Annals of disinformation: Rwanda’s case

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Tutsi aristocrat, photographed at the turn of the 20th Century. For centuries the upper class of Rwanda and Burundi, Tutsis were reinforced in those roles by the Germans and later the Belgians, who saw an inherent superiority in their height (often well over 6′.4″) and Ethiopianese features. It has been theorized that the distinctions between Hutu and Tutsi were not emphasized until the area was colonized by European settlers. When conducting census counts, the Belgians separated Africans into Tutsi and Hutu groups based solely on appearance or wealth. On this basis, only Tutsi were allowed to participate in government or seek education. Naturally, this caused dissatisfaction among the Hutu majority.

Disinformation: The ‘Concrete Rwandan Case’ – by Col Jacques Hogard

by Mick Collins ( Cirque Minime ) on Wed 24 Sep 2008 04:30 PM EDT | [print_link]

[I got to know Col. Jacques Hogard, former French Legionnaire who now runs his own security consulting firm (I don’t really know if he likes that ‘Legionnaire’ jacket—or when I call him ‘Mon Colonel’, which I must admit is somewhat weenie on my part, in as much as I am an old draft-dodger who got out of the Vietnam War by claiming to be a fag—but I find all my military affectations way cool, so I hope he’ll forgive me.), long before I actually met him, when, during one of my Rwanda-reading binges I picked up his little book on Operation Turquoise, Les larmes de l’honneur, at FNAC. As with mon Général Ndindiliyimana’s, I was intrigued with Col. Hogard’s latter-day (post heroic?) tale of heroism—how the French military saved thousands, even hundreds of thousands unto millions, of Rwandan lives from the rampaging RPF ‘rebels’ in the Summer of 1994—the sort of heroism which the irrationality of categorical anti-imperialists (those who equate Western and Eastern Imperialisms, NATO with the Warsaw Pact) has effectively made impossible. And to be able now to sit down in his office off the Place de l’Étoile and talk with this intelligent, thoroughly informed, squared-away yet compassionate French military officer about our deep mutual concerns with the case of France and Rwanda, is both a great pleasure and an enormous privilege. In fact, it reminds me of back in the day when I’d sit and shoot the shit with Richard Brooks or Sam Peckinpah about the politics of Hollywood labor.

But the irrationality of Waste Capitalism—on a global scale—is now quickly approaching critical mass. With the current US financial meltdown, the inevitable result of the supercedure of exchange-value over use-value, where the ultimate commodity, long since become purely virtual and immaterial, a mere fantasy, or like cocaine, creates nothing with its use except a renewed demand for itself (hence the overwhelming predominance of war production), and certainly creates no human(e) value, other than the various commissions, transaction fees, back-end points on distributor’s gross, and usurious interest slides, but merely continues and intensifies the criminal transfers of public assets to the gangrenous gangsters of the unregenerate financial elites: today’s calls for Truth and Justice, though seemingly more bootless than ever, are becoming more frequent and more concentrated on certain subjects. Rwanda and the recent history of the carnage begun with its invasion by US/UK/Israeli-backed Ugandan forces on 1 October 1990 are chief among these subjects. And most fascinating of all are the interrelations between all the current events, like the covert and overt wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, even against certain Latin American countries like Bolivia and Venezuela, and the global ‘war on terrorism’, and how they are all of a piece with the struggle of classic, minoritarian (corporate neo-feudal or fascist) socio-political formations against majoritarian, popular (revolutionary socialist or communist) governmental models, as manifest in the century-long, pitiless wars against the USSR (now Russia) and Communist China.

But this was just the beginning of a four-year reign of terror that claimed the lives of tens, even hundreds of thousands, and displaced perhaps a million more, and culminated in the double assassination of the democratically elected (Hutu*) presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on 6 April 1994, which, it is universally agreed, then triggered the so-called Rwanda genocide of 100 days (6 April to 16 July 1994), and eventually led to the Rwandan/Ugandan invasions of eastern Zaire (now Congo) that, to date, have cost upward of 8 million African souls.

And all this bloody chaos is justified as a defense against and punishment of ‘genocide’: which perfectly demonstrates the ‘disinforming trope’ of a Western military aggression being blamed on its victims by recontorting desperate efforts on the part of the aggressed at self-defense, at national defense into that very ‘genocide’. And this, in turn, is an example of the toxic irrationality (e.g., celebrating, during UN Peace Week in NYC, the blood-drenched, admitted terrorist and war criminal Paul Kagame, while protesting the much-maligned, much misinterpreted, but singularly unwarlike Mahmoud Ahmadenijad) that is fundamental to the criminal insanity that currently grips our world.

Throughout the Rwandan drama, France assisted its Francophone partner. Until the terrible victory of Paul Kagame’s RPF ‘rebels’ successfully tore that small, densely populated and strategically located nation from the French ‘Pré Carré’ (the Square Meadow) and forced it into the Anglo-Saxon Commonwealth, France supported the majoritarian interests of its Rwandan client against the minoritarian terrorism of its aggressors. This is what has earned France the—all too often self-applied—handle of ‘genocidaire’.

Exhumed Tutsi skulls (1995)

So, today, when the truth about this sordid, bloody and duplicitous Western imperialist adventure into ‘the heart of darkness’, this malignant mass investment of Western militarism into a defenseless Africa, is more and more being discovered through judicial inquiries, as with many of the cases before the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania, or the investigations of Spanish judge Fernando Andreu Merelles or French anti-terrorist magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguière, or even the current public defamation and incitement to racial hatred trial in Paris of French journalist Pierre Péan (His expansive ‘Noires fureurs, blancs menteurs’ is one of my faves on Rwanda, and I had floor-seats yesterday (23/9/08) for opening day of this trial—more on that anon), the real villains, the marauding waste-makers, who have banked so heavily on the military liquidation of Central Africa for easier access to the riches of Congo, have now recourse only to disinformation, to irrelevant and immaterial accusations against the French nation, its government and military, in their fey and feckless attempt to divert a demented public’s sclerotic and skittish attention from the craven and venal crimes they have committed in service of the anti-Culture of Western financial Philistinism.

While including the work of another dear, departed friend and fellow ‘theatre fag’, Vladimir Volkoff, whom I got to know while working for Louis Dalmas over at Balkans Infos, Col. Hogard presents a clear and cogent description of how disinformation has been used—and continues to be used—in the heightening and intensification of the irrationality that seems to be threatening a worldwide psychotic break with Reality. And at this end-stage of human history (but maybe it just seems that way to me because of my advanced age), who knows what horrors this latest bull-goose lunacy will bring. —mc

*We often use the tribal names ‘Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’ to stand for the socio-political concepts of ‘majoritarian’ and ‘minoritarian’, respectively.—nb ]

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DISINFORMATION: THE ‘CONCRETE RWANDAN CASE’

By Jacques Hogard, Colonel in the French Foreign Legion (retired), former commander of the southern group of Operation Turquoise in Rwanda (1994), CEO of E.P.E.E. (www.epee.fr), author of ‘Les larmes de l’honneur’ (Tears of Honor’), his eye-witness account of Operation Turquoise (editions Hugo&Cie, Paris, 2005)

‘What is important is not the reality of life but what people believe.’ Roger Mucchielli

As an officer in The Legion during the summer of 1994, I was a commander in the southern group of Operation Turquoise (21 June – 21 August 1994), set up in the southwest of Rwanda with the authorization of the UN (resolution 924) in order to establish a Humanitarian Security Zone for a limited period of 2 months . . .
I had never before served in Rwanda, neither under the auspices of military cooperation (under the military cooperation agreements signed by France and Rwanda in 1975), nor under the auspices of any of the military operations launched by France between October 1990 and December 1993 (dates marking the beginning and end of Operation Noroît), then in April 1994 (for the evacuation of French nationals and foreigners from Kigali at the onset of the massacres which would become the genocide of 1994).

*******

The Rwandan genocide of 1994 wasn’t an isolated event. It was the most horrific in a string of mass murders perpetrated by the Hutu against the Tutsi, and vice versa, since 1962, when Belgium granted independence to Rwanda and Burundi, two neighboring nations in Africa’s Great Lakes region.

Right away, this operation struck me as singular and, at the very least, sensitive and ‘controversial’. . .
In fact, just after arriving in Rwanda, I remember immediately being interviewed by the Anglo-American media, and being taken aback by the question, which seemed to me disingenuously posed, asking if I wasn’t ashamed to come to Rwanda ‘after what France had done or had let happen here!’

Since then, with all the charges that have been made against our country and its army, throughout the world, but also here in France, and this includes even in the major media, I have come to believe that the dramatic events in Rwanda have become the objects of a campaign of disinformation, perfectly executed and highly successful up to the present day . . .

If one can believe an expert, Vladimir Volkoff , disinformation is the ‘manipulation of public opinion, for political ends, with information treated in an indirect way’.
Volkoff says that ‘generally, when disinformation is presented simply using lies, eventually it will be discovered, without its discovery necessarily changing the effect of the campaign’! To support this idea he cites a few examples from recent history:

– ‘the mass grave at Timisoara was, in reality, a morgue, but Ceaucescu was still overthrown’;
– ‘the weapons of mass destruction used as a pretext for the Allied invasion of Iraq did not exist, but Saddam Hussein was still overthrown’;
– ‘the 100,000 dead Albanians in Kosovo were, in reality, ‘only’ less than 4,000, but Serbia was still driven out of its southern province’. . .
– etc.,

One could also add:

– ‘France had nothing to do with the outbreak of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, but its position as an influence in Africa is today lower than ever’!

It is, in fact, very interesting to analyze the campaign of disinformation about Rwanda, because it has had two conjoined effects, indisputable and impossible to discount:

Because of its self-proclaimed guilt in the Rwanda genocide,
– France has, in the last 14 years, lost its essential influence in Africa, to the point of today being little more than a spectator to the struggle between the Chinese and the Americans for strategic control of the ‘Dark Continent’ and for its hugely important reserves of raw materials; this includes Francophone Africa;
– Because of this situation, France has developed a terrible sense of guilt, unto remorse, about no longer having an Africa policy worthy of the name, and seems unprepared to develop any such clear and determined policy. The example of Ivory Coast is significant here.

The Volkoff Approach

According to Volkoff, a disinformation campaign always presents itself as an information campaign, but four characteristics allow us to make distinctions and become more aware of the reality of things.

Thus it seems very interesting to me to apply this ‘set of symptoms’ to the case of Rwanda:

1. ‘Everybody says the same thing. But it seldom occurs in human nature that people think the same thing.’

In the Rwandan case, read the international and French press, listen to the radio and watch TV: everybody (or almost) is completely convinced of the same truth: ‘there was a terrible genocide in Rwanda in 1994’ (which is true) ‘and France, whether it recognizes it or not, bears a large part of the responsibility for the development of this tragedy’ (which is false).

2. ‘Public opinion is over-loaded with information on one aspect of the question, to the detriment of other aspects.’ And, ‘poor is the man who’s read but one book’ or ‘you have to listen to the tolling of all the bells’. If we think we’ve read all there is to read, and if we think we’ve heard all the bells, and that all this has led us to only one view of the problem, it is because this is what someone has wanted us to think and we have, thus, been tricked’ . . .

The entirety of the media, all the book that are published—with very few exceptions, which are very quickly made suspect and demonized (one must remember the example of the work of journalist Pierre Péan [Noires fureurs, blancs menteurs: Rwanda 1990-1994 – Mille et une nuits, Paris, 2005 {Black Fury, White Liars}], first praised, then written off as being that of ‘a racist, negationist, trickster in the service of the French Army and the memory of his friend François Mitterand)—have signed on to the narrative of the genocide of the Tutsis (and, let’s not forget the innumerable moderate Hutus!) being solely the responsibility of the Hutu majority (which is true, though incomplete without much further explanation), tirelessly supported by France (which is false).

3. ‘All the good guys are on one side, all the bad guys on the other. But, the real situation is rarely so Manichean. Doubtlessly, there are just causes and unjust causes, but it never happens that all the do-rights are on one side, and all the bastards on the other. Any information that is presented to make us believe in something so unnatural is suspect because it is based on the ideology of the Cowboy Western, where the color of your Stetson—white or black—tells us whether you’re the hero or the villain. These simplistic extremes are pleasing to our inner-child, and we are always ready to kid ourselves in this way, as much from mental laziness as from innocence.’

The good-guys: these are obviously the victims, the martyrs of the genocide: the Tutsis (one willfully forgets the Hutus who were exterminated by their fellow Hutus, or, either earlier or later, by the Tutsis!), but also their liberators: The RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front), Uganda, and world opinion, the best friend of the Tutsis and the RPF, and this includes Bernard Kouchner, as well as, today, such organizations as the Reseau Voltaire, Golias, Survie, Ibuka, and all those that willy-nilly denounce ‘colonialism’, ‘The Church’, ‘François Mitterand’, ‘FrançAfrica’, ‘The French Army’. . .The bad-guys: the Hutus and France, which unflinchingly aided them (but not without conditions: like a forced democratization of the regime!) from 1990 to 1993 . . .

Clearly, all Hutus are bastards, as is the government of France, and all the Tutsis are unassailable because they are martyrs.

Tutsi doing “Lion Dance”.

4. ‘The acquiescence of public opinion develops into a mass psychosis. This is the objective of all campaigns of disinformation. The information consumer must ask for more, must abandon his critical sense, and must demand a permanent confirmation of the disinformation which is administered to him as dope to a junkie who always begs for more, until he succumbs to the ‘vampirism’ of disinformation: all who are bitten become biters, all who are disinformed become disinformers’.

As an example, one need only look at the film ‘Operation Turquoise’, directed by Alain Tasma and Gilles Taurand, and shown on Canal+ in November 2007, to understand the relevance of these four symptoms. All the clichés are found here, the accusations, latent or not, against French policies in Rwanda, the more or less direct allusions to the partiality of the French military’s comportment in this tragedy. . . . Thus, Tasma and Taurand, they, themselves, disinformed, take their turn at disinforming others, all in good faith, of course. . . .

The Tofflers’ interpretation

According to the American researchers Alvin and Heidi Toffler , cited by Volkoff, a campaign of disinformation is characterized by the use of:

1. The accusation of atrocities

This is much easier with Rwanda where there were innumerable atrocities, notably constitutive of a genocide. But they are not obviously charged to or chargeable to only the Hutus and to those who armed them, that is, the French. In any case, the Tutsi ‘rebels’ were reputed to have been possessed of an ironclad discipline—though there are numerous reports, and important ones at that, available today, on large-scale massacres perpetrated against Hutu peasants by the RPF in the course of the four years before the genocide, and even after that, in the years following the Front’s seizure of power (see the Human Rights Watch report on the massacres of hundreds of thousands of Hutus committed in 1994, 1995 and 1996, by the Tutsi army in exercise of its ‘right of pursuit of genocidaires’ into neighboring Zaire, see also the testimony of Abdul Ruzibiza, ‘Rwanda, l’histoire secrète’ {‘Rwanda, the secret history} put out by Editons Panama in 2005).

2. The extreme exaggeration of the stakes

In the case of Rwanda, if one fuzzes out the hundreds of thousands of dead before and after the genocide, most of whom were Hutus, one falls upon the generally recognized figure of 1,200,000 victims, understood all to be Tutsis, while only the research into the truth that tends more toward precision and moderation in this macabre accounting comes up with a figure closer to 800,000 dead. As if it had to reach, or even better!, to exceed this fateful figure of one million dead, in order to better shock the minds of the public and convince them of the abomination of this ‘New Holocaust’. Because, here again, it is vital to make the parallel between the genocides of the Tutsis and that of the Jews. . . . As if they were one and the same thing . . .
Forget not only the respective representations of the Tutsi and Hutu communities in this tragedy, but also their real responsibilities.

3. The demonization or dehumanization of the enemy

The regime of the late president Juvénal Habyarimana (assassinated 6 April 1994), more authoritarian and paternalistic than totalitarian (unlike that of his successor), was converted in 1990 by François Mitterand from a single party state into a multiparty system with inter-communitarian dialogue, and ended with his death. But today it is described, without the slightest hint of the ridiculous, as being a sort of ‘Tropical Naziism’. Might always makes right, as La Fontaine would say.
Today it is just one people, the Hutu (80% of the Rwandan population) who have been black-listed by the entire world. It’s not good to be a Hutu today, even if you are a saint! Demonization played, and continues to play, its full role in allowing the regime of President Paul Kagame all its excesses and Human Rights violations without anyone anywhere in the international community raising a voice against it.

4. Polarization

This consists in suppressing all nuance. It is necessary that disinformation be total. If you are not today a partisan of Kagame and his regime, then you must—obviously—have been an accomplice in the genocide! If you give any credence to the conclusions drawn by anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière (who, in closing-out his investigation on the assassination of President Habyarimana on 6 April 1994, issued, in the name of the French judiciary, 9 international arrest warrants against individuals close to Kagame), then you are guilty of complicity in the genocide and crimes against humanity!

5. Calling upon the Devine for sanction

Even if we live in a secular world, calling upon The Devine for sanction—even if not explicitly—gives us a sense of being morally interesting:
If the Hutus are in Rwanda today (that is, if they currently suffer under the boot of the Kagame regime), it is because they deserve it. Get outta here, the mass is over!

6. Mega-propaganda, or the art of discrediting information coming from your enemy by treating it as ‘propaganda’, a subtle but effective method.

Accusations of ‘revisionism’, of ‘negationsim’, against academics, researchers, journalists, writers, witnesses whose opinions diverge from, or are only different from the consensus thinking, point up this evidence. The imposed version of history, where ‘the genocide was the work of the Hutus supported by the French’, is information. While the fact of placing this genocide in its historical context, that is, in the context of a civil war begun four years earlier, marked by horrible massacres on a massive scale (particularly those in which hundreds of thousands of Hutu were slaughtered by the Tutsi army in the forests of eastern Zaire in the winter of 1995-96), immediately hangs a revisionist or negationist jacket on you. Talk about double standards! Mega-propaganda has had its effect.

So the test of the Rwandan affair against the writings of the Tofflers or Vladimir Volkoff, is, as we have just seen, especially rich in reflection and very educational. There is no doubt that Rwanda is a wonderful lesson in disinformation.

It is not, however, a disinformation campaign without a strategic motive and a direct instigator with a keen interest in its success.

Considering Rwanda and Central Africa, it is important to remember that this little country today plays an essential role at the heart of the Great Lakes region of Africa, center stage, with an importance that is disproportionate to its slight demographic, its area or its natural assets. It would be appropriate in this regard to read the latest work of the British novelist and former MI6 agent, John Le Carré, ‘The Mission Song’. Here you will learn about all the important long-term strategies that have brought the Great Powers into this part of the Congo (the eastern provinces of the ex-Zaire, Kivu and Katanga, that are often described as a ‘geological scandal’!) in order to control the extraordinary variety of rare mineral resources, especially Coltan. The Rwanda of Paul Kagame, the ex-chief of the Tutsi ‘rebels’, trained at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, who was also head of the Ugandan Special Services, is a faithful allie of the US. The country is a ‘product’ of the labors of Yoweri Museveni’s Uganda. He is the biggest player today in the game of military expropriation of the fabulous riches of the region.

Yes, the campaign of disinformation led against France for its role in Rwanda should not be minimized. Yes, it has achieved its objectives, on the one hand tactical: to take France out of the Great Lakes region; and strategic on the other: greatly and lastingly to weaken France’s influence, not just in the region, but in all of Africa. The results are there.

—M.C.

Paris 15 May 2008

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