Monday, March 7, 2011

Idi Amin & Friends

Let's see:

"[T]he world cannot stand idly by while a madcap dictator whose stock-in-trade is the same savagery shown by his friend, the late Idi Amin, acts with almost total impunity." (Editorial, Time for some spine in Libya: We must be more forceful in telling Gaddafi the game is up, The Australian)

Exactly! For once, I'm in complete agreement with The Australian.

Any friend or enabler of the savage Idi Amin should be told in no uncertain terms: the game is up!

Silly question, of course, but does The Australian have the spine to tell Israel that the game is up? Because Israel was the best friend and enabler Idi Amin ever had.

Consider the following excerpts from Australian journalist Alex Mitchell's forthcoming memoir. The year is 1971 and Mitchell at the time was in Uganda to do a television doco on the military coup which had overthrown President Milton Obote and installed the army chief, Major-General Idi Amin:

"My interest had been aroused by reports that Israeli-supplied tanks and air force planes deployed during the coup had been operated by men with white European faces and not black Africans... We found Amin's security adviser, Bob Astles, a bizarre English remittance man, at his country farmhouse. He was feeding live chickens to a giant python. As the snake swallowed one of the birds whole, Astles laughed and said: 'That's what Idi is doing to Uganda'. We asked him about the white men who had taken part in the coup and he said that the Israeli-supplied Fouga training aircraft I had noticed could have been flown by Israelis because the Ugandan air force which was loyal to Obote had been grounded. (Later we heard the Ugandan air force pilots had been 'neutralised' on the eve of the coup. Did that mean locked up or killed? We never found out.) As for the Israeli-supplied tanks, he thought they may have been driven by Israeli personnel. So were the Israelis actively involved in the coup? 'The Israelis are very tough people', he replied. 'They're surviving. And they like Amin, they like him very much. And if he asked I'm sure you would not be able to hold them back'." (Friends in high places, The Australian Financial Review, 4/2/11)

"Our final appointment was with Amin at his Government House headquarters... Across his chest was an array of medals... [including one] in the shape of a parachute. 'This was given to me by my friends, the Israelis', he said. 'I trained in Israel with the parachute regiment'. Then he pointed to a framed photograph in which he was shaking hands with a bear of a man with white hair. 'This is my friend Colonel Bar-Lev', he said. 'He trained me'."

"[W]ithin a few months Amin banned elections for 5 years and demonstrations, rallies and all political activities for 2 years, banned government officials from leaving the country without his written permission, promoted himself to general and then field marshal and finally took the title of president for life. All this time, his political opponents were disappearing off the streets and from their homes and swollen bodies were beginning to pile in the reeds along the shores of Lake Victoria. Quite early he made his first diplomatic offensive with official state visits to Israel and then Britain. In July, he flew to Tel Aviv in an Israeli-made Commodore jet supplied to the Ugandan air force by an Israeli. He received an official welcome from Prime Minister Golda Meir, Foreign Minister Abba Eban and Defence Minister Moshe Dayan who hosted a VIP dinner at his private residence in Tel Aviv. The Jerusalem Post delivered a front-page editorial which said Amin's visit was 'brief but important', adding: 'General Amin is no newcomer here, for it was in Israel that he trained to receive his paratrooper wings. He has also made friends here which enable him to deal smoothly and with dispatch with all aspects of Uganda's problems that concern Israel. His praise for the friendliness and smooth relations with Israelis working in Uganda has been appreciated here'. The two sides agreed on supplying further arms, equipment and training to the Ugandan armed forces and deepening their diplomatic relationship. His departure was triumphant with the Jerusalem Post reporting under the headline 'More Israeli aid for Uganda: Large crowds of tourists and Israelis cheered the Ugandan President and his party as they walked through the lobby of their hotel. The general received a 72-man guard of honour at the airport, where he was seen off by Eban, Dayan, the military aide-de-camp of president Zalman Shazar, Colonel Israel Yarkoni, and the founder of Israel Aircraft Industries, Al Schwimmer. A red carpet was laid out for the President at the airport'."

"The most intriguing documents in the archives reveal that Amin's right-hand man throughout the execution of the coup was Colonel Bolka Bar-Lev, Israel's military attache in Kampala. He had supervised Israel's military assistance to Uganda through a training and weapons agreement signed in 1964 and had become a warm personal friend of Amin. He organised the training program for the Ugandan air force, the infantry, paratroopers and a VIP close-escort security unit as well as maintenance of the Israeli-supplied tanks... British diplomatic records show that he ran secret messages from Amin to the British High commissioner Richard Slater throughout those dramatic, bloody days. The day after the coup Slater sent a confidential briefing cable to Whitehall saying: 'Bar-Lev went into considerable detail to show that all potential foci of resistance, both up-country and in Kampala, had been eliminated. This had involved the shooting of a number of pro-Obote officers... In a confidential memo to Harold Smedley at the Foreign Office in May 1971, four months after the coup, High Commissioner Richard Slater wrote: 'There are 2 fairly obvious reasons for Israeli interest in Uganda: 1) to engage Ugandan interest generally in Israel's welfare and survival and specifically to secure the Ugandan vote at the UN. This, under Obote's government, they had latterly lost and presumably hope now to regain; 2) to further their assistance to the rebels operating against the Sudan government in the southern Sudan...'"

"Amin turned savagely on his principal benefactors, Britain and Israel, and was eventually driven into exile in 1979 by another African 'socialist' loathed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Tanzania's Julius Nyerere. Amin died in Saudi Arabia in 2003. During his bloody rule, more than 300,000 people were killed and the democratic hopes of two generations of Ugandans had been murdered in prison cells, torture chambers and military barracks."

Not bad for the Middle East's only democracy, eh? Now what was that about Idi's old mate Muammar Gaddafi?

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