South Africa


90,000 tons of diplomacy is just the beginning.

Imagine a future where the people of countries at odds with U.S. policies suddenly find America’s “massive seaborne platforms” floating just outside their territorial waters.

The George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) the nation’s 10th and final Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, from a Northrop Grumman poster. (click to enlarge)

That future is now present. We have seen a massive exercise in sea basing in the occupation of Haiti following the earthquake. A word document on the Haitian exercise is linked to this page, pictured below, from the Marine Corps on Sea Basing. In another linked document they describe seabasing:

From NWP 3-62/MCWP 3-31.7, Seabasing (PDF p.19)
“Seabasing, a national capability, is the overarching transformational operating concept for projecting and sustaining naval power and joint forces, which assures joint access by leveraging the operational maneuver of sovereign, distributed, and networked forces operating globally from the sea.”
“The sea base is an inherently maneuverable, scalable aggregation of distributed, networked platforms that enable the global power projection of offensive and defensive forces from the sea, and includes the ability to assemble, equip, project, support, and sustain those forces without reliance on land bases within the Joint Operations Area.”

The first major exercise in seabasing was in Liberia, I wrote about it earlier in this post: Seabasing Begins Off the Coast of Liberia. Currently the US an ongoing military presence in the Seychelles that certainly looks like establishing a host nation for a base, and as a friendly neighbor for seabasing. I wrote about the activity in the Seychelles in Building A US Military Base In The Seychelles, and Political Assassin Robots Flying In African Skies. The African Partnership Station has been visiting all around the coast of Africa, partnering in African countries for the US Africa Command. It has spent a lot of time along the coast of West Africa, and a lot of time visiting Ghana. Although AFRICOM officials continue to assure Ghanaians they have no interest in establishing a military base in Ghana, that may be because a sea base is just around the corner. Seabasing is an extension of the doctrine of Full-spectrum Dominance. One of the most succinct descriptions of Full-spectrum Dominance comes from Harold Pinter in his 2005 Nobel acceptance speech:

… the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. … Its official declared policy is now defined as ‘full spectrum dominance’. That is not my term, it is theirs. ‘Full spectrum dominance’ means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

Controlling all attendant resources, most importantly oil, is what the current push for US global militarization is all about. The occupation of Haiti, the revival of the US 4th fleet for Latin America, AFRICOM, with its African Partnership Station patrolling the coasts of Africa, and its ongoing military to military exercises, as well as covering the globe with SOUTHCOM, EUCOM, CENTCOM, PACOM, NORTHCOM, are all part of Full-spectrum Dominance. Below is a screenshot of the USMC web page Seabasing – Enabling Joint Operations & Overcoming Access Challenges

USMC webpage Seabasing – Enabling Joint Operations & Overcoming Access Challenges. The African Partnership Station and the Haitian exercise are circled in yellow. (click to enlarge)

The Pentagon sees security as a full spectrum global operation, as illustrated in the slide below from a linked document, Seabasing Concepts and Programs PDF . They project at least 2 decades of war, based mainly in coastal areas, the littorals, all around the world. Documents and videos linked to the above page cover various aspects of seabasing.

The graphic below is the future security environment the US Department of Defense imagines. The map area outlined is what the Pentagon calls the Arc of Instability. All the arrows point at Africa. Keep the areas outlined on this map in mind when looking at the other maps below. Look at the arrows; all are directed at Africa, including one pointed from Latin America to West Africa, and one from western Asia into northeast Africa, as well as arrows pointed at northwest Africa and at Somalia:

The text reads:
Future Security Environment (PDF p.3)
“Hybrid” Threats &
Challenges …
Largely in the Littorals
ARC OF INSTABILITY
• Nuclear armed states
• Top ten oil reserves
• Significant drug regions
• Anti-West attitudes
• Increasing Global Interdependence
• Emerging Global Powers
• Improved anti-access weapons
• “Haves” vs “Have Nots”
The “asymmetrical kind of war” we face today will last at least two decades…

Clearly this is war, not a humanitarian mission. That is why it is called a war and assigned to the military. The military may engage in humanitarian exercises, but the threat is represented as a military security threat. The real reason for the global militarization is controlling resources and containing potential rivals. Africa is a central target because of its vast resources, oil, mineral, land, water, and more. Labeling almost the entire continent as part of the Arc of Instability demonstrates an intent to keep the continent destabilized. The intent to destabilize is particularly evident in North Africa where the US has Lied Into the War On Terror in the Sahara. The security environment pictured shows the US fears south south alliances and trade, alliances and trade that bypass the United States entirely. The big emerging economies are China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, and Turkey. Along with Russia, these make up the largest 7 emerging economies, the E7.

I have wondered for a long time about why the US has been wedded to a policy in Somalia that is obviously disastrous for Somalia and harmful to nearby countries, as well as doing no good for the citizens of the United States. The US is maintaining a massive naval presence off the coast of Somalia. But it has done nothing to curb the illegal fishing that has devastated the economy of Somalia, a piracy far more significant in overall cost compared to the value of losses to the Somali pirates. Rather the US, NATO, and the international navies off the coast of Somalia appear to be assisting the illegal fishing at the expense of Somalia. Mohamed Hassan explains the global reasons for US Somalia policy quite clearly. The US policy is about containing emerging Asian powers, especially China and India, about controlling trade in the Indian Ocean, and about preventing the growth of south south alliances and trade. Preventing rather than supporting a functioning government in Somalia, keeping Somalia weak and unstable, is part of the reason for the policy:

Somalia: How Colonial Powers drove a Country into Chaos
Mohamed Hassan interviewed by Gregoire Lalieu and Michel Collon, Feb 10,2010

Q: Somalia had every reason to succeed: an advantageous geographical situation, oil, ores and only one religion and one language for the whole territory; a rare phenomenon in Africa. Somalia could have been a great power in the region. But the reality is completely different: famine, wars, lootings, piracy, bomb attacks. How did this country sink? Why has there been no Somali government for approximately twenty years?

MH: Since 1990, there has been no government in Somalia. The country is in the hands of warlords. European and Asiatic ships took advantage of this chaotic situation and fished along the Somali coast without a license or respect for elementary rules. They did not observe the quotas in force in their own country to protect the species and they used fishing techniques –even bombs!- that created huge damages to the wealth of the Somali seas.

That’s not all! Taking also advantage of this lack of any political authority, European companies, with the help of the mafia, dumped nuclear wastes offshore Somali coasts. Europe knew of this but turned a blind eye as that solution presented a practical and economical advantage for the nuclear waste management. Yet, the 2005 Tsunami brought a big part of these wastes into the Somali lands. Unfamiliar diseases appeared for the first time among the population. …

Q: No Somali state for almost twenty years! How is that possible?

MH: This is the result of an American strategy. In 1990, the country was bruised by conflicts, famine and lootings; the state collapsed. Facing this situation, the United States, who discovered oil in Somalia a few years ago, launched Operation Restore Hope in 1992. For the first time, US marines intervened in Africa to take control of a country. It was also the first time that a military invasion was launched in the name of humanitarian interference.

Q: Why is it strategic?

MH: The issue is the control of the Indian Ocean. Look at the maps.

Somalia, outlined in yellow, opposite India on the Indian Ocean, with the surrounding countries (click to enlarge)

As mentioned, western powers have an important share of the responsibility in the Somali piracy development. But instead of telling the truth and paying compensation for what they did, those powers criminalize the phenomena in order to justify their position in the region. Under the pretext of fighting the piracy, NATO is positioning its navy in the Indian Ocean.

Q: What is the real goal?

MH: To control the economic development of the emerging powers, mainly India and China. Half of the world’s container traffic and 70% of the total traffic of petroleum products passes through the Indian Ocean. From that strategic point of view, Somalia is a very important place: the country has the longest coast of Africa (3.300 km) and faces the Arabian Gulf and the Straight of Hormuz, two key points of the region economy. Moreover, if a pacific response is brought to the Somali problem, relations between African in one hand, and India and China on the other hand, could develop through the Indian Ocean. Those American competitors could then have influence in that African area. Mozambique, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Zanzibar, South Africa etc. All those countries connected to the Indian Ocean could gain easy access to the Asian market and develop fruitful economic relationship. Nelson Mandela, when he was president of South Africa, had mentioned the need of an Indian Ocean revolution, with new economic relationships. The United States and Europe do not want this project. That is why they prefer to keep Somalia unstable.
(h/t africa comments for Somalia information)

The Indian Ocean, both Somalia, and the Seychelles where the US is establishing a military presence, are indicted with a yellow outline. (click to enlarge)

Countries have noticed the US actions and intentions. South Africa, India, and Brazil have cooperated in joint naval exercises.

The full spectrum project is underway all around the globe. Efforts to contain China are well underway in Southeast Asia, from How the US got its Philippine bases back:

The American war on terrorism has provided the US an excellent justification to hasten its reestablishment of a strategic presence in Southeast Asia … Combating Islamic terrorism in this region [Southeast Asia] carried a secondary benefit for the United States: it positioned the US for the future containment of nearby China.

The Indian Ocean, with the strategic positions of Somalia and the Seychelles marked with yellow. Also the Philippines marked with yellow, strategically located in the Pacific east and south of China. All are key to sea basing. (click to enlarge)

In Latin America the US intends to contain Brazil and Venezuela. In February 2010 the US released a USGS report indicating that Venezuela now has larger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia. It is heavy crude, but still recoverable and refinable. One of the techniques of containment is stability operations, in fact these stability operations help keep the countries surrounding Brazil and Venezuela destabilized and in conflict. If you look at the Arc of Instability, you will note that it clings around the borders of Brazil.

Again from Pinter’s speech:

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed.

Brazil as a Key Player
by Raúl Zibechi | February 17, 2010

“Bit by bit, quietly, like a spider weaving its web in the middle of the night, an impressive military circle threatens Venezuela and, by extension, the entire group of progressive governments in Latin America,” writes Ignacio Ramonet in the January issue of Le Monde Diplomatique. A recent study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) established that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, thanks to recent discoveries in the Orinoco Belt, now possesses 513 reserve billion barrels of crude, accessible with “current technology.” Venezuela thus replaces Saudi Arabia, which “only” has 266 billion barrels, as possessor of the world’s largest oil reserves.

The article by Ramonet and the USGS conclusion are based on solid evidence. It is not the first time that it has been estimated that Venezuela’s reserves have are truly enormous. The crucial difference is that this time the confirmation comes from a North-American agency, not just from the Bolivarian employees. In effect, the USGS report effectively doubles the reserves in Venezuela’s domain. As for Ramonet’s contention, various developments in the region in recent months seem to substantiate it: in March 2009, we discovered that Colombia had allowed the United States to take over and control seven military bases; in June 2009 political turmoil resulted in the coup in Honduras where the United States has the military base of Soto Cano; in Oct. 2009 the president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, announced the concession of four military bases to the Pentagon. The total number of U.S. bases, including the two bases in Aruba and Curacao (Dutch Antilles), to the north and east of Venezuela to date number 13. The current rapid conversion of Haiti into a gigantic aircraft carrier incorporating the 4th Fleet will no doubt soon add another.

Aiming South
The intervention in Haiti is so blatantly militaristic that the China Daily (Jan. 21, 2010) asked whether it was the intention of the United States to make Haiti the 51st state of the Union. The newspaper quotes TIME Magazine which categorically states that “Haiti is being turned into the 51st state, and while the process unfolds, it already is America’s backyard.” In one week, the Pentagon had mobilized one aircraft carrier, 33 rescue planes, numerous war ships, and 11,000 marines. MINUSTAH, the UN stabalization mission in Haiti, consists of 7,000 soldiers. According to the Folha de Sao Paulo (Jan. 20, 2010), the Brazilian military, which had, up until the earthquake, been in charge of the UN mission and thus been the main military presence on the island, will have been outnumbered by the United States with projected numbers in a few weeks reaching 16,000 soldiers, or “12 times more military personnel than Brazil.”

In the same issue of the China Daily, an article about the American influence on the Caribbean asserts that the military intervention in Haiti will have a long-term effect on U.S. strategy in the Caribbean and in Latin America, given that it maintains a long-running confrontation with Cuba and Venezuela. According to Beijing, the region is “the door to its backyard,” which it seeks to “control tightly and exclusively” in order to “extend its influence south.”

To the south is the whole Andean region, which includes not only Venezuela but above all, Brazil.

The US Government still treats military spending as spending that has no cost to the nation or its citizens. As a result of a decade of making war off the books, keeping the real figures out of the federal budget, the United States is significantly weakened financially. It has failed to invest in its own growth and own citizenry, and has given away its manufacturing base. It is deeply in debt ot China. The US media is mostly owned by those who continue to profit from US military and financial adventurism. The US public know comparatively little about what is going on in the rest of the world, and are mostly unaware that they don’t know. In this regard:

In the last few weeks, a few important issues have come to light … On Jan. 20, 2010, the British newspaper The Financial Times published a comparative list of the 10 top banks in the world in terms of market capitilization for the year 2000 and again for 2009. The results are shocking. In 2000, five of the top 10 were American: Bank of New York, Mellon, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs were placed in first, third, fourth, and fifth respectively. In second place was the British bank Lloyds. In other words, out of the top 10, the top five were American and British. The crème de la crème of financial power rested in Wall Street and the City of London, and in other Western countries.

Only nine years later, the view has changed dramatically: in the top 10 banks five are Chinese: China Merchants Bank, China Citic Bank, ICBC, and China Construction (nos. 1-4), Bank of Communications (no.6), and three Brazilian banks: Itau Unibanco (no. 5), Bradesco (no. 7) and Banco do Brasil (no. 9). The former giants of banking have sunk. Goldman Sachs now sits at no. 22 on the list and JP Morgan Chase at 31. While the Wall Street banks dropped massively in value, the Chinese banks doubled their value in 2009. “The result of the turbulence is the dramatic shift in the financial center of gravity,” concludes the Financial Times.

A large proportion of these banks, like Banco do Brasil and three of the Chinese banks, are state-owned, an interesting Copernican twist to this financial adjustment away from the capitalist nucleus which had its base in the United States. To complete the picture, it is necessary to look at the vulnerability of countries regarding their public and private debt and their GDP (gross domestic product), as tabled by LEAP (the European Laboratory of Political Anticipation) in December 2009. In first place in terms of vulnerability is Iceland, followed closely by various smaller Baltic and Eastern European states, Greece in fifth place, and Spain in sixth. In ninth and tenth places are Great Britain and the United States, where the federal debt is dangerously close to 100% of GDP. In the United States, the combined private and public debt is triple the annual GDP. If these countries had been South American, they would have defaulted on their sovereign debt, and some analysts predict that this eventuality is not far off.

… Pricewaterhouse Coopers released figures that indicate a dramatic twist on the global stage. It predicts that in 2020, the G7 (the United States, Japan, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, and Canada) will have an economic weight equal to that of the emerging nations, recently christened the E7: China, India, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Indonesia, and Turkey.

In this global power reshuffling, Brazil is very well positioned. Its enviable situation in terms of energy self-sufficiency, due to possessing large untapped reserves of both oil and uranium, makes it unique in the global superpower game.

Brazil has the sixth-largest uranium reserves in the world, and this figure relates to only the 25% of Brazilian territory that has been surveyed. Once the reserves in the basin of Santos are adequately calculated, it is estimated Brazil will own one of the five largest oil reserves in the world (more than 50 billion barrels). Brazilian multinational companies are already some of the biggest in the world …

The Brazilian Development Bank, BNDES, has been playing its cards close to its chest in favor of Brazilian capitalism. It is the largest development bank in the world, and has “transformed itself into the most powerful tool for the restructuring of Brazilian capitalism.”* … Lula’s government has pushed a policy that “ensures the active participation of the state in the building of new global players in a wide range of economic activity.”

Brazil has no option but to fortify its defenses, given that its power as a nation shows no signs of slowing. …

Brazil has understood the essence of the game plan of the United States. The Pentagon has dedicated to Brazil the same strategy it uses to contain China: to fan the fires of conflict on its borders in order to destabilize and prevent its ascent. It is the same logic which has transferred the center of military gravity from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Seen in this context, it is easier to understand what is happening in Latin America, of which the massive militarization of Haiti is the latest chapter. Haiti is the first step in the operations of the 4th Fleet. Taking the predicted calamities caused by climate change in the near future into account, the operation in Haiti will provide a template for what is to come in this decade.

In South America, the United States Southern Command military installations surround Brazil in the Andean region to the west and south. The powder keg lies in the Colombian-Venezuelan and Colombian-Ecuadorian conflicts, which have the potential to ignite the whole region. The tension generated by the Colombian attack on the encampment of Raul Reyes on Ecuadorian soil has been exacerbated by the de facto occupation of Haiti. Latin America is marching toward an unprecedented increased militarization of international relations which, with the exception of Brazil, it is neither psychologically nor physically prepared to defend itself from.

With the US in debt, and failing to invest in itself to create growth, how long and how well will it be able to sustain the present military expansion? Is the US now doing to itself what it did to the former Soviet Union, amping up the threats, and forcing itself to spend itself into bankruptcy with military spending? It is certain to be able to cause a great deal more destabilization and destruction throughout the world before that might happen.

US Military Intervention on behalf of corporate interests has a long history in the United States. Back in 1933 Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, the most decorated soldier of his time said:

… the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn’t a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its “finger men” to point out enemies, its “muscle men” to destroy enemies, its “brain men” to plan war preparations, and a “Big Boss” Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

(from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, author of War is a Racket)

The same is equally true today. The only change is that what was Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism is now Super-Globalistic-Capitalism. People should not have to suffer and die all around the globe so that a few rich can become richer. Genuine diplomacy and mutually beneficial trade agreements are both preferable and still possible. Here in the US, in what is supposed to be the beacon of democracy, I hardly hear any voices calling for this.

Here is the timeline for full implementation of seabasing (PDF p.38):

Seabasing timeline (click to enlarge)

acronyms:
MLP Mobile Landing Platform
JHSV Joint High-Speed Vessel
MPF(F) Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future)
MLP Mobile Landing Platform
LMSR Large, Medium Speed, Roll-On/Roll-Off
T-AKE Auxiliary Dry Cargo and Ammunition Ship
LHA(R) Amphibious Assault Ship (Replacement)
MPF(F) Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future) Future Operating Concept
LPD Amphibious Transport Dock
JMAC Joint Maritime Assault Connector
IOC Initial Operational Capacity
FOC Full Operational Capacity

To summarize seabasing, from a US Marine Corps Seabasing Brochure (PDF).

Seabasing is a concept that enables employing the
full range of government capabilities from the sea.
Innovations in shipbuilding, cargo handling, at sea
transfer and sea based defense systems allowed the
Seabasing concept to become a reality. Currently in
order to employ an expeditionary force of 15,000 or
greater, a secure port and or airfield ashore is needed,
however by 2022 it will be possible to do this at sea.

Such a capability recognizes that nations are
increasingly placing restrictions on or denying the use
of their facilities at a time when we must have a greater
forward presence to reduce the ability of extremists
to gain a foothold or disrupt the flow of commerce
.
Seabasing will allow the use of the world’s oceans as
large or small scale Joint, Multinational and
Interagency bases for operations without dependence
on ports or airfields ashore.

Extremists may be those who legitimately disagree with US policies. The flow of commerce that needs protection is commerce that advantages the United States, commerce that advantages those who wield corporate power over the US government.

And for a graphic that pulls together the entire Seabasing concept here is Joint Seabasing Overview, PDF. Notice that the Spectrum of Operations pictured arches across the top of the Indian Ocean, from Somalia through the Arabian peninsula, through western Asia and down towards India and south Asia. You will also see the enabling air and sea equipment pictured, and text describing the Full Spectrum Utility of seabasing.

Joint Seabasing Responsive Scalable National Power Projection (this is a very large graphic, you may need to click more than once and scroll around to read it all)

acronyms:
CSG Carrier Strike Group
ESG Expeditionary Strike Group
GFS Global Fleet Station
HA/DR Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief
MAGTF Marine Air Ground Task Force
MARDET Marine Detachment
MCO Major Combat Operation
MPF(F) Maritime Prepositioning Force (Future)
MEU Marine Expeditionary Unit
NEO Noncombatant Evacuation Operations
SOF Special Operations Forces
SPMAGTF Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force

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Islamaphobes have yet again opted to resort to scare tactics imply that unless this country [South Africa] secures a military arrangement with Uncle Sam, it will be rocked by al-Qaeda laced bombs.

Mandela holding the World Cup

Back in 2007, on behalf of unnamed terrorists, J Peter Pham uttered terrorist threats against the 2010 World Cup:

Between the ideologically-motivated ignorance of the country’s rulers to the dangers posed by transnational Islamist terrorism as well as the attractiveness of South Africa’s highly-developed infrastructure to terrorist networks seeking a base for and/or a theater of operations, terrorists understandably find in South Africa an enabling environment at the very least. South Africans should not count on their leaders’ long-standing ties to terrorists groups and regimes to immunize them from the danger that confronts civilization in the twenty-first century. To cite just one example, in a little over two years, in 2010, South Africa will be the first African nation to ever play host to the World Cup Finals, the most widely-viewed sporting event in the world and a target terrorists may find too tempting to pass up. Should anything happen during the tournament, the consequent drying up of tourism and foreign investment would be devastating not just to South Africa, but to the entire African continent. While AFRICOM may not be welcome in South Africa, if the new structure is to “enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa,” it will have to closely monitor – even if from a discreet distance – the foolish playing with fire by the political leaders of that pivotal state before the flames sweep across its entire area of responsibility.

His message is that AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, is the only safe protection. In fact the command is probably a more certain provocation than a safe protection. South Africa’s leadership has changed since 2007.  I don’t know what Pham thinks of the new leadership, but South Africa no more inclined to welcome AFRICOM than it was before.

Now we are hearing those threats continue in the present.

In 2010 FIFA World Cup faces propaganda threat from foreign hacks, Iqbal Jassat describes that more threats are being uttered by supporters of AFRICOM.

Soccer’s premier international event has ensured that South Africa is in international news media’s constant spotlight. …


this country has to-date resisted pressure to allow the establishment of a US military base within its borders. The Americans are committed to have such presence within Africa and despite cordial relations between the Obama administration and the Zuma presidency they have been frustrated by South Africa’s lack of co-operation.

Its called Africom. And notwithstanding assurances by senior Pentagon officials that its role is limited to protecting US interests that inter-alia include security in the continent, it is not all that kosher.

The current media hype sparked by alarmist reports wherein Islamaphobes have yet again opted to resort to scare tactics imply that unless this country secures a military arrangement with Uncle Sam, it will be rocked by al-Qaeda laced bombs.

Paradoxically, it ignores diametrically opposed arguments that would seek to reassure this country that because it is not in America’s military embrace there cannot be any justification for bombing the soccer festival to smithereens.

And by the way has anyone given thought to the fact that an arsenal known as “dirty-tricks” is a potent asset possessed by agencies such as the CIA, MI5 and Mossad. This allows them to manipulate public opinion through the commission of horrible acts of terror that frames individuals and groups. Ultimately the end result would be to direct policies of sovereign states to the extent that such sovereignty stinks.

And with AFRICOM we should keep in mind, as an article in HSToday reports:

one of the Command’s fundamental roles is indeed counterterror intelligence and disruption operations.

As I wrote in an earlier post, based on a GAO Report, the US Africa Command is already active in the following countries, headquartered in the US embassy in these countries:
Algeria
Botswanana
Djibouti
Ethiopia
Ghana
Kenya
Liberia
Morocco
Nigeria
Senegal
South Africa
Tunisia
and continues working to add to the list.

Disruption operations are a serious concern. They have been part of the lead up to every coup sponsored or endorsed by the US government around the world. That has been true in Africa since independence. Disruption operations preceded the coup against Nkrumah, and many more since. US Military partnerships are training future coup leaders. You can see a list of US military interventions including coups in this previous post: War Is Peace – US Military Intervention.

The threats of violence show the counterterrorists to be the same as any terrorists, using the same threats, fear, and the possibility of violence to achieve their goals. The US military has already been complicit in manufacturing terrorist incidents in the Sahara to justify AFRICOM.

These threats should not be taken lightly, but they should be viewed with great skepticism.  People should ask serious questions about their origins and motives.
.

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.”

mandela-cellphone

MXit

From the CMS Watch Trendwatch Blog, Theresa Regli writes of a visit to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Most of the schools and homes in this area (including our translator’s) had no electricity or plumbing; in these parts, it costs approximately 300 ZAR (about US$30) to send a child to school for the year (including textbooks). Most people don’t own cars, so oftentimes groups of people stand along the side of the road waiting for a ride.

And while they wait, they tap away text messages on their mobile devices.

It was then I learned the Zulu word uma-khala-khukhwIni, which translates literally as “thing that rings in the pocket.” In a country where unemployment hovers around 25%, men in rural areas tend to leave for several weeks at a time to work near a city, then come home with money and things for the kids, like mobile phones. Those who don’t have electricity go to a general store in town to plug the phone in and charge it. These kids may not have running water, but they can look things up on Wikipedia.

Naturally I was curious about the economics: how could these kids afford to rack up SMS messaging costs in an area where wealth is still largely measured by cattle, and public education only arrived after the fall of apartheid?

It turns out that the communication happens via a service called MXit, a free instant messaging software application that runs on GPRS/3G mobile phones with Java support, and native to South Africa. MXit doesn’t charge for sending and receiving person to person messages, and while some service providers charge for GPRS/3G data cost, these costs are comparatively minuscule, about 1 ZAR cent, or one tenth of a US penny.

Smart companies have the foresight to think about content distribution beyond the technology elite … where mobile phones far outnumber PCs, you’d be wise to do the same.

Texting to tackle HIV

CNN reported in December:

One million free text messages will be sent every day for 12 months from Monday in South Africa in a bid to raise HIV awareness and encourage testing for the disease.

The ambitious Project Masiluleke is being rolled out across the country after a pilot period that saw calls to a AIDS national helpline shoot up by 200 percent, organizers say.

‘Project Masiluleke,’ or ‘Project M’ was set up to try to encourage people to seek testing and treatment in a country where cell phones are abundant.

Africa is cited as the fastest growing mobile-phone network in the world. In South Africa, more than 80 percent of the population has one — the country has a population of 49 million, and it is estimated that 43 million have cell phones. Almost 95 percent of the phones are prepaid.

The initiative plans to broadcast millions of health messages every month to phones across South Africa.

“This is the largest ever use of cell phones for health information,” said Gustav Praekelt, one of the project’s originators.

There is near universal coverage,” said Praekelt during the launch of the project. “And in the absence of other services, the mobile phone has become the central component for people to get access to information.”

Organizers say ‘Project M’ will offer South Africans the privacy to get tested and pursue treatment options and counseling by staff who are HIV positive themselves.

The system sends the messages using a so-called “Please Call Me” (PCM) service. This free form of text messaging, common across Africa, allows someone without any phone credit to send a text to a friend asking them to call.

Each sent PCM message has the words “Please Call Me,” the phone number of the caller, and space for an additional 120 characters. The extra space is normally filled with advertising, which helps offset the cost of running the service.

The message reads: “Frequently sick, tired, losing weight and scared that you might be HIV positive? Please call AIDS Helpline 0800012322.”

Encouraging people to get tested is a huge challenge in a country where people with the AIDS virus still face stigma and shame.

However, ‘Project M’ appears to be having an impact, since it was initiated in October.

“We have observed a dramatic increase in the call rate to the AIDS Helpline — from approximately 1,300 calls per day to a new average of 3,600,” said Milo Zama, Projects Development Manager for LifeLine, one of the partners.

Trained operators provide callers with accurate healthcare information, and referrals to local testing clinics

Many of the messages are broadcast in English and in local languages such as Zulu.

Political Robocalls in Ghana

Political robocalls are nothing new in the US. Many people regard them as more a curse than a blessing. So some may not see this as a great leap forward. Still, I suspect the trend may be just beginning in Ghana. David Ajao reports from right before the December 7 general election:

A Phone Call from Nana Akufo-Addo
By Oluniyi David Ajao
December 4th, 2008

When I saw a call on my cellular phone from a number +233 10 0000, my heart missed a bit. And why not? This was a very strange phone number that I know does not exist but I still answered the phone, albeit cautiously. Lo and behold, it was the voice of the ruling NPP’s Presidential candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, speaking in Twi and essentially asking me to vote for him. The message lasted exactly 45 seconds.

I could tell that it was a recorded message. This must be one of the last minute campaign strategies by the New Patriotic Party, to sway the floating voters. I can see that we are indeed moving forward with technology in Ghana.

Unfortunately Nana, I am not an eligible voter. All the same, may the best man win!

SAS Drakensberg – Image: SA Navy

The United States Navy is attempting to ring fence Africa, and appears to be thinking about the same in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

The U.S. Navy has the waters surrounding the African continent covered.

Last week, the seafaring service wrapped up a tour by the Navy’s 6th Fleet Southeast Africa Task Force, a three-nation mission with visits to Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion.

The task force, led this year by the landing ship dock USS Ashland, mirrors in scope to another U.S. Naval Forces Europe/6th Fleet-led initiative dubbed Africa Partnership Station. That effort works with 14 West and Central African countries to teach similar maritime security initiatives.

The Southeast Africa Task Force is about two years behind APS in terms of planning, carrying out missions and providing a “persistent presence” in African coastal waters.

The Navy is experimenting with sea basing in the Gulf of Guinea to float outside any country of interest to the US.

And, south of the United States:


Fourth Fleet to sail again in Latin America
It’s official: The Pentagon formally announced Thursday that it is reestablishing an administrative entity called the Fourth Fleet — to oversee Navy vessels that sail the Caribbean, Central and South America.

There is not much funding as yet. Interestingly, the language is pretty much the same as the official language describing US Naval activities around Africa:

… missions ranging from humanitarian relief to stopping drug trafficking to training with other navies …

But the world is not standing still. India, South Africa, and Brazil are getting together to cooperate in Naval exercises.

From India’s viewpoint:

India also remains somewhat nervous about the large U.S. military presence in the Indian Ocean to India’s west–in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. India’s Maritime Doctrine observes that “the unfolding events consequent to the war in Afghanistan has brought the threats emanating on our Western shores into sharper focus. The growing US and western presence and deployment of naval forces, the battle for oil dominance and its control in the littoral and hinterland … are factors that are likely to have a long-term impact on the overall security environment in the [Indian Ocean region].”

India is systematically targeting states that will bring India specific and tangible security and economic benefits.

India has joined together with South Africa and Brazil to form IBSA:

New Delhi, Apr 28 India is all set to expand its defence cooperation with more countries, with the forthcoming tri-lateral naval exercises between South Africa, Brazil and India next month.

The inaugural IBSA (Indian-Brazil-South Africa) maritime exercise will take place off Simonstown May 2-16. This is part of a package of measures announced after the second IBSA summit of the heads of state of the three countries in Pretoria, in October last year.

According to sources in the ministry of defence (MoD), “The tri-lateral naval exercise, first of its kind, we are looking forward to our interaction with other navies. The significance of such an exercise is the exposure the navy will get from not only the Indian Indian Ocean Rim Navies but the Brazilian Navy too.”
The three IBSA countries have strongly divergent opinions on regional security, security, influence and profits in the military industry. “Therefore, trilateral cooperation in this area will facilitate military cooperation trilaterally.”

Bush/Cheney have severely weakened the US. Trying to rule the world with an iron fist, even with occasional bits of velvet on, won’t work. The world has other ideas. The IBSA countries all enjoy friendly relations with the US. Yet obviously they see a need for military alliances that do not include the US.

The US can cause, and in many places already is causing enormous suffering, without much in the way of positive results. Other approaches to US needs and wants are certainly possible, probably more effective, and unfortunately unlikely anytime soon. And of course, if anyone is actually interested in democracy, strengthening political and diplomatic institutions is the way to go, not increased militarism.

The Institute For Security Studies in South Africa is organizing a study of the private security industry, particularly as it operates in the Congo DRC, Uganda, and South Africa.

From the ISS:

The past decade has seen rapid growth in the private security industry, both in Africa and globally. Private security companies have diversified their activities to include military advice and training, arms procurement, intelligence gathering, logistical and medical support and in limited instances, combat and operational support.
. . .
Understandably, the presence of these organisations in Africa has raised questions related to the accountability and democratic oversight of this industry, the extent to which governments, the UN and relief agencies are outsourcing key ‘state’ functions and the influence that these companies gain in the process.
. . .
Mercenarism, the darker side of the private military sector, continues to be a threat to stability on the African continent as was illustrated recently.__. . . The connections of certain individuals to more ‘legitimate’ private security activities in Africa have blurred the lines between this and the blatantly illegal activities associated with the private security sector.
. . .
The rapid growth of private security in Africa has outpaced the regulation of the industry. With this in mind the ISS through the Defence Sector Programme (DSP) has initiated a project on “The Regulation of the Private Security Sector in Africa”.__ . . . the project seeks to further support the effective regulation of the growing private security sector in Africa towards the establishment of a consistent and logical regulatory framework for national, sub-regional and regional legislation and protocols.

There are also a number of relevant documents linked and listed at the end of the announcement.

As to the industry itself, there was a recent conference in Nairobi, reported by IRIN Africa:

During a three-day conference in Nairobi that brought together UN agencies, NGOs, officials of numerous governments and several private sector companies, PMCs said they had much to offer in terms of logistics, personnel and expertise.
. . .
However, they have recently suffered a barrage of bad publicity and criticism from human rights organisations.
. . .
According to a report prepared for (US Secretary of State) Rice by a US diplomat, PMCs in Iraq currently “operate in an overall environment that is chaotic, unsupervised, deficient in oversight and accountability, and poorly coordinated”.
. . .
That the private [security] sector is here to stay is beyond question and because it poses a major concern to Africa, it must be controlled and regulated,” a senior researcher with the South African-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and human rights lawyer, Sabelo Gumedz, said.

The ISS is researching the role of PMCs in South Africa, Uganda and DRC with a view to establishing a continent-wide regulatory framework.

You can see my article on the private security industry in Africa over at the African Loft: The Rising Mercenary Industry and AFRICOM.

1. — South Africa has been most vocal in its opposition, and its skepticism about US motives in creating AFRICOM. Peter Pham, who has been actively promoting Bush administration rhetoric on AFRICOM, has played the opening notes of a typical Bush administration smear attack on the South African government. His primary theme: because the ANC used to be called terrorists, they don’t mind, and even harbour terrorists. And his secondary theme is that South Africa is encouraging Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Pham appears to regret that South Africa is a democracy, and his sympathies seem to be with the security people left over from the good old days of apartheid. So once again US voices are attacking a democratically elected government, because that government questions US motives:

. . . it needs to be borne in mind today’s South Africa is a democracy and thus policy direction comes not from the security professionals, but the political echelons of the ANC among whom the “anti-Western” and “revolutionary” rhetoric of the bin Ladens and Ahmadinejads of the world still resonates.

Pham treats this as an extremist statement:

“the global anti-terror industry, chaired by the U.S.A., has led to many unfortunate assumptions made by governments and the public alike.”

Pham concludes his article by hyping terror threats against the World Cup.

2. — Then from Nigeria comes this rather noteworthy bit of doublespeak:

Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General Andrew Owoye Azazi yesterday allayed the fears of Nigerians on the continued presence of United States military in the Gulf of Guinea.
. . .

“US wants relative peace to be able to undertake their business” he said pointing out that there is no other motive behind their troops presence to worry anybody.

On the Niger Delta situation, the Defence chief said that military have lost sizeable number of personnel in the troubled region but refused to give the exact figure of casualties. He said that Nigerians should not expect a military solution to Niger Delta problem but assured that the military will try to stabilize the place for the much-needed political solution.

On the intelligence capability of Nigeria military to cope with the Niger Delta situation, General Azazi said the military have it but noted that successful intelligence work depends largely on the people and their willingness to give information.

General Azazi also spoke on the role of the military in the last general election and said that they were only asked to ensure stable environment for the poll to take place.

The Chief said that a guideline was drawn out for those military personnel who participated in ensuring stability during the elections.He noted that most of the allegations of military involvement cannot be substantiated but assured that any obvious case will be dealt with in a military way.

“We will deal with the identified ones” but wondered how it can be substantiated.

Nothing to see here, just move along.
Trust us to take care of any problems, we have your best interests and the best interests of the country and the continent at heart. You don’t need to know anything, we’ll take care of it. Trust us.

Nigeria has voiced opposition to AFRICOM. But the US government has been working on them. This looks like Nigeria may be yielding.

3. — Meanwhile, in Iraq, the Iraqi government may be evicting Blackwater. And the Iraqi government has officially rescinded the ruling that gave security contractors immunity from prosecution. So the mercenary corporations may feel the need to leave Iraq. This is not good news for Africa. Theresa Whelan, Defense undersecretary, has encouraged the use of military contractors in African countries. The contractors have been acting with violent impunity in Iraq. The pattern of behavior of the developed countries in military engagement with Africa has always been to assume they are entitled to act with violent impunity (it is civilizing, or now, globalizing). If military contractors leave, or are evicted from Iraq because they can no longer act with violent impunity, they’ll be looking for more jobs, where they can continue their violent behavior unrestrained. African oil and resources seem likely to draw their attention, which is very bad news for people living in African countries.

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