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When I learned about conflict diamonds in the late 90s, I switched and bought only cubic zirconia.  When I learned about the blood, the shattered lives, the pain and the torture that had paid for the western symbol of love, (and female shallowness; "Diamonds are a girl's best friend"), I could no longer be a consumer of it.

I have never bought much, beyond a few rings, and earring studs, so my lack of purchase wouldn't do much.  I still haven't gotten the pendant I have wanted since I was a teenager.  But I could no longer look at a diamond without seeing blood.  

What was in my mind was more horrific than any blood dripping horror movie. The change was in me.

When President Clinton signed  Executive Order 13194, January 18, 2001 (don't get me started on the last minute nature of this necessary and principled stand), which banned the importation of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone (into the US), my thoughts and buying habits did not change.

When George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13213, May 22, 2001, which prohibited the importation into the US rough diamonds from Liberia, my thoughts and buying habits did not change. This one of the few good things he did in 8 years.

On April 25, 2003 the US enacted the Clean Diamond Trade Act (CDTA)(pdf).

The CDTA implemented the UN's Kimberley Process Certification Scheme(KPCS) which aims to assure consumers that they are not buying diamond that use to finance wars and abuses of human rights. It is a "soft law", which means that it is has no legal force behind it, that seeks to prevent conflict or blood  rough diamonds from entering the market.  

The developed world at large became aware of conflict/blood diamonds because of two movies;"James Bond: Die Another Day" released in 2002 starring Pierce Brosnan and the 2006 film "Blood Diamond" starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

I wondered if there were more mines and minerals that were being exploited the same way.  But I became distracted with other things and didn't follow up. Like the rest of the world found out about conflict diamonds through entertainment media, I also found the answer to my question. On March 17, 2010  Law and Order Special Victims Unit aired an episode dealing with current conflict minerals.

It wasn't like people hadn't been trying to get attention before,  I'm sure.  They had with a piece on Huffington Post and 60 Minutes.  But I don't read HuffPo and rarely catch 60 Minutes.

There are four metals that are in  every one of the electronic products you use every day, from your cell phone, to computers.  Those metals are Gold, Tin, Tantalum and Tungsten.  Whatever you use to surf the web, stream radio on, stream Rachel Maddow/Keith Olbermann/The Daily Show/The Colbert Report, read Dailykos and any other blog, and read this diary uses these metals.

All can come from Africa where armed groups fight for control of the mines and the minerals themselves.  They make millions, and those millions buy more guns, more bombs, more weapons and more control of the population by terror.

Once these groups have "taxed" the mines they control they smuggle the metals and minerals out of Africa.  These metals and minerals are sent to smelting plants in India, China, Malaysia and Thailand.  Once in these plants these metals and minerals are mixed with others that come in from other parts of the word to be made into components.  These components are then shipped to many different countries to be made into the electronic consumer products you use every day.

The laptop computer, the desk top computer, the Blackberry, the cell phone, the game system, the Wii, the digital camera, the computer in ones car/refrigerator/washing machine, etc.

One of the biggest and best methods the armed militias have found to control the population is rape, and often torture goes with the rape.  Rape is so common in the Congo it is to "be expected."  It creates instability. It destroys families and homes as husbands (if they are left alive) turn out their raped wives and daughters.   It is a crime against humanity with many victims that our consumerism helps fuel.

Some of it's victims tell their story (often subtitled)

You can help change this.  By demanding to know if a product you are about to purchase is conflict free, and not buying if they cannot prove that it is.  By writing to companies to tell them you will only buy from companies that make their supply chains transparent and verify that their products are conflict free.  

You can work to help the people of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by writing to, or calling your Congressman and urging them to co-sponsor, support and pass Conflict Minerals Trade Act, HR 4128 (thomas). If they are already on board, be sure to thank them.

Official Summary

This legislation is designed to help stop the deadly conflict over minerals in eastern Congo by regulating the importation and trade of tin, tungsten and tantalum – minerals commonly used in cell phones, laptop computers and other popular electronic devices. Under the bill, U.S. Commerce Department-sanctioned auditors would audit mineral mines declaring them conflict free or not. These mines would be mapped to show which ones fund conflict. Furthermore, importers would have to certify whether they were importing conflict minerals – companies that do import conflict minerals will be reported to Congress by the United States Trade Representative.
(open congress)

Call or write your Senators and ask them to  co-sponsor along with Senators Brownback (R-KS), Durbin (D-IL), and Feingold (D-WI), support and pass  Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009 (S. 891) (Thomas)  If they are already on board, be sure to thank them.

Official Summary
4/23/2009--Introduced.Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009 - Declares it is U.S. policy to promote peace and security in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by supporting the efforts of the DRC, other governments in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and the international community to:

(1) monitor and stop commercial activities involving the natural resources of the DRC (the minerals columbite-tantalite [coltan], cassiterite, wolframite, and gold) that contribute to illegal armed groups and human rights violations in the eastern region of the DRC; and

(2) develop stronger governance and economic institutions that can facilitate and improve transparency in the cross-border trade involving such natural resources in order to reduce exploitation by illegal armed groups and promote local and regional development. Directs the President, acting through the Secretary of State, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), and other appropriate U.S. officials to use the voice of the United States at the UN Security Council to renew the mandate and strengthen the capacity of the UN Group of Experts on the DRC to investigate links between such minerals and the financing of illegal armed groups. Directs the Secretary to work with UN member states and local and international organizations to:

(1) produce, and make public, a map of mineral-rich zones and illegal armed groups in the eastern region of the DRC; and

(2) provide guidance to commercial entities to ensure that the raw materials used in their products do not finance armed conflict, result in labor or human rights violations, or damage the environment. Requires the Secretary, working with the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to report to Congress on a strategy to address the links that exist between human rights abuses, armed groups, and the mining of the minerals in the DRC. Requires specified annual reports to cover such links. Amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to promulgate rules to require certain persons who engage in the trade or use of coltan, cassiterite, and wolframite to disclose annually to the SEC the country of origin and mine of origin of such minerals. Expresses the sense of Congress on assistance to communities in the eastern DRC that depend economically on the mineral trade, particularly those affected by sexual and gender-based violence, as well as individuals displaced by violence.
open congress

You can learn more: Global Witness, Enough project (also), and  Raise Hope for Congo

It is easy to get overwhelmed and exhausted with every crisis, every injustice, everything that we need to do.  The world is so broken.  But we can't expect our elected leaders to take it all on and deal with it all, if we shy away.

But as I write this, on my computer, a computer that I am now aware of the cost that it took to bring it to me, I'm not sure which experience moves me to action more; the fact I can identify as a victim of domestic violence, a rape survivor or  just the fact that I am a human being with the laudable emotion of empathy and desire for that makes it so this story, these faces just don't go away.  Maybe it's just that to get the attention it deserves, it needs to be reframed.

Maybe everyone just needs to see what I see,  the blood in your cell phone.


There have been 5 1/2 million deaths in the Congo

Clarification:  I am NOT saying dump your computer, cell phone, etc.  I would be cutting my own throat if I did that, because we make a nice living off of technology.  What I AM saying is support the bills and the practices that will curb the use of conflict minerals.

While the militias waging this war might still fight it in the years to come, they will do so on a much smaller scale without the ability to purchase weapons that increase their range, their accuracy and increase the terror.

Mobile phone metals 'financing Congo war" -

Mobile phone metals fuelling Congo war - The Ecologist

US Company Helps Fuel Congo War: UN Report - truthout

Metals in mobile phones financing brutal war in Congo - Global Witness

Opinion: Consumers can influence trade in conflict minerals - Global Post

Originally posted to Clytemnestra on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:09 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Globalization at its finest (12+ / 0-)

    Once it would have been simple. Don't buy products containing conflict minerals.

    Now, when my laptop contains components from half the nations of eastern and SE Asia, which bought raw materials to make them from whoever offered the lowest price - how can you know?

    This is an oft-overlooked consequence of globalization - the loss of my freedom to make choices in accordance with my own morals.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:18:05 AM PDT

  •  There is very little tantalum in phones (8+ / 0-)

    But there is a surprising amount of gold.

    People have been focusing on the coltan, which isn't nearly as significant a component as stated.  The gold in a phone is significantly more valuable, and is mined in some of the most exploitative areas of the world.

    •  it may not be a lot - BUT the devistation, blood, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MsSpentyouth, Dcoronata, kyril, Deep Texan

      rape and blood to get it, is still that same.

      My senator, Scott Brown, is running against non-candidate Rachel Maddow, because his best friend, Harvey, told him to.

      by Clytemnestra on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:21:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  the same .. I mean (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MsSpentyouth, kyril

        My senator, Scott Brown, is running against non-candidate Rachel Maddow, because his best friend, Harvey, told him to.

        by Clytemnestra on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:23:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That would happen even without the tantalum (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MsSpentyouth, Catte Nappe, kyril

        That is the more significant problem.

        It isn't the resource that's the problem, its the lack of a stable central government, and an ongoing civil war.

        •  if the resources weren't there they wouldn't (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MsSpentyouth, kyril, Deep Texan

          be fighting over control of it.  Yes it would have probably have been something else BUT not in Uganda, not in Somalia, not in Darfur has the use of rape been so great.

          My senator, Scott Brown, is running against non-candidate Rachel Maddow, because his best friend, Harvey, told him to.

          by Clytemnestra on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:26:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Stop thinking of this as an economic war (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Fabian, Clytemnestra

            Almost all of those above are ethnic conflicts.

            The purpose of rape in these are not just humiliation, but the hope that there will be pregnancies which will further humiliate the women and the tribe (as the children will be outcasts).

            There are times I have a problem with the way people see the world as a place of great economic exploitation.  Much of this is racial in origin, and only a little is class or political in nature.  People take care of their own, at the expense of neighboring races.  We have not changed much in thousands of years, only our ability to destroy has been enhanced.

            •  you are missing what i am saying (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MsSpentyouth, Noor B, kyril, Deep Texan

              from my dairy

              One of the biggest and best methods the armed militias have found to control the population is rape, and often torture goes with the rape.  Rape is so common in the Congo it is to "be expected."  It creates instability. It destroys families and homes as husbands (if they are left alive) turn out their raped wives and daughters.  

              This is on a scale unprecedented.  So much so that there are other factors besides tribal and ethnic fueds.

              The flow of money out of the Congo for more weapons has exacerbated the problem and made it much larger than it would have been.

              These militia have a history of "not taking care" if their own.  A woman is a piece of meat, something to control the larger population with. Whether she is within the person's own tribe and he is vying for control or from without.

              It is economic because our purchases help "enhance" they're ability to wage it in bigger and better ways.

              My senator, Scott Brown, is running against non-candidate Rachel Maddow, because his best friend, Harvey, told him to.

              by Clytemnestra on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:50:52 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Even "ethnic conflicts" have to be funded (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Clytemnestra, Noor B, kyril

              Did you, by chance, watch any of the televised trial of Charles Taylor, Liberian dictator, who waged war in Sierra Leone to help finance his regime?  It wasn't an "economic war" or an "ethnic war," but both ethnicity and economics played integral roles in the conflicts he ginned up to keep control of the resources of the area.

              (I might add that television evangelist Pat Robertson was a "business partner" of Charles Taylor, and Taylor claimed in his trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague that Robertson and his followers helped fund his escape from a U.S. prison in 1985.)

              •  The point is, the conflict exists without the $ (0+ / 0-)

                The money isn't causing the conflict.  As I stated in an earlier post, wars are older than cell phones, older than coltan mining.

                The solution isn't ending the mining, its ending the conflict.  Without a strong central government, that isn't going to happen.  Why must all of the problems of third-world nations always have to be us?  Isn't it just possible that people hate each other and aren't able to stop?  Tribalism and religious sectarianism is the root of these problems, not us.

                •  But they don't reach such a scale without $$$$ (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MsSpentyouth, kyril

                  and that's the point you seem to be missing.

                  They will hate each other with or without my money ... but I can chose whether my money allows them to hate bigger and better with the use of modern weaponry, which they would have no access to if they didn't have the money.

                  My senator, Scott Brown, is running against non-candidate Rachel Maddow, because his best friend, Harvey, told him to.

                  by Clytemnestra on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 10:15:24 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Conflicts exist without weaponry, too. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  Without weaponry, Serbians might have had a serious beef with Bosniak separatists. But would they have been able to wage a four-year warfare siege on Sarajevo or stand up against the United Nations forces at Srebrenica?

                  Conflict becomes war only under certain circumstances, and funding is the linchpin on spreading "tribal conflict" to full-scale war.

  •  Like so many Americans, I knew virtually nothing (7+ / 0-)

    about the diamond trade atrocities until I saw a movie.  I have to admit to loving them, just as I love crystal.  Prior to seeing that movie, getting a "bigger" diamond was a plan for me.  No more.  While I'm still tempted by them, and can't resist looking in the jewelry stores, I know I won't buy another.

    But.  I never thought about the other ways I could be supporting those atrocities without even realizing it.  Thanks so much for this very thought provoking and informative diary!  I'm not sure yet exactly how to go about avoiding contributing to the situation, because so terribly many items are involved.  But with some thought and effort, I can clearly go much farther than I have so far.  I'll be rereading this diary several times to get all the info out of it I can.

    "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

    by gustynpip on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:21:04 AM PDT

    •  There's one source (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that is still worth considering:  old jewellery.  Vintage pieces do not contribute to the problem, and it also has the virtue of recycling.  Antique shows are a good venue for such things.  It is a small step, to be sure, but it is one worth taking.  

      "Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, volume three, issue 18 (-8.50, -7.23)

      by Noor B on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 12:42:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are also diamonds from Canada which (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Clytemnestra, Noor B
        are specially marked as being from there that would technically be safe to buy.  But I decided against buying any from anywhere just on a supply/demand viewpoint.  The more there are available for others to buy, the lower the prices that can be charged and so the lower the incentive to commit the atrocities.  I know full well that my decision will have virtually no actual effect on the price of diamonds, but I couldn't live with the idea of not having contributed whatever tiny drop of effort I have available to me.

        "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

        by gustynpip on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 01:02:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The most significant diary I've read today (10+ / 0-)

    A friend of mine investigates war crimes in Africa. He'd survived Bosnian genocide in the 1990s and said that time was a picnic compared to what's going on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One day he called me from a refugee camp, where they were collecting testimony from refugees who'd had limbs, noses, and lips cut from their bodies by rebels intent on taking over all resources of the area. While the U.N. investigators were there, rebels raided the camp to prevent testimony from taking place and to terrorize the refugees into silence.

    This type of military might -- strong enough to challenge even well-armed U.N. peacekeepers and investigators -- doesn't come cheap.  It's being funded through vast, organized efforts to control the resources of the area and maintain a high level of armed conflict to obstruct intervention.

  •  A very important issue. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bustacap, Fabian, Noor B, kyril, Belle Ame

    But you'll see very few people (on the left or right) who'll give up their IPhones for the sake of someone else.
    Diamonds are an easy target since they signify wealth.
    But to be considered anti-electronics for any reason is to be a Luddite.

    The response on this site is deafening isn't it?

    Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. -susan ertz

    by graycat13 on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:28:53 AM PDT

  •  I added two tags (5+ / 0-)

    because this was very much reminiscent of the new ecojustice series.

    For those who missed boatie's diary last night, it is along the same lines, to a degree.

    Thanks for this , Clytemnestra.

    The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing!

    by LaughingPlanet on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:46:00 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for bringing this so close to home (5+ / 0-)

    like right now, as I clack away on this keyboard.

    It's a delicate matter, though, to get people to change behaviors. Reminds me of the fable about the North Wind and the Sun. People are ornery and often react defensively to the truth if it makes them feel guilty. I think a lot of the assholes in Hummers and such are saying "Fuck You" to all the shame being heaped upon our consumer society.

    So, does this little extra bit of guilt I feel after reading this diary, my extra load of guilt about sitting here at my computer which contains the products of abject human suffering, help the situation or not?

    Tipped and rec'd but I'm still wondering about that question.  

    muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

    by veritas curat on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:53:34 AM PDT

    •  do something (5+ / 0-)

      you can't change what's already been done
      but you can affect the future

      My senator, Scott Brown, is running against non-candidate Rachel Maddow, because his best friend, Harvey, told him to.

      by Clytemnestra on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:55:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It makes a compelling argument (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        for domestic recycling and repair of damaged electronics.  The less discarded items wind up in landfills, the smaller the market in dubiously-sourced raw materials will become.  Still, I have to ask how can we make spending $600 to replace or repair a bad motherboard or SIM chip more sustainable than dropping the same amount or less on a new gadget?  How do we get international trade agreements and laws that have sufficient teeth to thwart this trade without running afoul of the WTO and their insistence that cheap goods be allowed to flow unimpeded to Western markets?  We need a whole new paradigm for accounting for the cost in misery of these goods.  

        "Fighting Fascism is Always Cool." -- Amsterdam Weekly, volume three, issue 18 (-8.50, -7.23)

        by Noor B on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 01:01:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I hope your diary gets rescued. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MsSpentyouth, Clytemnestra, Noor B

    It is a nice piece of writing, and a very important topic. Thanks for taking the time to publicize it.

  •  I always add oil to the spoils of war. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Clytemnestra, Noor B

    excellent diary ty.

    Oh no, the dead have risen and they're voting Republican. - Lisa Simpson

    by LaFeminista on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 12:09:24 PM PDT

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