Cheney


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.

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New Orleans left to drown by the Bush administration after hurricane Katrina

In reading Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil, I came across this description of the government of Congo Brazzaville.

. . . it is not just inefficient public companies that are being privatized – but the very functions of the state. State shipping taxes on oil and timber are paid to private interests, and not recorded in the budget. The national airline collapsed down to little more than a vehicle for collecting air transit fees from foreign airlines; private firms have armlocks on port and shipping facilities, telecommunications, and banks, breaking laws freely or having parliament rubber-stamp new ones in their favor.

As state institutions give way to private interests, Congo’s government stands increasingly on just three remaining pillars: first, the internationally recognized sovereignty that legitimizes the oil and banking contracts; second, the state oil company and the oil and finance ministries that manage the financial engineering; and, finally the armed forces that protect the system. Even ongoing low-level conflict is tolerated, as long as it does not threaten the sovereign extractive core. “Not only do these state institutions survive, but the state begins to hang off these institutions as if nothing else existed . . . They deal with the intricacies of oil-backed loans and the oil industries. They become the state. It is not a collapsed state but a privatized state. With a collapsed state, the rulers lose control; with a privatized state, they can even increase the possibility of accumulation.”

“The people are utterly disenfranchised . . In the city everything is expensive” . . . an attractive world of international airports, satellite dishes, oil rigs, French cafes, and air-conditioned hairdressers . . . “in the rural areas there is nothing. Rape and gang-rape are taken to violent extremes; there is a total lack of structure in society, and generalized impunity . . . Congo is two nations.”
(Poisoned Wells by Nicholas Shaxson, p.116-117, ISBN 978-1403971944)

What struck me is that this is the final reduction when government is privatized. This looks like the ultimate outcome of the kind of government to which Bush/Cheney are leading the US.

The treatment of New Orleans following hurricane Katrina is one example, as illustrated above. But there are others. Sometime earlier this year I read about the Bush administration trying to privatize functions of the IRS, including tax collection, which sounds a great deal like Congo Brazzaville.

Bush vetoing the SCHIP childrens health insurance is another. The Republican argument reduces to: if your parents can’t afford private health insurance, you can’t have health insurance.

And the privatizing of spying, the outsourcing of intelligence is another example. The people who have been doing the spying on the American people are for the most part not government workers. The people spying on US citizens are private companies, the telecommunications giants, working at the behest of the Bush administration. In the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) contract employees occupy 51% of DIA office space. And The Spy Who Billed Me asks a number of questions about this, including:

  • Can the DIA afford $1 billion of staff who are paid a “private business salary” when it’s own government staff receive “taxpayer funded salaries”?
  • Can the DIA really afford $1 billion of staff who do not have a fiduciary duty to the DIA, but to another entity?

John Holt, in a recent article in the London Review of Books speculates that the current situation in Iraq is exactly what Bush and Cheney had in mind when they invaded Iraq.

On the assumption that the Bush-Cheney strategy is oil-centred, the tactics – dissolving the army, de-Baathification, a final ‘surge’ that has hastened internal migration – could scarcely have been more effective. The costs – a few billion dollars a month plus a few dozen American fatalities (a figure which will probably diminish, and which is in any case comparable to the number of US motorcyclists killed because of repealed helmet laws) – are negligible compared to $30 trillion in oil wealth, assured American geopolitical supremacy and cheap gas for voters. In terms of realpolitik, the invasion of Iraq is not a fiasco; it is a resounding success.

And, of course, the costs do not include any consideration of the cost to the Iraqis, once again looking like the Congo Brazzaville model. And Bush and Cheney increase their possibilities for accumulation.

b real, in the comments, points me to this article about the possibility of Liberia hosting Africom HQ. It includes the following sentence:

The new command’s main mission will be to stabilize weak or poor countries by training the local security forces and providing humanitarian aid.

When I read it I see some things have been left out. These omissions are part of Bush/Cheney’s standard operating approach to the world, but they’ve been around since before Bush/Cheney. “The new command’s main mission will be to stabilize weak or poor countries,” or destabilize countries who may oppose or disagree with United States oil interests and intentions. And “training the local security forces” brings the notorious School of the Americas to mind, which has helped bring so much peace and security to Central and South America in the form of coups, torture, and destabilization.

Oil in Sudan (click map to enlarge)

Darfur – It’s about the oil.

The US started the current conflict in Darfur over oil, by funding military aggression, a proxy war, using Chad. As part of this proxy war, the US has continued to arm the larger of two rebel groups, the SLM. China needs oil, and now possesses 1.2 trillion US dollars in its banks. The oil business is done in dollars, and China has plenty. China has been making loans to African governments with no strings attached. This has shored up authoritarian rulers. But China has also funded and helped build schools, roads, and other infrastructure projects in the African countries with which it is dealing.

Over the last 3 decades, the United States and the big oil companies have completely wasted the opportunities they had to build and cement long term positive relationships in Africa. The US government and Big Oil have preferred arrogance, neglect, and single minded exploitation. They have used “military assistance” to deal with anyone who they think may stand in their way.

With the Nigerian government unwilling to build infrastructure in the Niger Delta, Shell could have done this relatively cheaply on its own, in partnership with local communities. Shell should have been less arrogantly careless about polluting the land and the water. It would have cost more. But if Shell had been willing to think long term, it would have paid off more. US support for the grotesque government in Equitorial Guinea is both foolish for long term US interests, and morally inexcusable. And former support for Savimbi and Unitas in Angola was another moral abomination that achieved nothing but death and suffering.

F William Engdahl details the history and describes the present situation in Darfur and Sudan:

(The) present concern of the current Washington administration over Darfur in southern Sudan is not, if we look closely, genuine concern over genocide against the peoples in that poorest of poor part of a forsaken section of Africa.

Instead, we now have:

. . . a new Cold War over oil, where the dramatic rise in China’s oil demand to fuel its booming growth has led Beijing to embark on an aggressive policy of – ironically – dollar diplomacy.
. . .
China is using no-strings-attached dollar credits to gain access to Africa’s vast raw material wealth, leaving Washington’s typical control game via the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) out in the cold. Who needs the painful medicine of the IMF when China gives easy terms and builds roads and schools to boot?
. . .
China has been generous in dispensing its soft loans, with no interest or as outright grants, to some of the poorest debtor states of Africa. The loans have gone into infrastructure, including highways, hospitals, and schools, a stark contrast to the brutal austerity demands of the IMF and World Bank.
. . .
This oil-related Chinese diplomacy has led to the bizarre accusation from Washington that Beijing is trying to “secure oil at the sources”, something Washington foreign policy has itself been preoccupied with for at least a century. No source of oil has been more the focus of China-US oil conflict of late than Sudan, home of Darfur.
. . .
With its oil demand growing by an estimated 30% a year, China will pass the US in oil import demand in a few years. That reality is the motor driving Beijing foreign policy in Africa.
. . .

Merchants of death –

The United States, acting through surrogate allies in Chad and neighboring states has trained and armed the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army, headed until his death in July 2005 by John Garang, trained at the US Special Forces school at Fort Benning, Georgia (the notorious School of the Americas).
By pouring arms into first southeastern Sudan and since discovery of oil in Darfur into that region as well, Washington fueled the conflict that led to tens of thousands dying and several million driven to flee their homes.
. . .
The Pentagon has been busy training African military officers in the US, much as it has trained Latin American officers for decades. Its International Military Education and Training program has provided training to military officers from Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

Much of the arms that have fueled the killing in Darfur and the south have been brought in via murky, protected private “merchants of death” such as the notorious former KGB operative, now with offices in the US, Victor Bout, who has been cited repeatedly in recent years for selling weapons across Africa. US government officials strangely leave his operations in Texas and Florida untouched despite the fact he is on the Interpol wanted list for money laundering.
US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has been cut sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen. Oil and the scramble for strategic raw materials is the clear reason. The region of southern Sudan from the Upper Nile to the Chad border is rich in oil. Washington knew that long before the Sudanese government.
. . .

Chad oil and pipeline politics –

Condoleezza Rice’s Chevron is in neighboring Chad, together with the other US oil giant, ExxonMobil. They’ve just built a $3.7 billion oil pipeline carrying 160,000 barrels per day from Doba in central Chad, near Darfur, via Cameroon to Kribi on the Atlantic Ocean, destined for US refineries.

To do it, they worked with Chad “President for life” Idriss Deby, a corrupt despot who has been accused of feeding US-supplied arms to the Darfur rebels.
. . .
Supplied with US military aid, training and weapons, in 2004, Deby launched the initial strike that set off the conflict in Darfur. . . . The US military support to Deby in fact had been the trigger for the Darfur bloodbath. Khartoum reacted and the ensuing debacle was unleashed in full, tragic force.
. . .
The Chinese economic presence in Chad, ironically, may be more effective in calming the fighting and displacement in Darfur than any AU or UN troop presence ever could. That would not be welcome for some people in Washington and at Chevron headquarters, as they would not secure the oil.

Chad and Darfur are but part of the vast China effort to secure “oil at the source” across Africa. Oil is also the prime factor in US Africa policy today. George W Bush’s interest in Africa includes a new US base in Sao Tome/Principe, 124 miles off the Gulf of Guinea, from which it can control Gulf of Guinea oil fields from Angola in the south to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Nigeria. That just happens to be the very same areas where recent Chinese diplomatic and investment activity has focused.
. . .
Darfur and Chad are but an extension of the US Iraq policy “with other means” – control of oil everywhere. China is challenging that control “everywhere”, especially in Africa. It amounts to a new undeclared Cold War over oil.

There is much more information in the article, and it is well worth reading. The information in this article is available in bits and pieces in a variety of sources. Mr. Engdahl has put it together with succinct precision.

I think two of the particularly telling quotes from the article are:

US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has been cut sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen.
and
The Chinese economic presence in Chad, ironically, may be more effective in calming the fighting and displacement in Darfur than any AU or UN troop presence ever could.

The cuts in US development aid, with increased military aid, is exactly the wrong way for the US to go, both in terms of US interests, and African interests. This is what the US did in the Cold War, and accomplished nothing good. This will cause enormous harm. In this context, the Africa Command appears to be an extension of the disastrous Iraq policy. I hope the US can find more positive ways to make friends and secure markets. The Iraq approach is an obvious and miserable failure. The American brand could become popular and successful again, but only if the US is willing to act in mutually beneficial fashion. So far the Cheney hand on foreign policy has steered relentlessly in the wrong direction.

Appreciation to Dr. Doom for the image.

Bad judgment is Dick Cheney’s trademark.
. . .
What is always overlooked with Dick Cheney is how he performs when he arrives in his various jobs. The answer is, in truth, not very well.
. . .
An examination of Cheney’s career reveals that it is marked by upward mobility and downward performance.
. . .
The issue of Dick Cheney’s judgment must be raised because he is the catalyst, architect, and chief proponent of Bush’s authoritarian policies.
. . .
It was Cheney, and his mentor, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who convinced Bush to go to war in Iraq.
(from: Conservatives Without Conscience, by John Dean, ISBN 0-670-03774-5, p.159-161)

This is the background on Dick Cheney, as Josh Marshall writes in Vice Grip:

Dick Cheney is a man of principles, disastrous principles.

. . . mistakes–on energy policy, homeland security, corporate reform–abound. Indeed, on almost any issue, it’s usually a sure bet that if Cheney has lined up on one side, the opposite course will turn out to be the wiser. Yet somehow, in Washington’s collective mind, Cheney’s numerous stumbles and missteps have not displaced the reputation he enjoys as a sober, reliable, skilled inside player.

Cheney is conservative, of course, but beneath his conservatism is something more important: a mindset rooted in his peculiar corporate-Washington-insider class.

. . . few groups are so accustomed to self-dealing and self-aggrandizement as the cartel-capitalist class. And few are more used to equating their own self-interest with the interests of the country as a whole.

2006 victory in Somalia of the Islamic Courts

I remember reading or hearing that everything that guns can do for a country, they have done for Somalia. Of course the guns don’t get there by accident. And the US is throwing its weight behind expanding violence on the Somalis. The satirist Jesus’ General calls the Bush/Cheney foreign policy the Glorious Eternal War to Resubjugate Brown People“, and the more one watches, the more this description appears to be literal truth and not a joke.

Somalia has been a failed state for well over a decade. That is why northern, mostly European countries can dump nuclear and toxic waste off Somali shores, waste that was washed up and strewn about by the tsunami, left to be cleaned up by people with no protective gear.

I remember a couple of years ago I was talking about doing business back home with a Somali cab driver. He said he would really like to go back home and set up a business. But with the endless cycle of war, anytime you establish a business, some group comes along and seizes or destroys what you have built. To try and do business in these circumstances is pointless.

And now the US is compounding the problem, allegedly in the name of fighting Al Qaeda, but Al Qaeda has not found a welcome or a haven in Somalia. Somalia is hostile to Al Qaeda. And the US is sponsoring its Ethiopian proxies, an army of Ethiopian Christians fighting Somali Muslims (does the word crusade ring a bell?) trying to reinstall a hated and non-functioning warlord government.

Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda has failed for more than a decade to establish an operational base in Somalia due to the country’s austere environment and inhospitable clans, a new U.S. military report says.
. . .
“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.”
. . .
“Al Qaeda is predominately an Arab organization, and Arabs tend to stick out in Somalia, so it’s difficult for them to establish large covert bases. The only thing they (Somalis) hate more than their own homegrown radical Islamists casting themselves as holier-than-thou are foreign terrorists coming in and telling them they are not good Muslims and acting holier-than-thou.”

But this does not stop Bush/Cheney from killing wounding and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. At present the number of refugees that have fled Mogadishu in the last few weeks is around 400,000. The US bombed civilians allegedly to kill or capture the bombers of the embassy in Kenya. As Chris Floyd writes:

Bush killed dozens of Somali civilians in bombing raids on fleeing civilians in an attempt to knock off a couple of the alleged dastards. He failed, of course; but at least the men, women and children who had their guts ripped out and their heads blown off and their limbs torn from their bodies died in a good cause. . .

The Somali “regime change” op intensified last month when Bush’s Ethiopian proteges launched a ferocious attack on resistance forces in the capital of Mogadishu. Tanks and artillery rained shells on residential areas, killing hundreds of people and driving hundreds of thousands more from the city. Many fled toward Kenya, where most were turned away, and others were captured by Kenyan security forces and American agents, then “rendered” to torture chambers in Ethiopia. The victims included a pregnant Swedish woman and a New Jersey man.

But don’t worry, neither of them were white, so it’s OK. If they had been of paler hue, of course, perhaps the Bush-backed bloodbath would have attracted more than a modicum of carefully massaged notice in the American media.

The US bombed civilians, and has monitored the conflict from its base in Djibouti. The Guardian tells us:

The Islamic Courts government was popular in Mogadishu after bringing relative order and driving out clan warlords responsible for 16 years of death and mayhem.
. . .
Washington encouraged the Ethiopian military – at the “invitation” of Somalia’s interim national government which was so unpopular it was unable to remain in Mogadishu – to invade and oust the Islamic Courts administration. The new Somali government includes some of the warlords who previously caused so much destruction.

Bush/Cheney will only allow a Somali government if it is composed of these warlords. The Islamic Courts are not a government I would want to live with, but some rule of law, and some order, is far better than none. The Guardian continues:

A report by the Royal Institute of International Affairs said that US and Ethiopian strategic interests in supporting a weak and factionalised government that is far less popular than the Islamic Courts administration are an obstacle, not a contribution, to rebuilding Somalia.

“In an uncomfortably familiar pattern, genuine multilateral concern to support the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Somalia has been hijacked by unilateral actors – especially Ethiopia and the United States.” (emphasis mine)

(added May 17) Its about the oil, the same reason as the destruction and occupation of Iraq. Remember the Iraqi Hydrocarbon Law? As Carl Bloice says in US Sponsored Bombing of Somalia: The Hidden War for Oil:

Actually, there is no more reason to believe the Bush administration promoted this war, in clear violation of international law and the UN Charter, ‘to catch a handful of al-Qaeda men’, than that the invasion of Iraq was to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. What has unfolded over the past three months flows from much larger strategic calculations in Washington.
The invasion and occupation of Somalia coincided with the Pentagon’s now operational plan to build a new ‘Africa Command’ to deal with what the Christian Science Monitor dubbed ‘strife, oil, and Al Qaeda’. . . .

Last week came the news that the US now imports more oil from Africa than from the Middle East; with Nigeria, Angola and Algeria providing nearly one-fifth of it – more than from Saudi Arabia. . . .

On file are plans – put on hold amid continuing conflicts – for nearly two-thirds of Somalia’s oil fields to be allocated to the US oil companies Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips.
It was recently reported that the US-backed prime minister of Somalia has proposed enactment of a new oil law to encourage the return of foreign oil companies to the country.

DAVE CLARK/AFP/Getty Images
ODIOMA, NIGERIA: A villager walks through the ruins of the southern Nigerian community of Odioma, a fishing and trading centre, and a historic centre for the Ijaw people in the oil-rich Niger Delta. It was burned to the ground on 19 February 2005 by government troops. 17 people were reported to have been killed and two women raped when soldiers raided the town of Odioma. The attack was ostensibly to arrest members of an armed vigilante group suspected of killing 12 people, including four local councillors. Some of the raiders were reported to have been recruited by a sub-contractor of Shell’s subsidiary in Nigeria and to be responsible for security in an area where oil exploration was being conducted, despite their alleged criminal record. The suspects were not captured but 80 per cent of homes in Odioma were razed. . . . “We have nothing… If we protest, they send soldiers. They sign agreements with us and then ignore us. We have graduates going hungry, without jobs.” Eghare W.O. Ojhogar, chief of the Ugborodo community in Delta State

Here is the core of the debate over African oil development:

  • Can oil revenues be made to work for Africans or will they profit only the corrupt few?
  • Are oil revenues destined to fuel civil wars and pay for the abuse of human rights or can they build peace and prosperity?
  • Is oil development in Africa’s interest or in the interest of the United States (or, I would add, can the two interests be balanced)?
  • Can African oil and gas reserves be exploited without harming the environment, or is the expansion of the world’s oil-based economy ultimately inimical to our collective future on this planet?

There has been an enormous amount of contact and activity between the US and African countries in recent months.

From oil rich northern Angola up to Nigeria, from the Gulf of Guinea to Morocco and Algeria, from the Horn of Africa down to Kenya and Uganda, and over the pipeline routes from Chad to Cameroon in the west, and from Sudan to the Red Sea in the east, US admirals and generals have been landing and taking off, meeting with local officials.

They’ve conducted feasibility studies, concluded secret agreements, and spent billions from their secret budgets. Their new bases are not bases at all, according to US military officials. They are instead “forward staging depots”, and “seaborne truck stops” for the equipment which American land forces need to operate on the African continent. They are “protected anchorages” and offshore “lily pads” from which they intend to fight the next round of oil and resource wars, and lock down Africa’s oil and mineral wealth for decades to come.

. . . it’s about the oil. And the diamonds, and the uranium, and the coltan. But mostly about the oil.


When we ask the question; i
s oil development in Africa’s interest or in the interest of the United States? I would argue that unless it can be made in the interest of both, it is in the interest of neither. Unfortunately, the leadership in both places seems to have very little interest in the well being of the people they govern. And the leadership in both the US and in Africa seem to be thinking very short term. Even those countries in Africa that have some form of democracy, seem to want to practice something closer to a Bush administration style kleptocracy, rather than practicing more representative democracy.

And without more local and democratic participation in the decision making, and the profits, we have an unfolding environmental nightmare that is a political nightmare as well.

“West Africa alone sits atop 15% of the world’s oil, and by 2015 is projected to supply a up to a quarter of US domestic consumption.” A foretaste of American plans for African people and resources in the new century can be seen in Eastern Nigeria. US and multinational oil companies like Shell, BP, and Chevron, which once named a tanker after its board member Condoleezza Rice, have ruthlessly plundered the Niger delta for a generation. Where once there were poor but self-sufficient people with rich farmland and fisheries, there is now an unfolding ecological collapse of horrifying dimensions in which the land, air and water are increasingly unable to sustain human life, but the region’s people have no place else to go.
. . .
In a typical gesture of disregard for local black lives and livelihoods, the natural gas which sits atop many oil deposits but is more expensive to capture and process than petroleum is simply burned off or flared at African wellheads. Throughout the 1990s it is estimated that 29 million cubic feet per day of Nigerian natural gas was disposed of in this manner. Many of the flares, according to local Niger delta residents, have burned continuously for more than twenty years, creating a toxic climate of acid fogs and rains, depositing layers of soot and chemicals that stunt or kill ocean and riverine fish and livestock, and poison the few surviving crops. For this reason, flaring at oil wells has long been outlawed in the US. But many African communities near the mouth of one of the planet’s largest rivers are now entirely dependent on water trucked in from outside.
. . .
Local Africans are demanding respect and a share in what is after all, their oil. They are now routinely, viciously suppressed in eastern Nigeria, in Equatorial Guinea and elsewhere, by African troops trained and equipped with American tax dollars. When resistance continues, as it certainly will, America is preparing to up the ante with more American equipment, with military and civilian advisers, with bombs, bullets and if need be, with American bodies. That’s what AFRICOM is about, and what it will be doing in the new century.

I hope this is an unduly pessimistic view. But keep in mind that it’s the Bush administration that is “looking after” US interests here. With the history of western involvement in Africa in mind, which continues to the present day, and the track record of Bush/Cheney, this pessimism looks like matter-of-fact realism, maybe even sunny optimism.

This is probably the single largest foreign policy-related failing among American politicians and members of the policy and media elites: A failure to make a serious effort to ask how things look from the perspective of other countries.


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