How US Foreign Policy over decades was influenced by the Diamond Cartel.
By author of Book “Blood Stained Diamonds,” Janine Farrell Roberts
The Secret Story Behind Blood Diamonds
May I first briefly introduce myself. I hold degrees in Sociology and Theology and have authored several books written about Australian Aborigines and their civil rights struggle, which were launched by their leaders. For many years I was funded by a coalition of US and European church to work on human rights frontiers internationally.
This work led me to De Beers – after it clashed with an Aboriginal community. The more I worked internationally the more I discovered about its human rights violations. I have now been researching and writing on De Beers and the diamond trade for twenty years during which time I have made several films – including: “The Diamond Empire”, a feature length” Frontline” since suppressed by WGBH due to pressure from De Beers. The owners of Doubleday also commissioned a major work from me on diamonds – only to drop it at the very last moment as they wrote “rich and important people” did not want it to come out.
De Beers is nothing if not secretive In the course of my investigation, De Beers banned me from its South African diamond mines where I was the guest of the National Union of Mineworkers (but I was smuggled in). Here I witnessed in De Beers’s mines horrific conditions with wages paid at one third of the official union minimum and in very hazardous conditions. I also witnessed considerable natural resources being hidden from the SA Government. I went also to India and witnessed children as young as 8 cutting and polishing diamonds in workshops mostly supplied by De Beers through its favored merchants, working in what is defined as a form of slavery. The wages were slashed this year from 40c to 25c a diamond causing riots. Workers get one dollar a day for cutting romantic gems. India cuts 55% by value of the world’s gem diamonds.
De Beers tried to stop my film in the Canadian NW Territories diamond fields – but the Sierra Club and the Unions made it happen. On 5th Avenue, merchants were phoned telling them not to speak to me “as I worked with Blacks in Australia to make life difficult for De Beers.” I was also the keynote speaker at the first post apartheid conference of Southern African mineworkers where I was funded by the World Council of Churches.
I have been told that a major reason for some of my difficulties is the fear publishers have of a certain Maurice Tempelsman, the former companion of Jackie Onassis who in 1998 was reported to be developing a relationship with Secretary of State Albright. He is a leading international diamond merchant of unique power and influence – often he has helped shape US foreign policy in directions that favour De Beers. I have extensively researched his work. Much of this is in my forthcoming book “Blood Stained Diamonds.” I have been asked to talk about Tempelsman’s role in the confluence of public policy and private profit that happens in private. He is an excellent example. I have time only to summarise my findings.
Why was he uniquely important in the De Beers? In the 1940s De Beers was indicted by the US Justice Department for price fixing under the Sherman Act. The US also believed De Beers had rationed the supply of tool diamonds to the US during the Second World War severely damaging the war effort. It was determined never to let this happen again, and legislation was thus passed to set up a national diamond stockpile. De Beers needed a way to ensure it was the source of this stockpile despite being indicted. It sought a middleman to do the deals with the US. Early in the 1950s Tempelsman met with the Oppenheimers who rule De Beers and became this middleman. He was uniquely supplied with millions of diamonds to sell the US as its strategic reserve. Most of these diamonds came from the Congo.
When Lumumba, Congo’s first elected leader, spoke of using the Congo’s resources to benefit the Congo. De Beers feared it would lose access to the one third of world’s diamond supply in the Congo – as would also Tempelsman. Shortly after this, the CIA facilitated Lumumba’s assassination. Evidence on this came before the Church Intelligence Commission. Immediately after Lumumba’s death, the Acting Prime Minister of the Congo, Adoula announced support for a very major Tempelsman diamond deal, telegramming this to President Kennedy. The historian Richard Mahoney claimed that the Adoula regime was receiving funds from Tempelsman. A State Department memo headed “Congo Diamond Deal” stated “The State Department has concluded that it is in the political interest of the US to implement this proposal.”
(2 August 1961)Immediately after Mobutu came to power, Tempelsman became an even bigger player in the Congo – recruiting his own staff from those CIA staffers that Mobutu most favored that put him in power. Mobutu also at this time gave Tempelsman, as a “Christmas Gift”, rich mineral reserves. According to Tempelsman’s staff we interviewed, they had a wonderful time helping to run the Congo. One of the first acts by Tempelsman was to facilitate the return of the Oppenheimers to the Congo – and to secure funding for Mobutu. He succeeded in persuading the White House to secretly buy a vast number of diamonds for the US strategic reserve – at a time when Administration officials were protesting that the reserve was over full. The reason for this deal given in secret US government memos was to support Mobutu and his partner Adoula. This Tempelsman plan made much profit for him and for De Beers.
A State Department Cable of 23 December 1964 warned about the need of secrecy over this Mobutu diamond and South African uranium deal because; “it could outrage the moderate Africans we are trying to calm down.” It suggest South African Foreign Minister Muller would understand the need for secrecy since the US was “doing a job” in the Congo that South Africa could not do. This covert support for Mobutu gave the US a gross excess in the strategic diamond stockpile that was still being sold off in 1997. In 1967 the State Department reported; “Tempelsman is playing an increasingly central role as GDRC (Congo’s) technical advisor and mediator.” But these deals and other deals done throughout the following decades with a corrupt Mobutu government left the Congolese people in absolute poverty.
In the late 1950s democracy arrived in Africa with the election of President Nkrumah – who thought Black Africans should not have to sell diamonds to an apartheid company – so took Ghana’s diamonds from the cartel. A short while later, the State Department wrote a furious letter to Maurice Tempelsman saying that his office, by using an unguarded phone line, had betrayed the identity of the plotters against Nkrumah and the identity of the CIA Head of Station. The plotters seemingly were communicating to the White House via Tempelsman’s office. (Memorandum for the President from WW Rostow, 24 September 1961) Tempelsman clearly had advanced knowledge of this coup attempt. Shortly afterwards President Kennedy decided not to “downgrade” (his word) Tempelsman for this error.
Tempelsman worked out a new diamond contract for President Stevens – under which Tempelsman got 27% of the country’s diamonds – setting up an independent cutting factory – and De Beers bought shares in it. However it was not set up to compete effectively. I have gathered ample evidence that historically Sierra Leone has been grossly exploited by fraudulent De Beers’ practices which I would be happy to give during question time.
In recent years Tempelsman has been trying to use US money and support to set up Savimbi of UNITA in the diamond trade with both De Beers the US support. On the side, he has also been setting up his own diamond cutting factory – here as in his other African cutting plants on terms that are likely to stop Africa getting a fully commercial cutting industry… a De Beers aim. Tempelsman in 1996 persuaded the Assistant Secretary of State George E. Moose to give him a letter suggesting that the US would finance Tempelsman’s plans. On October 10th 1996 he met with Tony Lake the National Security Advisor and with Lake’s deputy, Shawn McCormick – and gained their support for Tempelsman’s plans. In May 1997 the US Ambassador for Angola, Steinbach met with Savimbi – to back the Tempelsman plan. This plan included UNITA keeping its diamond mines – and selling them via De Beers. Again US foreign policy was being shaped to benefit De Beers.
TEMPELSMAN’S INDEPENDENCE OF DE BEERS
Tempelsman frequently poses as an independent diamond merchant, even as a rival to De Beers. This has enabled him to do such things as to advise the President of Namibia on his negotiations with De Beers. But if he were truly such, he would lose his diamond supplies from De Beers as have other diamond merchants who tried to rival De Beers. He has never lost these supplies. He is rumoured in the trade as having one of the very largest of the diamond “sights” supplied by De Beers It is easy for De Beers to pay him secretly. They simply put more and better stones into the box they send him. The US customs are unable to check if this has happened, as they do not the experts on staff.
Maurice Tempelsman served the De Beers diamond cartel by promoting foreign policy decisions that favoured its access to and control of African diamond fields. This lead to the US covertly supporting undemocratic and corrupt regimes in Africa to the great detriment of the African people.
Information on Blood Diamonds Suppressed?
Why did WGBH suppress its Frontline program “The Diamond Empire,” refusing to sell it to many who asked for it. The owners of Doubleday were later scared off from publishing the “sensational, important and accomplished” (their words) human rights book “Glitter and Greed: The story of Blood Stained Diamonds.” They wrote after putting promoting the book as due to come out in 3 months, saying that rich and powerful people were against it, and although we may win any legal battle, it is not worth the cost of such a fight.
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