FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Rumble in the Jungle at 30

I won $4.00 betting on Muhammad Ali when he fought the pre-grill George Foreman for all the marbles in the wee hours of a 1974 Zaire morning. This was a time when most white kids would regularly root for Ali to lose…so I took advantage of such nonsense and put my money on The Greatest.

Today, as we approach the 30th anniversary of what became known as the “Rumble in the Jungle,” far more is known about the boxers (and a certain promoter named Don King who got his start in Zaire) than the venue.

The Congo gained independence from Belgium in June 1960. Within three months, the CIA helped overthrow the African nation’s first Prime Minister, the charismatic and legally elected socialist, Patrice Lumumba.

“Lumumba attempted to steer a neutral course between the U.S. and the USSR-no easy task,” says author Mark Zepezauer.

Captured with CIA help in December 1960, Lumumba was “held prisoner for over a month, interrogated, tortured, then finally shot in the head,” Zepezauer adds. “His body was dissolved in hydrochloric acid.”

Four years later, thanks to U.S. support, the murderous, corrupt, but most importantly, anti-communist, Mobutu Sese Seko assumed power and ruled with, what William Blum calls, “a level of corruption and cruelty that shocked even his CIA handlers.”

In the name of “authenticity,” Mobutu renamed the country the Republic of Zaïre, after a local word for “river,” forced all his citizens to adopt African names, introduced a new currency, and renamed many cities. Ali bought into the façade of African-ness: “I wanted to establish a relationship between American blacks and Africans,” he said. “All the time I was there, I’d travel to the jungles, places where there was no radio or television, and people would come up to me, and I could touch them.”

Ali apparently had no comment about touching those housed in the secret detention cells under the stadium where the fight took place or the criminals who were rounded up and shot before the foreign press arrived. Sure, Mobutu was a murderer…but he was “our” murderer.

“The Mobutu era began with ardent U.S. support, financial and military,” says journalist Ellen Ray. “From 1965 to 1991, Zaire received more than $1.5 billion in U.S. economic and military aid. In return, U.S. multinationals increased their share of the ownership of Zaire’s fabulous mineral wealth. On the foreign policy front, Zaire was a bastion of anti-communism during the Cold War, in the center of a continent Washington saw as perilously close to Moscow’s influence.

As President Bush the Elder put it, Mobutu was “our best friend in Africa.” In contrast, Norman Mailer (on hand to cover the bout) called him “the archetype of a closet sadist.”

Which brings us to October 30, 1974.

“The Rumble in the Jungle was a fight that made the whole country more conscious,” Ali wrote at the time. “The fight was about racial problems, Vietnam. All of that.”

Not quite, Muhammad. Thanks to an acquiescent media, the general public’s knowledge of Zaire under Mobutu was limited to stories about African support for Ali and the rope-a-dope tactic the former champ employed to defeat Foreman. Many years later, when the dictator had outlived his usefulness to the U.S., “all of that” did come out.

“Mobutu’s corruption and brutality were ignored for thirty years,” says Ray. “It was only when the plunder of western-owned assets and the ruination of the country were nearly complete, when Mobutu’s stolen billions had become a world-wide embarrassment, that the U.S. began to seek an acceptable change.”

That’s when the corporate media spin began to turn in the other direction and the public suddenly learned all about Mr. Mobutu in a hurry.

“I may have lost that fight, but I learned a lot from it,” sums up Big George today.

Too bad the American public can’t say the same.

MICKEY Z. is the author of “The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda” (Common Courage Press). For more information, please visit http://www.mickeyz.net.

 

More articles by:

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here. This piece first appeared at World Trust News.  

August 12, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump’s War On Arms Control and Disarmament
P. Sainath
“We Didn’t Bleed Him Enough”: When Normal is the Problem
Riva Enteen
Kamala Harris? Really? Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
Kenneth Surin
The Decrepit UK Political System
Robert Hunziker
Freakish Arctic Fires Alarmingly Intensify
Ramzy Baroud
The Likud Conspiracy: Israel in the Throes of a Major Political Crisis
Sam Pizzigati
Within Health Care USA, Risk and Reward Have Never Been More Out of Kilter
John Perry
The US Contracts Out Its Regime Change Operation in Nicaragua
Binoy Kampmark
Selective Maritime Rules: The United States, Diego Garcia and International Law
Manuel García, Jr.
The Improbability of CO2 Removal From the Atmosphere
Khury Petersen-Smith
The Road to Portland: The Two Decades of ‘Homeland Security’
Raouf Halaby
Teaching Palestinian Children to Love Beethoven, Bizet, and Mozart is a Threat to a Depraved Israeli Society
Jeff Mackler
Which Way for Today’s Mass Radicalization? Capitalism’s Impending Catastrophe…or a Socialist Future
Tom Engelhardt
It Could Have Been Different
Stephen Cooper
Santa Davis and the “Stalag 17” Riddim
August 11, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
Why Capitalism is in Constant Conflict With Democracy
Paul Street
Defund Fascism, Blue and Orange
Richard C. Gross
Americans Scorned
Andrew Levine
Trump and Biden, Two Ignoble Minds Here O’erthrown
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Nationalism Has Led to the Increased Repression of Minorities
Sonali Kolhatkar
Trump’s Presidency is a Death Cult
Colin Todhunter
Pushing GMO Crops into India: Experts Debunk High-Level Claims of Bt Cotton Success
Valerie Croft
How Indigenous Peoples are Using Ancestral Organizing Practices to Fight Mining Corporations and Covid-19
David Rovics
Tear Gas Ted Has a Tantrum in Portland
Dean Baker
There is No Evidence That Generous Unemployment Benefits are Making It Difficult to Find Workers
Robert Fantina
War on Truth: How Kashmir Struggles for Freedom of Press
Dave Lindorff
Trump Launches Attack on Social Security and Medicare
Elizabeth Schmidt
COVID-19 Poses a Huge Threat to Stability in Africa
Parth M.N.
Coping With a Deadly Virus, a Social One, Too
Thomas Knapp
The “Election Interference” Fearmongers Think You’re Stupid
Binoy Kampmark
Mealy-Mouthed Universities: Academic Freedom and the Pavlou Problem Down Under
Mike Garrity
Emperor Trump Loses Again in the Northern Rockies in Big Win for Bull Trout, Rivers and the ESA
Alex Lawson
34 Attorneys General Call to Bust Gilead’s Pharma Monopoly on COVID Treatment Remdesivir
August 10, 2020
Gerald Sussman
Biden’s Ukrainegate Problem
Vijay Prashad – Érika Ortega Sanoja
How the U.S. Failed at Its Foreign Policy Toward Venezuela
Daniel Warner
Geneva: The Home of Lost Causes
Mike Hastie
The Police Force Stampede in Portland on August 8, 2020 
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s Executive Orders: EOs as PR and FUs
Rev. William Alberts
Cognitive Without Conscience
David Altheide
Politicizing Fear Through the News Media
F. Douglas Stephenson
Is Big Pharma More Interested in Profiteering Than Protecting Us From Coronavirus?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Money Plague
Howard Lisnoff
Revolutionaries Living in a System of Growing Fascism
Ralph Nader
Donald Trump is Defeating Himself
Lynnette Grey Bull
The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Human Rights Emergency is Not a Photo-Op for Ivanka Trump
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail