In response to the tragic Paris events of November 13, Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan warned that “ISIL is planning additional attacks… It is clear to me that ISIL has an external agenda, that they are determined to carry out these types of attacks.” (Quoted in Daily Telegraph, November 16, 2015)
Five days later following the CIA Chief’s premonition, the Bamako Radisson Hotel Blu in Mali’s capital was the object of a terrorist attack, resulting in 21 people dead. Following the attack and the taking of hostages by the terrorists, French and Malian special forces raided the hotel. US. Africa Command (AFRICOM) also confirmed that US special forces were involved.
The Bamako terror operation was allegedly coordinated by Mokhtar Belmokhtar (aka Khaled Abu al-Abbas), leader of an affiliate of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Islamist al-Mulathameen (Masked) Brigade, or “Those who Sign with Blood.”
Belmokhtar’s group was created in 2012 in the wake of the war on Libya. His organization has also allegedly been involved in the drug trade, smuggling as well kidnapping operations of foreigners in North Africa. While his whereabouts are said to be known, French intelligence has dubbed Belmokhtar “the uncatchable”.
In June he was reported dead as a result in a U.S. air strike in Libya. His death was subsequently denied.
Based on shaky evidence, The New York Times report below (November 20) concludes that Belmokhtar’s group (together with AQIM) is unequivocally behind the Bamako attacks:
A member of Al Qaeda in Africa confirmed Saturday that the attack Friday on a hotel in Bamako, Mali, had been carried out by a jihadist group loyal to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian operative for Al Qaeda. The Qaeda member, who spoke via an online chat, said that an audio message and a similar written statement in which the group claimed responsibility for the attack were authentic. The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist groups, also confirmed the authenticity of the statement.
The Qaeda member, who refused to be named for his protection, said that Mr. Belmokhtar’s men had collaborated with the Saharan Emirate of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, … In the audio recording, the group, known as Al Mourabitoun, says it carried out the operation in conjunction with Al Qaeda’s branch in the Islamic Maghreb.
The recording was released to the Al Jazeera network and simultaneously to Al Akhbar, … The recording states: “We, in the group of the Mourabitoun [Arabic Rebel Group], in cooperation with our brothers in Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, the great desert area, claim responsibility for the hostage-taking operation in the Radisson hotel in Bamako.” (emphasis added)
The SITE Intelligence Group is presented as an “independent” Washington think tank with a mandate of analyzing data pertaining to Al Qaeda affiliated terror organizations. SITE is also on contract with a number of US government agencies and has close links to US intelligence.
SITE has provided no substantive evidence which supports the authenticity of the online audio chat recording, which is considered as a reliable source. The story could have been planted.
Following the audio release, the Western media in chorus immediately pointed to an act of revenge directed against the French Republic in response to France’s 2013 military intervention in Mali, which had been ordered by President Francois Hollande.
“France saved Mali from al-Qaeda but it never broke terror threat”. “France saved northern Mali from al-Qaeda’s brutal rule … But the country is still beholden to outsiders and, as events at the Radisson hotel have demonstrated, acutely vulnerable to the worst of terrorism” (The Independent, November 20, 2015)
Screenshot The Independent, November 20, 2015
In turn, the French Minister of Defense acknowledged –prior to the conduct of a police investigation– that the authors of the attack were “most likely” led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s group in association with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
What Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain failed to mention was that both Belmokhtar and AQIM have longstanding links to the CIA, which in turn has a working relationship with France’s General Directorate for External Security, Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE).
Casually ignored by the Western media, the leaders of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) including Belmokhtar were trained and recruited by the CIA in Afghanistan. Acknowledged by the Washington based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR):
Most of AQIM’s major leaders are believed to have trained in Afghanistan during the 1979-1989 war against the Soviets as part of a group of North African volunteers known as “Afghan Arabs” that returned to the region and radicalized Islamist movements in the years that followed. The group is divided into “katibas” or brigades, which are clustered into different and often independent cells.
The group’s top leader, or emir, since 2004 has been Abdelmalek Droukdel, also known as Abou Mossab Abdelwadoud, a trained engineer and explosives expert who has fought in Afghanistan and has roots with the GIA in Algeria. (Council on Foreign Relations, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, cfr.org, undated)
Saudi born terror mastermind Osama bin Laden was recruited in 1979 ironically under the auspices of the CIA. The training, recruitment and indoctrination of Mujahideen launched in 1979 was considered to be “the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA” in response the Soviet Union’s military support of the pro-Communist secular Afghan government of Babrak Kamal.
Al Qaeda in Arabic means “the Base”. What it referred to was the CIA’s “Database” of Mujahideen recruits who were referred to by President Ronald Reagan as “freedom fighters”:
Shortly before his untimely death, former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that “Al Qaeda” is not really a terrorist group but a database of international mujaheddin and arms smugglers used by the CIA and Saudis to funnel guerrillas, arms, and money into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. (See Pierre-Henri Bunel, Al Qaeda: The Database, Global Research, November 20, 2005, emphasis added)
Mokhtar Belmokhtar: Post Cold War CIA intelligence asset?
The Council on Foreign Relations erroneously describes “Mokhtar Belmokhtar as the one-eyed veteran of the anti-Soviet Afghan insurgency.” (CFR, op cit, emphasis added). Belmokhtar (born in 1972) did not fight in the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1989). He was recruited in 1991 at the age of 19 in the immediate wake of the Cold War.
CIA recruitment continued in the wake of the Cold War. It was in large part directed against the Russian Federation and the former Soviet Republics as well as the Middle East.
The purpose of this later CIA recruitment was to establish a network of “intelligence assets” to be used in the CIA’s post-cold war insurgencies. Leaders of the Chechen Islamist insurgencies were also trained in CIA camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the notorious leader of the Chechen insurrection Ibn al-Khattab (a citizen of Saudi Arabia).
Following his training and recruitment and a two year stint in Afghanistan (1991-1993), Mokhtar Belmokhtar was sent back to Algeria in 1993 at age 21 where he joined the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) (emblem left). The latter was initially part of the so-called Armed Islamic Group (Groupe islamique armé (GIA)) in Algeria which sought to overthrow the secular Algerian Government with a view to installing a theocratic Islamic State.
Supported covertly by the CIA, Belmokhtar fought in Southern Algeria in the civil war opposing Islamist forces and the secular government. He was also instrumental in the integration and merging of “jihadist” forces.
In January 2007, the Armed islamic Group (GIA) which had been prominent in the 1990s, officially changed its name to the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
In turn, as of 2007, the newly formed AQIM established a close relationship with the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which was directly supported by NATO during the 2011 war on Libya, “providing weapons, training, special forces and even aircraft to support them in the overthrow of Libya’s government.” (Tony Cartalucci, The Geopolitical Reordering of Africa: US Covert Support to Al Qaeda in Northern Mali, France “Comes to the Rescue”, Global Research, January 2013).
British SAS Special Forces had also been brought into Libya prior to the onset of the insurrection, acting as military advisers to the LIFG.
In fact, what has unfolded since the war on Libya is the merging of LIFG and AQIM forces. In turn, many of the LIFG operatives have been dispatched to Syria to fight within the ranks of Al Nusrah and the ISIS.
Robert Stephen Ford, US Ambassador to Algeria (2006-2008)
It is worth noting that the 2007 restructuring of jihadist forces in Algeria and the Maghreb coincided with the appointment of Robert Stephen Ford as US ambassador to Algeria in August 2006. Ford had been reassigned by the State Department from Baghdad to Algiers. From 2004 to 2006, he worked closely with Ambassador John Negroponte at the US embassy in Baghdad in supporting the creation of both Shia and Sunni death squads in Iraq.
This project consisted in recruiting and training terrorists modelled on the so-called “Salvador Option” which had been applied by the CIA in Central America. Negroponte as we recall played a central role in supporting the Contras terrorists in Nicaragua as ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, “The Salvador Option For Syria”: US-NATO Sponsored Death Squads Integrate “Opposition Forces”, Global Research, May 28, 2012)
The 2006 appointment of Robert Stephen Ford to head the US Embassy in Algeria was timely. It coincided with the consolidation of jihadist groups within Algeria and the Maghreb. It preceded the 2011 US-NATO sponsored insurrections in Libya and Syria.
In 2010, Ford was approved by the US Congress as US Ambassador to Syria. He presented his credentials to president Bashar al Assad in January 2011, barely two months prior to the onslaught of the terrorist insurrection in the border city of Daraa in mid-March 2011. Ford played a central role in assisting the channelling of US and allied support to Syrian “opposition” groups including Al Nusrah and the ISIS.
Belmokhtar’s history and involvement in Afghanistan confirms that from the very outset he was an instrument of US intelligence. While, he operates with a certain degree of independence and autonomy in relation to his intelligence sponsors, he and his organization are bona fide CIA “intelligence assets”, which can be used by the CIA as part of a covert agenda.
There are various definitions of an “intelligence asset”. From the standpoint of US intelligence, “assets” linked up to terrorist organizations must not be aware that they are supported and monitored by Western intelligence.
With regard to Al Qaeda, from the outset in 1979, the CIA chose to operate through various front organizations as well as indirectly through its Saudi, Qatari and Pakistani intelligence partners. CIA’s Milton Beardman who played a central role in the Soviet Afghan war confirms that members of Al Qaeda including Osama bin Laden were not aware of the role they were playing on behalf of Washington. In the words of bin Laden (quoted by Beardman): “neither I, nor my brothers saw evidence of American help”(Michel Chossudovsky, Who is Osama bin Laden, Global Research, September 12, 2001):
Motivated by nationalism and religious fervor, the Islamic warriors were unaware that they were fighting the Soviet Army on behalf of Uncle Sam. While there were contacts at the upper levels of the intelligence hierarchy, Islamic rebel leaders in theatre had no contacts with Washington or the CIA. (Ibid)
Amply documented, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)and its affiliated groups including the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was serving the interests of the Western military alliance. Confirmed by the Washington Post, June 29, 2011 (See below), France was supplying weapons to the LIFG at the height of NATO’s bombing raids.
AQIM in turn was receiving weapons from the LIFG, which was supported by NATO. Moreover, LIFG mercenaries had integrated AQIM brigades.
According to alleged Terror Mastermind Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who also coordinated the 2013 In Amenas Mali kidnapping operation:
“We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world. As for our benefiting from the (Libyan) weapons, this is a natural thing in these kinds of circumstances.” http://www.hanford.gov/c.cfm/oci/ci_terrorist.cfm?dossier=174
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is indelibly tied into a Western intelligence agenda. While it is described as ”one of the region’s wealthiest, best-armed militant groups”, financed covertly by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. France’s Canard enchaîné revealed (June 2012) that Qatar (a staunch ally of the United States) has been funding various terrorist entities in Mali:
The original report cites a French military intelligence report as indicating that Qatar has provided financial support to all three of the main armed groups in northern Mali: Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ansar Ed-Dine, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA).
The amount of funding given to each of the groups is not mentioned but it mentions that repeated reports from the French DGSE to the Defense Ministry have mentioned Qatar’s support for ‘terrorism’ in northern Mali. (quoted by Jeune Afrique June 2012)
Qatar is a proxy state, a de facto Persian Gulf territory largely controlled by Washington. It hosts a number of Western military and intelligence facilities.
The Emir of Qatar does not finance terrorism without the consent of the CIA.
And with regard to Mali, the CIA coordinates its activities in liaison with its French intelligence partners and counterparts, including la Direction du renseignement militaire (DRM) and the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE).
The implications are obvious and should be carefully understood by Western public opinion. Inasmuch as Belmokhtar and AQIM are “intelligence assets”, both US and French intelligence are (indirectly) behind the Bamako attacks.
Both US and French intelligence are complicit in the State sponsorship of terrorism.
The Assembly of States Parties is meeting this month in The Hague to review the work of the International Criminal Court and to discuss the ICC’s budget. The ASP is the International Criminal Court’s management oversight and legislative body. The Assembly also elects the judges and prosecutors and decides the Court’s budget. The court’s proposed budget for 2016 amounts to €153.32 million, representing an increase of €22.66 million, or 17.3 per cent, over the 2015 approved budget. At face value, far from increasing the budget for the ICC, the Assembly of State Parties should be demanding a refund.
Established in 2002, the ICC is an impotent billion euro white elephant. 2015 has been a particularly bad year for the court. It has botched the Kenyan cases it has undertaken and its continuing alienation from Africa was centre-stage internationally when South Africa, previously a keen member, publicly ignored ICC arrest warrants and appears on the verge of withdrawal from the organisation – something seen by observers as a death knell for the court.
The International Criminal Court has self-evidently failed across the board. In 2010 the ICC-friendly Economist had already found it necessary to publish an article about the ICC entitled “International justice: Courting disaster?” Things have worsened considerably since then. The ICC has consumed more than a billion euros in its 13-year existence and has only secured two deeply questionable convictions. The ICC’s claims to international jurisdiction and judicial independence are institutionally flawed and the court’s reputation has been irretrievably damaged by its racism, blatant double standards, hypocrisy, corruption and serious judicial irregularities. The Assembly of State Parties should also accept that it has grotesquely neglected its responsibility to manage the court. The ASP has turned a blind eye to systemic failure on the part of the ICC.
While the ICC pretends to be the world’s court this is simply not the case. Its members, however, represent under one-third of the world’s population: China, Russia, the United States, Pakistan and Indonesia are just some of the many countries that have remained outside the court’s jurisdiction. India, the world’s largest democracy, has chosen not to join the ICC because the court is subordinate to the United Nations Security Council and because it does not criminalise terrorism and the use of nuclear weapons. The United States has forcefully pointed out that the ICC is a kangaroo court, a travesty of justice open to political influence, and has said that no American citizen will ever come before it. That said, Washington is perfectly happy when it suits American foreign policy objectives to demand that black Africans appear before a deeply flawed court peddling sub-prime justice.
The ICC pretends to be independent. Far from being an independent and impartial court, the ICC grants special “prosecutorial” rights of referral and deferral to the UN Security Council – by default its five permanent members (three of which are not even ICC members). The court is also inextricably tied to the European Union which provides over 60 percent of its funding. The ICC has come to be seen within Africa very much as a European-funded and directed instrument of European foreign policy. The Office of the Prosecutor, for example, has to date received approximately 9,000 complaints about alleged crimes in 139 countries. From these almost nine thousand alleged instances of serious abuses of human rights, the ICC has acted in eight African “situations”, and indicted 39 Africans, to the exclusion of any complaints implicating white Europeans and North Americans or their protégés. The ICC has turned a blind eye to self-evident human rights abuses well within its jurisdiction in Iraq and Afghanistan. Afghanistan is an ICC member state. As a result the court can investigate alleged war crimes committed by citizens of any country, ICC Member State or not, within its borders. Tens of thousands of civilians have died and well over one hundred thousand have been injured in the conflict in Afghanistan, many of them at the hands of NATO and US forces. The ICC has however ignored any allegations of war crimes by NATO, US or EU citizens in Afghanistan.
The ICC promised “swift justice” but took several years to bring the first accused to trial for allegedly using child soldiers. The Nuremberg trials, which addressed infinitely more serious charges, were over and done within a year. The ICC pretends to be victim-centred yet Human Rights Watch has publicly criticised the ICC’s ambivalence toward victim communities. The court promised to usher in a new era of gender justice. Women’s rights specialists such as Professor Louise Chappell have noted that the ICC’s record in this respect “has been partial and inconsistent”, and that “The ICC’s legitimacy is fragile.”
Despite having consumed more than one billion euros the ICC has also shown itself to be stunningly dysfunctional. The court’s proceedings thus far have often been questionable where not simply farcical. At the heart of any judicial process is testimony provided by witnesses. The court has produced witnesses who recanted their testimony the moment they got into the witness box, admitting that they were coached by non-governmental organisations as to what false statements to make. In its first trial, that of Thomas Lubanga, a process that lasted seven years, the judges found all but one of the alleged former child soldiers presented as witnesses by the Prosecution to be unreliable. Dozens of other “witnesses” have either been similarly discredited or disavowed their “evidence”. This hallmark of incompetence continues to this day. Most recently the ICC prosecutor had to admit that one of its own star witnesses in its case against Kenyan Vice-President Ruto was “thoroughly unreliable and incredible”. In reality it is the Office of the Prosecutor that has been revealed to be thoroughly unreliable and unprofessional.
There have been scandalous examples of prosecutorial misconduct, not least of which the ICC Chief Prosecutor hiding hundreds of items of exculpatory evidence, which should have ended any trial because they would have compromised the integrity of any legal process. The ASP has simply stood by doing nothing.
That the International Criminal Court is corrupt is also self-evident. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines “corrupt” as “destroyed in purity, debased; vitiated by errors or alterations.” The Assembly of State Parties is responsible for the appointment of judges to the ICC. It is in the selection of judges that the ASP and ICC have been at their most corrupt. ICC judges – some of whom have never been lawyers, let alone judges – are the result of grubbily corrupt vote-trading within the Assembly of State Parties amongst member states and delegates. The relationship between appointments to the ICC and vote trading between states is an open secret. Selecting International Judges: Principle, Process, and Politics, a ground-breaking study of international judicial appointments, written by Professor Philippe Sands QC, and others as part of Oxford University Press’ International Courts and Tribunals Series, concluded that “the evidence leads unequivocally to the conclusion that merit is not the main driving factor in the election processes.” The study also revealed that “[m]any individuals who participate in the ICC process believe it to be even more politicized than other international judicial elections.” The sheer corruption of the process aside, the reality is that vote-trading results in mediocre judges which in turn leads to a dysfunctional, politicised court.
It is clear that the both the Assembly of States Parties and the International Criminal Court are simply unfit for purpose. Far from granting the ICC yet more money, both the ASP and the ICC should be defunded and disbanded.
Dr David Hoile is the Director of the Africa Research Centre and author of Justice Denied: the Reality of the International Criminal Court, a 610-page study of the ICC. The book is available to read or download at www.africaresearchcentre.org. The author can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
In the wake of the horrific terror attacks in Paris, world attention will once again be focused on the issue of refugees entering Europe. While much of the spotlight has been rightly pointed at Syrian refugees fleeing the western-sponsored war against the Syrian government, it must be remembered that the refugees come from a variety of countries, each of which has its own particular circumstances, with many of them having been victims of US-NATO aggression in one form or another. Syria, Afghanistan and Libya have of course been targeted by so-called ‘humanitarian wars’ and fake ‘revolutions’ which have left the countries fractured, divided, and unable to function; these countries have been transformed into failed states thanks to US-NATO policy.
What often gets lost in the discussion of refugees however is the fact that a significant proportion of those seeking sanctuary in Europe and the US are from the Horn of Africa: Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea primarily. While there is some discussion of this issue in western media, it is mostly ignored when it comes to the first three countries as news of fleeing Sudanese, Somalis, and Ethiopians does not bode well for Washington’s narrative as the US has, in one way or another, been directly involved in each of those countries.
However, in the case of Eritrea, a fiercely independent nation that refuses to bow to the diktats of the US, the country is presented as a seemingly bottomless wellspring of refugees fleeing the country. Were one to read solely the UN reports and news stories, one could be forgiven for thinking that Eritrea has been mostly depopulated as hordes of Eritrean youth flee the country in droves. But that narrative, one which is periodically reinforced by distorted coverage in the media, is quickly being eroded as increasingly the truth is coming out.
Countering the Eritrean Refugee Propaganda
The popular understanding of Eritrea in the West (to the extent that people know of the country at all) is of a nation, formerly ruled by Ethiopia, which has become the “North Korea of Africa,” a systematic violator of human rights ruled by a brutal dictatorship that uses slave labor and tortures its citizens. As such, Eritrea is immediately convicted in the court of public opinion and, therefore, becomes a convenient scapegoat when it comes to migration. In fact, it seems that the propaganda against Eritrea has been so effective, with the US and Europe so keen to take in anyone fleeing the country, that it has become the stated country of origin for thousands upon thousands of refugees from a number of countries. It seems that African refugees, regardless of their true country of origin, are all Eritreans now.
Take for instance the comments by the Austrian ambassador to Ethiopia who unabashedly explained that, “We believe that 30 to 40 percent of the Eritreans in Europe are Ethiopians.” Depending on who you ask, the numbers may actually be even higher than that. Indeed, being granted asylum in Europe is no easy feat for African refugees who, knowing the political agenda of Europe and its attempts to isolate and destabilize Eritrea through promoting the migration of its citizens, quickly lose their passports and claim to be Eritreans fleeing political persecution.
But who can blame these people when the US itself has established specific policies and programs aimed at luring Eritrean youths away from their country? As WikiLeaks revealed in a 2009 diplomatic cable from the US Embassy entitled “Promoting Educational Opportunity for Anti-Regime Eritrean Youth,” the former US ambassador to Eritrea Ronald K. McMullen noted that the US:
… intends to begin adjudicating student visa applications, regardless of whether the regime is willing to issue the applicant an Eritrean passport and exit visa …With an Eritrean passport and an F1 visa in a Form DS-232, the lucky young person is off to America. For those visa recipients who manage to leave the country and receive UNHCR refugee status, a UN-authorized travel document might allow the young person to travel to America with his or her F1 in the DS-232.…Due to the Isaias regime´s ongoing restrictions on Embassy Asmara, [the US] does not contemplate a resumption of full visa services in the near future. However, giving young Eritreans hope, the chance for an education, and the skills with which to rebuild their impoverished country in the post-Isaias period is one of the strongest signals we can send to the Eritrean people that the United States has not abandoned them…
Using the twin enticements of educational scholarships and escape from mandatory national service, the US and its European allies have attempted to lure thousands of Eritreans to the West in the hopes of destabilizing the Asmara government. As the Ambassador noted, the US intention is to usher in a “post Isaias [Afewerki, president of Eritrea] period.” In other words: regime change. And it seems that Washington and its European allies calculated that their policy of economically isolating Eritrea through sanctions has not effectively disrupted the country’s development.
And it is just such programs and guidelines which look favorably on Eritrean migrants which have motivated tens of thousands of Africans to claim that they all come from the relatively small Eritrea. The reality however is that a significant number of these refugees (perhaps even the majority) are actually from Ethiopia and other countries. As Eritrea-based journalist and East Africa expert Thomas Mountain noted in 2013:
Every year for a decade or more than a million Ethiopians, 10 million and counting, have left, or fled, their homeland… Why, why would ten million Ethiopians, one in every 8 people in the country, risking their lives in many cases, seek refuge in foreign, mostly unwelcoming, lands? The answer lies in the policies of the Ethiopian regime which have been described by UN investigators in reports long suppressed with words such as “food and medical aid blockades”, “scorched earth counterinsurgency tactics”, “mass murder” and even “genocide”… Most of the Ethiopian refugees are from the Oromo nationality, at 40 million strong half of Ethiopia, or the ethnic Somalis of the Ogaden. Both of these regions in southern Ethiopia have long been victims of some of the most inhumane, brutal treatment any peoples of the world have ever known.
There is little mention of this Ethiopian exodus which, for a variety of reasons, is suppressed in the West. Many of the refugees simply claim to be Eritrean knowing that they stand a far greater chance of being admitted into Europe or the US if they claim origin from a blacklisted country like Eritrea, rather than an ally such as Ethiopia, a country long seen as Washington’s closest partner in the region.
In fact, Ethiopia is consistently praised as an economic success story, with the World Bank having recently announced that the African nation is the world’s fastest growing economy for 2015-2017. Despite this alleged ‘economic miracle,’ Ethiopia is still hemorrhaging population as citizens flee in their thousands, providing further evidence that outside the glittering capital of Addis Ababa the country remains one of the most destitute and violent in the world.
The same can be said of South Sudan, a country created by the US and Israel primarily, and which has now descended into civil war sending more than 600,000 refugees streaming out of the newly created country, with another 1.5 million internally displaced. Somalia remains a living nightmare for the poor souls unfortunate enough to have been born in a country that is a nation-state in name only. According to the UN, Somalia boasts more than 1.1 million internally displaced refugees with nearly 1 million refugees located outside the country. Taken in total, Ethiopian, South Sudanese, and Somali refugees comprise a population greater than the entire population of Eritrea.
However, Somalia, Ethiopia, and South Sudan are all strategic allies (read clients) of the United States and its western partners; Eritrea is considered persona non grata by Washington. This fundamental fact far more than anything else accounts for the completely distorted coverage of the refugee issue in Eritrea. Put another way, refugees and human trafficking are a convenient public relations and propaganda weapon employed by the US to demonize Eritrea, and to tarnish its project of economic and political self-reliance.
Refugees as Pretext, Independence Is the Real Sin
Eritrea has been demonized by the US and the West mainly because it has refused to be subservient to the imperial system. First and foremost among Eritrea’s grave sins is its stubborn insistence on maintaining full independence and sovereignty in both political and economic spheres. This fact is perhaps best illustrated by Eritrean President Afewerki’s bold rejection of foreign aid of various sorts, stating repeatedly that Eritrea needs to “stand on its own two feet.” Afewerki’s pronouncements are in line with what pan-Africanist leaders such as Thomas Sankara, Marxists such as Walter Rodney, and many others have argued for decades: namely that, as Afewerkie put it in 2007 after rejecting a $200 million dollar “aid” package from the World Bank, “Fifty years and billions of dollars in post-colonial international aid have done little to lift Africa from chronic poverty… [African societies] are crippled societies… You can’t keep these people living on handouts because that doesn’t change their lives.”
Of course, there are also other critical political and economic reasons for Eritrea’s pariah status in the eyes of the so called “developed world,” and especially the US. Perhaps the most obvious, and most unforgivable from the perspective of Washington, is Eritrea’s stubborn refusal to have any cooperation, formal or informal, with AFRICOM or any other US military. While every other country in Africa with the exception of the equally demonized, and equally victimized, Zimbabwe has some military connections to US imperialism, Eritrea remains stubbornly defiant. I suppose Eritrea takes the notion of post-colonial independence seriously.
Is it any wonder that Afewerki and his government are demonized by the West? What is the history of US and European behavior towards independent African leaders who advocated self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist ideology? The answer is self-evident. Such ideas as those embodied by Eritrea are seen by Washington, London, and Brussels as not only defiant, but dangerous; dangerous not only because of what they say, but dangerous because they’re actually working.
Naturally there are legitimate concerns to be raised about Eritrea and major strides still to be made in the political and economic spheres. Social progress is an arduous process, especially in a part of the world where nearly every other country is racked with violence, genocide, famine, and a host of other existential crises. But the progress necessary for Eritrea will be made by and for Eritreans; it cannot and must not be imposed from without by the same forces that, in their humanitarian magnanimity, rained bombs on Libya and systematically undermined, destabilized, and/or destroyed nations in seemingly every corner of the globe.
Refugees should be treated with dignity and respect. Their suffering should never be trivialized, nor should they be scapegoated as terrorists. But equally so, their tragedies should not be allowed to be cynically exploited for political gain by the West. The flow of refugees is an outgrowth of the policies of the Empire – the same Empire that continues to transform this crisis into a potent weapon of destabilization and war.
HOLLANDE AND THE ROTHSCHILD BANKSTERS – François Hollande, seen here with David de Rothschild, appointed a Rothschild banker to manage the French ministry of economy in 2014. What does that say about Hollande’s loyalty?
“An act of war was committed by a terrorist army, DAESH [ISIS], a jihadist army, against France… An act of war prepared, planned, from outside, with outside complicity which an investigation will establish.” – French President François Hollande, November 14, 2015
“We need to work to find a political solution. Bashar al-Assad is not the solution, he is the problem.” – French President François Hollande, October 23, 2015
“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way”. – Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Friday the 13th terror attacks in Paris seem to have accomplished exactly what they were meant to. They have seemingly given the French and the U.S. the right to attack “without mercy” ISIS forces in Syria. While the strikes are supposedly aimed at ISIS, the country taking the pounding is Syria.
There are basically two ways to view the terror attacks in Paris: they were, either, as French President François Hollande says, “an act of war… committed by a terrorist army, DAESH, a jihadist army,” – or they were something else.
The accepted view, promoted by the controlled media and accepted by world leaders, is that they were, exactly as Hollande says, “an act of war” carried out by DAESH (a.k.a. ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State). Based on this interpretation, U.S. A-10 Warthogs and French fighter jets have started bombing DAESH targets in Syria.
À quoi bon?
This raises the obvious question, what’s the point? Why would any militia carry out an outrageous terror atrocity against a very powerful nation that is well prepared, willing, and ready to wage war against it as a response?
This is a situation strikingly similar to 9-11, in which the predecessor of DAESH, Al Qaida, supposedly attacked the United States, opening the door for the pre-planned invasion of Afghanistan. How convenient.
We should ask: Do these so-called Islamic groups have a desire to commit mass suicide? With the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle approaching Syria and with American A-10 Warthogs poised on the border ready for destroy anything on the ground, why would any Islamic group give such powerful forces a carte blanche reason to attack?
Is this not just a little too neat?
If you agree that this is too neat, there is the alternative view to be considered. That is that the Paris attacks are something other than what they appear to be and that the desired outcome was achieved by using a fraudulent input. That is to say that the terror attacks in Paris were, in fact, controlled and carried out by a hidden hand that used deception to produce the desired outcome. We are, after all, living in an era of massive deception.
Who might that be?
Given the fact that the fraudulent “War on Terror” is an Israeli construct dating back to the 1970s, the first suspect would have to be Israeli intelligence.
Why would they do that?
To advance the Israeli strategy known as the “War on Terror” – and destroy Syria in the process.
How would they do it?
By creating a cell of extremists who are cultivated and prepared to carry out such acts of violence.
Are there any indications that this is the case?
The fact that the Bataclan theatre was Israeli-owned until September 11, 2015, is one rather obvious clue. There are many others, such as the degree of knowledge held by the planners. For example, how did the terrorists know that the French president would be at the football game? And why did French SWAT teams wait for more than two hours to take action at the theatre?
Is Hollande part of the deception?
He could be, but I would tend to doubt it. Hollande is simply “in the pocket” of the Rothschild family and proved it by waging war in Mali on behalf of the Rothschilds and their gold interests in that poor African nation. In August 2014, Hollande appointed Emmanuel Macron, a Rothschild investment banker to head the French Ministry of Economy.
Hollande is a Rothschild puppet who does what his masters want. At this point they want him to attack Syria.
ROTHSCHILD PUPPET – François Hollande, seen here with Eric de Rothschild, serves the Rothschild family – not the Republic of France.
How does this affect the situation in Syria?
The Paris attacks bring France into the Syrian conflict, although their military actions in Syria are neither legal nor approved by the government of Syria. This increases the weight of the anti-Assad coalition vis-à-vis the Russians, who have been asked to intervene in Syria and are fighting in support of the Assad government.
Sources and Recommended Reading:
“Bashar al-Assad is Problem, Not Solution in Syria: French President Francois Hollande,” NDTV.com, October 23, 2015
“Hollande replaces critic of austerity with Rothschild banker,” EurActiv.com, Reuters, August 27, 2014
“Mali – France Fights for Rothschild Gold,” by Christopher Bollyn, January 19, 2013
German Meterologist Klaus-Eckart Puls. Photo: EIKE
At the Germany-based European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE) veteran, retired meteorologist Klaus-Eckard Puls flatly dismisses the assertion made by many leading officials that climate change is a driving force behind the wave of refugees now sweeping into Europe from the Middle East and Africa.
Germany Minister of Environment Barbara Hendricks recently blamed the refugee crisis on climate change, and urged countries to commit themselves to a binding Treaty in Paris with renewed vigor. Puls responded at EIKE.
Puls reminds us that even the IPCC has found no basis to support the claim. A number of skeptics view the claim as a desperate stretch designed to divert attention away from the real reasons: abject social and foreign policy failure. Recently the IPCC backed off from the speculative claims of climate driven refugees.
Puls writes that the “UN IPCC took back its analyses and prognoses on climate refugees in its last 2013/14 report” and that “the steppes and deserts are in fact ‘greening’”. At EIKE he provides the following chart which clearly shows that Africa is greening and that it is all part of a natural cycle:
Chart depicting Sahel Zone June-October precipitation from 1950 to 2010. Source K.E. Puls
Last weekend meteorologist Joe Bastardi showed that also in Syria precipitation has been on the rise over the past few years.
The UN told SPIEGEL ONLINE that it is backing off its prognosis – in countries of the alleged danger zones populations are in fact growing. The corresponding prognosis has been removed from the UNEP site.”
That particular UN backpedaling incident took place back in 2011. Puls also writes that the latest UN IPCC 2013 report also distanced itself from the projections, seeing no scientific relationship. The claim that climate change is driving the refugee waves appears totally baseless and highly speculative.
The seasoned German meteorologist also cites a recent paper by Colorado University-Boulder geography professor John O’Loughlin on the subject. The paper concludes:
While a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder shows the risk of human conflict in East Africa increases somewhat with hotter temperatures and drops a bit with higher precipitation, it concludes that socioeconomic, political and geographic factors play a much more substantial role than climate change.”
Puls summarizes in his commentary:
When Ms. Hendriks makes up stories of climate refugees, it is all about her private Weltanschauung. It has nothing to do with reality – and also nothing to do with the statements of the IPCC because the IPCC finds no climate refugees, and even writes this (AR5 2013/14). The UNO/UNEP deleted such claims (made in 2005) from its website! The waves of refugees have many reasons – climate is not among them!”
Veteran Meteorologist Says John Kerry’s Claim Climate-Change Drought Is Causing Refugees Is Completely False
Veteran meteorologist Joe Bastardi at his latest Weatherbell Analytics Saturday Summary explains why US Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim that the refugee crisis is caused by climate-change-driven drought is total nonsense and is easily disproved.
Secretary Kerry would like to have the public believe that the refugee crisis from Syria and Africa is due to man-made climate drought in the region – and not his abject foreign policy debacle.
Chart shows Nigeria has been too wet. Source Weatherbell.
At the 2:34 mark Joe shows a precipitation chart for western Africa which clearly depicts how rainfall has in fact been above average over the past 15 years, and thus drought cannot be cited as a reason for the Boko Haram terror group. Bastardi says:
There’s no drought here. And so you cannot blame drought in Nigeria for the rise of Boko Haram.”
The above chart’s blue shows that it’s been too wet in Nigeria, and not too dry. Indeed there are number of scientific papers showing that the Sahara region has been getting greener over the past 30 years.
In the Middle East Bastardi shows that the drought has hit part of Turkey, but that most of Syria has had normal precipitation, and explains that “drought” is the normal climate condition there. At the 4:20 mark the Weatherbell meteorologist puts up a precipitation chart for the Middle East for the last five years:
The chart above shows more wet (blue) than dry (yellow/green) with Syria being completely normal. Joe shakes his head at how anyone could even make the claim that Kerry does:
What’s really interesting about all this is, this is just so easy to disprove. […] So I don’t understand why that was said.”
Most readers here do understand why. The falsehood was said because US foreign policy has been a total catastrophe in that region, and now Kerry is desperate for any excuse. And he couldn’t have picked a lamer one. In real life any company or employee blaming poor performance on climate change would be immediately shown the door. This is a blatant unwillingness to accept any responsibility.
The nonsense of climate change leading to terrorism excuse is so clear on so many fronts that it’s a wonder than anyone with even a few points of IQ would take it seriously.
Trudeau “unveils most diverse Cabinet in Canada’s history”, was how one media outlet described the new Liberal cabinet. It includes a Muslim woman, four Sikhs, an indigenous woman, two differently abled individuals and an equal number of women and men. Half even refused any reference to God at Wednesday’s swearing in ceremony.
But in one respect there was no diversity at all. Every single person wore a Remembrance Day poppy. Even Justin Trudeau’s young children were made to publicly commemorate Canadians (and allies) who died at war.
As we approach the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month expect politicians of every stripe to praise Canadian military valour. At last year’s Remembrance Day commemoration Stephen Harper suggested that Canada was “forged in the fires of First World War”. The former Prime Minister described “the values for which they fought … Justice and freedom; democracy and the rule of law; human rights and human dignity.”
On Remembrance Day what is it we are supposed to remember? The valour, sacrifice and glory of soldiers — and no more?
What about the victims of Canadian troops? Should we abandon the search for truth and learning from our past on this day that is supposedly devoted to remembering?
Why not a diversity of recollection? An honest accounting of what really happened and why — isn’t that the best way to remember?
For example, World War I had no clear and compelling purpose other than rivalry between up-and-coming Germany and the lead imperial powers of the day, Britain and France. In fact, support for the British Empire was Ottawa’s primary motive in joining the war. As Canada’s Prime Minister Robert Borden saw it, the fight was “to put forth every effort and to make every sacrifice necessary to ensure the integrity and maintain the honour of our empire.”
To honour Canada’s diversity, how about this year we remember some of the victims of that empire?
For Africans World War I represented the final chapter in the violent European scramble for their territory. Since the 1880s the European powers had competed to carve up the continent.
Canada was modestly involved in two African theatres of World War I. A handful of Canadian airmen fought in East Africa, including naval air serviceman H. J. Arnold who helped destroy a major German naval vessel, the Königsberg, during the British/Belgian/South African conquest of German East Africa. Commandant of Canada’s Royal Military College from 1909 to 1913, Colonel J.H.V. Crowe commanded an artillery division for famed South African General Jan Christiaan Smuts and later published General Smuts’ Campaign in East Africa.
About one million people died as a direct result of the war in East Africa. Fighting raged for four years with many dying from direct violence and others from the widespread disease and misery it caused. Hundreds of thousands of Africans were conscripted by the colonial authorities to fight both in Africa and Europe.
J.H.V. Crowe was English born, but an individual with deeper roots in Canada, commanded the force that extended Britain’s control over the other side of the continent.
The son of a Québec City MP and grandson of a senator, Sir Charles MacPherson Dobell, commanded an 18,000 man Anglo-French force that captured the Cameroons and Togoland. Gazetted as Inspector General of the West African Frontier Force in 1913, the Royal Military College grad’s force defeated the Germans in fighting that destroyed many villages and left thousands of West Africans dead. Early in the two-year campaign Dobell’s force captured the main centres of Lomé and Douala and he became de factogovernor over large parts of today’s Togo and Cameroon. A telegram from London said “General Dobell should assume Government with full powers in all matters military and civil.”
British officials justified seizing the German colony as a response to the war in Europe, but to a large extent World War I was the outgrowth of intra-imperial competition in Africa and elsewhere. In The Anglo-French “Condominium” in Cameroon, 1914-1916 Lovett Elango points to “the imperialist motives of the campaign”, which saw the two allies clash over their territorial ambition. Elango concludes, “the war merely provided Britain and France a pretext for further colonial conquest and annexation.” After the German defeat the colony was partitioned between the two European colonial powers.
Canada’s massive contribution to World War I propped up British (as well as French, Belgian and South African) rule in Africa. It also added to it. Similar to the Berlin Conference of 1885, which effectively divided Africa among the European powers, after World War I European leaders gathered to redraw Africa’s borders. But this time the Canadian prime minister attended.
World War I reshaped colonial borders in Africa. Germany lost what is now Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and part of Mozambique (German East Africa) as well as Namibia (German West Africa), Cameroon and Togoland. South Africa gained Namibia, Britain gained Tanzania and part of Cameroon, France gained Togo and part of Cameroon while Belgium took Burundi and Rwanda.
The other British Dominions (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) that fought alongside London were compensated with German properties. With no German colonies nearby Ottawa asked the Imperial War Cabinet if it could take possession of the British West Indies as compensation for Canada’s defence of the Empire. London balked.
Ottawa was unsuccessful in securing the British Caribbean partly because the request did not find unanimous domestic support. Prime Minister Borden was of two minds on the issue. From London he dispatched a cable noting, “the responsibilities of governing subject races would probably exercise a broadening influence upon our people as the dominion thus constituted would closely resemble in its problems and its duties the empire as a whole.” But, on the other hand, Borden feared that the Caribbean’s black population might want to vote. He remarked upon “the difficulty of dealing with the coloured population, who would probably be more restless under Canadian law than under British control and would desire and perhaps insist upon representation in Parliament.”
Our racist and colonial past, as well as Canada’s role in exploiting people of colour all over the world, must also be included in our remembrance if we are to build a nation of respect for all people — the essence of real diversity.
Business as Usual
While most Canadians proudly recognize the beaver, the hockey player and the curling broom as symbols of this country, some of us would be made uncomfortable by another enduring emblem of the Great White North: a businessman wearing a Maple Leaf lapel pin discretely passing a plain manila envelope stuffed with cash to a foreign official.
Two weeks ago SNC-Lavalin agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a corruption case brought against it by the African Development Bank. Accused of bribing officials in Uganda and Mozambique, the Montréal-based company also accepted a number of other non-monetary conditions on its operations to avoid being blacklisted from projects financed by the African Development Bank.
Over the past half-decade Canada’s biggest engineering company is alleged to have greased palms in Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Angola, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia as well as a number of Asian countries and Canada. A joint CBC/Globe and Mail investigation of a small Oakville based division of SNC uncovered suspicious payments to government officials in connection with 13 international development projects. In each case between five and 10 per cent of costs were recorded as “‘project consultancy cost,’ sometimes ‘project commercial cost,’ but [the] real fact is the intention is [a] bribe,” a former SNC engineer, Mohammad Ismail, told the CBC.
In Libya, the RCMP accused SNC of paying $50 million to Saadi Gadhafi, son of the late Libyan dictator, in exchange for a series of contracts. The company is also alleged to have defrauded $130 million from Libyan public agencies. In a less high profile incident, the RCMP accused SNC of paying $6-million to the son-in-law of former Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in exchange for assistance securing contracts.
In Angola, SNC allegedly paid millions of dollars to government officials in exchange for a hydro dam contract. Former SNC employee Joseph Salim sued the company for wrongful dismissal, claiming he was terminated after he blew the whistle on the illegal payments. Salim alleged that SNC’s former CEO, Jacques Lamarre, agreed to pay a ten percent “agent fee” but company officials were unwilling to declare more than five percent on the books, which necessitated artificially increasing the price of the dam.
In northern Nigeria, SNC officials allegedly paid 1.2 million naira in cash — nearly five times the annual average Nigerian salary — to a government official responsible for a World Bank-funded water and sewer project. One company spreadsheet noted that money was “paid to Musa Tete [the Nigerian bureaucrat overseeing the World Bank-financed project] through Yaroson”, SNC’s Nigerian partner.
As allegations of SNC bribery began to seep out in 2012, the company continued to win billions of dollars in Canadian government contracts, maintained the backing of the Canadian Commercial Corporation and garnered support from Canadian diplomats abroad.
Canada has been quick to denounce corruption in Africa, but has lagged behind the rest of the G7 countries in criminalizing foreign bribery. For example, into the early 1990s, Canadian companies were at liberty to deduct bribes paid to foreign officials from their taxes, affording them an “advantage over the Americans” − they’re forbidden by law to pay out agents’ commissions.”, according to Bernard Lamarre former head of Lavalin (now SNC Lavalin).
In 1977, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act outlawed bribes to foreign officials. Ottawa failed to follow suit until the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched its anti-bribery convention in 1997. The OECD convention obligated signatories to pass laws against bribing public officials abroad and two years later Canada complied, passing the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA). Still, for the next decade Canadian officials did little to enforce the law. The RCMP waited until 2008 to create an International Anti-Corruption Unit and didn’t secure a significant conviction under the CFPOA until 2011.
Anti-corruption watchdogs have repeatedly criticized Ottawa’s lax approach. A March 2011 report from the OECD Working Group on Bribery criticized Canada’s framework for combating foreign corruption and Ottawa has fared poorly in Transparency International’s rankings. In 2013 Transparency International complained that between 2005 and 2011, Canada exercised “little to no enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.” The group repeatedly ranked Canada the worst performer among G7 countries on this front.
Last week Toronto-based Kinross Gold disclosed that the United States Department of Justice launched an investigation into “improper payments made to government officials and certain internal control deficiencies” at its operations in Ghana and Mauritania. In my new book Canada in Africa : 300 years of Aid and Exploitation I detail numerous reports of Canadian companies accused of bribing officials.
While the federal government recently strengthened anti-bribery legislation, Ottawa has so far largely turned a blind eye to corporations paying off public officials abroad.
Should bribery really be seen as “Canadian” as the RCMP’s Musical Ride?
Yves Engler is the author of The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy and Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation
Fair-and-balanced Fox News reported on Wednesday that “Cuban military operatives reportedly have been spotted in Syria, where sources believe they are advising President Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers and may be preparing to man Russian-made tanks to aid Damascus in fighting rebel forces backed by the U.S.” Fox’s claim of an imaginary enemy alliance relies on two sources: the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies and an anonymous U.S. official.
The source at the Miami Institute indicated that “An Arab military officer at the Damascus airport reportedly witnessed two Russian planes arrive there with Cuban military personnel on board. When the officer questioned the Cubans, they told him they were there to assist Assad because they are experts at operating Russian tanks.”
It is unclear what nationality the “Arab” officer was. Perhaps, said Arab determined the people aboard the Russian plane were Cubans because he saw them smoking cigars and drinking mojitos. The Cuban soldiers then volunteered – supposedly – they were “there to assist Assad” because of their expertise manning Russian tanks. However improbable this may seem to an unbiased observer, the source from the Miami Institute said that “it doesn’t surprise me.”
The supposed U.S. official – who Fox grants anonymity to without giving a reason why – related “evidence” from “intelligence reports” that Cuban troops “may” have trained in Russia and “may have” come to Syria in Russian planes. Sounds legit.
Despite the thinness of the report’s sourcing and the improbability of its content, other news organizations were quick to parrot its claims. Spanish newspaper ABC noted the next day that media from Germany to Argentina to the Middle East had echoed the Fox News report, while ABC did the same themselves.
By Friday, the story had gained enough traction that it was raised at a White House briefing. In a response that should have been enough to put the story to rest, the White House Press Secretary said “we’ve seen no evidence to indicate that those reports are true.”
But a few hours later, the Daily Beast had definitively declared in a headline that: “Cuba Is Intervening in Syria to Help Russia. It’s Not the First Time Havana’s Assisted Moscow.”
Progressive concern troll James Bloodworth turned Fox’s rumors into fact and wrote that “Not for the first time Cuban forces are doing Russia’s dirty work, this time in Syria… Obama has been holding his hand out in a gesture of goodwill to America’s adversaries only for them to blow him a raspberry back in his face – while standing atop a pile of Syrian corpses.”
In reality, Obama’s “gesture of goodwill” is little more than behaving less overtly hostile after decades of American aggression against Cuba and Iran. If you are choking someone unprovoked and you loosen your grip, it is far from a gesture of goodwill.
Bloodworth also tries to make an historical argument that Cuba’s (imaginary) military actions in Syria are consistent with their “bloody” interventions elsewhere. He decries “Cuban terror in Ethiopia” that resulted in hundreds of thousands of people being killed. “The tragedy was largely a consequence of the policies pursued by the Communist dictatorship that ruled Ethiopia at the time – a regime propped up by Cuba and the Soviet Union.”
In 1977, Somalia had invaded Ethiopia in an attack that “had been encouraged by ambivalent signals from Washington,” according to historian Piero Gleijeses in his book Visions of Freedom.  Initially reluctant to become involved, Fidel Castro finally agreed to Ethiopian requests to send troops to repel the Somali invasion.
Gleijeses found in his extensive review of formerly classified military documents that Cuba’s motives in aiding Ethiopia were sincere:
With hindsight, we know that Mengistu’s policies resulted in disaster, but this was not clear in 1977: though the process was undeniably bloody, the Ethiopian junta had decreed a radical agrarian reform and taken unprecedented steps to foster the cultural rights of the non-Amhara population… The evidence indicates that the Cubans intervened because they believed, as Cuban intelligence stated in March 1977, that ‘the social and economic measures adopted by Ethiopia’s leadership are the most progressive we have seen in any underdeveloped country since the triumph of the Cuban revolution.’  In addition to correcting the record on Ethiopia, Gleijeses’ study also serves to set the record straight on Cuba’s historical modus operandi in its military interventions abroad. Cuba did maintain a large military presence in Angola for nearly 15 years, starting in 1975.
Castro first sent troops in November 1975 after Angolan President Agostinho Neto warned of a South African invasion of the country already underway which would inevitably topple the nascent government without outside support. Cuba agreed to send soldiers to Angola right away. Several months later, they would repel the apartheid army back to Pretoria. They remained in Angola at Neto’s bequest to prevent further incursions from the racist South African army into the country’s sovereign territory.
At the same time, there was an ongoing civil war between Neto’s MPLA, the largest and most popular of the guerilla groups, and the South African and American-backed UNITA guerillas led by former Portuguese collaborator Jonas Savimbi.
Castro was adamant that Cuban troops would be responsible for preventing a South African invasion, while Angolan troops should deal with their own internal conflict. In meetings with Neto, Castro “kept hammering away on the need to fight the bandits … He explained to us that the fight against the bandits was necessarily and without question the responsibility of the Angolans, that we could not wage this war, that it was their war.” 
Cuba’s position during the Angolan conflict is consistent with the diplomatic approach they have repeatedly espoused in Syria, that the Syrian conflict is a domestic problem for the Syrian people and government to resolve themselves, while the international community works to achieve a peaceful solution.
“Cuba reiterates that international cooperation, based on the principles of objectivity, impartiality and non-selectivity, is the only way to effectively promote and protect all human rights,” Cuban representative to the UN Human Rights Council Rodolfo Reyes said at a meeting in Switzerland. He added that “Cuba is confident of the capacity of the Syrian people and government to solve their domestic problems without foreign interference.”
That the Fox News could cause such a stir is a testament to the refusal of mainstream news organizations to verify sources. In all of the iterations of the “Cuban troops in Syria” fantasy, there are no new sources cited. The original Fox News report cites one anonymous U.S. official who may, or may not, even exist. The only source on record with their incredulous claims is someone from the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami.
ICCAS is notorious for its reactionary, anti-Communist politics revered among the fanatically right-wing Cuban and Cuban-American population in Miami. Their academic research includes a conspiracy theory that appears to implicate Fidel Castro in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Another ICCAS report claims “the often-repeated view in many countries that the United States is an evil power, guilty for much of the problems and sufferings of the developing world, is owed in great part to the propaganda efforts of Fidel Castro” – not, rather, to decades of direct U.S. military intervention; profligate support to fascist military dictatorships; and predatory, neo-colonial lending policies that demand neoliberal structural adjustment programs which funnel public assets and resources to creditor interests, at the expense of the employment, health and well-being of the vast majority of local populations.
ICCAS is also home to the Cuba Transition Project whose mission is “to study and make recommendations for the reconstruction of Cuba once the post-Castro transition begins in earnest.” CTP acknowledges on its Web site that “the project was established in 2002 and supported by grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) until 2010.” It’s funding indicates it is at least indirectly an arm of the U.S. government’s destabilization and subversion efforts dedicated to regime change of the politically and economically independent Cuban government.
Cuban Prensa Latina reporter in Syria Miguel Fernández noted that ICCAS has reported six or seven times since 2006 that Fidel Castro has died. He suggested reports such as those originating with ICCAS about Cuban troops in Syria were part of the campaigns of reactionary groups opposed to normalization to tarnish the new relations between Cuba and the United States.
The Cuban Embassy in Damascus reportedly “laughed” at the report of Cuban troops in Syria, and told Sputnik News : “It’s pure lunacy. It is as if they were claiming that Russia had sent its troops to Madagascar to protect lemurs.”
Despite claims of Cuban troops in Syria contradicting Cuba’s stated policy and historical modus operandi, and the fact that now four days have passed without a single piece of corroborating evidence to the laughable Fox News report, the imaginary Cuban troops in Syria are likely to morph into more outrageous fantasies of media who have shown themselves primarily interested in fabricating tales of intrigue about America’s evil enemies rather than reporting actual verifiable facts.
 Gleijeses, Piero. Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991. The University of North Carolina Press, 2013. Kindle edition.
 as quoted in Gleijeses, 2013
A ruling ANC policy meeting has given its nod for South African plans to withdraw its membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This ‘landmark’ decision is bound to spur greater debate on the ICC and its ‘inherent biases’.
Let’s rewind a bit here.
At its national conference in 2012, South Africa’s governing party the African National Congress (ANC) resolved to engage with the International Criminal Court to seek amongst other matters the perceptions that the court treated African nations unfairly on matters of global justice.
The court was seen as only focused on Africa and no other continent. In the court’s 13-year history it has only brought charges against Africans.
In its resolution then, the ANC said; “As much as the ANC does not condone impunity, authoritarian and violent regimes, it is concerned about the perception of selective prosecution of Africans and urges the ICC to also pursue cases of impunity elsewhere, while engaging in serious dialogue with the AU and African countries in order to review their relationship.”
The ANC referenced cases of Ivory Coast and Sudan where the AU was engaged in peace building and ending of hostilities, during which the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) through the ICC engaged in interventions that could have scuppered the AU initiatives to put an end to hostilities.
In its 2012 resolution, the ANC called on the UN Security Council, which has referred some African cases to the ICC, to recognise the work done by the African Union, its Regional Economic Commissions and individual African countries to promote a peaceful end to and settlement of conflicts on the continent, the peace agreements signed and commitments made in regard to post-conflict justice.
It is worthwhile to remember here that none of the South African government’s proposals to make the court more representative and responsive to the continents multilateral African Union (AU) were ever adopted.
On Monday during its National General Council (NGC), ANC’s midterm policy review Congress noted the processes underway, under the auspices of the African Union, (including South Africa) to review Africa’s participation in the International Criminal Court.
The NGC has now moved further away from the 2012 resolution with its instructions to the South African government to start the process of withdrawing from the ICC.
South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute that set up the court.
The South African government of Jacob Zuma had been severely criticized for letting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir evade an ICC arrest warrant in the country in June this year.
Zuma had hosted AU Heads of States and Governments in Johannesburg with al-Bashir in attendance.
During this time, the South African government was already arguing a matter in a court on the question of immunity for heads of states while leading their countries to multilateral meetings of the AU.
A South African court had ordered the government to ‘detain’ al-Bashir in the country whilst it deliberated on whether South Africa was obliged to arrest him.
In an earlier op-ed here, I argued that the government acted properly in not arresting the Sudanese leader.
The decision of South Africa’s ANC this past weekend should be seen as a part of Africa’s renewal and her demands to be heard and treated as an equal in global politics.
As Africa finds its voice and refuses to be colonized in commerce, justice and global politics, the next frontier will be her push for meaningful UNSC reforms to include her one billion population.
South Africa is seen as a front-runner for a permanent seat on the UNSC. The issue of UNSC reforms is inextricably linked to the ICC fallout as the UNSC controls much of ICC’s activities even though the majority of permanent members are not ICC state parties.
A month ago Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed the Sudanese president in China as an “old friend”. Beijing, like Washington, is not a member of the ICC, although both are permanent UNSC members.
Instead, the ICC has been seen by many as a proxy tool of the US to further its narrow global hegemonic political interests and to even effect its policy on regime changes through the ICC itself. This has made this court unequal and inequitable in every sense.
The African Court for Human Rights is, conversely, widely regarded by the majority of African states as the better model to deal with cases of human rights abuse.
The ANC has demanded that all African cases currently before the ICC be transferred to this court.
This could see a likely release for former president of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo still held at The Hague. Most countries, especially in Africa, viewed France’s actions in his arrest unfair and unlawful.
South Africa has not only consistently shown the ability to negotiate and kick-the-can but has also been able to come up with global alternatives as seen in the formation of the BRICS bank as a counterweight to the unreformed International Monetary Fund.
South Africa’s BRICS partners India, China and Russia are not state parties to the ICC.
At the center of the South African move at ICC, is the demand for a representative global order and the ruling ANC is showing impatience with the dragging negotiations to achieve equitable balance amongst United Nations member states.
We should expect an enmasse ICC withdrawal of African states after this ANC decision. The age of African solutions for African problems has started. The notion of “nothing about us without us” is no longer reversible.
Far from the expected development, forestry plantations and other carbon market initiatives in Uganda have severely compromised ecologies and livelihoods of the local people.
By Kristen Lyons and Peter Westoby · The Conversation · September 19, 2015
In recent years there has been significant movement toward land acquisition in developing countries to establish forestry plantations for offsetting carbon pollution elsewhere in the world. This is often referred to as land grabbing.
These carbon trading initiatives work on the basis that forestry plantations absorb carbon dioxide and other polluting greenhouse gases. This helps to undo the environmental damage associated with modern western lifestyles.
Carbon markets are championed as offering solutions to climate change while delivering positive development outcomes to local communities. Heavy polluters, among them the airline and energy sectors, buy carbon credits and thereby pay local communities, companies and governments to protect forests and establish plantations.
But are carbon markets – and the feel good stories that have sprung up around them – all just a bit too good to be true?
There is mounting evidence that forestry plantations and other carbon market initiatives severely compromise livelihoods and ecologies at a local level. The corporate land grabs they rely on also tend to affect the world’s most vulnerable people – those living in rural areas.
But such adverse impacts are often written out of the carbon market ledger. Sometimes they are simply justified as ‘externalities’ that must be accepted as part of ensuring we avoid climate apocalypse.
Green Resources is one of a number of large-scale plantation forestry and carbon offset corporations operating on the continent. Its activities are having a profound impact on the livelihoods of a growing number of people. Norwegian-registered, the company produces saw log timber and charcoal in Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda. It receives carbon revenue from its plantation forestry operations.
In Uganda, the focus of our research, Green Resources holds two licenses over 11,864 hectares of government-owned, ‘degraded’ Central Forest Reserve. Historically, villagers could access this land to grow food, graze animals and engage in cultural practices.
Under the licensed land agreement between Uganda’s government and Green Resources, more than 8,000 people face profound disruptions to their livelihoods. Many are experiencing forced evictions as a direct result of the company’s take over of the land.
Carbon violence on local villagers
Villagers across Green Resources’ two acquisitions in Uganda report being denied access to land vital for growing food and grazing livestock. These are at Bukaleba and Kachung Central Forest Reserves. They also cannot collect forest resources. Many say they are denied access to sites of cultural significance and to resources vital to their livelihoods.
There are also many stories about land and waterways that have been polluted by agrichemicals the company uses in its forestry plantations. This has caused crop losses and livestock deaths.
Many of those evicted, as well as those seeking to use land licensed to Green Resources, have also experienced physical violence at the hands of police and private security forces tied to the arrival of the company. Some villagers have been imprisoned or criminalised for trespass.
These diverse forms violence are directly tied to the company’s participation in the carbon economy. Thus Green Resources’ plantation forestry and carbon market activities are inflicting ‘carbon violence’ on local villagers.
Green Resources appears to be continuing to tighten the perimeter of its plantation operations as part of ensuring compliance with regulations and certifications required for entry into carbon markets. This further entrenches these diverse forms of violence. In short, subsistence farmers and poor communities are carrying heavy costs associated with the expansion of forestry plantations and global carbon markets.
Green Resources does engage in some community development activities, but these are largely disconnected from local villagers’ needs and aspirations. Interviews with 152 affected villagers across the two sites highlight that access to land to produce food is the most pressing issue. This is an issue that Green Resources has done little to address.
The loss of access to land and sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable populations is unjust and unacceptable, particularly when rural people in Uganda contribute little to carbon pollution.
In 2014 the Oakland Institute, an independent policy think tank based in California, US, published its report on Green Resources. The company has responded, most notably in a strong letter from the CEO. While he sought to discredit the researchers and the report, he failed to engage with substantial issues of concern arising from the research.
At least one company board member has publicly acknowledged problems in company relations with affected communities, especially at the Bukaleba site. These are issues raised by a number of other researchers over a number of years.
The company has not publicly articulated what it is doing to address the social and environmental problems associated with its corporate practices. Green Resources must demonstrate how it is seeking to deal with the substantial adverse impacts associated with its activities.
It’s not just about money
More broadly, there are increasing calls for reform of global plantation forestry and carbon markets to alleviate the burden subsistence farmers carry alongside their expansion. Similarly, there are calls for reform to corporate practices, including community development initiatives and employment practices.
We would suggest that such reforms should be directed towards reducing the gap between the winners and losers in global carbon markets. There must be recognition of common property rights and access and use rights of local people in license areas. This must be done alongside valuing indigenous and local people’s knowledge of forests and ecosystem management.
There are also stronger calls from climate movements for the transformation of global energy futures. Those include the support for renewable energy to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and the subsequent reliance on offset initiatives.
Movements for climate justice in Africa and elsewhere demonstrate the growing resistance to market based and techno fixes as the means to avert climate change. These calls for justice challenge change agents to move beyond simply tweaking at the edges of carbon markets.
They need to imagine a future where social and environmental justice – not money and markets – are at the centre of thinking and planning.
2015 Proves to Be Record-Breaking Year for the Military’s Secret Military
You can find them in dusty, sunbaked badlands, moist tropical forests, and the salty spray of third-world littorals. Standing in judgement, buffeted by the rotor wash of a helicopter or sweltering beneath the relentless desert sun, they instruct, yell, and cajole as skinnier men playact under their watchful eyes. In many places, more than their particular brand of camouflage, better boots, and designer gear sets them apart. Their days are scented by stale sweat and gunpowder; their nights are spent in rustic locales or third-world bars.
These men — and they are mostly men — belong to an exclusive military fraternity that traces its heritage back to the birth of the nation. Typically, they’ve spent the better part of a decade as more conventional soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen before making the cut. They’ve probably been deployed overseas four to 10 times. The officers are generally approaching their mid-thirties; the enlisted men, their late twenties. They’ve had more schooling than most in the military. They’re likely to be married with a couple of kids. And day after day, they carry out shadowy missions over much of the planet: sometimes covert raids, more often hush-hush training exercises from Chad to Uganda, Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, Albania to Romania, Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, Belize to Uruguay. They belong to the Special Operations forces (SOF), America’s most elite troops — Army Green Berets and Navy SEALs, among others — and odds are, if you throw a dart at a world map or stop a spinning globe with your index finger and don’t hit water, they’ve been there sometime in 2015.
The Wide World of Special Ops
This year, U.S. Special Operations forces have already deployed to 135 nations, according to Ken McGraw, a spokesman for Special Operations Command (SOCOM). That’s roughly 70% of the countries on the planet. Every day, in fact, America’s most elite troops are carrying out missions in 80 to 90 nations, practicing night raids or sometimes conducting them for real, engaging in sniper training or sometimes actually gunning down enemies from afar. As part of a global engagement strategy of endless hush-hush operations conducted on every continent but Antarctica, they have now eclipsed the number and range of special ops missions undertaken at the height of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the waning days of the Bush administration, Special Operations forces (SOF) were reportedly deployed in only about 60 nations around the world. By 2010, according to the Washington Post, that number had swelled to 75. Three years later, it had jumped to 134 nations, “slipping” to 133 last year, before reaching a new record of 135 this summer. This 80% increase over the last five years is indicative of SOCOM’s exponential expansion which first shifted into high gear following the 9/11 attacks.
Special Operations Command’s funding, for example, has more than tripled from about $3 billion in 2001 to nearly $10 billion in 2014 “constant dollars,” according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). And this doesn’t include funding from the various service branches, which SOCOM estimates at around another $8 billion annually, or other undisclosed sums that the GAO was unable to track. The average number of Special Operations forces deployed overseas has nearly tripled during these same years, while SOCOM more than doubled its personnel from about 33,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 now.
Each day, according to SOCOM commander General Joseph Votel, approximately 11,000 special operators are deployed or stationed outside the United States with many more on standby, ready to respond in the event of an overseas crisis. “I think a lot of our resources are focused in Iraq and in the Middle East, in Syria for right now. That’s really where our head has been,” Votel told the Aspen Security Forum in July. Still, he insisted his troops were not “doing anything on the ground in Syria” — even if they had carried out a night raid there a couple of months before and it was later revealed that they are involved in a covert campaign of drone strikes in that country.
“I think we are increasing our focus on Eastern Europe at this time,” he added. “At the same time we continue to provide some level of support on South America for Colombia and the other interests that we have down there. And then of course we’re engaged out in the Pacific with a lot of our partners, reassuring them and working those relationships and maintaining our presence out there.”
In reality, the average percentage of Special Operations forces deployed to the Greater Middle East has decreased in recent years. Back in 2006, 85% of special operators were deployed in support of Central Command or CENTCOM, the geographic combatant command (GCC) that oversees operations in the region. By last year, that number had dropped to 69%, according to GAO figures. Over that same span, Northern Command — devoted to homeland defense — held steady at 1%, European Command (EUCOM) doubled its percentage, from 3% to 6%, Pacific Command (PACOM) increased from 7% to 10%, and Southern Command, which overseas Central and South America as well as the Caribbean, inched up from 3% to 4%. The largest increase, however, was in a region conspicuously absent from Votel’s rundown of special ops deployments. In 2006, just 1% of the special operators deployed abroad were sent to Africa Command’s area of operations. Last year, it was 10%.
Globetrotting is SOCOM’s stock in trade and, not coincidentally, it’s divided into a collection of planet-girding “sub-unified commands”: the self-explanatory SOCAFRICA; SOCEUR, the European contingent; SOCCENT, the sub-unified command of CENTCOM; 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; SOCNORTH, which is devoted to “homeland defense”; and the ever-itinerant Joint Special Operations Command or JSOC, a clandestine sub-command (formerly headed by 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.
The elite of the elite in the special ops community, JSOC takes on covert, clandestine, and low-visibility operations in the hottest of hot spots. Some covert ops that have come to light in recent years include a host of Delta Force missions: among them, an operation in May in which members of the elite force killed an Islamic State commander known as Abu Sayyaf during a night raid in Syria; the 2014 release of long-time Taliban prisoner Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl; the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspect in 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya; and the 2013 abduction of Anas al-Libi, an al-Qaeda militant, off a street in that same country. Similarly, Navy SEALs have, among other operations, carried out successful hostage rescue missions in Afghanistan and Somalia in 2012; a disastrous one in Yemen in 2014; a 2013 kidnap raid in Somalia that went awry; and — that same year — a failed evacuation mission in South Sudan in which three SEALs were wounded when their aircraft was hit by small arms fire.
SOCOM’s SOF Alphabet Soup
Most deployments have, however, been training missions designed to tutor proxies and forge stronger ties with allies. “Special Operations forces provide individual-level training, unit-level training, and formal classroom training,” explains SOCOM’s Ken McGraw. “Individual training can be in subjects like basic rifle marksmanship, land navigation, airborne operations, and first aid. They provide unit-level training in subjects like small unit tactics, counterterrorism operations and maritime operations. SOF can also provide formal classroom training in subjects like the military decision-making process or staff planning.”
From 2012 to 2014, for instance, Special Operations forces carried out 500 Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) missions in as many as 67 countries each year. JCETs are officially devoted to training U.S. forces, but they nonetheless serve as a key facet of SOCOM’s global engagement strategy. The missions “foster key military partnerships with foreign militaries, enhance partner-nations’ capability to provide for their own defense, and build interoperability between U.S. SOF and partner-nation forces,” according to SOCOM’s McGraw.
And JCETs are just a fraction of the story. SOCOM carries out many other multinational overseas training operations. According to data from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), for example, Special Operations forces conducted 75 training exercises in 30 countries in 2014. The numbers were projected to jump to 98 exercises in 34 countries by the end of this year.
“SOCOM places a premium on international partnerships and building their capacity. Today, SOCOM has persistent partnerships with about 60 countries through our Special Operations Forces Liaison Elements and Joint Planning and Advisory Teams,” said SOCOM’s Votel at a conference earlier this year, drawing attention to two of the many types of shadowy Special Ops entities that operate overseas. These SOFLEs and JPATs belong to a mind-bending alphabet soup of special ops entities operating around the globe, a jumble of opaque acronyms and stilted abbreviations masking a secret world of clandestine efforts often conducted in the shadows in impoverished lands ruled by problematic regimes. The proliferation of this bewildering SOCOM shorthand — SOJTFs and CJSOTFs, SOCCEs and SOLEs — mirrors the relentless expansion of the command, with its signature brand of military speak or milspeak proving as indecipherable to most Americans as its missions are secret from them.
Around the world, you can find Special Operations Joint Task Forces (SOJTFs), Combined Joint Special Operations Task Forces (CJSOTFs), and Joint Special Operations Task Forces (JSOTFs), Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs), as well as Special Operations Command and Control Elements (SOCCEs) and Special Operations Liaison Elements (SOLEs). And that list doesn’t even include 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.”
Special Operations Command will not divulge the locations or even a simple count of its SOC FWDs for “security reasons.” When asked how releasing only the number could imperil security, SOCOM’s Ken McGraw was typically opaque. “The information is classified,” he responded. “I am not the classification authority for that information so I do not know the specifics of why the information is classified.” Open source data suggests, however, that they 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.
What’s clear is that SOCOM prefers to operate in the shadows while its personnel and missions expand globally to little notice or attention. “The key thing that SOCOM brings to the table is that we are — we think of ourselves — as a global force. We support the geographic combatant commanders, but we are not bound by the artificial boundaries that normally define the regional areas in which they operate. So what we try to do is we try to operate across those boundaries,” SOCOM’s Votel told the Aspen Security Forum.
In one particular blurring of boundaries, Special Operations liaison officers (SOLOs) are embedded in at least 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 other outfits, through the use of liaison officers and Special Operations Support Teams (SOSTs).
“In today’s environment, our effectiveness is directly tied to our ability to operate with domestic and international partners. We, as a joint force, must continue to institutionalize interoperability, integration, and interdependence between conventional forces and special operations forces through doctrine, training, and operational deployments,” Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee this spring. “From working with indigenous forces and local governments to improve local security, to high-risk counterterrorism operations — SOF are in vital roles performing essential tasks.”
SOCOM will not name the 135 countries in which America’s most elite forces were deployed this year, let alone disclose the nature of those operations. Most were, undoubtedly, training efforts. Documents obtained from the Pentagon via the Freedom of Information Act outlining Joint Combined Exchange Training in 2013 offer an indication of what Special Operations forces do on a daily basis and also what skills are deemed necessary for their real-world missions: combat marksmanship, patrolling, weapons training, small unit tactics, special operations in urban terrain, close quarters combat, advanced marksmanship, sniper employment, long-range shooting, deliberate attack, and heavy weapons employment, in addition to combat casualty care, human rights awareness, land navigation, and mission planning, among others.
From Joint Special Operations Task Force-Juniper Shield, which operates in Africa’s Trans-Sahara region, and Special Operations Command and Control Element-Horn of Africa, to Army Special Operations Forces Liaison Element-Korea and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula, the global growth of SOF missions has been breathtaking. SEALs or Green Berets, Delta Force operators or Air Commandos, they are constantly taking on what Votel likes to call the “nation’s most complex, demanding, and high-risk challenges.”
These forces carry out operations almost entirely unknown to the American taxpayers who fund them, operations conducted far from the scrutiny of the media or meaningful outside oversight of any kind. Everyday, in around 80 or more countries that Special Operations Command will not name, they undertake missions the command refuses to talk about. They exist in a secret world of obtuse acronyms and shadowy efforts, of mystery missions kept secret from the American public, not to mention most of the citizens of the 135 nations where they’ve been deployed this year.
This summer, when Votel commented that more special ops troops are deployed to more locations and are conducting more operations than at the height of the Afghan and Iraq wars, he drew attention to two conflicts in which those forces played major roles that have not turned out well for the United States. Consider that symbolic of what the bulking up of his command has meant in these years.
“Ultimately, the best indicator of our success will be the success of the [geographic combatant commands],” says the special ops chief, but with U.S. setbacks in Africa Command’s area of operations from Mali and Nigeria to Burkina Faso and Cameroon; in Central Command’s bailiwick from Iraq and Afghanistan to Yemen and Syria; in the PACOM region vis-à-vis China; and perhaps even in the EUCOM area of operations due to Russia, it’s far from clear what successes can be attributed to the ever-expanding secret operations of America’s secret military. The special ops commander seems resigned to the very real limitations of what his secretive but much-ballyhooed, highly-trained, well-funded, heavily-armed operators can do.
“We can buy space, we can buy time,” says Votel, stressing that SOCOM can “play a very, very key role” in countering “violent extremism,” but only up to a point — and that point seems to fall strikingly short of anything resembling victory or even significant foreign policy success. “Ultimately, you know, problems like we see in Iraq and Syria,” he says, “aren’t going to be resolved by us.”
Nick Turse is the author of Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa.