U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Peter Chavez, reviews the troops in Kenema, Sierra Leone. NATO had sent military advisors from the U.S. and Canada to advise on training the newly re-established army. 2002

The United States uses military bases to maintain a colonial presence in countries around the world. The US version of the colony is the military base. The US press has carried very little news or discussion about Africom. And the citizens of the US need to know a lot more about what their government is doing in their name. US news media tend to be insular and cover very little news outside the US, and continue this pattern in their non-coverage of Africom.

When Africom was established, Theresa Whelan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, said:

“Instead of the United States being reactive, … we want to be more proactive in promoting security, to build African capacity to build their own environments and not be subject to the instability that has toppled governments and caused so much pain on the continent.”

And yet hardly was the announcement made when the Bush administration organized the overthrow of the first stable government Somalia has had since 1991, stirring up a hornet’s nest of regional rivalries in the strategic Horn of Africa.

This does not bode well for the direction of US policy. The US news media that I saw generally reported this Somalia action as a positive or “anti-terrorist” action supported by the US. As usual, there was little to no background or analysis.

The Bush-Cheney administration cannot be trusted for two reasons. The first is that they are incompetent. The other is their intentions are bad. Controlling oil, and oil profits, and maximising defense industry profits, often at the expense of the US soldiers and citizens, has been their most visible goal.

With Africa expected to provide a quarter of all U.S. oil imports by 2015, a major focus of AFRICOM will be the Gulf of Guinea. The gulf countries of Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, and the Congo Republic all possess enormous oil reserves. Some of them are plagued by exactly the kind of “instability” that AFRICOM was created to address.

The US is using its naval presence in lieu of building a large land base. Right now the US probably does not have the money to build a large new base. It has blown too much on the attempted occupation of Iraq. Instead:

The White House’s plans for Africa
, which reach far beyond the Horn, are part of a general militarization of U.S. foreign policy. A recent congressional report found that “some embassies have effectively become command posts, with military personnel in those countries all but supplanting the role of ambassadors in conducting American foreign policy.” . . . A major U.S. base in Djibouti houses some 1,800 troops and played an important role in the Somali invasion.

(This) has blurred chains of command and has the potential to backfire by weakening American relationships abroad and setting back American counterterrorism efforts

And –
according to Nigerian journalist Dulue Mbachu, “that increased U.S. military presence in Africa may simply serve to protect unpopular regimes that are friendly to its interests, as was the case during the Cold War, while Africa slips further into poverty.”

Once again, Bush has embarked on an ostensibly legitimate mission – greater security for America and Africa, and fighting terrorism – with methods that will accomplish the opposite.