security


With Haiti’s government “all but invisible” and its repressive security forces collapsed, popular organizations were starting to fill the void. But the Western powers rushing in envision sweatshops and tourism as the foundation of a rebuilt Haiti. This is opposed by the popular organizations, which draw their strength from Haiti’s overwhelmingly poor majority. Thus, if a neoliberal plan is going to be imposed on a devastated Haiti it will be done at gunpoint. (Arun Gupta)

And this is where the mercenaries come in.

IPOA conference in Miami, March 2010, how to capitalize on the Haitian earthquake

On March 9 and 10, there will be a Haiti conference in Miami for private military and security companies to showcase their services to governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the earthquake devastated country. (Bill Quigley, Center for Constitutional Rights)

On their website for the Haiti conference, the trade group IPOA (ironically called the International Peace Operations Association until recently) lists eleven companies advertising security services explicitly for Haiti. Even though guns are illegal to buy or sell in Haiti, many companies brag of their heavy duty military experience.

Patrick Elie, the former Minister of Defence in Haiti, told Anthony Fenton of the Inter Press Service that “these guys are like vultures coming to grab the loot over this disaster, and probably money that might have been injected into the Haitian economy is just going to be grabbed by these companies and I’m sure they are not the only these mercenary companies but also other companies like Haliburton or these other ones that always come on the heels of the troops.”

Naomi Klein, world renowned author of THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, has criticized the militarization of the response to the earthquake and the presence of “disaster capitalists” swooping into Haiti. The high priority placed on security by the U.S. and NGOs is wrong, she told Newsweek. “Aid should be prioritized over security. Any aid agency that’s afraid of Haitians should get out of Haiti.”

Security is a necessity for the development of human rights. But outsourcing security to private military contractors has not proven beneficial in the U.S. or any other country.

The U.S. has prosecuted hardly any of the human rights abuses reported against private military contractors. Amnesty International has reviewed the code of conduct adopted by the IPOA and found it inadequate in which compliance with international human rights standards are not adequately addressed.
Contractors like these soak up much needed money which could instead go for job creation or humanitarian and rebuilding assistance. Haiti certainly does not need this kind of U.S. business.
In a final bit of irony, the IPOA, according to the Institute for Southern Studies, promises that all profits from the event will be donated to the Clinton-Bush Haiti relief fund.

Jeremy Scahill reports:

Within hours of the massive earthquake in Haiti, the IPOA created a special web page for prospective clients, saying: “In the wake of the tragic events in Haiti, a number of IPOA’s member companies are available and prepared to provide a wide variety of critical relief services to the earthquake’s victims.”

The current US program under which armed security companies work for the State Department in Iraq—the Worldwide Personal Protection Program—has its roots in Haiti during the Clinton administration. In 1994, private US forces, such as DynCorp, became a staple of US operations in the country following the overthrow of Jean Bertrand Aristide by CIA-backed death squads.

As Scahill reported right after the earthquake:

We saw this type of Iraq-style disaster profiteering in New Orleans and you can expect to see a lot more of this in Haiti over the coming days, weeks and months. Private security companies are seeing big dollar signs in Haiti …

Among the services offered are: “High Threat terminations,” dealing with “worker unrest,” armed guards and “Armed Cargo Escorts.”

From Arun Gupta:

… “Security is not the issue. We see throughout Haiti the population themselves organizing themselves into popular committees to clean up, to pull out the bodies from the rubble, to build refugee camps, to set up their security for the refugee camps. This is a population which is self-sufficient, and it has been self-sufficient for all these years.”

In one instance, Ives continued, a truckload of food showed up in a neighborhood in the middle of the night unannounced. “It could have been a melee. The local popular organization…was contacted. They immediately mobilized their members. They came out. They set up a perimeter. They set up a cordon. They lined up about 600 people who were staying on the soccer field behind the house, which is also a hospital, and they distributed the food in an orderly, equitable fashion.… They didn’t need Marines. They didn’t need the UN.”

These weapons they bring, they are instruments of death. We don’t want them. We don’t need them. We are a traumatized people. What we want from the international community is technical help. Action, not words.”

That help, however, is coming in the form of neoliberal shock. With the collapse of the Haitian government, popular organizations of the poor, precisely the ones that propelled Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency twice on a platform of social and economic justice, know that the detailed U.S. and UN plans in the works for “recovery” – sweatshops, land grabs and privatization – are part of the same system of economic slavery they’ve been fighting against for more than 200 years.

A new occupation of Haiti — the third in the last 16 years — fits within the U.S. doctrine of rollback in Latin America: support for the coup in Honduras, seven new military bases in Colombia, hostility toward Bolivia and Venezuela. Related to that, the United States wants to ensure that Haiti not pose the “threat of a good exampleby pursuing an independent path, as it tried to under President Aristide — which is why he was toppled twice, in 1991 and 2004, in U.S.-backed coups.

With the government and its repressive security forces now in shambles, neoliberal reconstruction will happen at the barrel of the gun. In this light, the impetus of a new occupation may be to reconstitute the Haitian Army (or similar entity) as a force “to fight the people.”

This is the crux of the situation. Despite all the terror inflicted on Haiti by the United States, particularly in the last 20 years — two coups followed each time by the slaughter of thousands of activists and innocents by U.S.-armed death squads — the strongest social and political force in Haiti today is probably the organisations populaires (OPs) that are the backbone of the Fanmi Lavalas party of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Twice last year, after legislative elections were scheduled that banned Fanmi Lavalas, boycotts were organized by the party. In the April and June polls the abstention rate each time was reported to be at least 89 percent.

It is the OPs, while devastated and destitute, that are filling the void and remain the strongest voice against economic colonization. Thus, all the concern about “security and stability.” With no functioning government, calm prevailing, and people self-organizing, “security” does not mean safeguarding the population; it means securing the country against the population. “Stability” does not mean social harmony; it means stability for capital: low wages, no unions, no environmental laws, and the ability to repatriate profits easily.

There is far more in Arun Gupta’s article about the connection between, and history of, US military occupation and neoliberal capitalism in Haiti.

Additionally, as Ashley Smith points out:

… the catastrophe in Haiti revealed the worst aspects of the U.S. government and the NGO aid industry.

… As Mike Davis in The Planet of Slums:

Third World NGOs have proven brilliant at co-opting local leadership as well as hegemonizing the social space traditionally occupied by the Left. Even if there are some celebrated exceptions–such as the militant NGOs so instrumental in creating the World Social Forums–the broad impact of the NGO/”civil society revolution”…has been to bureaucratize and deradicalize urban social movements.

Davis argues that NGOs are, in fact, a form of “soft imperialism.” They play a role very similar to the one that missionary religious institutions played in the earlier history of empire. They provide moral cover–a civilizing mission of helping the hapless heathens–for the powers that are plundering the society. And just as religious institutions justified imperial war, many NGOs, abandoning their traditional standpoint of neutrality in conflicts, have become advocates of military intervention.

Nowhere is this pattern more clear than in Haiti.

… “The emasculation of the state is no accident…It is partly the consequence of the neoliberal regime implanted in the country by the major international financial institutions. By advocating the withdrawal of the state from its social and regulating obligations, and by promoting the supremacy of the market, this regime has contributed to an economic, political and social disaster.”

Haitians now commonly refer to their own country as the “Republic of NGOs.” But that is a misnomer, since Haitians have no democratic control over the NGOs. In reality, Haiti has been ruled by an American NGO Raj.

WHILE SOME NGOs like Partners in Health have been set up to develop Haitian grassroots self-organization and control, most major NGOs have been accomplices in the neoliberal catastrophe the U.S. wrought in Haiti.

First of all, the NGOs have reproduced and exacerbated class inequality in Haiti. …
The NGOs themselves are in the business of poverty, not its eradication, and they have proliferated in lockstep with the collapse in the Haitian standard of living. This has led many Haitians to rightly see them as profiting off their crisis.

NGOs aided and abetted the “plan of death”; exacerbated through failure, mismanagement and corruption the impact of neoliberalism on Haiti; and then supported the coup against the democratically elected government.

In so doing, they undercut the sovereignty of Haitian people, all under the gloss of helping people overcome their poverty–poverty that they, in fact, helped create.

Haiti led the world out of slavery, from the Boston Globe in 2004:

Historian Laurent Dubois thinks the world indeed owes something to Haiti. “Anyone who lives in a democratic society in which race doesn’t equal a denial of rights has some debt to the Haitian revolution,” he reflected in an interview. “The very notion of democracy that we consider commonsense emerged because of that revolution. If that’s something we cherish then we owe that to Haiti, which has suffered more for its victory rather than been rewarded for it. That is how I would picture the restitution.”

Haiti deserves help that actually helps, or deserves to be left alone. The Haitian people are enterprising and can take care of their country and their people. We all owe Haiti a debt, moral and monetary. Instead Haiti is treated to exploiters and thieves. The country that led us out of slavery is having neoliberal neoslavery imposed on it at gunpoint, by the US and the international community, with mercenaries as the enforcers.

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What is likely to make the majority of Americans more secure right now, the defense appropriation bill, or universal affordable healthcare? Which is most likely to insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare?  Defense that actually defends US citizens extends way beyond military action.  We face some far greater and more immediate threats than enemy weapons and enemy soldiers.

Obama-signs-defense-authorization-bill

Obama signs the defense authorization bill, Oct. 28, 2009

Defense spending is treated is if it carries no cost. I am continually puzzled that there is almost no discussion in the news, no questions asked about the vast sums involved in what is called defense spending. Those who allege they are fiscal conservatives never blink at these massive sums, or the seas of red ink they create. Obama signed a $680 billion defense bill amidst heated debate about spending $90 billion on healthcare. You hardly heard a peep anywhere in the news about the vast sums in the defense bill.

Bush’s last defense spending bill, in effect through September 2009, came to $608.6 billion.

No ordinary person can get a sense of how much money that is. It helps to divide the $608.6 billion by the 365 days in a year and realize Bush’s new defense budget will cost the taxpayers $1.7 billion a day. This works out to $1.2 million a minute counting Saturdays and Sundays. Yet the main threat to the country as advertised by Bush are terrorists who have no standing army; no warships; no warplanes; no tanks; no satellites.

I am not against defense spending.  The money needs to be spent more wisely, and that requires public debate and participation in the process.    That debate requires news media willing to research and discuss the issues.  Unfortunately, there is little sign of that at present.

In fact those parts of the defense establishment actually fighting to defend the US interests, the soldiers, are under resourced and underfunded because the defense contractors set the spending priorities through their lobbyists and networks of government friends.  The needs of defense contractors are very different from the needs of soldiers.

The reasons Congress will swallow … defense requests without even chewing on them are the same old ones. No politician … wants to give his opponent or anyone else grounds to call him or her weak on defense. And the pols shrink from canceling even an obsolete weapon experiencing huge cost overruns because of the jobs attached to it back home. Defense contractors, rather than try to justify their weapons on the basis of the threat beyond our shores, focus instead on showing state by state all the jobs that would be lost if their widgets were cancelled.

I don’t see anything likely to change this pattern.  It is the military industrial complex President Eisenhower warned against, after spending his two terms as president locking it into place.  The State Department, that is supposed to be the face of US foreign policy has no constituency, certainly nothing as massive and powerful as the defense industry.  It does not have the funding, power, or influence of the Pentagon.

I sometimes think the real death blow to American democracy came when the US Supreme Court ruled that money is the same as free speech.

The US Supreme Court, in its 1976 decision in the case Buckley v. Valeo, essentially concluded that free expression can be counted in dollars. Money spent to influence elections, the court concluded, is a form of constitutionally protected free speech. [link]

 

cjtf-hoa-djibouti

Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, seen from space, view it in Google Maps.

It looks like Camp Lemonier is on its way to becomming a permanent base. From the Stars and Stripes (you can see more photos in the article):

Camp Lemonier grows to support AFRICOM

… Increasing American activity in the Horn of Africa has propelled Lemonier from a sleepy 97-acre post to a 500-acre base that’s become one of the military’s major installations on the continent. Last year’s stand-up of U.S. Africa Command means the base is only going to get busier.

“As AFRICOM matures, Camp Lemonier will transition to supporting long-term [theater security cooperation] efforts and establishing strong and enduring regional relationships,” Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the AFRICOM commander, said during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in March 2008. “Camp Lemonier will be a part of supporting and developing regional African capability and capacity; thus, its funding support must continue.”

… Congress has set aside more than $100 million for camp improvements between fiscal 2007 and 2010 …

… the most telling indicators of the camp’s larger role may be the new infrastructure that will allow it to serve as a support hub for Africa Command. Crews have already broken ground on new taxiways to increase its ability to manage aircraft. Leaders are considering putting in a “hot pad” that will allow planes to refuel, rearm and get back on their way quickly.

Lemonier is now set to be an enduring base of operations for Africa Command. Navy Capt. Patrick Gibbons, the base commander, envisions the camp as a forward staging base for troops making last minute preparations before a mission. It is already a logistics hub that supports ships working in the Gulf of Aden and aircraft flying counterpiracy missions there. Other teams are tasked to pick up anyone who needs to be rescued. Lemonier’s mission even extends beyond the Horn of Africa region where Djibouti lies.

“The camp is becoming an enduring mission” …

Unfortunately, to date, and aside from the development photo ops in Djibouti, Camp Lemonier has contributed to destabilizing both Somalia, and Kenya, and facilitated the invasion and occupation of one country by another, the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia, and involved in planning and funding the disastrous raid on the Lord’s Resistance Army by Uganda in December. These are all the actions of AFRICOM in East Africa. AFRICOM and Camp Lemonier contribute to propping up the dictator Meles in Ethiopia, as the US cozies up to Meles, funding his ambitions and excesses in the way that has discredited American good intentions and foreign policy around the world. It does not matter how real your politik, deeds tell the story. Mary Carlin Yates was just in Ethiopia planning further cooperation. The effect will be to destabilize, exploit, and oppress in Ethiopia and its neighbors:

March 25, 2009 (ENA) – Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday received and held talks with US Africa Command Civilian Deputy (AFRICOM), Ambassador Mary Yates.

Ambassador Yates said as Ethiopia is AFRICOM’s partner in security, the visit is intended to further scale up the relation.

Meles said Ethiopia and AFRICOM have been cooperating to ensure peace and security.

Accordingly, he said encouraging activities are being carried out in the area of military cooperation and capacity building.

The two parties have also discussed as to how to maintain the prevailing peace and security in Somalia, according to a senior government official who attended the discussion.

Of course step one to increase and maintain peace and security in Somalia would be to end Ethiopian involvement. There is nothing good Ethiopia can do in Somalia. It has no credibility. The history is so bad, that even if Ethiopians had good intentions, they would not be believed. That Ambassador Yates was discussing continued involvement in Somalia with Meles signals just how bad are US intentions, and how poorly informed is US planning.

AFRICOM is still looking for a permanent base in Africa. I doubt Camp Lemonier is seen as the permanent HQ, but it obviously is becoming permanent. Judging from a number of signals, including the very minor one, which parts of the archive of this blog are getting traffic, Ghana and Botswana are both under pressure and being seriously considered as potential home bases for AFRICOM. I surely hope Ghana can resist. The idea of hosting AFRICOM is not popular with any Ghanaians I know.

The US GAO, General Accounting Office, released a February report. From the New York Times

A report issued Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office acknowledged that the command had taken steps recently to win the trust of American diplomats and development experts, as well as African leaders. But it said the command must do a better job explaining what it does to build credibility among its United States government partners and with the African nations it is seeking to help.

“The military’s large size brings the promise of increased resources,” the report said, but that size also stirs concerns among African nations “about potential encroachment into civilian responsibilities like development and diplomacy.”

In an interview here on Monday, before the G.A.O. issued its report, Gen. William E. Ward, the head of the command, said many of the misperceptions about the command had been dispelled.

If General Ward believes the “misperceptions”, the products of realistic skepticism and knowledge of history, have been dispelled, he is living in a dream world. More likely he is continuing the same mistake AFRICOM planners have made all along, only listening to themselves, and those they have selected to agree with them.

The GAO report (PDF) on Africom makes clear that AFRICOM headquarters is still planned for the continent. It is one of the three main recommendations of the report:

• Include all appropriate audiences, encourage two-way communication, and ensure consistency of message related to AFRICOM’s mission and goals as it develops and implements its communications strategy.

• Seek formal commitments from contributing agencies to provide personnel as part of the command’s efforts to determine interagency personnel requirements, and develop alternative ways for AFRICOM to obtain interagency perspectives in the event that interagency personnel cannot be provided due to resource limitations.

• To determine the long-term fiscal investment for AFRICOM’s infrastructure, we recommend the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, as appropriate, conduct an assessment of possible locations for AFRICOM’s permanent headquarters and any supporting offices in Africa.

Hero Rat sniffing a landmine

Hero Rat sniffing a landmine

From Afrigadget comes the story of:

“Scratch and sniff” Africas HeroRATS

I heard about this extraordinary use of rats years ago and am hoping that sharing it today will bring a smile to many faces. Although Mozambique’s civil war ended nearly two decades ago, unexploded ordinance continues to be a major cause of injury and death. But now they have a solution. Rats! Local giant rats are being trained and employed to assist in mine detection.

Rats have the amazing record of being able to detect mines 95% of the time. If only all our politicians would work this hard and for a banana….. I keep hoping against hope…

For more scientific information, read this article in the Journal of Mine Action

HeroRat videos on YouTube:

APOPO (5:55)
(links corrected 3/22)

You can adopt a rat at the HeroRat.org website for 5€ per month.

Adopt a HeroRAT

HeroRats not only detect landmines, they also detect tuberculosis in sputum samples. When demining:

A trained HeroRAT can clear 100 m2 in 30 minutes, equivalent to two days work for a manual deminer.

In detecting tuberculosis:

… in 7 minutes one rat can evaluate 40 samples which is the equivalent of 2 days of microscopy work for a lab technician.

Plus, the rats are too light to explode landmines, they don’t mind repetitive tasks, and because, although they are large rats, they are small animals, they are easy to house and move around, and inexpensive to feed. The program provides work for farmers and restores land for farming.

I think supporting this program is an excellent idea for anyone. It is also nice because it is something that can be shared with children. But it would be even better to see some government security dollars spent on an inexpensive program that actually makes people a lot more secure.

DAKAR, Senegal - Representatives from Senegal participate in the three-day Africa Endeavor 2009 Initial Planning Conference, January 13, 2009 in Dakar, Senegal. Africa Endeavor, the largest multinational communication interoperability exercise on the African continent, will be hosted in Gabon in July, 2009. The exercise is designed to encourage information-sharing among African nations that will support the development of overall African Union humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peace-support missions. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Justin G. Wagg)

DAKAR, Senegal - Representatives from Senegal participate in the three-day Africa Endeavor 2009 Initial Planning Conference, January 13, 2009 in Dakar, Senegal. Africa Endeavor, the largest multinational communication interoperability exercise on the African continent, will be hosted in Gabon in July, 2009. The exercise is designed to encourage information-sharing among African nations that will support the development of overall African Union humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peace-support missions. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Justin G. Wagg)

This exercise supports a lot of U.S. goals“, U.S. Air Force Major Eric Hilliard, of the Africa Command (Africom)

DAKAR, Jan 13 (Reuters) … Communications experts from around 25 African armies and the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) are meeting in Senegal this week to plan a continental exercise in Gabon in July, the third of its kind and intended to pave the way for a common communications platform.

“The aim is to devise a transmission architecture for control, command and coordination, as well as an information system, for an eventual African Union peacekeeping force,” Captain Mouhamadou Sylla, of the Senegalese army, told Reuters.

This exercise also helps cement the US Africa Command in place as an imperial colonial power organizing and directing proxy armies, controlling the tools, techniques, perhaps the language of their communication. It would be nice if the US would invest in standardizing communications between first responders in the US, or in enableing their communication devices to communicate across the board with each other.

From Congressional testimony by the Africa Faith and Justice Network, in July 2008:

The ‘train and equip’ idea is not new. In fact, it has a very bad history in Africa – a history that harkens back to the proxy wars of the Cold War and U.S. support for illegitimate or corrupt regimes.

In the 1980’s, the U.S. spent $500 million to train and equip Samuel Doe in Liberia. According to a report from the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, “every armed group that plundered Liberia over the past 25 years had its core in these U.S.-trained Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers. There is thus a fear that when the United States withdraws support for its security sector reform program and funding for the AFL, Liberia will be sitting on a time bomb; a well-trained and armed force of elite soldiers who are used to good pay and conditions of service, which may be impossible for the government of Liberia to sustain on its own.”

AFRICOM’s value as a structure for legitimizing African armies should therefore be called into serious question. The long-term ramifications of irresponsible training and equipping should be taken into consideration before the U.S. military is awarded more power in Africa. PMC’s should be debated and scrutinized by the African people and parliamentary bodies in every country should be encouraged to enact legislation against their operations. Propping up and arming corrupt leaders is no path to stability in Africa. The U.S. must act as a credible force for peace, not an overzealous superpower that employs private contractors to conduct military operations in Africa.

Many question the idea of training and coordinating African militaries at all. Many African military forces are primarily used against their own people in order to keep the current regime in power.

South African poet and activist Breyten Breytenbach spoke of US interest in Africa:

… it would seem that the two major sources of interest when it comes to the African continent for the United States is security, the way they interpret it, in other words, how to counteract the possibility of Islamist influence in Africa.

And the second one, of course, is the access to natural resources, particularly to oil. Same effect. In other words, you’re not concerned about developing society. You’re not concerned about democracy. You’re not concerned about women’s rights. You’re not really particularly concerned about the health problems either, although some work has been done in that field. So, AFRICOM, I think, should be seen within that context.

He also spoke in the larger context on government in African countries:

If I may step back for a minute, there’s a big picture that’s emerging in Africa. Africa is rapidly moving to the point where we’re going to have to reconsider the viability of the nation-state concept, when it comes to the African continent, because governments are falling apart. These are plundering elites, as in the case of Zimbabwe, and as is the case with Senegal, for that matter, who use the notion of sovereignty, of national sovereignty and of national independence to be able to plunder and pillage their own people. African armies don’t fight one another; they fight the civilian population.

But you have—parallel to that, you have developing a network, a continental network of civil society organizations, women’s organizations, children’s organizations, the youth, cultural organizations, human rights organizations. Those really, to a large extent, now produce very essential services. One should invest in these organizations. That’s the way it should happen. But, of course, it’s a complicated thing, because you are then denying this club, this very well fed, comfortable club, international club of rulers recognizing one another.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi writes more on these civil society groups that are actually doing the work of governing in much of Africa:

But there’s another side of Africa, the one that pushes back. This side is comprised of political and social organisations and activists, school teacher organisations, journalists, and health professionals, as well as women, worker, and youth organisations that patiently chip away at Africa’s problems usually with no funding, media coverage, or national and international recognition to speak of.

These Africans work against great odds to prevent famine, war, human rights abuse, the spread of AIDS, and a host of other urgent issues. When tragedy strikes, they work hard to ameliorate the effect. But even when they aren’t facing political persecution, they are under-funded and without the protection that comes with media coverage. They are the unseen, under-supported and unrecognised pillars of African societies.

… the question is why it is much easier for us to listen to philanthropists talk about what is wrong with Africa rather than the serious and dedicated political activists on the ground. Why are we not helping those who are helping themselves?

We love glossy packages that promise big bangs and super solutions. Take the Bill Gates Initiative, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa that promises super seeds for super plants to end famine in Africa. A simpler and more long-lasting solution lies in organic African farming, growing more food crops over cash crops, the diversification of African agriculture, and the depoliticisation of food and other basic human necessities.

The point is that every little bit of support counts and it can come in many forms – moral solidarity, awareness-raising, or financial support. But this help should not be afraid of the Africa that pushes back, or come at the expense of long-term solutions. One helping hand should not kill dreams with the other.

It looks like Breyten Breytenbach is correct when he says to the US:

“… you’re not concerned about developing society. You’re not concerned about democracy. You’re not concerned about women’s rights. You’re not really particularly concerned about the health problems either, although some work has been done in that field. So, AFRICOM, I think, should be seen within that context.”

Your World – AT&T
Image courtesy of Outside the Silver Lining, see also Verizzzzzon

Glenn Greenwald quotes:

. . . from that 1998 Foreign Affairs essay by Thomas Carothers helpfully outlining the steps required to install the “rule of law” in third-world, pre-democracy countries:

Type three reforms aim at the deeper goal of increasing government’s compliance with law. A key step is achieving genuine judicial independence. . . . But the most crucial changes lie elsewhere. Above all, government officials must refrain from interfering with judicial decision-making and accept the judiciary as an independent authority.


(Meanwhile, in the US Congress)

Let’s just describe very factually and dispassionately what has happened here. Congress — led by Senators, such as Jay Rockefeller, who have received huge payments from the telecom industry, and by privatized intelligence pioneer Mike McConnell, former Chairman of the secretive intelligence industry association that has been demanding telecom amnesty — is going to intervene directly in the pending lawsuits against AT&T and other telecoms and declare them the winners on the ground that they did nothing wrong. Because of their vast ties to the telecoms, neither Rockefeller nor McConnell could ever appropriately serve as an actual judge in those lawsuits.
. . .
The question of whether the telecoms acted in “good faith” in allowing warrantless government spying on their customers is already pending before a court of law. In fact, that is one of the central issues in the current lawsuits — one that AT&T has already lost in a federal court.

Yet that is the issue that Jay Rockefeller and Mike McConnell — operating in secret — are taking away from the courts by passing a law declaring the telecoms to have won . . . They are directly interfering in these lawsuits and issuing a “ruling” in favor of AT&T and other telecoms that is exactly the opposite of the one an actual court of law has already issued.

Mostly we have thought of the US as a democracy, and not a pre-democracy. But Administration and Congressional support for this bill makes us highly sceptical, and even more worried that the US is becoming a post-democracy. In many parts of the world, if you say something the government doesn’t like, jeeps arrive at your door at 4am. One of the beautiful things about the United States was that this did not happen, at least not legally. Now the US government has private spies and private armies, dangerous steps in a dangerous direction.

R.J. Hillhouse tells us in the Washington Post:

Red alert: Our national security is being outsourced.

The most intriguing secrets of the “war on terror” have nothing to do with alQaeda and its fellow travelers. They’re about the mammoth private spying industry that all but runs U.S. intelligence operations today

Surprised? No wonder. In April, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell was poised to publicize a year-long examination of outsourcing by U.S. intelligence agencies. But the report was inexplicably delayed — and suddenly classified a national secret. What McConnell doesn’t want you to know is that the private spy industry has succeeded where no foreign government has: It has penetrated the CIA and is running the show.
. . .
Private companies now perform key intelligence-agency functions, to the tune, I’m told, of more than $42 billion a year. Intelligence professionals tell me that more than 50 percent of the National Clandestine Service (NCS) — the heart, brains and soul of the CIA — has been outsourced to private firms.

This is why the big telecoms, and their friends in Congress want immunity. They are among the companies who have been spying illegally on the American people.

The law giving the telecoms immunity has been stopped, at least for now, by Sen. Chris Dodd. He deserves high praise for his patriotism, and his defense of the US Constitution.

Playing on people’s fears is about the only thing the Bush administration knows how to do well. Every time Bush dipped in the polls in his first term, and before the 2004 election, a new terror threat was announced and the US would suddenly have a heightened terror alert. Now Bush cannot run again, he does not have so much need of terror alerts in the US. But it looks like they still might be useful elsewhere.

LAGOS, Sept 6 (Reuters) – U.S. and other Western interests in Nigeria are at risk of “terrorist attack”, the United States embassy in Africa’s top oil producer said on Thursday.

The official warning, in a message for U.S. citizens in Nigeria, gave few details, but said potential targets included official and commercial installations in the capital Abuja and the commercial city of Lagos.

“The U.S. Mission in Nigeria has received information that U.S. and other Western interests in Nigeria are currently at risk for terrorist attack,” the statement said.

In Washington, a U.S. official said the advisory was based on “very nonspecific threat information.”
. . .
Analysts said the alert on Nigeria, which is the fifth largest oil supplier to the United States, could be related to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Or, could these “threats” be related to attempts to find a home for Africom?

If countries are truly concerned about terrorism, the US under Bush is about the last place I would think they would want to turn for advice or help. And hosting a large US military installation seems like an invitation to trouble. Bush and company have had NO successes in their “war on terror” other than keeping the American people sufficiently scared, and manipulating the vote just enough to keep Bush in office. Look at Afghanistan, where the US could have made a difference, but blew the opportunity. Or look at the needless destruction of Iraq, which is now a breeding and training ground for terrorists. Or look at the absence of successful terror prosecutions, because their cases can’t stand up in courts, even courts packed with their own judges.

Back in June North African countries signaled their unwillingness to host Africom. And Southern Africa, the SADC, has said no, with South Africa being particularly vocal. West Africa, ECOWAS, and East African countries have not sounded such a unified voice. But the press I read from every country, with the possible exception of Liberia, shows the citizens as being overwhelmingly opposed to hosting US troops on African soil.

In July, Theresa Whelan, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Africa tried to drive a wedge between African countries.

Answering questions about her government’s response to the outright rejection of Africom by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Whelan said that would be fine, but that the US would simply cut off military relations with SADC as an organisation while continuing to engage with amenable countries in Southern Africa on an individual basis.

And neo-con Africa “expert” Peter Pham chimed in early August with more wedging action:

. . . smaller countries will tend to view the new command as a potential hedge against the aspirations of their larger neighbors to regional hegemony, while larger nations may conversely come to view AFRICOM as a potential obstacle to those ambitions. That certainly appears to be case with South Africa.

As the previous South African article concludes:

It is apparent that there is a considerable gap to be closed between African and US perceptions of each other’s legitimate security interests and how these should find expression in military and security co-operation.

I have no doubt South Africa wants to flex its muscles. And I have some reservations about their actions in Ghana at times. But I am terrified at the thought of Bush messing up Ghana, or any other African country, calling anyone who gets in the way of US oil interests a terrorist. In politics it is often important to avail oneself of allies where you find them. It can pay off with improvements in the long run. And South Africa is part of Africa, and has a right to speak in this regard. Africa is still vulnerable, and it is still iffy as to whether individual countries will stand up to the Africa Command.

Added September 7:
b real brings some important information and questions to the issue. I’ll excerpt from his comment below, but please read the full comment for details:

consider the following as a possible motive for the “nonspecific” terror threat in nigeria.

OPEC is meeting in vienna on 11 sept. there have been stories over the past week, quoting different OPEC representatives, that the cartel would not be increasing output at the upcoming meeting.

for instance, see tuesday’s african oil journal: OPEC Will Not Increase Production at the Next Meeting on Sept 11

Qatar’s energy minister on Tuesday declared that there were no plans to increase crude oil production at next week’s OPEC meeting in Vienna as the 12-nation cartel sees no shortages in the market.
. . .
after the announcement of the “terror” threat to production & distribution facilities in the niger delta, crude prices have increased.
Oil climbs on Mid-East tension, US inventory falls
. . .
so could this warning from the u.s. embassy in abuja be part of a tactic to help push the price of crude up so high that it puts more pressure on OPEC to increase quotas next tuesday?

or is it a ploy to push up the price in order to grab a lot of quick profits? perhaps of which some of that $$$ is needed to help stabilize the troubled financiers requiring bailout in the us?

or is it part of a campaign to justify an increased military presence in the delta? the “year-long trial deployment of a U.S. navy vessel to the region in October” is just around the corner, after all.

or has there actually been a legit threat from one of the militant groups or gangs warning specifically of the targeting of u.s. installations? definitely not enough info in the few news copies on the warning right now to determine how serious to take it, although the stuff like the former u.s. ambassador to nigeria’s story about AQ finding haven in nigeria can be dismissed out of hand for the baloney that it is. which lowers the credibility of threat itself, leading me to wonder about a connection to the OPEC meeting this tuesday.

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