C Street Senator, Christian Right Prop Up Ivory Coast's Murderous Dictator
You'd think the right-wing, Christian, power-mongering group, the Family, would have learned its lesson about supporting African dictators when news of Uganda's "kill the gays" bill blew up in its face. But no. After all, ties to power don't fray easily, especially when your best friend in the mineral-rich Cote d'Ivoire -- or Ivory Coast -- is a nominal Christian, while his legitimately-elected opponent is a Muslim.
Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla., one of the Family's stalwarts, turned his back on the Obama administration and the Ivoirian people, reports Salon's Justin Elliott, when the administration asked Inhofe to use his friendly ties, cultivated through the Family, to ask Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to step down after he lost an internationally certified election to longtime rival Alassane Ouattara. Never mind that Inhofe's intervention might have stopped the spread of a civil war. Never mind that Gbagbo's security forces gunned down seven women in the streets of Abidjan, the nation's capital. Never mind that Ouattara's election was certified by international observers. Inhofe said no.
In fact, he said more than that. Just like his dictator pal, Inhofe wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to say that he rejects the election results, despite the acceptance of election observers. Here's an excerpt of Inhofe's letter, as displayed on Inhofe's Senate Web site:
I am aware that my position is different from that of the Obama Administration, which has recognized Alassane Ouattara as the winner. I ask, however, that you change your position in light of the evidence I have provided, and that you call for a new election. Such a change would not be viewed as inconsistent, but a wise reevaluation in light of new evidence presented. It is also consistent with our American dedication to the principle that democracy works best when it works for all and not for some. I am convinced that only through a new election will the people of Cote d’Ivoire end the increasing bloodshed, stop another civil war and ensure free and fair elections.
Elliott also reveals the lobbying of former Rep. Bob McEwan, whom he identifies as "a longtime participant in the National Prayer Breakfast" (which is sponsored by the Family), who, Elliott reports, was paid "$25,000 per month to assist the Ivorian ambassador to the U.S. 'in exerting his influence in the most strategic way possible,' according to lobbying records."
Then there's the Rev. Pat Robertson, the dean of the religious right and founder of CBN, the Christian Broadcasting Network. Elliott posts a clip of Robertson defending Gbagbo that will take your breath away. It all brings to mind Robertson's support of another African dictator whose praises Robertson sang: Charles Taylor of Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire's next-door neighbor.
Turns out Robertson had a financial interest in seeing Taylor retain his grip on power: a little mining operation called Freedom Gold Ltd., that licensed Robertson and friends to reap the profits of whatever gold they could find in the mineral-rich country in return for what essentially amounted to a kickback to Taylor. Now, Liberia, free of Taylor, is host to hundreds of thousands of traumatized refugees from Cote d'Ivoire, which is also a gold-mining nation.
Last night, the United Nations Security Council issued sanctions against Gbagbo and his wife, Simone, who has played her own role in fomenting the violence that has overtaken the country. At U.N. Dispatch, Mark Leon Goldberg warns of a human rights catastrophe in Cote d'Ivoire. But Inhofe, McEwan and Roberson -- all "followers of Jesus," to use the Family's parlance -- are standing by their despot. Perhaps the road to Heaven really is paved with gold.
Related reporting: Doctors Without Borderson the ground in Cote d'Ivoire