JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellWilliam PfaffRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / April 15, 1998 / 19 Nissan, 5758

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Clinton in Africa

PRESIDENT CLINTON IN AFRICA was like Clinton in the United States --- as phony as a three-dollar bill.

His apology for slavery while in Uganda was a complete farce. Most people of African ancestry in the United States originated in West Africa, not in Uganda, which is much farther east. It is doubtful whether anyone from Uganda was ever brought to the United States.

The idea that people in Africa are owed an apology ignores history as much as Clinton slavery ignored geography. It was the people of Africa who captured and sold the slaves who ended up in the Western Hemisphere.

White men died like flies in Africa during the era of slavery. They were not about to linger around trying to capture Africans, even if the local rulers had let them. Europeans brought their ships to the West African coast, bought slaves that were already available and got out of there as soon as possible, before they caught malaria or some of the many other African diseases, for which they had neither immunity nor medicine.

Africans, like most other non-Western peoples, saw nothing wrong with slavery. Only within Western civilization, and within the past two centuries, did the idea arise and spread that slavery was a moral abomination.

Neither Africans, Asians, Arabs nor the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere shared this Western view of slavery. All of them resisted and evaded attempts to stamp out slavery. Only the fact that the West had overwhelming military power and worldwide empires in the nineteenth century caused slavery to be destroyed.

Where the West did not have direct control, their influence, money and threats caused other governments to ban slavery. But no other civilization derived from within itself a moral revulsion against slavery.

Yet innumerable writings, movies and television specials create and perpetuate the notion that the West in general -- or the United States in particular -- has some special guilt for an evil that the entire human race participated in for thousands of years, and which only the West belatedly recognized as morally intolerable.

Children are still being bought and sold by the thousands in Nigeria and Benin, and 30,000 African slaves are at this very moment being held under brutal conditions in Mauritania.

If anything, Clinton should have been listening to apologies for slavery from his African hosts.

Politically, of course, none of this matters.

None of what happened on Clinton's Africa trip was really about history, geography or morality. It was about Clinton's appeal to his political supporters back home in the United States, especially black politicians, whom he will need if special prosecutor Kenneth Starr starts indictments or the House of Representatives starts impeachment.

In a more subtle way, Clinton was playing the race card as surely as O.J. Simpson's lawyers. And for the same reason -- to escape the consequences of his own actions.

Although there is loose talk in the media about "Clinton-haters," what ultimately happens to Bill Clinton is of minor importance in the grand scheme of things, and I doubt if many of his critics are really focussed on him, as such.

What matters infinitely more is preserving the rule of law that has spared us the tragic fates of so many other countries, all around the world. We should never forget that, even today, the rule of law is the exception -- not the rule -- among the nations of the world.

Our great blessings as Americans come not from our personal merits but from our having the good fortune to live under a rare form of government, with a constitution dedicated to preventing concentrations and abuses of power. Preserving that far outweighs any of the so-called "real issues" that people want to get to, like another social program or another tax break.

It is not Clinton himself who is dangerous -- at least not now, as a lame-duck president. What is dangerous is letting any president get away with flaunting the law, for others are certain to follow in his footsteps and continue dismantling the barriers against abuses of power. Those barriers are our only protection and the only protections for our children and our children's children. That is the real issue.


4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.