July 2007

Fracture zones (lineaments in the sea floor topography offshore Africa) in the oceanic crust show right-lateral movement between Africa and South America. Fracture zones also tend to offset sub-basins and affect sedimentation. Gulf of Guinea

The military base is the US version of a colony.

Nick Turse has written Planet Pentagon: How the Department of Defense Came to Own the Earth, Seas and Skies.

Department of Defense (DoD) . . . (deploys) . . . nearly 255,000 military personnel at 725 bases in 38 countries. Since then, the total number of overseas bases has increased to at least 766 and, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service, may actually be as high as 850. Still, even these numbers don’t begin to capture the global sprawl of the organization that unabashedly refers to itself as “one of the world’s largest ‘landlords.'”

The pentagon also has problems keeping accurate records of money spent. This has been particularly a problem under Bush/Cheney, and seems to be a part of their kleptocratic management style.

. . . it cannot even account for at least $1 trillion dollars in money spent — or perhaps . . . as much as $2.3 trillion.

and –

By its own admission, it is also a slumlord par excellence — with an inventory of “180,000 inadequate family housing units.”

But the piece that should really worry people in African countries, particularly those bordering the Gulf of Guinea:

U.S. military is exploring long-term options to dominate the planet as never before. Previously, the DoD has only maintained a moving presence on the high seas. This may change. The Pentagon is now considering — and planning for — future “sea-basing.” No longer just a ship, a fleet, or “prepositioned material” stationed on the world’s oceans, sea-bases will be “a hybrid system-of-systems consisting of concepts of operations, ships, forces, offensive and defensive weapons, aircraft, communications and logistics.” The notion of such bases is increasingly popular within the military due to the fact that they “will help to assure access to areas where U.S. military forces may be denied access to support [land] facilities.” After all, as a report by the Defense Science Board pointed out, “[S]eabases are sovereign [and] not subject to alliance vagaries.” 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 Heritage Foundation, which is responsible for the Bush administration thinking and planning behind the African Command, has spelled out Bush/Cheney intentions towards Africa. The basics of the plan are to extract the natural resources, particularly oil, and use the land of the African continent as a gigantic sugar cane plantation to grow bio-fuel to feed the US petrol appetite. The US Africa Command looks more and more a threat to African sovereignty, safety, and economy.

How to tell if Gonzalez is lying.

Imported tomato paste among home grown tomatoes in a Ghanaian market

In a previous post I mentioned the threat “free” trade can pose to Ghana and developing countries. Ghana is currently experiencing trade problems with both chicken parts and tomato paste.

A survey has revealed that the import of tomato paste and chicken parts was having severe impact on the production of local tomatoes and poultry and any further tariff cut could drive peasant farmers out of their source of livelihood . . . substantial increase in tariffs was rather needed to ensure market access and adequate levels of income that would secure tomato and poultry production in the country.

More and more sources are saying that for developing countries to develop successfully, they need to protect their agriculture, and Ghana is no exception.

. . . the survey also showed that poultry production was at a high risk of collapsing, as most farmers had moved from the production of broilers to eggs due to the influx of imported chicken in markets.

This certainly rings true to me. With chickens, we concentrate on egg production at present. We raise broilers for Christmas, and sometimes at other times, but mostly we are concentrating on eggs. At Christmas we had many more buyers for broilers than we had broilers, with some people coming for some distance. And this reduced production is because imported chicken lowers prices and demand through much of the year. The people on the ground in Ghana are making these decisions based on realities of the market place.

This week it was reported that the North Star Tomato factory faces closure.

The Northern Star Tomato Factory, formerly the Pwalugu Tomato Factory, faces an imminent closure if the importation of under invoiced tomato paste into the country is not checked.

This is as a result of threats from the only local tomato processing company in the country, Trusty Foods Limited, an Italian investment, which buys its raw material from the factory to drastically cut down on its demand as a result of what it described as the “unfair competition” from under-invoiced tomato paste imported into the country.

It is, therefore, anticipated that should the threat be carried out, the numerous farmers in the northern part of the country who depend on the factory as their largest market would lose out while the huge investments from the government to revive the factory will also go to waste.
. . .
The importation of under-invoiced products into the country is said to be denying the state several millions of dollars annually, particularly at a time the government finds it difficult meeting its annu¬al revenue targets.

. . . surges of prices of tomato paste and chicken parts were having a severe impact on the ability of Ghanaian peasant farmers to feed-their families.
. . .
“It saddens my heart when I have to layoff some workers when we are forced to reduce our production,” he said, adding that “we presently employ up to 400 people and indirectly provide a ready market for thousands of peasant farmers in the north”.

Ghana grows some of the most beautiful and tasty tomatoes in the world. This is not an industry we want to lose.

Under invoiced imported palm oil products are also being brought into Ghana.

A country must be able to feed itself. If trade practices destroy the ability of people to make a living farming, the country is in serious trouble. We lose jobs, and there is no food except for the rich who can import it. Angola and Gabon currently experience this. Ghana needs to protect its farmers and its agriculture. You can bet countries exporting chickens and tomato paste into Ghana are protecting their agriculture. Those importers engaged in under invoicing need to be caught and prosecuted.

With the current job losses in small businesses due to the electricity outages, it is doubly important to protect and build up agriculture, and to keep people employed and fed.

Head, from the Treasure of King Kofi Kakari. Akan people, Asante subgroup. Ghana. Gold. London: Wallace Collection.

The thinking of the Bush/Cheney Administration is so 19th century that I find it staggering.

In 1873-74 the British fought the Ashanti in the name of “free trade”. What that meant then was, rather than the Ashanti controlling the gold trade, the British should control the gold trade.

Henry Stanley probably offered the best short explanation of the origins of the Anglo-Ashanti war. “King Coffee”, (Asantahene Kofi Kakari) he said, “is too rich a neighbour to be left alone with his riches.”

And that seems to be the approach the Bush/Cheney administration has taken to Africa in creating Africom. Africa is too rich a neighbor to leave alone.

Not only does the Bush/Cheney administration want to control African oil in the name of free trade. When you read the proposals, it also looks like they want to turn Africa into a vast plantation, think 19th century Caribbean sugar plantation, or think of the rapacious labor and environmental practices of Florida’s Big Sugar, to grow sugar cane bio-fuel for the US market.

b real said… (in the comments on the previous post)

here’s a heritage foundation paper that came right before hallinan’s article

Africa’s Oil and Gas Sector: Implications for U.S. Policy

two of the key recommendations made in the paper that stood out to me are:

1.) “The Department of State, Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Agency for International Development (USAID) [local interests need not apply!] should develop a comprehensive strategy to improve the investment climate in Africa, focus­ing on privatization of the oil and gas industry’s assets and reserves.”


2.) “The DOE, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), and Department of the Treasury should work with Congress to remove tariffs and quotas on sugarcane ethanol before 2009.”

“Africa offers the ideal tropical climate for pro­ducing ethanol from sugarcane.”

“To tap Africa’s potential and expand U.S.–Africa energy cooperation, real barriers will have to be overcome, especially the U.S. 54-cents-per-gallon tariff on ethanol. This tariff violates the principles of free trade and undermines U.S. energy security.”

they also recommend that all the euro energy companies form a “coordinating forum”, led by the u.s., to promote privatization & apply leverage to african energy producers.

it’s essentially all laid out there in the open…

And the effect of this free trade?

. . . the impact of free trade on Africa will be profound. “The majority in Africa . . . will be faced with losses in both agricultural and industrial goods,” and small African farmers will be unable to compete.

As part owner of small farms in Ghana, I find this terrifying.

Making the world safe for US corporations, the right wing targets Africa.

Conn Hallinan spells out the founding principles of AFRICOM, I’ve bolded some of the key points. Of course long term, this approach will make the world far less safe for American corporations and for Americans. A lot more people will be hurt and die in the process.

Back in October 2003, James Jay Carafano and Nile Gardner of the Heritage Foundation laid out a blueprint for how to use military power to dominate that vast continent.

“Creating an African Command,” write the two analysts in a Heritage Foundation study entitled U.S. Military Assistance for Africa: A Better Solution, “would go a long way toward turning the Bush Administration’s well aimed strategic priorities for Africa into a reality.”

While the Bush Administration says the purpose of AFRICOM will be humanitarian aid and “security cooperation,” not “war fighting,” says Ryan Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. The Heritage analysts were a tad blunter about the application of military power: “Pre-emptive strikes are justified on grounds of self-defense America must not be afraid to employ its forces decisively when vital national interests are threatened.”

Carafano and Gardner are also quite clear what those “vital interests” are: “The United States is likely to draw 25 percent of its oil from West Africa by 2015, surpassing the volume imported from the Persian Gulf.”
. . .

The two also proposed increasing military aid to African regimes friendly to the U.S. and, using the language of pop psychology, confronting “enabler” and “slacker” states that threaten U.S. security. “Enabler” states, according to the authors, are those-like Libya-that directly aid terrorists and “slacker” states are failed nations-like Somalia-where terrorists can base their operations.

Their recommendations are almost precisely what the Administration settled on, albeit the White House wrapped its initiative in soothing words like “cooperation,” “humanitarian aid,” and “stability.”

In a sense, AFRICOM simply formalized the growing U.S. military presence on the continent.
. . .

Exactly as the Heritage proposal recommends, the U.S. has recruited client regimes like Ethiopia, Chad and Uganda that are willing to support U.S. policy goals. A case in point is the recent U.S. sponsored invasion of Somalia, where Ethiopian troops overthrew the Islamist regime and Ugandan soldiers helped occupy the country.

Controlling resources for U.S. corporations is a major impetus behind AFRICOM, but it is also part of the Bush Administration’s fixation with China. The Chinese “threat” in Africa has been a particular focus for both Heritage and the American Enterprise Institute.

And then there is “free” trade:

Military power is not the only arrow in the U.S. quiver. And once again the Heritage Foundation has played a key role in promoting the Bush Administration’s other strategy for controlling Africa: free trade.

In a major Heritage Lecture, entitled “How Economic Freedom is Central to Development in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Brett Schaefer of the Thatcher Center, argues that developing countries must lower their trade barriers in order to grow. The Bush Administration’s Millennium Challenge Account ties aid to such reduced barriers.

. . . “free trade” is a Trojan horse that ends up overwhelming the economies of developing countries. “From the very start, the aim of the developed countries [in the Doha talks] was to push for greater market openings from the developing countries while making minimal concessions of their own.”
. . .

the impact of free trade on Africa will be profound. “The majority in Africa,” . . . “will be faced with losses in both agricultural and industrial goods,” and small African farmers will be unable to compete.

. . . the best strategy for developing countries is exactly the opposite of the Heritage Foundation’s formula. According to the analysis, countries like Japan and South Korea were successful because, rather than embracing “free trade,” they protected their industries from outside competition.
. . .

Nicole Lee, executive director of the TransAfrica Forum, called AFRICOM “neither wise nor productive,” and suggests that the U.S. should instead focus on “development assistance and respect for sovereignty.”

But not so long as U.S. policy in Africa is driven by think tanks like the Heritage Foundation.

Oil blocks, Niger Delta and Gulf of Guinea

So far we have not seen much sign of the supposedly “humanitarian” side of Africom. We have have already seen plenty of militarization. This little tidbit about the “thinking” behind Africom should send shivers down the spine of anyone from Africa, or anyone who cares about Africa.

Bush Administration Africa policy flows almost directly from recommendations from two right-wing Washington think tanks: the Heritage Foundation that came up with the idea of an African command and the American Enterprise Institute. (The latter would appear to be working to increase its clout by recently adding to its staff former – briefly – World Bank director, neo-conservative, and Iraq war promoter, Paul Wolfowitz, who says his principle interest these days is Africa.)
. . .

Nii Akuetteh, the executive director of Washington-based Africa Action, said Africom “has nothing to do with African interests and programs; its access to oil and the ‘war on terror’.” Akuetteh, a former Adjunct Professor at Georgetown’s University’s School of Foreign Service and one time Research and Education Director of the advocacy group TransAfrica, told me he is of two minds about the appointment of General Ward. “He must be someone of considerable competence to have risen to where he is, given the persistence of racism, and that is a good thing. What bothers me is the concept of Africom itself; I don’t like it. Beyond all the talk about bureaucratic reorganization the real fear must be over the threat of increased militarization of sub-Saharan Africa. If you read the details you will see that that’s pretty much what it is.”

Akuetteh says although some African governments may have welcomed the idea, civil groups in most of Africa and people in the U.S. concerned with U.S. policy toward the continent, “ are all of one mind: we don’t like it.”

Bill Fletcher Jr., BC Editorial Board Member and former President of TransAfrica, said, “It is ludicrous to think that setting up Africom has anything to do with fighting terrorism. It is a dangerous notion.” The real motivation, he says, is to protect America’s oil interests in Africa.
. . .
TransAfrica argues that “While the Bush administration claims this development will build partnerships with African governments that will lead to ‘greater peace and security to the people of Africa’ nothing could be further from the truth. This newest incursion follows a pattern of extraction of minerals and aiding factions in some of Africa’s most bloody conflicts: thus further destabilizing the continent. This operation will strengthen the US military’s presence in the Gulf of Guinea, to aid oil extraction processes and will work to further militarize the Horn of Africa in support of the administration’s ‘war on terror.’ US troops are already on the Horn of Africa carrying out operations within Somalia and on its border with Kenya.”

There is still no sign of addressing the problems of the people who live where the oil is being extracted. And there is no mention of any steps being taken so that they receive a fair share of their oil wealth. So much for “humanitarian”.

And now NATO is ramping up military activity in the Niger Delta. b real posted this information in a comment in the previous post. It is significant enough to repeat here:

b real said…

here’s something to add – they’ve finally announced which ships are involved in some of the gulf of guinea maneuvers

july 24: NATO takes steps to demonstrate interest in N/Delta
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has deployed six warships to orbit Africa in what is seen as a show of force and a demonstration that the world powers are closely monitoring the worsening security situation in the Niger Delta.

The multinational force comprising six ships from six different NATO nations, Canada, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal and the United States are scheduled to embark on a historic 12,500 nautical mile circumnavigation of Africa on a two month deployment from August to October this year as part of NATO’s commitment to global security.

Coming soon after the Bush Administration announced the creation of a new unified [combatant] command, Africa Command (AFRICOM) to promote U.S. national security objectives in Africa, the NATO move is already being seen as the deepening of the West’s scramble for Africa in the bid to checkmate China’s growing diplomatic and economic influence in the continent. The world’s most populous country and Asia’s emerging economic giant has recently been exerting escalating economic sway especially in the sub-region’s energy sector where it has invested heavily in Nigerian and Sudanese oil fields. Analysts see Chinese mounting influence in a sphere formerly controlled by the West exclusively as a threat to Europe and America both of which are looking at the West African Coast for their energy needs in view of the increasing volatility of the Middle East.

By August 4, NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), one of NATO’s four standing maritime forces, will sail from the Mediterranean to the west coast of Africa and the Niger Delta.

most links i’ve been trying to follow to SNMG1 are no longer functional. looks like the u.s. navy took command of SNMG1 from canada back on january 26.

a cached press release states that to force will consist of “one cruiser, four frigates and a tanker.”

the listed ships are:
USS Normandy – “The flagship of SNMG1, the USS Normandy is a guided missile Ticonderoga class cruiser. She is a multi mission anti-air, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare ship with a distinguished history of active service particularly in the Gulf and off the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. She has the Aegis Weapon System, Tomahawk, two 5-inch guns and can operate two Seahawk helicopter.”

HTLMS Evertsen – “HNLMS Evertsen is a state of the art air defence and command frigate of the Zeven Provinciën class, Royal Netherlands Navy. Her stealth like construction makes her less detectable by radar. She is equipped with an impressive sensor array combined with the Standard Missile, Sea Sparrow, Harpoon, 127 mm main gun, torpedo weapon systems and an NH 90 size Helicopter.”

HMCS Toronto – “The Canadian Halifax Class multi-role patrol frigate HMCS Toronto has an impressive range of tactical and defensive weapons including the Harpoon anti ship and Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missile systems, a 57 mm gun and anti-submarine Sea King helicopter. She has taken part in Operation Active Endeavour (OAE) in the Mediterranean and in Hurricane Katrina relief operations.”

NRP Alvaras Cabral – “one of the major ships of the Portuguese Navy. She is a Vasco de Gama Class frigate fitted with Harpoon, Sea Sparrow, Torpedo systems and a large flight deck and hangar to operate two Lynx helicopters. Portugal regularly contributes to the Standing NATO Maritime Forces and has long standing historical links with Africa.”

HDMS Olfert Fischer – “The Royal Danish Navy Niels Juel Class corvette, HDMS Olfert Fischer, has been a regular participant in Standing Naval Force Atlantic since 1992. She has served in the Gulf War and Iraq and is fitted with Harpoon, Sea Sparrow and a 76 mm gun”

FGS Spessart – “The German Navy Rhone Class Replenishment Tanker, FGS Spessart will support SNMG1 throughout the deployment, ensuring that the Force has sufficient fuel and provisions to sustain operations far from home for long periods of time. She has a displacement of 10,800 tonnes and is 427 ft long.”

“The Africa 2007 deployment will include conducting ‘presence operations’ in the Gulf of Guinea, a region that has seen many incidents in recent months of attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta and kidnapping of oil workers. During this phase the NATO force will be in a position to make a difference to security in the region, deterring criminal groups and enabling NATO maritime commanders to compile a picture of maritime activity in the area.”

“SNMG1 will conduct surveillance and ‘presence operations’ in the Gulf of Guinea and off the Horn of Africa passing information back to the two NATO Surveillance Coordination Centres (SCCs) at Northwood in the UK and Naples in Italy.”

Niger Delta from space

John C K Daly for ISN Security Watch reported back in February that

The Pentagon reportedly plans to establish another dozen bases in the region; in Algeria, Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Ghana, Morocco and Tunisia.

That is nine countries and twelve bases. I suspect that means at least two for Ghana. And there are at least two places in Ghana where the US military is very active right now.

The rising violence in Nigeria’s Delta region may well be the rock upon which AFRICOM’s humanitarian focus founders.

Assuming the focus was ever humanitarian,

If a combination of militant attacks and general strikes completely paralyzed Nigerian production, it would seem rather unlikely that US military forces would sit by idly as oil shipments from America’s third largest oil importer ground to a halt.

During this same time, from other sources:

Irregular warfare is a growth market, and converting fishing boats into riverine patrol veseels could soon be a booming business with the US Navy, which is standing up a new riverine command for the first time since the Vietnam War.
So far, no company has applied the same approach with aviation, but that will probably change. US Air Force Special Operations Command is talking about standing up an Irregular Warfare wing, with a full squadron of single-engine turboprop fighters to serve as counter-inusrgency aircraft in the mold of the Vietnam-era Douglas A-1 Skyraider.


Due to current war demands, the Navy provides selected intelligence specialists an eight-week “ground intelligence” course that had previously been reserved for sailors in the naval special warfare community. The course covers terrain analysis, land navigation, tactics and other subjects.
Graduates of the course get assignments with Navy forces operating ashore or close to shore, such as the new riverine squadrons, Seabees, explosive ordnance disposal units, maritime interdiction teams and coastal warfare squadrons, as well as special warfare units.

It seems obvious to me that the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger Delta are the major reason for the renewed US interest in riverine warfare. The US is saying:

Campbell (outgoing US ambassador in Nigeria,) dispelled claims of US military base in the Gulf of Guinea: “There are no military bases in the Gulf of Guinea. We have no plan or intentions to establish any; the relationship between Nigeria military and the US military is primarily training.
“There is no permanent US military presence in the Gulf of Guinea. Obviously, US military vessels would pass through the Gulf of Guinea going from one point to another; it is an open waters.”

Supporting the troops and protecting the homeland

b real added a comment to my previous post, quoting Sy Hersh, that I thought I’d post here. It demonstrates once again how truth simply does not play a part in Bush/Cheney management. And the press continues to act as an oblivious enabler:

sy hersh on democracy now may 24th:
…the thing that’s amazing about this government, the thing that’s really spectacular, is even now how they can get their way mostly with a lot of the American press. For example, I do know — and, you know, you have to take it on face value. If you’ve been reading me for a long time, you know a lot of the things I write are true or come out to be more or less true. I do know that within the last month, maybe four, four-and-a-half weeks ago, they made a decision that because of the totally dwindling support for the war in Iraq, we go back to the al-Qaeda card, and we start talking about al-Qaeda. And the next thing you know, right after that, Bush went to the Southern Command — this was a month ago — and talked, mentioned al-Qaeda twenty-seven times in his speech. He did so just the other day this week — al-Qaeda this, al-Qaeda that. All of a sudden, the poor Iraqi Sunnis, I mean, they can’t do anything without al-Qaeda. It’s only al-Qaeda that’s dropping the bombs and causing mayhem. It’s not the Sunni and Shia insurgents or militias. And this policy just gets picked up, although there’s absolutely no empirical basis. Most of the pros will tell you the foreign fighters are a couple percent, and then they’re sort of leaderless in the sense that there’s no overall direction of the various foreign fighters. You could call them al-Qaeda. You can also call them jihadists and Salafists that want to die fighting the Americans or the occupiers in Iraq and they come across the border. Whether this is — there’s no attempt to suggest there’s any significant coordination of these groups by bin Laden or anybody else, and the press just goes gaga. And so, they went gaga a little bit over the Syrian connection to the activities in Tripoli. It’s just amazing to me, you guys.
b real

Straight reporting, disguised as satire, from Jesus’ General:

As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, the Department of Defense issued a press release Wednesday touting its capture of one of the top leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid. And in a stroke of sheer luck, interrogators were able to get him to confirm all of the Administration’s talking points about Al Qaeda’s involvement in Iraq just as the Democratic leadership in the Senate was moving to end a Republican filibuster of the Levin-Reed Troop Withdrawal plan.

And for true, a truly classic quote from the US Secretary of State:

From Maria Bartiromo’s interview of Condi Rice in the current issue of BusinessWeek:
: Would you consider a position in business or on Wall Street?
CR: I don’t know what I’ll do long-term. I’m a terrible long-term planner.

General William Ward, nominated to be head of the Africa Command.
There are a number of reports on problems Africom is having. African leaders are not welcoming it. In South Africa, the the US embassy was complaining that the newly nominated head of Africom, General William Ward could not get an appointment with the South African Minister of Defense, Mosiuoa Lekota.

And the US is sending very mixed messages. Secretary of Defense Gates has said that al Qaeda is establishing a foothold in North Africa. Although Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Ryan Henry, who toured Africa on behalf of Africom, denied that Africom is intended to serve as a counter to terrorism, but also spoke of the growth of terrrorism in North Africa. The words terrorism and al Qaeda are also problematical when used by the Bush administration, anyone Bush/Cheney see as an enemy is al Qaeda, regardless of actual ties to al Qaeda.

And the Voice of America reports:

The officials say the command’s goals will include helping to prevent terrorists from establishing bases in Africa, and helping Africans avoid local conflicts before they start.

Certainly the Africa Command, in rare mentions in the US media, is being sold in the US as part of a counter terror initiative.

Meanwhile The Economist reports that “Unimaginable in many parts of the world, there is keen competition among African countries to host AFRICOM‘s new headquarters.” This is certainly the opposite of most of what I read in any African media. Mostly I read they cannot find a country willing to host Africom HQ, with the exception of Liberia. Ryan toured throughout Africa. West African countries, and North African countries, all turned down hosting Africom.

The way the Bush administration uses the word terrorism should cause much skepticism.

On Tuesday morning, July 17, there were two conflicting reports in the Washington Post. One said the US is in grave danger of another terrorist attack on US soil from al Qaeda, especially al Qaeda in Iraq. And the same day in the same newspaper, this story said that “the Sunni insurgent group calling itself al-Qaeda in Iraq as an “accelerant” for violence, they have cited domestic sectarian divisions as the main impediment to peace.” And that the main enemies of al Qaeda in Iraq are other Iraqis in Iraq.

As digby says:

Like so much of Washington reporting, you have to sift through the runes to decipher what these two articles are actually telling us. I’m guessing that we are once again dealing with a battle of the intelligence agencies. . . . It’s up to the reader to decide what is true. (emphasis mine)
. . .
There is good reason to be suspicious that they are hyping the Iraq terrorist threat at a time when the congress is getting serious about reining them in. (We know they like to “introduce product” according to a political timetable.) With their track record of dishonestly conflating the terrorist threat with Iraq (as well as crying wolf dozens of times over the years here in the homeland) it’s completely fair to take into account that foreign policies based on the Bush administration’s “threat assessments” haven’t exactly worked out very well. A second, third and fourth outside opinion should always be required from these people.

Any government dealing with Bush/Cheney should keep this in mind.

Dubai by night

One way to fight the oil curse is to look for models, countries who have managed to use oil revenues for the benefit of their citizens. The secret for success is to use the oil money to strengthen other sectors of the economy, rather than undermine them, as has been the case with African oil so far, where agriculture in particular has been devastated. And most critical for long term success, is to make health care and education available to all citizens.

Some countries have used their petrodollars to actually improve the lives of their citizens. In the Arab world, the Emirates of Dubai and Bahrain have utilised their petrodollars to diversify their economies.

In 2006, oil and gas revenues accounted for only around 3 percent of Dubai’s gross domestic product (GDP) of 46 billion US dollars. It is expected that the country’s oil reserves will run out within the next two decades. Yet the economy is booming thanks to the promotion of tourism and the positioning of the country as a shoppers’ paradise.

In Bahrain, 30 percent of GDP is derived from the oil industry. Structures are in place which see huge amounts of money being poured back into education, the tourism sector and health services. This has created jobs and investment opportunities for the local people.

In Norway, with around 50 percent of its exports consisting of oil, the government has secured the income for citizens by investing it in a national pension fund. Since 1990, the fund has seen dramatic growth and, with 200 billion US dollars, it is the largest pension fund in Europe.

‘‘These countries have realised that oil is a finite resource,” said Athmani. ‘‘They have diversified their economies. They are not overly dependent on oil. If this resource does run out, the other sectors will be strong enough to support the economy.”

. . .
Mary M’mukindia, an independent Kenyan analyst for the oil industry . . . argued that governments have to put in place structures which ensure that citizens benefit from oil wealth. She supports initiatives such as ‘‘Publish What you Pay” which forces international oil companies to publish the amounts of money they pay to governments.

Cesar Chelala, the award-winning writer on human rights issues, wrote in an article in the ‘‘Gulf Times” on 16 May this year that oil companies, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and powerful governments should demand transparency from African governments.

In 2002, British Prime Minister Tony Blair launched the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Under the regulations of this initiative, countries rich in mineral and oil wealth as well as the companies extracting the wealth have to publish payments received and made.
. . .
M’mukindia says there should be three-way compliance. First: governments should ‘‘want to have” a transparency model. Second: extractive companies should be keen. In this regard, governments can implement laws which force companies to comply.

Third: Civil society organisations (CSO) should be involved. ‘‘They represent the people who are the real owners of the resources,” said M’mukindia.

But for CSOs to have an effect, they need to be well-informed. ‘‘They need to be brought up to speed with international standards and the intricacies of the industry.

The most curious feature of this article is that it reports Nigeria, and oil companies working there, are the only ones who have indicated willingness to submit their accounts. Since transparency, both in federal and state government, and from the oil companies, has been completely lacking in Nigeria, and a source of much of her problems, I’m extremely doubtful about EITI having that much effect as yet. If it is, that would be a very good sign. Transparency, accounting for money coming in, and money spent, is critical to anything resembling an equitable distribution of profits.

There isn’t a chance of the US putting any pressure, or making any push for transparency. Bush/Cheney are the most secretive and imperial of any US government to date. They refuse to share information with their citizens, and both Bush and Cheney are part of the oil industry. Their foreign policy and flair for incompetence have severely undermined US credibility, and the credibility of institutions associated with the US, such as the World Bank. The US is likely to provide more hindrance than help. Its recent actions in Somalia, its support for Nguema in Equitorial Guinea show behavior and motives more sinister than friendly. And rather than working for an equitable solution in Nigeria, the US seems to be supporting the Nigerian government in treating the Niger Delta as a military problem.

If Ghana, and other African countries rich in resources, can support and diversify their economies, and establish some financial transparency, they will be in a good position to develop themselves. They won’t get much outside support, and the dangers are many.

I read an interview today with Mike Davis about his book, Planet of Slums. I have copied some key quotes from the article, though I recommend reading the whole article. It has implications for people on every continent. It has relevance to the US and US policies, most immediately in Iraq. It also has particular relevance to West Africa and citizens of the countries of the Gulf of Guinea. Here follow some passages from the interview:

Sadr City, at one point named Saddam City, the Eastern quadrant of Baghdad, has grown to grotesque proportions — two million poor people, mainly Shia. And it’s still growing, as are Sunni slums by the way, thanks now not to Saddam but to disastrous American policies toward agriculture into which the U.S. has put almost no reconstruction money. Vast farmlands have been turned back into desert, while everything focused, however unsuccessfully, on restoration of the oil industry. The crucial thing would have been to preserve some equilibrium between countryside and city, but American policies just accelerated the flight from the land.
. . .
In my book, I looked at the relationship between the pervasive global slum, everywhere associated with sanitation disasters, with classical conditions favoring the rapid movement of disease through human populations; and on the other side, I focused on how the transformation of livestock production was creating entirely new conditions for the emergence of diseases among animals and their transmission to humans.

We have the:

. . . urbanization of livestock . . . millions of chickens living in warehouses, in factory farms. Bird densities like this have never existed in nature and they probably favor, according to epidemiologists I’ve talked to, maximum virulence, the accelerated evolution of diseases.
. . .
At the same time, wetlands around the world have been degraded and water diverted.
. . .
This is a formula for biological disaster and avian flu is the second pandemic of globalization. It’s very clear now that HIV AIDS emerged at least partially through the bush-meat trade, as West Africans were forced to turn to bush meat because European factory ships were vacuuming up all the fish in the Gulf of Guinea, the major traditional source of protein in urban diets.
. . .
the future of guerrilla warfare, insurrection against the world system, has moved into the city. Nobody has realized this with as much clarity as the Pentagon, or more vigorously tried to grapple with its empirical consequences. Its strategists are way ahead of geopoliticians and traditional foreign-relations types in understanding the significance of a world of slums…
. . .
The question of the exchange of violence between the city of slums and the imperial city is linked to a deeper question — the question of agency. How will this very large minority of humanity that now lives in cities but is exiled from the formal world economy find its future? What is its capacity for historical agency?
. . .
Well, here you have an informal working class with no strategic place in production, in the economy, that has nonetheless discovered a new social power — the power to disrupt the city, to strike at the city, ranging from the creative nonviolence . . . to the now universal use of car bombs by nationalist and sectarian groups to strike at middle-class neighborhoods, financial districts, even green zones. I think there’s much global experimentation, trying to find out how to use the power of disruption.
. . . I’ll tell you what I suspect may be the greatest of disruptive powers — the power to disrupt global energy flows. Poor people with minimal technology are capable of doing that across the thousands of miles of unguardable pipeline on this planet.
. . .
The city is our ark in which we might survive the environmental turmoil of the next century. Genuinely urban cities are the most environmentally efficient form of existing with nature that we possess because they can substitute public luxury for private or household consumption. They can square the circle between environmental sustainability and a decent standard of living. I mean, however big your library is or vast your swimming pool, it’ll never be the same as the New York Public Library or a great public pool. No mansion, no San Simeon, will ever be the equivalent of Central Park or Broadway.

One of the major problems, however, is: We’re building cities without urban qualities. Poor cities, in particular, are consuming the natural areas and watersheds which are essential to their functioning as environmental systems, to their ecological sustainability, and they’re consuming them either because of destructive private speculation or simply because poverty pours over into every space. All around the world, the crucial watersheds and green spaces that cities need to function ecologically and be truly urban are being urbanized by poverty and by speculative private development. Poor cities, as a result, are becoming increasingly vulnerable to disaster, pandemic, and catastrophic resource shortages, particularly of water.

Conversely, the most important step toward coping with global environmental change is to reinvest — massively — in the social and physical infrastructures of our cities, and thereby reemploy tens of millions of poor youth.

On the mark – here.

One of my favorite blogs is Ramblings of an African Geek. He writes with a measured tone, and a great deal of insight. He recently assisted with the secondary school programming competition in Tamale in the Northern Region. Click here to read his account of the competition, and see pictures of the students working intently. I really like to see this. Still, so many young people need this kind of opportunity and more. When governments invest in education, it pays back many times over in business development. Everyone benefits. It would be nice if more people in government understood this, in Ghana, in the US, and pretty much everywhere else.

He writes:

As usual, this was fun and refreshing. The schools need more support than they currently get from the government by far but they are doing a lot with what they have and I suspect the nationals will be seriously competitive. Still, I’d rather not have to hear stories of high performing schools only doing well because a teacher brought in his 3 year old laptop and trained his kids on it.

Still, the sights made me happy.

© Jacob Silberberg/PANOS Heavily armed soldiers ride a patrol boat in the Niger Delta region.

On February 6 of this year the US announced the creation of the US Africa Command. On April 6 of this year the US Navy convened a Riverine Warfare Conference in Annapolis. At the same time, the Navy is putting energy and money into its new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, designed to operate in brown and green water. Personnel are lining up to join it.

Coincidence? One definition of coincidence (I believe I read this in a book by John Brunner) is coincidence means you are not paying attention to the rest of what is going on.

The Niger Delta in the Gulf of Guinea is a large riverine environment that is currently becoming increasingly militarized and unstable. The Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea are where the US plans to get a lot more of its oil. If the US wants to use its military there, it will need a force trained and equipped for the riverine environment.

From several pages I’ve linked from navy.mil, plus some other articles, I was able to collect the following information.

Now, the Navy is spending $200 million on the new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), reinventing its conventional riverine capability, which has been dormant since the Vietnam War.
. . .
“Once trained, we will be the Navy’s face in the global war on terrorism.”

A major portion of the mission of the Riverine Squadron is:

. . . to conduct port security, coastal surveillance and interception as necessary, as well as protect any maritime asset and infrastructure that we may be tasked,” . . . “This includes ships, submarines, piers, ports, oil platforms or a new beach head for delivering supplies to support humanitarian assistance.” . . . (and includes) anti-terrorism and force protection in harbors and coastal waterways in the continental United States and overseas locations such as Korea, the Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa region.

And in a related article:

. . . these forces provide harbor defense, port security, high value asset escorting, and littoral surveillance support operations . . . They accomplish their mission by locating, identifying, and neutralizing potential threats and maintaining security throughout areas of operation. . . . (they) will help expand the Navy’s inshore war-fighting capabilities, and allow safer travel for U.S. and allied vessels through foreign coastal waters, harbors and rivers.”

“The enemy is definitely going to frown when they hear the U.S. Navy is going into the brown and green water. They are not going to like that,” he said.
. . .
In a written response to questions from National Defense, a Naval Special Warfare Command spokesman said that the riverine force will cover more conventional types of operations, but that the riverine and special operations forces will train and fight together. (emphasis mine)

There remains some awareness and discussion that you can’t operate without some positive interaction with the citizens of the country where you are operating. From the report on the Riverine Warfare Conference:

. . . “riverine warfare … is not control of just the rivers and canals, it is control of the whole area, and that takes more than just boats.” Said Captain Hock, “You have to become part of the culture. You have to integrate.”
. . .
And for riverine work to really work . . . “you have to get off the boat.” Civilian assistance—providing medical aid, delivering essential supplies, and any other type of goodwill initiatives—has to be perceived as a crucial part of the mission. Not only are you doing a good deed, . . . but “you’re taking those villages away as bases of operations” for the bad guys.

No mention is made in any of these articles about the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea. There was mention of Iraq, where there is some riverine activity, and some mention of fighting drugs in Central and South America, especially along Peru and Columbia. I don’t think riverine warfare is a major part of US operations in Iraq. And the drug war has been going on for decades and has achieved nothing that resembles success. Oil in the Gulf of Guinea is the primary motive for Africa Command and this renewed interest in riverine warfare.

Because of the situation in the Niger Delta, I have described here and here, among other places, the US is cruising for more than a bruising in the Delta. Unless the Nigerian Federal and State governments share oil resources with the citizens of the oil regions, there is no chance for peace or safety. The place is too big, and too heavily populated. It is not possible to fight everyone in their own country (a lesson the US seems to have a lot of trouble learning).

Remember these statistics on Nigeria originating from the World Bank:

80% of oil wealth is owned by 1% of the population; 70% of private wealth is abroad whilst 3/4 of the country live on about $1 a day – at least 15 million of those live in the Niger Delta

Unless this inequity can be addressed, and there are suggestions for how to do that here, the only alternative is to defoliate the place, and kill the 15 million people who live there, or fight for many decades killing many people on both sides, and achieving little or nothing except vast suffering. A military force cannot address the political and diplomatic problem. That problem requires leading with political and diplomatic skills. A few smiles, handouts, and a visiting doctor or two will make no difference. For the US Africa Command to try and work with the Nigerian government to “control” the problem by force, without addressing the profound and fundamental inequity that feeds the source, is simply to advise the oppressor that when he grinds people under his heel, he should twist his foot more to the left, or more to the right.

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