Satellite view of Africa

Satellite view of Africa from google maps

Sokari has been covering the G20, and writes:

It is ironic when you think of the lack of African representation considering the West’s dependency on Africa and not the other way around. This has been from slavery through colonialism to the present. Resources such as oil, copper, gold, silver, chromium, coffee, cocoa and more recently cash crops for feeding the West. Unfair trade policies, low commodity prices, failure to adequately tax companies operating in Africa and the complicity of Western governments and banking institutions in providing tax havens for money stolen by African politicians. If aid is not in itself a business would it not be preferable for example to pay fair prices for Africa’s resources?

Asked if anything positive will come out of this Summit – Not if one is thinking in terms of a major shift in policy towards Africa and Africans taking the initiative to come up with new strategies for development as I mentioned in my previous post. But I do agree with Bob one possible positive outcome may come from changes in Tax Haven laws whereby monies stolen by corrupt politicians is returned to the countries and access to tax havens is shut down.

Daudi is at the G20 too, and writes:

Relying on our current political leaders to draw up and implement a strategy to make Africa relevant in a positive way is a non starter. Indeed those who have succeed in making African relevant to international policy making have done so for increasing negative reasons, for example Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Bashir in Sudan. Ethan Zuckerman labelled the position taken by such political leaders as a strategy of, “If we act deranged enough, maybe they’ll just give us the country.

The burden rests on us, the ordinary citizens of Africa, to come up with a strategy that will increase our positive relevance to important global conversations and thus make it impossible to ignore Africa, Africans and the issues they feel important. I would love to hear your thoughts on what this strategy should adopt.

Also Michael Hudson points out something entirely missing in the US press when discussing the G20, or the US or global economy, in Financing the Empire:

The U.S. media are silent about the most important topic policy makers are discussing here (and I suspect in Asia too): how to protect their countries from three inter-related dynamics:

(1) the surplus dollars pouring into the rest of the world for yet further financial speculation and corporate takeovers;

(2) the fact that central banks are obliged to recycle these dollar inflows to buy U.S. Treasury bonds to finance the federal U.S. budget deficit; and most important (but most suppressed in the U.S. media,

(3) the military character of the U.S. payments deficit and the domestic federal budget deficit.

Strange as it may seem – and irrational as it would be in a more logical system of world diplomacy – the “dollar glut” is what finances America’s global military build-up. It forces foreign central banks to bear the costs of America’s expanding military empire – effective “taxation without representation.” Keeping international reserves in “dollars” means recycling their dollar inflows to buy U.S. Treasury bills – U.S. government debt issued largely to finance the military.

To date, countries have been as powerless to defend themselves against the fact that this compulsory financing of U.S. military spending is built into the global financial system. Neoliberal economists applaud this as “equilibrium,” as if it is part of economic nature and “free markets” rather than bare-knuckle diplomacy wielded with increasing aggressiveness by U.S. officials. …

… The U.S. media somehow neglect to mention that the U.S. government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars abroad – not only in the Near East for direct combat, but to build enormous military bases to encircle the rest of the world, to install radar systems, guided missile systems and other forms of military coercion, including the “color revolutions” that have been funded – and are still being funded – all around the former Soviet Union.

Pallets of shrink-wrapped $100 bills adding up to tens of millions of the dollars at a time have become familiar “visuals” on some TV broadcasts, but the link is not made with U.S. military and diplomatic spending and foreign central-bank dollar holdings, which are reported simply as “wonderful faith in the U.S. economic recovery” and presumably the “monetary magic” being worked by Wall Street’s Tim Geithner at Treasury and Helicopter Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve.

So the ultimate question turns out to be what countries can do to counter this financial attack.

AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, is the newest feature of this global military aggression, and expansion of military spending. There is a lot here to ponder, for Americans, if they ever hear about it, and for everyone else in the world.

Gharamatu women occupying a Chevron oil flow station in Makarava in the Niger Delta July 21, 2002.

Gharamatu women occupying a Chevron oil flow station in Makarava in the Niger Delta July 21, 2002.

Back in February of 2007 Sokari Ekine wrote about being contacted by a contractor working with the US Marines. They wrote:

Delex Systems Inc is writing a cultural study of behalf of the US Marine Corp on ethnic groups in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. … and we were interested in soliciting a bid from you for an academic review. The cultural study is on the Ijo [Ijaw]

In researching further, Sokari Ekine concluded this was an early effort related to AFRICOM. From the Center for International Policy:

[The] U.S. Department of Defense just announced the establishment of an African military command—AFRICOM—to spearhead an “oil and terrorism” policy, which will oversee the deployment of U.S. forces in the area and supervise distribution of money, materiel and military training to regional militaries and proxies. Pentagon analysts and generals claim that vast “uncontrolled spaces” in Saharan and Sahelian Africa, which are said to include large portions of northern Nigeria, are rife with terrorists seeking to damage the United States, even though the evidence for such claims is woefully thin.

… the United States is relying on increased oil production from the African Oil Triangle [Gulf of Guinea] to reduce its dependence on Middle East petroleum, but could replace one set of insecurities with another.

In fact, militarization by the United States will exacerbate an already tense situation in Nigeria and other parts of the Oil Triangle without having any effect on terrorists. Only a concerted effort to support Nigeria’s democratic forces and legislative oversight of the country’s presidency can ensure American and the region’s security, and quell wholesale theft of oil revenues as well as the insurgencies, criminality and social banditry now rampant in oil-producing areas.

In the Niger Delta the US is trying to label as terrorists the indigenous people who are battling for some control over their land and their own resources. HTS, Human Terrain System personnel have already been deployed in Iraq. And the HTS project is very much on the agenda of the DoD, and the contractors that are targeting AFRICOM for their next paychecks and opportunities.

As described by the American Anthropological Association:

The U.S. military’s HTS project places anthropologists, as contractors with the U.S. military, in settings of war, for the purpose of collecting cultural and social data for use by the U.S. military.

The AAA has described participation in HTS as a violation of the AAA code of ethics, a danger to the anthropologists, and to the people they study.

Now there are serious problems with the HTS program:

According to sources, United States Army brigade commanders privately believe that the US Army Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) Human Terrain System (HTS) program is a joke and completely unnecessary. The HTS program is publicly supported by brigade military commanders, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, only because it is a pet project of the currently politically popular US Army General David Petraeus.

BAE Systems, the prime contractor on the project, has repeatedly been pressured by the HTS program manager and his staff to hire individuals who are not field-experienced ethnographers/anthropologists, but rather Google-fed political and social scientists.

These HTS people are not qualified, not properly trained and prepared, and can therefore pose a danger to the soldiers they are assigned to work with.

Key questions remain open. What’s the role of a civilian ethnographer/anthropologist working with the military in a combat zone? Is a civilian trained to respond to a threat without threatening the life of the team? Should they carry weapons and wear military gear? Are they there to enhance the kill chain, organize and facilitate sporting events, or examine trash dumps for behavioral patterns? What kind of data do war-fighters and negotiators really want?

War-fighters in the battlespace should not have to spend their time babysitting those who have an itch to play Army or engage in a proof-of-concept program that has, in one form or another, been behind every US attempt to colonize and/or subdue an intransigent population since the nation’s founding.

The lead social scientist on the project went on a 7 month sabatical just as the project initiated.

multiple sources say that the HTS program is in the crash and burn phase.

Exceptionally qualified individuals were forced out of the HTS program for questioning management’s approach, ethics and decision making.

Another source, commenting on the HTS leadership said, “As usual, the FOBBITs [Forward Operating Base personnel who never leave the base] and REMFs [rear echelon mother f*%#@$’*] are in charge and the guys on the line are ignored. Who needs a combat veteran when you’ve got Google.

Program oversight, discipline and accountability have been virtually non-existent from the beginning, according to multiple sources. … Other sources said some HTS program personnel describe management as “war profiteers” who simply want to see the program continue no matter what the cost in lives or money.

As of this writing, sources indicate that HTS program management has lobbied hard to gain a foothold in AFRICOM where poorly trained HTT’s would be deployed

HTS looks like more “work” for Bush’s war profiteers, with the Bush trademark disregard for competence and results. But if the program were supported by the anthropological community, and if it was executed competently and efficiently, it still intends to “colonize and/or subdue an intransigent population”. And it involves invading and occupying sovereign countries. This is not a moral approach, and even if the morality does not bother the planners, the results should. For the US it will replace one set of insecurities with another, deplete and erase good will around the world, and damage the chances to acquire desired resources.

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