The A.J. Mustie Institute, named after a famous pacifist, started with the express purpose of “supporting nonviolence and social justice.” Now, the institute has a new executive director and has sent out a fundraising letter from convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. The letter includes a 2013 photo of the new director, Heidi Boghosian, and Mumia sharing beaming smiles and a hug.
Do you know who A.J. Muste was? Well, neither did I.
I had to research it — not online, for prison cells in Pennsylvania have no such amenities — but by checking through books, like Howard Zinn’s classic, A People’s History of the United States, and, of course, others.
Muste was a central (yet largely unknown) figure who introduced a young college student and seminarian named Martin Luther King, Jr. to the notion of nonviolent activism, and by so doing, changed him, and through him, the entire country.
Heidi Boghosian is well known as a radical leftist and had previously served as executive director of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG)—an organization infamous for its ties to the Communist Party, USA. As Eric Breindel wrote in the New York Post on June 30, 1995:
The guild, as it happens, was formed in 1937 by pro-New Deal, pro-FDR attorneys — some of them Communists, others not. But a controversy about the Communist Party’s role in the organization utterly fractured it a mere two years later. Early in 1939 — and especially after the August Hitler-Stalin Pact — many of the leading non-Communists in the guild concluded that they’d been naive in believing they could work with Party members in a national political organization. The most noted of the New Dealers — Judge Jerome Frank, Abe Fortas, Morris Ernst, and Adolf A. Berle, Jr. — dropped out of the guild. At the leadership level, the guild came to be dominated by lawyers who were strictly devoted to the Party line.
This same explanation of the history of the Guild was also told to me by Professor Michael Nash, head of NYU’s Tamiment Library which holds the papers of both the NLG and CPUSA, in a conversation about the Guild in 2012. Nash was a close friend of Heidi Boghosian and many of the most prominent figures in the Guild’s history.
As a leader of the NLG, Boghosian often put her organization in the service of the Communist Castro regime in Cuba. The contradictions arising from having such an agent of violence and repression serving as head of an institute dedicated to “supporting nonviolence and social justice” are, needless to say, shocking.
For example, the Mustie Institute offers a series of pamphlets reprinting the words of Martin Luther King Jr. on the philosophy of nonviolence. Ironically, in 2010, Boghosian wrote an article in the Huffington Post titled “U.S. Media Misrepresents Cuba’s Human Rights Record,” in which she defended the Cuban government over the death of black Cuban human rights champion Orlando Zapata-Tamayo. In 2002, Zapata was arrested alongside Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet for, as Humberto Fontova describes the event in his latest book, the “crime” of “reciting the works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the UN Declaration of Human Rights in a Cuban public square, while carrying the Cuban flag upside down. This ‘crime’ was greatly compounded by Dr. Biscet’s specifically denouncing the Castro regime’s policy of forced abortions.”
One day after Zapata’s death on February 23, 2010, a report smuggled out of Cuba detailed “the final seven steps taken by the repressive mechanism to kill Zapata”:
1 – Pull together the legal theatrics that transformed an initial sentence of four years for lack of respect, into a 63-year prison term.
2 – The continuous beatings accompanied by obscene phrases and insults towards his ethnicity and the region he came from (“Worthless N—-r”, “Worthless Peasant”).
3 – Locate him in jails very far from his mother (Kilo Five and a Half Prison in Pinar del Rio, and Kilo 8 Prison in Camaguey).
4 – The beatings of November 2009 in the jail of Holguin when they smashed him in one leg and left a mark on his knee, which his mother was still able to see again today when she opened the coffin in her small house in Banes, also discovering that there were numerous other marks made by the blows that he surely received months ago.
5 – The forced relocation to Camaguey and the stealing of all his belongings on December 3rd, when they confiscated the only foods he ate in prison. This was the act that pushed him to declare himself on hunger strike.
6 – Denying him water for 18 days in the midst of the hunger strike, even after he declared himself on strike but specified that he would drink small quantities of water.
7 – The act of taking him from a hospital in Camaguey to a mental ward in West Havana, a ward that does not have the conditions to take care of a person who is in critical condition.
Another example: In 2012, Boghosian made Cuban lawyer Roberto González an honorary member of the NLG for working with the organization to secure the release of five Cuban agents, including Roberto’s brother René González. The agents are responsible for, amount other things, the mass murder of four unarmed humanitarian workers (three of whom were American citizens) over international waters in 1996 as the four were attempting to help refugees fleeing Cuba by sea to find safety.
“Roberto’s career and his steadfast support of his brother are emblematic of the Guild’s basic principle that human rights are more sacred than property interests. We are proud to count him in our numbers,” said Boghosian.
Ironically, René González was part of an atrocity strongly opposed by A.J. Mustie’s close friend and Civil Rights champion Bayard Rustin. In 1977-1979, González was sent to Cabinda, Angola, as part of Castro’s Soviet-sponsored campaign to eliminate the popular resistance to the Communist MPLA dictatorship. The war, in which the Cubans resorted to the use of chemical weapons not seen in Africa since the time of Mussolini, resulted in 1 million deaths—mostly poor Africans. Cubans in Cabinda were assigned to protect Angola’s oil fields from the Angolan people. This was a priority because, as New York Times reporter Tad Szulc wrote in Fidel: A Critical Portrait, “It was much cheaper for the Russians to ship at least some of the oil to Cuba from Cabinda rather than from the Black Sea.”
In his definitive 1977 essay on the war, “Africa, Soviet Imperialism, and the Retreat of American Power,” Rustin condemned the “neo-colonialist” Soviet/Cuban plunder of the poor African nation and demanded that the United States stand up to the Communist aggression.
Rustin was right to do so. The Communist MPLA is still in power in Angola today. Last month (March 19, 2015)—nearly 40 years after Rustin’s article—Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times:
This is a country laden with oil, diamonds, Porsche-driving millionaires and toddlers starving to death. New Unicef figures show this well-off but corrupt African nation is ranked No. 1 in the world in the rate at which children die before the age of five…
Under the corrupt and autocratic president, José Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled for 35 years, billions of dollars flow to a small elite — as kids starve…
There are many ways for a leader to kill his people, and although dos Santos isn’t committing genocide he is presiding over the systematic looting of his state and neglect of his people. As a result, 150,000 Angolan children die annually. Let’s hold dos Santos accountable and recognize that extreme corruption and negligence can be something close to a mass atrocity.
Meanwhile, the dictator’s daughter Isabel dos Santos is Africa’s richest woman. Kristof writes that “she is worth $3 billion and is Africa’s only female billionaire as well as its youngest billionaire, according to Forbes. The magazine found that all her major Angolan investments were in companies seeking to do business there or were achieved by a stroke of her father’s pen.”
Instead of standing with A.J. Mustie’s lifelong friend and companion, the new head of the Mustie Institute stands with his opponents, the men responsible for ongoing death and repression on a grand scale.
Where’s the outrage from the institute’s members? Are they committed to non-violence or not?
For the true story of Officer Daniel Faulkner and his murder at the hands of Mumia Abu-Jamal, read Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain, and Injustice by Maureen Faulkner and Michael A. Smerconish.