March 2008

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.

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