AFRICOM: Keeping Africans Safe from Chaos…or Something

By: wendydavis Sunday February 3, 2013 5:12 pm

Six months ago took note of two items that surfaced in the same week in July 2012 which seemed related, although not intentionally so; xcroc added 1 = 1 and got ‘Uh-oh’.  (Xcroc’s ‘about me’ page is here; he’s been tracking AFRICOM since its inception in 2007).  One was this Marine Corps ad that played during the 2012 Euro Cup commercials that William Easterly at NUDRI had called ‘the worst promotional video of all time’, and said:

Mr. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, you are now obligated to finance an equally high profile ad that will present the other side, i.e. theory and evidence against the model of Development at Gunpoint.

‘And when the time comes…we’re the first to move toward tyranny, injustice…and despair’.  Did you happen to notice the convoys of cartons or crates stamped: AID?  (still photo here)  We probably don’t need to hold a contest guessing what’s in the boxes, eh?

Crossed Crocodiles:

The target audience of the commercial included vast numbers of people from the majority of the world whose states the Index labels failed or failing.

This is aid at gunpoint, it is also called stability operations, the reason the US Africa Command was created. The notion of stability is meant to be incoherent. It needs to be redefined for each country whose resources the US wants to acquire. Stability operations are needed to quell and control any groups or individuals who may stand in the way of perceived US interests, including acting against legally constituted governments.

Military aid and questionable trade are the twin pillars of US involvement in Africa. Imperial acquisition masquerades as humanitarian aid and manifests as the militarization of the continent through the US Africa Command, AFRICOM. Of course AFRICOM’s fact sheet speaks about working with military partners. These partners are intended to be proxies or surrogates that will provide stability without accountability for corporate interests to extract resources.

The other event was that Foreign Policy and The Fund For Peace (quite a misnomer, lol) released their annual Index of Failed States (interactive map here).

Taking note that almost all the African nations were represented as ‘critical’ or ‘in danger’ of failing, the folks at Africa Is a Country pushed back at the report.

The index is so flawed in its conception, so incoherent in its structuring criteria, and so misleading in its presentation that from the perspective of those who live or work in those places condemned as failures, it’s difficult to receive the ranking as anything more than a predictable annual canard issued from Washington, D.C. against non-Western — and particularly African — nations. [snip]

The problem is that there are any number of reasons why the Fund for Peace might decide that a state is failing. The Washington-based think tank has a methodology of sorts, but Foreign Policy insists on making the list accessible primarily through a series of “Postcards from Hell.” Flipping through the slide show, it’s impossible to shrug off the suspicion that the whole affair is a sloppy cocktail of cultural bigotries and liberal-democratic commonplaces — a faux-empirical sham that packs quite a nasty racialized aftertaste. How do we know if a state is failing or not? Old chestnuts like the rule of law are certainly considered, but also in play are things like economic growth, economic “success,” poverty, inequality, corruption, nonstate violence, state violence, human rights abuses, body counts, terrorism, health care, “fragility,” political dissent, social divisions, and levels of authoritarianism. And yes, we’ll be indexing all of those at once, and more.

The golden principle by which this muddle is to be marshaled oh-so-objectively into a grand spectrum of state failure coefficients is apparently the idea of “stability.”

While the authors didn’t openly question the biased report’s underlying purpose, they proceed to debunk misinformation, false metrics and back-door suggested that the US should be colored orange or burnt orange. (page two)  But hey; they colored Canada more stable than the US, so whaddya want?

Segue to the ‘Commander’s Intent’ portion of AFRICOM’s mission statement:

Our purpose is twofold: 1) to protect the U.S. homeland, American citizens abroad, and our national interests from transnational threats emanating from Africa; and 2) through sustained engagement, to enable our African partners to create a security environment that promotes stability, improved governance, and continued development. Should preventive or enabling efforts fail, we must always be prepared to prevail against any individual or organization that poses a threat to the United States, our national interests, or our allies and partners…

They set a pretty low bar for the ‘help’ they provide; oy: ‘improved’, continued’, etc.  Reading through the rest of the sections might turn a person into a bit of a cynic, but in the ‘Security Cooperation Programs’ Maritimes section is another bit about ‘engaging in activities with international partners and governmental/non-governmental organizations to enhance African partner nations’ self sustaining capability to effectively maintain maritime security within their inland waterways, territorial waters, and exclusive economic zones, yada, yada.  ‘Our national interests’ should read ‘our Lords of Capital’s interests’, but we knew that.  We’re also only too familiar with the lofty aims off ‘partnering with and training’ host nations’ military forces, as well as those NGO’s like the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA), *formerly* the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA: sourcewatch has a a bit of a 2012 expose on them here), founded by my old friend Doug Brooks who used to visit my posts on contractors and mercenaries back in my TPM Café days.  I drew a few Monsanto flaks at another site as well.)  But these are essentially umbrella organizations for security contractors and ‘development’ contractors, an insanely burgeoning industry, as in: protecting the American Embassy in Benghazi, the US mega-base in Iraq, ‘helping out Haiti with security and rebuilding’; a host of other profitable ventures masquerading as ‘humanitarian’.

AFRICOM’s ‘tasks’ include first and foremost, to:

Deter or defeat al-Qaida and other violent extremist organizations operating in Africa and deny them safe haven.

Zo.  Given that our empire is eye-balling China (and a few other nations like Maylasia, Turkey, etc.) as a major threat to the multinationals of the West securing control of mineral, water and land resources in Africa, the military ‘pivot’ is not only toward the China Sea, but the ‘unstable or failed states’ of Africa.  William Easterly says that ‘a failed state’ is simply one which somebody is advocating invading.

So what training is the military envisioning?  Both the Navy and Marines  have been developing Marine Air Ground Task Forces (and ‘seabasing’) as seen in the video above.  But in the end, their web pages don’t focus so much on the training angle.

Please watch the short video here; here; the arrogance is simply astounding.  I did my best to provide a (rush) transcript:

“The fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War fundamentally altered the global security environment…but regional, local and internal conflicts have been on the rise.  In recent years, the rise of failed and failing states and the growing presence of increasingly capable non-state actors has presented the US and its coalition partners with new military challenges.  Concurrently, US forces face an increasing number of access challenges, including geography, potential adversaries’ capabilities, and host country concerns which prohibit access to their ports, airfields, and territory in the pursuit of action, and finally: domestic US and coalition political sentiment against large troop presence in ‘non-permissive operating environments’.  The closing of US bases around the world, and austere port and infrastructure; international and domestic sentiments against a large troop presence in a foreign country, or even outright denial of US military presence have all limited the number of troops placed ashore.

Keeping the teeth ashore…and the tail at sea maximizes force protection and minimizes risk.  Operating from a seabase bypasses the need to secure host nation support for a large troop presence.  Seabasing mitigates many of the challenges of the current and future security environment by providing an innovative way to conduct joint operations from the sea.  Seabasing allows for strategic agility to rapidly project power and influence anywhere in the world without reliance on fixed landbases.”

And in zoom the amphibious craft to the shores of those ‘host nations’, welcoming, recalcitrant…it doesn’t matter much.  The Navy and the Marines will bring the stability they want for you!

Some folks say that AFRICOM claimed it was designed as Rumsfeldian humanitarian, and like NATO, could use ‘genocide’ and ‘atrocities’ as political justification to ride, fly, or float to the rescue of another (unstable) nation.  Diana Johnstone wrote at counterpunch on the subject, including R2P, sovereignty issues, and engineered ‘atrocities’.  I’m sure she didn’t mean to be cynical:

A number of former U.N. peacekeepers have testified that Muslim forces in Bosnia carried out the infamous “Marketplace bombings” against Sarajevo civilians in order to blame their Serb enemies and gain international support.

How could they do such a horrid thing?  Well, if a country’s leader can be willing to “massacre his own people”, why couldn’t the leader of a rebel group allow some of “his own people” to be massacred, in order to take power?  Especially, by the way, if he is paid handsomely by some outside power – Qatar for instance – to provoke an uprising.

A principal danger of the R2P doctrine is that it encourages rebel factions to provoke repression, or to claim persecution, solely to bring in foreign forces on their behalf. It is certain that anti-Gaddafi militants grossly exaggerated Gaddafi’s threat to Benghazi in order to provoke the 2011 French-led NATO war against Libya.  The war in Mali is a direct result of the brutal overthrow of Gaddafi, who was a major force for African stability.

R2P serves primarily to create a public opinion willing to accept U.S. and NATO intervention in other countries.  It is not meant to allow the Russians or the Chinese to intervene, say, to protect housemaids in Saudi Arabia from being beheaded, much less to allow Cuban forces to shut down Guantanamo and end U.S. violations of human rights – on Cuban territory.

It’s not  known how many US troops, mercenaries, CIA,  JSCOC forces, are in Africa already, but we now know that the US has finally secured permission (‘…to fight Africa Extremists’) from Niger to build a drone base in Niger, a great location in the middle of a mess of failed states.  Stories of branch Al Qaeda atrocities in Mali are ubiquitous, of course as they need to be to sell the ‘interventions’. Since French President Francois Hollande and friends seem to be intent on re-colonizing Mali, Algeria and other former colonies, the US wants to…help.  So we’re helping their planes refuel in midair, providing communications assistance, and now the State Department has figured out how to help in more material ways…legally, or what their attorneys could call legal.

Ramzy Baroud at has a good piece on the major opportunities for war and security contractors like British security firm G45 (the largest in the world) and others in Mali, Libya and Algeria, but as he says: not much security for the refugees.  He describes the events in Mali fairly simply, including the cast of players (the Tuareg, AQIM, and recent history, and France’s chosen role in the new mess that Hollande admits will last as long as…it lasts.

And now…into the home stretch.  Here is Maurice Carney, cofounder of Friends of Congo speaking with Paul Jay back in May of 2012:

Soft-spoken truths.  He may have low-balled China’s involvement in Africa, it’s hard for me to know.  But some of the major dam projects are playing hell with ordinary Africans and the ecosphere.

China’s world’s largest hydropower company Sinohydro has had their bids accepted for several more projects in the Sudan, which will certainly cause even more eco-devastation and human devastation, this time in Nubia and downstream.  China has financed earlier projects, the previously linked Huff-po piece tracks some of the history and nasty effects.

Given that the US is supporting so many bad guys/worst guys on the continent, and the amount of strategic minerals there are to be plundered,, and the availability of corrupt national leaders,  none of it bodes well for the African people.  It’s hard to think that the African 99% will be able to create existences of their own choosing and governance anytime in the future, but never if foreign powers remain to make sure of it.

From Christian missionaries to centuries of colonization by Europeans, from ruination of local self-sustaining agriculture throughout much of the continent that helped to create massive drought, hunger, and Diasporas, an AIDS epidemic like no other, slave trading…to the present re-colonization after successful revolts against their ‘owners’, and the new regimes like in South Africa still treating workers like dogmeat, my heart goes out to the people of Africa.

May the Great Awakening of higher consciousness aid them in their struggles.

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