The US is doing much to try and alleviate fears, and give its new Africa Command, Africom, a positive image in Africa. US military personnel have been visiting a number of countries, and there are reports in the press in all these countries, all saying pretty much the same thing as this from Jane’s Defense Weekly:
The main focus of the command will not be military operations; rather, it will emphasise training programmes, civil affairs and the professionalisation of African armed forces.
A delegation of senior US officials recently visited Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa to help explain and clarify the concept to African governments.
Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Ryan Henry said on 23 April that the visits were intended to clear up ‘misunderstandings’ about the scope and mission of the new command and better explain US strategy in the region.
“One [misunderstanding] is that [the establishment of] AFRICOM does not mean that there would be additional US forces put on the continent,” he said. “It is an organisational and a staffing structure; it is not an operational entity. It will co-ordinate the efforts of operational forces but those would principally be in the areas of joint exercises.”
This is press release speak that sounds helpful, but no one is saying what is being discussed behind the scenes. Unfortunately there are plenty of worrisome precedents in US foreign policy.
The Safari Club was a regional alliance put together under Henry Kissinger. It came to light in documents revealed after the 1979 Iranian revolution. It was formally created Sept. 1, 1976, and signed by heads of intelligence agencies of France, Egypt, Iran, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia. The focus of the Safari Club was Africa.
The Safari Club vindicated the essence of the Kissinger perspective: the constraints of democracy at home required that the United States work through proxies in the international arena.
. . .
As they looked for ways to bypass legislative restrictions on the freedom of executive action, these ideologues embraced proxy wars enthusiastically and terrorism gradually. (emphasis mine) CIA chief William J Casey eventually took the lead in orchestrating support for terrorist and prototerrorist movements around the world – from Renamo in Mozambique to Unita in Angola, and from contras in Nicaragua to the mujahideen in Afghanistan – through third and fourth parties. In a nutshell, . . . the US government decided to harness and even to cultivate terrorists in the struggle against guerrillas who had come to power and regimes it considered pro-Soviet.
(from Good Muslim, Bad Muslim by Mahmood Mamdani, pp 84-88, hardback ISBN#:0-375-42285-4)
Does this sound familiar? Substitute the words pro-Al Qaeda, or anti-Big Oil, for pro-Soviet, and it looks a lot like Bush policies. Proxy wars don’t require more US forces on the continent. The early announcements about Africom made it clear that oil and terrorism were the main reason for creation of the command. Africom could make it much easier to manipulate and guide proxy wars.
The big question I see is, will anyone who questions the legitimacy of US oil interests be labeled a terrorist? And does that label justify a by any means necessary, read terrorist, response? That has been the approach and argument of Bush and Big Oil so far.
The Bush administration has worked very hard to avoid or destroy the constraints of democracy at home and abroad, even while preaching democracy to others. Their behavior in Iraq tells us that oil interests are more valuable than lives, including more valuable to them than American lives.