

posted by Steve @ 3:47:00 PM

3:47:00 PM

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