September 2007

The SAN submarine, SAS ‘MANTHATISI managed to penetrate an anti-submarine screen of 7 ships (which included the VALOUR CLASS frigates SAS AMATOLA and SAS ISANDLWANA) undetected and “sank” the high value target that the screen was trying to protect. After this she turned on the protecting screen and managed to “sink” the balance of the remaining surface ships.
For more pictures of the exercises – click here

A South African submarine, the SAS Manthatisi, sank the entire NATO fleet in Naval exercises.

From Business Day:

The SA Navy participated in an exercise with a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) force off the Cape coast this month.

A lone South African submarine left some Nato commanders with red faces after it “sank” all the Nato ships in the exercise.

The S101, or the SAS Manthatisi, evaded detection by a joint Nato and SA Navy search party consisting of several ships combing the search area with radar and sonar, before “sinking” all the ships in the fleet.

The maritime security exercise and collaboration off SA’s coast is taking place barely a month after Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota told the media that more armed US soldiers were not welcome in Africa.

Lekota said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) defence ministers had, at a summit in Lusaka, Zambia, in August, decided that no member states would host the US’s Africa command, or armed US soldiers.

He said this was also the “continental position” of the African Union.

AND, in Nigeria, an editorial in Leadership said the following:

When launched, AFRICOM will become a permanent military base in Africa, thus completing a long-desired strategic plan by the US. The stated reason was that it would check the spread of terrorism and smoothen the path of aid to the continent, but the real reason is to secure the continent’s resources and safeguard US military interests in the region. However, many African and American pressure groups are vehemently opposed to this project, seen largely as a neocolonial expansionism. TransAfrica Forum, America’s premier African-American foreign policy organisation, has said AFRICOM “represents a policy of US military-driven expansionism that will only enhance political instability, conflict, and the deterioration of state security.”

The US has tried to effect illegal regime change in over 50 countries in addition to invading 35 others in 56 years. African countries should reject AFRICOM in its entirety. Our National Assembly should therefore be on the look-out for any effort by Uncle Sam to impose it on us. The US Senate Committee on Armed Services should also not give in to President Bush’s expansionist policy under the guise of humanitarianism, knowing he is only making the world a much more dangerous place in which to live.

I am very glad to see these sentiments published in the Nigerian press, and I am glad President Yar’Adua is holding the line against AFRICOM so far. The recent election was severely flawed, and Yar’Adua is widely seen as Obasanjo’s creature. But he has been saying the right things, and seems to be moving in the direction of positive change. It remains to be seen whether it all means anything or not.

However, his song has changed a bit, according to the Daily Sun:

But Sauce is beginning to think Nigerians may have been too early with their praises. How so?
Not too long ago, the straight-talking presido delighted some visiting heads of government from the west African sub-region – ah, journalists and television analysts love that word – by recognising the Gulf of Guinea as a place of strategic importance to West Africans. It should be guarded as such and not left to chance for any foreign government to meddle with.

Hmmm. Good talk there, if you remember that his predecessor almost gave the Yanks unparalleled access to the waterway. You needn’t be a student of international relations to know what that means for Naija and neighbouring countries. The Yanks, if they wished could, in a blimp, surprise us if they had their military bases just at our backyard. After all, didn’t the Yanks themselves complain about Ruskies deploying missiles in Cuba less than 500 nautical miles from the US back in ‘61?
So, when Oga Umoru trumpeted it loud and clear that the Gulf of Guinea must be protected with all territorial interest, Nigerians, again, hailed him as the man of the moment. Here was a man, at last, who would call any government’s bluff.

But just as his compatriots were popping champagne for asserting Naija’s presence in territorial waters coveted by all, a dampener came in the form of an about-face by the very man who raised everyone’s hope. Last week, our man made another statement about the Gulf of Guinea, this time contradicting his earlier bold stand on the matter.

Anyone, he said, was welcome to ply the waters of the gulf in question. Which is to say that the Yanks can now berth their warships nearby. Please, that does not include Nigerian or Ghanaian fishermen hoping to net a few tunas and rare species of fish. On why the sudden change of tune, one tatafo would only say that Oga Umoru was due at the White House two days later.

What the amebo left unsaid was that if you intend to visit another person in his house, you don’t badmouth your host prior to your visit. If you do, then a very, very cold reception sure awaits you. No visiting president would much like that.

Today’s automatic weapons are designed to be small enough, light enough, and easy enough to handle, that they can be routinely used by children.

Yesterday the President of Botswana visited the US, and asked what all those of us following current events in Africa are asking:

President Festus Mogae has re-iterated the need for Africa to know the full details of the proposed US Africa Command (AFRICOM) before it commits itself.

So far the US has defined AFRICOM by what it isn’t, rather than what it is. Of course everyone knows what it is about, oil, and terrorism (defined as opposition to US oil interests) and China. However, these are clearly colonial intentions. The US cannot openly admit them, even though these are routinely the reasons given for the creation of AFRICOM in the US press.

The American Enterprise Institute held a forum titled: AFRICOM: Implications for African Security and U.S.-African Relations, on September 20th. Theresa Whelan of the U.S. Department of Defense was there repeating her usual remarks about what AFRICOM is not. According to Henry Ekwuruke:

The United States’ new African military command structure – Africom – will neither base nor deploy U.S. forces on the African continent, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, Teresa Whelan said Thursday . . . “we will have no bases… and we will not be deploying U.S. forces on the African continent.” However, Africom as a command structure “will have a presence… in the form of staff officers” throughout Africa, she added. Nevertheless, “no more than 20 percent of the entire command will actually be physically present on the African continent.”

And in another account:

Speaking at a panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute, Whelan also worked to allay fears and dispel rumors that AFRICOM represents an American militarization of Africa and a possible usurpation of power from African leaders. She said critics are wrong in their assertion that AFRICOM is an attempt to further expand the war on terror in Africa, secure oil reserves, or hedge against Chinese influence there. “That is patently untrue,” she said.

In fact, the US cannot find a single African country willing to host AFRICOM. As upyernose points out:

there are 46 countries in africa, more than in any other continent in the world. and that number bumps up to 53 if you include the disputed western sahara and island nations like cape verde, são tomé and príncipe, madagascar, the comoros, the seychelles, and mauritius. together that’s about 25% of the total number of nations on earth. and yet, even among some of the poorest countries of the world who would surely reap economic benefits from a large first world military base, we could find not a single taker.

53 countries and no takers is truly remarkable. Of course there are a number of small bases in a number of countries, plus Djibouti, but no African country is willing to host AFRICOM headquarters so far. So for now the headquarters remains in Germany. But as Defense News points out, they haven’t stopped looking for an African host. The same article cites oil and terrorism as reasons for the command. And it quotes a Heritage Foundation fellow saying the headquarters must be based in Africa. The article also says the command will be divided into 5 regional teams:

One team will have responsibility for a northern strip from Mauritania to Libya; another will operate in a block of east African nations -— Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania; and a third will carry out activities in a large southern block that includes South Africa, Zimbabwe and Angola, according to the briefing documents. A fourth team would concentrate on a group of central African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Congo; the fifth regional team would focus on a western block that would cover Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger and Western Sahara, according to the briefing documents.

This does not stop the militarization of US foreign policy that AFRICOM represents, it continues it. And it does not stop the destructive arms policies of the US, which has been pouring arms into Africa throughout the Bush presidency, just as in the bad old days of the Cold War.

As Frida Berrigan points out in The New Military Frontier: Africa

Even as these discussions continue, some African nations are receiving significant increases in military aid and weapons sales; most of these increases have gone to oil-rich nations and compliant states where the U.S. military seeks a strategic toehold. The Center for Defense Information recently completed “U.S. Arms Exports and Military Assistance in the “Global War on Terror;” an analysis of increases in military aid since September 11, 2001. The report compares the military aid and weapons sales in the five-year leading up to 2001 and the five years since.

For example (among the African countries receiving this military assistance): since September 11, Kenya, which the State Department describes as a “frontline state” in the war on terrorism, has received eight times more military aid than in the preceding five years.

Djibouti, which has opened its territory to U.S. forces, received forty times more military aid, and an eightfold increase in the value of weapons transfers.

Oil-rich Algeria, where the surveillance equipment is based, has received ten times more aid and a warm embrace from Washington.

Nigeria, the fifth largest supplier of oil to the United States, is slated to receive $1.35 million in Foreign Military Financing for 2008 despite persistent human rights abuses.

Mali is described as an “active partner in the war against terrorism” by the State Department and is a good example of a little military aid going a long way . . .

U.S. arms sales to Ethiopia, which has one of Africa’s largest armies, have roughly doubled and military aid has increased two and a half times.

As the Center for Defense Information points out:

The data clearly shows that the United States is sending unprecedented levels of military assistance to countries that it simultaneously criticizes for lack of respect for human rights and, in some cases, for questionable democratic processes. As a foreign policy, this is confusing, short-sighted and potentially very dangerous. Once weapons are delivered to a country, it becomes increasingly difficult to control how they are used and difficult to prevent them from being illicitly diverted anywhere in the world. While these countries are currently considered important to U.S. efforts in the “war on terror” now, political and military instability makes their continued allegiance to the United States questionable. Arming such countries with U.S. weaponry has troubling pitfalls: U.S. origin weapons could be used against the United States, its allies, or its interests. Selling arms for short-term political gains undermines long-term U.S national security and strategic interests.

This is NOT development aid. Many of these arms will go into the contraband pipeline, and help fund more drugs, human traffiking, child soldiers, and terrorism. These arms will decrease security, increase human rights abuses, and in the long run will earn the US more enemies than friends.

2/2008 – You can read my article reviewing the documentary trail on the Origins of AFRICOM over at the African Loft.

Chicken shaped coffin
The Ghana poultry industry may need this if the EU keeps dumping frozen chicken in Ghana

The European Union is dumping frozen chicken in Ghana, and the developed countries are dumping rice as well. The EU is also using EPAs (economic partnership agreements) that devastate African agriculture. Farmers throughout Africa find their livelihoods under assault. Farm products are highly subsidized in the developed world. And the developed world preaches to Africa about how you must have “open markets.” Africa opens its markets to Europe, which then dumps its subsidized excess on Africa, undercutting prices, and putting African farmers, who are not subsidized, out of business.

In Ghana:

“People don’t want to buy local chicken because the imported ones are much cheaper” . . . Poultry farmers cannot recover their investments.

. . . For the last few years, the Ghanaian market has been flooded with cheap imported chicken from the European Union and the United States. These are usually fatty chicken parts that come in packages without labels. Nonetheless, demand for local poultry has collapsed, threatening the livelihoods of over 1,000 poultry farmers in both small and large-scale poultry farming in Ghana. In 2002 alone, more than 26,000 tonnes (one tonne is roughly the same measurement as a US ton) of chicken was imported into the country, mostly from the European Union where farmers receive generous subsidies for their products. In 2004, that figure was estimated to be as high as 40,000 tonnes.

Ghana imports almost one third of the EU frozen chicken that goes to Africa.

. . . Ghana’s position was further made hopeless when the poultry industry lost the battle with government not to reduce tariff on imported poultry.

This was seen by most farmers (poultry and rice) as a reversal of the government’s plan and pledge in 2003 to increase tariffs on imported poultry products and rice to boost their production in the country. The European Union, the source of most of the imported chicken provides 43 billion euros to its farmers annually.

. . . the removal of import customs barriers for European products would in fact put in direct competition the products often highly subsidised of one of the economically most advanced regions with those of the producers of some of the poorest countries in the world. He said this could accelerate the collapse of the poultry industry in Ghana and in West Africa as well.

Rice farming is in the same predicament, and equally endangered

The rice industry aptly epitomizes what open trade policy is doing to food security. Rice is a major food security crop providing cash incomes as well as food for the household, and therefore saving the local rice industry from collapse is paramount to ensuring food security for many households.
. . .
The removal of government subsidies and support have adversely affected the competitiveness of small farmers, and contributed to the unequal market situation whereby local Ghanaian farmers that received little state support have to compete with farmers and companies in developed countries that are heavily subsidized.
. . .
. . . increases in imported rice have diverted consumers away from local rice, with their preference shifting from the more nutritious local grains to the imported milled white rice.
. . .
The cheap imports of rice do not only undermine producers, processors and traders of local rice, but these imports also changed dietary preferences. They encourage consumers to buy imported rice instead of traditional foods such as yam, maize, plantain, cocoyam, etc. that are widely cultivated by female farmers.
. . .
It was in this regard that Civil Society Organisations that met in Accra earlier this month condemned the European Union for abusing the December deadline to put unjustifiable pressure on African governments to concede to its terms in the Economic Partnership Agreements.
. . .
They also cautioned African governments not to buy into the EU’s false claims. The CSOs from several African countries meeting in Accra, Ghana today re-stated that Africa has everything to lose and nothing to gain by signing EPAs with the European Union.

Dumping of rice in Ghana in the form of food aid has for long depressed the domestic price at the cost of Ghanaian rice growers.

Instead of EPAs, Ghana, and other African countries should adopt:

. . . the General System of Preference plus which will enable them to have access to EU market at levels similar to what they enjoy today, and this can even be improved.

“The EU claim that only the EPAs can guarantee this continued access is totally false”, said Tetteh Hormeku of Third World Network-Africa.

And other parts of Africa are suffering from the same EPAs:

. . . the hefty subsidies that European farmers receive while east African producers toil without government support. European products are therefore artificially cheap, and can be dumped on African markets while east African products are too costly to export.

. . .
Products regarded as sensitive are especially those from the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. The domestic market remains a critical outlet for Kenya’s mostly impoverished small-scale farmers. They are not able to compete against imported products or in export markets.
. . .
The Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra) has stated that unforeseen import surges can affect food security, livelihoods and rural development. Agriculture is the main employer and contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP) of low-income countries.

(In Kenya) agriculture contributes 16 percent of GDP and employs 75 percent of the workforce.

Western development “experts” have given consistently bad advice:

During the 1990s, when the international financial mantra was that governments should keep their hands off and let the free market work, many developing countries’ governments were told to stop negotiating prices and organising transport and marketing for thousands of small farmers. They did stop, but private substitutes for these services did not appear and thousands of little guys with limited access to market information, transport and credit were left to fend for themselves against large, sophisticated international buyers. And these farmers continue to compete with colleagues in developed countries who receive generous subsidies and whose home markets are protected by high tariffs.

This situation continues. Unless the governments in developing countries protect their agriculture, farms and jobs will be lost, and people will go hungry. This is also a major push out factor for workers in the developing world. Most people would rather stay in their own country if they can make a living there. But when you can’t make a living in one place, you’ll try and find a place where you can make a living. The alternative was voiced by a Zambian farmer-trade unionist . . . “If you will not pay us reasonable prices for our exports, we will export ourselves.”

Not a lot of time to write lately, but I thought I’d post this picture taken while driving through the countryside. I hope you enjoy it.

One tank full of ethanol for this Range Rover, a trip to the beach, a few commutes to work, will require enough grain to feed one person for one year.
Here’s a dumb energy idea – fight climate change by chopping down forests to grow biofuel crops:


Increasing production of biofuels to combat climate change will release between two and nine times more carbon gases over the next 30 years than fossil fuels, according to the first comprehensive analysis of emissions from biofuels.

It seems obvious that this is a really dumb idea, but that is just what international corporations and some really bad leadership in Africa are planning.

Africa appears to plunge from one corporate nightmare to another. Just as we begin to come to terms with the colonially-sponsored corporate conquest of our oil resources, along comes a new wave of ‘green’ companies turning fertile African lands to Northern ‘gold’. Senegalese president and agrofuel promoter Abdoulaye Wade has called this ‘a new revolution in Africa’. Others have likened it to ‘the new scramble for Africa’.
. . . large tracts of arable land are being sold off to the highest bidders with little regard for the repercussions on local populations livelihoods and food security.
. . .
A recent study published by the Africa Biodiversity Network (ABN) provides compelling evidence from Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Benin that the misguided scramble for projects could lead to an environmental and humanitarian disaster on the continent. For instance, Timothy Byakola reports that a plan is underway to convert a third of Uganda’s prime rainforest reserve, Mabira Forest, into agricultural land on which sugarcane will be planted for ethanol production. According to Byakola, President Yoweri Museveni has vociferously supported this controversial project, ignoring community opposition to it. The consequences of the deforestation of 7,100 hectares of one of the key water catchment sources for the Nile River and Lake Victoria, and the implications for the communities around Mabira which depend on the forest as a source of livelihood, are potentially enormous.
. . .
As with carbon trading, the agrofuels issue brings climate justice questions to the fore. In 2004 climate change activist George Monbiot warned that rising demand for biofuels will result in competition for food between cars and people. ‘The people would necessarily lose: those who can afford to drive are, by definition, richer than those who are in danger of starvation.’ He goes on to argue that the reason Northern governments are enthusiastic is because they don’t want to upset car drivers. He argues that biofuels ‘appear to reduce the amount of carbon from our cars, without requiring new taxes. It’s an illusion sustained by the fact that only the emissions produced at home count towards our national total.’

Grain prices, particularly maize and wheat are shooting through the roof. People are already going hungry in a number of countries as a result. And the switch to biofuel crops damages protein supply, driving up the price of animal feed, as well as the price of staple food crops. Food aid is dropping because the budgets alloted to it are fixed, but the price of the food is going up. At the same time, the biofuel “miracle plant” jatropha is growing on huge plantations. The reason jatropha was supposed to be a good idea is because it is tough enough to grow in arid and marginal lands. Instead, it is being grown instead of food. As the paragraph above points out, poor people will starve, and rich people will drive, fueled by the food taken from poor people’s mouths.

The governments of the poor countries will use their armies trained and equipped by the US and other rich countries, to control political dissent. Rich governments will be happy because they don’t have to pass unpopular regulations or raise taxes. The people in the rich countries will tut tut comfortably about how those poor people don’t know how to govern themselves. And even if biofuel contributes more to global warming than does fossil fuel, rich countries will meet their carbon targets, and won’t worry. It is probably a good thing the poor are always with us (Matthew 26:11) that way we can continue to rip them off and avoid any sacrifice or inconvenience to ourselves.

The Pentagon has reactivated its green and brown water Navy. Intense training is going on right now preparing for riverine warfare. New units are being created, and older units reorganized. The contractors have seen the trend and are devising products to get in on the action. They are in line to make a lot of money. One new product, pictured above, has been docked in Long Island.

The description of this boat refers to using it in Iraq, or using it for humanitarian and disaster relief. Riverine warfare is far too small a piece of the Iraq conflict to devote the riverine resources that are currently underway, or new weapons, such as this boat, and the training that is in progress. We saw how much the Bush administration cares about humanitarian relief with Katrina, and the aftermath in New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta. The idea that they would invest time or money in humanitarian relief is laughable.

As Mr. Greenspan said, the Iraq war is about oil, and so is the new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. The riverine warfare units and craft are designed for action in the Gulf of Guinea, protecting US oil interests. At about the same time as the announcement of AFRICOM, the Navy was underway with recreating its riverine warfare capability, neglected since the Vietnam War. No one mentions the Niger Delta, the Gulf of Guinea, or anything about Africa in articles about the new riverine warfare capability. But anyone who thinks African oil is not the reason for the buildup of a green and brown water Navy, is not paying attention to what is going on. The US already gets more oil from Africa than from Saudi Arabia.

An advanced prototype craft for riverine warfare, Joint Multi-mission Expeditionary Craft, JMEC-01, showed up on Long Island in the Oyster Bay Marina recently.

JMEC-01 contains 1,080 Horsepower generated by twin Cummins QSC 8.3-liter 540 HP turbocharged diesel engines that have been dropped into its aluminum hulled body. Propulsion and direction come in the form of water jets that pivot beneath the boat. The jets are designed to allow maneuverability into waters as shallow as 28 inches. Controlled by an aircraft-style joystick rather than the traditional captain’s wheel, the result is a 10-ton vehicle that behaves like a Jet Ski. Top cruise speed is officially listed as greater than 40kts (46mph), and it has been reported at speeds of up to 44kts (50 mph).
. . .
Further belying the simple workboat exterior, advanced electronics at four workstations enable the super-agile craft to act as a command and control center, not just as a basic responding vehicle. This means it is designed to coordinate activity both on land and on the water.
. . .

According to Northrop Grumman systems engineer Michael Moore, intelligence coordination on the JMEC boat docked here in Oyster Bay is accomplished through a variety of military and civilian systems that include UHF SatCom antennas for satellite relayed information; electro-optical/infrared and radar sensors with a 360-degree field of view; AIS, an Automatic Integration System that most big ships now have, to positively identify shipping traffic; and a specialized onboard Integrated Communication System by Gentex-Telephonics that allows crewmembers to receive information through their normal headsets up to a quarter of a mile away. Said Moore, “When we’re out on the water, we are connected through a network with, for example, Blue Force Tracking Software (an emerging standard that identifies troop locations and helps reduce friendly fire incidents) to know where we are and where other, ‘friendlies’ are.” Pointing to the mast at the stern of the craft, Moore continued, “Those two antennas are called Rover antennas. Rover is a data link that connects to data coming from unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and their sensors, for example streaming video or still images, and these can be displayed on monitors. We are connected to the Internet and run the clients (onboard computers) in real time aboard the boat.”

. . . advanced electronics at four workstations enable the super-agile craft to act as a command and control center, not just as a basic responding vehicle. This means it is designed to coordinate activity both on land and on the water. This has military, Homeland Security, and emergency/humanitarian implications.
. . .
JMEC-01 is a high technology demonstrator jointly funded in a partnership between Aluminum Chambered Boats of Bellingham, Washington, and Northrop Grumman. There is no government aid and there is no promise of any follow-on contract. Aluminum Chambered Boats provided the hull and structure, and Northrop Grumman provided the sophisticated electronic communications and warfare systems. It is a proposal intended to show that the two companies are serious about filling these emerging needs, and that they have the capabilities to do so.
Wilkers emphasized that the craft’s layout is a test bed and that the configuration is a suggestion. . . . Company literature lists at least five different potential variants.

Assuming this craft can do what it promises, reliably in challenging conditions, it should be a formidable piece of equipment. The intended use is obvious to anyone paying attention. The question is, how will it actually be used? And who will use it? The Bush administration has outsourced so much of defense and intelligence, they don’t know what is being sold to who. And so far as news reports indicate, they don’t care. The Niger militants and guerilla entrepreneurs, and the dealers in illegal bunkering and contraband have plenty of money to spend on weapons. Weapons are a major piece of the contraband business. Militarizing one side just results in militarizing the other side in a conflict. It would be nice if the US government, the Nigerian government and the other Gulf of Guinea governments would put a bit of effort into attempting some political solutions. Unfortunately, it seems like the Bush administration does not know how to talk to people, or to make deals. Their foreign policy is to threaten war or to attack, the only trick they know.

While the defense contractors are designing weapons, the Navy is training for its new riverine responsibilities.

The SH-60 Seahawk swoops low over the York River, banks right toward the crane ship Flickertail State, hovers 20 feet above and, within seconds, a series of sailors in flight suits and skateboarding helmets rapidly slide down a rope and onto the ship.

This type of vessel boarding — used when a ship refuses to allow a visit by small boat — is a specialty of special operators, and it’s dangerous enough that it’s been left to them, until now. The only kind of boarding more dangerous is when the suspect ship actively resists.

But the sailors now searching the cargo ship for contraband or so-called ‘bad actors’ are not SEALs. They are fleet sailors assigned to “Unexpected Company” — the new helicopter-borne Visit, Board, Search and Seizure team of Mobile Security Squadron 2.

Its 24 handpicked sailors have been training since February to learn the techniques usually left to special operators but now taken on by the ever-evolving Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.

. . .
Known as COMET — for Command and Control, Operational Maritime Training — the two-week exercise is another step toward certifying NECC’s coastal warfare, riverine, expeditionary logistics and other units to operate with a strike group. Its scenarios were based on the fictional nations of Sapphire and Mica, the same countries used for a recent deployment certification of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.
. . .
A major element has been establishing command and control of the disparate units and testing new unmanned aerial vehicles such as the hand-held, 10-ounce Wasp, which is launched with a slingshot.

Weapons and training activities are designed with the Gulf of Guinea in mind.

A number of years ago I read The Power Broker, about Robert Moses, the man who more than anyone else, is responsible for how and where roads are built in the US. It is also one of the best books you can read for to understand how politics works in the US. Robert Moses pushed to get projects underway and partially built, even before they were fully approved. Once a project is already under construction it becomes much more difficult for legislatures, or other governing bodies to stop the project, or withhold the funds. People are stuck with the project, whether it is a good idea or not. That was part of Moses technique for getting what he wanted done. Bush is doing something similar with the Iraq war, and with AFRICOM. I hope the US government will have the toughness and courage to change direction once he is gone. I’m not holding my breath until it happens.

Nigeria, South Africa, and several North African countries have now spoken out strongly against hosting the Africa Command. The US is claiming that Africom is just an aid agency with guns. But given the US military policy of Full Spectrum Dominance, it seems unlikely that development aid is what the US has in mind. This is particularly true in light of the fact that:

Since the beginning of the war on terrorism in 2001, the United States’ top 10 sources of oil imports have experienced a 350 percent increase in U.S. military aid and training.

Nigeria may be trying to reinforce the economic clout it has in West Africa, maintaining and expanding the hegemony it has enjoyed to date. Not all of the countries in West Africa will find this an appealing prospect.

Likewise, South Africa is probably trying to maintain and expand its hegemony in southern Africa. And not all countries in southern Africa will see this as benign.

And both countries would like to increase their clout throughout the continent. Nevertheless, both of these countries are IN Africa, which gives them some a bit more right to speak FOR Africa than countries on other continents.

The US will try to drive wedges between these countries and their neighbors, but the US, and its full spectrum dominance approach, is hardly benign either. The US interests are oil and terrorism. Regardless of what is said to African leaders or the African press, oil and terrorism is how Africom is reported in the US press. Like the “communists” of the cold war, who became anyone who stood between the US and what it wanted, “terrorists” are anyone who stands between the US and oil. The US version of the colony is the military base.

China has been ruthlessly exploiting resources throughout southeast Asia, and there is no reason to suppose it will suddenly become more selfless and benign as it operates in Africa.

There are a whole lot of rocks and hard places ahead.

The Flagship of Nigerian Navy – NNS ARADU

From Stratfor comes this assessment:

Nigeria is moving to block AFRICOM, the U.S. combat command for Africa, from establishing itself in the Gulf of Guinea region. A few countries will go along with Nigeria, but oil and natural gas newcomers Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe probably will resist the move.

And Uzodinma Iweala asks:

I just wonder if YarAdua and his foreign/defense policy people are savvy enough to actually thwart this. What would it take?

1.) Security agreements with all of the major players (probably even a security agreement with the US). When our navy can’t even deal with oil bunkerers or the Niger Delta we’re going to go and patrol X thousand square miles of Open Ocean.

2.) Economic inducements (which we can do with Sao Tome and some of the smaller countries but we can’t hope to compete with the coercive economic power of the US)

3.) Pan African solidarity (almost laughable)

4.) A MAJOR arms/security deal with China (bingo! lets further sell ourselves to the Chinese).

I pray to God the US keeps out of this… otherwise you’ll see our leaders make some really foolish decisions perhaps more so than they’ve done in the past.

Nigeria seems to have come to the same conclusion I did, that the US is using terrorism to blackmail Nigeria into hosting a military base. There may be other reasons for the US playing the terror card.

There are plenty of other problems for the countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, including devastating amounts of illegal fishing by European and Asian countries, drug and arms and other contraband smuggling, and plenty more. I know I read somewhere, but don’t know if it is true or exaggerated for humor, that the Nigerian Navy has more admirals than ships.

Also, Kufuor is due to be in the US this week. It seems likely the US will ratchet up the pressure on him. He also owes a lot to Nigeria.

At last West Africa speaks up! Nigeria says NO to AFRICOM.

From This Day:

The Federal Government has begun moves to frustrate the plan by the United States to establish a military base in the Gulf of Guinea.
. . .

“Nigeria is not taking the issue lightly at all and the government is not going to allow the US establish any military base anywhere in the ECOWAS region. The interest of the US government in the Gulf of Guinea has reinforced the commitment of the government to intensify its efforts at providing the needed security in the sub-region,” the source said.

It was learnt that the Federal Government was worried by the terror alert raised by the US authorities last week and saw it as a ploy to label Nigeria and countries in the sub region as unsafe in order to get the opportunity to create a military base in the region.

As a first step to checkmate that plan, the FG has vowed to frustrate the campaign by the US to establish a base in the gulf.

“The government of this country is not ready for any blackmail. What they cannot get through the back doors they want to get through blackmail. We are not going to succumb to that game,” the source said.

I think this can only be good news. While Nigeria’s governments have not demonstrated any great responsiveness to the needs of her people to date, or established any reputation for good governance; letting the US recolonize the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea will cause a great deal more suffering. The present US government is not capable of running the US, and has destroyed Iraq. Until the US can demonstrate both competence and good intentions, all countries should be wary in their dealings with it.

Iweala, born here to Nigerian parents, wrote “Beasts of No Nation” after meeting a Ugandan war survivor. “This huge story came out of it,” he says. (photo By Susan Biddle — The Washington Post)

Concluding b real‘s comment on the previous post is this quotation:

he who captures the symbols by which public feeling is for the moment contained, controls by that much the approaches of public policy. … a leader or an interest that can make itself master of current symbols is the master of the current situationwalter lippmann

Today Africa has many successes throughout the continent. Unfortunately, one rarely hears of these successes. Rather one hears of war, famine, and natural disaster. Africans are portrayed as helpless, people whose survival, and whose success, is entirely dependent on the generosity of the developed world. This narrative is constantly reinforced by celebrity condescension, Bono (see Kameelah’s observations on Bono) for example, or the constant humanitarian ad campaigns that portray suffering children. Humanitarian ads pop up constantly on television, magazines, the internet, reinforcing the picture of helpless suffering in Africa.

Back in July, Uzodinma Iweala wrote in the Washington Post about “humanitarian” campaigns:

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. News reports constantly focus on the continent’s corrupt leaders, warlords, “tribal” conflicts, child laborers, and women disfigured by abuse and genital mutilation. These descriptions run under headlines like “Can Bono Save Africa?” or “Will Brangelina Save Africa?” The relationship between the West and Africa is no longer based on openly racist beliefs, but such articles are reminiscent of reports from the heyday of European colonialism, when missionaries were sent to Africa to introduce us to education, Jesus Christ and “civilization.”
There is no African, myself included, who does not appreciate the help of the wider world, but we do question whether aid is genuine or given in the spirit of affirming one’s cultural superiority. My mood is dampened every time I attend a benefit whose host runs through a litany of African disasters before presenting a (usually) wealthy, white person, who often proceeds to list the things he or she has done for the poor, starving Africans. Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe. Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head — because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West’s fantasy of itself. And not only do such depictions tend to ignore the West’s prominent role in creating many of the unfortunate situations on the continent, they also ignore the incredible work Africans have done and continue to do to fix those problems.

In advertising itself as a humanitarian agency, dispensing aid with guns, AFRICOM is riding on the back of these condescending perceptions.

But there is a much nastier side to the perceptions enabling Africom, its exploitation of terror and those it calls terrorists. And a large part of this exploitation is taking advantage of traditional racism in the US. Racism is an important piece of American political history and discourse, though these days the language of racism is carefully coded.

Pictures of the Niger Delta miltants touch the core of this racism, which has been described most eloquently by digby, including in posts on the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans.
The government wanted to quell the violence first — violence we continued to hear a lot about, but never actually saw. Rumors of gang rapes and shoot outs and even necrophilia in the convention center and the Superdome continued to be reported all day in the media as we watched the dehydrated elderly and crying babies waiting for rescue.

I remember watching what was happening in New Orleans and feeling there was a huge disconnect between what I was hearing and what I was seeing. Even so, I didn’t completely discredit what I was hearing, I just couldn’t make sense of it. If there was so much violence and danger, how come with camera crews all over, there were NO pictures of violence? TV loves pictures of violence, if there had been violence to film, we would have seen it.

Ever since 1791, there have been white Americans who get very nervous when they see a large number of angry black people in one place. That was the year that Haiti’s slaves rebelled and killed almost every Frenchman on the island. The fear of slave revolt — black revolt — entered the consciousness of the American lizard brain and has never left. From Gabriel Prosser to Nat Turner to Malcolm X to Stokely Carmichael and the long hot summers of 66 and 67, notions of barbaric vengeance being wreaked upon unsuspecting white people has lurked in our racist subconscious.
. . .
During the 60’s the anger became explicit and words like “by any means necessary” reached deep into the American psyche and fueled the backlash against the civil rights movement — and set the conditions for the Republican dominance of politics today.

Race is America’s deepest psychic wound that festers in different ways over and over again. It has lost much of its original blazing pain, but it is still there, buried and waiting to come to the surface.

I work with many white people who would be deeply shocked if someone were to call them racist. But I often hear comments revealing underlying assumptions about the helplessness of Africans, and the dangerousness of black people. And it isn’t just white people. I remember working in a city neighborhood during the 80s, where the mostly African American youth referred to Tarzan movies as a reference point when they talked about Africa. And I worked with a black colleague who was trying to change jobs so she would work mostly with white people because she didn’t like working with black people. Race truly is a psychic wound in America.

This is NOT to say that Africom is about racism. I don’t think that is true at all. I think it is about oil, and that it is about terrorism only insofar as exploiting terrorism is useful to coopting the oil. But Africom is carried along by the tide of American racial fears and perceptions. And the people who bring us Africom, the Bush GOP, have shown repeatedly that they are happy to exploit racial fears for gain.

Returning to the celebrity/humanitarian narrative, aside from gratuitous insults, what worries me is the macro aspect of the celebrity condescension and “humanitarian” ad campaigns. By painting Africans as people unable to help themselves, the celebrity humanitarian narrative, and the media attention it gets, make it much easier for the US, using Africom, to engage in imperial acquisition in the name of humanitarian aid and development. “They” are helpless and dangerous, so “we” need guns to help them. Africom presents a new and lethal round of western exploitation.

b real wrote in his comment on the previous post about the cover of a book on terrorism:

i recently finished reading a book, the history of terrorism: from antiquity to al qaeda, which i cannot recommend btw, and one of the things about it that perplexes me is the cover. the front photo is a shot of a boatload of niger delta militants, donning camo, masks, and clutching their AK-47’s, however, there is nothing in the book at all about the niger delta. there is a mention of nigeria, in that no international act of terrorism has ever occurred in nigeria, but, otherwise, the cover is entirely out of context. unless the message is that coal-black men w/ guns equates to terrorism. but again, that falls in the domain of the psychological characteristic of terrorism.

we already see how easy it is to evoke emotional reactions to stereotypical images of arabs in respect to western concepts of terrorists to “legitimize” u.s. foreign policies.

is that part of what is in store for africa, as the u.s. “takes” the GWOT to the continent? playing on white fears of stereotyped images of black men? hope i’m not reading too much into that one picture, but it’s really got me thinking about stereotypes.

I do not think the cover of the book was accidental. I wouldn’t necessarily blame the author, authors have varying degrees of control over the cover art, often none. Editors have a lot of say in the choice of artwork. As digby points out, the recent Republican majorities owe a great deal of their power and position to exploitation and manipulation of racial fears and attitudes, from Reagan and his talk of welfare queens, to Lee Atwater, to Karl Rove. The language is coded now. Open racism is generally not socially acceptable. And now, many of the people who are attacking immigrants have personal roots in the white supremacy movement. I have been worried for awhile about how the images of the militant young men in the Niger Delta might be used in ramping up terror fears. For many Americans these men will be the essence of danger and “other”, and it will be very easy to see them as terrorists, and very easy to persuade people that it is important to “do something” about them.

US Marines aboard the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa command ship USS Mount Whitney hone their small arms skills as she sails to the Indian Ocean. Photo: US Navy. (2003)

Newsweek has an oddly revealing headline on a recent article:

The United States is planning a new strategic command to take the global War on Terror to the Horn of Africa.
Note that the US is taking the War on Terror with it. As one of the soldiers quoted says: “It’s the Peace Corps with a weapon.” The US appears to be making a serious claim it can dispense aid from the barrel of a gun.

The policy has been a resounding failure so far:

Perhaps the biggest source of concern is the recent U.S. track record in the Horn of Africa, where Washington has been pursuing an increasingly militarized policy for more than a year with disastrous results . . . (The US has) failed spectacularly.

US citizens and taxpayers have not recognized or acknowledged the US has become an imperial power. It is not a position that sits well with the founding principles of the country. And the goal of Full Spectrum Dominance, described in an earlier post, is the essence of imperialism.

And then there is this from the Christian Century:

According to Chalmers Johnson in his book Nemesis, officially the U.S. has 737 military bases located in 132 of the 190 countries belonging to the United Nations. But the official count fails to mention bases in Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq and several other Middle Eastern countries. The DOD also doesn’t count the extensive military facilities maintained by the U.S. in Britain that nominally belong to the Royal Air Force. And then there are host countries, like Jordan, that—for the sake of relations with their own people—want to be able to deny that they have an American military presence. Johnson concludes that the total number of overseas bases is over 1,000 and that even the Pentagon doesn’t know how many there are for certain.

Overseas bases range from large, permanent facilities such as the ones in Germany, complete with officers’ clubs, bowling alleys and activity centers, to the “lily pad” bases constructed in areas of instability, which contain prepositioned weapons and munitions and have little or no American presence.
. . .
The presence of U.S. military bases breeds resentment in many of the host countries. Sometimes host countries themselves are expected to pay part of the cost of the bases. The conditions negotiated for the establishment of the bases are often not in the best interests of the host countries. The long-term presence of war matériel can have a devastating impact on the local environment. And American personnel are often insensitive toward local culture and customs, providing yet another offense to host countries.

. . . the U.S. is “an empire . . . that dare not speak its name. It is an empire in denial.” We won’t be able to overcome this state of denial until we realize what is happening in our name and with our tax dollars.

No country should welcome a US base on its soil at the present time.

I certainly hope the change in US government that should be coming in 2008 will begin to look at this realistically and begin to move away from it. For one thing, it is a path to economic disaster, for the US, and for everyone the US touches. I sense political changes coming in the US, but I don’t yet have a good sense of the direction. If the US can hang on to its democracy, changes in a democracy happen slowly. Large numbers of people rarely change direction all together at once.

Many people have noted that terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy. An enemy is someone who uses this tactic against you. So far, Bush administration actions have increased the use of the terror tactic all around the world, empowering terrorists, and putting the people of many countries at greater risk of violence.

In Mali, this machine can turn the local nut into fuel.

The New York Times had an article today about growing Jatropha curcas in Mali for use as biofuel, Mali’s farmers discover a weed’s potential power.

. . . jatropha is being hailed by scientists and policy makers as a potentially ideal source of biofuel, a plant that can grow in marginal soil or beside food crops, that does not require a lot of fertilizer and yields many times as much biofuel per acre planted as corn and many other potential biofuels. By planting a row of jatropha for every seven rows of regular crops, Mr. Banani could double his income on the field in the first year and lose none of his usual yield from his field.

Poor farmers living on a wide band of land on both sides of the equator are planting it on millions of acres, hoping to turn their rockiest, most unproductive fields into a biofuel boom. They are spurred on by big oil companies like BP and the British biofuel giant D1 Oils, which are investing millions of dollars in jatropha cultivation.
. . .
But here in Mali, one of the poorest nations on earth, a number of small-scale projects aimed at solving local problems — the lack of electricity and rural poverty — are blossoming across the country to use the existing supply of jatropha to fuel specially modified generators in villages far off the electrical grid.

“We are focused on solving our own energy problems and reducing poverty,” said Aboubacar Samaké, director of a government project aimed at promoting renewable energy.

If jatropha can be grown in conjunction with food crops, as the article implies, in a manner that actually facilitates local development, that would be a great boon. The article also describes huge plantations of jatropha for biofuel:

Countries like India, China, the Philippines and Malaysia are starting huge plantations, betting that jatropha will help them to become more energy independent and even export biofuel.
. . . farmers in India are already expressing frustration that after being encouraged to plant huge swaths of the bush they have found no buyers for the seeds. (And who paid for the seeds for the crop, and to put the land into cultivation? Are these farmers now in debt based on someone else’s speculation?)

For more information on the jatropha plant in Africa there is an article here from a biofuel corporation. And another document with a bit more information about some of the questions, and about storing and processing here: PDF: Jatropha investment in Africa:

. . . biofuel has been accused of having a negative energy payback . . . but there is great variation in the energy paybacks for various biofuels.
Jatropha is a perennial, yielding oil seed for decades after planting, and it can grow without irrigation in arid conditions where corn and sugar cane could never thrive.
. . . the oil . . . burns without emitting smoke.

As the pdf document points out, jatropha needs to be handled and processed quickly, with attention to certain factors such as guarding it from moisture, or the product will be damaged and degraded, and not necessarily usable. Some of the questions about its practicality have not been resolved.

Added April 2008: I crossed out the lines above because the link is dead. I found some information about the processing in another location. This article is about 3 years old, and is rather naively optimistic about jatropha’s potential yields, but it does contain some general information that is useful to know about processing jatropha.

From Jatropha in Africa:

1) Jatropha oil is hydroscopic – absorbs water and needs nitrogen blanketing on steel tanks. One issue that is quite clear is because Jatropha is high in acid, it has the tendency to degrade quickly, particularly if not handled properly through the supply chain.

2) Right from the time of expelling, the oil needs to be kept in storage conditions that prevent undue degradation. Exposure to air and moisture must be minimized – hence the need for nitrogen blanketing on the tanks.
. . .
Seeds degrade as soon as they are picked and so careful storage and handling is required. In the warm humid atmosphere in countries such as Ghana the degradation of seeds can be rapid. (end 2008 addition)

Other things I’ve been reading lately may or may not be relevant to this issue.

Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could change the nature of grasslands and decrease their usefulness as grazing pastures, say researchers . . . Woody shrubs . . . thrived.
. . .
The main reason why these woody shrubs out-compete grasses in conditions of high carbon dioxide, says Morgan, is because their method of photosynthesis is better suited to high levels of the gas.

The major concern, he says, is that woody shrubs . . . are unpalatable to most domestic livestock, so domination by these types of plants would render land poor for grazing.

. . . there is already evidence of shrub encroachment in many grasslands of the world.

Jatropha is a woody shrub and might be advantaged by this climate change. I’m not sure what the implications are for food or fuel, though I can guess at a few. There are some suggestions on how to control this change:

. . . a possible way to lessen the transformation of grasslands is to use controlled burning, which kills shrubs but not grasses, and to prevent overgrazing, which weakens grasses and allows woody plants to move in.

I think the question to ask about jatropha is, does the crop provide direct advantage to the local farmers and their community rather than promising some trickle down advantage later, a promised advantage that will likely never arrive. And, are the farmers still able to feed themselves and their communities, and profit from growing food?

For centuries slavers ravaged this coastline and sailed up the Congo river, and from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries one and a half million slaves were sent from here in a triangular trade that took slaves to the Americas, American cotton and sugar to Europe, and European goods to Africa. Slavers gave guns and money to local potentates, who ruled from colonial trading posts and drained the tribes of the interior, subverting local politics in ways that are eerily reminiscent of today’s oil trade.

Other curious similiarities exist. You can find one at Pointe Indienne, a quiet area of coastal bush and farmland, where bamboo thickets tumble down to a pretty beach and where onshore oil wells flare gas that lights up the bush and warm surf at night. . . . This was the regions main slave export point, and it was also at this very spot, in 1957, that oil was first found in Congo. Museum documents say they crammed three hundred to five hundred slaves per boat, making them dance to tone their muscles and to stop them slipping into “melancholy,” and a good male nègre à talent was worth the annual wage of a ship’s captain (females fetched 25 percent less). You can play mischievously with this data. Take a tanker captain’s wage today of, say, $100,000, multiply by 500, and this values a boatful of slaves at $50 million in today’s money — about the same as a million-barrel oil cargo.
(Poisoned Wells by Nicholas Shaxson, p.106-7, ISBN 978-1403971944)

It may be that one can make too much of this conjunction and comparison. Yet it certainly has symbolic resonance.

Playing on people’s fears is about the only thing the Bush administration knows how to do well. Every time Bush dipped in the polls in his first term, and before the 2004 election, a new terror threat was announced and the US would suddenly have a heightened terror alert. Now Bush cannot run again, he does not have so much need of terror alerts in the US. But it looks like they still might be useful elsewhere.

LAGOS, Sept 6 (Reuters) – U.S. and other Western interests in Nigeria are at risk of “terrorist attack”, the United States embassy in Africa’s top oil producer said on Thursday.

The official warning, in a message for U.S. citizens in Nigeria, gave few details, but said potential targets included official and commercial installations in the capital Abuja and the commercial city of Lagos.

“The U.S. Mission in Nigeria has received information that U.S. and other Western interests in Nigeria are currently at risk for terrorist attack,” the statement said.

In Washington, a U.S. official said the advisory was based on “very nonspecific threat information.”
. . .
Analysts said the alert on Nigeria, which is the fifth largest oil supplier to the United States, could be related to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Or, could these “threats” be related to attempts to find a home for Africom?

If countries are truly concerned about terrorism, the US under Bush is about the last place I would think they would want to turn for advice or help. And hosting a large US military installation seems like an invitation to trouble. Bush and company have had NO successes in their “war on terror” other than keeping the American people sufficiently scared, and manipulating the vote just enough to keep Bush in office. Look at Afghanistan, where the US could have made a difference, but blew the opportunity. Or look at the needless destruction of Iraq, which is now a breeding and training ground for terrorists. Or look at the absence of successful terror prosecutions, because their cases can’t stand up in courts, even courts packed with their own judges.

Back in June North African countries signaled their unwillingness to host Africom. And Southern Africa, the SADC, has said no, with South Africa being particularly vocal. West Africa, ECOWAS, and East African countries have not sounded such a unified voice. But the press I read from every country, with the possible exception of Liberia, shows the citizens as being overwhelmingly opposed to hosting US troops on African soil.

In July, Theresa Whelan, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Africa tried to drive a wedge between African countries.

Answering questions about her government’s response to the outright rejection of Africom by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Whelan said that would be fine, but that the US would simply cut off military relations with SADC as an organisation while continuing to engage with amenable countries in Southern Africa on an individual basis.

And neo-con Africa “expert” Peter Pham chimed in early August with more wedging action:

. . . smaller countries will tend to view the new command as a potential hedge against the aspirations of their larger neighbors to regional hegemony, while larger nations may conversely come to view AFRICOM as a potential obstacle to those ambitions. That certainly appears to be case with South Africa.

As the previous South African article concludes:

It is apparent that there is a considerable gap to be closed between African and US perceptions of each other’s legitimate security interests and how these should find expression in military and security co-operation.

I have no doubt South Africa wants to flex its muscles. And I have some reservations about their actions in Ghana at times. But I am terrified at the thought of Bush messing up Ghana, or any other African country, calling anyone who gets in the way of US oil interests a terrorist. In politics it is often important to avail oneself of allies where you find them. It can pay off with improvements in the long run. And South Africa is part of Africa, and has a right to speak in this regard. Africa is still vulnerable, and it is still iffy as to whether individual countries will stand up to the Africa Command.

Added September 7:
b real brings some important information and questions to the issue. I’ll excerpt from his comment below, but please read the full comment for details:

consider the following as a possible motive for the “nonspecific” terror threat in nigeria.

OPEC is meeting in vienna on 11 sept. there have been stories over the past week, quoting different OPEC representatives, that the cartel would not be increasing output at the upcoming meeting.

for instance, see tuesday’s african oil journal: OPEC Will Not Increase Production at the Next Meeting on Sept 11

Qatar’s energy minister on Tuesday declared that there were no plans to increase crude oil production at next week’s OPEC meeting in Vienna as the 12-nation cartel sees no shortages in the market.
. . .
after the announcement of the “terror” threat to production & distribution facilities in the niger delta, crude prices have increased.
Oil climbs on Mid-East tension, US inventory falls
. . .
so could this warning from the u.s. embassy in abuja be part of a tactic to help push the price of crude up so high that it puts more pressure on OPEC to increase quotas next tuesday?

or is it a ploy to push up the price in order to grab a lot of quick profits? perhaps of which some of that $$$ is needed to help stabilize the troubled financiers requiring bailout in the us?

or is it part of a campaign to justify an increased military presence in the delta? the “year-long trial deployment of a U.S. navy vessel to the region in October” is just around the corner, after all.

or has there actually been a legit threat from one of the militant groups or gangs warning specifically of the targeting of u.s. installations? definitely not enough info in the few news copies on the warning right now to determine how serious to take it, although the stuff like the former u.s. ambassador to nigeria’s story about AQ finding haven in nigeria can be dismissed out of hand for the baloney that it is. which lowers the credibility of threat itself, leading me to wonder about a connection to the OPEC meeting this tuesday.

Koforidua market 2007

I’ve been reading up on green revolution, agricultural initiatives, zombie crops, terminator seeds, genetic modification, patenting life, and a variety of related topics. So far I am just beginning to get an understanding, and to try and put it all together. In recent years I’ve been concentrating on the specifics of getting our farms up and running, and have not paid enough attention to the bigger picture. But there is a lot going on in the big picture that can effect our little farms, and I’ll try to get to those issues in upcoming weeks. For today I thought I’d share this lovely picture of the Koforidua market, taken this summer, featuring some of Ghana’s beautiful tomatoes.

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