[Dear Senator, In September last year the Senate passed the Byrd Amendment]
by Edgar Lockwood, Washington Office on Africa
Washington, DC, United States
May 15, 1972
Washington Office on Africa
Letter sent to Senators. The letter says in September last year the Senate passed the Byrd Amendment allowing the importation of strategic materials from any free world country if we imported them from any Communist or Communist-dominated country; the bill had the effect of opening the door to a serious breach of the sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Rhodesia and at the same time it gave a psychological boost to the morale of the illegal Smith regime in Rhodesia at a time when it was embarrassed by the overwhelming rejection of the so-called "Settlement" by black Rhodesians. The letter says the Senate now is in a position to restore our international leadership in the-United Nations by approving the Foreign Relations Authorization Act's Section 503, which repeals the Byrd Amendment; Senator Byrd will undoubtedly move to strike Section 503 from the bill; it is most important that you be present and vote in favor of the Foreign Relations Committee's position for repeal; last fall the number of Senators absent and not voting made it possible for Senator Byrd to win. The letter says repeal of the Byrd Amendment would return the United States to a position where it obeys international law and fulfills its obligations under the United Nations Charter; the United States is the first nation to openly break the United Nations sanctions which it voted to support; if we wish to see peaceful change take place in Southern Africa, we will have to recognize that the sanctions program, for all its inadequacies, has had an effect on the economy of Rhodesia; if there have been violators of the sanctions, as has been alleged against Switzerland, France, Italy, West Germany, and Japan, these nations should be pressed to co-operate; we should not use their failures as an excuse to break the law and scrap the whole notion of sanctions. The letter says if in fact sanctions are a failure, then we should press for international action which would exert pressure for peaceful change toward freedom and justice in Rhodesia rather than unilaterally break sanctions for the sake of the particular concerns of American investors; it would strengthen our commitment to the United Nations and to the resolution of international conflicts by means other than war; the fact is that guerilla warfare is already occurring in Southern Africa. The letter says we stand in danger of being drawn gradually into another Vietnam quagmire if we cannot find some way through international collective action to exert pressure for peaceful change. The letter says repeal would help and not abandon the 5.2 million blacks in Zimbabwe (the African name for Rhodesia), who represent 95 per cent of the population of the territory, who have no significant political rights; Bishop Muzorewa, of Rhodesia, who has emerged as the spokesman for the African National Council, which represents those black Rhodesians who still hope for a non-violent solution, has recently urged that you vote to reinstate sanctions. The letter says the allegations that were made last fall that our defense requires that we not be dependent on Russian chrome turns out to be a deliberate hoax to play upon our fears of Russian communist aggression; the Office of Emergency Preparedness has declared that we have an excess of 2. 25 million tons of chrome from our stockpile. The letter says authorities at the Department of Commerce and the Geological Survey find no evidence that Russian ore is really Rhodesian transshipped. The letter says it is alleged that the importation of Rhodesian ore will make American stainless steel competitive with Japanese stainless steel; this is a very dubious forecast. The letter says it is not true that the sanctions program hurts American labor. I.W. Abel of the United Steelworkers, Andrew Biemiller of the AFL-CIO and United Autoworkers have all taken positions supporting the sanctions program. The letter says to allow the sanctions program to be broken for some American corporations and not for others creates injustices, and places the government in the anomalous position of prosecuting fertilizer manufacturers for sanctions violations while granting favors to Union Carbide and Foote Mineral and Allegheny Ludlum. The letter says while this is a low-visibility issue for most Americans, it is increasingly going to be on the agenda of black Americans as the forthcoming conferences and convocations sponsored by the Congressional black caucus and other black citizens testify. The letter says we trust and hope you will vote to keep the McGee Amendment in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act. The letter discuses strategic materials, chromium oxide, forced labor, low wages, human rights, the UAW (United Auto Workers), Edward H. Bartlett, and adherence to international law.
Used by permission of the Washington Office on Africa.
Collection: George M. Houser (Africa collection), Michigan State University Libraries Special Collections