March 2008

AFRICOM’s HQ in West Africa is up at the African Loft. It looks as if AFRICOM may go with a sea base for the West African regional headquarters. That way they can move it to whatever country falls within their interest.

Now that the US is exploring sea basing off West Africa and in the Gulf of Guinea, these questions posed by Africa Action’s Gerald LeMelle take on even greater urgency:

  • Who does the United States intend to stabilize by introducing more military equipment and approving more arms sales into the region?
  • How does the United States decide when to use force in “stabilizing” a conflict?
  • If people are protesting unfair corporate practices near the grounds of an oil company, will the United States use force, or encourage the use of force by African military units, to protect these corporate assets?
  • Will U.S. soldiers be accountable in any way to African governments or their citizens?
  • To what degree will the United States employ mercenaries and other contractors in Africa?
  • Will U.S. economic interests trump the rule of law, democracy and accountability in Africa?

USS FORT MCHENRY, at sea — Marines from 4th Landing Support Battalion and Sailors from Amphibious Construction Battalion 2, position a seven-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle as it is moved from the USNS 2nd Lt. John Bobo, a maritime prepositioning ship, onto the Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) March 21. The Marines are transferring the equipment in order to evaluate the INLS at sea and to conduct a humanitarian assistance mission in Monrovia, Liberia as part of West African Training Cruise 2008. The WATC 08 exercise began March 17 and runs through April 5 in concert with the ongoing African Partnership Station deployment with a focus on the delivery of humanitarian assistance supplies to various clinics and schools here from a sea-based command. (Department of Defense photo by Marine Sgt. Rocco DeFilippis)

US Marines engaged in an exercise off the coast of Liberia to test sea basing capabilities. An AFRICOM base has not been welcomed in any African country except Liberia. The Pentagon has been planning for some time to create sea bases where they may not be welcome on the land. Implementation of sea basing has now begun. And where better to practice than offshore of a country where they are welcome, and by bringing much needed medical and school supplies.

Back in July 2007 Nick Turse wrote in Planet Pentagon:

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.

That is now coming to pass:

With the help of the Navy’s Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One, 19 Marines of 4th LSB employed new concepts and equipment during the exercise designed to evaluate the progress of the seabasing model.

“This sea-basing portion is designed to take future operational concepts and execute them using today’s platforms,” said Michael Harvey, prepositioning officer, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe. “We are taking equipment that was originally designed for ship-to-shore movement and we are using it as a ship-to-ship connecter.”

Assisted by their naval counterparts, the Marines’ mission was to transfer seven Marine Corps vehicles embarked on the USNS 2nd Lt. John Bobo of the Maritime Preposition Squadron One, to the Navy’s new Improved Navy Lighterage System. The INLS is a system of floating causeways designed to move equipment from ship-to-shore. After a short ride on the INLS, the Marines drove the vehicles from the INLS platforms directly into the well deck of the USS Fort McHenry, where they are being prepared for the next phases of WATC 08.

“We are dealing with multiple naval platforms during this exercise, tying in with African Partnership Station,” said Marine Lt. Col. Clarence R. Edmonds, Eurasia regional planner, Marine Forces Europe. “[The INLS] gives us the stable platform we need to offload vehicles and equipment from one ship to another at sea.”

The exercise marked the first time that the INLS had been assembled and used in an open sea environment, Edmonds said. The capabilities provided by the INLS make it possible for the Marine Corps to operate in more flexible ways.

“The sea-basing environment gives us the opportunity to offload select equipment, materials and supplies to conduct arrival and assembly operations at sea,” Edmonds said. “This gives us multiple capabilities to execute a mission ashore, within a very limited time frame and with a very limited footprint [ashore].”

The mission was welcomed in Monrovia:

MONROVIA, Liberia (March 27, 2008) (linked page by Marine Sgt. Rocco DeFilippis no longer available)– The streets were lined with hundreds of smiling faces and thumbs-up signs. Happy shouts of “Marines!” were directed towards a humanitarian assistance convoy of two seven-ton trucks and several humvees laden with thousands of dollars worth of hospital and school supplies making their way slowly through the city of Monrovia, Liberia.
. . .

The supplies consisted of multiple disposable medical supplies, furniture, text books and other school supplies. The total value of the items to be delivered over the two days is $58,000.

“Today is a day that the Lord has made, because we have been long awaiting these supplies to come in,” said Rev. Elwood Jangaba, director of Agencies for Holistic Evangelism and Development International associated with the Logan Town clinic. “I think they are going to make a great impact to the community when we see the health care delivery system in this community brought to life.”

“We are working to establish those friendly relationships while at the same time exposing the Marines to a new and different culture,” said Maj. Jason Smith, convoy commander and a Marysville, Wash., native. “I wouldn’t call (the supplies) luxury items, but these supplies will provide a definite improvement to the quality of life at these facilities.”
. . .
“It’s not only a great training exercise, but it’s a good opportunity to experience something new working with another country in peace-time environment,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon S. Malone, 4th LSB heavy equipment operator and Vienna, Ohio native.

. . .

“Because of the magnitude of the exercise, the Marines knew that preparation for this mission would be key,” Smith said. “All of the Marines have put a lot of time into this outside their own regularly scheduled training. All of the Marines were really excited once they got this opportunity.”

The convoy fits into the larger picture of WATC 08, by serving as a component of a sea-basing exercise. During the first phases, equipment aboard Maritime Prepositioning Ships USNS 2nd Lt John Bobo and USNS Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat was linked up with forces from aboard the USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), assembled at sea and then transferred between the naval platforms using the Improved Navy Lighterage System. Using the causeways and ferry system that makes up the INLS, the Marines were capable of moving vehicles from ship-to-ship in open seas for the first time.

“The importance of this phase for the Marine Corps is two fold,” said Lt. Col. Roy Edmonds, exercise support team officer-in-charge and native of Dallas. “Not only does it show that we can operate from a sea base, transit through an austere port and execute a humanitarian assistance mission; but it also gives us an opportunity to conduct security cooperation with the Armed Forces of Liberia and establish positive relations through good will.”

You can find pictures of the exercise and more at the Photo Gallery – African Partnership Station

I am very glad the US brought medical and school supplies to Liberia. I think the US owes Liberia a lot more than it has begun to deliver. But all of West Africa should take notice of this initial exercise in sea basing. AFRICOM is a combatant command. US assistance to Africa in recent years has mostly been massive military investment and transfer of arms and weapons, primarily to those countries that produce oil. A sea base provides far more freedom, flexibility, and access to interfere in the sovereign affairs of African countries. At this point, this is particularly true for West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. The dangers have just gone up.

AFRICOM has raised the interest in African languages such that they have appointed a new head of the Defense Language Institute who is a specialist in African languages:

Appointment of an old Africa hand as commandant of the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey seems to reflect the emerging importance of that continent to U.S. military thinkers and planners.

Army Col. Sue Ann Sandusky took command of the language school in October, the same month that the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) — a unified combatant command of the Defense Department headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, and responsible for U.S. military operations in, and military relations with, 53 African nations — was established.

The command is responsible for all of Africa, except Egypt.

Sandusky, 55, has served as a defense and Army attaché in U.S. embassies in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. She completed the French language course at DLI in 1992, and her first assignment to Africa was as a student at the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Staff College.

Prior to her appointment as commandant of the language school, she was director of African studies at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.

AFRICOM will provide “a single focus on the continent of Africa” and be dedicated full time to the military aspect of U.S. policy there, she said.

She also emphasizes the idea of “stabilizing” what they call “failed states”.

One of the elements that has triggered military interest in the continent, she said, has been an effort to prevent parts of Africa from becoming “failed” or “fragile” states — “ungoverned spaces” where terrorists can organize and operate freely.

That interest has been reflected in publication of a new Army field manual “that has elevated stability operations to the level of combat operations” in importance, operations that apply to failing states and nation-building, Sandusky said.

“You don’t have to have an active, hot conflict to apply them,” she said, adding that AFRICOM sees its mission as more related to stabilization than combat.

“It’s clear that a large component of stabilization has to do with understanding the culture you’re operating in. That is directly related to what we’re doing at DLI,” she said.

The field manual “has institutionalized negotiations, understanding of culture and language” as valuable miliary skills, she said.

Sandusky took command of DLI with a student body that has grown by 38 percent since 2001, to about 3,500. The number of faculty at the school has grown to 2,800, including 1,700 accredited faculty members.

Based on information to date, “stabilizing” in Pentagon speak means preserving the ability of the US to extract resources comfortably without paying a fair price. And a “failed state” is one that resists or is hostile to the US extracting its natural resources, especially oil. Africa is rich in resources, and many countries and corporations are lusting after them.

From Kenya’s Daily Nation comes the headline:
Farmers planting maize that poses threat to humans

Farmers in one of Kenya’s largest grain-producing areas have been cultivating genetically modified maize that is potentially harmful to human health without knowing it.

The Sunday Nation can exclusively report that the relevant seeds are sourced from a South African company that is a subsidiary of Dupont, a leading US-based biotechnology firm.

This was revealed to the Sunday Nation by officials of the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition (KBioC), a body that brings together 45 farmer groups, NGOs and civil society bodies.
. . .
After tests, it was conclusively established that the sample was contaminated with traces of MON810, a genetically modified maize variety owned and marketed by Monsanto, an American biotechnology company.
. . .

Long-running suspicions

The revelation confirms long-running suspicions among many Kenyan farmers that they could have been cultivating genetically modified varieties of maize without being aware of it.

“Initially, we were given the suspect seeds as donations by politicians and we planted them. But when we harvested, the maize started rotting almost immediately,” said Isabel Wandati, a farmer and official of a women’s group in Butere.

She laments that she finds it impossible to replant the same maize and blames the Kenya Bureau of Standards for not properly inspecting the relevant maize variety.

She adds that instead of arming farmers in Butere with the relevant information on the variety, the local agricultural extension officials have been championing its cultivation.

There is now a danger that the country’s entire maize crop could be contaminated with traces of MON810. This is because maize is a cross-pollinated crop and pollen that bears traces of MON810 might be transported by wind from contaminated farms into uncontaminated ones.

The variety is patented by Monsanto and is banned in several European countries because of its negative impact on the environment and its harmful consequences on such useful insects, such as butterflies and bees.

Research conducted in some European countries had shown that feeding mice on the variety damaged their kidneys and livers.

However, its effects on humans is yet to be fully studied since maize is generally not used as human food in Europe and America. It is instead fed to horses and other domestic animals.

Once the country’s maize crop is contaminated with genetically modified varieties, Kenya risks losing traditional hybrid varieties that were painstakingly developed by KARI at the taxpayer’s expense.

Genetically modified grains are injected with bacteria that produce poison to kill nuisance pests and resist adverse weather conditions.

However, these poisonous bacteria have the downside of potentially destroying the soil by killing helpful bacteria and insects. Also, they compromise food safety and might prove to be harmful to humans over time once the grains are consumed.

From come these findings:

Since approving the MON810 in 1998 there have been a host of studies that have shown alarming results

for example:

  • A study by Swiss researchers found fewer flying insects in Bt maize fields. Flying insects are important food sources for insect-eating birds and bats.2
  • A study published in 2003 found that earthworms feeding on Bt maize litter showed a weight loss compared to a weight gain in earthworms feeding on nonGM maize. Earthworms are extremely important for nutrient cycling in soils.3
  • A study in Switzerland found that the Bt toxin could still be detected in soil the following year after the Bt maize was harvested.4

In fairness to Monsanto, I don’t think it is only African agriculture they wish to colonize and control. I think it is the whole world. But the complicity of governments promoting the use of these seeds needs to be checked. Kenya’s entire maize crop is at risk, and may already be contaminated. The farmer’s words are most worrisome Initially, we were given the suspect seeds as donations by politicians and we planted them. But when we harvested, the maize started rotting almost immediately” and that: She laments that she finds it impossible to replant the same maize. This sounds like they may be using terminator seeds. The plants are genetically engineered so that the seeds are sterile, forcing the farmers to buy new seed each year, rather than save and plant seeds from the previous crop. Populations are exposed to famine just because they may not have money to buy new seeds. Lives are dependent on the seed vendor. The vendor, or government sponsor, can trap the farmers in a cycle of debt, pricing seeds so that the farmers are forced to borrow each year in order to plant, and never escape debt.

GM, genetically modified, seeds can cross pollinate and contaminate non GM crops. Supposedly to prevent this, Monsanto has developed seeds that are sterile. Unfortunately they can still cross pollinate. The resulting seeds can’t grow, which is an additional contamination. The seeds that have been genetically modified not to grow are called terminator seeds.

In the past I have been skeptical of the people crying about GM foods. I have wondered if some of the fear was more superstition than science. The more I read, the more I realize there are serious reasons to be wary and skeptical of GM food. Even contained experiments have cross polinated outside of their contained zones. The west needs to do its research and experimentation at home. And it needs to provide some conclusive evidence of safety IF the seeds are safe.

One friend says that “I’m sorry” is the white man’s national anthem. He cuts off your brother’s head and then says “Oh, I’m sorry”, and you are supposed to take it.

It looks like the US is trying to colonize Africa militarily with AFRICOM, and colonize it agriculturally as well, with GM seeds and biofuel plantations. While this is not necessarily about race, there is a racial component. “I’m sorry” later on will not compensate for the suffering and destruction caused by these hugely mistaken approaches to the continent.

As another friend of mine used to say: Don’t be sorry, be careful.

Foreign Policy In Focus features an article by Joseph Gerson, Resisting the Empire, about efforts to resist American militarism around the globe. He writes about AFRICOM:


U.S. planners anticipate that by 2015 Africa will provide the U.S. with 25% of its imported oil. With Islamist political forces operating across northern Africa, the continent is also seen as an important front in the misconceived “war on terrorism.” So, to “promote peace and stability on the continent” the Bush Administration and the Pentagon want to augment the U.S. military presence in Africa, beginning with the transfer of the Africa Command, AFRICOM, from remote Germany to an accommodating African nation. As President Bush learned during his recent ill-fated African tour, the continent’s leaders are understandably reluctant to accept renewed military colonization. Ghana’s President John Kufuour put it bluntly when he met with Bush, saying, “You’re not going to build any bases in Ghana.”

Africa is not free of bases. France and Britain still have bases scattered there. The U.S. has bases in Djibouti and Algeria, access agreements with Morocco and Egypt, and is in the process of creating a “family” of military bases in sub-Saharan Africa (Cameroon, Guinea, Mali, Sao Tome, Senegal and Uganda.) And, although Bush responded to African fears about AFRICOM’s possible relocation by saying that such rumors were “baloney” and “bull,” he also conceded that: “We haven’t made our minds up.”

With a growing No AFRICOM movement in the United States that’s that is allied with anti-colonialist forces in Africa, this is one U.S. threat that can be contained.

Of course Kufuor has been very buddy buddy with Bush. And there is a huge ongoing US military presence in Ghana. The mention of Senegal above, and the fact that General Ward mentioned that country four times in his recent testimony (Ward testimony – PDF) makes me think they may be grooming Senegal to be the regional HQ for AFRICOM. Djibouti, JTF-HOA is supposed to be the model for AFRICOM. As I understand the planning now, they intend to set up a similar installation in each region. So talk of a single huge headquarters base is a red herring to distract observers from what is actually going on.

There is a lot in this article, Africa: Africom vs. Peacekeeping, since time is short, I’ll just provide a few quotes that are right on target.

This expansion of U.S. military operations in Africa is cause for serious alarm. The Bush administration has clearly given priority to defense above diplomacy – a power imbalance that is likely to result in further destabilization of the African continent. AFRICOM is a command designed to fulfill a short-sighted and ultimately self-destructive vision of U.S. global interests to expand the War on Terror and to satisfy America’s hunger for oil and other resources. Such self-interested goals will be to the detriment of African civilians whose needs and concerns will be overshadowed by special interest groups like oil companies and private military contractors.

. . .

. . . the military bias will, as in the past, contribute to human rights abuses and ongoing conflict rather than promoting security based on African needs.

The record of U.S. bilateral military engagement, whether in Africa or elsewhere in the world, provides little evidence to support the view that the effects will be positive. Those who support AFRICOM should have the burden of proof to the contrary. If anyone can cite an example of successful U.S. bilateral military engagement in terms of promoting peace and reconstruction, in the period since the post-World War II reconstruction of Germany and Japan, AfricaFocus would welcome referrals to evidence of such cases.

. . .

Militarizing Africa (Again)

Real Reasons for AFRICOM

Professional military officers have made it clear that the new Africa Command has three main purposes. First and foremost, the new command’s main mission is to protect American access to Africa’s oil and other resources, preferably by enhancing the ability of African allies to guard these resources themselves on behalf of the United States. But, to prepare for the day that Washington decides to try to use American troops in a desperate bid to keep them flowing, the United States is also acquiring access to local African military bases and dramatically expanding its naval presence off Africa’s coastline, especially in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea region. Imports from Africa are expected to reach 25% by 2015, making Africa one of the largest future suppliers of U.S. oil – larger even than the Persian Gulf.

The new command will also expand and intensify counter-terrorism operations in Africa and will make the continent a central battlefield in the Global War on Terror. Through AFRICOM, the Pentagon will intensify and extend U.S. counter-terrorism operations in Africa as well as its involvement in counter-insurgency warfare and other internal security operations in African countries. American troops are already engaged in combat operations in Somalia where air and naval strikes aimed at alleged al-Qaeda members instead killed dozens of Somali civilians in January and June 2007 and U.S. troops were engaged in combat-support operations in Mali in September 2007.

Finally, the new command is designed to counter China’s efforts to increase its influence and its access to African oil and other raw materials. The creation of AFRICOM is one element of a broad effort to develop a “grand strategy” on the part of the United States to compete with, and eventually restrain China’s activities. It is also intended to demonstrate to Beijing that Washington will match China’s actions, thus serving as a warning to Chinese leaders that they should restrain themselves or face possible consequences to their relationship with America as well as to their interests in Africa.

Truth eventually comes out. Let us hope some people are paying attention. In his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee (Ward testimony – PDF) General Ward:

. . . devoted only 15 seconds of his four-and-a-half minute opening remarks to a possible humanitarian role.

From Ward’s testimony:

AFRICOM’s theater strategy will be based on the principle of Active Security. Active Security is defined as a persistent and sustained level of effort oriented on security assistance programs that prevent conflict and foster continued dialogue and development.

Societies require security to flourish, for security provides the foundation for political, diplomatic, and economic development, which is essential to building long-term stability. AFRICOM will contribute to this goal by employing a wide range of tools at its disposal–from conducting security cooperation activities to prosecuting combat operations–to promote security.

In 1988, while pouring arms into Africa, and initiating policies that continue to destabilize the continent, Ronald Reagan said:

Too often security assistance is portrayed as a tradeoff against support for development. In Africa, this distinction is particularly ill-founded. Our security assistance programs promote a stable political and economic environment that permits the exercise of individual choice and the development of human talent. Without that environment, sustained development is not possible.

Ward is delivering the exact same message as Reagan. It was dead wrong then, it is dead wrong now. And it will be equally effective in arming the continent and increasing conflicts, and equally ineffective in promoting genuine stability and development. This is the last thing African countries need, the last thing that any country needs. Most are trying to move away from military government and trying to develop infrastructure and business.

Following the money, the US is increasing arms sales and transfers to Africa:

AFRICOM will take over the implementation of a growing and truly frightening array of military, security cooperation, and security assistance programs conducted either by the State Department or by the Defense Department (DoD). Through these programs, the United States provided more than $240 million worth of military equipment and training to African countries in FY 2006 and more than $500 million worth in FY 2007.

And for the coming year, diplomacy has become part of the militarized approach, with even more money being reqested both by the Department of Defense and the Department of State for military growth and activity:

For Fiscal Year 2009 (which begins on 1 October 2008), the Bush administration is asking Congress to approve the delivery of some $500 million worth of military equipment and training to Africa (including both sub-Saharan Africa and north Africa) in the budget request for the State Department for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009.

The administration is also asking for up to $400 million for deliveries of equipment and training for Africa funded through the Defense Department budget and another $400 million to establish the headquarters for the Pentagon’s new Africa Command (Africom).

The State Department budget request includes funding for major new arms deliveries and increased military training to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, and Uganda. It will be channeled through a variety of programs, including a number of new programs initiated by the Bush administration as part of the “Global War on Terrorism.” These include the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership, the East African Regional Security Initiative, and the Anti-Terrorism Assistance program. The U.S. government is also expected to license up to $100 million worth of private commercial sales of military and police equipment through the State Department’s Direct Commercial Sales program in FY 2009.

And the State Department wants to spend $1 billion on mercenaries, private military contractors for Africa, a further disaster. The State Department is acting as an arm of the Defense Department, at the expense of genuine diplomacy and assistance. Any “humanitarian” assistance will support the military mission. All sign of US government development assistance outside the military mission is gone.

This is disastrously bad policy. Not only does it hurt the African countries targeted. It does tremendous damage to the United States and to Brand America, once highly regarded in Africa.

h/t to b real for links and information

General Ward testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 13th. What struck me about the testimony is how much it appeared that the US military is undertaking to become a shadow government for all of Africa. This would certainly be in keeping with the current doctrine of Full Spectrum Dominance.

In his testimony, working with “partners” sounds like creating compliant client states. There is no evidence AFRICOM is planning to treat sovereign nations as equal sovereign nations based on his testimony. Although he pays lip service to what the African “partners” determine that they want, it is clear that there will be a great deal of behind the scenes manipulation.

Here are two excerpts. This week is jammed with deadlines, but I’ll be back with more later.

Through persistent, sustained engagement focused on building partner security capacity, supporting humanitarian assistance efforts, and providing crisis response, AFRICOM will promote a stable and secure African environment in support of U.S. foreign and national security policy.

. . .

Through persistent engagement with our African partners and integration of this kind of USG-wide expertise into our structure, AFRICOM will improve support to U.S. policy objectives in Africa.

3/17 – I was in a hurry last night and forgot to put in the link for Ward testimony – PDF .

There is a big Africa India economic conference coming up next week. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this.

The largest ever India-Africa conclave, being held in New Delhi from 19-21 March 2008, is expected to highlight Africa’s potential as an investment venue . . .

Their Excellencies the Vice Presidents of Tanzania and Ghana and 37 African Ministers are among the 925 delegates who will participate in ‘The India Africa Project Partnership 2008

The conference will focus on four main areas: technology, agriculture, human resources and energy. One hundred and thirty one projects worth over US$10 billion will be discussed.

The conference will enable Indian investors to interact with key people from more than 35 African countries on one platform. Africa is already an important trade partner for India.

U. S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant-Craft crewmen from Special Boat Team 22 cruise in Special Operations Craft-Riverines (SOC-R) along the Salt River during live-fire training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Aug. 24/07. The SOC-Rs are specifically designed for the clandestine insertion and extraction of Navy SEALs and other Special Operations Forces along shallow waterways and open water environments.

Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Robyn B. Gerstenslager, U.S. Navy.

From the AP:

Navy completes acquisition of land for riverine training

The Navy said today that it has acquired the land it needs in Mississippi for elite fighting units to practice with live ammunition and hone their jungle fighting skills

The land will mainly be used by Special Boat Team 22 . . . SBT-22 uses armored boats to take SEALs behind enemy lines and get them out. It specializes in river operations.

The property attracted the Navy’s interest because of its access to two rivers, usability for jungle training and nearness to the location of the boat unit.

And from a media roundtable with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead in February, about a month ago:

One of the significant drivers in our number will be the Littoral Combat Ship.
. . .
The fact is that we as a Navy do have a gap in what I call the green water. We’re really good in the blue. We’ve started to emerge again in the brown water with our riverine force. But in the littoral or the green water, we gave a gap.

LCS fills that gap and LCS is the best ship to fill that gap. It has the speed. It has the shallow draft that expands the amount of area in which we can operate. And it’s also been designed to have rapidly changeable mission modules. That’s part of the design. So LCS is a very important ship for our Navy.

Nobody is talking about the Gulf of Guinea. But that is where the oil and the riverine jungles are located. In addition that is where a lot of people live who are angry their natural resources are being stolen, and their land polluted. This training and new boats and ships are designed for this environment.

Unmasking the new green revolution in Africa: motives, players and dynamics

Key principles –

  • a revolution defined and implemented by Africans: any solution to Africa’s problems must be defined, designed, formulated and implemented by Africans
  • smallholders and poor farmers as central actors: any “true” revolution must have the people as central and lead actors, not mere extras in a play scripted by outsiders
  • structural change is pivotal: strategic solutions to the problems in agriculture heavily depend on access to productive resources such as land
  • agriculture as a living system: solutions to agricultural problems should be viewed as an integrated whole, and as part of the agricultural knowledge systems of local farmers
  • food sovereignty and self-sufficiency is key: agricultural development projects must first and foremost address the challenges of food security at the household level, instead of being designed as market-oriented
  • harnessing Africa’s resources for Africans: Africa’s resources should be harnessed and developed to benefit the poor who constitute the majority of the population
Hulpverlening Amerika komt op gang

Relief Americas is under way
(I believe this image is by Patrick Kicken

Reports such as these, or pieces of them have been coming in for awhile. Kate Smith and Rob Edwards have done as complete and concise a summary as I have found. I have picked out some key points:

A perfect storm of food scarcity, global warming, rocketing oil prices and the world population explosion is plunging humanity into the biggest crisis of the 21st century by pushing up food prices and spreading hunger and poverty from rural areas into cities.
. . . The increasing scarcity of food is the biggest crisis looming for the world.
. . .
As well as being rural, the profile of the new hungry poor is also urban, which is new. There is food available in the markets and shops – it’s just that these people can’t afford to buy it. This is the new face of hunger.” The food shortages will also affect western industrialised nations.

. . .

(The World Bank) points out that global food prices have risen by 75% since 2000, while wheat prices have increased by 200%. The cost of other staples such as rice and soya bean have also hit record highs, while corn is at its most expensive in 12 years.

The increasing cost of grains is also pushing up the price of meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. And there is every likelihood prices will continue their relentless rise, according to expert predictions by the UN and developed countries.

High prices have already prompted a string of food protests around the world . . .
. . .
If prices keep rising, more and more people around the globe will be unable to afford the food they need to stay alive, and without help they will become desperate. More food riots will flare up, governments will totter and millions could die.
. . .
The rise in global temperatures caused by pollution is also beginning to disrupt food production in many countries. According to the UN, an area of fertile soil the size of Ukraine is lost every year because of drought, deforestation and climate instability.
. . .
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that, over the next 100 years, a one-metre rise in sea levels would flood almost a third of the world’s crop-growing land.
. . .
The world’s grain stocks are at their lowest for 30 years . . .
. . .
Another key driver is the soaring cost of oil . . .
. . . oil makes crop fertilisers more expensive . . .
. . . fertiliser prices have risen 150% in the past five years.
. . .
The global drive for a new green fuel to power cars, lorries and planes is worsening world food shortages and threatening to make billions go hungry.
. . .
The biofuels surge makes things worse by adding high demand on top of already high prices and low stocks . . . Ethanol and biodiesel produced in the US and European Union don’t appear to be delivering on green promises either, making them very controversial.
. . .
It’s very hard to imagine how we can see the world growing enough crops to produce renewable energy and at the same time meet the enormous demand for food.
. . .
The idea that you cut down rainforest to actually grow biofuels seems profoundly stupid . . .
. . .
You could feed a person for a whole year from the grain that produces just one tank of fuel for a sports utility vehicle (SUV).

The US grows 60% of the world’s export crop of maize. At present one-sixth of the US grain harvest is going into the tanks of cars. So far the US has no serious programs in place to increase fuel efficiency or invest in public or alternative forms of transportation. And the US is talking about tripling the use of grains for biofuel. This isn’t just a problem for the rest of the world. It will soon be a huge problem for the US with its suburban sprawl. With fuel prices going up, will people be able to afford to get to work? How much will they have to give up eating in order to drive?

At the same time this is happening, the developed countries are still keen to ram trade deals down the throats of the developing world that are highly destructive to the support and development of local agriculture. Growing food locally, and eating food grown locally, wherever people can do this, is the best way to fight back against these global shortages. Most current research indicates this is the healthiest way to eat as well. But when local farmers in the developing world are being undersold at home by heavily subsidized crops from the developed world, it is not possible to support and sustain local agriculture.

Food import surges following “liberalization” of trade are devastating farmers and agricultural production in the developing world.

GENEVA, Mar 7 (IPS) – Food import surges have had devastating consequences for the rural poor and local economies in Africa. Such surges have taken place with alarming frequency in the past decade or two.
. . .
Import surges follow in the wake of liberalisation of trade. Liberalisation brings into play multiple factors that are often beyond the control of importing countries. These include firstly the domestic support and dumping policies of exporting countries. The products in which import surges occur most frequently are also the products which receive the highest subsidies from the EU and the U.S.

Other factors are: currency fluctuations in third countries; dumping of food aid when it is not required; and policy whims of exporting countries, such as destocking exercises which cause surges on the world market.

. . .

In Ghana rice imports increased from 250,000 tonnes in 1998 to 415,150 tonnes in 2003. Domestic rice, which had accounted for 43 percent of the domestic market in 2000, captured only 29 percent of the domestic market in 2003. In all, 66 percent of rice producers recorded negative returns, leading to loss of employment.

Tomato paste imports from the EU increased by a staggering 650 percent from 3,300 tons in 1998 to 24,740 tons in 2003. Farmers lost 40 percent of the share of the domestic market and prices were extremely depressed.
. . .
When Ghana reduced its rice tariffs from 100 to 20 percent as a result of the structural adjustment policies enforced by the World Bank, rice imports doubled.

Poultry imports have surged in Ghana, 300% in Cameroon, and 650% in Cote d’Ivoire in this 21st century.

There are countless more such cases which FAO and others have documented: dairy, maize and sugar in Kenya; rice and vegetable oils in Cameroon; onions and rice in the Philippines; rice and soy in Indonesia; maize, sugar and milk in Malawi; rice, dairy and maize in Tanzania; poultry in Jamaica; oilseeds in India; onions and potatoes in Sri Lanka; tomato paste in Senegal; soy and cotton in Mexico; rice and poultry in the Gambia; rice in Haiti and so forth.
. . .
These cases, documented by the FAO, should lead negotiators to exercise caution in the current Doha talks on the special safeguard mechanism. Import surges are already happening, even before yet another round of liberalisation as is under negotiation in the current Doha Round.

Effective measures should be made available to developing countries if food security and rural livelihoods are to be given priority.

Of recent Doha talks, and Economic Partnership Agreements, EPAs, Ken Ukaoha writes:

Like the Millennium bug, the most dreaded 31st December 2007 deadline ‘fever’ for the conclusion and possible signing of the EPAs has come and gone without the expected casualties.
. . .
. . . thumbs up for the West African negotiators, especially for the ECOWAS Commission.
Credit must essentially be given to the Nigerian government and to the West African civil society that kept mounting irresistible mobilization and pressure on the regional institutions to look towards no other direction but to a development friendly EPA.
. . .
At least, and essentially for our EU colleagues, the lesson may not be forgotten in a moment; and the lesson is that ‘times have changed’. It is no longer a Master-servant (colonial) relationship where the under-dog could always easily be cowed into swallowing hook and sinker all demands and claims that are placed on the table.

Mr. Ukaoha seems optimistic that the EU and ECOWAS have an opportunity to move forward in a fashion that actually is development friendly and mutually beneficial. I hope he may be right. There are huge economic storms brewing, and environmental storms with profound economic effects headed our way.

From Jon Taplin’s blog, writing from a conference in the UK sponsored by Chatham House:

I’m here amidst a group of the best minds in the UK and the US in counterterrorism, because of some of my academic work on soft power. What is astonishing to me is the almost unanimity (with the possible exception of a US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence) that U.S. policy since 9/11 has done more to enhance the “Al Qaeda Brand” than any other factor.
. . .
Finally, although there is a good bit of skepticism that a black man named Barack Obama could actually be elected in America (visions of the vicious parts Civil Rights movement still are in people’s minds), there is the general belief, that such an election would change “the American Brand” in a way that would be universally beneficial in combatting extremist Jihaddi rhetoric.

Mercenaries in New Orleans – “nation building” at home

David Isenberg at Dogs of War writes:

When it comes to issues of accountability, oversight and transparency in the private military and security industry . . . there is actually a fair degree of consensus that, yes, there should actually be such a thing: not just in words, but deeds as well.

The companies themselves, industry trade associations, and even various governments, are working together to try and hammer out standards that would apply to the industry globally.
. . .
But there is one government that should be in the lead on this issue, considering it is both the largest user of such firms and the country where the majority of them are based. Guess who it is. That’s right, the United States.
. . .
The dollar value of Army contracts quadrupled from $23.3 billion in 1992 to $100.6 billion in 2006, according to a recent report by a Pentagon panel. But the number of Army contract supervisors was cut from 10,000 in 1990 to 5,500 currently.

And one can bet that the contract supervisors who are left vividly remember the case of Bunnatine H. “Bunny” Greenhouse. (story here) She was the senior contracting officer for the Army Corps of Engineers who objected — first, internally, and then publicly — to a multibillion-dollar, no-bid contract with Halliburton for work in Iraq. She was then removed from the senior executive service, the top rank of civilian government employees, allegedly because of poor performance reviews.
. . .
Not having provided the oversight that any half-wit would know is necessary when dealing with tens of billions of dollars in contracts is bad enough.

But turning a blind eye to possible criminal behavior is far worse. And yet that is what the Bush administration is doing.
. . .
Finally, as recently reported in the National Journal there was this head-scratching revelation. When President Bush signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization in January his approval support came with a catch: a signing statement in which he wrote that various provisions of the act, including language that would create a commission to examine “waste, fraud, and abuse” in wartime contracting in Iraq and elsewhere, “impose requirements that could inhibit” his “ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and execute his authority as Commander in Chief.”

Only in Bush-World can protecting the American taxpayer against graft and fraud be seen as endangering national security.

I doubt the IPOA is as interested in accountability as it claims. I suspect it may be more analagous to the steps the baseball players union took to prevent drug abuse, minimal, insincere, and ineffective. Although PMC, mercenary, accountability is becoming an issue around the world.

The definition of mercenaries is key. As of now, the definition excludes most of the people employed as PMCs. Step one needs to be an inclusive definition.

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