By Andre Nelson
Most of us don’t give much thought as to the processes in which our daily luxuries were made accessible, granted sometimes in legitimate ways, but most of the times in more brutal ways than we are comfortable imagining, so we simply avoid thinking about it beyond the few minutes following such movies as “Blood Diamond,” in which we fulfill the needs of our “disposable emotions,” and then we carry on with our daily lives.
It would be too difficult to avoid buying products marked “Made In India” due to child labor conditions. We prefer not passing up on fuel, despite the wars waged throughout the Middle East for the precious black gold. And we certainly wouldn’t want to deprive our loved ones of that sparkling rock, despite it being tainted by the blood of innocent children. A difficult question at times is: Would it actually benefit the oppressed if we avoided these all together? Granted, pennies every day is better than starving. This is the question many wrestle with in the debate for buying the more expensive “free trade” brands. Is appeasing our guilt worth the extra dollars — and is it even helping? These questions are up to each individual to answer, but being aware is each and every body’s responsibility.
Blood Diamonds, also known as Conflict Minerals, Hot Diamonds, and War Diamonds, are diamonds mined in war zones which are used for the funding of insurgencies. Though many have heard of them, many are unaware of how far reaching these gems are. Penny Hess, Chair of the African People’s Solidarity Committee, wrote an article entitled “All Diamonds Are Blood Diamonds,” in which he calls the diamond trade “an entire social system built on violence, slavery, genocide and the degradation of others in order to create a generous lifestyle for us, the white people.” The purpose of this article is to discuss the overlooked horrors that enable the trade of this glittering rock worn by millions that symbolizes the ideals of beauty and love in Western culture. Light must be shed on the violence, slavery, and genocides that enable the usage of so many every day utilities, such as cell phones and computers requiring Coltan, which is mined primarily in the Congo. An estimated five million have been killed since 1998 in the U.S.-backed Coltan wars. Yet as Hess states, “No one in America protests this new generation of genocide in the Congo. No one even talks about it.” Indeed, much of Africa is blessed with enormous wealth of natural resources, yet most live on less than a dollar a day with the lowest life expectancy in the world.
Many African leaders have tried to break away from the tight grips of the U.S. and diamond cartels such as DeBeers and Anglo American PLC. DeBeers was founded by Cecil Rhodes and financed by the Rothchilds, and Anglo American PLC was founded by Ernest Oppenheimer and financed by J.P. Morgan. The fates of these leaders have all been the same: exile or death. Nkrumah rose to power in Ghana in the mid 60s and began talking about nationalizing the nation’s resources. In 1966, the U.S. was successful in ousting him; he later died in exile.
In the Congo, Lumumba was the man who pushed for the nationalization of Congolese resources. He promised these resources would serve to benefit the workers and peasants. The major player in his assassination was CIA operative and DeBeers emissary Maurice Tempelsman, who, according to Hess, was romantically linked with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis until her death and is today linked with the former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. During WWII, the U.S. indicted DeBeers due to their violation of anti-trust laws; because of this, the U.S. could not deal directly with the company in the diamond trade. Tempelsman acted as a middleman between the two, supplying millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds to the U.S. After Lumumba’s election, Tempelsmann began working directly under the Kennedy administration to plot the assassination.
Today DeBeers continues to control 80 percent of the world’s supply of diamonds with the remaining 20 percent being what we call “Blood Diamonds.” Seventy percent of these diamonds are sent to India to be cut and polished by farm boys earning pennies a day in what is a $3.3 billion industry. Thirty percent of these are sent to the U.S. in what becomes an $11 billion industry.
Near 100,000 Lebanese workers live in Sierra Leone, which accounts for Lebanese influence in the diamond trade. J. Peter Pham details how the Hezbollah in turn receives funding from the Lebanese Government coming directly from diamond trade.
This “Blood Diamond” fund is partly how Israel justifies their involvement. Diamonds are Israel’s second largest industry, near $13 billion. Israel buys half the world’s supply of rough diamonds, and in turn sells about two thirds of those to the U.S. In 2001, before Congolese leader Kabila was assassinated, Israel made a deal similar to Tempelsmann, $600 million worth of diamonds in exchange for arming and training Congolese troops. Even though DeBeers and other diamond cartels may promote these diamonds as “conflict free,” by following the money and taking a peak into DeBeers’ mines and political involvement in the nations in which they operate, it is clear that this is far from the truth.
Sequere pecuniam: follow the money. In looking at history and watching present day conflicts, all diamonds are Blood Diamonds, despite only 20 percent of these gems being labeled as such. This is by no means a condemnation for anybody that has or will purchase the beautiful gem, but it is a reminder that we are the beneficiaries of this genocidal system.