March 2009


SEKONDI, Ghana - The USS Nashville lies at anchor in Sekoni, Ghana, during a visit of Africa Partnership Station. Nashville, with an international crew, arrived in Ghana on February 20, 2009. The ship is on a five-month APS cruise to promote international cooperation on maritime security in West Africa. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)

SEKONDI, Ghana - The USS Nashville lies at anchor in Sekondi, Ghana, during a visit of Africa Partnership Station. Nashville, with an international crew, arrived in Ghana on February 20, 2009. The ship is on a five-month APS cruise to promote international cooperation on maritime security in West Africa. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)

AFRICOM’s floating headquarters, a sea base for the colonial administration of West Africa, is floating off the coast of Ghana. They have been doing some serious “partnering“, doing a variety of photo-op good works. AFRICOM’s Mary Yates has been talking up the drug menace to Ghanaian journalists and officials:

2009-03-04 Journalists asked to assist in fighting drug war
2009-03-04 Take drug war serious – Yates
2009-03-03 8% of Europes drugs pass through Ghana

As I have written before, AFRICOM regards Ghana as a very desirable location. And one way of both ingratiating itself, and pressuring the Ghana government at the same time, is using the drug issue. The US will pressure Ghana to do something about drugs, and offer lots of training and military supplies to fight the “war on drugs”, which has been a miserable failure from its beginnings more than 50 years ago.

From The Ghanaian Times:

Defence Minister Receives US Team
By Times Reporter
Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The Deputy Commander (Civil Activities) of the US Military Africa Command (AFRICOM), Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, has led a high powered delegation to call on the Defence Minister, Lt Gen (Rtd) Joseph Henry Smith at his office at Burma Camp.

According to a statement from the Public Relations Directorate of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), the meeting which was held behind closed doors, was believed to have centered on strengthening the relationship between the two countries.

Besides, it explored ways of extending AFRICOM’s support to the Ghana Armed Forces to enable it to effectively police Ghana’s coastline to check illegal fishing, trafficking of narcotics and also safeguarding the country’s oil finds.

The statement signed by Lt-Col Dzotefe Mensah, of the Armed Forces Public Relations Directorate said the meeting also discussed the establishment of AFRICOM and its advantages to Ghana in particular and Africa in general.

Ambassador Yates was accompanied by the US Ambassador to Ghana, Donald Teitelbaum.

This means the pressure is really on.

This story is likely part of the same pressure on Ghana to let AFRICOM use it as a regional headquarters:

The World Bank has agreed to speed up payments worth $250 million to Ghana to help it cope with the international financial crisis, the bank’s representative said on Wednesday.

The World Bank has agreed with Ghana to front-load $250 million to the government out of Ghana’s allocation from the Bank, to enable it to cushion the effects of the crisis,” Ishac Diwan, the World Bank’s resident representative in Ghana.

Before the Presidential election the World Bank praised Ghana, WB: Ghana still best place to do business in West Africa. Then, when the new government came in, the World Bank was critical and said Ghana was broke, WB paints gloomy picture of Ghanaian economy. This new loan looks like an attempt at a bribe. Timed as it is, with AFRICOM’s Yates conferring with Ghana’s Defense Minister, it looks like a bribe to get Ghana to host AFRICOM, and, as a first requirement, send proxy soldiers to Somalia to fight for whatever the US thinks it is fighting for there. So far President Mills has been canny, and said only that he would consider the possibility. Ghanaians don’t need to die in Somalia for an ill conceived and fundamentally misguided policy. US/UN activities in Somalia are no more honest or well planned than the US invasion of Iraq.

It is only natural and appropriate that the Ministry of Defense would talk with Yates. It is usually smart to talk. I am hoping they are tough, canny, and patriotic enough at the Ministry of Defense, to refrain from giving up Ghanaian sovereignty. I have reason to think the current administration at the Ministry of Defense is tough and canny. They will need to be. The bribes of the recolonizers are enticing and the pressure is strong, and certain to get stronger.

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seeddemobrazilSigns read:
SUICIDE SEEDS ARE HOMICIDE SEEDS
SAVE SEEDS__ TERMINATE TERMINATOR!

One technology AGRA, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, will bring to Africa is terminator seeds. One of the most concise explanations of these is from Teeth Maestro in Pakistan:

Monsanto is a chemical company posing as an agricultural company specializes in toxic, dependency-creating, genetically-engineered crops and pharmaceuticals. Monsanto is one of the world’s most notorious multinationals that has been caught red-handed for bribery, false studies and evaluations, and paying off scientists for favourable reports. It has been responsible for over 10,000 farmer suicides and thousands of poisoned sheep in India alone. Its GE products are banned in countries including in Europe after painful experiences.

“Terminator” seed controversy

In June 2007, Monsanto acquired Delta & Pine Land Company, a company that had been involved with a seed technology nicknamed “Terminator”, which produces plants that produce sterile seed to prevent farmers from replanting their crop’s seed, and are instead forced to continue purchasing seeds from Monsanto for every planting. In recent years, widespread opposition from environmental organizations and farmer associations has grown, mainly out of the concerns that these seeds increase farmers’ dependency on seed suppliers (having to buy these each year for seeding new crops)

… there have been countless protests all over India and Brazil demanding Monsanto be thrown out of their countries …

The picture above is from BanTerminator.org taken at protests in Brazil. They describe terminator seeds:

Terminator technology refers to plants that have been genetically modified to render sterile seeds at harvest – it is also called Genetic Use Restriction Technology or GURTS. Terminator technology was developed by the multinational seed/agrochemical industry and the United States government to prevent farmers from saving and re-planting harvested seed.

In India:

One of the top cotton-growing areas in India is Madhya Pradesh. It has a rich black soil, perfect for cotton. In 2002 farmers were persuaded to use BT cottonseed. — Some 10,000 acres were planted with it — although official permission had not been granted till then. The farmers ended up with 100 per cent failure. Due to the drought, indigenous cotton varieties had also been negatively affected but their ‘failure’ accounted for only 20 per cent of the crop, not all of it. Furious farmers demanded compensation from the company that supplied these seeds. That was Mahyco. And where did Mayco get these seeds from? – From Monsanto, the US multinational chemical giant which had a 27 percent share in Mahyco.

reports emerged, confirmed by a Gujrat khadi institute, of allergies not only among farmworkers but also itching and rashes in people wearing clothing made from Bt Cotton.

Even when farmers found the seed to be four times as expensive, they felt it was because of ultimate economy, and even went into debt to buy the input package. There were other problems. Bt cotton requires 20 percent more water than other hybrid cotton which needs more water than traditional varieties to begin with. No one said anything about Bt cotton being drought resistant. The truth was that Bt cotton was unable to adapt to stress conditions. It was criminal to encourage Bt cotton in drought-prone areas – and not telling farmers about this drawback in Bt cotton. The rains failed to come in some districts. Farmers were ruined because they had not grown the local hardy species that had evolved to withstand drought conditions with minimal loss.

That was not all. There was serious oversight on the part of Monsanto scientists. Wouldn’t it be common sense to deduce that if the Bt cotton plant was poisonous to bollworms eating it, it could be poisonous to other living creatures too? After the harvest, sheep were allowed to graze on the harvested fields to eat the crop residues, a common practice worldwide wherever natural farming is pursued. In just four villages in Andhra Pradesh, 1800 sheep died horrible, agonising deaths within 2-3 days from severe toxicity. More deaths were reported in other areas. The word was quickly spread to avoid grazing sheep where Bt cotton had grown. It meant less fodder and greater expense for the sheep-owners.

Other reports have emerged from India on the ill health effects of Bt cotton on both people and animals. It is being held responsible for causing “untimely deaths, decline in milk quality and quantity, and serious reproductive failures.”

From SeattleTammy:

Farmers in 3rd world countries are being sold these patented seeds. The crops were planted by illiterate farmers, for whom, even if they could read, the information on the packaging would be worthless, it was in English only. That information would have told them that these crops would need irrigation, and shouldn’t be used in rain-fed farm lands. The crops would also need pesticides and fertilizers, again from Monsanto. These crops failed, leaving the farmers further in debt, to surprise, the company store: Monsanto. Since these seeds are patented, the farmers are forbidden from saving seed from one year to the next, selecting the healthiest traits for the next season. New seeds must be purchased. The in-debted farmer’s land is then seized by Monsanto, which compounds the debts. Now hopeless in their situation, the farmers are committing suicide.

By drinking Monsanto pesticides.

Many thousands of farmers in India have committed suicide.

In conclusion for today, I offer, and appreciate the words of this farmer from Zambia:

“Somebody is trying to befool me as a farmer,” said Clement Chipokolo of the African Biodiversity Network, who came here all the way from Zambia. “In my culture we don’t buy seeds. We save them. But now somebody is trying to bring agricultural slavery for us.”

mary-yates-africom
yates-ghana_us

Above: Yates address on drug trafficking, below: Yates meets President Mills at Osu Castle.

THE UNITED States Military Command for Africa (AFRICOM) has pledged to strengthen military ties with Ghana’s Military High Command and the Ghana Armed Forces towards enhancing Ghana’s democratic regime and good governance.

A delegation led by Mary Carlin Yates, Deputy Commander for Civil Activities of the US Military Africa Command, called on President John Mills at the Osu Castle yesterday [Wednesday March 4] and commended Ghana for the impressive elections held recently.

Yates and President Mills exchanged a number of compliments on democracy in each others countries. I do not think Yates was strictly honest in this, as I suspect the US wanted to interfere in the recent elections in Ghana, and may have made some attempt. Luckily, the interference was nothing to the scale of the interference with Kenya’s presidential election. Jendayi Frazer, U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, was in Ghana just before the December 28 runoff: Frazer meets the press. At about the same time there was talk in the Ghanaian press about “power sharing”, and I suspect that was her work. It was unpopular, and inappropriate to the circumstances.

I think the previous US government and the AFRICOM establishment were far more comfortable working with the previous NPP government, not so much for ideological reasons, but because the NPP government was reliably corruptable. And I’m sure AFRICOM, which already has a robust presence, will try to expand in Ghana. The corruption quotient remains to be seen for the new government. I am a little bit optimistic, and very worried. I think the intentions of the present government are good for now, but the drug money and the coming oil money will be powerful forces encouraging corruption. And, with special thanks to the Kufuor government, corruption is seen by many in Ghana as the way government and business “works”. Not that there was no corruption before, but in the last eight years it was encouraged, and grew exponentially.

Drugs were one of the reasons Yates visited Ghana. As I have written before, drugs are the tool AFRICOM will use to infiltrate into Ghana. It is thanks to the counter effective US “War on Drugs” that the drug trade has moved to West Africa. The primary beneficiaries of the War on Drugs have been defense and security contractors, the same folks who are looking to AFRICOM for more contracts.

As I have written before:

The US War on Drugs has been a failure for at least half a century. It started long before Nixon, as the article indicates. You can read a history of it here: How America Lost the War on Drugs.

… the catastrophe along the [Mexican] border looks like a final reckoning for overseas interdiction. ” It’s like a balloon effect – we’ve never succeeded in cutting off the traffic, we’ve just pushed it around,”

But nobody is giving up the pretense that the effort is serious and worthwhile.

“It is absolutely shocking what has happened — the increase in drugs,” Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates says. …

… West Africa has seen a dramatic increase in narcotics trafficking, with an estimated $2 billion worth of cocaine crossing the mid-Atlantic from South and Central America. A majority of the drugs passing through West Africa are headed for Europe.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates at least 50 tons of cocaine transits through West Africa each year. Local communities are increasingly disrupted because drug traffickers pay their transport costs in cocaine instead of money, increasing the amount of narcotics available to populations.

In Ghana, as part of a larger US government program, US Africom is helping to fund drug screening equipment and upgrades at Ghana’s international airport to support Ghanaian counter-narcotics and customs programs.

Africom also is helping to fund a police evidence storage and training facility to provide more capacity in storing evidence in support of counter-drug operations. The goal is to assist in achieving a greater number of lawful convictions. The facility includes a training center and computer lab, with estimated completion this summer.

Before arriving in Ghana, Yates visited Cape Verde where she talked cooperation in counter-narcotics, illegal fishing, and illegal trafficking.

Yates is meeting with a range of officials to discuss how regional militaries can cooperate in partnership with police and other security organizations to address the growing trend of illegal narcotics, illegal fishing, and other criminal maritime activities.

Cocaine is a serious problem for Ghana. AFRICOM offers hype rather than help. Please keep in mind that the AFRICOM programs to counter drug trafficking, illegal fishing, and other police and security functions were not funded. Talk is cheap.

AFRICAN COASTAL AND BORDER SECURITY PROGRAM (ACBS) – provides specialized equipment (such as patrol vessels and vehicles, communications equipment, night vision devices, and electronic monitors and sensors) to African countries to improve their ability to patrol and defend their own coastal waters and borders from terrorist operations, smuggling, and other illicit activities … No dedicated funding was requested for FY 2008 [or for 2007]
From: AFRICOM from Bush to Obama

So the militarization of political space continues. This comes at a particularly dangerous time for Ghana. The coming expected oil revenues will create dangerous expectations, temptations, and pressures. A military strengthened beyond the control of civil institutions is a grave danger for any country. The active interference of AFRICOM, spells grave danger. Using AFRICOM, the US is already engaged in supporting and choosing sides in internal politics in African countries, most visibly in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. So far the same people are running Africa policy for Obama that ran it for Bush. This is a time to be wary.

deleteafricomsouthcom

AFRICOM & SOUTHCOM: Reliquaria from an Earlier Era – PDF by David Passage in the February 2009 issue of Foreign Service Journal contains advice that is right on target as budget policy and as foreign policy. He says it is time to rethink the US military command structure, which is bloated and out of date. When big budget cuts are necessary, the only practical way to make them is by cutting whole programs, not by making percentage across the board cuts that reduce functionality and efficiency everywhere. The US should delete AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM, eliminating those two programs from the federal budget.

President Obama faces a large number of very hard choices for the country. The US is involved in two expensive wars, the one in Iraq should never have been started. And these are not necessarily the most difficult or expensive problems he faces. Regarding the military:

And no pruning he might do can even begin to provide the resources needed to re-equip our armed forces with the hundreds of billions of dollars of materiel and munitions that have been expended in those current wars. Vehicles of all types are worn out; we are flying the wings off our aircraft and the rotors off our helicopters; and we are using much of our military equipment to within inches of its programmed life. And we have yet to calculate the ultimate costs of restoring the necessary capacity for other contingencies.

With respect to the Department of Defense, one of our biggest-ticket items, Pres. Obama could easily achieve significant savings by taking a hard look at restructuring our present geographic military command structure, with the explicit purpose of eliminating two major components: the U.S. Southern Command (responsible for Latin America and the Caribbean) and the newly established Africa Command.

The point of departure should not be a review of whether these two commands can be justified —for that simply invites proponents to make the best case for keeping them. Rather, the question should be how to handle residual functions the U.S. might wish to retain (and there shouldn’t be many) within a realigned geographic command structure that would consist of the European Command, Pacific Command, Central Command and a new Western Hemisphere Command. … WESTCOM.  …  EUCOM, PACOM and CENTCOM have clear, well-defined and unquestioned warfighting missions, as well as robust force structures to support them. AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM do not and should not.

AFRICOM is a particularly unfortunate creation.

Does Washington really want to project a military face toward a continent that already suffers from a surfeit of them? Do we Americans believe economic development and internal security structures (e.g., civilian and civilian-led police forces) should be built along military lines by armed forces? And is that what we want Africans to think we believe? If so, shame on us! We do not permit our military to train our own police and law enforcement personnel and do economic development work in the U.S. Why do we believe this should be done by our military in Africa?

Passage summarizes the history of SOUTHCOM, which should be a warning for the creators and proponents of AFRICOM.

If one wants to see what AFRICOM could become, one has only to look atwhat SOUTHCOM has been. Mercifully, a lot of lessons have been drawn from that experience, which, one hopes, is therefore unlikely to be repeated.

During the first four decades of its existence, SOUTHCOM supported our national interest in preventing Soviet-sponsored takeovers in the Western Hemisphere, such as occurred in Eastern Europe following the defeat of Hitler’s Germany. To be sure, the threat was real; we received a serious wake-up call in May 1948 when Sovietbacked insurgents briefly seized control in Colombia. The coup was undone within days, but fueled the conviction that Washington needed to strengthen Latin American militaries. “And the rest is history,” as the saying goes.

Over the next three decades, U.S.supported military regimes toppled elected civilian governments in virtually every country in Latin America —Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala —excepting only Mexico and Costa Rica.

And although U.S. policy began changing during the 1970s under President Jimmy Carter, our economic development assistance for Latin America actually declined during the 1980s, 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century. Instead, our military assistance grew, first under the guise of countering growing narcotics trafficking from Andean Ridge countries, and then — particularly after the 9/11 attacks —countering terrorism throughout the hemisphere.

In light of this history, here is the crucial question for President Obama’s national security team: Is a military response the right way (let alone the best or most cost-efficient one) to counter the twin threats of terrorism and narcotrafficking in Latin America? For that is now the primary rationale for having a four-star military command with Latin America as its sole area of responsibility

A military command is not the right or best way to address this, because the core of the problem is civil and political. So a military command is not only not the best way, it will by its nature work against that which it claims to support:

A principal deficiency suffered by virtually all developing countries, but particularly those in Africa and Latin America, is weak civil law enforcement institutions –- both the police and judicial branches. Police forces are, by and large, ill trained, poorly equipped, incompetently led and badly paid. The same can be said for the majority of judges and other law enforcement authorities. This is a prescription for corruption and abuse, so it should come as absolutely no surprise that that has been the result.

Washington’s response, regrettably, has been to look for ways our military, acting through SOUTHCOM and now AFRICOM, can ameliorate or rectify these problems. But is that the right, let alone best, means to help our Latin American neighbors or African friends with these structural problems? To see what AFRICOM could become, look at what SOUTHCOM has been.

And all the military training and military partnering is effort spent advancing in this pernicious direction.

Although our armed forces boast terrific civil affairs personnel, that’s not the face we should be seeking to portray to our neighbors, either in this hemisphere or in Africa. … SOUTHCOM is a relic from an earlier era the U.S. should wish to put behind it, while AFRICOM is the result of a manufactured need and never should have been created at all. There is simply no need for a standalone four-star command in either Latin America or Africa to achieve U.S. national security goals.

AFRICOM is highly unpopular in Africa. Sam Makinda has written an article about how Europe has been doing a much better job than the US with Africa policy, EU shaping policies without antagonism:

How has the EU managed to present itself in a way that is not antagonising to African states?

The simple answer is that European countries, which had colonies in Africa until the 1960s and 1970s, have learnt how to exercise influence without rubbing Africans, including dictators, the wrong way.

As a result, the EU is able to shape some of Africa’s political, economic and security policies without appearing to be doing so. In contrast, the USA utilises approaches that antagonise Africans and thereby invites their resistance.

A good example is the way the EU and the USA have pursued security policies on the continent. Working quietly, the EU helped shape the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) as well as the AU’s Common Defence and Security Policy (CDSP).

However, when the USA came up with the African Command (AFRICOM), it did so without consulting the AU and in violation of some of the principles that underpin the CDSP. The result is that many African states are opposed to AFRICOM, but they regard the CDSP and the PSC as their own products.

I do not think the European influence is necessarily benign. The EU has maintained a rapacious interest in African resources, and has been manipulative and exploitive. It has illegally fished out African waters, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea and off the Somali coast. Royal Dutch Shell has been the primary and longest termed polluter of the Niger Delta. And the EU has dumped toxic and nuclear waste in African waters. Even so, the EU has still managed Africa policy more effectively than the US. As Makinda points out in an earlier article:

Africans know that the militarization of political and economic space by African military leaders has been one of the factors that has held Africa back for decades. While African states are trying to put the culture of military rule behind them, the United States appears determined to demonstrate that most civilian activities in Africa should be undertaken by armed forces. To some African policy makers, this suggests that the U.S. Government lacks sympathy for what Africans so deeply want today, namely democratic systems in which the armed forces remain in the barracks.

David Passage’s suggestions make such good sense, I fear that no one will listen. I hope Obama’s team is capable of this historical understanding, and this kind of practical and strategic thinking. It would be very smart economic, military, and foreign policy to eliminate AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM.

bordercaution

The article Towards a Nomadic Fortress mentioned in my previous post, has a lot to consider when thinking about the contemporary functions of borders.

No longer just a question of contested territory, hard boundary lines, and stricter border enforcement between two nations, but a space that functions more ubiquitously on several paradoxes around global mobility and a rise in detention markets, detention politics, national security as the new global architecture.

Rather than a single structure, the nomadic fortress is a whole syntax of control spaces linked across multiple landscapes that constitute perhaps the world’s first universal border fence, loosely connected across continents through a kind of geopolitical geometry that super-imposes a border just as much as enforces one between the First World and the Global South. It is, you might say, the Great Wall of Globalization.

This space has no regard for borders any more as we traditionally understand them, no respect for national territory; it hovers over and slips between those definitions, goes around and under them when it needs to, ultimately passing through border fixity as it sees fit. It is in some way the final border, a border that is never at rest but is always modifying itself for greater tactical vantage; a kind of flexible mock-hydrological regime that deploys and aligns other sub-border levers and valves below it to secure the conduits of neoliberal capitalism and the flows of people who are captives of them in one way or another.

This border doesn’t take the defensive posture that borders traditionally have in the past, but instead is on the move and on the hunt for a new class of would-be border crossers who’ve been bound together in a dangerously wide-cast surveillance net that is incapable of distinguishing the refugee from the enemy combatant, the migrant from the smuggler, laborer from insurgent.

Finoki draws a global hydrologic picture of borders. He provides a lot to think about when we think about our home countries, or about wherever we may travel.

capital is devising an unprecedented perimeter that encircles the global south through a flexible and strategic militarization of cross-border flows and refugee internment.

Since commerce, goods, and information now flow freely within a kind of liquid society of transnational interplay, the substrata of cross-border migration has become more of a parched landscape where liquidity and fluidity (in terms of movement) have been extremely deprived. Instead, the nomadic routes of migrants and refugees are dictated by tactical arrangements of concrete embankments, unsurpassable berms, dangerous ditches, trenches, and other deployed dikes and levees strictly designed to prevent the north from being flooded by the populations of the south. We can think of these floodgates as goliath mechanisms of bio-political hydrology, re-flooding certain labor zones and reservoirs with migrants ripe for exploitation while drying up other labor wetlands altogether where manufacturing industries have evaporated or moved on to different regions. Today’s border fences are less about stopping the flows of mass migration than they are about engineering a whole taxonomy of barriers that can identify and redirect them, informally outsourcing the pools of global labor from one geography to another. And while some routes are pushed deeper underground by all of this, other subterranean passages are merely forced to the surface. This massive border hydrology is shifting human resettlement patterns for generations to come.

The political implications of this are huge, and the political results are already well underway. But I have not seen the issue addressed as a global issue other than here. It is certainly worthy of more discussion and examination.

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