Friday, July 30, 2010

Who is to Blame for the Famine in Niger?

There is currently a famine in the African country of Niger that threatens to kill millions of people, but as attention now spotlights the mounting disaster the question still remains, who is to blame for the lack of leadership surrounding food security in Niger and the Sahel region in general?

For starters we can point the finger directly at a hand full of African political leaders that have spent millions of dollars in public resources (financial and technical) on military affairs as part of a NATO-led "war on terror" in the Sahel at the expense of people's needs. In recent years, the militarization of Africa has diverted attention away from the most important on going war in the continent, the war against poverty. For all of the propaganda about the threat of Al-Qaeda to civilian lives in Africa, there has never been and can never be another force more lethal than hunger. The failure of Africa's political leadership to provide for the most basic necessities of people in a continent rich in oil and mineral resources is absolutely criminal. In the 21st century, with all of the numerous technological and scientific advancements available to humanity, it is ridiculous that millions of people can die from a lack of something as fundamental as food.

What is even worse, is that the African Union can mobilize thousands of troops to fight a civil war in Somalia, indiscriminately killing civilians, but Niger is forced to look toward the West to send food aid to those on the verge of starvation. If ever there were a time for real progressive leadership in Africa, now is it.

The U.S. Military Fights to Silence Opposition to the Afghanistan War

Protesters in Afghanistan burned SUV's and chanted "Death to America" after security armored vehicles of the US embassy crashed killing civilians. The public outcry against the United States after this accident shows that their presence there is not welcomed by most of the Afghan people even in the capital city of Kabul where they have the strongest base of support. Rather than confront the reality of an unpopular colonial-type occupation head-on, the U.S. military continues to cover-up their failures in Afghanistan in order to justify their continued occupation.

Secretary Robert Gates of the U.S. Defense Department for example condemned the release of thousands of documents that reveal the indiscriminate killing of Afghan civilians and the failure of the U.S-lead war effort to defeat the Taliban. Hypocritically, Secretary Gates is criticizing the leak of information about the crimes of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan rather than demanding an investigation of those who committed the crimes. He has also signaled that the documented evidence of U.S. crimes committed against civilians in Afghanistan will not in anyway change U.S. policy there."They do not, in my view, fundamentally call into question the efficacy of our current strategy in Afghanistan and its prospects for success.”

It is well known that Secretary Gates believes that public opposition in Europe and the United States to the occupation of Afghanistan is as dangerous to his mission there as the Taliban. He publicly stated his fear that the anti-war sentiment of Europeans could pressure European governments to back-down from the U.S.-lead wars in the Middle-East. This of course would be a positive development and signal of democracy if leaders responded to the public opposition of their citizens to endless war and occupation. But for the U.S. superpower democracy is not the goal. The Afghan war is an unpopular war at home as it is inside Afghanistan its self, but under the logic of empire voices of opposition are considered obsolete.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

AFRICOM & US Militarization in Africa: Radio Interview

Yesterday, I was part of an hour long discussion on WPFW radio in Washington D.C. with Emira Woods Co-Director, Foreign Policy In Focus, Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Trans-Africa Forum, Mwiza Munthal. We talked at length about current events in Africa related to the U.S. military Command in Africa (AFRICOM). For my part, I tried to emphasize the fact that there is an on going class struggle in Africa that we should be conscious of and support as we discuss militarization.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Republican Candidate for Governor Calls Islam a "Cult" Not a Religion

From Politico
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, one of three Republican candidates running for governor, has drawn rebukes after suggesting that Islam may be a “cult” instead of a religion...Ramsey continued, “Now you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, a way of life, or cult – whatever you want to call it. We do protect our religions, but at the same time, this is something that we are going to have to face.”

Part of the reason Americans find it so easy to support endless war and occupation in Africa and the Middle-East, is because mainstream political leaders and preachers are teaching that Islam its self is the enemy. Their ignorance overlooks the fact that the origins of "terrorism" lie at the heart of U.S. foreign policy as discussed in my previous post.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Good Muslim, Bad Muslim": Second Thoughts on 'Terrorism' in Africa

With all the enthusiasm among the African Union over expanding the U.S. "war on terrorism" deep into Africa today, perhaps it is wise to consider the voice of one of the continent's finest public intellectuals Mahmood Mamdani of Uganda. In his 2005 work Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, Mamdani explains that the attempt to identify the causes for extremism as rooted in a conservative cultural interpretation of Islam is based in a series of flawed assumptions about the history and politics of the modern world---a world shaped by Cold War power relations.

Your can read parts of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror via google books by clicking here.

Mark Weisbrot on the Destabilization Campaign Against Venezuela

The escalation of tensions between Venezuela and U.S. ally Colombia in Latin America have featured prominently in the American press with the slogan being that the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, was exposed for his support of "terrorists" in the border region with Colombia. Even the National Public Radio (NPR) has reported this line uncritically. The aim of this carefully timed and coordinated message in the press is to destabilize Venezuela's government ahead of major parliamentary elections in September there. As usual, the media took the bait. Needless to say, the barrage of propaganda in our media was predicted.

Mark Weisbrot from the economic think-tank CEPR wrote a very important article in the British Guardian newspaper outlining exactly how the U.S. is planning to use the issue of "terrorism" as part of a campaign to help the opposition in Venezuela win gains in the up coming election. I am re-posting the article on this page, but you can read the entire original article by clicking here.

In March I wrote about the Obama administration's contribution to the election campaign under way in Venezuela, where voters will choose a new national assembly in September. I predicted that certain things would happen before September, among them some new "discoveries" that Venezuela supports terrorism. Venezuela has had 13 elections or referenda since Hugo Chávez was first elected in 1998, and in the run-up to most of them, Washington has usually done something to influence the political and media climate.

The intentions were already clear on March 11, when General Douglas Fraser, the head of the US Southern Command was testifying to the US Senate. In response to a question from Senator John McCain about Venezuela's alleged support for terrorism, Fraser said:

"We have continued to watch very closely … We have not seen any connections specifically that I can verify that there has been a direct government-to-terrorist connection."

The next day he recanted his testimony after meeting with the US state department's top official for Latin America, Arturo Valenzuela.

This made it clear that the "terrorist" message was going to be a very important part of Washington's campaign. Even the Bush administration had never forced its military officers to retract their statements when they contradicted the state department's political agenda in Latin America, which they sometimes did.

Unfortunately, the campaign continues. Last Thursday, Colombia's ambassador to the Organisation of the American States (OAS) accused Venezuela at an extraordinary meeting of the OAS of harbouring 1,500 guerillas, and asked for the OAS to take action. The timing was noteworthy to many observers. President Lula da Silva of Brazil noted that it "seemed strange that this occurs a few days before [President] Uribe [of Colombia] leaves office. The new president has given signals that he wants to build peace [with Venezuela]. Everything was going well until Uribe made this denunciation."

Venezuela responded by breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia. It had previously cut off much of its trade with Colombia over the past two years, in response to Colombia's agreement with Washington to expand its military presence at seven US military bases in Colombia. Since Venezuela had been Colombia's largest trading partner in the region, it is possible that the new president, Juan Manuel Santos, was looking to improve relations for business reasons if nothing else. He had invited Chávez to his inauguration.

Of course, Uribe does not necessarily take orders from Washington, but it would be naive to assume that someone who has received more than $6bn from the US would not check with his benefactors before doing something like this. The fact that the US state department immediately took Colombia's side in the dispute is further indication that they approved. Even Washington's (rightwing) allies in the region did not take sides, with the government of Chile, for example, issuing a neutral statement; this would have been the normal diplomatic protocol for Washington too, if this were not part of a political and public relations campaign against Venezuela.

Other governments clearly saw Colombia's action as a political move, and were upset with what looked like the OAS being manipulated for these purposes. President Lula was cited in the Brazilian press saying that the venue of the dispute should be moved to Unasur, because the US would tilt the negotiations toward Colombia and against Venezuela. Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, strongly criticised the head of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, for not having consultation before granting Colombia's request for a meeting of the OAS permanent council. Patiño said that Insulza had shown his "absolute incapacity" to direct the organisation and to "look for peace in the region". Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, had even harsher rhetoric for Uribe, calling him "a loyal representative of the US government, with its military bases in Colombia designed to provoke a war between Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua."

This dispute highlights the importance of the institutional changes that the left-of-centre governments in Latin America are trying to make. The increasing importance of Unasur, displacing the OAS, has become vital to Latin American progress and stability. For example, because of the influence of the US (as usual, with a handful of rightwing allies) in the OAS, it failed to take stronger action to restore the democratically elected government of President Zelaya of Honduras last year.

When Bolivia was having problems with attempts by the separatist, extra-parliamentary opposition – including violence and de-stabilisation efforts – it was Unasur that met in Santiago in September 2008 and threw its weight behind the democratic government of Evo Morales. When the US decided last fall to expand its presence at the military bases in Colombia, Unasur reached an agreement – which included Colombia – that prohibited these bases from being used for any actions outside of the country.

As to the substance of Colombia's latest claims, guerillas and paramilitaries have been crossing the 2,000km border with Venezuela – much of it dense jungle, mountains and all kinds of difficult terrain – for decades. There is no evidence that anything has changed recently, and nothing to indicate that the Venezuelan government, which has extradited guerillas to Colombia, supports any armed groups – as General Fraser testified before he was apparently forced to take it back.

On Tuesday Insulza – perhaps feeling like he had gone too far to please Washington – told CNN en Español that "the guerrillas come and go, and it is quite difficult to ask just one country to control the border … Uribe says he doesn't know why Venezuela doesn't detain the guerillas, but the truth is that Colombia can't control them either." He might have added that the US, with all its vastly greater resources and superior technology, doesn't have an easy time controlling the flow of drugs, guns, and people across its own much more manageable border with Mexico.

On Thursday there will be an emergency meeting of Unasur, and hopefully a process of diplomacy will begin to resolve the dispute. Certainly there will be a better chance of success to the extent that Washington – and its political campaigns against governments that it doesn't like – can be kept at a distance.

African Union Reaches the Height of Stupidity in Somalia

How in the hell did the African Union get caught in a U.S. created quagmire in Somalia? Was this the conception of a united Africa that Kwame Nkrumah spoke about in the early days of the then Organization of African Unity? When will African leaders tire of endless war and bloodshed? Maybe when the U.S. money and guns stop flowing.

The civil war in Somalia is not a war of necessity or an existential battle between good and evil but is the indiscriminate killing of Somali people by outsiders and a government in Mogadishu seen as illegitimate by the majority of the Somali people. Following a shocking suicide bombing by a Somalia insurgent group in Uganda during the World Cup Finals game, Guinea in West Africa has promised to send some of its troops into this mess. Isn't this the same military responsible for conducting a coup then raping and killing innocent Guineans in 2009? A perfect fit for the daily murder and destruction being rained on the Somali people day after day.

The U.S. military claims that the war in Somalia is a defensive action against Al-Qaeda Islamists. And the African Union has taken the bait (plus billions of dollars in U.S. weapons and cash). But a researcher at the the Council on Foreign Relations did an assessment of U.S. intelligence in 2007, that Somalia was actually under no threat whatsoever from foreign jihadist movements or from foreign terrorist groups. According to the intelligence reports at the time, Al-Qaeda's experience recruiting in Somalia was so terrible that U.S. intelligence basically said, "There's no way they can operate there." So what happened?

In 2006, a coalition of Somali leaders defeated US-backed warlords and established peace in the capital of Mogadishu for the first time in decades. The United States however, had other plans and exaggerated the threat of Al-Qaeda in order to build public support for an orchestrated Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. Ethiopia and U.S. special forces led warlords in the violent removal of the moderate Islamist Somali government and worked to create civil war in Somalia. Thousands of of civilians including women and children were murdered sometimes targeted in their homes, schools and places of worship by the U.S.-instigated civil war. The violence of a newly installed regime of warlords in Somalia continued and eventually led to hardline factions with ties to other militias fighting in Afghanistan and Yemen resisting foreign occupation using terrorist tactics to fight back.

What the African Union fails to realize is that the most effective role that body can play in Somalia is as mediator between factions. Instead, the African Union has chosen to fight a war in defense of a government of mostly U.S.-backed warlords who have been the central impediment to peace in Somalia for several decades. The Wall Street Journal wrote a piece today documenting the problem African Union forces face as they shell civilians in Somalia and further feed the cynicism about external interference in the country. The African Union lead by Uganda has to be about the most gullible or greedy leaders on the planet.

Note: You can read a detailed breakdown here of how the bumbling idiots in the U.S. military created Islamic extremism in Somalia through its own interference and has facilitated a conflict that could send the whole region up in flames.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why Were Black Farmers Robbed to Fund Imperial War?

The U.S. Congress passed an additional 60 billion dollars for the war effort in Afghanistan with a vote that cut across party lines. The funding was approved only after deleting $23 billion in unrelated spending for social programs including money allotted for black farmers who desperately need it. Black farmers, are owed $1.2 billion for a long history of discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The decision by the U.S. Congress to give billions more public money to the war in Afghanistan, even after yesterday's shocking leaked war documents, has exposed the consensus among Democrats and Republicans that the U.S. war machine should march on unchecked, no matter what the consequences. The bill will bring total war expenses to $1.1 trillion. A majority of the eligible black farmers due money from the federal government are over 65 and in poor health. Today's vote in the U.S. Congress further underscores the imperial nature of our government and the lack of a real check on executive power or the U.S. military by elected officials. But it also underscores the racist neglect of public officials to redress historical discrimination against African-Americans. All in the name of empire.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Afghanistan: What the Wikileaks files TRULY reveal

The following message is the most damning response to what for me has been among the most horrifying examples of how American tax-payer money and lives are being spent on a loosing conflict in Afghanistan. The leak of documents from 2004-2010 on the Afghanistan war, which is already the longest war in American history, has revealed even more what a shameful and murderous campaign the occupation been.

Re-posted message from the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)

The release of 90,000 secret U.S. military files by the whistleblower website Wikileaks, in its broadest context, reveals that the Obama administration and the Pentagon brass have been and still are fully aware that they are not only losing the war in Afghanistan, but also have no possibility of winning.

The documents present a powerful indictment against the Pentagon, the Obama administration and the Bush administration for their failure to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan. They provide documentary evidence of the killing of hundreds and perhaps thousands of civilians by U.S. and NATO troops.

The files reveal that the Pentagon set up a secret commando unit called Task Force 373 that is nothing other than a death squad. Task Force 373, made up of Army and Navy Special Operatives, is seeking to assassinate individuals from an assembled list of 2,000 targets.

And despite rosy-sounding publicity missives coming from the Pentagon, the information released on Wikileaks shows an obvious pattern of intensifying bomb attacks against U.S. and NATO forces.

The decision by the Obama administration to send 60,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009 is exposed as nothing other than a decision to send more human beings to their death in an ongoing war that cannot be won, so as to avoid taking the political responsibility for a military setback. That is the rule that all U.S. policymakers abide by. No matter what, they must avoid the appearance of military defeat at the hands of an armed resistance.

The White House condemned the release of the classified documents in the most disingenuous and hypocritical way. It denounced those who provided the files for putting “the lives of U.S. and partner service members at risk.” That is turning reality upside down. It is the Obama administration that is putting the lives of U.S. service members and Afghan civilians “at risk” every day by continuing a war just so that it can avoid the political backlash for suffering a defeat on its watch.

The released documents paint a grim picture that is repeated over and over again involving a large number of previously unknown incidents where U.S. and NATO troops shot and murdered unarmed drivers and motorcyclists.

The documents reveal another incident where French troops used machine guns to strafe a bus full of children in 2008. A military patrol machine gunned another bus, wounding or killing 15 of its civilian passengers. In 2007, Polish troops rained mortar fire down on an Afghan village, killing a wedding party, including pregnant women, in a revenge attack for an earlier insurgent assault.

In April of this year, Wikileaks published the now-famous classified video of a U.S. Apache helicopter murdering 12 Iraqi civilians and seriously wounding children. The Pentagon arrested Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old intelligence analyst in Iraq and has been holding him incommunicado in recent months. Wikileaks has not disclosed whether Manning was the source of the leak of the classified video or the recently released documents, but has announced that it will help provide legal assistance for Bradley Manning.

For months now, the web of lies spun by the White House and Pentagon about the Afghan war has started to come undone. Public support for the Afghan war, along with support from inside the military ranks, continues to decline. But it will take a resurgent anti-war movement to convert this latent frustration into a powerful political force that can finally bring the criminal occupation to an end.