A response to the article entitled ‘Merchants of Death: Exposing Corporate Financed Holocaust in Africa’ by Keith Harmon Snow
In Africa Genocide Article, Writer Distorts Our Book
By Kevin Funk and Steven Fake
As the authors of "The Scramble for Africa: Darfur - Intervention and the USA," we find it necessary to respond to Keith Harmon Snow's highly confused and misleading references to our work, and the strange litany of positions he attributes to it, and to us.
Harmon Snow writes that "The book makes no mention of covert operations or private military companies operating in South Sudan or Darfur." Yet this is demonstrably false. We mention the role of Dyncorp in both south Sudan and Darfur (page 88), and, more prominently, Blackwater – in fact, twice in the main text (88, 115), and also for two paragraphs in an endnote (248). Perhaps Harmon Snow's razor eye for detail somehow missed the book's index, in which both companies are listed.
He roundly condemns us for citing "ad nauseum all the usual propagandists," like Eric Reeves. But of course citing does not mean approving. In fact, we label Reeves a "hawkish commentator and invasion advocate" (xxvii), and at different points observe that he pursues his arguments "bizarrely" (xxvii), "very naïvely (to be charitable)," and that he is simply "wrong" (272). In a broader point, even in writing from a leftist perspective, there is of course value in referencing mainstream works (in addition to left-wing ones) where appropriate, as doing so serves to broaden the audience that will be open to the arguments.
As is obvious, relatively few who are not already leftists will be swayed if citations are only given to left-wing works, though if a critique of US policy appears "even" in the New York Times or another mainstream publication, it is much likelier to resonate with the broader public.
Harmon Snow also incorrectly notes that while we call Omar al-Bashir a "major war criminal," we "never similarly condemn" Western powers such as the U.S. and Israel, and their leaders. Again, the factual record, easily available to anyone who reads the book, indicates otherwise.
We note that, "Given that the U.S. has been named the biggest threat to world security in polls of global opinion, one may wonder when a blue-helmeted UN liberation force will be deployed to the streets of Washington to halt its war against the people of Iraq" (64), and that Washington's concerns about the ICC are a reflection of the fact that "it might become a serious instrument for justice, and will thus turn to investigating US crimes" (xxxviii). We reference Israel's "ethnic cleansing of Palestinians" (63), its "war crimes" (116), and the fact that its "massive crimes are perceived to be in service of Western geopolitical interests" (64). Again, the positions Harmon Snow attributes to us are utterly unrecognizable.
Even where Harmon Snow directly cites our work, he deftly manages to misrepresent our arguments. Referencing our comment in the foreword that, "there would be little to mourn in Bashir's overthrow, and such a move—depending, of course, on the actors involved, and its prospects for success—could be cautiously supported," he comments that, "In other words, it's fine for white people from the United States to organize the overthrow of sovereign governments, as long as we selectively chose the 'right' people for the job."
We make our assertion in the context of discussing the Justice and Equality Movement-led coup attempt against Khartoum in May of this year. There is simply nothing about non-Sudanese trying "to organize" a coup, and in actuality we argue vehemently in the book against any sort of foreign-led regime change in Khartoum, and spend an entire chapter on the imperialist uses of the doctrine of "humanitarian intervention." Rather, as is obvious to any individual with any notion of the concept of "solidarity," our comments mean that we stand with the oppressed segments of the Sudanese population in their struggle for justice, whether their oppression comes from internal or foreign sources.
What we present above suggests one of three conclusions: (1) that Harmon Snow did not read the book, (2) that he read it and did not understand it, or, (3) that he read it, understood it, and nevertheless chose to deliberately misrepresent the analysis presented therein. We will not speculate on which of the three, or perhaps some combination of them, is behind his mangling of our arguments, though none of the possibilities qualify him to be writing about our analysis in the first place.
We invite the editors and readers to draw their own conclusions about the merits of our book and arguments (our website <www.scrambleforafrica.org> features several excerpts from the text, as well as our other writings on the Darfur conflict), and expect that this letter will be appropriately included on the page containing his article.
Putting aside the serious mischaracterizations of our book in this article, we are very pleased to see analyses that challenge the distorted narratives of the Western corporate press reaching readers. It is impossible for those of us living in the U.S. to act in solidarity with the oppressed in Africa unless the realities and true causes of African conflicts are known. That is particularly true when our government plays a direct role in the violence.
Kevin Funkco-author, Scramble For Africa: Darfur - Intervention and the USA