February 28, 2010

The good coup

Niger military coup leader
being condemned by UN and African Union
Not! Click for a closer look at their faces

The other day, in another part of the world, there was an actual military coup. Going in with machine guns blazing, the military removed the "democratically elected" president and his cabinet members. The president is imprisoned somewhere where the military assured the world they are attending to his health and security needs. They also captured and are holding the general in charge of the joint chiefs of staff who was supporting the president. At least three soldiers were killed in the battle.

The military in this case freely admit that this was a military coup. Two of the three top leaders were involved in the last military coup in 1999. They have installed a prime minister who they freely admit is under their complete control. The leaders of the coup suspended the country's constitution and immediately dissolved all democratic state institutions. The country was put under 24-hour curfew and all borders were closed.

The military leaders have said that they had to do it to save democracy in their country and that they will be rewriting the constitution and will hold (military-run) elections soon, perhaps in a year.

In contrast to the swift and harsh condemnations received by Honduras, only the African Union and France, who has a $1.5 billion uranium contract under the deposed government, have condemned the Niger coup. The US government has been practically mum on the issue, willing to take the coupsters at their word that they are the good guys.

Aaron at Pensieve, in US Hypocrisy: Niger and Honduras, covered part of a US State Department daily briefing in which the US reaction basically appears to be a big yawn.

This short press briefing from the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs William Fitzgerald so reeks of US hypocrisy in comparison to Honduras that I am literally speechless. The US often arrogantly stated that conditions in Honduras − which had a fully functional civilian government, led by a civilian president who assumed office under the constitutional order of succession − were "not right" for holding the already scheduled elections. The US is now perfectly content to allow a violent military junta to hold elections in Niger, while the democratically elected president remains prisoner. Ho-hum. So what? 

Here is an excerpt from that briefing:

"So far, the new government seems to be saying the right things. They call themselves the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy. And if anything, today, we would encourage them to move as quickly as possible if they are serious, and we hold them to that, to restore, in fact, the democracy that existed before Mamadou Tandja himself had begun to modify the constitution and extend his rule extrajudicially. So at this point, what we’re doing is – the ball is in their court."

Deputy Fitzgerald was particularly encouraged that the military regime called themselves the Council for the Restoration of Democracy. If they say so, it must be true.

Another briefing from the US Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Johnnie Carson is excerpted below.

No doubt the question of the hypocritical US position on coups had to come up in private State Department discussions before these press briefings occurred. My guess: They said "Americans don't give a damn about Honduras or Niger. Let's just go with it."

What does the international media, who were so rabid about the Honduras 'coup', have to say? Here is a sampling:

Reuters: Niger's junta wins popularity, (Includes this gem: "The international community cannot and will not approve of the coup. However, along with condemnations, the junta should know that if they bring the country around to rapid elections they will be considered international heroes," said one diplomat.)

Reuters Africa News Blog: When is a coup a good coup?

LA Times: President's ouster praised in Niger after military seizes power in coup, promises elections

And the best of all −
The Economist: Niger's Coup − It seems popular, so far, The African Union tut-tuts but the people appear to welcome a coup

If only Honduras could have gotten a break with the media like this!

What's the difference? The biggest difference that I can see is that Hugo Chávez doesn't care about Niger and thus has not set his world network of news agencies, journalists, paid disinformers, and human rights 'experts' to turn world opinion against Niger. 

Aaron points out another difference: Niger has the fifth largest Uranium reserves on Earth. Niger also has a US $5 billion oil pumping contract with China. By comparison, Honduras has bananas, coffee, socks, and t-shirts. And finally, Niger President Mamadou Tandja is locked up somewhere, presumably alive, but unable to travel the world drumming up support with trumped up claims of human rights violations.


From US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson's press briefing of February 24, 2010:

Business Daily: Hi. [Inaudible]. Do you have any opinion about the developments in Niger and Cote I'voire?

Ambassador Carson: Yes. We are following developments in both of those countries very very closely.

Let me first say something with respect to Niger. We have been deeply concerned and troubled by events in Niger since July and August of last year. Around that time former President and recently deposed President Tandja has started to unravel the democratic institutions of his country in an effort to advance his own personal political agenda. [LG: Sounds like Zelaya in Honduras, but the US didn't express their concern about what Zelaya had been doing before June 28 even though they were very well aware of it.]

In a quest to have a third term in office which was prohibited by the constitution, he overrode the views of the parliament, he overrode the views of the supreme court, and he overrode the constitution itself. He then arranged for a sham referendum which had a low turnout which ultimately allowed him to illegally extend his term of office. [LG: Could this sound any more familiar to the events in Honduras? Yet, none of that was mentioned by the US for months after June 28.]

The United States government along with others engaged President Tandja, encouraged him not to move forward in those efforts. Warned him that there would in fact be consequences. So when he extended his term of office illegally on the 23rd of December of last year, the United States had already taken action. We suspended Niger’s participation in AGOA. We ended the MCC program that we had in the country. We terminated all of our USAID support with the exception of humanitarian assistance. We asked Nigerian military officers who were studying in the United States to return home. And we cut all but humanitarian and emergency assistance. We said that we were opposed to the hijacking of democracy, even by civilians and we meant it. [LG: Note that although the president was warned, and sanctions had already been taken (as they had not in Honduras), the president did successfully extend his term. The country was stuck and the only way to remedy it was a coup. Conversely, in Honduras, President Zelaya was emboldened to continue his illegal actions by the statements of the US, the US Ambassador in Honduras, and OAS Secretary General Insulza.]

The coup that has just taken place offers an opportunity for those who now are in power to move Niger back into the ranks of democracy. No coup, whether it is a civilian coup or a military coup, is a good coup. Coups are by their nature bad. They are a disruption of the political and the democratic process. [LG: required disclaimer] We encourage the military junta that is now in power to live up to what they say they stand for. If they are indeed there to restore democracy, they should do so quickly and expeditiously. They should set a time table, a short time table, six months for the return of democracy in Niger. In that way they will demonstrate that their words really have meaning. [LG: The coup is an opportunity. All coups are bad but we'll take the coupsters at their word.]

If they did this to restore democracy and liberty to the country, then they should move forward with doing so very quickly. Niger has had very successful political elections in the past. They’ve had multi-party politics. They’re established parties, they’re institutions that we’re working, institutions that were defending democracy against President Tandja. It should be very easy for that country to move back towards the democratic process. If it does, we will be in the forefront of restoring as quickly as possible our support for that country. [LG: So rather than interfering in the country which actually did experience a military coup and actually is being run by the military, the US has adopted a wait and see attitude.]

Hypocrisy at its finest.

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