May 2007

Oil in Sudan (click map to enlarge)

Darfur – It’s about the oil.

The US started the current conflict in Darfur over oil, by funding military aggression, a proxy war, using Chad. As part of this proxy war, the US has continued to arm the larger of two rebel groups, the SLM. China needs oil, and now possesses 1.2 trillion US dollars in its banks. The oil business is done in dollars, and China has plenty. China has been making loans to African governments with no strings attached. This has shored up authoritarian rulers. But China has also funded and helped build schools, roads, and other infrastructure projects in the African countries with which it is dealing.

Over the last 3 decades, the United States and the big oil companies have completely wasted the opportunities they had to build and cement long term positive relationships in Africa. The US government and Big Oil have preferred arrogance, neglect, and single minded exploitation. They have used “military assistance” to deal with anyone who they think may stand in their way.

With the Nigerian government unwilling to build infrastructure in the Niger Delta, Shell could have done this relatively cheaply on its own, in partnership with local communities. Shell should have been less arrogantly careless about polluting the land and the water. It would have cost more. But if Shell had been willing to think long term, it would have paid off more. US support for the grotesque government in Equitorial Guinea is both foolish for long term US interests, and morally inexcusable. And former support for Savimbi and Unitas in Angola was another moral abomination that achieved nothing but death and suffering.

F William Engdahl details the history and describes the present situation in Darfur and Sudan:

(The) present concern of the current Washington administration over Darfur in southern Sudan is not, if we look closely, genuine concern over genocide against the peoples in that poorest of poor part of a forsaken section of Africa.

Instead, we now have:

. . . a new Cold War over oil, where the dramatic rise in China’s oil demand to fuel its booming growth has led Beijing to embark on an aggressive policy of – ironically – dollar diplomacy.
. . .
China is using no-strings-attached dollar credits to gain access to Africa’s vast raw material wealth, leaving Washington’s typical control game via the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) out in the cold. Who needs the painful medicine of the IMF when China gives easy terms and builds roads and schools to boot?
. . .
China has been generous in dispensing its soft loans, with no interest or as outright grants, to some of the poorest debtor states of Africa. The loans have gone into infrastructure, including highways, hospitals, and schools, a stark contrast to the brutal austerity demands of the IMF and World Bank.
. . .
This oil-related Chinese diplomacy has led to the bizarre accusation from Washington that Beijing is trying to “secure oil at the sources”, something Washington foreign policy has itself been preoccupied with for at least a century. No source of oil has been more the focus of China-US oil conflict of late than Sudan, home of Darfur.
. . .
With its oil demand growing by an estimated 30% a year, China will pass the US in oil import demand in a few years. That reality is the motor driving Beijing foreign policy in Africa.
. . .

Merchants of death –

The United States, acting through surrogate allies in Chad and neighboring states has trained and armed the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army, headed until his death in July 2005 by John Garang, trained at the US Special Forces school at Fort Benning, Georgia (the notorious School of the Americas).
By pouring arms into first southeastern Sudan and since discovery of oil in Darfur into that region as well, Washington fueled the conflict that led to tens of thousands dying and several million driven to flee their homes.
. . .
The Pentagon has been busy training African military officers in the US, much as it has trained Latin American officers for decades. Its International Military Education and Training program has provided training to military officers from Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

Much of the arms that have fueled the killing in Darfur and the south have been brought in via murky, protected private “merchants of death” such as the notorious former KGB operative, now with offices in the US, Victor Bout, who has been cited repeatedly in recent years for selling weapons across Africa. US government officials strangely leave his operations in Texas and Florida untouched despite the fact he is on the Interpol wanted list for money laundering.
US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has been cut sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen. Oil and the scramble for strategic raw materials is the clear reason. The region of southern Sudan from the Upper Nile to the Chad border is rich in oil. Washington knew that long before the Sudanese government.
. . .

Chad oil and pipeline politics –

Condoleezza Rice’s Chevron is in neighboring Chad, together with the other US oil giant, ExxonMobil. They’ve just built a $3.7 billion oil pipeline carrying 160,000 barrels per day from Doba in central Chad, near Darfur, via Cameroon to Kribi on the Atlantic Ocean, destined for US refineries.

To do it, they worked with Chad “President for life” Idriss Deby, a corrupt despot who has been accused of feeding US-supplied arms to the Darfur rebels.
. . .
Supplied with US military aid, training and weapons, in 2004, Deby launched the initial strike that set off the conflict in Darfur. . . . The US military support to Deby in fact had been the trigger for the Darfur bloodbath. Khartoum reacted and the ensuing debacle was unleashed in full, tragic force.
. . .
The Chinese economic presence in Chad, ironically, may be more effective in calming the fighting and displacement in Darfur than any AU or UN troop presence ever could. That would not be welcome for some people in Washington and at Chevron headquarters, as they would not secure the oil.

Chad and Darfur are but part of the vast China effort to secure “oil at the source” across Africa. Oil is also the prime factor in US Africa policy today. George W Bush’s interest in Africa includes a new US base in Sao Tome/Principe, 124 miles off the Gulf of Guinea, from which it can control Gulf of Guinea oil fields from Angola in the south to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Nigeria. That just happens to be the very same areas where recent Chinese diplomatic and investment activity has focused.
. . .
Darfur and Chad are but an extension of the US Iraq policy “with other means” – control of oil everywhere. China is challenging that control “everywhere”, especially in Africa. It amounts to a new undeclared Cold War over oil.

There is much more information in the article, and it is well worth reading. The information in this article is available in bits and pieces in a variety of sources. Mr. Engdahl has put it together with succinct precision.

I think two of the particularly telling quotes from the article are:

US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has been cut sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen.
The Chinese economic presence in Chad, ironically, may be more effective in calming the fighting and displacement in Darfur than any AU or UN troop presence ever could.

The cuts in US development aid, with increased military aid, is exactly the wrong way for the US to go, both in terms of US interests, and African interests. This is what the US did in the Cold War, and accomplished nothing good. This will cause enormous harm. In this context, the Africa Command appears to be an extension of the disastrous Iraq policy. I hope the US can find more positive ways to make friends and secure markets. The Iraq approach is an obvious and miserable failure. The American brand could become popular and successful again, but only if the US is willing to act in mutually beneficial fashion. So far the Cheney hand on foreign policy has steered relentlessly in the wrong direction.

Savage and truthful, here

Compassionate, image courtesy of Dr. Doom

Charles Onyango-Obbo of the East African tells us a bit of truth, and gives us something to smile over, concerning the legacy of Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank.

Half the world seems to have come down on Wolfowitz from the time the scandal broke. Typically, a British columnist wrote, “In contemplating the near downfall of Wolfowitz, it’s hard to know whether to laugh to cry. Does one weep at the outrageousness of it all: the president of the World Bank, self-appointed apostle of ‘good governance’ and scourge of corruption, caught in a blatant act of nepotism and cronyism – exactly the vice he wants to stamp out in Third World countries his government lends money to??”
. . .
While the World Bank has done some good, it is an imperial institution supremely unaccountable in its relationship with poor countries. Not too long ago, in many African countries, the second most powerful person after the president was not the army commander or the vice president, but the World Bank country representative.

The policy prescriptions of the Bank (of which I support the ones on economic liberalisation) and loan conditions could neither be reviewed nor questioned by elected parliaments and cabinets.

The longer Wolfowitz held on, the more the Bank would have been disgraced. In the process it would have come to seem ordinary and less intimidating. Indeed, it could be argued that by the time Wolfowitz leaves in June, the World Bank will have been much diminished.

To regain its prestige, it will have to eat humble pie and relaunch itself as an institution that listens. The democratisation of the World Bank that campaigners and critics have fought for for decades, could finally be around the corner.

In scandal, Wolfowitz may have done more to reform the Bank than if he had been scrupulously honest. We have to thank an African woman, Riza, for these blessings. And the best part is that there’s an international whispering campaign that the person to save the Bank today is another African – South Africa’s Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

A leaking oil head (left) spews oil and gas in Ogoniland. The oil heated by the sun becomes highly flammable.
Africom – it’s about the oil. It has always been about the oil. Peaceful and secure living conditions for the residents of the Gulf of Guinea have nothing to do with it. See the recent headline in Bloomberg:

Securing African Oil a Major Role for New Command

May 18 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. military’s new Africa command will help safeguard West African nations’ oil and other energy production against rebel or terrorist attacks, the general organizing the command said today.

The U.S. wants to help countries such as Nigeria, its fifth- largest supplier of oil, improve its military’s ability to thwart the kind of attacks by militants (my emphasis, see the quotations about the militants below) who in the past year halted production by about 600,000 barrels a day.

“You look at West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, it becomes more focused because of the energy situation,” U.S. Army General Bantz Craddock, head of the European Command, told reporters in Washington. Safeguarding energy “obviously is out in front.”

This kind of safeguarding will have the opposite effect of its alleged intentions. None of us will be safer. Of course farther down in the article is a bit of the cosmetic coverup:

U.S. lawmakers’ will likely examine whether the command’s mission is well defined and ensure that training and equipment provided to African security forces isn’t used to suppress internal dissent or threaten other nations, Lauren Ploch, an analyst for the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, said in a May 16 report.

Unfortunately, it looks like the US military already has a hand in suppressing internal dissent (consider Nigeria and Equitorial Guinea) and threatening other nations (consider Somalia.) I’m hoping the Democratic congress will look at this more critically. Though I’m not holding my breath. And I’m hoping if we get a Democrat in the White House, it will be someone who understands you can’t do diplomacy with a military force. Diplomacy must be lead by diplomats, people who talk, who talk for a living, who can make deals, and who keep talking.

Four US oil workers, being held hostage in the Niger Delta, were recently allowed to talk to reporters. The US has worked with the Nigerian Federal Government and labelled the Delta protestors as terrorists. The hostages had been held 11 days at the time of the interview. I have watched and read many interviews with hostages and captives. The words of these four are the most passionate endorsement of their captors cause I have heard. Stockholm syndrome aside, in their circumstances it would be foolish to be critical of ones captors. But what these four have to say has already been reported in many other sources, and there is power and conviction in their words.

Stop treating Niger-Delta people like animals, 4 American hostages tell FG (Nigerian Federal Government) By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South Posted to the Web: Saturday, May 19, 2007

The hostages: Mike Roussel (anchor operator), Chris Gay (anchor operator), Larry Plake (anchor operator) and Kevin Faller (barge foreman), all workers of Global Industries, a Lagos-based oil servicing company to the Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) spoke to the Saturday Vanguard exclusively in the base camp of the militants, Thursday evening.
. . . “the people are starving; they want schools for their children. That is the most important to them. They want jobs also, they don’t have money. Just look at the water they bath with and drink, which tells you right away that something has to be done.
“I want the Nigerian government to bring us out of here to enable me go home to my family as soon as possible. The government should come in here and try to help these people out and their children. Everybody needs education because without education, you have nothing and here, they don’t have schools”, he said.

Kevin Faller, who quivered, as he spoke said he had learnt many lessons from his stay so far in the creek. In his words: “Yes, I have learnt many things, the nature of how these people are being treated, how they have to live and you see, everyone is a human being and not an animal and these people deserve the good things of life like others too. There is no way they would not be provoked to carry arms and do what they are doing when they are not provided with basic amenities.
“They are very poor and from what I can see, there are no schools, hospitals, no roads and if something happens, it will take a long time to get to the hospital and maybe, the person being rushed to the hospital will die before they get there. It hurts to see human beings live the way these people are living in the Niger-Delta, no one deserves to live like this”, he added.
. . .
“our eyes have been opened to a lot of things we didn’t know about the sufferings of the Niger-Deltans. The militants have showed us a lot of things that we did not know before of their position. Things like how they live, how they are treated and all that, it is not right, I must say.“They have nothing. And what they have at all is from their own land. Have you not seen their houses, they bring down trees to make their ramshackle buildings, they bath and drink from the same water they pollute. The food they eat here, we cannot eat it.
“I want the government to understand the plight of these people first. Let the eyes of the leaders of Nigeria be opened on the real problems of the Niger-Delta people. It is only when their eyes are really opened that they can tackle it. A human being does not have to live the way these people are living in the creek. They should have schools, hospitals, houses to live, not these ramshackle huts they live in, not things they have to build like what we have seen. There should be electricity and spring water. In fact, so many things are missing here”, he asserted.

Meanwhile, the militarization continues:

Nigeria, others raise special force on Gulf of Guinea
Abuja, Nigeria, 05/19 –

Nigeria and seven other countries have set up a special force to monitor their common interests in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, the Defence Minister Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, has said. The Minister told a briefing here Thursday, the establishment of the Gulf of Guinea Guard Force (GGGF) by Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial-Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Gabon, Angola, DR Congo, and an unnamed country, (emphasis mine) had become imperative because of growing interest of the international community in the area.
. . .
“The Gulf of Guinea with an estimated 30 billion barrels of crude oil reserve is the largest single bloc of crude oil deposit in sub-Saharan Africa and it is fast becoming an important and strategic area in the emerging global oil politics,” the Minister added.

Gee, I wonder who that unnamed country could be? And who are they defining as potential enemies? It does not look good for the people who live in the Delta.

From the crawl along the top of the home page of United Ijaw:

****”The Nigerian State tolerates leaders from the Niger Delta so long as they support the enslavement of their people. But the moment they show signs of independent thinking and preparation for action or opposition to the negative policies of the Nigerian State, all the coercive apparati of State power and might are brought to bear on them without pity or without human touch”….Gani Fawehinmi****

****Only the fear of a volcanic social eruption from below can stop barbaric behaviour by holders of political power – Gani Fawehinmi ****

A quote from Gandhi: “We must be the change that we want to see.”
From a street mural in Esteli Nicaragua.

Once again the US is getting it backwards. The neocons running US foreign policy like to think the end justifies the means. When people say the end justifies the means, they miss the point entirely.

The means you use determine the ends you get. Military means beget military ends, diplomatic means beget diplomatic ends, violent means beget violent ends, democratic means beget democratic ends. There are a few exceptions, but if you base your planning on assuming you will be the exception, it is the same as basing your financial planning on assuming you will win the lottery.

UPI reports that Africom is seeking 25 percent of the billets in the new command to be filled by the departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services and other agencies. Those agencies, who have generally seen their budgets slashed, are not eager to anti up. Why should they turn over scarce resources to the Pentagon whose budget is gargantuan in comparison to theirs? Supposedly:

AFRICOM will be untraditional in that its staff will focus not on preparations for military action in Africa but instead on stabilizing governments, training their militaries, encouraging their economies and helping governments address destabilizing problems like AIDS and famine. AFRICOM’s aim is less to be prepared for military conflict than it is to avert the possibility of it.

Recent actions against the government of Somalia and Somali citizens
, and the alliance with Nguema in Equatorial Guinea, put the lie to these claims of helpful intentions.

Army Gen. Bantz Craddock, EUCOM commander appears to understand what is needed. As a member of the US armed forces, I am sure he is doing his best to fulfill his mission. Unfortunately, the mission itself is flawed. As he says:

“Very few (of Africa’s) challenges can be solved by the department of the military,” Craddock told reporters Friday. “It’s Health and Human Services, Commerce, Department of Justice, Energy, Agriculture.

Diplomatic and technical problems need to be addressed with diplomacy and technology. If the US wants to address the real challenges in Africa, it needs to do so with skilled diplomacy, working through the State Department, allied with other departments of the US government who can bring their expertise. The US must show by example it believes in what it preaches. Military assitance yields militarized results.

One way to understand Gandhi’s words is that in order to effect change, one must assume the nature of the change one wishes to effect. In other words, the word justify is irrelevant, the means determine the ends.

In which Falwell goes to . . . , and we receive updates from Iraq.

Appreciation to Dr. Doom for the image.

Bad judgment is Dick Cheney’s trademark.
. . .
What is always overlooked with Dick Cheney is how he performs when he arrives in his various jobs. The answer is, in truth, not very well.
. . .
An examination of Cheney’s career reveals that it is marked by upward mobility and downward performance.
. . .
The issue of Dick Cheney’s judgment must be raised because he is the catalyst, architect, and chief proponent of Bush’s authoritarian policies.
. . .
It was Cheney, and his mentor, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who convinced Bush to go to war in Iraq.
(from: Conservatives Without Conscience, by John Dean, ISBN 0-670-03774-5, p.159-161)

This is the background on Dick Cheney, as Josh Marshall writes in Vice Grip:

Dick Cheney is a man of principles, disastrous principles.

. . . mistakes–on energy policy, homeland security, corporate reform–abound. Indeed, on almost any issue, it’s usually a sure bet that if Cheney has lined up on one side, the opposite course will turn out to be the wiser. Yet somehow, in Washington’s collective mind, Cheney’s numerous stumbles and missteps have not displaced the reputation he enjoys as a sober, reliable, skilled inside player.

Cheney is conservative, of course, but beneath his conservatism is something more important: a mindset rooted in his peculiar corporate-Washington-insider class.

. . . few groups are so accustomed to self-dealing and self-aggrandizement as the cartel-capitalist class. And few are more used to equating their own self-interest with the interests of the country as a whole.

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