Fri 23 Jun 2006
I wanted to comment on a book I read recently, Blood Diamonds, by Greg Campbell.
In his book, Greg exposes the best kept secret in America — that the lovely engagement rings grooms give their brides fund terror and savage war in Africa and likely aid in terrorism throughout the globe. That the United States, through purchasing a majority of the world’s diamonds (70%) is directly fueling this epidemic conflagration. The masterminds of this fraud? The De Beers Group (the company, not incidentally, plead guilty to price fixing diamonds in the United States in 2004). Here are the facts:
- Starting in 1938 the De Beers company poured money into a amazingly successful “Diamonds are Forever” campaign which convinced a generation that the only acceptable engagement ring was one with a diamond on it.
- Using their monopoly, De Beers keeps prices artificially high by limiting the yearly supply of diamonds into the market.
- Other De Beers’ marketing efforts helped to engrain the “tradition” of spending two to three months salary on a ring
Were those their only sins, the diamond cartels would only be culpable of massively hoodwinking the public and monopolistic price fixing of these otherwise worthless shiny rocks. Unfortunately this is not the case. In a 2002 report, Liz Stanton, Center for Popular Economics Staff Economist, lists Ten Reasons Why You Should Never Accept a Diamond Ring from Anyone. Among those ten are these few, highlighting the reality of the horrors that is the diamond industry:
- Conflict Diamonds Fund Civil Wars in Africa
- There is no reliable way to insure that your diamond was not mined or stolen by government or rebel military forces in order to finance civil conflict. Conflict diamonds are traded either for guns or for cash to pay and feed soldiers.
- Diamond Wars are Fought Using Child Warriors
- Many diamond producing governments and rebel forces use children as soldiers, laborers in military camps, and sex slaves. Child soldiers are given drugs to overcome their fear and reluctance to participate in atrocities.
- Small Arms Trade is Intimately Related to Diamond Smuggling
- Illicit diamonds inflame the clandestine trade of small arms. There are 500 million small arms in the world today which are used to kill 500,000 people annually, the vast majority of whom are non-combatants.
- Slave Laborers Cut and Polish Diamonds
- More than one-half of the world’s diamonds are processed in India where many of the cutters and polishers are bonded child laborers. Bonded children work to pay off the debts of their relatives, often unsuccessfully. When they reach adulthood their debt is passed on to their younger siblings or to their own children.
Quotes from the book:
Diamonds maybe a girl’s best friend, but diamonds are paid for in blood. In the mines of Koidu, Sierra Leone, “a mixture of RUF militants, adult and child conscripts and local miners has turned every possible diamond site into a pile of mud”. The illicit diamond trade has led to war, suffering and violence in Angola, the Congo and Liberia. In Sierra Leone this trade has left a trail of summary execution, torture and indiscriminate machete attacks.
Diamonds are hard to track and easy to smuggle. Once hidden they are undetectable by airport sniffer-dogs, maintain their value in the market and are hard to identify, making it extremely difficult to know where your diamond earrings, ring or necklace were mined. In the UK, diamonds often name Switzerland as their country of origin – diamond mines in Switzerland?
A rebel’s best friend? “Diamonds are forever” it is often said, but lives are not. We must spare people the ordeal of war, mutilations and death for the sake of conflict diamonds” Martin Chungong Ayafor, Chairman of the Sierra Leone Panel of Experts.
Osama bin Laden has also benefited from conflict diamonds, according to the Washington Post. The Liberian government were indirectly funding the Al Qa’ida network with the proceeds from conflict diamonds. A Global Witness letter to Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, stated, “Al-Qa’ida has derived millions of US dollars from diamonds mined by the RUF and carried out in the co-operation of the Liberian government with President Charles Taylor receiving commission on these transactions”.