KNIVES OUT FOR BAFFOUR
By Osei Boateng & Baffour Ankomah
New African Oct. 1999
From the Horn, through the East and to Southern Africa, the 'M' rules. Osei Boateng takes us through the roll call.
After the Peter Duesbergs, Phillipe Krynens, and Neville Hodgkinsons, it is the turn of Baffour Ankomah and New African. The AIDS establishment, rattled by Baffour and New African's contribution over the years to the AIDS debate, is on the war path. And any foul means is fair game. On Friday 13 August, newspaper readers across the US woke up to find on their front pages a story deliberately written to demonise Baffour and New African. Written by Neely Tucker, the story was filed for the 32 titles under the Knight Ridder Newspapers group. Many of the titles run the story which was full of plain lies, half truths, fact-twisting and insincere paraphrasing. We publish below Baffour's response sent to the San Diego Union Tribune, and a 1992 gem published by The Houston Post (see page 32). Dear readers, the battle is joined.
You've picked on the wrong horse
My attention has just been drawn to Neely Tucker's article in your issue of 13 August in which he deliberately sets out to demonise me and the magazine I work for. Neely's work, (full of blatant lies, half truths and fact-twisting) does bring shame to our profession, to say the least. No wonder some people say: "Never trust a journalist". Which is sad.
In fact I am astounded that a "journalist" who claims to have read so much of my stuff on AIDS in the past, could write such drivel about me and pass it round as the gospel truth.
In the first place, Neely crudely exposes his recklessness with facts when he describes me as the "publisher" of New African. He surely knows the difference between a publisher and an editor. I am only the editor of New African, not the publisher. I gave him backcopies of New African, going back to even 1986, about the work we've published on AIDS. Even if he didn't know my official position at New African, he could have just flipped the front cover of the latest issue - it's all there on our masthead - the publisher and the editor are two different persons. If he can get that wrong, can we trust him with anything more?
Anyway, let me tell your readers what actually happened.
Neely Tucker who says he lives in Zimbabwe, first e-mailed me when I was on holiday in late July, saying he had read my pieces on AIDS in the past, he was doing a piece himself on how Africans see AIDS, and so wanted to interview me.
His secretary followed up with a phone call while I was still away. When I came back, Neely himself phoned and said he was passing through London and had only a day to spare, could I see him? I said fine, come in. So he came in and we spent the whole afternoon (at least for three hours or so) talking about AIDS and Africa, and how I see it. A week later, he sent in a photographer (who also works for Newsweek) to do some portraits of me in the office.
Thank God, we have an open plan office, and during the interview, some of my colleagues listened in to it. I showed them Neely's story today, and they all shook their heads. "That's not what you said", they chorused.
I will pick on a few of his points here:
- I never said AIDS doesn't exist. Neely asked a question about that. And I said (and these are the exact words I used and I challenge Neely to publish the full tape he made of the interveiw). "Some people say AIDS doesn't exist. But I have not studied the subject to that level, and do not have the medical background to say AIDS doesn't exist."
- Yes, I repeated what I have been writing for years that the "millions of Africans dying of AIDS" is an exaggeration by the AIDS establishment.
- Yes, we talked about the conspiracy theories. I mentioned Boyd E. Greaves' recent court case in Ohio against the US government about the "man-made" origin of AIDS.
- Neely asked specifically about my own opinion about the conspiracy theories. I said, "though we can't say for sure that HIV was man-made because we don't as yet have the hard evidence to prove it, but looking at the circumstantial evidence, it appears like a US biological weapon programme gone wrong.
I showed him a copy of New African in which we published the 1970 Pentagon document authorising research into a virus that would kill the immune system. The virus would be ready in "5 to 10 years time", says the document. I challenged the Americans to tell the world the outcome of that programme. Was it successful? If not, what happened?
- As our worldwide readers are well aware, never ever has New African written editorials "urging people to ignore health warnings and not to wear condoms". That is purely a figment of Neely's imagination. Bad propaganda, I hasten to add.
Talking about condoms, Neely asked me why Africans are still not wearing them even in the midst of all the "millions dropping dead". I said part of the problem was cultural - because even in this day and age, there are millions of African women and girls who routinely ask a man who wears a condom: "Do you think I am a prostitute?". They see it as an affront. Because in the African mind, it is only prostitutes who sleep with men wearing condoms. The other part of the problem is that Africans are seeing through the lie that condoms are the be-all and end-all of AIDS prevention.
- We talked about sexual transmission of AIDS, and I told Neely about the American-originated research years back that said you needed 1,000 acts of sexual intercourse for a man to infect a woman, and 7,000 acts for a woman to infect a man. So sexual transmission, I said, is a big con by the establishment. Why are they not placing equal emphasis on transmission through blood transfusion, infected needles or infected blood plasma?, I asked him.
- I showed him a recent story in The Express (of London) reporting the seizure of HIV-infected plasma in Italy on its way to the "Third World" (read Africa). The husband of Britain's health minister was said by The Express to have been questioned by Scotland Yard over the affair, because of his links with the company at the centre of the scandal.
- We talked about the two definitions of AIDS - an African one and a Western one. I asked Neely why don't we have just one definition across the board. Why must a disease have one definition for Africa and another for the West?
- We talked about how HIV has still not been isolated as a virus. We talked about how the American government steamrollered Robert Gallo's views on HIV and foisted it on the world. I mentioned the press conference in the spring of 1984 in Washington DC where Gallo stood shoulder to shoulder with Margaret Heckler, the then US Health Secretary, as she announced that "the probable cause of AIDS has been found". "Probable" later became the gospel truth. I asked Neely Tucker what was the US government's interest in foisting Gallo's "probable" views on the world as the gospel truth?
- We talked about AIDS testing and the inadequacy of the testing procedures, the inefficient test kits themselves and the millions of false positives they produce, especially in Africa where one test (in most cases none at all) is enough to condemn people for life as having AIDS.
- Neely asked me whether my work on AIDS did not amount to "irresponsible journalism". I said it would be "irresponsible journalism" if, at the end of the day, we were proved wrong by the disease. But it wouldn't be irresponsible if the establishment was proved wrong. I used the words: "Galileo faced much the same charges of irresponsibility in his day. But if he hadn't had the courage of his convictions, there would be no NASA today sending spacecrafts to explore outer space because we would all still be believing that the earth was flat, not round.
- We talked about the chimpanzee origin of AIDS. And I asked Neely, if that were true, why didn't AIDS spread in the days of slavery when (even according to the conservative estimates of Western historians)11 million Africans were shipped to the so-called "New World", and especially when the slave owners had unfettered sexual access to the African slave women? Why didn't the Africans give HIV to whites in those days?
- I didn't talk at all about any "Western governments plotting to depopulate Africa" with HIV as Neely reports, because I don't have any information on that.
- We talked about the African AIDS figures, and I showed him the UNAIDS figures for 1997, suggesting 4,600 died of AIDS in Liberia. I said if that many people died in 1997 in Liberia of AIDS, there would be a crisis in that country today! But I have twice been on a reporting assignment to Liberia in 1997 and 1998 and I didn't see people dropping dead of AIDS.
- I mentioned how the civil war in Liberia made the womenfolk turn to prostitution as a means of survival, as happens in any war zone. But today you don't see people dropping dead in Liberia of AIDS or ill with HIV. So where did UNAIDS get its figures from?
- I told him about my own country Ghana, where UNAIDS reported last October that 24,000 died of AIDS in 1997. I used the example of my own extended family of several hundred members where, in the last 12 years, only three have died - my grandma (who died of old age), my father (who died of heart seizure) and my aunt (who died of old age). My wife will tell you the same. I challenged Neely to go into the streets of London and ask any Ghanaian he meets how many of their extended family members have died in the last 10 years. I said he would get the same answer as mine. So who are these Ghanaians dropping dead of AIDS - 24,000 of whom (according to UNAIDS) died of AIDS in 1997 alone?
- The whole of the afternoon, Neely Tucker himself made the most vital contribution to the AIDS figures in Africa. He told me, still in the hearing of my colleagues in the office, how he and his wife went to an orphanage in Zimbabwe and saw all these "orphans" supposedly dying of AIDS. One particular boy had all the "classic" AIDS symptoms. But he and his wife took the boy to hospital, and then home, fed him, and today the boy is alive and healthy!!! The bottomline is that the boy was not dying of AIDS, but of malnutrition. This is Neely's own admission. So I asked him, what did that say about the establishment's doom figures. It proves, I said, that the figures are full of millions of "such boys and adults dying of malnutrition", not AIDS. Sadly, Neely found this crucial point too dull to print in your paper.
- We also talked about how AIDS is now made up of 29 old diseases. I asked him why are Africans not being allowed to die of the old diseases? Why can't Africans today die of TB as they used do in the past? I asked him why billions of dollars are being poured into AIDS in Africa when figures show that malaria kills more Africans today than AIDS? Why is malaria not given the same, if not better, attention by the establishment? Isn't it because AIDS puts more money into the pockets of the establishment and its researchers than malaria?
- I asked him why is the establishment (if it is so confident of its take on AIDS) destroying Western journalists, researchers, aid workers etc who are questioning the establishment view. I mentioned Neville Hodgkinson, formerly The Times' science correspondent; I mentioned Peter Duesberg; I mentioned Joan Shenton. I mentioned the French aid workers in Tanzania, Philippe Krynen and his ex-wife Evelyne. Why did the establishment destroy them? Sadly, again, this very important point is not interesting enough to merit a place in Neely Tucker's demonisation of me.
But if he and his ilk think they can destroy me (as they destroyed the others earlier mentioned) with such deliberate misrepresentation, "they ain't seen nothin' yet, mate," as a Cockney would say. Truth is indivisible, and we will continue to work for the truth behind the lie masquerading as AIDS science.
As the ethics of our profession demands, I hope the editor would give me my richly deserved right of reply, by printing my side of the story.
PS: At the time of going to press, my response had not been published by the Knight Ridder Newspapers. Another point: I have only been editor of New African since June 1999. Alan Rake, a thoroughbred Englishman, had been editor all through my 11 years at New African.