Below is an excerpt from Malcolm X: The Last Speeches, one of Pathfinders Books of the Month for January. In this talkpresented in Rochester, New York, on Feb. 16, 1965, five days before his assassinationMalcolm discusses Washingtons role in attacking the liberation struggle in the Congo. The country had won its independence from Belgium in June 1960 led by Patrice Lumumba, who became the countrys first prime minister. Intervention by Washington, Brussels, and UN troops resulted in Lumumbas assassination half a year later. His supporters continued the fight against imposing an imperialist-backed government there. Copyright © 1989 by Betty Shabazz, Bruce Perry, and Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
BY MALCOLM X
[T]he press is used to make the victim look like the criminal and make the criminal look like the victim . This is imagery. And just as this imagery is practiced at the local level, you can understand it better by an international example. The best recent example at the international level to bear witness to what Im saying is what happened in the Congo. Look at what happened. We had a situation where a plane was dropping bombs on African villages. An African village has no defense against the bombs. And an African village is not sufficient threat that it has to be bombed! But planes were dropping bombs on African villages. When these bombs strike, they dont distinguish between enemy and friend. They dont distinguish between male and female. When these bombs are dropped on African villages in the Congo, they are dropped on Black women, Black children, Black babies. These human beings were blown to bits. I heard no outcry, no voice of compassion for these thousands of Black people who were slaughtered by planes. [Applause]
Why was there no outcry? Why was there no concern? Because, again, the press very skillfully made the victims look like they were the criminals, and the criminals look like they were the victims. [Applause]
They refer to the villages as rebel held, you know. As if to say, because they are rebel-held villages, you can destroy the population, and its okay. They also refer to the merchants of death as American-trained, anti-Castro Cuban pilots. This made it okay. Because these pilots, these mercenariesyou know what a mercenary is, hes not a patriot. A mercenary is not someone who goes to war out of patriotism for his country. A mercenary is a hired killer. A person who kills, who draws blood for money, anybodys blood. You kill a human being as easily as you kill a cat or a dog or a chicken.
So these mercenaries, dropping bombs on African villages, caring nothing as to whether or not there are innocent, defenseless women and children and babies being destroyed by their bombs. But because theyre called mercenaries, given a glorified name, it doesnt excite you. Because they are referred to as American-trained pilots, because they are American-trained, that makes them okay. Anti-Castro Cubans, that makes them okay. Castros a monster, so anybody whos against Castro is all right with us, and anything they can do from there, thats all right with us . They put your mind right in a bag and take it wherever they want, as well. [Applause]
But its something that you have to look at and answer for. Because they are American planes, American bombs, escorted by American paratroopers, armed with machine guns. But, you know, they say theyre not soldiers, theyre just there as escorts, like they started out with some advisers in South Vietnam. Twenty thousand of themjust advisers. These are just escorts. Theyre able to do all of this mass murder and get away with it by labeling it humanitarian, an act of humanitarianism. Or in the name of freedom, in the name of liberty. All kinds of high-sounding slogans, but its cold-blooded murder, mass murder. And its done so skillfully, so you and I, who call ourselves sophisticated in this twentieth century, are able to watch it, and put the stamp of approval upon it. Simply because its being done to people with black skin, by people with white skin.
They take a man who is a cold-blooded murderer, named [Moise] Tshombe. Youve heard of him, Uncle Tom Tshombe. [Laughter and applause] He murdered the prime minister, the rightful prime minister, [Patrice] Lumumba. He murdered him. [Applause] Now heres a man whos an international murderer, selected by the State Department and placed over the Congo and propped into position by your tax dollars. Hes a killer. Hes hired by our government. Hes a hired killer. And to show the type of hired killer he is, as soon as hes in office, he hires more killers in South Africa to shoot down his own people. And you wonder why your American image abroad is so bankrupt .
Remember how they referred to the hostages as white hostages. Not hostages. They said these cannibals in the Congo had white hostages. Oh, and this got you all shook up. White nuns, white priests, white missionaries. Whats the difference between a white hostage and a Black hostage? Whats the difference between a white life and a Black life? You must think theres a difference, because your press specifies whiteness. Nineteen white hostages cause you to grieve in your heart. [Laughter and applause]
During the months when bombs were being dropped on Black people by the hundreds and the thousands, you said nothing. And you did nothing. But as soon as a fewa handful of white people who didnt have any business getting caught up in that thing in the first place[Laughter and applause]as soon as their lives became involved, you got concerned.
I was in Africa during the summer when theywhen the mercenaries and the pilots were shooting down Black people in the Congo like flies. It wouldnt even get mentioned in the Western press. It wasnt mentioned. If it was mentioned, it was mentioned in the classified section of the newspaper. Someplace where youd need a microscope to find it.
And at that time the African brothers, at first they werent taking hostages. They only began to take hostages when they found that these pilots were bombing their villages. And then they took hostages, moved them into the village, and warned the pilots that if you drop bombs on the village, youll hit your own people. It was a war maneuver. They were at war. They only held a hostage in a village to keep the mercenaries from murdering on a mass scale the people of those villages.
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