Friday, October 22, 2010

AFRICOM, Academia and Militarising Africa

The Washington Post investigation of the militarisation of the United States society and the centrality of intelligence agencies in the government is of interest to Africans and those in support of peace, demilitarisation, and reconstruction.

Those from the peace movement who have been exposing the criminal activities of contractors that were involved in water boarding, rendition and other illegal acts wondered why it is at the present time the Washington Post has come out with this exposé, ‘Top Secret America’.

This series started out with an expose on ‘A hidden world, growing beyond control’. The second instalment entitled ‘National Security Inc’, explored the world of private contractors working for the military. In the third we were exposed to the numerous organisations and fronts that do military work. Under the heading ‘The secrets next door’, the journalists explore the alternative military geography of the United States. These articles brought out the expansion of the government national security structure since September 11, 2001 (9/11).

Those from the peace and justice movement know full well that this exposure of the semi-fascist infrastructure of the Bush inheritance comes from the protracted works of those who wanted to dismantle the military industrial complex.

‘Top Secret America’, written by reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin, reveals that since 9/11, there has been top-secret machinery employing 854,000 persons from 1,271 government organisations and 1,931 private firms.

Africans and peace loving people will not be surprised by this information, but what comes out clearly is the billions of dollars spent on psychological warfare. In the area of psychological warfare, Africans have borne the brunt of the disinformation and distortion of the realities of plunder and exploitation in Africa.

More importantly, these articles failed to link this world of billions of dollars to the network of white supremacists in the media, the military, the corporate structure and in the university


From the estimated hundreds of thousands of contractors involved in the privatisation of national security works, the peace movement in Africa is particularly interested in the implications of these revelations for our goal of dismantling the US Africa Command (AFRICOM).

What this investigation reminded us is that in order to grasp the full dangers of AFRICOM, it is necessary to go beyond the documents and statements of the Department of Defense and to follow closely the outsourced work that is being deployed to private contractors.

Outsourcing fed the neo-liberal paradigm of reducing the hands of government and strengthened the neo-conservative forces internationally by the deployment of financial resources to prop up a right wing semi-fascist agenda.

Under the Bush administration this outsourcing and world of private contractors exploded, so that whether it was the PEPFAR initiative on Aids or research on global warming or the understanding of African cultures, a new world of contractors has exploded in our midst.

While the press reports have zeroed in on the well known private contracting firms such as General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, SAIC, Blackwater (now renamed Xe), Lockheed Martin, Halliburton (subsidiary of Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) and DynCorp, it is important for African social justice activists to follow the evolution of an organisation such as Military Professional Resources Inc so that there is a clear understanding of the current names of these entities so that they can be exposed.

Whether called MPRI or DynCorp, these militarists are expanding in Africa while those who are resisting AFRICOM follow information from the web platforms of the US Africa Command. In particular, Nigerian scholars need to penetrate the relationship between Dyncorp and the militarist elements in that society. From Liberia to Rwanda and back to Sierra Leone, these contractors have been deployed to ensnare Africans in the fight against the fictitious war on terrorism.

It is becoming clearer from the new initiatives at the Department of Defense that the militarisation of the Social Sciences is very high on the agenda of the US forward strategy for fighting wars. Initiatives such as the Human Terrain Systems and Project Minerva that go beyond DynCorp and the other ‘training programs for the African military show that there needs to be an analysis of the role of academics.

Under the Human Terrain Systems, the Pentagon has funded anthropologists to be embedded assets in the War on Terror. Statements from the American Anthropological Association have denounced this militarisation of anthropological knowledge and reminded the younger generation of how the Pentagon had mobilised anthropologists in Project Phoenix in Vietnam to mobilise local information for assassinations. These old instincts of the defense and intelligence bureaucracies are now at work with the announcement of Project Minerva. This is an explicit effort to support social science research on topics of interest to the military. We have been informed through the internet that one of the innocent sounding research programmers of the Project Minerva is entitled ‘Climate Change, State Stability, and Political Risk in Africa.’ So, one can see that under innocent sounding headings such as climate change and state stability, the military is seeking to build up data for future wars in Africa.

In deciphering the layers of these hundreds of thousands of contractors and militaries, one comes across the Africom Intelligence Knowledge Development directorate (IKD) based at the Royal Airforce Base Molesworth, England.

The existence of this AFRICOM centre in England to analyse, produce, disseminate, and develop intelligence knowledge on Africa is an indication of the strength of those forces in the peace movement in the US and Africa that opposed AFRICOM.

The network of organisations of concerned US and Africa based organisations opposed to the role of the AFRICOM has been very effective in delegitimising the rationale for the development of the US Africa Command. It is the existence of this widespread opposition to AFRICOM that has forced the military to seek cover in front organisations of the Pentagon, including the so-called think thanks concerned with security and strategic studies, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Rand Corporation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, among others.

Most of these front organisations are dominated by white supremacists from the Cold War era who recycle old conceptions about Africa. The intellectual weakness of these front organisations can be seen in papers and books such as ‘Africa beyond the Bush Years: Critical Challenges for the Obama Administration’.

It is precisely because of the marginalisation of these fronts with billions of dollars that the Pentagon has sought to make alliances with those who study Africa in Britain and Europe. In the light of the existence of AFRICOM, IKD and other such fronts in Europe, one can now penetrate the new social science thrust for certain British Africanists to grasp the medium term potential of their work to undermine reconstruction and peace in Africa.

African scholars within the progressive network of scholars have already raised alarm about the Nairobi Report and the dangerous assumptions about social science work in Western institutions. Genuine scholars who have become ensnared by the Nairobi Report should read the book, ‘Spies for Hire: the Secret Role of Intelligence Outsourcing’ by Tim Shorrock. These genuine scholars would then have to decide if the Nairobi Report is simply the groundwork for another form of outsourcing that could feed into the AFRICOM need to analyse and produce up-to-date information on African countries.

We know in the US from the activist work in the American Anthropological Association how anthropologists have been subcontracted to do work for the Pentagon in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the African Studies Association in the US, it is the Association of Concerned African Scholars (ACAS) section that has been consistently opposed to the militarisation of African studies. Scholars such as David Wiley and William Martin have written extensively on the project of the Pentagon and the establishment of the National African Language Resource Center. The same ACAS infrastructure exposed the National Security Education Program (NSEP) and the endangerment of researchers who genuinely want to work with African scholars and institutions.

Within the leadership of those scholars involved in the Nairobi Report, there is no track record compared to that of ACAS. Instead within the ranks of the leadership of those involved in this new platform for research on Africa are those scholars whose main occupational tasks have been to cover up genocide and colonial crimes in Africa. So, when Caroline Elkins came out with a book, ‘Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of British Gulags in Kenya’, the same British Africanists used so-called prestigious British journals to dismiss it and downplay the important claims for reparative justice.

These scholars who defend colonial rule and its neocolonial manifestations in association with their networks across Belgium, France, Portugal, Israel, and the US continue to reproduce the psychological warfare against Africans about failed states and the need for ‘good governance’ in the ‘fight against poverty’. Once these imperial scholars place their stamps of intellectual authority on concepts such as corruption, ‘conflict resolution’, instability, terrorism, poverty, resource curse, ‘politics of the belly, public/private partnerships’ and structural adjustment, thousands of younger scholars are lured into this network to justify the plundering and looting of Africa.


Interestingly, only this week, one of the high priests of the Africanist enterprise wrote that in Eastern Congo, ‘$1 billion in gold is being extracted and exported annually. Yet, because the government lacks control over the territory, the revenue for the national treasury last year was a mere $37,000.’ What Paul Collier the Oxford scholar could not do was to link the absence of government tin the DRC to the Ronald Reagan philosophy that ‘government is the problem.’

Collier has been one of the pillars of neoliberal economics in Africa that reinforced the traditions of dehumanisation and murder passed down from King Leopold to Mobutu and the international humanitarian do-gooders who assist in the export of those billions of dollars.

African scholars who have written on the looting of Africa and exposed the real objectives of structural adjustment programmes have made it difficult for Western social science to find a firm base in Africa. As Tade Aina pointed out at the last African Studies Association conference, it was the pedantic work of African scholars that exposed the fallacy of the structural adjustment, the sophistry of bringing prosperity and development to Africa.

Scholars such as Jimi Adesina are also exposing how the UN effort to deal with social protection does not address the real foundation of exploitation and poverty. Adesina pointed out that none of the societies that transformed themselves – Malaysia, Korea, Finland or Barbados – were able to do so on the basis of policies relating to poverty alleviation. There have to be rigorous programmess for social transformation in the society.


When Chester Crocker and the Reagan administration attempted to use African scholars to support the apartheid regime and rogue elements such as Jonas Savimbi, it was a vibrant organisation of the peace movement that discredited Chester Crocker and front organisations for the military that called itself the United States Institute for Peace (USIP). The Obama administration has been unwilling and unable to dismantle this manipulation of peace to serve the interests of war makers so that the USIP is still in the hands of neoconservatives. Obama has surrounded himself with supporters of the semi fascist infrastructure that is being exposed in ‘Top Secret America’.

One can see the glimmer of a new social movement growing within the Pan-African world and within the peace movement to expose the Pentagon and the expansion of US militarism. Those committed to the dismantling of imperialism must monitor the Pentagon and their contractors and myriads of subcontractors that populate the second rate institutions fabricating terrorism in Africa.

Social science work from scholars such as Abdi Samatar exposed how the US fabricated terrorists in Somalia. Africa is reaping the results of this massive investment to ensure that this region of the Indian Ocean is militarised. It is from the experience of the fabrication of terrorism and the militarisation of political spaces in Africa that one can grasp the conditions that led to tragedies such as the recent bombings in Uganda.

The vision of peace in societies such as Uganda and Somalia can only be realised by a changed policy toward Africa. Current US policies toward Africa privilege leaders such as Yoweri Museveni and Meles Zenawi who benefit politically from the global War on Terror. An alternative policy rooted in genuine support for health care, anti-racist education, information communication for liberation, and religious freedom will make a break with the old Africanist mischief that reproduces white supremacy, domination, and exploitation.

IKD and the old fronts of the defense establishment depend on second-rate academics. Independent and progressive scholars and activists must intensify the peace work so that there is a new social science infrastructure that can work hand in hand with the revolutionary foment that is brewing in Africa.