Bush administration

The Bush administration lied the US and the world into war in Iraq, and lied into opening a second front of its GWOT in the Sahara that continues going strong today. The Bush administration went bananas over the banana theory that terrorists would spread out into over north Africa from Afghanistan, west across the map in the pattern of a bunch of bananas. So far the Obama administration seems to be buying right in and continuing the fiction. (Remember the domino theory and what it did for the US and southeast Asia?) Since 2003 there has been a huge amount of US military action in north Africa in and around the Sahara. In 2004:

U.S. military commanders were describing terrorists as “swarming” across the Sahel and the region as a “Swamp of Terror.” The area was, in the words of European Command’s deputy commander General Charles F. Wald, a “terrorist infestation” that “we need to drain.” Stewart M. Powell, writing in Air Force Magazine, claimed that the Sahara “is now a magnet for terrorists.”

In the africom.mil picture gallery there are plenty of pictures of US military activity in north Africa. Here are two recent examples:

CAP DRAA, Morocco - Marine radio operators from the ground combat element of Task Force African Lion observe the smoke-filled battlefield of the final training exercise as they relay information from the commanders to the units in the field May 29, 2009. The annually scheduled, combined U.S. -Moroccan exercise, AFRICAN LION, is designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's tactics, techniques and procedures and is scheduled to run until June 4. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Rocco DeFilippis)

CAP DRAA, Morocco - Marine radio operators from the ground combat element of Task Force African Lion observe the smoke-filled battlefield of the final training exercise as they relay information from the commanders to the units in the field May 29, 2009. The annually scheduled, combined U.S. -Moroccan exercise, AFRICAN LION, is designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's tactics, techniques and procedures and is scheduled to run until June 4. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Rocco DeFilippis)

MALI - Malian commandos advance with a member of the U.S. 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) during training rehearsals May 13, 2009, at a military training area north of Bamako, Mali. Building on specialized skills previously acquired during joint exercises such as Flintlock, which is Special Operations Command-Africa's premier Special Operations Forces exercise in the Trans-Saharan region, the "Warrior-Ambassadors" of the 3rd SFG (A) were continuing their Africa-focused security forces assistance mission to enhance African Partner Nation capabilities to help achieve regional cooperation and security. The 3rd SFG (A) is based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Photo by Max R. Blumenfeld, JSOTF-TS PAO)

MALI - Malian commandos advance with a member of the U.S. 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) during training rehearsals May 13, 2009, at a military training area north of Bamako, Mali. Building on specialized skills previously acquired during joint exercises such as Flintlock, which is Special Operations Command-Africa's premier Special Operations Forces exercise in the Trans-Saharan region, the "Warrior-Ambassadors" of the 3rd SFG (A) were continuing their Africa-focused security forces assistance mission to enhance African Partner Nation capabilities to help achieve regional cooperation and security. The 3rd SFG (A) is based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Photo by Max R. Blumenfeld, JSOTF-TS PAO)

In December 2008 the New York Times described:

… a five-year, $500 million partnership between the State and Defense Departments includes Algeria, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia, and Libya is on the verge of joining.

This effort is aimed at a small force, maybe 200 fighters, they call Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

The GWOT activity in Africa was begun by EUCOM, the European Command, long before AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, was even announced as a plan. There were no terrorist incidents in north Africa, unless you count the Algerian government actions in the dirty war against their own people, which were estimated to have left 200,000 dead. Algeria was worried about being cut off from arms supplies, and the US interest in fighting terror came along just at the right time. Jeremy Keenan described the creation of the Saharan war on terror in a 2006 article:

The “why” has much to do with Washington’s “banana theory” of terrorism, so named because of the banana-shaped route Washington believed the dislodged terrorists from Afghanistan were taking into Africa and across the Sahelian countries of Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania to link up with Islamist militants in the Maghreb. Hard evidence for this theory was lacking. There was little or no Islamic extremism in the Sahel, no indigenous cases of terrorism, and no firm evidence that “terrorists” from Afghanistan, Pakistan, or the Middle East were taking this route.

Washington appears to have based its notion on some unpublished sources and Algerian press reports on the banditry and smuggling activities of the outlaw Mokhtar ben Mokhtar. It also misconstrued the Tablighi Jama`at movement, whose 200 or so members in Mali are nicknamed “the Pakistanis” because the sect’s headquarters are in Pakistan. Finally, local government agents told U.S. officials what they wanted to hear.

Notwithstanding the lack of evidence, Washington saw a Saharan Front as the linchpin for the militarization of Africa

Washington’s interest in the Sahel and the flimsiness of its intelligence were extremely propitious for Algeria’s own designs. As western countries became aware of the Algerian army’s role in its “dirty war” of the 1990s against Islamic extremists, they became increasingly reluctant to sell it arms for fear of Islamist reprisals and criticism from human rights groups. As a result, Algeria’s army became progressively under-equipped and increasingly preoccupied with acquiring modern, high-tech weapon systems, notably night vision devices, sophisticated radar systems, an integrated surveillance system, tactical communications equipment, and certain lethal weapon systems. Whereas the Clinton administration kept its distance, the Bush administration invited Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as one of its first guests to Washington. Bouteflika told his American counterpart that Algeria wanted specific equipment to maintain peace, security, and stability.

September 11 was a golden opportunity for both regimes, especially Algeria, which sold its “expertise” in counter-terrorism to Washington on the basis of its long “war” against Islamists through the 1990s that left 200,000 people dead.

The two governments created terrorism together. It started with:

… the hostage-taking of 32 tourists in the Algerian Sahara. The United States attributed their capture in March 2003 to Algeria’s Islamist “terrorist” organization, the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC). The presumed mastermind of the plot was the GSPC’s second-in-command, who goes by many aliases, including El Para after his stint as a parachutist in the Algerian army.

The GSPC held the hostages in two groups approximately 300 kilometers apart in the Algerian Sahara. An Algerian army assault liberated one of the groups. The captors took the other group to northern Mali and finally released the hostages following the alleged ransom payment of five million Euros. The hostage-taking confirmed U.S. suspicions. Even before the hostages were released, the Bush administration was branding the Sahara as a terror zone and El Para as a top al-Qaida operative and “bin Laden’s man in the Sahel.”

By the end of January, Algerian and Malian forces, reportedly with U.S. support, were said to have driven the GSPC from northern Mali. Then, in a series of engagements, a combined military operation of Niger and Algerian forces, supported by U.S. satellite surveillance, chased El Para‘s men across the Tamesna, Aïr, and Tenere regions of Niger into the Tibesti Mountains of Chad. There, thanks to the support of U.S. aerial reconnaissance, Chadian forces engaged the GSPC in early March in a battle lasting three days, reportedly killing 43 GSPC. El Para managed to escape the carnage but fell into the hands of a Chadian rebel movement. This group held him hostage until October 2004 when he was returned to Algeria, allegedly with the help of Libya. In June 2005, an Algerian court convicted him in absentia of “creating an armed terrorist group and spreading terror among the population.” It sentenced El Para to life imprisonment.

Within a year, the United States and its allies had transformed the Sahara-Sahel region into a second front in the global “war on terror.” Prior to the hostage-taking in March 2003, no act of terror, in the conventional meaning of the term, had occurred in this vast region. Yet, by the following year, U.S. military commanders were describing terrorists as “swarming” across the Sahel and the region as a “Swamp of Terror.”

But the incidents used to justify the launch of this new front in the “war on terror” were either fiction, in that they simply did not happen, or fabricated by U.S. and Algerian military intelligence services. El Para was not “Bin Laden’s man in the Sahara,” but an agent of Algeria’s counter-terrorist organization, the Direction des Renseignements et de la Sécurité. Many Algerians believe him to have been trained as a Green Beret at Fort Bragg in the 1990s. Almost every Algerian statement issued during the course of the hostage drama has now been proven to be false. No combined military force chased El Para and his men across the Sahel. El Para was not even with his men as they stumbled around the Aïr Mountains in search of a guide and having themselves photographed by tourists. As for the much-lauded battle in Chad, there is no evidence that it happened. Leaders of the Chadian rebel movement say it never occurred, while nomads, after two years of scratching around in the area, have still not found a single cartridge case or other material evidence.

They were able to fabricate this war because:

First, the Algerian and U.S. military intelligence services channeled a stream of disinformation to an industry of terrorism “experts,” conservative ideologues, and compliant journalists who produced a barrage of articles. Second, if a story is to be fabricated, it helps if the location is far away and remote. The Sahara is the perfect place: larger than the United States and effectively closed to public access.

The Bush administration fabricated an entire front in the “war on terror” for its own political purposes. Its obsession with secrecy is not for reasons of national security but to conceal falsehood.

And this is still going on. President Obama has continued to support many of Bush’s secrecy policies that continue to conceal falsehoods. Obama has embraced AFRICOM, and made Gen. James Jones his National Security advisor. Gen. Jones was Commander of the US European Command during the first Bush administration and played an enthusiastic and crucial role in initiating the lie based second front of the GWOT in north Africa.

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

The energetic continuation of Bush administration policies in East Africa and the Horn of Africa are damaging the United States. Though far less well known, these policies are as mishandled and misbegotten as the Iraq war, the handling of the Katrina disaster, and the global financial meltdown.

US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger bears much responsibility for the disasterous handling and direction of these policies. He actively undermined democracy in the Kenya elections a year ago. As a result Kenya is less democratic, and less safe and secure. Extra judicial murders are on the rise.

The New York Times finally wrote some of this up in A Chaotic Kenya Vote and a Secret U.S. Exit Poll. Much of this was reported at the time in a variety of places, you can read an account with links in this article, including the comment thread: The Coup in Kenya.

What the NYT article makes clear is that Ranneberger had determined Kibaki should win the election before the election occurred.

Heading the institute’s Kenya operations in 2007 was Mr. Flottman, on leave from his job as a senior counsel for a major defense contractor. … Mr. Flottman said he was surprised when, before the election, Mr. Ranneberger made public comments praising Mr. Kibaki and minimizing Kenyan corruption.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Flottman recalled, the ambassador was even more direct. A few months before the election, Mr. Ranneberger proposed releasing a voter survey showing Mr. Kibaki ahead and trying to block a roughly simultaneous one favoring Mr. Odinga, according to Mr. Flottman, who said he witnessed the episode during a meeting at the ambassador’s office. The suggestion was dropped, he said, after the embassy learned that the pro-Odinga results were already out.

“It was clear, in my opinion, that the ambassador was trying to influence the perceptions of the Kenyan electorate, and thus the campaign,” Mr. Flottman said.

Many of us watched the polling in Kenya and felt the soaring optimism that democracy might really be working. It was quite clear to any observer that the trend was strongly in favor of Mr. Odinga, and the polling was reasonably orderly and peaceful. As the ballots were being counted, President Kibaki and his cronies made a coup, seized control, and declared Kibaki the winner. Ambassador Ranneberger was quick to congratulate Kibaki on his win, although in the face of international opinion he had to retract this later. Then the US through Ambassador Ranneberger and Jendayi Frazer did its best to prevent completion of the vote count, and prevent a recount. Terrible violence followed the elections, and it was clear the security forces were responsible for a majority of the killings. Since it was clear and could not be denied that Odinga had won a lot of votes, the US pressed for a coalition government. That is not what Kenyans voted for. And now Kenyans say government failing them 1 year later.

During the Kenya election the IRI, was conducting an exit poll, which Mr. Flottman was supervising. Since the votes were not counted, Kenyans really wanted to see the results of the exit poll. but the results were supressed. From the NYT:

Under its contract, the institute was expected to consult with the Agency for International Development and the embassy before releasing the exit poll results, taking into account the poll’s technical quality and “other key diplomatic interests.”

Quality was not expected to be a concern. …

When the voting ended and ballot-counting began, Mr. Gibson and others involved in the exit poll said they expected its results to be announced soon.

But senior institute officials decided to withhold it. Most opposed to releasing the numbers, Mr. Flottman said, was Constance Berry Newman, … Mr. Flottman said Ms. Newman opposed “any kind of release from the outset — essentially suggesting it would be inflammatory and irresponsible.”

Ms. Newman, who had worked with Mr. Ranneberger when she was the Bush administration’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs, declined to comment.

Mr. Gibson said he told the institute that its technical concerns were baseless, to no avail. His contract barred him from publicly disclosing the polling data for six months, and in March of last year the institute asked him to sign a new contract that would have restricted him from speaking publicly about the institute’s polling program without written permission.

I think they were trying to shut me up,” he said. “I refused to sign it.”

In July, after his contract expired, Mr. Gibson and one of his doctoral students presented their analysis of the data at a seminar in Washington. A month later — one day before Mr. Gibson was to testify before Kenyan investigators — the institute announced that, after the outside review, it “now had confidence” in the poll and released the results.

When Mr. Kibaki claimed victory on Dec. 30, 2007, the State Department quickly congratulated him and called on Kenyans to accept the outcome, even though international observers had reported instances of serious ballot-counting fraud. American officials backed away from their endorsement the next day and ultimately pushed the deal that made Mr. Odinga prime minister.

After insisting for months that the poll was flawed, the institute released it last August — long past the point of diplomatic impact — after outside experts whom it had hired determined that it was valid. It showed Mr. Kibaki losing by about six percentage points.

Michael Ranneberger led an active fight against democracy in Kenya. But it is not just in Kenya. As his State Department bio says:

Michael E. Ranneberger is currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and is also responsible for U.S. relations with Somalia.

He has been ambassador to Kenya since mid 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union took control of Somalia. This brought the first functioning government Somalia had in 15 years. Under the ICU, piracy by Somalis stopped completely. Peace was restored, businesses sprang up, Somalis abroad returned home. But the US claimed that the Islamic government was allied with al Qaeda, even though many people knew, and a West Point study told them that:

“Al Qaeda found more adversity than success in Somalia,” states the report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. “In order to project power, al Qaeda needed to be able to promote its ideology, gain an operational safe haven, manipulate underlying conditions to secure popular support and have adequate financing for continued operations. It achieved none of these objectives.”

At the end of 2006, the US supported an invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, contrary to international law. The US helped install a (non) government by the hated Ethiopians allied with the hated Somali warlords, restoring civil war, exploitation, and insecurity to the Somali people. The US arranged with Kenya to rendition refugees of that disaster, who crossed the Kenya border, to be tortured in Ethiopia as “terrorists”. When asked about the US participation in the invasion, and killing Somalis, Ranneberger just ignores the truth and repeats lies:

Question [Dom]: Ever since the last attack by US to Somalia near Kenyan Border, which killed more than 20 innocent civilians. No word of apology has been spelled out yet. Was that not a mistake?

Answer [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I appreciate your question, because there has been a lot of rumors and misinformation, and I am happy to clarify what happened. No innocent civilians have been killed in U.S. attacks. U.S. efforts are solely directly against known terrorists.

This despite the fact that the US was:

running U.S. death squads in Somalia to “clean up” after covert operations. (The latter is no deep dark secret, by the way; officials openly boasted of it to Esquire Magazine.)

But Ambassador Ranneberger blithely continues to support the violent and corrupt TFG he helped install, and innacurately condemn the ICU government he helped overthrow:

Q [Abdalla]: … Somali people were able to say enough is enough and they established a government free from the warlords. The international community instead of forcing the warlords to accept the government it sided with the warlords and allowed the government to be dismantled and Ethiopia succeeded in establishing a client government led by warlords. Somali people again as usual and eager to have law and order they accepted the TFG with it is short comings and the past/present records of its members. The Warlords instead of working for their people they become dysfunctional and started harming the Somali people. Fortunately, in June 2006 the Somali people plus Islamic courts succeeded in getting rid the south-central part from the warlords. The only city they remained was in baidabo with the protection of their Ethiopian master. The international community blatantly ignored the presence of Ethiopian soldiers in a sovereign country. During the reign of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) the Somali people were able to forget the clan mentality and corrupt clan elders. For the first time the minority and un-armed Somali communities felt that they are part of the Somali society. They had a voice thanks to Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Sheikh Dahir aways who was able to control former militias.

Also, we Somalis in the Diaspora were able to invest in the country in my case I built a house for my mum and planned to visit her in January 2007. Unfortunately, the American justice is with us and our old enemy plus the warlord government is back to Mogadishu. America rewarded the warlords and punished the ICU who brought peace and tranquility to their people. …

All of these good things are destroyed now and we are back to 1991.

A [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I recognize that the Islamic Courts did manage to establish a degree of order in Mogadishu. However, the Islamic Courts never had broad support among the Somali people and, importantly, the Islamic Courts were moving in a very radical direction, which would not have been to the benefit of the Somali people. The Transitional Federal Institutions were developed, with the assistance of Kenya, as the legitimate representatives of the Somali people. With the ousting of the Courts, the TFG now has an opportunity to establish its credibility in order to become an effective, inclusive government. Our objective is to support this process.

I want to emphasize our commitment to an inclusive process that truly bring together all Somalis who reject violence and extremism. This is the only way forward for Somalis to achieve lasting stability and security. I believe that the Somali people are tired of the chaos and conflict that has plagued their country and want to participate in an inclusive political process. This will, in turn, lead to a smooth transition to an elected government in 2009.

You can not appeal to people who reject violence and extremism if you have just overthrown their government by violence and extremism. There is no path to “security and stability” that way. Overthrowing the Somili government with Ethiopian proxies meets no definition of the word inclusive. It works against any possibility for democracy.

Ranneberger is telling the Somalis that he knows better what is good for them than they do. Whatever else this is, it is NOT democracy. The TFG brought violence, exploitation, and insecurity. It has been beaten and discredited since then. The 2009 elections were held by a small group of Somalis in Djibouti, arranged by the US, and then called “representational”. They elected Sheikh Sharif, the handpicked choice of Ambassador Ranneberger. Sheikh Sharif has been “persuaded” by Ranneberger to become an ally of the United States. Sheikh Sharif is supposed to give a new face to the TFG, but so far, there is not much evidence he will be accepted, or that things will change for the better. Any solution to the governance or the piracy problems in Somalia must involve Somali communities. Ranneberger’s actions continue to actively harm any possibility for democratic processes or participation. Inviation only “elections” in Djibouti will not help Somalia.

As b real points out, Ranneberger:

… has had official capacity wrt sudan during the early part of this decade, possessing a cv that intertwines w/ a history of cia hotspots & covert arms transfers

  • country officer in angola (1981-84) while the u.s. was overtly supporting the “proto-terrorist” Unita
  • then constructively engaged as deputy chief of mission in mozambique from ’86-9 while the u.s. was covertly supporting the outright terrorist mvmt Renamo
  • then paraguay for the ’89 coup and on through 1992
  • then ’92-94 around el salvador & guatemala for who knows what
  • a brief stint as deputy chief of mission in mogadishu around ’94
  • then some work in haiti
  • then coordinator for cuban affairs (’95-99)
  • on to ambassador to mali from ’99-2002
  • in sudan from 2002-4 for a civil war while the u.s. supporting the south
  • then on to the african bureau
  • sudan again, as senior representative for sudan
  • and, since 2006, ambassador to kenya & responsibility for u.s. relations w/ somalia

One of the things that has distressed me for decades is how negative and counter productive US policy has been towards the developing world, particularly during the Cold War. This is not just in Africa, but in Asia and Latin America as well. Look at the ravages that military coups wrought on Latin America under the training and aegis of Southcom and US Cold War policy. Cheney, with Rumsfeld and Bush, has done his best to lock Cold War patterns and thinking into place, and to lock Bush’s successors into misguided and counter productive policies going forward, policies that ultimately hurt the United States. So far Obama has slipped right into that trap.

In an interview Mahmood Mamdani speaks about the:

way in which the Cold War almost seamlessly morphed into the war on terror.

We see that in action in the work of Ambassador Ranneberger. He opposed democracy when it was actually working. By doing so he hurt the United States by harming people in countries that would like to be our friends, by denying democracy, and by damaging trust, and the reputation and integrity of the United States.

Somali pirates

Somali pirates

Just who can stop the Somali pirates? We may not know who can stop them, but we know who did stop them. According to this report from Chatham House:

PDF: Piracy in Somalia – Threatening global trade, feeding local wars

Piracy has been a problem in Somali waters for at least ten years. However, the number of attempted and successful attacks has risen over the last three years. … The only period during which piracy virtually vanished around Somalia was during the six months of rule by the Islamic Courts Union in the second half of 2006. This indicates that a functioning government in Somalia is capable of controlling piracy. After the removal of the courts piracy re-emerged. (p3)

Piracy returned and has increased since the US/Ethiopian invasion of Somalia at the end of December 2006.  A Somali government with some support from Somali people can actually govern.   But the US and the Ethiopians decided  to crush it, resulting in humanitarian disaster and the return of piracy.

There is no question that piracy is a serious problem off the coast of Somalia. It is also a problem that is being hyped by western media resulting in certain inconsistencies in the story, some described in these three September posts from Kotare: Somali pirates and their lair, Pirates in Puntland, and The Bullshit Files: Pirates of Puntland.

It looks like the upsurge of piracy in Somalia is another result of the failure of Bush administration strategic thinking, and failed US foreign/military policy.

As AFRICOM stands up, it might be worth looking at the short essay by Thomas Palley featured on RGE Monitor from Nouriel Roubini, The Origins of the American Corporate Predator State (also here).

Jamie Galbraith’s recent book describes modern (Bush-Cheney) Republicanism as creating a “predator state”. Its predatory aspects are starkly visible in the gangs of corporate lobbyists who roam Washington DC, the Halliburton Iraq war procurement scandal, and the corruption and incompetence that surrounded the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

However, the broad concept of a predator state needs qualification as we are really talking of an “American corporate” predator state. Thus, the predatory nature of contemporary US governance is quintessentially linked to corporations, and it is also a uniquely American phenomenon.

… [The] origins clearly trace back to the military – industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about in his final televised address to the nation on January 17, 1961.

That complex has captured politics and corrupted the business of government, including of course the conduct of national security policy. The fact that it has wrapped itself with the flag and entwined itself with the military makes it impossible to confront without being charged as unpatriotic. Worst yet, its enormous enduring profitability has provided a model for imitation by other industrial complexes like Big Pharma and Big Oil.

Another feature … is a tendency to conflate profit with free markets. That means the distinction between fair competition (which is good) and fat profits (which are bad) is lost, thereby providing cover for predators.

The Africa Command is a creation of the Bush Cheney American corporate predator state. It was conceived by people who were focused on Africa’s oil, other natural resources, and on opposing China. These are the same Bush Cheney cronies that have done the most to convert American democracy into a corporate predator state, and destroy American democracy in the process. I have tried to document these origins since February 2007 when the command was announced. For another excellent introduction to AFRICOM, see: Understanding AFRICOM:
A Contextual Reading of Empire’s New Combatant Command Part I
, part II , part III.

Look at the AFRICOM logo. It bears an unfortunate metaphorical resemblance to female genitalia, with target Africa in the middle. In the metaphorical context of the phallic shapes of the military weaponry being shopped to Africa, it is additionally unfortunate. Intentional or not, it speaks to the underlying motives for creating the command.

In his essay Why AFRICOM has not won over Africans Samuel Makinda divides the questions about AFRICOM into three areas, paraphrased here:

  • The lack of any clear explanation or rationale for creation of the command.
  • The complete lack of transparency in creation and presentation of the command.
  • The creators of AFRICOM discount or disparage the advances Africa has made with respect to African security through the African Union as well as regional organizations.

Although there is a lot of talk from AFRICOM about partnerships, there has been little real consultation with Africans. Most of the Africans consulted have been those trained, one might say indoctrinated, in US military training programs such as IMET. Regarding the lack of transparency, Makinde says:

African analysts and policy makers point out that in Africa today there is little or no transparency in discussions of AFRICOM or of U.S. military relations with African states generally. They note that . . . it has not been freely and openly discussed by the legislatures of the African states, even in countries that have been mentioned as possible sites for AFRICOM’s headquarters.

This prompts the question: what governance ethos would AFRICOM foster in the future if its current relationships with African governments are shrouded in secrecy?

AFRICOM is a major manifestation of the militarization of US foreign policy. The Pentagon is swallowing the traditional diplomatic and foreign assistance programs of the United States. The process and budget are described in the report from Refugees International: U.S. Civil Military Imbalance for Global Engagement

And most important of all Makinda points out:

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.

What is needed is energy, focus, and money to strengthen civilian democratic political, economic, and social institutions, so that democracy, participation of all the people, can grow and flourish.

The Human Security Report Project has just released the Human Security Brief 2007 PDF. It contained two most compelling pieces of information:

Fatalities from terrorism have declined by some 40 percent, while the loose-knit terror network associated with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda has suffered a dramatic collapse in popular support throughout the Muslim world.

This is directly contradictory to the fear mongering of the Bush administration. Every day it seems to be adding new states to the list that either harbor or sponsor al Qaeda. This is particularly true in African countries where the US has an interest in oil, natural resources, or in blocking Chinese access. We constantly hear about al Qaeda threats in a variety of African countries.

The Brief also describes and analyses the extraordinary, but largely unnoticed, positive change in sub-Saharan Africa’s security landscape. After a surge of conflicts in the 1990s, the number of conflicts being waged in the region more than halved between 1999 and 2006; the combat toll dropped by 98 percent.

The Brief (PDF) contains the following regarding Africa:

° There has been a major decline in the scope and intensity of conflicts.
° Refugee numbers have shrunk substantially.
° The share of global humanitarian assistance going to Africa doubled between 1999 and 2006—from 23 percent to 46 percent
. . .
Between 2002 and 2006 the number of campaigns of organized violence against civilians fell by two-thirds.

Why the Sharp Increase in Conflict Numbers in the 1990s?

The increase in new state-based conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s was not unique to the region and was clearly related to the end of the Cold War. Regimes and rebel groups that had long been propped up by the assistance given by one or the other of the two superpowers suddenly found that this support—political as well as economic—had disappeared. The result in many cases, not just in sub-Saharan Africa, was regime change and ongoing political instability.

However, in sub-Saharan Africa something else was happening: The countries of the region, to a greater degree than in other parts of the world, were undergoing profound and wrenching political change. In 1988 nearly 90 percent of sub-Saharan African states had autocratic governments. By 2006 there were just two autocracies in the region, while the number of democracies had increased sixfold, from three to 18.

Had the only change been a decrease in autocracies and an increase in democracies, it would likely have enhanced regional security, since democracies tend to experience fewer armed conflicts than do autocracies. But these were not the only changes.

[There were] trends in “anocracies”—a third regime type, one that is neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic, but a mix of both systems.

The increase in the number of anocracies in sub-Saharan Africa between 1988 and 2000 is startling—far greater than in any other region of the world. In 1988 there were two anocracies and 37 autocracies in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2000 there were just four autocracies, but 30 anocracies. This change is an important part of the explanation for the sharp increase in conflict numbers in the 1990s.

So what then does explain the sharp increase in the number of conflicts that have been brought to an end since the early 1990s? A major part of the answer lies with the extraordinary upsurge in international activism in the region directed towards stopping ongoing wars and seeking to prevent them from starting again. From the early 1990s, the international community— including the African Union (AU)—was bringing real pressure to bear on warring parties to negotiate an end to hostilities rather than to fight on to the bitter end. The big increase in negotiated settlements during this period suggests that this strategy has been effective. with the UN, to help stop wars and prevent them from starting again.

Postconflict peacebuilding missions also expanded rapidly and have played a positive role in helping prevent negotiated peace settlements from breaking down. From 1950 to 1999 there were just 18 negotiated settlements—and nearly half broke down within five years. From 2000 to 2005 there were 10 such settlements—thus far not one has broken down. Postconflict peacebuilding’s critical security role lies in helping to make negotiated settlements more stable.

It looks like negotiated settlements, followed up by some peacebuilding activity works, particularly those efforts of the UN and the AU.

Before visiting Africa Bush proposed major cuts in the US contribution to UN peacekeeping.

ABC News: U.S. Slashes Africa Peacekeeping Funds

The Bush administration will request no more funding for United Nations peacekeeping efforts, leaving in place proposed cuts expected to be as deep as 25 percent, according to officials and budget documents. Among the programs facing sharpest cuts are efforts to quell violence in Africa.

When ABC News first reported the proposed cuts in February, the administration contended that it might seek additional funding later in the year. But officials confirmed last week that they requested no additional funding in their supplemental budget recently submitted to Congress.

“Unless you are expecting the emergence of peace worldwide,” the cuts are hard to understand …
[Before Bush’s trip to Africa] White House officials talked up the trip and Bush’s commitment to the continent, telling reporters how the president “really cares about Africa.”

U.S. funding for U.S. peacekeeping operations this year could reach $2.1 billion, but the administration had requested less than $1.5 billion to cover its share of the costs of U.N. peacekeeping efforts for 2009.

But “US peacekeeping” in Africa is not necessarily the same as peacekeeping. Under George Bush, “US peacekeeping” is more about controlling oil and other resources for US needs. In fact, Bush’s intentions have been described as trying to undermine and circumvent both the UN and the AU, and replace them with AFRICOM, using the US military, mercenary corporations, and African surrogates to protect US corporate interests, the latest colonial occupation.

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.

Bush slashed UN peacekeeping money for Africa just before visit is up at the African Loft.

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