Profiting from the worst war on the planet that no one in America knows anything about by purchasing “conflicts minerals” from the Congo for their products:

From Nicholas Kristoff in February:

[S]o far the brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.

What those numbers don’t capture is the way Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation …

“Sometimes I don’t know what I am doing here,” Dr. Mukwege said despairingly. “There is no medical solution.” The paramount need, he says, is not for more humanitarian aid for Congo, but for a much more vigorous international effort to end the war itself.

That means putting pressure on neighboring Rwanda, a country so widely admired for its good governance at home that it tends to get a pass for its possible role in war crimes next door. We also need pressure on the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, to arrest Gen. Jean Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. And, as recommended by an advocacy organization called the Enough Project, we need a U.S.-brokered effort to monitor the minerals trade from Congo so that warlords can no longer buy guns by exporting gold, tin or coltan.

And you thought Goldman Sachs and BP were evil corporations. Who knew that Intel, Blackbery, Dell, IBM, Gateway, HP, Sony, AT&T, Motorola, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Nintendo, etc., including Steve Jobs and Apple, are providing the funds these barbaric militias and warlords need to continue to fuel the slaughter and rape of millions of Africans. More from Kristoff yesterday:

I’ve never reported on a war more barbaric than Congo’s, and it haunts me. In Congo, I’ve seen women who have been mutilated, children who have been forced to eat their parents’ flesh, girls who have been subjected to rapes that destroyed their insides. Warlords finance their predations in part through the sale of mineral ore containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. For example, tantalum from Congo is used to make electrical capacitors that go into phones, computers and gaming devices.

Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think “sleek,” not “blood.”

Our computers, cellphones, iPods, Wiis, Play Stations, digital cameras and god knows what other electronic devices are the end product of unimaginable human suffering. 6.9 million deaths. Countless lives destroyed. Misery beyond our ability to fathom.

Guess that’s why you never see this story reported upon by the Network and Cable News Channels. No TV cameras documenting massacres. No documentaries exposing the horrid and deadly trade in the minerals that come out of the Congo through Rwanda, scene of another epic mass murder. After all, those commercials for every new electronic device that comes down the pipeline every few months helps keep the media companies in business. Can’t piss off your advertisers by showing them to be aiders and abettors of crimes against humanity, can you?

Best not to speak of it. Wouldn’t be good for business. And yes I’m typing this from a PC with an Intel CORE processor that no doubt used materials for which others sacrificed their lives so Dell (in my case) could sell it to me.

Excuse me while I go and get sick to my stomach.

Update [2010-6-29 18:57:4 by Steven D]: What can you do to stop this trade? Here’s some ideas from yesterday’s Kristof article:

The Obama administration also should put more pressure on Rwanda to play a constructive role next door in Congo (it has, inexcusably, backed one militia and bolstered others by dealing extensively in the conflict minerals trade). Impeding trade in conflict minerals is also a piece of the Congo puzzle, and because of public pressure, a group of companies led by Intel and Motorola is now developing a process to audit origins of tantalum in supply chains.

Manufacturers previously settled for statements from suppliers that they do not source in eastern Congo, with no verification. Auditing the supply chains at smelters to determine whether minerals are clean or bloody would add about a penny to the price of a cellphone, according to the Enough Project, which says the figure originated with the industry.

“Apple is claiming that their products don’t contain conflict minerals because their suppliers say so,” said Jonathan Hutson, of the Enough Project. “People are saying that answer is not good enough. That’s why there’s this grass-roots movement, so that we as consumers can choose to buy conflict free.” Some ideas about what consumers can do are at — starting with spreading the word.

Again, the website for RAISE Hope for Congo is HERE

Here’s an email exchange with Steve Jobs posted at that website:

WIRED’s Gadget Lab blog just published a post highlighting the first-ever direct response from the Apple founder about conflict minerals, a problem that plagues every electronics company and thus links consumers to the war in Congo – if unwittingly.

Here’s the exchange between Apple loyalist Derick Rhodes and Jobs, as reported by WIRED:

Hi Steve,

I’d planned to buy a new iPhone tomorrow – my first upgrade since buying the very first version on the first day of its release – but I’m hesitant without knowing Apple’s position on sourcing the minerals in its products.

Are you currently making any effort to source conflict-free minerals? In particular, I’m concerned that Apple is getting tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold from Eastern Congo through its suppliers.

Looking forward to your response,


Jobs’ reply:

Yes. We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few [sic] materials. But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem.

Sent from my iPhone

It’s a very welcome development that Jobs decided to personally weigh in on this issue and respond to a concerned consumer, because ultimately it will be decisions by him and other industry leaders that will give customers the choice to go conflict free. But because we have a couple of questions with his argument, Enough is replying in kind. Here’s an email we just sent to him:

Thanks, Steve. You have always blazed a path where others thought it impossible.

Tracing minerals isn’t easy, but it can be done. The chokepoint is at the smelter, where the raw mineral ores are processed into metals. Tin and tantalum firms that supply electronics companies have started tracing programs in the past six months, and certain electronics companies are beginning to audit this process.

But to guarantee to consumers that iPads, iPods and iPhones are verifiably conflict-free, we need more resources and commitment from industry leaders like you. We have a roadmap to accomplish this, through tracing, auditing, and certification. Would you like to meet and talk further?

I suggest you contact your favorite electronics’ manufacturers (I will with Dell) and ask them to do more than just accept letters from their suppliers regarding conflicts minerals from the Congo, letters which are often worthless buts of paper designed only to evade legal responsibility.

Use the email above as a model.