Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Beyond the fanning of US militarism in Africa: A response to Nick Turse’s “terror diaspora” (part 2)


Characteristic of many Western commentators on African issues, the narrative by Turse is cast as though Africans were passive to or incapable of tackling security issues. This narrative is well fitted for the justification of U.S. military expansion in Africa. Since the emergence of China, Brazil, Venezuela and other economic partners in Africa, the plan of US militarists has been the expansion of its militarism there. But they overplayed their hands through the Libyan intervention. Africans reacted by removing Jean Ping as the head of the African Union.

Africans are planning to reverse the carnage in North Africa. In this instance, they have allies. The African Union has advanced it planning for the establishment of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises. In Mali the AU has worked closely with the Security Council for the establishment of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).  Very few in the West have noticed that China has announced that it will be sending 600 peace keepers to Mali under MINUSMA. Tanzania and South Africa are intervening in Eastern Congo to curb the EU/Rwanda plans for the dismemberment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the summit of the African Union, the President of Brazil condemned France and European neo-colonialism in Africa. Brazil is working closely with Africa to counter the stranglehold of the EU.

In recent books by myself (Global Nato and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya), Vijay Prashad (Arab Spring: Libyan Winter), and Maximiliam Forte (Slouching towards Sirte: NATO's War on Libya and Africa), readers would discern that the calculation was for Libya to be a base for the projected military engagement in North Africa, when the revolution matures. Libya was also one component of the alliance between France and the Crusaders. If Nick Turse had followed the friendship between the French General Marcel Bigeard and David Petraeus, he would have understood the deep rooted racism of Bigeard. Bigeard was a semi fascist who carried out crimes in Algeria. This was the military model for General David Petraeus. We have to thank Paula Broadwell for exposing how much Petraeus admired the butcher of the people of Algeria.

The aggressiveness and resilience of Africans on matters relating to security challenges should never be disregarded. There has been much ink flowing about a “New Scramble for Africa.” Such arguments do not grasp the full dimensions of the militarism and destruction that accompanied the European scramble for Africa 1880-1920. Africans opposed that period of militarism and the independence struggles reversed the overt western military domination of Africa.

Modern Africa has hardly ever witnessed any security challenge greater than apartheid. But at that epoch in history when the U.S. and Western powers threw their military might behind apartheid, Africans united and aggressively defeated, both morally and physically, the seemingly gargantuan apartheid system. Though hardly acknowledged by western analysts, Africa is still up to the task. The figures of the U.S. military expenditure in Africa today cannot compare with the monies that had been spent during the period of U.S. military support for apartheid. In those days, the U.S. military, through the International Military Education and Training (IMET), spent large amounts of money from apartheid South Africa, Zaire, Angola (on Jonas Savimbi), to Morocco, Egypt and Somalia under President Siad Barre. Mobutu in Zaire was the link for these military expenditures. Yet, Africans defeated the apartheid/Savimbi alliance.


There are 54 countries in Africa. What some in the west may not understand in the historic relationship between U.S. military and the top military brass in Africa and the planning of AFRICOM is that there are a number of strong military establishments in Africa: South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Tanzania, Angola, Ethiopia and Algeria. All of these military formations have links with the U.S. military but the planning of these governments diverges from the planning of AFRICOM. Take Algeria for example. This is one state that is manipulating the U.S. military for its own interest. The regime is in a delicate situation and what progressive peace activists should do is to expose how the U.S. conservatives and elements in the Algerian military and intelligence services fabricated terrorism in the Sahel to justify the expenditures of the Trans Sahara counter terrorism Initiative. This fabrication of terrorism has been exposed in the book The Dying Sahara by Jeremy Keenan.

The same goes for a country such as Ethiopia. These countries such as Ethiopia and Algeria align with the U.S. military in order to stem the time of popular democratic change in their societies. Yet, as we saw in Egypt when the people move, nothing will be able to stop them. The U.S. and their allies in the Egyptian military may collude to undermine the Egyptian revolution but as Victor Hugo stated clearly, “No army can stop an idea whose time has come.” The idea of popular revolution and African independence has arrived. Revolution is not an event. It is a process that may involve twists and turns, zigs and zags, but cannot be stopped.

The case of Kenya provides a clear example of the contradictions between the imperial planners of Africom and the Kenyan bourgeoisie. For a long time, Kenya had been a base for U.S. counter terrorism in Eastern Africa, but the Kenyan ruling class has outgrown the dictates of the U.S. and now has robust relations with the Chinese. They are building a major port at Lamu and plan a road/pipeline to Juba, with a brand new town at Isiolo to have another road to Addis Ababa. The U.S. security establishment is opposing this infrastructure development because the Chinese are involved. The contradictions between Kenya and the USA in this regard are coming to a head.   

Kenya is growing very fast and the U.S. counter terror effort contradicts their plans for economic expansion. Kenyan capitalists want to fly in the region and expand commercial air flights to Somalia but the U.S. drone program out of Djibouti and Ethiopia seeks to discourage these expansions of commercial air travel. Instead, the Tanzanians are expanding cheap air travel.

In opposition to Africa's economic reconstruction the conservatives in the system are doubling down on the CIA fronts and their alliance with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to covertly keep some societies unstable. The Qataris are active in Somalia. But President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda will not go along with this planning. Museveni is fighting for his political life and he has lost hundreds of soldiers in Somalia. Hence, Kenya and Uganda want to bring Somalia under the East African Community. In order to keep Somalia unstable, the British has now deployed its person Nicholas Kay to be the UN Special Representative to Somalia, basically the UN “governor.”  

Kenya and Uganda have other plans. International oil firms also want to see changes in Somalia. Recently the business papers reported that “Somalia Could Become World's 7th Largest Oil producer.”[1]  One major contribution that can be made by the peace and justice forces is for the U.S. government to expose the insurance companies and lawyers who have been complicit in the piracy in the Indian Ocean. Nick Turse mentions the same growth of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. These so called pirates are small cogs in a big wheel of international insurance and private military contractors.


This is a long response, but I wanted to alert readers to the fact that many in the media in the U.S. would want to have a monopoly on the discussion on Africa but they are so out of date. Hence, they uncritically reproduce the press releases from the information centers that fit into the propaganda war against Africans by Africom. Africa is past the stage of failed states. Wall Street is looking at the mega deals between Brazil, China and Africa and wants to find a way in. 

The military intervention in Libya was a turning point. Africans have compared this intervention to the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. Then George Padmore, C.L.R James and Paul Robeson warned the West about the fact that the intervention was the precursor to war. After the Italian invasion of Abyssinia there was the Spanish Civil war, the maturation of fascism in Germany precipitating a global war with the genocide and the Hiroshima experiences topping the icing on to the Italian invasion. Africans are warning the world of the impending results of the silence of the peace movement about the results of the intervention in Libya and the planned war against Iran (via Syria).

There might be pockets of instability in places such as Nigeria, Sudan, DRC, Somalia and Mali, but these five places cannot be the entire story of Africa. There are 49 other countries in Africa and the Africans have a clear plan. These plans are being spelt out by the progressive platforms.

African diplomats are working to isolate the Saudi Arabia and Qatar elements of destabilization who are allied with a section of U.S. militarists. It is not by accident that the former CEO of Blackwater (Eric Prince) has taken refuge in the Gulf. It is in Nigeria where elements from Qatar and Saudi Arabia fund destabilization through Islamic fundamentalists whose activities are threatening to hold Africa back. However, the Nigerians made a pledge that their country will never be broken again.

Patriotic and Pan African diplomats want to work with the United Nations to end the work of the Private Military Contractors. They have been working very hard along with Brazil and Russia to ensure that the U.S. Security Council does not rubber stamp U.S. military adventures in Africa.

I would like to alert Turse that there are folks within the Obama administration who want to distance themselves from AFRICOM. When John Kerry attended the meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa in May he did not mention Africom. Instead, he mentioned the fact that his wife was part of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. During his visit to Africa, the President never mentioned AFRICOM. The president mentioned trade and investment and announced a major initiative called Power Africa. Progressives have already seen the connections between Obama and corporations such as GE.[2]

Instead of reproducing the view that Africa is a hotbed of terrorism in a bid to shore up support for AFRICOM and militarism, there is need to do thorough research on Africa, beyond the talking points of U.S. military and intelligence apparatus, and independent of the of the old worn out narratives about Africa. Western analysts who oppose militarism elsewhere must do same with regards to Africa. We must eschew the arrogance of narratives that tend to portray Africans as being passive about their own challenges. The forces in Africa that defeated apartheid are still alive.

Read part 1 of this article

[2] See the article by Christopher Helman, “Obama's 'Power Africa' Plan Greases Billions In Deals For General Electric,” Forbes, July 1, 2013. http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/07/01/with-power-africa-plan-obama-to-grease-billions-in-deals-for-g-e/