piracy


90,000 tons of diplomacy is just the beginning.

Imagine a future where the people of countries at odds with U.S. policies suddenly find America’s “massive seaborne platforms” floating just outside their territorial waters.

The George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) the nation’s 10th and final Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, from a Northrop Grumman poster. (click to enlarge)

That future is now present. We have seen a massive exercise in sea basing in the occupation of Haiti following the earthquake. A word document on the Haitian exercise is linked to this page, pictured below, from the Marine Corps on Sea Basing. In another linked document they describe seabasing:

From NWP 3-62/MCWP 3-31.7, Seabasing (PDF p.19)
“Seabasing, a national capability, is the overarching transformational operating concept for projecting and sustaining naval power and joint forces, which assures joint access by leveraging the operational maneuver of sovereign, distributed, and networked forces operating globally from the sea.”
“The sea base is an inherently maneuverable, scalable aggregation of distributed, networked platforms that enable the global power projection of offensive and defensive forces from the sea, and includes the ability to assemble, equip, project, support, and sustain those forces without reliance on land bases within the Joint Operations Area.”

The first major exercise in seabasing was in Liberia, I wrote about it earlier in this post: Seabasing Begins Off the Coast of Liberia. Currently the US an ongoing military presence in the Seychelles that certainly looks like establishing a host nation for a base, and as a friendly neighbor for seabasing. I wrote about the activity in the Seychelles in Building A US Military Base In The Seychelles, and Political Assassin Robots Flying In African Skies. The African Partnership Station has been visiting all around the coast of Africa, partnering in African countries for the US Africa Command. It has spent a lot of time along the coast of West Africa, and a lot of time visiting Ghana. Although AFRICOM officials continue to assure Ghanaians they have no interest in establishing a military base in Ghana, that may be because a sea base is just around the corner. Seabasing is an extension of the doctrine of Full-spectrum Dominance. One of the most succinct descriptions of Full-spectrum Dominance comes from Harold Pinter in his 2005 Nobel acceptance speech:

… the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. … Its official declared policy is now defined as ‘full spectrum dominance’. That is not my term, it is theirs. ‘Full spectrum dominance’ means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

Controlling all attendant resources, most importantly oil, is what the current push for US global militarization is all about. The occupation of Haiti, the revival of the US 4th fleet for Latin America, AFRICOM, with its African Partnership Station patrolling the coasts of Africa, and its ongoing military to military exercises, as well as covering the globe with SOUTHCOM, EUCOM, CENTCOM, PACOM, NORTHCOM, are all part of Full-spectrum Dominance. Below is a screenshot of the USMC web page Seabasing – Enabling Joint Operations & Overcoming Access Challenges

USMC webpage Seabasing – Enabling Joint Operations & Overcoming Access Challenges. The African Partnership Station and the Haitian exercise are circled in yellow. (click to enlarge)

The Pentagon sees security as a full spectrum global operation, as illustrated in the slide below from a linked document, Seabasing Concepts and Programs PDF . They project at least 2 decades of war, based mainly in coastal areas, the littorals, all around the world. Documents and videos linked to the above page cover various aspects of seabasing.

The graphic below is the future security environment the US Department of Defense imagines. The map area outlined is what the Pentagon calls the Arc of Instability. All the arrows point at Africa. Keep the areas outlined on this map in mind when looking at the other maps below. Look at the arrows; all are directed at Africa, including one pointed from Latin America to West Africa, and one from western Asia into northeast Africa, as well as arrows pointed at northwest Africa and at Somalia:

The text reads:
Future Security Environment (PDF p.3)
“Hybrid” Threats &
Challenges …
Largely in the Littorals
ARC OF INSTABILITY
• Nuclear armed states
• Top ten oil reserves
• Significant drug regions
• Anti-West attitudes
• Increasing Global Interdependence
• Emerging Global Powers
• Improved anti-access weapons
• “Haves” vs “Have Nots”
The “asymmetrical kind of war” we face today will last at least two decades…

Clearly this is war, not a humanitarian mission. That is why it is called a war and assigned to the military. The military may engage in humanitarian exercises, but the threat is represented as a military security threat. The real reason for the global militarization is controlling resources and containing potential rivals. Africa is a central target because of its vast resources, oil, mineral, land, water, and more. Labeling almost the entire continent as part of the Arc of Instability demonstrates an intent to keep the continent destabilized. The intent to destabilize is particularly evident in North Africa where the US has Lied Into the War On Terror in the Sahara. The security environment pictured shows the US fears south south alliances and trade, alliances and trade that bypass the United States entirely. The big emerging economies are China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, and Turkey. Along with Russia, these make up the largest 7 emerging economies, the E7.

I have wondered for a long time about why the US has been wedded to a policy in Somalia that is obviously disastrous for Somalia and harmful to nearby countries, as well as doing no good for the citizens of the United States. The US is maintaining a massive naval presence off the coast of Somalia. But it has done nothing to curb the illegal fishing that has devastated the economy of Somalia, a piracy far more significant in overall cost compared to the value of losses to the Somali pirates. Rather the US, NATO, and the international navies off the coast of Somalia appear to be assisting the illegal fishing at the expense of Somalia. Mohamed Hassan explains the global reasons for US Somalia policy quite clearly. The US policy is about containing emerging Asian powers, especially China and India, about controlling trade in the Indian Ocean, and about preventing the growth of south south alliances and trade. Preventing rather than supporting a functioning government in Somalia, keeping Somalia weak and unstable, is part of the reason for the policy:

Somalia: How Colonial Powers drove a Country into Chaos
Mohamed Hassan interviewed by Gregoire Lalieu and Michel Collon, Feb 10,2010

Q: Somalia had every reason to succeed: an advantageous geographical situation, oil, ores and only one religion and one language for the whole territory; a rare phenomenon in Africa. Somalia could have been a great power in the region. But the reality is completely different: famine, wars, lootings, piracy, bomb attacks. How did this country sink? Why has there been no Somali government for approximately twenty years?

MH: Since 1990, there has been no government in Somalia. The country is in the hands of warlords. European and Asiatic ships took advantage of this chaotic situation and fished along the Somali coast without a license or respect for elementary rules. They did not observe the quotas in force in their own country to protect the species and they used fishing techniques –even bombs!- that created huge damages to the wealth of the Somali seas.

That’s not all! Taking also advantage of this lack of any political authority, European companies, with the help of the mafia, dumped nuclear wastes offshore Somali coasts. Europe knew of this but turned a blind eye as that solution presented a practical and economical advantage for the nuclear waste management. Yet, the 2005 Tsunami brought a big part of these wastes into the Somali lands. Unfamiliar diseases appeared for the first time among the population. …

Q: No Somali state for almost twenty years! How is that possible?

MH: This is the result of an American strategy. In 1990, the country was bruised by conflicts, famine and lootings; the state collapsed. Facing this situation, the United States, who discovered oil in Somalia a few years ago, launched Operation Restore Hope in 1992. For the first time, US marines intervened in Africa to take control of a country. It was also the first time that a military invasion was launched in the name of humanitarian interference.

Q: Why is it strategic?

MH: The issue is the control of the Indian Ocean. Look at the maps.

Somalia, outlined in yellow, opposite India on the Indian Ocean, with the surrounding countries (click to enlarge)

As mentioned, western powers have an important share of the responsibility in the Somali piracy development. But instead of telling the truth and paying compensation for what they did, those powers criminalize the phenomena in order to justify their position in the region. Under the pretext of fighting the piracy, NATO is positioning its navy in the Indian Ocean.

Q: What is the real goal?

MH: To control the economic development of the emerging powers, mainly India and China. Half of the world’s container traffic and 70% of the total traffic of petroleum products passes through the Indian Ocean. From that strategic point of view, Somalia is a very important place: the country has the longest coast of Africa (3.300 km) and faces the Arabian Gulf and the Straight of Hormuz, two key points of the region economy. Moreover, if a pacific response is brought to the Somali problem, relations between African in one hand, and India and China on the other hand, could develop through the Indian Ocean. Those American competitors could then have influence in that African area. Mozambique, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Zanzibar, South Africa etc. All those countries connected to the Indian Ocean could gain easy access to the Asian market and develop fruitful economic relationship. Nelson Mandela, when he was president of South Africa, had mentioned the need of an Indian Ocean revolution, with new economic relationships. The United States and Europe do not want this project. That is why they prefer to keep Somalia unstable.
(h/t africa comments for Somalia information)

The Indian Ocean, both Somalia, and the Seychelles where the US is establishing a military presence, are indicted with a yellow outline. (click to enlarge)

Countries have noticed the US actions and intentions. South Africa, India, and Brazil have cooperated in joint naval exercises.

The full spectrum project is underway all around the globe. Efforts to contain China are well underway in Southeast Asia, from How the US got its Philippine bases back:

The American war on terrorism has provided the US an excellent justification to hasten its reestablishment of a strategic presence in Southeast Asia … Combating Islamic terrorism in this region [Southeast Asia] carried a secondary benefit for the United States: it positioned the US for the future containment of nearby China.

The Indian Ocean, with the strategic positions of Somalia and the Seychelles marked with yellow. Also the Philippines marked with yellow, strategically located in the Pacific east and south of China. All are key to sea basing. (click to enlarge)

In Latin America the US intends to contain Brazil and Venezuela. In February 2010 the US released a USGS report indicating that Venezuela now has larger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia. It is heavy crude, but still recoverable and refinable. One of the techniques of containment is stability operations, in fact these stability operations help keep the countries surrounding Brazil and Venezuela destabilized and in conflict. If you look at the Arc of Instability, you will note that it clings around the borders of Brazil.

Again from Pinter’s speech:

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed.

Brazil as a Key Player
by Raúl Zibechi | February 17, 2010

“Bit by bit, quietly, like a spider weaving its web in the middle of the night, an impressive military circle threatens Venezuela and, by extension, the entire group of progressive governments in Latin America,” writes Ignacio Ramonet in the January issue of Le Monde Diplomatique. A recent study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) established that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, thanks to recent discoveries in the Orinoco Belt, now possesses 513 reserve billion barrels of crude, accessible with “current technology.” Venezuela thus replaces Saudi Arabia, which “only” has 266 billion barrels, as possessor of the world’s largest oil reserves.

The article by Ramonet and the USGS conclusion are based on solid evidence. It is not the first time that it has been estimated that Venezuela’s reserves have are truly enormous. The crucial difference is that this time the confirmation comes from a North-American agency, not just from the Bolivarian employees. In effect, the USGS report effectively doubles the reserves in Venezuela’s domain. As for Ramonet’s contention, various developments in the region in recent months seem to substantiate it: in March 2009, we discovered that Colombia had allowed the United States to take over and control seven military bases; in June 2009 political turmoil resulted in the coup in Honduras where the United States has the military base of Soto Cano; in Oct. 2009 the president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, announced the concession of four military bases to the Pentagon. The total number of U.S. bases, including the two bases in Aruba and Curacao (Dutch Antilles), to the north and east of Venezuela to date number 13. The current rapid conversion of Haiti into a gigantic aircraft carrier incorporating the 4th Fleet will no doubt soon add another.

Aiming South
The intervention in Haiti is so blatantly militaristic that the China Daily (Jan. 21, 2010) asked whether it was the intention of the United States to make Haiti the 51st state of the Union. The newspaper quotes TIME Magazine which categorically states that “Haiti is being turned into the 51st state, and while the process unfolds, it already is America’s backyard.” In one week, the Pentagon had mobilized one aircraft carrier, 33 rescue planes, numerous war ships, and 11,000 marines. MINUSTAH, the UN stabalization mission in Haiti, consists of 7,000 soldiers. According to the Folha de Sao Paulo (Jan. 20, 2010), the Brazilian military, which had, up until the earthquake, been in charge of the UN mission and thus been the main military presence on the island, will have been outnumbered by the United States with projected numbers in a few weeks reaching 16,000 soldiers, or “12 times more military personnel than Brazil.”

In the same issue of the China Daily, an article about the American influence on the Caribbean asserts that the military intervention in Haiti will have a long-term effect on U.S. strategy in the Caribbean and in Latin America, given that it maintains a long-running confrontation with Cuba and Venezuela. According to Beijing, the region is “the door to its backyard,” which it seeks to “control tightly and exclusively” in order to “extend its influence south.”

To the south is the whole Andean region, which includes not only Venezuela but above all, Brazil.

The US Government still treats military spending as spending that has no cost to the nation or its citizens. As a result of a decade of making war off the books, keeping the real figures out of the federal budget, the United States is significantly weakened financially. It has failed to invest in its own growth and own citizenry, and has given away its manufacturing base. It is deeply in debt ot China. The US media is mostly owned by those who continue to profit from US military and financial adventurism. The US public know comparatively little about what is going on in the rest of the world, and are mostly unaware that they don’t know. In this regard:

In the last few weeks, a few important issues have come to light … On Jan. 20, 2010, the British newspaper The Financial Times published a comparative list of the 10 top banks in the world in terms of market capitilization for the year 2000 and again for 2009. The results are shocking. In 2000, five of the top 10 were American: Bank of New York, Mellon, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs were placed in first, third, fourth, and fifth respectively. In second place was the British bank Lloyds. In other words, out of the top 10, the top five were American and British. The crème de la crème of financial power rested in Wall Street and the City of London, and in other Western countries.

Only nine years later, the view has changed dramatically: in the top 10 banks five are Chinese: China Merchants Bank, China Citic Bank, ICBC, and China Construction (nos. 1-4), Bank of Communications (no.6), and three Brazilian banks: Itau Unibanco (no. 5), Bradesco (no. 7) and Banco do Brasil (no. 9). The former giants of banking have sunk. Goldman Sachs now sits at no. 22 on the list and JP Morgan Chase at 31. While the Wall Street banks dropped massively in value, the Chinese banks doubled their value in 2009. “The result of the turbulence is the dramatic shift in the financial center of gravity,” concludes the Financial Times.

A large proportion of these banks, like Banco do Brasil and three of the Chinese banks, are state-owned, an interesting Copernican twist to this financial adjustment away from the capitalist nucleus which had its base in the United States. To complete the picture, it is necessary to look at the vulnerability of countries regarding their public and private debt and their GDP (gross domestic product), as tabled by LEAP (the European Laboratory of Political Anticipation) in December 2009. In first place in terms of vulnerability is Iceland, followed closely by various smaller Baltic and Eastern European states, Greece in fifth place, and Spain in sixth. In ninth and tenth places are Great Britain and the United States, where the federal debt is dangerously close to 100% of GDP. In the United States, the combined private and public debt is triple the annual GDP. If these countries had been South American, they would have defaulted on their sovereign debt, and some analysts predict that this eventuality is not far off.

… Pricewaterhouse Coopers released figures that indicate a dramatic twist on the global stage. It predicts that in 2020, the G7 (the United States, Japan, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, and Canada) will have an economic weight equal to that of the emerging nations, recently christened the E7: China, India, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Indonesia, and Turkey.

In this global power reshuffling, Brazil is very well positioned. Its enviable situation in terms of energy self-sufficiency, due to possessing large untapped reserves of both oil and uranium, makes it unique in the global superpower game.

Brazil has the sixth-largest uranium reserves in the world, and this figure relates to only the 25% of Brazilian territory that has been surveyed. Once the reserves in the basin of Santos are adequately calculated, it is estimated Brazil will own one of the five largest oil reserves in the world (more than 50 billion barrels). Brazilian multinational companies are already some of the biggest in the world …

The Brazilian Development Bank, BNDES, has been playing its cards close to its chest in favor of Brazilian capitalism. It is the largest development bank in the world, and has “transformed itself into the most powerful tool for the restructuring of Brazilian capitalism.”* … Lula’s government has pushed a policy that “ensures the active participation of the state in the building of new global players in a wide range of economic activity.”

Brazil has no option but to fortify its defenses, given that its power as a nation shows no signs of slowing. …

Brazil has understood the essence of the game plan of the United States. The Pentagon has dedicated to Brazil the same strategy it uses to contain China: to fan the fires of conflict on its borders in order to destabilize and prevent its ascent. It is the same logic which has transferred the center of military gravity from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Seen in this context, it is easier to understand what is happening in Latin America, of which the massive militarization of Haiti is the latest chapter. Haiti is the first step in the operations of the 4th Fleet. Taking the predicted calamities caused by climate change in the near future into account, the operation in Haiti will provide a template for what is to come in this decade.

In South America, the United States Southern Command military installations surround Brazil in the Andean region to the west and south. The powder keg lies in the Colombian-Venezuelan and Colombian-Ecuadorian conflicts, which have the potential to ignite the whole region. The tension generated by the Colombian attack on the encampment of Raul Reyes on Ecuadorian soil has been exacerbated by the de facto occupation of Haiti. Latin America is marching toward an unprecedented increased militarization of international relations which, with the exception of Brazil, it is neither psychologically nor physically prepared to defend itself from.

With the US in debt, and failing to invest in itself to create growth, how long and how well will it be able to sustain the present military expansion? Is the US now doing to itself what it did to the former Soviet Union, amping up the threats, and forcing itself to spend itself into bankruptcy with military spending? It is certain to be able to cause a great deal more destabilization and destruction throughout the world before that might happen.

US Military Intervention on behalf of corporate interests has a long history in the United States. Back in 1933 Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, the most decorated soldier of his time said:

… the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn’t a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its “finger men” to point out enemies, its “muscle men” to destroy enemies, its “brain men” to plan war preparations, and a “Big Boss” Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

(from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, author of War is a Racket)

The same is equally true today. The only change is that what was Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism is now Super-Globalistic-Capitalism. People should not have to suffer and die all around the globe so that a few rich can become richer. Genuine diplomacy and mutually beneficial trade agreements are both preferable and still possible. Here in the US, in what is supposed to be the beacon of democracy, I hardly hear any voices calling for this.

Here is the timeline for full implementation of seabasing (PDF p.38):

Seabasing timeline (click to enlarge)

acronyms:
MLP Mobile Landing Platform
JHSV Joint High-Speed Vessel
MPF(F) Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future)
MLP Mobile Landing Platform
LMSR Large, Medium Speed, Roll-On/Roll-Off
T-AKE Auxiliary Dry Cargo and Ammunition Ship
LHA(R) Amphibious Assault Ship (Replacement)
MPF(F) Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) Future Operating Concept
LPD Amphibious Transport Dock
JMAC Joint Maritime Assault Connector
IOC Initial Operational Capacity
FOC Full Operational Capacity

To summarize seabasing, from a US Marine Corps Seabasing Brochure (PDF).

Seabasing is a concept that enables employing the
full range of government capabilities from the sea.
Innovations in shipbuilding, cargo handling, at sea
transfer and sea based defense systems allowed the
Seabasing concept to become a reality. Currently in
order to employ an expeditionary force of 15,000 or
greater, a secure port and or airfield ashore is needed,
however by 2022 it will be possible to do this at sea.

Such a capability recognizes that nations are
increasingly placing restrictions on or denying the use
of their facilities at a time when we must have a greater
forward presence to reduce the ability of extremists
to gain a foothold or disrupt the flow of commerce
.
Seabasing will allow the use of the world’s oceans as
large or small scale Joint, Multinational and
Interagency bases for operations without dependence
on ports or airfields ashore.

Extremists may be those who legitimately disagree with US policies. The flow of commerce that needs protection is commerce that advantages the United States, commerce that advantages those who wield corporate power over the US government.

And for a graphic that pulls together the entire Seabasing concept here is Joint Seabasing Overview, PDF. Notice that the Spectrum of Operations pictured arches across the top of the Indian Ocean, from Somalia through the Arabian peninsula, through western Asia and down towards India and south Asia. You will also see the enabling air and sea equipment pictured, and text describing the Full Spectrum Utility of seabasing.

Joint Seabasing Responsive Scalable National Power Projection (this is a very large graphic, you may need to click more than once and scroll around to read it all)

acronyms:
CSG Carrier Strike Group
ESG Expeditionary Strike Group
GFS Global Fleet Station
HA/DR Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief
MAGTF Marine Air Ground Task Force
MARDET Marine Detachment
MCO Major Combat Operation
MPF(F) Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future)
MEU Marine Expeditionary Unit
NEO Noncombatant Evacuation Operations
SOF Special Operations Forces
SPMAGTF Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force

The US Africa Command, AFRICOM, is beginning to put together a US military base in the Seychelles.

US to Base Drones in Seychelles to Fight Piracy

The United States is planning to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles in the Seychelles islands in the coming weeks …
Dozens of American military and civilian personnel will also be based at the airport to oversee the Navy-led mission for the next several months.

MAHE ISLAND, Seychelles - Members of the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3, show Seychelles Coast Guard divers how to conduct underwater searches during an exercise at the coast guard base on Mahe Island, Seychelles, August 5, 2009. Members of the EODMU-3 are currently deployed to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Trina Jeanjacques)

MAHE ISLAND, Seychelles - Members of the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3, show Seychelles Coast Guard divers how to conduct underwater searches during an exercise at the coast guard base on Mahe Island, Seychelles, August 5, 2009. Members of the EODMU-3 are currently deployed to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Trina Jeanjacques

SEYCHELLES - Seychelles President James Michel (right) shakes hands with General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa command, during Ward's visit to the island nation in August 2009. Michel and Ward engaged in discussions on security-related issues, including the strengthening of U.S. surveillance in collaboration with the Seychelles government to fight against piracy. (Photo courtesy of Seychelles, Office of the President)

SEYCHELLES - Seychelles President James Michel (right) shakes hands with General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa command, during Ward's visit to the island nation in August 2009. Michel and Ward engaged in discussions on security-related issues, including the strengthening of U.S. surveillance in collaboration with the Seychelles government to fight against piracy. (Photo courtesy of Seychelles, Office of the President)

In addition to the Reaper UAVs, the U.S. military is also considering basing Navy P-3 Orion patrol aircraft in the Seychelles for a limited time. Like the Reaper, the Orion can survey a large region and help deter attacks.

As you can see from the picture above, the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3 are doing training in the Seychelles. So it looks like they may be preparing for dives looking for explosive ordnance at some point. So far there is no indication Somali pirates have sunk any explosive ordinance, although US military contractors may have done so in Lake Victoria.

The leadership of the Seychelles seem pleased with the US presence.
US Navy steps up Seychelles piracy protection

The president of the Republic of Seychelles, James Michel, has hailed this week’s discussions with General William E. Ward, commander of US Africa Command(AFRICOM), as “extremely warm and fruitful.”
President James Michel has welcomed the announcement by the United States of America of its intention to operate surveillance assets, to include P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles in Seychelles.
The announcement follows in depth high-level discussions between the two countries on means of strengthening the security situation in the region, which builds on recently ratified provisions of the Status of Forces Agreement by the Seychelles National Assembly

“This new venture is both a concrete step in the fight against piracy and a symbol of the trust and understanding which exists between the governments of the Republic of Seychelles and the United States of America. We look forward to continually strengthening this partnership based on our mutual desire for peace and stability in the region,” the President stated following the meeting

A Status of Forces Agreement is one necessary preliminary for any basing activity. You can see the warm and fruitful meeting of General Ward and President Michel in the picture above.

A recent Ecoterra International SMCM update makes the point that the Seychelles are:

… a key transshipment point for poached tuna from the Indian Ocean to Japan.

Although much of the piracy in Somali waters is illegal and unregulated fishing, the international navies gathered in Somali waters seem disinclined to do anything to prevent this particularly profitable form of piracy.

From the Stars and Stripes: U.S. plans land-based UAV patrols to combat piracy

About 75 U.S. military personnel and civilians will be headed to the Seychelles islands in the coming weeks to set up the Reaper operations, which could start in October or November. U.S. Africa Command is calling the Navy-led mission Ocean Look.

The mission should last several months, with a Reaper airborne at all times, Crawley said. Details on exactly how long the UAVs would be in the Seychelles are still being worked out, he said.

The UAVs would not be armed.

“We will get it up and running and see for a few months if it is the right assets and location (for counterpiracy). It is a very strategic location

It is a very strategic location for a lot more than counterpiracy, which looks a bit like an afterthought in that sentence.

From the Seychelles Nation on August 12,

US surveillance plane visits Seychelles
As part of US support for Seychelles against piracy and other security threats, a P-3 Orion aircraft of the United States Africa Command arrives in Seychelles today.

The visit of this military plane is said by the US embassy in Port Louis, Mauritius, to be a further sign of the ongoing partnership between the people of the US and of Seychelles.

The P-3 Orion, a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft, has been the US Navy’s frontline, land-based maritime patrol aircraft since the 1960s.

Originally designed as a long-range, anti-submarine warfare patrol plane, the P-3C’s mission has evolved since the late 1990s to include surveillance either at sea or over land, where its long range and long loiter time have proved invaluable assets.

The P-3C has advanced submarine detection sensors such as directional frequency and ranging sonobuoys, and magnetic anomaly detection equipment.

The avionics system is integrated by a general purpose digital computer that supports all the tactical displays and monitors, automatically launches weapons and provides flight information to the pilots. The system also coordinates navigation information and accepts sensor data input for tactical display and storage.

This looks like the US is looking for a lot more than just Somalis in surface boats.
h/t to b real’s africa comments, August and September 2009 for much of this research.

And an IMG Press reports AFRICOM pitched their tents TO SEYCHELLES It reports much of the same information as above, but adds something about the money involved (via google translator Italian to English):

The U.S. military presence was requested by local government after the attacks of pirates against ships at sea, some among the islands. Last April, the President of Seychelles, James Michel, had interrupted an official visit to Japan after two national units had been seized off the Comoros islands. A few days later, the cruise ship MSC Melody “, en route from Durban (South Africa) to Genoa with over 1,000 passengers and 550 crew members, was approached by a pirate boat but was readily detected and blocked by a Spanish frigate. “Such incidents – said President Michel – are dangerous not only because they are acts of terrorism, but because it might push the cruise ship out of our territorial waters and seriously wounding the national tourism.”

The dependence of the country from foreign currency is total. Unable to think of any form of development or at least self-centered to a diversification of sources of economic input to the government authorities the defense of luxury tourism becomes vital, at the cost of accelerating the transfer of islands and islets to individuals and give way for the U.S. militarization of the archipelago. Already a year before the crisis linked to Somali pirates, the employment rate of the hotel industry had suffered a decline of 60-65 percent. In favor of the Seychelles is the International Monetary Fund intervened with an emergency loan, while the Paris Club has canceled 45% of a debt of 215 million.

An anti-pirates, the Seychelles have equipped their coastguards two modern fast boats. They also asked a number of countries to transfer their military units in defense of territorial waters. The legislative authority has already approved a pact of “military cooperation” with the U.S. military, while the Department of Defense has allocated $ 300,000 for the country in the 2008-2010 period of the training program “IMET International Military Educations and Training “. Military advisers and specialists of “Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA)”, the U.S. joint forces unit stationed in Djibouti, working alongside the local military since 2005. In May 2009, the men of Africom Command in Stuttgart have held a weekly cycle of conferences and meetings with local military and civilian authorities in view of “improving procedures for air traffic control” and a “strengthening of bilateral for security and intelligence and reduce criminal activity in the Indian Ocean. ” The next month, in the main ports of the Seychelles have made a long stop operating naval units of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, the multinational force set by the command of the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain to patrol the waters of the Indian and Gulf of Aden. Alongside the military boats in the Seychelles work well for some time a ship of the Indian Navy helicopter carrier, armed with guns “Bofors” 40 mm .. Sixty French marines are aboard a dozen large vessels for tuna fishing in the waters of Seychelles that will remain until the end of October.

I think this provides a clue as to why the Seychelles allowed, and may have invited a US base. They need the money badly. Tourism has collapsed, probably due to the global economy as much or more than piracy. Supposedly this US military activity is only a temporary arrangement. But the base at Djibouti was supposed to be temporary, but is now digging in for permanent residence. And I wonder if the French marines may be protecting the tuna pirates.

Right now nobody is calling it a base, rather a temporary agreement. But it is clear that what is going on is preliminary to setting up more activities and more infrastructure. The Seychelles needs the income, and the US wants a base in that strategic location, and is putting up the money. But the US is not without competition, as b real points out:

… , the Seychelles archipelago is a valuable geostrategic Indian Ocean asset in the eyes of all the big players on global stage. China and India are currently wooing its government. Neocons and kin are worried about China challenging U.S. naval dominance & superpower status by utilizing this “”unsinkable aircraft carrier” in its line of communications w/ Africa:

Taking into account the fact that the Republic of Seychelles 110 Islands are scattered over a wide surface of the Western Indian Ocean, which includes a vital oil route and taking into account that important oil producing Nations are within rocket striking distance, the geo-political importance of Seychelles cannot be under-estimated.

________
For more on drones over Africa see: Political Assassin Robots Flying In African Skies

USNS Lewis and Clark

USNS Lewis and Clark

See a diagram of the USNS Lewis and Clark at Global Security

A friend sent me this link to Captives of Lewis and Clark. The writer, Bryan Finoki, looks at political and policy issues from an architectural perspective, how people use space. In this case the space is prisons the US is creating to incarcerate captives of the selective war against the Somali pirates in Somali waters, leaving the illegal unreported and unregulated, IUU, fishing fleets from around the world, and the illegal toxic dumping, to continue unimpeded.

I have long been disturbed by the way in which the US has replaced slavery with its prison system at home. During the Bush administration incarceration of poor and brown people became globalized, and far more brutal and abusive. So far Obama seems to be continuing the same pattern.

As part of a larger multinational effort, the U.S. 5th Fleet has sent additional ships into the gulf, that will be joined by the Coast Guard and other combat Marine search and seizure teams. While the UN uses UNOSAT to watch the seas from space, the Navy is using “an unmanned aerial spy plane known as the ScanEagle for target surveillance.” In what Navy Commander Stephen Murphy has described as “sort of racial profiling at sea,” the drone’s aerial footage is used “to help determine whether those on board the skiff are ethnic Somalis, and thus more likely to be pirates, or simply fishermen from elsewhere.”

The “simply fishermen from elsewhere” are simply pirates stealing the food and livelihood of the Somalis. But no one is even questioning that piracy, no one is protecting the interests of the Somalis. With the country weakened by close to two decades of war and civil strife, Somali seas are wide open to exploitation, including the illegal dumping of nuclear waste.

Yet, what interests me most in all of this is one vessel in particular that will be joining this crew – the USNS Lewis and Clark, an old 689-foot, 24,000-ton Navy cargo ship, or T-AKE supply ship, that has been converted into a naval detention facility. According to Strategy Page, this ship has had its crew reduced from 158 to 118 so accommodations for 26 prisoners could be improvised.
The T-AKE we learn “is the grandchild of the Servron” which developed out of necessity during World War II … these Servrons also acted as prison ships during WWII.

But for now, you can add the USNS Lewis and Clark to the list. In addition to concerns about mistakenly detaining innocent fisherman or innocents others, what could also be potentially very worrisome is whether this vessel will have any use or role in the roundup and rendition of ‘terrorist suspects’ in the good ol’ ‘War on Terror’ where too little transparency around unlawful detention and rendition exists.
If you read this article you will note, “Currently, six (T-AKE’s) are in service and eight are on order. The fourteen T-AKEs will replace 16 existing supply (separate ammo, cargo and fuel) ships that are reaching the end of their 35 year service life this year.” Not to read too much into things, but that could spell fourteen new prison ships soon circulating international waters. With the capacity for each to hold roughly 25 detainees, that would be 350 persons that could one day be swallowed up by the indefinite chambers of the nomadic fortress at sea.
Anyway, not to jump to any grim conclusions, all I’m sayin’ is it’s another ship to watch as the waves roll on.

Finoki ties this into a much larger picture of the use of space and the movement of peoples that are part of globalization.

…the nomadic fortress is a whole syntax of control spaces linked across multiple landscapes that constitute perhaps the world’s first universal border fence, loosely connected across continents through a kind of geopolitical geometry that super-imposes a border just as much as enforces one between the First World and the Global South. It is, you might say, the Great Wall of Globalization.

… It is in some way the final border, a border that is never at rest but is always modifying itself for greater tactical vantage; a kind of flexible mock-hydrological regime that deploys and aligns other sub-border levers and valves below it to secure the conduits of neoliberal capitalism and the flows of people who are captives of them in one way or another. A structure that utilizes an entire atlas of border fences with a range of satellite technologies, web-based border vigilantes and extra-territorial floating prisons, to feed the border as a kind of geopolitical gutter space that siphons the subjects of migration off into a swollen infrastructure of detention where billions of dollars and are spent on their bounty.

It is a fully transitional geography of unsettled coordinates, excessive legality and perpetual legal suspension. This border doesn’t take the defensive posture that borders traditionally have in the past, but instead is on the move and on the hunt for a new class of would-be border crossers who’ve been bound together in a dangerously wide-cast surveillance net that is incapable of distinguishing the refugee from the enemy combatant, the migrant from the smuggler, laborer from insurgent. It is the border as the worst kind of political blur space. It is as immovable as it is fluid, like a sea of transparent blast walls crashing on the shores of geopolitical exile.

Being incapable of distinguishing the refugee from the enemy combatant, the migrant from the smuggler, and laborer from insurgent has been a distinguishing feature of US policy, and policies of countries around the world during the Bush administration. This inability to distinguish is particularly true of the US and US proxies in Somalia and Kenya, and along the border between those two countries. I don’t feel any change in the air on this.

And to flesh out the picture, you may want to look at Finoki’s post on floating prisons coverted into housing, floating labor camps for migrant labor. Or the prisoner boxes used by the US in Iraq, where the space is the torture.

These are just a few of the blessings that AFRICOM and ongoing military liaison can bring to African “partners” that will “add value to the important endeavor of stability and security on the content of Africa and its island nations” and will “help build the capability for African partners, and organizations … to take the lead in establishing a secure environment“.

Piracy Map 2008

Piracy Map 2008

CLICK HERE, to view the live and interactive version of this map.

You can also view maps of hijackings & attempts in Somalia: nato from nov 18, unosat from oct 2 (h/t b real).

ICC Commercial Crime posted the interactive map pictured above to track pirate attacks in 2008. If you go to the live and interactive map, you can click on one of the red tags for more information about a particular attack. A description of ICC CCS from their website:

ICC Commercial Crime Services (CCS) is the anti-crime arm of the International Chamber of Commerce. Based in London, CCS is a membership organisation tasked with combating all forms of commercial crime. The specialist divisions that comprise CCS offer a range of services dedicated to meeting the individual needs of the members. Together, they tackle all types of commercial crime; fraud in international trade, insurance fraud, financial instrument fraud, money laundering, shipping fraud and product counterfeiting.

One thing is clear on the African portion of the map. The attacks occur in the regions where war and resource exploitation have made it impossible for local citizens, particularly fishermen, to make a living, the Niger Delta, portions of the Gulf of Guinea, and Somalia. In Somalia, illegal overfishing in Somali waters by the European Union and some Asian countries has fished out the waters. Many fishermen have turned to piracy as an alternative occupation. Likewise in the Niger Delta the pollution and exploitation of the oil companies, and the illegal fishing, have destroyed the fish and put local fishermen out of business.

 

For more about who can stop the pirates in Somalia, see my earlier post.

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