scene from torture training video in Mexico

Still from a video in which a US Contractor Leads Torture Training in Mexico.

AFRICOM plans to make Ghana its anchor in the west African version of the DoD “War on Drugs”. Drugs are the DoD (Department of Defense) tool of choice for coopting a country. Nevermind that the US “War on Drugs” has gone on for decades with no apparent success, and has often been allied with the same people who are trafficking and profiting from drugs, as in Columbia, Afghanistan and Southeast Asia.

The Drug War Expands to Western Africa describes the problems faced by Guinea-Bissau, but also states:


DoD has identified Ghana as its “anchor country” for emerging counternarcotics efforts through AFRICOM.

Whichever is your richest and strongest government department, that is where the most opportunities for corruption lie, and where you will find people taking advantage of those opportunities. By investing heavily in African militaries, the US strengthens the opportunities and the likelihood of corruption in the countries it targets, and increases the likelihood of military coups. When the military controls the government, it is much easier to control the trade in contraband, the profits, and to protect cronies from the law.

The article describes the military complicity in Guinea-Bissau:

The military is thought to be complicit in the drug trade; last year, two military personnel were detained along with a civilian in a vehicle carrying 635 kilos of cocaine. The army secured the soldiers’ release and they have not been charged.

When Ghana had military governments they regulated the price of cocoa. Then the military smuggled cocoa across the border and sold it for higher prices, and officers pocketed the profits. There was no point in most farmers investing much in cocoa, they could not profit on their own. Strengthening the military in the face of the drug trade just provides these same opportunities to make even more money through the same practices that harm the country and enrich corrupt elites. There are passionately patriotic Ghanaians who would oppose this, within the military and without. But there are always plenty of people who are corruptible. It is very difficult to fight corruption when corruption becomes the norm.

It is the current elites in Ghana, and the NPP party in power who have been most often associated with cocaine and drug scandals in the press, such as MP Eric Amoateng, and even rumors regarding the Asantehene.

It gets a lot uglier than this. Keep in mind that the Pentagon via AFRICOM plans to use PMCs, the Private Military Corporations, that are currently gathering to feed at the AFRICOM trough, now that Iraq is passing laws that strip the PMCs of immunity for their actions, and the Iraq war may be winding down.

PMCs have been training the military and police in a number of countries. They are training in Mexico where videos of torture training for the Mexican police by an American PMC have just emerged.

Supposedly the people being tortured are trainees who “volunteered”, and they are learning how to psychologically withstand torture. But according to the account, the torture techniques they are learning are not typical of those used by the local gangs and criminals. From the article:

Leon city Police Chief Carlos Tornero told the AP that the English-speaking man in the videos is a contractor from a private US security firm. Tornero refused to elaborate on the man’s identity, details about the US company, and who contracted the company.

The government’s response has been to defend the program, attack the media for reporting on the videos, and deny the illegality of torture.


Mexico’s national daily La Jornada was quick to point out that torture is in fact prohibited, contrary to the public security chief’s assertions: “Torture is a crime in Guanajuato: in accordance with Article 264 of the state Penal Code, the public servant who ‘intentionally exercises violence against a person, be it in order to obtain information or constituting an illicit investigation method,’ faces a punishment of 2-10 years in prison.”

The existence of a training led by a US defense contractor to teach Mexican police
torture tactics in order to combat organized crime and the local government’s adamant defense of the program is particularly disturbing considering the US government’s recent approval of the $1.6 billion Plan Mexico, also known as the Merida Initiative. Plan Mexico is an aid package specifically designed to support President Felipe Calderón’s deadly battle against organized crime. It will fund more US training for Mexican police and military, in addition to providing them with riot gear, spy equipment, and military aircraft. Plan Mexico allows funds for the deployment of up to fifty US defense contractors to Mexico.

This is not the first time US defense contractors have directed torture in foreign countries.

Representatives of the US training other countries’ police and military how to torture is not unprecedented, but it is still deeply shocking. Contraband and coups are the legacy of the US “War on Drugs” in Latin America. We do not need to spread that. Is this what AFRICOM and the US are bringing to West Africa?

Censored!

UPDATE July 18, 2008: Google Alerts once again included an AFRICOM related post from Crossed Crocodiles on July 17, 2008. I hope this signals a change and we’ll see more from Crossed Crocodiles in the Google Alerts on AFRICOM. I’ll report on what I observe.

Starting in late February or in March, Crossed Crocodiles disappeared from Google Alerts on AFRICOM.

I posted the following at crossedcrocodiles.blogspot.com, but thought I would duplicate it here. Since I seem to be experiencing some censorship on Google’s Blogspot, I thought I’d see what happens if I post here.

From February 2007 through sometime in February or March 2008 the Google Alerts on AFRICOM included ALL Crossed Crocodiles articles on AFRICOM. Since some time in late February or in March 2008 NONE of Crossed Crocodiles stories on AFRICOM have been included in the Google Alerts. It was an abrupt change. First they were there, now they are not. That looks like censorship to me.

For awhile I thought they were just overlooking some posts, that Google was not as efficient as it would have us believe. But the stark contrast of all posts being included suddenly switching to none being included tells me the change is deliberate. This blog is not a large blog, but it has reported on AFRICOM longer and more consistantly than any other blog I know of. I use a number of Google Alerts to get news. Mostly I set the alerts for comprehensive, so I get notices of blog posts, as well as news articles.

Crossed Crocodiles began publishing posts on AFRICOM in February 2007, when the command was announced, and has been following its progress since then. For the first year of this coverage, February 2007 into February 2008, every blog post I wrote on AFRICOM was included in the comprehensive Google Alerts, News Alerts News Alerts, on AFRICOM. Sometime in February this year, 2008, there was a flurry of attention to Crossed Crocodiles blog from .mil sites. I get fairly regular hits from the US military and the contractors. They are more than welcome and I hope they learn something positive for the citizens of the US and the citizens of African countries when they visit. So I didn’t think too much about it. Then this blog got a visit from Google itself, google.com in Mountain View California, the first such visit to this blog to my knowledge. But I didn’t think about it much or record the details. Soon after that, in late February or early March, Crossed Crocodiles posts on AFRICOM disappeared from the Google Alerts on AFRICOM.

It is not as if there are so many blog and news stories on AFRICOM that it would be difficult for Google comprehensive Alerts to be comprehensive on the subject. The AFRICOM Alerts do not even come every day, and mostly there are very few stories listed when they do arrive, sometimes only one.

More recently I set up a comprehensive Google Alert on the International Peace Operations Association, the IPOA, the trade association of the PMCs, private military corporations. I have recently written two posts, dealing with the IPOA. Neither post was picked up by the Google Alert on the International Peace Operations Association, although a couple of posts on other blogs that linked back to the two posts on Crossed Crocodiles did get listed in the Google Alerts on the IPOA. That made me wonder if Crossed Crocodiles is being censored from the Google Alerts on the IPOA as well.
And who knows what other subjects covered here, or on other blogs, may be censored from Google Alerts? If you subscribe to Google Alerts you may not be getting the most relevant results and information you need on your topic, especially if someone regards it as a politically sensitive topic. I will still subscribe, but I’m not relying on them to keep me informed.

So far, Crossed Crocodiles posts do turn up in Google Searches. Although if you want to be sure of getting the most relevant hits, I’d use more than one search engine. Ask.com has a Blog Search, and you can try Bloglines. There are a number of possibilities.

As I said in a previous post, I write about AFRICOM because I am old enough that I observed the post independence western interference, and the rivalries and proxy wars of the cold war in Africa, when the US and Russia poured “military assistance” onto the continent, and the death and devastation that created. Friends and I used to joke about applying to Reagan and Bush 1 for military assistance to help us in our petty arguments with each other. It appeared all you needed to get military assistance was to call your enemy a Communist (now call them a Terrorist.) AFRICOM seems designed to make it all happen again, only this time it could cause infinitely more suffering. This time it is driven far more by greed for oil than ideology. I decided this time I would record what I see, what I learn, and what I think, hence the focus on AFRICOM in this blog.
Here are a couple of posts that have received a lot of attention from .mil sites and the contractors:

AFRICOM, US military bases, and Ghana

US State Department recruiting mercenaries to work in Africa

You can read my article on mercenaries in Africa over at the African Loft: The Rising Mercenary Industry and AFRICOM.