Monday, April 13, was the 13th anniversary of the ruling of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), and the continued illegal occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories by Ethiopia since then. Also, it’s been well over five years since the US engineered unjust sanctions at the UN Security Council against Eritrea in late 2009.
In a “Global Action Day of Resistance,” Eritreans and their friends worldwide held rallies, online petitions, cycling tours, etc., to protest these injustices against Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa that many progressive analysts are recognizing as the “Cuba of Africa.” In the US, Eritreans in the Bay Area, California, held a protest rally in Oakland.
In Europe, more than twenty five cyclists from ten different countries (Canada, Denmark, Eritrea, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK), starting in Goteborg, Sweden, stopping in over ten German and three Swiss cities, rode over 1700 km, highlighting along the way the truth about Eritrea and its people and how, despite repeatedly being wronged by the west, the country is forging forward and has become an oasis of peace and harmony in the Horn of Africa.
The demands of this Eritrean Global Action Day of Resistance are:
An immediate and unconditional implementation of the 13-year old, final and binding, boundary decision and an end to Ethiopia’s illegal occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories, including the town of Badme; and
An end to the illegal UN sanctions imposed on Eritrea in December 2009, which have long been proven to be based on totally fabricated and falsified “evidence” by Ethiopia and its handlers.
Ethiopia’s Occupation: a Threat to Regional Peace
The Algiers Agreement was signed in December, 2000, in Algeria by President Isaias Afwerki for Eritrea and by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for Ethiopia and witnessed and guaranteed by Secretary General Kofi Annan on behalf of the United Nations, Senator Reno Serri (EU Special envoy for the Horn of Africa) on behalf of the European Union, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on behalf of the United States, Secretary General, Salim Ahmed Salim representing the Organization for African Unity (OAU), now the African Union.
The Algiers Agreements, brokered and authored by the US State Department, called for the delimitation and demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border and that punitive actions would be taken against the party that did not abide by its treaty obligations.
The independent and neutral Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) delivered unanimously its final and binding delimitation decision on 13 April, 2002, and because of Ethiopia’s intransigence the Commission, which was ready to demarcate the border physically, was forced to publish its virtual demarcation decision on 30 November, 2007. Eritrea had fully accepted the decisions; Ethiopia, however, has rejected it calling it “totally illegal, unjust, and irresponsible” and has refused to abide by the EEBC’s demarcation directives. Ethiopia, in breach of international law and its obligations under the Algiers Agreement, continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories, including the town of Badme, the casus belli for the conflict. As the EEBC had stated it in its final report, “Ethiopia has so persistently maintained a position of non-compliance with its obligations in relation to the Commission.” Furthermore, Ethiopia has failed to comply with the Commission’s Order of 17 July, 2002, that required Ethiopia to “return to Ethiopian territory of those persons in Dembe Mengul who were moved from Ethiopia pursuant to an Ethiopian resettlement program since 13 April, 2002.”
UN Sanctions: a Travesty of Justice
Though the pretext for the unjust UN Security Council sanctions on Eritrea, first on December 23, 2009 (Resolution 1907) and the other one from December 5, 2011 (Resolution 2023), were to “serve” peace and security in Somalia, as the past five years have made clear, punishing innocent Eritrea based on false premises has neither brought peace to Somalia nor security to the Horn of Africa. The very forces that orchestrated lies against Eritrea are still wreaking havoc in the region. Former US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and veteran Ambassador Herman Cohen said it well a year ago:
“Those of us who know Eritrea well, understand that the Eritrean leadership fears Islamic militancy as much as any other country in the Horn of Africa region. … In view of the absence of any intelligence, real or fabricated, linking Eritrea with Shabaab for over four years, the UN Security Council should terminate sanctions imposed in 2009 by UNSC resolution 1907.”
There is no, and there has never been “intelligence, real or fabricated,” that links Eritrea to any form of extremism in the Horn of Africa other than what the Ethiopians provided the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group. All evidence indicates that most of the fabrication against Eritrea has been generated by Ethiopian operatives at home and abroad, its highly-paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and other capitals, as well as the Ethiopian minority regime’s Western enablers.
As for the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group, this is a group that has lots of problems when it comes to credibility. This is a group that cannot “execute its responsibilities and mandate with professionalism, impartiality and objectivity.” It is a Group that is influenced left and right “by political considerations outside of its mandate.” The disgraceful exits of Dinesh Mahtani (its financial expert), in the fall of 2014, after he was caught red-handed advocating for “regime change” in Eritrea on behalf of the UN, and before that the firing of coordinator Matt Bryden for his dubious behavior as a monitor, are two latest cases that show this monitoring group has completely lost its legitimacy as an impartial UN investigative body.
In fact, the group has completely lost its credibility among many UN Security Council members, including some of its permanent members, Russia and China. In response to the Group’s 2013 report, the Russian Permanent Representative, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, dismissed it as “dishonest and politically motivated.” Besides China and Russia, the Group’s report was also dismissed by Norway, Italy, and South Africa. Even the Somali Government itself has wholesale rejected the Monitoring Group’s report.
Both UNSC Resolutions 1907 (2009) and 2023 (2011) were incubated in the U.S. and hatched in Ethiopia. US Ambassador Donald Yamamoto is quoted by one of the Wikileaked cables admitting that the US had “advised the Prime Minister and his senior leadership … any case against Eritrea should be raised by other countries. Any charges levied by Ethiopia would be viewed only in the context of their border conflict.” The 2011 sanctions were also adopted under the false accusations orchestrated by the US using Ethiopia and Kenya as actors. On the absurd accusation from Ethiopia, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia said, “the Security Council was not presented with convincing proof of Eritrea’s involvement in that incident. We have not seen the results of any investigation of that incident, if indeed there was one.” On the accusations from Kenya, the UN Monitoring group itself admitted that it “has found no evidence to substantiate allegations that Eritrea supplied Al-Shabaab with arms and ammunition by air in October and November 2011. No evidence to substantiate the allegations that one or more aircraft landed at Baidoa International Airport between 29 October and 3 November 2011, or that Eritrea supplied Al-Shabaab in Baidoa by air with arms and ammunition during the same period.”
This US-Ethiopia conspiracy against Eritrea gets as far as the US giving an approving nod to Ethiopia to employ terrorist groups against Eritrea. One of the Wikileak cables says: “Meles said one option would be to directly support opposition groups that are capable of sending ‘armed propaganda units’ into Eritrea. Meles said that the groups with the most capability to operate inside Eritrea are those ‘that you don’t like from the lowlands, like the Keru’ who he said would be ‘much better able to survive in Eritrea.’” This is a jihadist terrorist group that had murdered a Canadian geologist in cold blood in western Eritrea and is responsible for the March 20, 2015 attempt to sabotage the Canadian owned Bisha gold mine in Eritrea in the vicinity of the area the Americans and Ethiopians were talking about 5 years ago.
All these US hostilities against Eritrea stem from the fact that Eritrea has refused to be subservient to misguided US policies for the region. As Professor Richard Reid, a history professor at SOAS, University of London, put it, US policy is biased in favor of Ethiopia and against Eritrea “for all sorts of reasons” one of them being:
“Eritrea was seen as a bunker state; they were less easy to control. Ethiopia had a more reliable military perhaps. Their policy was more directable and perhaps predictable. Whereas Eritrea, from the mid 1990s, it was clearly seen as unpredictable and couldn’t be relied upon to do certain things that Washington might want to do.”
Denial of Remittance: Violation of Eritrea’s Right to Development
The much talked about 2% Rehabilitation and Development fund that Eritreans in the Diaspora pay, also had nothing to do with Somalia; it has been a target of the US from as far back as 1999 (during the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war). A leaked US diplomatic cable from Asmara makes it clear that the Americans were bent on “disrupting the hard currency supply chain” so that they can “significantly and detrimentally impact the operations of the GSE [Government of the State of Eritrea]”.
We also read in the Wikileak cables that the Americans were strategizing with the Ethiopians on this very evil scheme. As the Late Ethiopian Prime Minister said then, “Isaias’ calculations would be shattered, if the U.S. and others imposed financial sanctions on him and particularly cut off Isaias’ funding from Qatar and other countries and the important funding from the Diaspora in the U.S.” Another Ethiopian official repeats in the Wikileak cables that “cutting off the flow of money to Eritrea was essential. Particularly, remittances from the U.S. were a major source of funding for Eritrea.” The Ethiopian officials were assured by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Karl Wycoff “that the U.S. remains committed to achieving a UNSC sanctions regime against Asmara and continues to broaden the discussion beyond the P3 and Uganda with a hard push by USUN” and that “USG was also expanding efforts to undercut support for Asmara,” noting for example he had been sent on “a trip to Cairo, Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities both to promote efforts to undercut flows of support to Asmara.”
Despite all these conspiracies and hostilities, however, Eritreans believe a long-term and fruitful relationship between Eritrea and the other nations in the region is essential for maintaining peace and security, and fighting off poverty and extremism in the Horn of Africa. Therefore, Eritreans and their friends are demanding that all progressives urge members of the UN Security Council to do what is moral and ethical: to lift these unjust sanctions against Eritrea.
During the past decade and a half, the priorities of Eritrea have been to achieve food security, eradicate diseases such as malaria, decrease infant and maternal mortality rates and increase access to education to all sectors of the population. Based on its own and other independent evaluations, Eritrea has achieved modest successes in these efforts. However, Ethiopia’s continued occupation of Eritrean territories and a de facto state of war is violating Eritrean people’s right to development, dignity, security and peace. All this has been made possible because the USA and Europe are continuing to bankroll Ethiopia’s defiance and aggression.
Eritreans worldwide are therefore calling on all progressive peace- and justice-loving friends and organizations to support their demands for peace and urge their national governments to reign in the lawless minority regime in Ethiopia that continues to wreak havoc over the lives of the peoples in the Horn of Africa region in general, but the people of Eritrea in particular.
Elias Amare is a journalist/researcher and peace activist based in Asmara, Eritrea. To learn more about Eritrea’s struggle against unjust imperialist sanctions visit http://eritrean-smart.org/
In this excerpt from Bob Coen and Eric Nadler’s film “Shadow War of the Sahara”, broadcast on the Franco-German channel ARTE charts the rise of the U.S.military’s AFRICA COMAND (AFRICOM). This excerpt reveals why AFRICOM’s chief critic, Libya’s Mohammar Gaddafi, had to be removed from power for the project to succeed.
On April 2, 2015, al-Shabaab carried out a major attack on Garissa University College, Kenya, killing nearly 150 people—almost entirely students . In response to this attack, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta immediately called for the training of 10,000 new police officers and “urged Kenyans abroad to help attract tourists back [to Kenya]” after countries began issuing travel advisories that cautioned visiting the region . Predictably, al-Shabaab’s deadliest attack inside of Kenya since its September 2013 assault on the Westgate Mall—killing 67—has dredged up the fraught question: “Is [Kenya’s] nation’s security strong enough?”
At this point, we might stop for a second to consider whether the “strength” of Kenya’s national security is truly in need of bolstering, or if it is already one laden with extreme might—perhaps too much so. In fact, any serious analyses of political violence require us to move beyond the immediacy of events and dig through the social-historical contexts under which these events may have founds their roots. It doesn’t take much effort to acknowledge that an assault on a University that kills nearly 150 people is a tragic and unjustifiable event, but we must not stop there—as most news outlets do. Appeals for emotional outrage, hollow tropes of “they hate us for our freedom,” and pointless/bellicose statements declaring “We will keep hitting them until their spine is completely broken… and we will relish that moment” have no place in a serious sociological analysis, past or present . Rather, we should recognize that insights on the causes of current political violence can be gained by looking at past and current policies that may have enflamed a particular situation.
Taking a brief look at the recent history of Kenyan policies towards Somalis—both internally and across-borders—we encounter some grim revelations. The October 2011 decision by the Kenyan government to invade Southern Somalia (Operation Linda Nchi: “Protect the Country”) was a critical juncture in the relationship between Kenya and al-Shabaab, as thousands of Kenyan security forces romped through Somalia. In fact, al-Shabaab immediately declared that they planned to seek revenge for the Kenyan incursion. This was made explicit in the aftermath of the Westgate Mall assault, where al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Godane released a statement saying “The attack at Westgate Mall was to torment the Kenyan leaders who’ve impulsively invaded [Somalia]. It was also a retribution against the Western states that supported the Kenyan invasion and are spilling the blood of innocent Muslims in order to pave the way for their mineral companies… So make your choice today and withdraw all your forces [or] an abundance of blood will be spilt in your country” . Somali blood was also spilled at the hands of Kenyan forces in the months following their invasion, confirmed by a ‘Human Rights Watch’ report released in 2013 showing that Kenya had indiscriminately bombed and shelled the population they were sent to protect .
In addition to these external factors, the treatment of Somalis within Kenya has been equally troublesome. The Kenyan government has been described as its “own worst enemy,” where it has cast a wide net on countless ethnic Somalis as potential al-Shabaab suspects to be rounded up and interrogated . Moreover, it has recently come to light that Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU)—under direct command of Kenya’s National Security Council—is potentially responsible for nearly 500 extrajudicial executions, operating under the general pretext of: “If the law cannot work, there’s another option… eliminate [them]” . This “elimination” strategy is believed to be directly supported by the West, as they provide the operational intelligence while the Kenyan forces carry out the kinetic operation.
Al-Shabaab has not only carried out numerous attacks in Kenya since the Post-October 2011 “Operation,” but they have had great luck with finding sympathies within Kenyan borders as well, for many of the reasons mentioned above. Like many social problems, it certainly becomes more difficult to ameliorate a conflict after you’ve continually taken steps to exacerbate the issue—giving greater fuel for grievance formation and a calcification of “us vs. the enemy” mentality. We only need to take a cursory examination of the recent verbal exchanges between the Kenyan president and al-Shabaab to understand the severity of issue at hand. Continuing the bombastic rhetoric, President Kenyatta declared that he plans to persist “unbowed” with the scorched-earth policy against al-Shabaab, looking to respond in the “severest way possible” against those he deems responsible. Coinciding with that, we saw al-Shabaab release a statement declaring that “Kenyan cities will run red with blood” until Somalia is “liberated from Kenyan occupation” .
To fully explore the current conflict between al-Shabaab, Somalia, Kenya, and all of its neighboring states requires much greater length and a different forum of discussion. However, there are a few thoughts and observations that should strike all those concerned with the situation. First, heavy-handed response by the state security apparatus’ rarely serve to quell violent and disenfranchised armed opposition. To expect al-shabaab to simply dissipate by means of state-sponsored extrajudicial executions and shelling of the civilian populations near which they are potentially operating is a failure on both humanitarian and moral levels. This must be acknowledged as an independent fact, regardless of the nature of violence doled out by al-Shabaab. This applies not only to the Kenyan security forces, but all other security forces involved in the conflagration as well (In particular, Ethiopia and the United States.) Furthermore, as we have seen through countless other recent conflicts in the “global war on terror,” military-interventionist policies are likely to promote hostilities not only within the country being occupied, but potentially the diaspora of that region as well. Viewing all Somali’s as potential suspects is an objectionable violation of the very principles that these countries claim to be fighting for in a “war against terrorism.” Lastly, at the very least, citizens around the globe should continue to be highly skeptical of their governments when a foreign incursion is suggested as a cure-all for “fighting terrorism.” As we’ve seen all too often, it is not just those engaged in the immediate conflict but also those shopping at the markets or attending University that pay the price.
Jason Mueller is a Research Fellow at the ‘Center for the Study of Democracy’ and Graduate (PhD) student in the department of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. Research areas include: Social Movements, Political Violence, and State Repression, with a particular interest in Somali affairs. He can be reached at: email@example.com
 Ellis, Ralph, Ben Brumfield, and Christian Purefoy. “Five arrested in deadly attack on Kenyan college.” CNN. April 3, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/03/africa/kenya-garissa-university-attack/index.html
 Honan, Edith. “Al Shabaab Kills at Least 147 at Kenyan University; Siege Ends.” Reuters. April 3, 2015. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/04/02/uk-kenya-security-college-idUKKBN0MT0CS20150402 ; and, “Kenya Sees Biggest Al-Shabaab Attack Yet; 147 Dead.” Modern Ghana. April 3, 2015. http://www.modernghana.com/news/609071/1/kenya-sees-biggest-al-shabaab-attack-yet-147-dead.html
 Ellis, Ralph, Ben Brumfield, and Christian Purefoy. “Five arrested in deadly attack on Kenyan college.”
 “Kenyan Troops ‘kill 60 Al-Shabab Fighters’ in Somalia.” BBC News. January 7, 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16455039
 McConnell, Tristan. “Who Is Al Shabaab Leader Ahmed Godane?” GlobalPost. October 1, 2013. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/kenya/131001/who-al-shabaab-leader-ahmed-godane
 Human Rights Watch, “World Report 2013: Somalia.” http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/country-chapters/somalia
 Hidalgo, Paul. “Kenya’s Worst Enemy.” Hiiraan. April 24, 2014. http://hiiraan.com/op4/2014/apr/54256/kenya_s_worst_enemy.aspx
 “Exclusive: Kenyan Counterterrorism Police Admit to Extrajudicial Killings.” Al Jazeera. December 8, 2014. http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/8/kenyan-counter-terrorismpoliceconfesstoextrajudicialkillings.html
 “Kenya to Respond to Shebab Attack in ‘severest Way': President.” AFP/Modern Ghana. April 4, 2015. http://www.modernghana.com/news/609246/1/kenya-to-respond-to-shebab-attack-in-severest-way-.html
Vienna, Austria – Billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros has proposed a $1 Billion contribution of a combined $50 Billion investment package in the Ukraine in order to form an economic barrier to Russia’s entry to the war torn nation. In an interview with an Austrian newspaper, Soros said, “The West can help Ukraine by increasing attractiveness for investors.” The Hungarian-born economic hitman may be more interested in helping his, and other investor’s, pockets, rather than the people of Ukraine. The speculation here could undermine any truly democratic action in Ukraine. By using low EU Central Bank interest rates to achieve his investments, Soros’s plans begin to bear marked similarities to speculations that destroyed the British Pound and took severe tolls in places like Argentina.
The business model is nothing new for Soros, who has engaged in similar investment projects in West Africa. He continues, “There are concrete investment ideas, for example in agriculture and infrastructure projects. I would put in $1 billion. This must generate a profit. My foundation would benefit from this … Private engagement needs strong political leadership.” In Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda and others, Soros has leveraged his political connections to protect his business interests in those nations. Revenue Watch International, a Soros firm, assisted Uganda in the development of its fossil fuel drilling regulations. Open Society Institute, another Soros Non-Governmental Organization, has recently been responsible for setting up and later overthrowing presidents of Senegal and Congo. Soros maintains significant oil, gold and diamond drilling operations in these nations. The International Crisis Group, yet another Soros NGO, has repeatedly advised the US Government to provide American military intervention in these fragile societies heavy in natural resources.
The profits would certainly roll in for the relentless investor. Soros Fund Management, LLC maintains ownership of large share percentages in key corporations that will benefit from investment in Ukraine. Soros owns over 5 million shares of the chemical giant Dow Chemicals, with diversified products and services from industrial to agricultural applications. Another big agricultural winner would be Monsanto. Soros owns half a million shares of the bio-tech firm, which has been a part of most Ukraine political discussions since the civil conflict broke out two years ago. Ukraine has vast supplies of oil and natural gas. Energen, a natural gas utility, could be a prime developer of Ukraine’s fossil fuel reserves. Soros owns nearly two million shares of that company. PDC Energy, with one million shares owned, might be another contender for drilling profits. Soros also owns significant stakes of Citigroup, which stands to be a primary financial intermediary for any investment in Ukraine.
Soros’ investment strategy is not restricted to diversified holdings of major national and international corporations or mutual funds. A significant tactic is the investment in supportive elements within the US government. In 2014, Soros ranked 11th on OpenSecrets.org list of “Top Individual Contributors.” His nearly $4 Million open investment (contributions sourced directly to him and not channeled through 501c4 “dark money” organizations) could potentially amount to $400 Million dollars in returns, if not more. The Carmen Group, for instance, a lobbying company in Washington, has claimed that for every dollar invested in lobbying, their clients receive $100 in return. RepresentUs, a campaign finance reform advocacy group, has measured similar extensive gains for political contributions and lobbying expenditures.
United Republic Infographic for Return on Lobbying Investment
If Soros senses a $100 Billion profit, diversified through a number of companies he holds stakes in, he will not mind selling other countries, individual investors, or the IMF to provide the remainder of the $50 Billion total investment he thinks Ukraine needs. In fact, this was probably a major conversation topic this year at the Davos World Economic Forum meeting. The majority of these banks and corporations, however, will mine the profits from Ukraine, exporting them to other Western nations. Meanwhile, these corporations will burden Ukraine with significant loans, even if the rates are near zero. Even though these practices have devastated countries like Greece and Argentina, as long as the profits keep rolling in, the investments will continue.
“Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity.”
Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the independent nation of the Congo, was born July 2, 1925 in Onalua in Kasai province of the Belgian Congo. With just a primary education, Lumumba emerged to become one of Africa’s most vocal critics of colonialism. Early in life, he developed interests in grassroots union activities and joined the Postal Union. As secretary-general of the union, Lumumba began publishing essays critical of Belgian colonial rule, and advocating independence and a unified centralized Congo. His writings appealed beyond ethnic and regional loyalties to a national constituency.
In 1955, Lumumba became regional leader of the Circle of Stanleyville and joined the Belgian Liberal Party. In 1956, he was arrested and charged with embezzling union funds and sentenced to two years imprisonment. Released after twelve months, Lumumba became sales director of a brewery in Leopoldville. To solidify his political base, in 1957 Lumumba helped found a broad-based organization that appealed beyond ethnic and regional loyalties—Movement National Congolais (MNC). The following year, he represented the MNC at the Pan-African conference in Accra, Ghana.
His relentless attacks on Belgian rule soon fractured the MNC, resulting in leadership split in July 1959. Undaunted, Lumumba insisted on complete dismantling of Belgian rule. In October 1959, he was arrested for allegedly inciting anti-colonial riots and sentenced to six months. Shortly thereafter, the Belgian government summoned a conference in Brussels to discuss the future of the Congo. Confronted by MNC threat of boycott, the government released Lumumba. At Brussels, Lumumba boldly condemned Belgian rule and advocated immediate independence. Convinced of the imminence of Congolese freedom, Belgium set aside June 30, 1960 as Independence Day.
The Movement National Congolais won the majority in the general election held in May, 1960, and Lumumba became Prime Minister of the Congo, with his political rival Joseph Kasavubu as President. Lumumba’s scathing denunciation of colonialism ruffled feathers not only in Belgium but also in the United States and Great Britain. Unfortunately, his tenure was brief and marred in crises. It began with the army revolt and secession in Katanga and Southern Kasai.
When the United Nations ignored his repeated appeals for intervention, Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union. This move only strengthened western opposition to his regime. Using the crises as an excuse, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba as Prime Minister. Though reinstated by the National Assembly, Lumumba was subsequently overthrown by Col. Joseph (later Sese Seko) Mobutu, and placed under house arrest. He made the fateful attempt to escape to Stanleyville where his supporter had gained control. He was apprehended by secessionist rebels and assassinated on January 18, 1961.
This heinous crime was a culmination of two inter-related assassination plots by American and Belgian governments, which used Congolese accomplices and a Belgian execution squad to carry out the deed. Ludo De Witte, the Belgian author of the best book on this crime, qualifies it as “the most important assassination of the 20th century”. The assassination’s historical importance lies in a multitude of factors, the most pertinent being the global context in which it took place, its impact on Congolese politics since then and Lumumba’s overall legacy as a nationalist leader.
For 130 years, the US and Belgium have played key roles in shaping Congo’s destiny. In April 1884, seven months before the Berlin Congress, the US became the first country in the world to recognise the claims of King Leopold II of the Belgians to the territories of the Congo Basin.
When the atrocities related to brutal economic exploitation in Leopold’s Congo Free State resulted in millions of fatalities, the US joined other world powers to force Belgium to take over the country as a regular colony. And it was during the colonial period that the US acquired a strategic stake in the enormous natural wealth of the Congo, following its use of the uranium from Congolese mines to manufacture the first atomic weapons, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.
In Congo, Lumumba’s assassination is rightly viewed as the country’s original sin. Coming less than seven months after independence (on 30 June, 1960), it was a stumbling block to the ideals of national unity, economic independence and pan-African solidarity that Lumumba had championed, as well as a shattering blow to the hopes of millions of Congolese for freedom and material prosperity.
The assassination took place at a time when the country had fallen under four separate governments: the central government in Kinshasa (then Léopoldville); a rival central government by Lumumba’s followers in Kisangani (then Stanleyville); and the secessionist regimes in the mineral-rich provinces of Katanga and South Kasai. Since Lumumba’s physical elimination had removed what the west saw as the major threat to their interests in the Congo, internationally-led efforts were undertaken to restore the authority of the moderate and pro-western regime in Kinshasa over the entire country. These resulted in ending the Lumumbist regime in Kisangani in August 1961, the secession of South Kasai in September 1962, and the Katanga secession in January 1963.
Lumumba became a martyr and symbol of Congolese and African freedom. He is remembered today as one of only a handful of African leaders truly dedicated to national unity and genuine independence. In February 2002, responding to a Belgian Commission’s Report that implicated Belgium in Lumumba’s death, the Belgian government acknowledged “moral responsibility” and officially apologized. Lumumba remains an inspiration to African politicians. Several of the major political parties in the 2006 Presidential election in the Congo invoked Lumumba’s legacy.
It seems that a day rarely passes without news of a new atrocity committed by an increasingly notorious terrorist group. And, without fail, this news is accompanied by an increase in U.S. military interventions around the world.
While for many Americans, supporting intervention may come from a laudable sentiment – the desire to ‘do something’ in the face of widespread suffering – the situation on the ground is always more complicated than it appears, with various powerful interests intersecting. Now, under the guise of counterterrorism efforts – the U.S. military’s alibi of choice since 9/11 – the Pentagon is spreading its ever-expanding footprint throughout the African continent despite the understandably lackluster welcome they are receiving from many ordinary Africans on the ground.
The African front
Just as the specter of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has led President Obama to continue indefinitely bombing the Middle East, “terrorism concerns” in Africa are leading to an ever greater American military presence on this otherwise neglected continent. Boko Haram and other radical Islamist groups are wreaking havoc in multiple African countries, taking advantage of states’ lack of resources, corruption or general ineptitude. The Nigerian terrorist group, which recently declared its allegiance to ISIS, now reportedly controls a territory roughly the size of Costa Rica, commands 4,000 to 6,000 well-equipped fighters, and is relentlessly pushing outwards in the region.
Much of this military ‘pivot to Africa’ has taken place under the auspices of the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM. Brought to life by renowned warmonger Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 and authorized by President George W. Bush the following year, AFRICOM aims to “build defense capabilities, […] advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity, according to their vague mission statement. The neoconservative founders should leave no doubt as to AFRICOM’s true motives, however: further military intervention, “national building”, and gaining a hold on Africa’s immensely valuable natural resources.
While Washington initially expected African countries to jump at the opportunity to host AFRICOM’s headquarters, outbidding each other for the contract, only Liberia offered to host a new base. Even close allies of the United States such as Nigeria and South Africa expressed their strong opposition to AFRICOM, with many claiming that the Pentagon’s new offensive is more about mineral and oil interests than peacekeeping or anti-terrorism activities. In the end, AFRICOM announced it would remain headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany for the “foreseeable future”.
America’s favorite dictator
The closest the U.S. has gotten to achieving Rumsfeld’s dream of occupying Africa is AFRICOM’s Camp Lemonnier drone base in the small East African country of Djibouti. Though poor in natural resources, what Djibouti offers is a strategic location on the Gulf of Aden, north of anarchic Somalia and across from the Arabian Peninsula. Djibouti’s coastline is also among the most valuable for maritime commerce, bordering both the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
An impoverished country run by aging autocrat Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (or ‘IOG’) since 1999, Djibouti has based its economy around selling its strategic position to the highest bidder. So far, this seems to be the United States, who signed a 20-year lease on Camp Lemonnier in May 2014 at the cost of $63 million a year, plus an additional $7 million per year for “development aid”. However, IOG has additionally courted the Chinese, who are increasingly present in East Africa, even suggesting that Beijing construct their own military base in his small country. Playing one great power off another has not only allowed IOG and his clique to enrich themselves, it has also reinforced his position as dictator-in-residence, as the United States would not risk political instability in a country hosting its 4,000 troops and an undisclosed number of Predator drones.
The tragic but all too typical outcome of America’s military presence in Djibouti is that the population is even worse off. On one hand, civilians have even less hope of ever moving towards greater democracy and accountability from their government as IOG entrenches his position with backing from his powerful allies. Even if its GDP doubled in the last decade, 74% of Djibouti’s population still live on less than $3 a day, lack access to drinking water and are subject to grueling human rights abuses.
On the other, they have to fear the consequences of these allies’ military presence in their country. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a May 2014 suicide attack in the country’s capital, which killed a Western soldier and wounded 11 others. It was the first suicide bombing in Djibouti’s history and the terrorist group vowed others would follow. Furthermore, according to the UK website Drone Wars, there have been at least five drone crashes in Djibouti in the past five years and it goes without saying that the Djibouti population has not been asked how they feel about foreign drones circling overhead.
Boko Haram’s recent allegiance to ISIS will only increase the potential justifications for the Pentagon to extend its reach across the African continent but the Djibouti experience should remind us that military deployments only embroil the United States into further quagmires, make Washington dependent on questionable strongmen, and worsens the situation of the population on the ground.
Sonny Okello is a writer and social entrepreneur based in Uganda.
Special Ops Missions Already in 105 Countries in 2015
In the dead of night, they swept in aboard V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Landing in a remote region of one of the most volatile countries on the planet, they raided a village and soon found themselves in a life-or-death firefight. It was the second time in two weeks that elite U.S. Navy SEALs had attempted to rescue American photojournalist Luke Somers. And it was the second time they failed.
On December 6, 2014, approximately 36 of America’s top commandos, heavily armed, operating with intelligence from satellites, drones, and high-tech eavesdropping, outfitted with night vision goggles, and backed up by elite Yemeni troops, went toe-to-toe with about six militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. When it was over, Somers was dead, along with Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher due to be set free the next day. Eight civilians were also killed by the commandos, according to local reports. Most of the militants escaped.
That blood-soaked episode was, depending on your vantage point, an ignominious end to a year that saw U.S. Special Operations forces deployed at near record levels, or an inauspicious beginning to a new year already on track to reach similar heights, if not exceed them.
During the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2014, U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) deployed to 133 countries — roughly 70% of the nations on the planet — according to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bockholt, a public affairs officer with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). This capped a three-year span in which the country’s most elite forces were active in more than 150 different countries around the world, conducting missions ranging from kill/capture night raids to training exercises. And this year could be a record-breaker. Only a day before the failed raid that ended Luke Somers life — just 66 days into fiscal 2015 — America’s most elite troops had already set foot in 105 nations, approximately 80% of 2014’s total.
Despite its massive scale and scope, this secret global war across much of the planet is unknown to most Americans. Unlike the December debacle in Yemen, the vast majority of special ops missions remain completely in the shadows, hidden from external oversight or press scrutiny. In fact, aside from modest amounts of information disclosed through highly-selective coverage by military media, official White House leaks, SEALs with something to sell, and a few cherry-picked journalists reporting on cherry-picked opportunities, much of what America’s special operators do is never subjected to meaningful examination, which only increases the chances of unforeseen blowback and catastrophic consequences.
The Golden Age
“The command is at its absolute zenith. And it is indeed a golden age for special operations.” Those were the words of Army General Joseph Votel III, a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, as he assumed command of SOCOM last August.
His rhetoric may have been high-flown, but it wasn’t hyperbole. Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, including their numbers, their budget, their clout in Washington, and their place in the country’s popular imagination. The command has, for example, more than doubled its personnel from about 33,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 today, including a jump of roughly 8,000 during the three-year tenure of recently retired SOCOM chief Admiral William McRaven.
Those numbers, impressive as they are, don’t give a full sense of the nature of the expansion and growing global reach of America’s most elite forces in these years. For that, a rundown of the acronym-ridden structure of the ever-expanding Special Operations Command is in order. The list may be mind-numbing, but there is no other way to fully grasp its scope.
The lion’s share of SOCOM’s troops are Rangers, Green Berets, and other soldiers from the Army, followed by Air Force air commandos, SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen and support personnel from the Navy, as well as a smaller contingent of Marines. But you only get a sense of the expansiveness of the command when you consider the full range of “sub-unified commands” that these special ops troops are divided among: the self-explanatory SOCAFRICA; SOCEUR, the European contingent; SOCKOR, which is devoted strictly to Korea; SOCPAC, which covers the rest of the Asia-Pacific region; SOCSOUTH, which conducts missions in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean; SOCCENT, the sub-unified command of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in the Middle East; SOCNORTH, which is devoted to “homeland defense”; and the globe-trotting Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC — a clandestine sub-command (formerly headed by McRaven and then Votel) made up of personnel from each service branch, including SEALs, Air Force special tactics airmen, and the Army’s Delta Force, that specializes in tracking and killing suspected terrorists.
And don’t think that’s the end of it, either. As a result of McRaven’s push to create “a Global SOF network of like-minded interagency allies and partners,” Special Operations liaison officers, or SOLOs, are now embedded in 14 key U.S. embassies to assist in advising the special forces of various allied nations. Already operating in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, France, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Poland, Peru, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, the SOLO program is poised, according to Votel, to expand to 40 countries by 2019. The command, and especially JSOC, has also forged close ties with the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency, among others.
Special Operations Command’s global reach extends further still, with smaller, more agile elements operating in the shadows from bases in the United States to remote parts of Southeast Asia, from Middle Eastern outposts to austere African camps. Since 2002, SOCOM has also been authorized to create its own Joint Task Forces, a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM. Take, for instance, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) which, at its peak, had roughly 600 U.S. personnel supporting counterterrorist operations by Filipino allies against insurgent groups like Abu Sayyaf. After more than a decade spent battling that group, its numbers have been diminished, but it continues to be active, while violence in the region remains virtually unaltered.
A phase-out of the task force was actually announced in June 2014. “JSOTF-P will deactivate and the named operation OEF-P [Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines] will conclude in Fiscal Year 2015,” Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee the next month. “A smaller number of U.S. military personnel operating as part of a PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command] Augmentation Team will continue to improve the abilities of the PSF [Philippine Special Forces] to conduct their CT [counterterrorism] missions…” Months later, however, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines remained up and running. “JSOTF-P is still active although the number of personnel assigned has been reduced,” Army spokesperson Kari McEwen told reporter Joseph Trevithick of War Is Boring.
Another unit, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Bragg, remained in the shadows for years before its first official mention by the Pentagon in early 2014. Its role, according to SOCOM’s Bockholt, is to “train and equip U.S. service members preparing for deployment to Afghanistan to support Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan.” That latter force, in turn, spent more than a decade conducting covert or “black” ops “to prevent insurgent activities from threatening the authority and sovereignty of” the Afghan government. This meant night raids and kill/capture missions — often in concert with elite Afghan forces — that led to the deaths of unknown numbers of combatants and civilians. In response to popular outrage against the raids, Afghan President Hamid Karzai largely banned them in 2013.
U.S. Special Operations forces were to move into a support role in 2014, letting elite Afghan troops take charge. “We’re trying to let them run the show,” Colonel Patrick Roberson of the Afghanistan task force told USA Today. But according to LaDonna Davis, a spokesperson with the task force, America’s special operators were still leading missions last year. The force refuses to say how many missions were led by Americans or even how many operations its commandos were involved in, though Afghan special operations forces reportedly carried out as many as 150 missions each month in 2014. “I will not be able to discuss the specific number of operations that have taken place,” Major Loren Bymer of Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan told TomDispatch. “However, Afghans currently lead 96% of special operations and we continue to train, advise, and assist our partners to ensure their success.”
And lest you think that that’s where the special forces organizational chart ends, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan has five Special Operations Advisory Groups “focused on mentoring and advising our ASSF [Afghan Special Security Force] partners,” according to Votel. “In order to ensure our ASSF partners continue to take the fight to our enemies, U.S. SOF must be able to continue to do some advising at the tactical level post-2014 with select units in select locations,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Indeed, last November, Karzai’s successor Ashraf Ghani quietly lifted the night raid ban, opening the door once again to missions with U.S. advisors in 2015.
There will, however, be fewer U.S. special ops troops available for tactical missions. According to then Rear-, now Vice-Admiral Sean Pybus, SOCOM’s Deputy Commander, about half the SEAL platoons deployed in Afghanistan were, by the end of last month, to be withdrawn and redeployed to support “the pivot in Asia, or work the Mediterranean, or the Gulf of Guinea, or into the Persian Gulf.” Still, Colonel Christopher Riga, commander of the 7th Special Forces Group, whose troops served with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan near Kandahar last year, vowed to soldier on. “There’s a lot of fighting that is still going on in Afghanistan that is going to continue,” he said at an awards ceremony late last year. “We’re still going to continue to kill the enemy, until we are told to leave.”
Add to those task forces the Special Operations Command Forward (SOC FWD) elements, small teams which, according to the military, “shape and coordinate special operations forces security cooperation and engagement in support of theater special operations command, geographic combatant command, and country team goals and objectives.” SOCOM declined to confirm the existence of SOC FWDs, even though there has been ample official evidence on the subject and so it would not provide a count of how many teams are currently deployed across the world. But those that are known are clustered in favored black ops stomping grounds, including SOC FWD Pakistan, SOC FWD Yemen, and SOC FWD Lebanon, as well as SOC FWD East Africa, SOC FWD Central Africa, and SOC FWD West Africa.
Africa has, in fact, become a prime locale for shadowy covert missions by America’s special operators. “This particular unit has done impressive things. Whether it’s across Europe or Africa taking on a variety of contingencies, you are all contributing in a very significant way,” SOCOM’s commander, General Votel, told members of the 352nd Special Operations Group at their base in England last fall.
The Air Commandos are hardly alone in their exploits on that continent. Over the last years, for example, SEALs carried out a successful hostage rescue mission in Somalia and a kidnap raid there that went awry. In Libya, Delta Force commandos successfully captured an al-Qaeda militant in an early morning raid, while SEALs commandeered an oil tanker with cargo from Libya that the weak U.S.-backed government there considered stolen. Additionally, SEALs conducted a failed evacuation mission in South Sudan in which its members were wounded when the aircraft in which they were flying was hit by small arms fire. Meanwhile, an elite quick-response force known as Naval Special Warfare Unit 10 (NSWU-10) has been engaged with “strategic countries” such as Uganda, Somalia, and Nigeria.
A clandestine Special Ops training effort in Libya imploded when militia or “terrorist” forces twice raided its camp, guarded by the Libyan military, and looted large quantities of high-tech American equipment, hundreds of weapons — including Glock pistols, and M4 rifles — as well as night vision devices and specialized lasers that can only be seen with such equipment. As a result, the mission was scuttled and the camp was abandoned. It was then reportedly taken over by a militia.
In February of last year, elite troops traveled to Niger for three weeks of military drills as part of Flintlock 2014, an annual Special Ops counterterrorism exercise that brought together the forces of the host nation, Canada, Chad, France, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, the United Kingdom, and Burkina Faso. Several months later, an officer from Burkina Faso, who received counterterrorism training in the U.S. under the auspices of SOCOM’s Joint Special Operations University in 2012, seized power in a coup. Special Ops forces, however, remained undaunted. Late last year, for example, under the auspices of SOC FWD West Africa, members of 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, partnered with elite Moroccan troops for training at a base outside of Marrakech.
A World of Opportunities
Deployments to African nations have, however, been just a part of the rapid growth of the Special Operations Command’s overseas reach. In the waning days of the Bush presidency, under then-SOCOM chief Admiral Eric Olson, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed in about 60 countries around the world. By 2010, that number had swelled to 75, according to Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post. In 2011, SOCOM spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told TomDispatch that the total would reach 120 by the end of the year. With Admiral William McRaven in charge in 2013, then-Major Robert Bockholt told TomDispatch that the number had jumped to 134. Under the command of McRaven and Votel in 2014, according to Bockholt, the total slipped ever-so-slightly to 133. Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel noted, however, that under McRaven’s command — which lasted from August 2011 to August 2014 — special ops forces deployed to more than 150 different countries. “In fact, SOCOM and the entire U.S. military are more engaged internationally than ever before — in more places and with a wider variety of missions,” he said in an August 2014 speech.
He wasn’t kidding. Just over two months into fiscal 2015, the number of countries with Special Ops deployments has already clocked in at 105, according to Bockholt.
SOCOM refused to comment on the nature of its missions or the benefits of operating in so many nations. The command would not even name a single country where U.S. special operations forces deployed in the last three years. A glance at just some of the operations, exercises, and activities that have come to light, however, paints a picture of a globetrotting command in constant churn with alliances in every corner of the planet.
In January and February, for example, members of the 7th Special Forces Group and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment conducted a month-long Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) with forces from Trinidad and Tobago, while troops from the 353rd Special Operations Group joined members of the Royal Thai Air Force for Exercise Teak Torch in Udon Thani, Thailand. In February and March, Green Berets from the 20th Special Forces Group trained with elite troops in the Dominican Republic as part of a JCET.
In March, members of Marine Special Operations Command and Naval Special Warfare Unit 1 took part in maneuvers aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens as part of Multi-Sail 2014, an annual exercise designed to support “security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.” That same month, elite soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines took part in a training exercise code-named Fused Response with members of the Belizean military. “Exercises like this build rapport and bonds between U.S. forces and Belize,” said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Heber Toro of Special Operations Command South afterward.
In April, soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group joined with Honduran airborne troops for jump training — parachuting over that country’s Soto Cano Air Base. Soldiers from that same unit, serving with the Afghanistan task force, also carried out shadowy ops in the southern part of that country in the spring of 2014. In June, members of the 19th Special Forces Group carried out a JCET in Albania, while operators from Delta Force took part in the mission that secured the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan. That same month, Delta Force commandos helped kidnap Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected “ringleader” in the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, while Green Berets deployed to Iraq as advisors in the fight against the Islamic State.
In June and July, 26 members of the 522nd Special Operations Squadron carried out a 28,000-mile, four-week, five-continent mission which took them to Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Japan, among other nations, to escort three “single-engine [Air Force Special Operations Command] aircraft to a destination in the Pacific Area of Responsibility.” In July, U.S. Special Operations forces traveled to Tolemaida, Colombia, to compete against elite troops from 16 other nations — in events like sniper stalking, shooting, and an obstacle course race — at the annual Fuerzas Comando competition.
In August, soldiers from the 20th Special Forces Group conducted a JCET with elite units from Suriname. “We’ve made a lot of progress together in a month. If we ever have to operate together in the future, we know we’ve made partners and friends we can depend upon,” said a senior noncommissioned officer from that unit. In Iraq that month, Green Berets conducted a reconnaissance mission on Mount Sinjar as part an effort to protect ethnic Yazidis from Islamic State militants, while Delta Force commandos raided an oil refinery in northern Syria in a bid to save American journalist James Foley and other hostages held by the same group. That mission was a bust and Foley was brutally executed shortly thereafter.
In September, about 1,200 U.S. special operators and support personnel joined with elite troops from the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Finland, Great Britain, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Slovenia for Jackal Stone, a training exercise that focused on everything from close quarters combat and sniper tactics to small boat operations and hostage rescue missions. In September and October, Rangers from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment deployed to South Korea to practice small unit tactics like clearing trenches and knocking out bunkers. During October, Air Force air commandos also conducted simulated hostage rescue missions at the Stanford Training Area near Thetford, England. Meanwhile, in international waters south of Cyprus, Navy SEALs commandeered that tanker full of oil loaded at a rebel-held port in Libya. In November, U.S. commandos conducted a raid in Yemen that freed eight foreign hostages. The next month, SEALs carried out the blood-soaked mission that left two hostages, including Luke Somers, and eight civilians dead. And these, of course, are only some of the missions that managed to make it into the news or in some other way onto the record.
Everywhere They Want to Be
To America’s black ops chiefs, the globe is as unstable as it is interconnected. “I guarantee you what happens in Latin America affects what happens in West Africa, which affects what happens in Southern Europe, which affects what happens in Southwest Asia,” McRaven told last year’s Geolnt, an annual gathering of surveillance-industry executives and military personnel. Their solution to interlocked instability? More missions in more nations — in more than three-quarters of the world’s countries, in fact — during McRaven’s tenure. And the stage appears set for yet more of the same in the years ahead. “We want to be everywhere,” said Votel at Geolnt. His forces are already well on their way in 2015.
“Our nation has very high expectations of SOF,” he told special operators in England last fall. “They look to us to do the very hard missions in very difficult conditions.” The nature and whereabouts of most of those “hard missions,” however, remain unknown to Americans. And Votel apparently isn’t interested in shedding light on them. “Sorry, but no,” was SOCOM’s response to TomDispatch’s request for an interview with the special ops chief about current and future operations. In fact, the command refused to make any personnel available for a discussion of what it’s doing in America’s name and with taxpayer dollars. It’s not hard to guess why.
Votel now sits atop one of the major success stories of a post-9/11 military that has been mired in winless wars, intervention blowback, rampant criminal activity, repeated leaks of embarrassing secrets, and all manner of shocking scandals. Through a deft combination of bravado and secrecy, well-placed leaks, adroit marketing and public relations efforts, the skillful cultivation of a superman mystique (with a dollop of tortured fragility on the side), and one extremely popular, high-profile, targeted killing, Special Operations forces have become the darlings of American popular culture, while the command has been a consistent winner in Washington’s bare-knuckled budget battles.
This is particularly striking given what’s actually occurred in the field: in Africa, the arming and outfitting of militants and the training of a coup leader; in Iraq, America’s most elite forces were implicated in torture, the destruction of homes, and the killing and wounding of innocents; in Afghanistan, it was a similar story, with repeated reports of civilian deaths; while in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia it’s been more of the same. And this only scratches the surface of special ops miscues.
In 2001, before U.S. black ops forces began their massive, multi-front clandestine war against terrorism, there were 33,000 members of Special Operations Command and about 1,800 members of the elite of the elite, the Joint Special Operations Command. There were then also 23 terrorist groups — from Hamas to the Real Irish Republican Army — as recognized by the State Department, including al-Qaeda, whose membership was estimated at anywhere from 200 to 1,000. That group was primarily based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although small cells had operated in numerous countries including Germany and the United States.
After more than a decade of secret wars, massive surveillance, untold numbers of night raids, detentions, and assassinations, not to mention billions upon billions of dollars spent, the results speak for themselves. SOCOM has more than doubled in size and the secretive JSOC may be almost as large as SOCOM was in 2001. Since September of that year, 36 new terror groups have sprung up, including multiple al-Qaeda franchises, offshoots, and allies. Today, these groups still operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan — there are now 11 recognized al-Qaeda affiliates in the latter nation, five in the former — as well as in Mali and Tunisia, Libya and Morocco, Nigeria and Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen, among other countries. One offshoot was born of the American invasion of Iraq, was nurtured in a U.S. prison camp, and, now known as the Islamic State, controls a wide swath of that country and neighboring Syria, a proto-caliphate in the heart of the Middle East that was only the stuff of jihadi dreams back in 2001. That group, alone, has an estimated strength of around 30,000 and managed to take over a huge swath of territory, including Iraq’s second largest city, despite being relentlessly targeted in its infancy by JSOC.
“We need to continue to synchronize the deployment of SOF throughout the globe,” says Votel. “We all need to be synched up, coordinated, and prepared throughout the command.” Left out of sync are the American people who have consistently been kept in the dark about what America’s special operators are doing and where they’re doing it, not to mention the checkered results of, and blowback from, what they’ve done. But if history is any guide, the black ops blackout will help ensure that this continues to be a “golden age” for U.S. Special Operations Command.
Copyright 2015 Nick Turse
Groups like IS, which could be behind the Bardo Museum shootings, have a long history of collaborating with the West and may have attacked tourists just to maintain their anti-Western façade, says independent political analyst Dan Glazebrook.
RT: Do you think that the Western tourists were targeted on purpose?
Dan Glazebrook: Yeah, I think so. The thing is with ISIS and these groups – they have a long history of collaborating with the West. It’s fundamental to their appeal that they kind of try to present themselves as anti-Western. If you look over the last several years, they’ve been singing from the same song-sheet – whether it’s on Libya, the fight against Gaddafi; Syria, the fight against Assad. We’ve had revelations about fighters’ passage to Syria to go and fight against Assad being facilitated by MI5, by British intelligence. This all came out in the hearings in Mozambique last year. So these guys are on the same page, they are helping to fulfill the West strategic aims of destabilization in the area. … The thousands and thousands people they’ve killed, the vast majority of them have been other Muslims and non-white people. From time to time they have to kill some Europeans and some Westerners in order to maintain this façade of somehow being opposed to the West, whilst they continue to carry out and facilitate the West’s strategic aims.
RT: A large number of Islamic State fighters reportedly come from Tunisia. Why is that?
DG: It was estimated at one point that the actual majority of foreign fighters in Syria were of Tunisian origin, over 3,000… They’ve also fought in Libya; they’ve fought in terrorist campaigns in Algeria. There are many different reasons; part of it is a kind of extremist backlash against the extremist secularism of the previous President [Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali and his predecessor [Habib Bourguiba]. But I think a lot of it is just simply to do with the economics and finances. There is very high unemployment in Tunisia. It is rumored that you can get up to $27,000 a year for going to fight for ISIS… Billions of dollars were put into these sectarian militias to build up these groups by Saudi Arabia and the USA as a bulwark against the resistance axis of Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah. These billions of dollars are still slushing around.
‘Attack might be publicizing Ansar al-Sharia’s merger with ISIS’
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, also commented on the Tunis museum attack.
RT: No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. Who in your view is most likely to be behind it?
Brian Levin: The most likely would probably be Ansar al-Sharia which is a radical Salafist terrorist group which started in Tunisia shortly after the Tunisian revolution in January, 2011. It was formed three months later by a fellow named Abu Ayadh. That is the most likely suspect, although, ISIS affiliates are present in neighboring Libya as well.
RT: Do you think the attackers were pursuing any particular goal with this terrible assault?
BL: Yes, I would think that if it is Ansar al-Sharia or if Ansar al-Sharia is using this to publicize some kind of merger with ISIS – this would be the time and the place to do it. Tunisia, as I said, in an area where ISIS has been exporting its brand of radicalism. That is one thing – Tunisia is Western friendly and it has got a strong economy.
RT: Earlier, a warning for tourists had been issued calling on them not to visit certain areas. Is this kind of attack in Tunisia a rare event and just how dangerous is the country for travelers?
BL: There have been advisories put out about travel to Tunisia. Its biggest industries are in fact tourism and minerals. It is a democratic society and it is Western friendly. Its economy is strong [but] it relies on these exports and tourism. And an attack like this could really hurt the economy in a place where there is fragility with respect to the economic situation. Remember again, Tunisia was the success story of the Arab Spring. This is the time and the place where groups like ISIS and Ansar al-Sharia are trying to make radicalism an imprint there and in the neighboring countries as well.
RT: The EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has said that IS was behind the attack. Do you believe that that is likely?
BL: It could be in a sense to the extent that these actors had the same goal… Ansar Al-Sharia is allying itself with the al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa. The fact of the matter is it very well could be ISIS. ISIS does have an imprint in North Africa. One of the things that ISIS had wanted to do even when it was just AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] back in 2004, they wanted to export their terrorism to places like Jordan, and now has an imprint in places like Libya which neighbors Tunisia.
By supporting South Sudan’s independence from Sudan, the US, UK and Norway have created conditions for the civil war, which broke out in the world’s youngest country in 2013, leaked documents from an inquiry by the African Union allege.
In 2005, the US, UK, Norway and the East African trading bloc, IGAD, pushed through a peace deal, which legitimized the South Sudanese rebels, and paved the way for the country’s independence in 2011.
According to a draft of the African Union inquiry obtained by Reuters, the actions of the Western powers helped establish “a politically unchallenged armed power in South Sudan” that acted with impunity and legitimized “rule of the gun.”
At least 10,000 people were killed and another 1.5 million have been displaced since July 2013 when the fighting between the forces loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, and the militants led by his sacked deputy Riek Machar began.
The findings of the inquiry were to be presented to the African Union’s Peace and Security Council in late January, but it was decided the document will be shelved.
According to a Reuters source, it was done due to concerns the publication may disrupt the talks on forming a transitional government in South Sudan, which are currently underway between Kiir and Machar.
The inquiry suggested that South Sudan’s president and his rival should “be barred from participation in the transitional executive,” and the oil producer should be effectively placed under African Union control for a period of five years.
The investigation, led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said that Kiir and Machar are responsible for the political crisis in December 2013 and “the organized massacres and the large-scale violence that followed.”
Officials from the US, UK and Norway said that they won’t comment on the document, which they haven’t seen.
“I think that the investigation that the African Union has started and the commission’s position, it needs to be made public,” Borge Brende, Norway’s Foreign Minister, told NRK broadcaster.
The call to make the inquiry public is supported by Washington, London and the UN Security Council.
In recent weeks the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has slowed from a peak of more than 1,000 new cases per week to 99 confirmed cases during the week of February 22, according to the World Health Organization. For two countries who have taken diametrically opposed approaches to combating the disease, the stark difference in the results achieved over the last five months has become evident.
The United States, which sent about 2,800 military troops to the region in October, has announced an end to its relief mission. Most soldiers have already returned. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby declared the mission a “success.” The criteria for this determination is unclear, as the troops did not treat a single patient, much less save a single life.
President Barack Obama proclaimed the American response to the crisis “an example of American leadership.” In the case of Ebola, as is the case “whenever and wherever a disaster or disease strikes,” according to Obama, “the world looks to us to lead.” The President claimed that the troops contributed not only by their own efforts, but by serving as a “force multiplier” that increased the ability of others to contribute. Apparently the U.S. forces also have the effect of divine inspiration.
This is an example of “American values,” Obama declares, which “matter to the world.” The “American leadership” is one more example of “what makes us exceptional,” according to Obama, as is the case “whether it’s recession, or war, or terrorism.”
Anything that Americans do is exemplary of these “values,” which by virtue of American supremacy are superior to those of people from any other nation.
When you look behind the President and the Pentagon’s rhetoric, it becomes more difficult to find concrete examples of success in the U.S. military mission to Africa. From the beginning, the capacity of American troops to make a difference in containing and eliminating a medical disease was questionable, to say the least.
In October, the Daily Beast reported that soldiers would receive only four hours of training in preparation for their deployment to Africa. That is half of a regular work day for people with no medical background. When they arrived, they did not exactly hit the ground running. “The first 500 soldiers to arrive have been holing up in Liberian hotels and government facilities while the military builds longer-term infrastructure on the ground,” wrote Tim Mak.
The DoD declared on its Web site that “the Defense Department made critical contributions to the fight against the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa. Chief among these were the deployment of men and women in uniform to Monrovia, Liberia, as part of Operation United Assistance.” So, the chief contribution of the DoD was sending people in military uniforms to the site of the outbreak.
The DoD lists among its accomplishments training 1,539 health care workers & support staff (presumably non-technical and cursory); creating 10 Ebola treatment units (which you could count on your fingers); and construction of a 25-bed medical unit (for a country that has had 10,000 cases of Ebola).
USAID declares that “the United States has done more than any other country to help West Africa respond to the Ebola crisis.” Like the DoD, they are short on quantitative measurements for their assertions and long on abstractions. In vague business-speak, USAID says they “worked with UN and NGO partners,” “partnered with the U.S. military,” and “expanded the pipeline of medical equipment and critical supplies to the region.”
While the USAID personnel have clearly helped facilitate the delivery of equipment and supplies. this is far from proof that the U.S. has done more than any other country. By the end of April, all but 100 U.S. troops will have left West Africa, to continue what Obama called the “civilian response.” The transition to the civilian response seems as vague, and on a much smaller scale than the military response.
The U.S. response did involve many people and several hundred millions of dollars, which is, indeed, more than most countries contributed. But an examination of the facts shows that the U.S. played mostly a support role, involved in collaboration with other actors in the tangential aspects of the crisis. U.S. government employees were not directly involved in treating any patients. Their role was rather to help other health workers and officials on the front lines who actually did. To say this is an example of American leadership and exceptionalism seems like a vast embellishment.
The other country who has taken a very public role in the Ebola crisis is Cuba. Unlike the U.S., Cuba sent nearly 500 professional healthcare workers – doctors and nurses – to treat African patients who had contracted Ebola. These included doctors from the Henry Reeve Brigade, which has served over the last decade in response to the most high-profile disasters in the world, including in Haiti and Pakistan. In Haiti, the group was instrumental in detecting and treating cholera, which had been introduced by UN peace keepers. The disease sickened and killed thousands of Haitians.
Before being deployed to West Africa, all the Cuban doctors and nurses completed an “intense training” of a minimum of two weeks, where they “prepared in the form of treating patients without exposing themselves to the deadly virus,” according to CNN.
After Cuba announced its plan to mobilize what Cubans call the “army of white robes,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that “human resources are clearly our most important need.”
“Money and materials are important, but those two things alone cannot stop Ebola virus transmission,” she said. “We need most especially compassionate doctors and nurses” to work under “very demanding conditions.”
Like their American counterparts, Cuban authorities also recently proclaimed success in fighting Ebola. They used a clear definition of what they meant.
“We have managed to save the lives of 260 people who were in a very very bad state, and through our treatment, they were cured and have gotten on with their lives,” said Jorge Delgado, head of the medical brigade, at a conference in Geneva on Foreign Medical Teams involved in fighting the Ebola crisis.
The work of the Henry Reeve Brigade was recognized by Norwegian Trade Unions who nominated the group for the Nobel Peace Prize “for saving lives and helping millions of suffering people around the world.”
The European Commission for humanitarian aid and crisis management last week also “recognized the role Cuba has played in fighting the Ebola epidemic.”
For more than 50 years, Cuba has carried out medical missions across the globe – beginning in Algeria after the revolution in 1961 and taking place in poor countries desperately needing medical care throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. They have provided 1.2 billion consultations, 2.2 million births, 5 million operations and immunizations for 12 million children and pregnant women, according to Granma.
“In their direct fight against death, the human quality of the members of the Henry Reeve brigade is strengthened, and for those in need around the world, they represent welcome assistance,” writes Nuria Barbosa León.
The mission of the DoD is one of military involvement worldwide. As Nick Turse reports in TomDispatch, U.S. military activity on the African continent is growing at an astounding rate. The military “averages about one and a half missions a day. This represents a 217% increase in operations, programs, and exercises since the command was established in 2008,” Turse writes. He says the DoD is calling “Africa the battlefield of tomorrow, today.”
Turse writes that the U.S. military is quietly replicating its failed counterinsurgency strategy in Africa, under the guise of humanitarian activities. “If history is any guide, humanitarian efforts by AFRICOM (U.S. Africa Command) and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa will grow larger and ever more expensive, until they join the long list of projects that have become ‘monuments of U.S. failure’ around the world,” he writes.
There are some enlightening pieces of information listed by the DoD as part of the “transition to Operation Onward Liberty.” The DoD “will build partnership capacity with the Armed Forces of Liberia” and will “continue military to military engagement in ways that support Liberia’s growth toward enduring peace and security.”
It is unclear what role the U.S. military will help their Liberian counterparts play, unless peace and security is considered from the perspective of multinational corporations who have their eyes on large oil reserves, rather than the perspective of the local population.
In Liberia, as in most of Africa, Washington’s IMF and World Bank-imposed neoliberal policies have further savaged a continent devastated by 300 years of European colonialism. Any U.S. military involvement in Liberia and elsewhere is likely to reflect the economic goals of the U.S. government, which primarily consist of continuing the implementation of the Washington consensus.
The U.S. military, unsurprisingly, seems to be using the Ebola crisis as a pretext to expand its reach inside Africa, consistent with the pattern of the last seven years that Turse describes. The deployment of several thousand troops to West Africa can be understood as a P.R. stunt that is the public face of counterinsurgency.
U.S. troops are used as props. The idea is to associate them with humanitarianism, rather than death and destruction. But a true humanitarian mission would be conducted by civilian agencies and professionals who are trained and experienced specifically in medicine, construction and administration, not by soldiers trained to kill and pacify war zones.
Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, warned last fall about the dangers of conceiving of a “war on terror template” in response to a disease such as Ebola.
“Countering Ebola will require a whole new set of protections and priorities, which should emerge from the medical and public health communities. The now sadly underfunded National Institutes of Health and other such organizations have been looking at possible pandemic situations for years,” Greenberg writes. “It is imperative that our officials heed the lessons of their research as they have failed to do many times over with their counterparts in public policy in the war on terror years.”
The approaches of the United States and Cuban governments to the Ebola epidemic are a study in contrasts. The goals that led to these policy choices are clear. And after nearly six months on the ground, the difference between a military and a technical assistance mission can easily be evaluated. The results speak for themselves.
A small community in Uganda is challenging a UN-backed international oil palm venture that has expropriated small farmers and obliterated an entire forest on a Lake Victoria island to establish a vast plantation. Three years after the grab, Friends of the Earth groups are backing the islanders legal action, which is launched today.
Fighting a land grab can seem like a hopeless cause: the odds are hardly even when farmers without land or a source of income are pitted against multinational corporations, European banks and UN Agencies. However in Uganda, one community is fighting back.
Four years ago, an oil palm plantation partly operated by the oil palm giant Wilmar International began on Bugula, a highly biodiverse island on Lake Victoria. Then home to about one hundred small-scale farmers, the project was sold to them with extravagant promises of employment and development.
Yet today, 3,600 hectares of pristine forest have been destroyed, replaced with a vast swathe of oil palm, and many farmers and their families find themselves destitute with little compensation – if any – awarded to them for the loss of their land.
Finding themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances, three of them are today launching their legal action on behalf of the rest of the community against the oil palm company, Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL), demanding the restitution of their land and compensation for lost crops and income.
Although nominally independent, OPUL is 90% owned by Bidco Uganda, itself a joint venture between the oil palm giant Wilmar International, Josovina Commodities and Bidco Oil Refineries, a Kenya-based company. Wilmar International holds at least 39% of the shares in OPUL and is providing technical expertise for the project.
In launching the legal action in Masaka today, the Bugula islanders are taking on more than just these mighty corporations.
The oil palm project is backed by the Ugandan government, which even helped to finance it, and by a United Nations agency: the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is “directly overseeing” the project after providing a $52 million loan.
So this is ‘improving access to land and tenure security’?
Established in 1974 after the World Food Conference, IFAD’s ‘motto’ is “Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty”. Its Financing Policies and Criteria state that the projects it finances should incorporate “engagement with indigenous peoples” and “improving access to land and tenure security”.
The Bugula project is carried out under IFAD’s ‘Vegetable Oil Development Project – Phase 2‘ which claims to be aimed at “increasing the domestic production of vegetable oil and its byproducts, thus raising rural incomes for smallholder producers and ensuring the supply of affordable vegetable oil products to Ugandan consumers.”
According to IFAD, “Oil palm activities are carried out on Bugula Island in Kalangala District (Ssesse islands) and Buvuma Island in Mukono District. In the course of the project, about 3,000 smallholder farmers will directly benefit from oil palm development and 136,000 households from oilseed development. The project is directly supervised by IFAD.”
It records a total project cost of $146.2 million, to which it is contributing a $52.0 million loan repayable in 2018, co-financed with SNV Netherlands Development Organization, which is contributing $0.3 million. It claims to benefit 139,000 households.
The Ecologist spoke today with Alessandro Marini, IFAD’s Country Representative for Uganda by telephone, but he repeatedly refused to comment at that time because he was “on his way into a meeting”. He has since failed to respond to our email requesting his views.
The UK is the single biggest contributor to IFAD.
John Muyiisa’s story
In January, Anne van Schaik of Friends of the Earth Europe joined NAPE / Friends of the Earth Uganda in a fact-finding mission to Bugula Island, Kalangala, and visited the house of John Muyiisa, one of the plaintiffs.
John saw his 43-acre plot taken for the palm oil project, and has since not stopped fighting to get it back. John showed us the state of his house, which is about to collapse because he doesn’t have the resources to repair it. The foundations of the new house he was planning to build for his family have been left abandoned since the project began.
When he showed us the small plot that was left to him, John said: “We all depended on this land. My land was not only my income but also a secured future income for my children. It would have provided me with the money I needed to buy a new house. Now I have lost my land and our plans are shattered.” These concerns have found little sympathy among local government officials.
We also visited the nearby island of Buvuma, where IFAD has financed another oil palm project. When we expressed our interest to hear from the local community about the effects of the island’s palm oil project, they exhausted themselves by explaining the benefits of the project.
“There will be electricity, employment, new roads, and extra income for local palm oil growers”, officials told us. This sounded all-too familiar to what we heard during a visit in 2013, but two years on, these promises seem emptier than ever.
Once we had finished speaking with the officials, we joined them at a community meeting at the district house to discuss compensation for lost land. When the chairperson gave farmers the floor to talk about the effects of the project, many raised their hands.
They talked about how the compensation had been inadequate, how it is totally unclear to them how it had been calculated, and how some of them didn’t want to leave their land but were given no choice. Clearly embarrassed and annoyed, a local official responded and corrected them. “People should not first sign an agreement and then complain after”, he said.
His unsympathetic stance was mirrored by other government officials on both islands. Often we heard jokes about how farmers drank away their compensation money in bars, got themselves a second wife or otherwise managed to fritter it away.
This indifference, although unspoken, is implicitly shared by IFAD, BIDCO, OPUL and Wilmar. Indeed, the chain of responsibility stretches back further – to banks in Europe and the USA whose financial support sets the wheels in motion for these devastating land grabs.
Europe’s mega-banks financing palm oil explosion
Taking the case of Wilmar International, in 2014 US and EU financiers had a total of €371 million of shares in the corporation, and 1.1 billion Euro in loans outstanding to them.
For instance in the Netherlands, ING held more than €26 million in shares; the British bank HSBC held €298 million in loans, while BNP Paribas and Dutch Rabobank held €189 million and €111 million respectively. Deutsche Bank held €4 million in shares and €12 million in outstanding loans.
Like Wilmar, many of these financiers have adopted policies to address the environmental, social and governance impacts of their investments. However, there is no accountability mechanism in place for most of these commitments, and so there is no financial or legal incentive for financiers to follow through.
This means that many European financial institutions, through their investments in agribusiness projects, are supporting a significant number of what are in fact land grabs in the global South. Such incidents are widespread and growing: new cases are reported to civil society organisations on a near-weekly basis in countries from Cambodia and Papua New Guinea to Indonesia, Myanmar and Nigeria.
Europe needs to take action at the political level. Both by ensuring financial institutions on its soil are not complicit in land grabs, and by voting this year to finish reforms to halt the expansion of agrofuels which compete for cropland.
UN-IFAD must hang its head in shame
And clearly IFAD is an organization crying out for abolition. Its financing of the Bugula Island land grab is in clear violation of its financing principles and criteria, indeed the very purpose of its existence – “Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty”
While IFAD speaks of “community-driven development approach to fighting rural poverty“, “improving access to land and tenure security”, “dynamic and inclusive rural development“, “food and nutrition security for all”, “inclusive growth and poverty eradication”, and “sustainable smallholder agriculture” it is actually financing land-grabbing projects that achieve the precise reverse of all its empty rhetoric.
Indeed it is robbing poor farmers and farming communities of their land and livelihoods, leaving them destitute, and handing over their wealth for plunder by foreign corporations and profiteering financiers.
As for John and the rest of the former farmers of Bugula, the next steps in their fight for justice will be taken in court in Masaka. With pressure coming at them from both sides, the message to oil IFAD, palm companies and financiers alike is clear: the battle against land grabs is on.
Action: to support John Muyiisa’s struggle in his search for legal redress for the farmers of Kalangala, please visit our crowdfunding page.
It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century, you just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests.
— Secretary of State, John Kerry, “Meet the Press”, March 2, 2014
Various professional psychology sites state succinctly: “Projection is a defense mechanism which involves taking our own unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people.”
Further: “Projection tends to come to the fore in normal people at times of crisis, personal or political, but is more commonly found in the neurotic or psychotic – in personalities functioning at a primitive level as in narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder”, opines Wiki.
With that in mind it is worth returning to the assault on Libya and the allegation by Susan Rice, then US Ambassador to the UN, in April 2011, that the Libyan government was issuing Viagra to its troops, instructing them to use rape as a weapon of terror.
However, reported Antiwar.com, MSNBC was told “by US military and intelligence officials that there is no basis for Rice’s claims. While rape has been reported as a ‘weapon’ in many conflicts, the US officials (said) they’ve seen no such reports out of Libya.”
Several diplomats also questioned Rice’s lack of evidence, suspecting she was attempting “to persuade doubters the conflict in Libya was not just a standard civil war but a much nastier fight in which Gaddafi is not afraid to order his troops to commit heinous acts.”
The story was reminiscent of the pack of lies which arguably sealed the 1991 US-led Iraq onslaught — of Iraqi troops leaving premature babies to die after stealing their incubators. The story, of course, was dreamt up by global public relations company, Hill and Knowlton Strategies, Inc., then described as the world’s largest PR company which had been retained by the Kuwait government.
A tearful hospital “volunteer”, Nayirah, gave “testimony” which reverberated around an appalled world. It transpired she was the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Washington and was neither a “volunteer”, “witness”, nor in Kuwait. Amnesty International obligingly backed up the fictional nonsense suffering lasting credibility damage. However, as with Libya two decades later, Iraq’s fate was sealed.
The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice and Foreign Affairs advisor, Samantha Power are credited with helping persuade President Obama to intervene in Libya. By the end of April 2011, Rice was also pushing for intervention in Syria, claiming that President Assad was “seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria’s citizens …” In the light of all, she vowed: “The United States will continue to stand up for democracy and respect for human rights, the universal rights that all human beings deserve in Syria and around the world.” (Guardian, April 29, 2011)
Looking across the world at the apocalyptic ruins of lives and nations resultant from America’s continuance in uninvited “standing up” for “democracy”, “human rights” and “universal rights” there are surely few who could not only silently weep.
Amnesty, perhaps “once bitten” not only questioned the Libya Viagra nonsense but denied it in categorical terms. According to Donatella Rovera, their Senior Crisis Response Advisor, who spent three months in Libya from the start of the crisis: “We have not found any evidence or a single victim of rape or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped.”
Liesel Gerntholtz, heading Womens Rights at Human Rights Watch, which also investigated the mass rape allegations, stated: “We have not been able to find evidence.”
The then Secretary of State, Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton, was “deeply concerned” stating that: “Rape, physical intimidation, sexual harassment and even so-called ‘virginity tests’ “were taking place not only in Libya, but “throughout the region.” Presumably leaving the way open for further plundering throughout Africa in the guise of bestowing “democracy”, “human rights” etc.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court obediently weighed in, telling a Press Conference of: “ … information that there was a policy to rape in Libya those that were against the government. Apparently (Colonel Gaddafi) used it to punish people.” A bit of a blow for the impartiality and meticulous evidence of the ICC it might be thought.
A week after the bombing of Libya started in March 2011, Eman al-Obeidy burst in to a Tripoli hotel telling the international journalists there she had been raped. She was removed by Libyan security. Government spokespeople claimed she had mental health problems, was drunk, a thief, a prostitute and would be charged with slander. The world sneered.
By June 2011 Ms al-Obeidy had ended up in Boulder, Colorado, US, granted asylum with remarkable speed, with the help of Hillary Clinton, according to US news outlets.
In November 2014 al-Obeidy, now known as Eman Ali, was arrested for “violating conditions of her bail bond and probation.” It was her third arrest. Prosecutors allege that she tested positive for opiates and alcohol. The probation and bail bond relate to an alleged assault case in a Boulder bar with Ms al-Obeidy-Ali accused of pouring drink over a customer and then lobbing a glass at her. The trial is scheduled for 17th February with the possibility of her asylum status being rescinded.
However, back to projection. It transpires that the Pentagon has been supplying Viagra to US troops since 1998. That year it spent $50 million to keep troops, well, stiffened up. “The cost, roughly, of two Marine Corps Harrier jets or forty five Tomahawk cruise missiles …”
By 2014 the cost of extra-curricular military forces’ frolics had risen to an astonishing $504,816 of taxpayers money. An additional $17,000-plus was spent on two further erectile enhancing magic potions.
The Washington Free Beacon helpfully estimated: “that the amount of Viagra bought by the Pentagon last year could have supplied 80,770 hours, 33 minutes, and 36 seconds of sexual enhancement, assuming that erections don’t last longer than the 4 hour maximum advised by doctors.”
Surely coincidentally on February 14, St Valentine’s Day, Joachim Hagopian released an article: “Sexual Assault in the US Military – More Rapists Attend the Air Force Academy Than Any Other College in America.”
In a survey taken in 2012 “an unprecedented number” of over “26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact was reported by service men and women.” Further, weekly: “another high profile officer often in charge of reducing assaults was being investigated and charged himself.”
The US Air Force at Colorado Springs, writes Hagopian “has more rapists on Campus than any other college in the country.”
But then the US military planners would seem to be sex and bodily function obsessed. In 1994 they contemplated releasing pheromones (a hormonal stimulus) against enemy troops “to turn enemy soldiers into flaming love puppets whose objects of affection would be each other.”
“While enemy troops were preoccupied with making love instead of war …” America’s finest could blow them to bits. This bit of military dementia was dubbed the “gay bomb.”
Also dreamed up have been halitosis, flatulence and vomit-inducing chemicals to unleash on foes. Body function obsession clearly rules in the armed forces, officially and unofficially.
Projection: “ … is more commonly found … in personalities functioning at a primitive level.” Indeed. And to think both Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi were labeled mad by such as these.
Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger’s Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.)