WHY THE AMERICAN RIGHT WOULD BACK GBAGBO…. The political crisis in the Ivory Coast is rapidly deteriorating. The outgoing president, Laurent Gbagbo, lost an internationally-certified election last fall, but has refused to yield to his successor, Alassane Ouattara, the legitimately-chosen president of the country.
With forces loyal to Gbagbo targeting civilians and allegedly responsible for brutal violence, and a refugee crisis unfolding, the international community is rallying in support of the lawful Ouattara government. The U.S., E.U., U.N., and African Union have all called for Gbagbo to honor the will of the people and relinquish power. He’s refused, prompting the U.N. Security Council to place tough sanctions on his regime today.
As governments around the world condemn Gbagbo, however, there is one small group of people who are offering at least tacit support for the unelected thug.
That includes a U.S. senator and acquaintance of Gbagbo who declined to intervene in the crisis when asked by the State Department earlier this year, a former congressman who was hired by Gbagbo as a lobbyist, and a Christian right TV network that ran a fawning profile of Gbagbo, even as violence engulfed Ivory Coast. The senator, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, today released a letter to Hillary Clinton calling for new elections in Ivory Coast, putting him in direct opposition to the view of the Obama administration, the United Nations and the African Union that Gbagbo lost a fair election.
Gbagbo, along with his influential wife, Simone, are evangelical Christians who are known for lacing their speeches with religious rhetoric. “God is leading our fight. God has already given us the victory,” Simone Gbagbo, who is both first lady and politician in her own right, said at a rally in January. Both Gbagbos have attended the National Prayer Breakfast, a big annual Washington event run by the secretive Christian group known as the Family, or the Fellowship.
The Fellowship, founded in 1935, cultivates relationships with people in positions of power in both the United States and abroad (it has long been active in Africa) to promote conservative evangelical values. It has drawn controversy for, among other things, running the C Street House, where several members of Congress live, and its ties to proposed legislation in Uganda that would provide for the death penalty for the “crime” of homosexuality.
It’s easy to criticize the religious right for its theocratic agenda, and disparage clowns like James Inhofe for being such awful lawmakers, but this is genuinely outrageous, even for them.
The religious right is a series of activist groups with a twisted agenda, but Inhofe’s conduct is especially shameful. The right-wing senator knows Gbagbo personally — Inhofe has been to Ivory Coast nine times — and the State Department sought his help in trying to prevent this crisis. Inhofe not only reportedly refused, he’s now publicly at odds with both the U.S. and the international community, and sending a signal to the Gbagbo regime that he has a powerful ally in the American government.
If you haven’t seen it, Justin Elliott’s report on this is well worth reading.