Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Morocco Lobby, Brokeback Mountain, & the Fate of the Western Sahara

Having recently gotten back from an extended trip abroad, I searched and searched the Internet for blog-worthy items about the Western Sahara and was on the verge of concluding that Will, Alle, et al. had comprehensively taken care of business when I ran across a strange tale of J. Peter Segall and Edward M. Gabriel from early April that somehow missed their radar. Thanks guys for leaving one for me (or could it be that you did not consider it a blog-worthy item?). Anyway….

Now Ed Gabriel is familiar to my readers as the former American ambassador to Morocco who over the last few years has been on Rabat’s payroll as one of the major attractions in their multimillion-dollar propaganda circus in the U.S. Without getting into the tawdry particulars of his selling out to Morocco – which I have covered ad nauseum elsewhere – let me just say here that his groveling recitations of the Moroccan royalist line betray a moral compass little evolved from a cicada.

On April 1 the following “in memoriam” ad for Mr. Gabriel appeared in the Washington Post below his smiling mustachioed face: Though I no longer have you as my partner, this day will always be OUR anniversary. . . . I could never quit you.” Before you construe my nasty words about Mr. Gabriel in the previous paragraph as tasteless trashing of a dead man, let me quickly add that the ad was an April Fools joke and that Mr. Gabriel is not in fact dead (you can still construe it as tasteless trashing of a live man if you like).

In the spirit of aprilfoolery, the Post on April 2, in an article titled “A ‘Death’ is Noticed,” explained that Edward M. Gabriel, an “international business consultant who was the U.S. ambassador to Morocco from 1997 to 2001,” was “very much alive”; that the ad, “in language reminiscent of the movie ‘Brokeback Mountain,’” was a hoax; and that the one who took out the ad, public relations executive and lawyer J. Peter Segall, was paying for a retraction in that day’s Post.

Other than Mr. Gabriel’s obvious association with Morocco’s campaign to discredit the Polisario Front, I suspect you are wondering what it is that makes this a blog-worthy Western Sahara story. The hook is that J. Peter Segall is “general manager in Edelman's Washington office, and oversee[s] the relationship with the Kingdom of Morocco.” In February of last year on Richard Edelman’s “6 A.M.” blog, I took Mr. Edelman to task for getting all self-righteous in criticizing Robert Mugabe’s autocratic ways, while at the same time taking lots of money from Morocco to cover up and whitewash Mohammed VI’s disdain for democracy and Morocco’s totalitarian ways in the occupied territories. Anyway, it was J. Peter Segall who responded to my comments with a predictably wishy-washy and unconvincing defense of Edelman’s relationship with Morocco. “Our work with Morocco has been transparent and forthright and we look forward to continuing our partnership with this unique and important country.”

According to the Post article, poor Ed “fielded calls all day from friends who thought he had died. One woman told him she spent two hours crying after seeing the ad.” An apparently mortified Segall explained, “As I said in a correction that I hope is published [today], I engaged in a very stupid and ultimately cruel April Fools' joke against a man that has been my best friend for 30 years, and I deeply, deeply regret it." And Gabriel elaborates, “He's an old friend who plays jokes on me every year, and some are hilarious, but they've been private….He's a good friend who went a little too far. He's apologized profusely, and I've accepted it, but not without being a little hurt. I think -- I know -- he had no ill intent.” Summarizing the whole episode, “Segall said,” according to the Post “that he is a mature man who made an immature mistake.” Given the utter stupidity and silliness of publishing a gay death hoax about a friend in the Washington Post, I would say that Segall’s maturity is certainly open to question -- especially since he is a high-level executive for one of the biggest and most influential PR firms in the world.

And what in the world is the homosexuality angle all about? While Segall’s ad does seem to insinuate a gay relationship (“though I no longer have you as my partner…”), the Washington Post article takes it a step further by making the connection with “Brokeback Mountain” (“in language reminiscent of the movie ‘Brokeback Mountain’”), a popular recent movie about two married cowboys who carry on a long-time gay love affair behind the backs of their wives. The language in question in Segall’s ad, by the way, is “I could never quit you,” which is indeed reminiscent of Brokeback’s “I wish I knew how to quit you.

Let me preface this paragraph with a disclaimer that I couldn’t care less about Segall, Gabriel, or anyone else’s sexual orientation. I just find it incredibly strange that Segall would pull a public gay spoof on his old friend when, first of all, Gabriel is married (to Democratic Party operative and tobacco industry lobbyist, Kathleen “Buffy” Linehan), and, secondly, both these guys lobby and do PR for Morocco, where homosexual relations are illegal and can land you in jail for up to three years (Section 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code). With Edelman’s Morocco desk being overseen by someone exhibiting such atrociously bad judgment, there just might be some hope after all for the Western Sahara cause.

This whole silly April Fools episode strikes me as sadly symbolic of the tragic dilemma in which the Western Sahara currently finds itself. For over 35 years, the UN and the world community -- through numerous resolutions and rulings, and the refusal of even one country to recognize Morocco’s occupation -- have confirmed the Western Saharan’s right to self-determination. A combination of blind US and French support for Morocco, the UN retreating on its commitments to the Western Sahara (see van Walsum’s realism), and Morocco’s huge expenditures on PR and lobbying has brought us to the point where the future of a people is being determined by a mercenary bunch of yahoos such as J. Peter Segall and Edward M. Gabriel.

I can’t help but be left with an image of J. Peter Segall and Edward M. Gabriel in their tight blue jeans sitting around a campfire on a dark stormy night on Brokeback Mountain concocting new and exciting schemes to screw the Sahrawi.

As an aside, in confirming that Gabriel was in fact married, I ran across some tidbits online about Gabriel’s wife, Buffy, that are interesting in the context of this story. In 1992, as head of Philip Morris’s lobbying group, she was deposed in a lawsuit against B.J. Reynolds Tobacco (KUEPER v. R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO CO). Sourcewatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, comments about her deposition: “…Linehan indicated that she was involved in lobbying against the banning of smoking on commercial aircraft, and that she does not consider the health consequences of the product she is lobbying (cigarettes).” And at another deposition in 1995, Sourcewatch adds that “Linehan stated that she did not believe that cigarette smoking is addictive.” Buffy and Ed really do seem made for each other; both are lobbyists who get paid for actively promoting products (cigarettes and Morocco) that spread misery and death, and neither is willing to consider the human consequences of their actions.

6 comments:

  1. Nice find! I knew about the Gabriel April Fool's thing, but it's wild how the guy who placed it is an Edelman stooge. And Gabriel's wife is pushing death too!

    Did you see that my April Fool's joke involved Gabriel?

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  2. Hi Will,

    Yes, I did enjoy your April fool's joke about Gabriel. Also, regarding Gabriel's wife, it turns out that she currently serves on the Board of IFES along with our old friend Robert Livingston of the Livingston Group (who lobbies and is a registered foreign agent for Morocco)and she formerly served on the Board of the Center for Democracy also with Livingston. I think there's a smoking cigarette here.

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  3. I thinks it is you, who need to stop beating a dead horse.
    What is the point of creating yet another micro-state in Africa that is doomed to fail like sierra leone, Liberia, burundi..etc
    If you are really concerned with the human condition of the Sahrawi, why don't you lobby for the Human rights and democracy for ALL Moroccans and see your beloved "sahrawi" healthy and prosperous within a democratic Morocco.
    the pseudo-Liberation movement has reach a dead end.
    it is time to be REALISTIC.

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  4. Alba

    A democratic Morocco? I agree with you that democracy for Moroccans would be a good thing. Let's have Mo6 stand for elections. I'd lobby for that any day of the week.

    And failed states? Given the social and economic problems in Morocco, perhaps the kingdom would be better off as a protectorate of France.

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  5. Anonymous12:44 PM

    chasli you just full of craaap , your problem is with PR and you sound like them .
    now tell us how much you get paid for all this useless PR work you doing for algeria??????.
    as for morocco , well morocco is in his sahara and the rest is history like you and your looosy website.
    no barking plz polisario are sleeping.

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  6. Thanks a lot, Chasli.
    if you accept my advice, you do not matter to the Moroccan people and their propaganda. Do what you believe and defend fair values, and you do not matter what they say. Their problem is that they are not accustomed to read other views different from those of the MAP services [especially online]. But my friend, that's over, thanks to people like you. The only REALISM here is our right to self-determination recognized by international law for over 33 years.
    FREEDOM FOR WESTERN SAHARA!

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