Sunday, April 10, 2016

Ret. Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry Praises Rwandan Government and Military, Ignores Assassinations and Civil Rights Abuses

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Karl Eikenberry, who may run Northwestern's Buffett Institute for Global Studies, center, January 29, 2015, source: Rwandan Ministry of Defence
Universities might have formed an effective counterweight to the military industrial complex by strengthening their emphasis on the traditional values of our democracy, but many of the leading universities have instead joined the monolith, adding greatly to its power and influence. 
-- Senator William Fulbright, 1967 speech introducing concept of the "military-industrial-academic" complex. 

 Northwestern University community reviewing appointment of Ret. Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry to lead Buffett Institute for Global Studies, new questions raised

(For background, please see Deanna Isaacs, Northwestern Wants to Hire a Former Afghan Commander, and Professors are Pissed, Chicago Reader, March 15, 2016.  For additional information, please see petition. For current status of debate, see Kelli Ngyun and Matthew Choi, "ASG, Faculty Senate Debate Eikenberry Appointment," Daily Northwestern, April 7, 2016.) 

 Believing that Karl Eikenberry's arrival in September will stay on track, despite intense faculty and student opposition, some faculty have come forward to endorse him.  With little direct information about his background, they have been relying on their private conversations with him over beer or other meetings, or have yielded to administration pressure as well as inaccurate statements about his time at Stanford and the search process, the position criteria, and the position responsibilities.

The information here is addressed to them, including the colleague who told me last week that unless evidence comes out that Eikenberry is a war criminal, the appointment likely will stay on track.  I disagreed, hoping that "not-a-war-criminal" is not the  standard for the keys to the Buffett Intitute's largest office.  More to the point, at the time he said this, my colleague was not aware that Eikenberry, while not shown to be a war criminal, is cheerfully in league with them.  These entanglements and possibly others --  Eikenberry and the NU administration will not release his c.v. -- cannot be erased, nor should they be ignored.

Eikenberry Goes to Rwanda
Last year, during and after a visit sponsored by the Rwandan Defense Force Command Command and Staff College, Eikenberry repeatedly and enthusiastically endorsed without qualification the brutal regime of President Paul Kagame.

In Eikenberry's own words:
What I’ve seen on [the] ground has far exceeded in terms of performance of this country I could imagine ... and [I] come here to find how this country and the people, the military has been able to rise from the ashes, sorry [sic] to speak, and see a vibrant society which is coherent, prosperous, and a sense of unity. I look at Rwanda serving as a very great example not only for this region of Africa, but actually globally.  (Ministry of Defence (MOD) emphasis added)
The trip encompassed several cities in Rwanda.  On February 2, 2015, Eikenberry met with Minister of Defence, James Kabarebe.  Kabarebe and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame are both named in a 2010 United Nations report as responsible for the genocide of Congolese and Rwandans.

Eikenberry shakes hands with Rwanda's Minister of Defence, James Kabarebe

A February 4, 2015 article covering the visit states:
[Eikenberry] further noted that he discussed with the Minister of Defence “the ways to institutionalise and legalise our military to military ties”, he said. He reiterated that deepening educational ties was investing in future relationship between people, faculty to faculty, soldier to soldier.  The Minister of Defence underlined that the military education was very promising both for Rwanda and the United States.


uncaptioned photo from MOD report on Eikenberry visit, Eikenberry on right

The MOD report notes that Eikenberry would "recommend to the United States to continue maintaining good relations with Rwanda diplomatically, politically, economically and militarily."

It appears as though Eikenberry was specific enough that the training benefits promised were a "package [that] is really quite helpful," according to Major Oyoo Peter.

At no point does Eikenberry indicate any interest in obtaining educational opportunities for Rwandan students who are not in the military.

What's Wrong With Rwanda's Government and Military?

This is a topic for a course or book.  Here's a quick summary of expert views on Rwanda, and below is a discussion of the relevance of this for the Northwestern appointment.

Congressional testimony by State Department Assistant Secretary Steven Feldstein in May, 2015, shortly after Eikenberry's glowing reports, reveals an entirely different story about Rwanda:
When it comes to the human rights situation in Rwanda, we see three trends of note. First, political space in Rwanda and the overall human rights environment continues to shrink. There are reports of targeted killings, and an increasing number of reports of disappearances and harassment of civil society groups and opposition parties. Second, this trend is reinforcing the wrong lessons for Rwanda– particularly that a country can continue to experience robust economic growth and foreign investment even while repressing its citizens further and reducing democratic space. This is not a sustainable path. At some point – if unchecked - human rights violations will begin to affect Rwanda’s economic performance, stability and the willingness of foreign investors to pump in outside capital and do business. Third, Rwanda’s human rights records is setting a disturbing precedent for the region and continent. Other countries are carefully watching Rwanda’s model of economic liberalization and political repression. In my discussions, counterparts frequently point to Rwanda and question whether protecting the rights of their citizens matters if they can achieve substantial economic development.
Either Eikenberry is clueless about Rwanda, thinks it's fine for autocrats to assassinate, disappear, and jail citizens who press too hard for accounability and democracy, or he is deliberately misrepresenting Rwanda's record and its lessons for the region (possibly for pay), or some combination of the above.

Here's how one journalist describes Rwanda's current president, who changed the Constitution to remain in office:
Filip Reyntjens, a Belgian scholar whom many consider the world’s foremost expert on Rwanda, describes Kagame as “probably the worst war criminal in office today.” In an interview, Reyntjens told me that Kagame’s crimes rank with those perpetrated by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein or Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.  (Howard French, "Is Kagame a War Criminal?" Newsweek, Jan. 14, 2013)
A 2010 article discusses Kagame's role in more recent jailing and assassinations of dissidents:  "[W]henever Hutu politicians have started to gather power or criticise the government, it has usually meant their imprisonment, exile, disappearance or, in the case of Seth Sendashonga and a few others, unsolved assassination."

The 2015 World Press Freedom Index ranks Rwanda 161 out of 178 for press freedoms.

Of note is that Kagame was trained at the US Army Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in 1989, clearly implicating the military training partnerships Eikenberry is cultivating today with the ongoing cycle of bloodshed in Africa and elsewhere. 

Since 2013, the same Rwandan army Eikenberry is defending has been jailing and killing dissidents, and flaunting the rule of law, according to Human Rights Watch: "The authorities detained people unlawfully in unofficial detention centers, including in military custody; some were held incommunicado and ill-treated."  Here are links to recent posts:

Rwanda Turns the Clock Back on Access to Justice, March 11, 2016

East Africa: Little Progress, Worsening Repression, January 27, 2016

Why Not Call This Place a Prison? Unlawful Detention and Ill Treatment in Rwanda's Gikondo Transit Center, September 24, 2015

Rwanda also has offered its services as a dumping ground for African refugees from elsewhere transferred there by Israel.  A 2015 report by the International Refugee Rights Initiative finds Israel forcing Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers into Rwanda and Uganda, in violation of international law and United Nations mandates.

This list could go into much more detail about specific, recent assassinations to which Kagame's government has been linked, along the lines of Putin's Russia.  Do Northwestern faculty and students want their leader of global studies to be an apologist for perpetrators of genocide and assassinations?  If this information had come out earlier, would his appointment have gone this far?  What does this tell us about the search process and Henry Bienen's and the university's due diligence? 
 
Why Does this Matter for the Eikenberry Appointment? 
My hunch is that some of my colleagues, especially in political science will claim that Eikenberry is doing his best to work with a bad government to make it better.  That was my first thought when I heard about the visit.  But if one thinks of the photos taken and disseminated -- making Kabarebe and the military seem diplomatically palatable -- as well as the spin about Rwanda being an "exemplary" country, it starts to seem as though Rwanda has hired Eikenberry to improve its international reputation, obtain U.S. military training, and acquire weapons.

This recent and possibly ongoing work on behalf of the Rwandan military -- Eikenberry has not responded to questions about this -- with or without compensation, seems to completely rule out allowing Eikenberry to lead the Buffett Institute, especially in the context of Eikenberry's expertise on mililtary and civilian education as inducements for arms sales, discussed below.

Not only in Rwanda, but also when on return to Stanford, Eikenberry remained silent on abuses by the Rwandan government and military.  In a March 13, 2015 in-house interview with Stanford's Institute for International Studies, Eikenberry speaks only glowingly of Rwanda.  Why publish pro-Rwanda propaganda on a Stanford website and omit any reference to the military's unlawful violence? For instance, of the military officers whom he met:
They had an extraordinary grasp of the political, security, and development problems that their civilian leaders were attempting to solve. Most realized that without regional cooperation that the prospects of their own country prospering were quite limited. So I was impressed with how they viewed security as having both national and collective dimensions.
Of course other analysts, including the U.S. government, have understood Rwanda's interest in "regional cooperation" to mean selective organizing among militias to raid neighboring countries and silence critics.  Even if this is not what Eikenberry has in mind, failing to hold Rwanda accountable for any wrong-doing at any point in any of his statements, particularly those published under his control at Stanford, smacks of being on the Rwandan payroll, a possibility that a release of an accurate resume would either confirm or falsify.  Eikenberry and the NU administration continue not to release the c.v. on which they relied when hiring him.

Eikenberry also did not reply to a February query about his speaking engagements and fees. I am waiting for a reply to a late request for more details about his ties to the Rwandan government, thus far unanswered.  (Any responses from Eikenberry will be appended here.)

Up until now we've debated Eikenberry's use of soft power on behalf of the U.S., but here he's advancing soft power for Rwanda. 

If a health expert about to assume leadership of a medical institute were touting baseless claims about the health advantages of Coca Cola and refusing to release his resume or answer questions about employment by the beverage industry, Northwestern presumably would find this a deal-breaker.  Why cut a potential employee slack when he misleads people about a government causing death and not sugar?

In the context of Northwestern's control by large weapons and military equipment manufactuers (Boeing, General Dynamics, and Caterpillar) and Eikenberry's long-standing interest in U.S. arms sales, this is worrisome.   (The GD link is to a recent article about Northwestern trustee and GD CEO Phebe Novakovic, also a former CIA employee, speaking of the military-industrial-academic complex--Smith College students didn't even want her on campus for a visit, and yet she helps run Northwestern.)

Eikenberry Has Expertise in Foreign Military Sales
Putting someone with a keen interest in foreign weapons sales and the use of university educations to cement poses additional problems.

Eikenberry writes:

For instance, prospective foreign purchasers of United States equipment may be convinced not only by the quality of the particular hardware in question, but also by such factors as impressive and credible American security guarantees, access to much needed technology through offset agreements, and opportunities to study in advanced civil and military institutions.* [Emphasis added.] ....

* Offsets are defined as "compensatory, reciprocal trade agreements arranged as a condition of the export sale of military material and support services. They are, in effect, countertrade in the defense sector." See Grant T. Hammond, "The Role of Offsets in Arms Collaboration," ed. Ethan B. Kapstein, Global Arms Production: Policy Dilemmas for the 1990's (New York: University Press of America, 1992), p.205.

Source: Karl Eikenberry, "Explaining and Influencing Chinese Arms Transfers," McNair Paper 36, Institute for National Strategic Studies, February 1995.

Military Offsets -- with citations to be added 
Northwestern has been singled out as a recipient of student enrollments responsive to U.S. government or private firm side agreements since at least 1973, when Northwestern took students from Portugal in exchange for the U.S. receiving rights to use the Lajes airfield in the Azores, then occupied by the fascist Portuguese government.  (The State Department paid Northwestern to effect a secret US 1971 agreement with the Portuguese government. In the late 1970s, the funding was distributed through the same program, but disguised as Fulbrights.)

In more recent years the use of student scholarships for U.S. study to incentivize weapons sales has flourished.   Shortly after the U.S. invaded Iraq, the payments by private military firms for university, college, or professional schools admissions in exchange for foreign military sales was valued at over $100 million/year.

A Chicago-based consultant specializing in these transactions explained in a 1995 publication that many weapons sales match up on price and quality, leaving these side arrangements as enticements, including illegal but obscure and hard to punish bribes.  If a firm can promise a country rep that his child has a guaranteed entrance into a U.S. university, that's a game-changer.   That firm now is based in Evanston.

If you put this background information together with the make-up of Northwestern's board and Eikenberry's avowed commitment to Rwanda's military, this raises questions.  The leader of the Buffett Institute is the perfect position for implementing military sale offset arrangements that use university placements.  This arrangement also makes Eikenberry's lack of PhD important in a way that has not been previously discusssed.  The fact that Eikenberry has no problem advocating for Rwanda bodes poorly for how he will use his platform at the Buffett Institute, which likely would draw criticism for being run by the guy who's shaking hands with Kabarebe.

Without a PhD and tenure, and with an extremely lucrative compensation package, Eikenberry lacks the conventional protections of academic freedom and could not easily turn his back on requests by the trustees.   (For instance, without tenure, my colleagues and I could never publish about these matters.)  Eikenberry's lack of intellectual freedom of course affects the institutional arrangements of those working under him, not to mention the independence of the Buffett Institute, part of which seems destined to be turned over to foreign and military policies that violate academic integrity and other values as well should he take over.
  
CODA:  Last Week
NU Provost Dan Linzer's intimidation of students -- warning them last Wednesday evening just before the Associated Student Government debate about bogus "defamation" problems with their resolution urging withdrawing the Eikenberry appointment -- and Linzer's instigation of the Faculty Senate's Executive Committee to rush putting together a one-sided package of information and faculty endorsements released with no advance notice less than three hours before the Senate meeting will be scrutinized later.   

These actions are further evidence that NU's engagements with Qatar, and now Rwandan, dictators have proven inspirational for our administration.  Northwestern is being run increasingly like a Gulf State, and not just on their behalf; meanwhile, Qatar shows no signs of democratizing since the founding of "Education City," and remains notorious for its labor trafficking violations, jailing dissidents, and media repression (ranked in 2015 #115 out of 163, well behind poor countries such as the Dominican Republic (#63) and Togo (#80); and there is no sign of progress--Qatar is down five places from 2013 despite the eight year presence of the Medill Journalism school.

Petition on Behalf of Academic Integrity-Sign Here
 
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