Obama


Obama used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to defend making war:

Glenn Greenwald is absolutely right to note that both the Democratic president’s speech and the bipartisan praise for it goes a long way to baking permanent militarism into our political debate. It’s hard to argue anymore that militarism is merely a Bush-ian or Republican ideology – it’s now become a consensus within our political establishment.
David Sirota

pen in a coffin

One of the reasons that militarism has become a mostly unquestioned consensus within the United States is the interrelationship between the military, their corporate partners, and the corporate media. Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff have written Inside the Military Media Industrial Complex: Impacts on Movements for Peace and Social Justice

In the United States today, the rift between reality and reporting has peaked. There is no longer a mere credibility gap, but rather a literal Truth Emergency in which the most important information affecting people is concealed from view. Many Americans, relying on the mainstream corporate media, have serious difficulty accessing the truth while still believing that the information they receive is the reality. A Truth Emergency reflects cumulative failures of the fourth estate to act as a truly free press.


A long thread of sociological research documents the existence of a dominant ruling class in the US, which sets policy and determines national political priorities. C. Wright Mills, in his 1956 book The Power Elite, documented how World War II solidified a trinity of power in the US that comprised corporate, military and government elites in a centralized power structure working in unison through “higher circles” of contact and agreement.[vi] This power has grown through the Cold War and, after 9/11, the Global War on Terror.

At present, the global dominance agenda includes penetration into the boardrooms of the corporate media in the US. Only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. Four of the top 10 media corporations share board director positions with the major defense contractors including:

William Kennard: New York Times, Carlyle Group
Douglas Warner III, GE (NBC), Bechtel
John Bryson: Disney (ABC), Boeing
Alwyn Lewis: Disney (ABC), Halliburton
Douglas McCorkindale: Gannett, Lockheed-Martin
.

Given an interlocked media network of connections with defense and other economic sectors, big media in the United States effectively represent the interests of corporate America. …
The media elite, a key component of the Higher Circle Policy Elite in the US, are the watchdogs of acceptable ideological messages, the controllers of news and information content, and the decision makers regarding media resources. Their goal is to create symbiotic global news distribution in a deliberate attempt to control the news and information available to society. The two most prominent methods used to accomplish this task are censorship and propaganda.

Sometimes the sensationalist and narrow media coverage of news is blamed upon the need to meet a low level of public taste and thereby capture the eyes of a sufficient market to lure advertisers and to make a profit. But another goal of cornering the marketplace on what news and views will be aired is also prominent. Billionaire Rupert Murdoch loses $50 million a year on the NY Post, billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife loses $2 to $3 million a year on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, billionaire Philip Anschutz loses around $5 million a year on The Weekly Standard, and billionaire Sun Myung Moon has lost $2 to $3 billion on The Washington Times. The losses in supporting conservative media are part of a strategy of ideological control. They also buy bulk quantities of ultra-conservative books bringing them to the top of the NY Times bestseller list and then give away copies to “subscribers” to their websites and publications. They fund conservative “think tanks” like Heritage and Cato with hundreds of millions of dollars a year. All this buys them respectability and a megaphone. Even though William Kristol’s publication, the Standard, is a money-loser, his association with it has often gotten him on TV talk shows and a column with The New York Times. Sponsorships of groups like Grover Norquist’s anti-tax “Americans for Tax Reform” regularly get people like him front-and-center in any debate on taxation in the United States. This has contributed to extensive tax cuts for the wealthy and the most unfair tax laws of any industrialized country – all found acceptable by a public relying upon sound-bites about the dangers of ‘big government.’ Hence media corporation officials and others in the health care, energy and weapons industries remain wealthier than ordinary people can imagine. Their expenditures for molding opinion are better understood as investments in a conservative public ideology.

By the time of the Gulf War in 1991, retired colonels, generals and admirals had become mainstays in network TV studios during wartime. Language such as “collateral damage” and “smart bombs” flowed effortlessly between journalists and military men, who shared perspectives on the occasionally mentioned but more rarely seen civilians killed by U.S. firepower. This clearly foreshadowed the structure of “embedded” reporting in the second Iraq War, where mainstream corporate journalists literally lived with the troops and had to submit all reports for military review.[xiii] A related militarization of news studies by Diane Farsetta at the Center for Media Democracy documented a related introduction of bias. These investigations showed Pentagon propaganda penetration on mainstream corporate news in the guise of retired Generals as “experts” or pundits who turned out to be nothing more than paid shills for government war policy.[xiv]

The problem then becomes more complex. What happens to a society that begins to believe such lies as truth? The run up to the 2003 war in Iraq concerning weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) is a case in point. It illustrates the power of propaganda in creating not only public support for an ill-begotten war, but also reduces the possibility of a peace movement, even when fueled by the truth, to stop a war based on falsehoods. The current war in Iraq was the most globally protested war in recorded history. This did nothing to stop it and has done little to end it even under a Democratic president who promised such on the campaign trail. The candidate of “hope and change,” with peace groups in tow, has proven to be dependent upon the same interests in foreign policy that got the US into war in the first place.

As to the change from Obama the liberal campaigner to Obama the corporatist and militarist president, Cenk Uygur has some thoughts for the people who elected Obama:

The core of Obama is a man who is a cautious politician. That is what he is at his center. He can’t help himself. Asking him to be something else is asking a rock to be a little less hard. He is what he is.

So, what Obama does by his nature is find the middle ground. As an excellent innate politician, he will find the political center of any field and rush to it. That’s where elections are won – the center. So, that’s why he sounded so progressive during the primaries, because that was the center of the left. And why he sounded like such a reformer during the general election because the great majority of Americans desperately wanted change.

So, what happened to that Obama? The country is the same, so why did Obama drop the progressive reformer angle and go toward the right and corporate America? Because his field changed. He went from campaigning all across the country to being in the middle of Washington, DC. The center of Washington is very different than the center of the country.

The Washington bubble leans far more to the right than the rest of the country (poll after poll indicates this). The corporate media in Washington are pros at protecting the status quo and view people who challenge the system as fringe players. A natural politician would naturally move right to accommodate this new environment. Obama can’t help himself. Why does a scorpion sting, why does a horse gallop? Because they were made to. Hoping Obama snaps out of it is hoping against reason and nature.

For people living and voting in the US:

So, our only hope is to move the island. We have to move his center. If we can move what he perceives to be the center, he will naturally flow to it. …

The next time Obama pushes a corporate agenda, progressives have to knock him upside the head. Deny him. Or as the kids would say, send his shit. And make a big stink out of it. Draw everyone’s attention to how far right Obama is and how out of whack he is with the American people.

If that scares you and you start to worry about damaging a Democratic president, you’re never going to win at this game. You’re never going to get the policies you want. They don’t listen to reason, they listen to power.

If you don’t move the island, the rest is futile. You have to shift the ground underneath them. And the only way to do that is to create such a strong and aggressive progressive movement that they cannot help but notice it – and respond to it. Move the center and you’ll move Obama. And he’ll move the country. There is no other choice.

Added December 29:

Cenk Ugyur is right about trying to move the center. His prescriptions are more short term and tactical rather than taking the long view. As b real says in the comments, Chris Hedges comes closer to describing the current state of American media and American democracy.

From an interview with Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.”

It’s the story of an America that has transferred its allegiance to spectacle, to pseudo-events, that no longer can determine what is real and what is illusion, that confuses how they’re made to feel with knowledge, that confuses propaganda with ideology, and that’s exceedingly dangerous. All totalitarian societies are image-based societies, and that’s what our society has become.

… newspapers are dying, the publishing industry is dying, you have 42 million Americans who are illiterate. You have another 50 million Americans who are semi literate, meaning they read at a 4th of 5th grade level. And then you have people who are functionally literate, but they don’t read. There are tremendous consequences for that, because as you well know, having worked in the advertising industry, these images are not benign. They are skillfully orchestrated and manipulated by for-profit corporations to get us to do a lot of things that are not in our interests. And of course, this all ties into the rise of celebrity culture, well on display with our 3 week coverage of the death of Michael Jackson.

Sheldon Wolin, the great political philosopher who taught at Berkeley and later Princeton, now 86, has written his sort of magnum opus called, “Democracy Incorporated.” And he argues that we live in a system that he calls inverted totalitarianism. The classical totalitarianism, in classical totalitarianism, like fascism or communism, economics is always subordinate to politics. But in inverted totalitarianism, politics is subordinate to economics. And with a rise of the consumer society, with the commodification of everything, including human beings and natural resources, you have built into it a form, an inevitable form of self annihilation. Because nothing has intrinsic value when society is no longer recognized as sacred. You exhaust everything for their, for its ability to make money. No matter how much human misery you create, no matter how much you go, how far you go to destroy the ecosystem that is sustaining the human species. And that with the rise of celebrity culture, of consumer culture, and on federate capitalism, you get what Benjamin Demott has called, I think quite correctly, junk politics.

Karl Polanyi, this great economist in 1944, wrote a book called “The Great Transformation” in which he said that a society that no longer recognizes the sacred, that exhausts everything for profit, always kills itself. And I think that’s what we’re seeing. And as an economist, he actually used the word sacred. That human beings have an intrinsic worth, that the natural world has an intrinsic worth, beyond it’s potential to generate profit.

We live in a corporate state. We live in a state that no longer responds to the interests of its citizens, but does the bidding of corporations. There is no shortage of examples of that, from the largest transference of wealth upwards in American history, to the so-called healthcare debate, where for profit healthcare industries are literally profiting off of death, any debate about healthcare must begin from the factual understanding that the for profit healthcare industry is the problem. Then we can debate what we do. But unfortunately, and many, many citizens know that, across the floor, but we can’t have it because we are completely controlled. We’ve undergone a kind of coup d‘etat in slow motion. We live in a kind of inverted totalitarianism where the façade of democracy and the constitution are held up as an ideal but the actual levers of power are driven by very destructive forces.

From Chris Hedges’ video address:

These corporate forces will never permit real reform. It would mean their extinction.

Advertisements

Foremost among the neo-colonialists is the United States … with methodical thoroughness and touching attention to detail, the Pentagon set about consolidating its ascendancy, evidence of which can be seen all around the world …

The general objective … to achieve colonialism in fact while preaching independence. Kwame Nkrumah

Presidents Obama and Mills in Ghana July 2009 (I particularly like this picture because the two Presidents look so genuinely pleased to greet each other.)

Presidents Obama and Mills in Ghana July 2009 (I like this picture because the two men look so genuinely pleased to greet each other.)

This is in large part what Obama was doing when he gave his speech in Ghana. I have put together a number of reactions to President Obama and his speech in Ghana here. As Stephen Gowans writes:

It should come as a surprise to no one but the weakly naïve and politically untutored that the role of the US president in Africa is to promote and defend the interests of the United States, not Africans. This is so, even if the US president shares the skin color of Africa’s majority. … It is Obama’s goal as representative of US capital to open, and keep open, Africa’s vast resources to exploitation by Western, and particularly US, capital without impediments of corruption, war and pan-African, nationalist or socialist projects of independent development getting in the way. …

[In Ghana] Obama used his speech to sell two fictions: (1) that Africa’s underdevelopment has nothing to do with colonialism and neo-colonialism, but is rooted in corruption, tribalism and Africans’ blaming others for their poverty; and (2) that Africa’s development depends on adopting institutions that allow foreign capital unfettered access to African markets and resources.

Salim Lone discusses the meaning and implications of Obama’s visit in What Obama can do for us. Lone allows Obama a bit more benefit of the doubt as to Obama’s intentions. But Lone is a keen observer and no fool, and he realizes the US Africa Command is not going away.

His visit can help African democracy if he curbs a misguided US belief in security by military force.

The president’s personal knowledge of and interest in Africa, his charisma and his grassroots support mean that he could be a major player here. This is particularly true since Africa’s low profile among the American political elite allows US leaders a lot of leeway in formulating policy towards it.

But as Obama devises US approaches to African challenges, he will face difficulties from an unexpected quarter – the US military. George Bush and his war on terror, and his reliance on force as a first resort, gave the military extraordinary power in shaping African policy – symbolised by Bush’s creation of the United States Africa Command (Africom), in the misguided notion that the military approach was the best way to tackle terrorism. Thankfully, African governments overwhelmingly resisted the siting of Africom bases.

But Africom is a reality, so it is vital that Obama move to curtail one of its most dangerous mandates: its involvement in economic development and humanitarian actions. This risks the militarisation of Africa’s political and social life – areas that remain the best hope for a better Africa.

People don’t give up power easily or generously. Having acquired premier status in US Africa policy, the Pentagon is unlikely to want to rescind any of that power. Those working on the front lines are building their careers, and have little incentive to cut back. There is also a huge corporate juggernaut driving the policy. As Lone points out, it is vital to curtail the Pentagon’s development and humanitarian mandates. These activities are much more effectively done by civilian organizations. Done by the military, this inevitably militarizes civilian space, the opposite direction from what most people in Africa want, and the opposite direction from good governance and democracy.

Lone writes that Obama has made hawkish appointments, and has recently decided to ship arms to the TFG government in Somalia, not just continuing, but escalating US involvement in Somali internal affairs.

This new intervention is a continuation of the ruinous Bush policy in Somalia, which resulted in the militant al-Shabab Islamists – a previously negligible group – emerging as the country’s dominant force after large numbers of Somalis were radicalised by US air strikes and the 2007 invasion by Ethiopia, Somalia’s arch enemy, to topple the popular and moderate Union of Islamic Courts.

And most critically, Obama must confer with civil society leaders.

One thing he would consistently hear from our civil society leaders would be that good governance – democracy, inclusion, respect for human rights and the rule of law – is non-negotiable. He would also hear that some of the significant gains made in expanding freedoms in multi-party Africa are being rolled back. This is not surprising, as the strategy of the US war on terror reverted to the cold war model of supporting dictatorial allies, which in east Africa included the Ethiopian and Ugandan leaderships.

Obama would also hear that there can be no compromise on free and fair elections. In too many countries recently – including America’s close allies Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya, as well as Zimbabwe – elections have been seriously tainted, and have been followed by violence, the loss of liberties and the strengthening of state security organs.

One of President Obama’s most important priorities for Africa must be to work with and encourage the emergence of a progressive group of African leaders who can become indigenous models for democratic, accountable and inclusive governance – which alone will ensure African, as well as global and American, security.

If Obama were committed to these actions and goals, as Lone says, it will enhance American as well as African security. Unfortunately, that does not look like the direction Obama is heading. From the East African: US names ‘military’ envoys to Kampala, Dar

By nominating an advisor to the US Africa Command (Africom) as Washington’s envoy to Kampala and a retired US Army general as envoy to Dar es Salaam, Obama is signalling that security concerns will remain at the top of the US agenda in East Africa, just as they were during the Bush years.

In statements to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, both nominees put emphasis on fighting terrorism in the countries where they would respectively represent the United States.

James Shikwati wrote Obama Redefined the “Door of No Return” But…, in which he points out a number of metaphorical doors of no return that Obama spoke about, and other important ones on which he was silent.

Obama’s hard hitting statements on Africa’s tyrannical leaders, corruption, tribalism and lack of institutions symbolically point at the continent’s self inflicted modern day doors of no return. His emphasis that “…Africa’s future is up to Africans” could be based on the fact that after 500+ years of people on the continent suffering the fate of externally engineered “doors of no return” it is nonsensical to expect salvation from the same (outsiders). It is up to Africans to either shut the door and or turn it into a door of opportunity where one can always “return” a hero.

The myths such as that propagated in Kenya that some communities are more enterprising and educated than others masks tribalism as another door of no return. If one particular group holds hostage the governance system of a country and goes ahead to award tenders and strategic opportunities to themselves, they subject others to a door of no return.

President Barack Obama either deliberately or through omission opted to engage in silences in his address to Africa. In pointing out that Kenya had a higher per capita economy than South Korea at the time he was born, Obama failed to discuss who “owned” that economy he refers to. It is one thing to refer to a successful nation and another when one discusses individual citizen’s role in such a success. Kenyans are still struggling 46 years after independence to move out of spectator status (picking flowers, serving as watchmen, cooks – what I refer to as employment economy; while actual wealth is transferred elsewhere) in terms of wealth creation. …

Gowans give us more about Korea, why it is such a bad comparison:

“It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for (Africa’s) problems on others,” said Obama, explaining that,

“Countries like Kenya, which had a per capita economy larger than South Korea’s when I was born, have been badly outpaced. Disease and conflict have ravaged parts of the African continent. In many places, the hope of my (Kenyan) father’s generation gave way to cynicism, even despair.”

During the years of its rapid economic growth, south Korea did not follow the development path Obama prescribes for Africa today. Instead, it built five-year industrial plans that singled out industries the government would nurture through tariff protection, subsidies and government support. Foreign currencies necessary for importing machinery and industrial inputs were accumulated through foreign exchange controls, whose violation was punishable by death.

In his speech, Obama created the impression that south Korea developed rapidly because it followed policies the World Bank endorses, while at the same time Africa stagnated, because it didn’t. This is doubly false. Not only did south Korea not follow World Bank policies – in fact, it did the very opposite – Africa has been practically run by the IMF and World Bank since the 1980s. Under their guidance, African living standards have worsened, not improved. Over the same period, the Western world’s financial elite – which exercises enormous influence over the World Bank and IMF – saw its wealth expand greatly.

Returning to Shikwati’s article:

On Zimbabwe, Obama got it wrong. Whereas it is true that the West is not 100% responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwe economy; Obama “silence” here ignores the West’s involvement in land politics and subsequent lack of productivity in this country. The Zimbabwe story might one day turn out to be a clear case of sabotage and an attempt to perpetuate the notion that only particular types of people can be farmers.

Stephen Gowans tells us more about Zimbabwe:

Until 2000, land reform moved at a snail’s pace. As part of a negotiated settlement with Britain, the independence movement agreed to a willing buyer-willing seller arrangement, whereby land could only be acquired for redistribution if the owner wanted to sell. This restriction was to remain in effect for the first 10 years of independence. Since most farmers of European origin were unwilling to sell, little land was available to redistribute.

Eventually Harare was free to expropriate land from farmers who didn’t want to sell. Britain had agreed to help compensate expropriated farmers but renounced the agreement, denying it was ever under any obligation to fund land reform. Since Harare didn’t have the funds to pay for the land it needed for redistribution, it had two choices: Carry on as is, with land redistribution proceeding at a glacial pace, or expropriate the land and demand that expropriated farmers seek compensation from London, which after all, was ultimately responsible for the theft of the land and had promised to underwrite the land reform program. The Mugabe government chose the later course, setting off alarm bells in Western capitals. Mugabe couldn’t be allowed to get away with uncompensated expropriation of productive property.

Analyses that attributed Zimbabwe’s economic disaster to mismanagement overlooked the reaction of Washington to the Mugabe government’s lese majesty against private property. For not only did the turn of the century mark the beginning of fast-track land reform, it also marked the passage of the US Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA.)

ZDERA is not a regime of targeted sanctions against individuals, as many believe. Sanctions against individuals do exist, but ZDERA is something altogether different. ZDERA has two aspects. First, it authorizes the US president to “support an independent and free press and electronic media in Zimbabwe” and “provide for democracy and governance programs in Zimbabwe.” This is code for doing openly what the CIA used to do covertly: destabilize foreign governments. Second, it instructs the United States executive director to each international financial institution (the World Bank and IMF, for example) to oppose and vote against:

(1) any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the government of Zimbabwe; or

(2) any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution.

Since ZDERA was passed in 2001, Washington has blocked all lines of credit, development assistance and balance of payment support from international lending institutions to Zimbabwe.

As bad as ZDERA is, it’s not the only sanctions regime the United States has used to sabotage Zimbabwe’s economy.

You can find more information and detail in Gowans article.

Shikwati continues discussing what Obama left out of his speech.

Obama also deliberately engaged in “silences” when he simply chose to gloss over Western patronage in Africa; governance and talked of “old habits must also be broken” in reference to dependence on commodities as if all this is Africans fault not to engage in value added exports. What is governance for instance, is it government service delivery to its people? Paid for by whom? African countries cannot purport to have good governance if other countries pay for their upkeep. Patronage will continue unless Africans pay for the upkeep of their own governments. A value added relationship with external and African markets is what will translate to positive contribution to governance.

As to US support for good governance, that is also a myth. As student leader and leading activist of the Progressive Movement for Change Victoria Lakshmi Hamah writes from Ghana:

The basic goal of US military programmes is to provide for the security of the local political elite and economic hit men and to insulate them from the social consequences of their economic decisions. Its orientation of African military officers will also ensure that there will be no possible rise of nationalist governments that will aim at the nationalization of oil and mineral production. A political elite isolated and insulated from the prevailing social conditions will have no incentive to protect even the existing semblance of democratic culture. The rise of patronage politics and sectarian outlook will mirror a situation of hopelessness where social opportunities are so limited that the great mass of the people have to be dependent on very narrow layer of society. The rise to public power by politicians will depend on US money and intelligence activity than on the existing limited form of popular consent.

It is important to note that US military and intelligence presence in any part of the world has created and re-enforced the most tyrannical and corrupt regimes of the world. In Africa we know of at least Bokasa, Mmobotu . But it is important not to forget our own history with the United States of America. History and the Present

Forty three years ago the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US financed and coordinated the bloody overthrow of the Government of Kwame Nkrumah. Declassified CIA documents establish the fact that the CIA hired Ghanaian military and police officers to carry out the 24 Feb 1966 bloody overthrow of Nkrumah. Analysis of the CIA documents also reveals the incredible: Nkrumah’s head had a price tag!

As she points out earlier in her article:

Last year, in Accra, President Bush evaded the question of the establishment of a US military base in Ghana put him by Kwesi Pratt Jnr, editor of an Accra leftwing newspaper—the Insight—with the derogatory ‘baloney’ retort. Available evidence supports the fact that George Bush visited Ghana with a proposal to make the country host the Headquarters of the Africa Command Division of the United States Army.

and:

Obama is no doubt a sensation. But the heroism, sensation and public appeal has overshadowed the real character and direction of Obama and the content of the ‘change’ he promised.

She adds:

Nkrumah had maintained strong ties with the US and allowed the American Peace Corps into the country. In trying relating to the US Atta Mills must not take label to mean content and should access the real implications of the Obama visit. The cold war conditions that provided Nkrumah with development options also exist today. Yokohama’s end of history theory published after the collapse of the ‘iron curtain’ is itself now history. Islam is new world force. Russia is back! China is reaching to the skies!! The world stage now looks like a multi-polar world.

President Atta Mills has the obligation to defend Ghana’s sovereignty and independence. After all the US is broke; Ghana can depend on the assistance of other rising powers in the short term to stabilize the economy alongside building the conditions for self reliance both in production capacity and markets in the context of south-south cooperation. In dealing with America we should go beyond the handsome Negro face of the young Harvard graduate; we should analyze within the context of the existing global balance of power and western credit crunch the foreign policy aims of a desperate world power.

Daniel Elombah writes Obama should apologise to Africa. He points out that Obama made apologies to Europe and apologies to the Arab world when he travelled to France and Egypt, but his words to Africa had a different tone:

Obama said in Cairo: “Each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions”, but America and the West has not allowed African democracy to evolve on its own. In so many ways and in so many times, they have interfered in Africa’s development – by sponsoring coups (against Murtala Muhammad and Mobutu Sese Seko against Patrice Lumumba); by manipulating elections (Nigeria, 1960’s); by encouraging murder (Abiola); by doctoring census results (Nigeria); by Imposing foreign and harmful policies (IMF/World Bank); and by generally ravaging the continent and bringing about environmental and social degradation (oil exploration in the Niger Delta, Copper and Diamond Mining in Congo).

Barack Obama said in Ghana: “for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources”, but what he failed to add was the role of western and American companies in fuelling these conflicts- in the Niger Delta, in Congo, Sierra Leone, Congo and elsewhere.

As Gowans points out about Obama’s words on conflict:

As leader of a country currently engaged in three wars of aggression (Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan) and which threatens to escalate its aggressions against Iran and north Korea, one might think Obama would be ashamed to lecture anyone on the importance of resolving conflicts peacefully.

Returning to Elombah:

Obama is right when he said: “development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans”.

However, let us not forget that at the root of Africa’s predicament are the tri-partite combination of bad leadership, rich countries exploitation of Africa and the imposition of wrong policies by international Institutions.

Obama has come and gone, the speech is classic and the rhetoric is exceptional. But the best way to test whether he would be different from other American presidents is to explore the question of African strategic interests, or, alternatively, American strategic interests in Africa, and examine the ways in which and the degree to which Obama’s pursuit of American policy is consistent with or diverges from that of his predecessor- George W. Bush.

For example: Africom was established during George W. Bush’s regime, will the Barack Hussein Obama’s regime continue with Africom? What about the interest of American oil companies in Angola, Equatorial Guinea and the Niger Delta? Will an Obama regime move against their interest vis-a-vis African environmental, economic and political interest?

In Obama’s speech in Ghana, did he mention anything about Barclays Bank establishing a tax haven in Ghana, warning against such vehicle being used for tax evasion and money laundering – in support of transparency and anti-corruption efforts, to expand cooperation in intelligence gathering and sharing and reigning in the vicarious liability of tax havens and offshore banks.

Did he talk about pushing the boundaries of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) (passed by the US Congress before his tenure) to have the expanded power to bite both givers and takers of bribes – both American multi-national countries and kleptomaniac African leaders?

Did he talk about stopping and Withdrawing US Visa from corrupt African politicians – to stop them spending their looted funds in America; Stopping the marketplace for high stakes elite bribery?

One observer said: To many, the Bush personality was a bit too crude and, in some respects, brutish for the world to accept. Put some colour on him, with a sophisticated and intelligent personality, and now you have the same agenda for Africa, skilfully repackaged in an Obama. The agenda remains the same–imperialistic, exploitative, and, ultimately, deadly–but the general perception is different. It is seductive.

Africa should not expect too much from Obama. The reason being that those that understand the way things really work in the United States, a change of a person as president do not necessarily signal a change in policy and direction.

In the United States, the president is less a leader than a manager of policies formulated by corporate elite interests. Thus there is stability of the political system, regardless of who is president. US presidents come and go, but the interests remain constant.

If, in fact, you want good governance in Africa, developing the military, and emphasizing military to military cooperation is the last thing you should do. Victoria Lakshmi Hamah got it exactly right when she said the role of the military is to protect leaders and ruling elites from the social consequences of their actions. We can see it at work in US allies/clients, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia. Where democracy and responsive government may begin to grow, the military can be used to crush it. In fact, helping crush democratic movements is one purpose of US military “cooperation.” We have seen it on many continents for many decades. Nkrumah’s words quoted at the beginning above are even more true today than when he wrote them in 1965. He also said:

IN order to halt foreign interference in the affairs of developing countries it is necessary to study, understand, expose and actively combat neo-colonialism in whatever guise it may appear. For the methods of neo-colonialists are subtle and varied. They operate not only in the economic field, but also in the political, religious, ideological and cultural spheres.

President Barack Obama walks with Ghana President John Atta Mills, right, at the Presidential Palace in Accra, Ghana, Saturday, July 11, 2009. In his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office.

President Barack Obama walks with Ghana President John Atta Mills, right, at the Presidential Palace in Accra, Ghana, Saturday, July 11, 2009. In his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office.

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama meet with pregnant women during a tour of LA General Hospital in Accra July 11, 2009.

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama meet with pregnant women during a tour of LA General Hospital in Accra July 11, 2009.

Vendor with Obama memorabilia in Ghana, July 11, 2009

Vendor with Obama memorabilia in Ghana, July 11, 2009

I spoke to Ghana today. Everyone is thrilled with Obama’s visit. They loved his speech. Throughout the whole country people were watching and enjoying. At the same time, almost everyone is also adamantly against AFRICOM.

People were praising how simple and natural Obama is. They said the visit to Cape Coast Castle was very sad. Nobody can visit there without being affected. And everyone admired the way the Obamas interacted with the people they met, including the musicians and dancers performing at the airport to see them off. The whole country was watching and enjoying the visit. There were posters, signs and commerative items everywhere. The coverage has been wildly enthusiastic, but with some well placed and serious skepticism about US motives.

In his speech Obama included the following:

We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans.

First, we must support strong and sustainable democratic governments. As I said in Cairo, each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: governments that respect the will of their own people are more prosperous, more stable and more successful than governments that do not. This is about more than holding elections — it’s also about what happens between them. Repression takes many forms, and too many nations are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.

In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples’ lives. …


Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.

America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation — the essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny. What we will do is increase assistance for responsible individuals and institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance — on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard; on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice; on civic participation, so that young people get involved; and on concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting, automating services, strengthening hot lines and protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability. As we provide this support, I have directed my administration to give greater attention to corruption in our human rights report. People everywhere should have the right to start a business or get an education without paying a bribe. We have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don’t, and that is exactly what America will do.

Obama used the word partnership a number of times speaking of:

This mutual responsibility must be the foundation of our partnership. And today, I will focus on four areas that are critical to the future of Africa and the entire developing world: democracy; opportunity; health; and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

This last, peaceful resolution of conflict, is how he chose to characterize military partnership. I wondered some about the use of the word partnership throughout the speech. This is a word the Africa Command uses a lot. And I wondered if the use of it repeated in the speech was to soften and blur the definition away from military partnership. Military partnership and the Africa Command have caused ongoing debate and articles in the Ghana news and on GhanaWeb. Obama is very popular, but the Africa Command is not popular at all. Military partnership means, among other things, military proxies, training African militaries to fight for US interests.

In Obama’s words on military partnership:

the final area that I will address is conflict.

Africans are standing up for this future. Here, too, Ghana is helping to point the way forward. Ghanaians should take pride in your contributions to peacekeeping from Congo to Liberia to Lebanon, and in your efforts to resist the scourge of the drug trade. We welcome the steps that are being taken by organizations like the African Union and ECOWAS to better resolve conflicts, keep the peace, and support those in need. And we encourage the vision of a strong, regional security architecture that can bring effective, transnational force to bear when needed. America has a responsibility to advance this vision, not just with words, but with support that strengthens African capacity. When there is genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems — they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response. That is why we stand ready to partner through diplomacy, technical assistance, and logistical support, and will stand behind efforts to hold war criminals accountable. And let me be clear: our Africa Command is focused not on establishing a foothold in the continent, but on confronting these common challenges to advance the security of America, Africa and the world.

This sounds good, but there are very few specifics and still plenty of reason for skepticism.

An article in The Scotman sees AFRICOM HQ in Ghana as a done deal:

Controversial matters such as the impending transfer of US Africa Command’s HQ from Germany to Ghana, heavy narcotics trafficking and burgeoning oil production, are topics for Mr Obama’s talks with Ghanaian president John Atta Mills.

On development, I tend to agree with Kwesi Pratt:

What we need in the developing world, is not gifts and not aid. What we need must be fair trade. If we could get equitable prices for our products and so on, we could make it on our own.

In putting responsibility squarely on Africans, Obama glossed over ongoing interference in African governance by the US and others. Without this interference, arming sides and picking favorites, Africa could work out its own problems. Obama criticised the violence stemming from the recent Kenyan election, but the US actively interfered with that election. If Obama actually intends to back off from this interfering behaviour, I heartily endorse him.

The Africa Command is wildly unpopular in Ghana, as Kwesi Pratt also said:

The Cheney report also makes a recommendation for the establishment of military bases in order to protect American interests and American oil. For me these are the two key reasons why the United States and Obama are interested in this. It has nothing to do with democracy, but the preservation of American interests.

In Ghana, I do not think there’s any possibility of establishing such a presence, [AFRICOM] because it will be resisted

And NO to AFRICOM has been the overwhelming sentiment expressed in the articles and in the comments published in Ghana news sources and on GhanaWeb.

As Nii Akuetteh says in the same interview with Kwesi Pratt:

Currently, a lot of the oil comes from Nigeria and we know that in southeastern Nigeria, where the oil is, there is a lot of agitation, even including some violence because oil companies from Shell to Chevron have been behaving in a predatory manner. Therefore, the oil is an issue, and the establishment of AFRICOM, where twisting arms of African governments to agree to host AFRICOM, has also been going on. I do support Kwesi. He’s been leading the fight in Ghana to make sure that it doesn’t come. I think the democracy factor is one small factor and it is up to us in Washington and around the United States to make sure that it becomes bigger in the calculations of Mr. Obama. So it is up to us to push him. And because he himself has said it, and his staff in the White House also did say that democracy and governance in Ghana is the reason they chose Ghana, our strategy here in Washington is, okay, we will hold them to their words. We will make sure that any agreement they sign, U.S. policy, U.S. aid projects, put the priority on democracy and strengthening civil society.

And that is what must be done. President Obama has said he values democracy. It was the main theme of his speech. That is the reason he told us he chose to visit Ghana, to recognize and honor its vibrant and successful democracy. But democracy is always fragile. We have seen that in the United States in the last decade. People in Ghana and the US must keep pushing for more democracy, for strengthening civil society, and for the transparency and accountability that makes democracy possible.

In some ways I worry the Obama visit is honoring Ghanaian democracy by offering Ghana the tools and means to dismantle that democracy. But the symbolic importance and resonance of Obama, that the US has elected a black man, the son of an African, with the name Barack Hussein Obama, as president, cannot be overstated. If he is not all we would wish, we ourselves need to make our democratic ideals and aspirations manifest.

________

Pictures of Obama from GhanaWeb
Pictures of Obama in Ghana from Yahoo, view as slideshow or gallery.

________

Added July 12, links to stories from GhanaWeb on Obama in Ghana. You can view the comments to the stories for more opinions. Be advised there will be some rude and partisan remarks in the comments to the articles, democracy allows for all opinions to be voiced.

Text of Obama’s speech to parliament
Dignitaries savour Obama’s speech
Obama begins historic visit to Ghana
Obama in Ghana on first sub-Saharan Africa visit
Where will Obama Sleep?
Guests for breakfast meeting to park vehicles at State House
Obama admits to be a long admirer of Ghana
Obama lauds La Hospital
Obama tours Cape Coast Castle
Oguaa residents step out early to welcome Obama
Expectant crowd disappointed as security prevents them from seeing Obam
Africa to shape the 21st century- Obama
Obama leaves after Ghana visit

YouTube videos on Obama’s visit:
Ghana goes Obama-mad in preparation for president’s visit (ITN News)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 1 of 4, 8:19)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 2 of 4, 8:39)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 3 of 4, 8:07)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 4 of 4, 8:35)
Welcome song for Obama to Ghana, An All-Star welcome song for President Obama on his visit to Ghana, Africa July 10-11 (4:43)

This is something that no one among us has the power to do with our sovereignty. It amounts to the attempted robbery of the nation by the force of arms. In a fundamental matter such as this, that has serious implications on our status as an independent nation, that could even mean life or death to Ghanaians, as we have seen in the bombs that continue to fall on marriage ceremonies in Afghanistan, the minimum expectation ought to have been an open democratic national debate and not secretive and conspiratorial manoeuvres.

TAKORADI, Ghana - A traditional fishing boat sails in the Gulf of Guinea near the fishing village of Takoradi, west of Ghana's capital, Accra, on March 2, 2009. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, met with local fishermen to discuss ways that maritime security programs can protect fishing stocks, which are a vital source of food in West Africa. Inset: Nana Ekow Akon, chief of the Takoradi fishing community, speaks with U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, on March 2, 2009. Yates visited West Africa to discuss international cooperation in illegal fishing, counter-narcotics and illicit trafficking. (Photos by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)

TAKORADI, Ghana - A traditional fishing boat sails in the Gulf of Guinea near the fishing village of Takoradi, west of Ghana's capital, Accra, on March 2, 2009. U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, met with local fishermen to discuss ways that maritime security programs can protect fishing stocks, which are a vital source of food in West Africa. Inset: Nana Ekow Akon, chief of the Takoradi fishing community, speaks with U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates, on March 2, 2009. Yates visited West Africa to discuss international cooperation in illegal fishing, counter-narcotics and illicit trafficking. (Photos by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)

Nana Akyea Mensah writes in US Military Base In Ghana in response to a feature article on GhanaWeb by Asare Otchere-Darko, Obama’s Visit – What’s In It For Us And U.S.? Otchere-Darko’s article describes and implies that Kufuor did a deal with Bush and General Ward, bringing the Africa Command into Ghana without informing the Ghanaian people.

… in August 2007 Major-General Ward, who was later confirmed as AFRICOM’s first commander, visited Accra. He held discussions with President Kufuor on “ways of strengthening military cooperation.” His high-powered secret meetings with the President, Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff triggered huge speculation. Much was made of Maj Gen J B Danquah’s public statement about the visit when he said Maj Gen Ward had ‘done enough to resolve’ Ghana’s concerns about AFRICOM, adding, “I have had the chance to hear [Ward] explain what is the reasoning behind the command, and it’s all about partnership.”

This passage is preceded by:

At the moment the Americans say they are happy to keep the U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Germany, to coordinate all U.S. military and security interests throughout the African continent. But any reasonable assessment must conclude that this can be nothing but a temporary address and arrangement. Ghana should welcome that it is thus the target of America’s desire – and we should make the most of this, using it for our own advantage. After all, the process has already started.

The U.S. and Ghanaian militaries have cooperated in numerous joint training exercises, including the African Crisis Response Initiative, an international activity in which the U.S. facilitates the development of an interoperable peacekeeping capacity among African nations. And the head of AFRICOM has already reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to assisting the Ghana Armed Forces “to become more robust”. There is also the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program. Beyond that, Ghana and the U.S. have an active bilateral International Military Education and Training program. In 2007, Kwesi Pratt Jnr, the Managing Editor of The Insight newspaper and the energy behind the pressure group Socialist Forum, warned Ghanaians against what he saw to be the looming danger of a U.S. military base in Ghana. He cited, inter alia, the erection of the huge American Embassy complex in Cantonments as evidence of this.

And Otchere-Darko follows it with this:

General T. Hobbins, head of the U.S. Air Forces Europe, has held discussions with his counterparts here on the possibility of establishing “lily pads”, landing and rapid airlift facilities in otherwise deserted terrain in certain strategic sites in Africa. Tamale Airport has come up as one of the “forward operating sites” targeted. That airport is said to have a runway capacity of accommodating massive U.S. C-3 cargo planes and troop transports.

Ghana is also already the site of a U.S.-European Command-funded Exercise Reception Facility that was established to facilitate troop deployments for exercises or crisis response within the region. The direct link to our oil is only too apparent: the Facility came out of Ghana’s partnership with the United States on what is termed a Fuel Hub Initiative. It may sound like a mere gas station for the troops. But the choice of stable, imminently oil-rich Ghana as a Fuel Hub reflects a greater strategic interest in the country than as merely a filling station.

The Americans have not been shy in establishing a clear economic link alongside their military cooperation.

There are already lily pads and a robust American military presence in Ghana, which I have written about previously in this blog.

Kwesi Pratt was one of the first to raise the alarm about oil and US military bases in Africa. In a 2007 interview he said:

Kwesi Pratt: I am very alarmed after reading what is called the Cheney Report. When Bush came to power, he set up a committee chaired by Dick Cheney his Vice President to assess America’s energy requirements up to the year 2015. The Cheney Report actually says that by the year 2015, twenty percent of American oil requirements will be supplied by West Africa and therefore it is important to maintain a foothold in West Africa in order to ensure that oil supplies from West Africa to the United States of America will not be interrupted.

Consequently, the United States is planning to establish military bases across West Africa including Ghana. And I am very worried that at a time when we are celebrating our national independence we are going to tolerate the establishment of foreign military bases, especially American military bases on our soil. The great Osageyfo Dr. Nkrumah, Malcolm X, Kwame Ture, and all of them emphasized that Africa ought to be free from foreign military bases and weapons of mass destruction. We cannot allow that dream to die.

That is why, it is important for us to resist all attempts to establish foreign military bases on African soil especially forces of the United States, must be prevented from establishing on African soil. Clearly because they are not on African soil to protect our interests, they are on African soil to facilitate the exploitation of our resources for the benefit of the tiny minority that controls the wealth of the American people and who are sitting on top of this world exploiting the Chicanos, exploiting the African Americans and exploiting all of the other independent and healthy forces in the United States on America. We have to resist all attempts to build U.S. military bases in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa.

Nana Akyea Mensah writes:

I feel greatly incensed by the casual manner Mr. Ochere-Darko breaks this news as though it is simply a matter of business, and not even making any attempt to explain the basis of the conspiracy that he confesses in the article. What does this mean? According to Asare Ochere Darko, even though the NPP government did not allow Ghanaians to have a say in whether or not they want a US military base on our soil, it is too late for the Atta-Mills government to say “No”! In other words, without any national debate, whether we like it or not the process has already been started and they cannot be reversed, so we are as good as being already occupied by a foreign power!

Is this supposed to mean that the NPP government was simply throwing dust into our eyes whilst plotting secretly to undermine our national independence and sell us to the Americans? Fortunately for Ghana and Africa, the elections did not go their way. From the article under discussion, it seems to me that with Obama and Atta-Mills in power, the same special interests behind the establishment of the military base in Ghana, the military industrial complex of the USA, are acting as ventriloquists, using their local stooges, to revive their diabolic plot, and rope the two newcomers into the deal. Who else could fit better in the role of selling Ghana to the imperialists more than the very right hand man of Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo, the great Asare Ochere-Darko, himself? If you should ask me what it was that worried me most in the article, I believe I would put my finger on the following seven words written by Mr. Ochere-Darko: “After all, the process has already started.” Most of us are still dazed by the question. What this man is virtually telling Ghanaians is that for months, the NPP has been secretly plotting with foreign powers to establish military bases on our lands without letting out a word about it to the Ghanaian public.

The picture above is of Mary Carlin Yates, AFRICOM’s top civilian employee, promising that AFRICOM can help protect Ghana’s fishing rights, and help protect against drugs. But money for these programs was cut from the Pentagon’s budget. As Daniel Volman informs us in AFRICOM from Bush to Obama:

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 in 2007]

With this in mind, I cannot help thinking that Ms. Yates is, in the very best interpretation, being misleading.

Ms. Yates said in Washington on May 12th:

She disclosed that of the four major target areas of its mission-statement, which explicitly are, reducing conflict, improving security, defeating violent extremism and supporting crisis response. The three words that highlight the Command’s activities are “sustained security engagement”.

“When I was U.S. Ambassador in Ghana, we had a robust military-to-military program. We started the State Partnership Program. What we want to do is to find the African partners who are looking to build peace and stability in their nations and in their regions – partnering with those African standby forces as they build their goal is to come online with battalions for each of the five geographic areas by 2010”.

Five battalions do not mean more peace. Just like lots of police in a neighborhood are an indication of crime and violence, lots of soldiers in a country or region are a sign of war and conflict. If it is not there already, they will bring it.

Open and democratic debate is the currency of democracy. It is sadly lacking in many places that call themselves democracies, including being far too lacking in the United States. Mr. Ochere-Darko says:

But we must not ignore America’s interest. After all, whatever his connection to the African continent, Obama is President of America – and acts in the interest of its people at home above all else.

And so far, in terms of policies, Obama has shown himself to be a willing and enthusiastic supporter of the entrenced elites, what Kwesi Pratt calls the tiny minority that controls the wealth of the American people. Obama has allowed a certain amount of democracy theater in his political manueverings so far. But he has carefully closed off any areas of debate he does not wish to entertain. And President Obama seems to be continuing all the same military imperialist programs initiated by Mr. Bush.

I have been an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama. I made my own small contributions to his campaign. He is wildly and justifiably popular in Ghana and Africa. This should not blind us to what is going on. And it should not stop us from exercising our democratic responsibility to speak out and say what we see.

ADDED June 8th:
For a broader sampling of Ghanaian opinion, read the comment threads on these three posts, listed below, from GhanaWeb. As Nana Akyea Mensah says:

We had an interesting discussion on Ghanaweb yesterday, and as usual an overwhelming consensus was a clear and mighty “NO TO AFRICOM!”

US Military Base In Ghana

Obama’s Visit – What’s In It For Us And U.S.?

Ghanaians Discuss AFRICOM & Obama’s Visit

Barack Hussein Obama sworn in as President of the US, Lincoln Bible held by Mrs. Obama

Barack Hussein Obama sworn in as President of the US on the Lincoln Bible held by Mrs. Obama

Some excerpts from his Inaugural Address that I thought relevant to topics covered in this blog.  The entire speech was eloquent and  resonant.  (full text here)

Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

… a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

… our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

I have a new post up at the African Loft: Obama’s Africa Policy: Does he have one? His Africa policy was described at the National Press Club in September by  Witney W. Schneidman, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the Clinton administration.

He outlined three objectives for the continent:

  • One is to accelerate Africa’s integration into the global economy.
  • A second is to enhance the peace and security of African states.
  • And a third is to strengthen relationships with those governments, institutions and civil society organizations committed to deepening democracy, accountability and reducing poverty in Africa.

There is more discussion of these objectives and what they mean in the article.  Most positive were these lines:

the days of external powers on their own deciding what is best for Africa needs to come to an end, once and for all.

There is a lot more there.  Click over to the African Loft and read the whole story.

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

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