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Front Page » July 2, 2002 » Opinion » Who should be blamed for famines?
Published 4,461 days ago

Who should be blamed for famines?


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By Robert Tracinski
Ayn Rand Institute

Today, more than a million people in Zimbabwe are starving, and up to three million face the imminent prospect of starvation. This has not yet excited much attention in the West. Zimbabwe, after all, is far away from the centers of American interest; all of our top reporters are in Kandahar and Karachi.

But this case is important, not because of any direct effect it may have on the United States, but because it is a pure, distilled example of the larger trend that is destroying the world: the West's loss of moral confidence.

That loss of confidence is codified in the doctrines of the academic left. The same folks who brought us "postmodernism" and "multiculturalism" brought us another variation on the same theme: "post-colonialism." In today's academic code words, "post-" really means "anti-." "Post-colonialism" is the theory that every evil in the world is caused by Western powers trying to assert control over non-Western countries. More fundamentally, the post-colonialists condemn any attempt by the West to assert the superiority of our ideals � narrow notions like individual rights and the rule of law � over the primitive way of life of "indigenous peoples."

Everything that is happening in Zimbabwe is being done in full accord with the doctrines of post-colonialism.

If every evil is caused by colonialism, then the heart of the problem must be the colonists themselves. In Zimbabwe, that means thousands of white British farmers who settled in Zimbabwe's sparsely populated countryside and built a prosperous agricultural economy. The settler's use of Western agricultural techniques, combined with the benefits of British law and order, made Zimbabwe into the breadbasket of southern Africa, an exporter of grain on which all of its neighbors relied. But in accordance with leftist philosophy, Zimbabwe's post-colonial ruler, Robert Mugabe, denounced the white farmers and hatched a scheme for "land reform."

In the language of tin-pot dictatorships, "reform" means "theft." For years, Mugabe has allowed armed gangs to occupy white-owned farms, sometimes murdering the owners, as a precursor to a plan to seize the farms, allegedly for redistribution to poor blacks. (In reality, the farms are going to Mugabe's cronies.)

The result? People are starving in Zimbabwe, not because there is a drought, but because hundreds of thousands of acres of crops have not been planted. Some farms are fallow because they are occupied by armed thugs. Others are unused because of a law threatening white farmers with two years in prison if they plant without government permission, which has not been given. Other farms are unplanted simply because no one in his right mind would go to the trouble of planting crops that will be seized before he can harvest them.

When you make war on the farmers, what can you expect but famine?

Mugabe's justification for this disastrous policy is pure post-colonialism: "Land, being the most important natural resource of any country, must belong to . . . the indigenous people." This is also, you might have noticed, an explicit policy of racism: whites must have their farms seized because they are not black.

Now Mugabe is following the playbook of history's more ruthless dictators: using famine to liquidate his political opposition. But he is going one better by getting the United Nations to help him starve his opponents. Here is how Shari Eppel, the director of the African civil-rights group Amani Trust, describes the process: "International food donors are setting up feeding centers aimed at destitute families, but once the donors have moved on, the bullies move in and decide who gets fed and who doesn't." Even the relatives and children of opposition supporters are condemned to starvation.

How can the United Nations allow this? The U.N. and its Western donors are just playing along with the post-colonialist ground rules. The West is supposed to regard Africa's poverty as the product of our evil interference, never mind the facts. So it's our duty to send buckets of money and food � but we are not supposed to enforce any rules on how the money is spent or how the food is distributed, because that kind of control would, after all, be colonialism.

In the middle of the famine he created, Mugabe had the effrontery this week to attend a U.N.-sponsored World Food Summit in Rome. There, representatives from African nations dined lavishly while they blamed their famines on the West's failure to give more aid.

Welcome to the "post-colonialist" world, where Third World dictators blame the West for their sins. The West caves in � and lets the dictators keep on sinning.


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July 2, 2002
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