History Didn't Begin Yesterday: Who Will Mourn for Leopold's Victims?

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These were the strong and appropriate words from Secretary of State John Kerry:

"We - all of us representing countless nationalities - have a message for those who inspired or carried out the attacks here or in Paris, or Ankara, or Tunis, or San Bernardino, or elsewhere: We will not be intimidated…We will not be deterred. We will come back with greater resolve - with greater strength - and we will not rest until we have eliminated your nihilistic beliefs and cowardice from the face of the Earth."

On the morning of Tuesday 22 March 2016, three coordinated suicide bombings occurred in Belgium: two at Brussels Airport in Zaventem, and one at Maalbeek metro station in Brussels. In these attacks, 32 innocent travelers and three suicide bombers were killed, and over 300 people were injured.

On the evening of Friday 13 November 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis. Three suicide bombers struck near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, followed by suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafés, restaurants and the Bataclan theatre in central Paris.

The attackers killed 130 people, including 89 at the Bataclan, where they took hostages before engaging in a stand-off with police. Another 368 people were injured, 80–99 seriously.

Even though ISIS or ISIS affiliated groups claimed responsibility, it has now been determined that there are more direct links between the bombings in Belgium and the bombings in France.

According to The New York Times, European investigators and the Belgian prosecutor’s office have determined that DNA matches show that one of the bombers who blew himself up at the Brussels Airport had been a bomb maker who helped produce two suicide vests used in the November Paris attacks.

As I listened to the news coverage of the most recent tragedy in Belgium I quickly concluded that these attacks were cowardly, reprehensible and immoral.

The killing of civilians to further whatever perverted “religious” and/or political agenda ISIS claims has no place in a civilized society. From there my thoughts quickly turned to places like The Congo (formerly known as The Belgian Congo), Vietnam, Algeria (formally French Algeria) and Haiti.

Just some of the countries, former colonies and playgrounds for the global imperial hegemons of the world. I realized that in spite of the monotonous and myopic coverage of the Belgium attack by all the media outlets, history did not begin yesterday.

What has been lost in the Eurocentric coverage of this atrocity is the historic fact and context that King Leopold II of Belgium was responsible for the deaths and mutilation of between 5 million to 10 million Congolese during the late 1800’s.

In the 27 years (1885-1912) Leopold II ruled the Congo he overworked, underfed and massacred Africans by cutting off their hands and genitals, flogging them to death, holding children ransom and burning villages.

These atrocities were committed to control the land, its people and extract its resources (primarily rubber). The spoils of modern day Belgium owes much to the people of the Congo River Basin.

As the world cries and mourns for those who lost their lives and were injured in the Belgian bombings and their families and loved ones, I asked myself, “Who cried for Leopold’s victims; their families and loved ones?” Has anyone tried to make them whole? It is important to understand that Black lives really do matter; they always have. History did not begin yesterday.

As I think about the atrocities in France and pray for the victims and their families I think about the actions of France in the colonization of Vietnam, Algeria and Haiti. All of these countries have been victimized by the colonial and imperialist forces of France.

Vietnam or what was formerly a part of French Indo-China was victimized by three waves of French genocide. From as far back as 1850 France occupied Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. From 1940-1946 the Vichy French Colonial Army aided in the confiscation of rice for export to Japan and starved up to a million Vietnamese during that period. From 1950 - 1954 fresh French troops, brought back into Vietnam in U.S. ships, murdered Vietnamese for eight years.

In what was known as French Algeria from 1954 through 1961, France slaughtered 960,000 - 1.5 million Algerians in the Algerian War for Independence.

In Haiti In 1791, the slaves revolted against French rule, and in 1804 they defeated Napoleon's armies and founded the world's first black republic. This victory was not without a cost. Former French slave owners demanded reparations for their losses and petitioned the French government for payment. In 1825 King Charles X of France demanded that Haiti pay the French for the value of their lost slaves.

Haiti was also forced to finance this debt through the French bank. France sent warships off the cost of Haiti to force the Haitian government into compliance. This was similar to the tactic used by the United States to capture the Sandwich Islands or what is now Hawaii in 1893.

Despite many international calls for France to repay Haiti for the funds that were extorted, to this day France refuses to repay Haiti and Haitians continue to suffer.

This historical accounting and context is in no way an attempt to validate or justify the recent heinous attacks. However, all things must be examined within the broader historical context in which they exist as we search for answers to the question, “Why?”

In talking about the assassination of President John Kennedy in 1963, Malcolm X talked about a “climate of hate” existing in both the domestic and international spheres.

If America, France, Belgium and other allied countries are serious about solving the current scourge of terrorism, they are going to have to do some real soul searching and determine how they have contributed to this “cultural global warming” or “climate of hate”. You cannot defeat an ideology with a military. You can only defeat an ideology with a better ideology.

As the West has continued to flourish it cannot ignore its past. The damage and destruction perpetrated against entire peoples and cultures that contributed to the growth of America, France, Belgium and others, still resonates within those former colonized societies.

To find long-lasting solutions to this current situation, one must remember that history has a long moral arc and it did not begin yesterday.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Leon,” on SiriusXM Satellite radio channel 126. Go to www.wilmerleon.com or email: wjl3us@yahoo.com. www.twitter.com/drwleon and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at Facebook.com
© 2016 InfoWave Communications, LLC

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