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.
The United Nations says despite a surge in the international community’s humanitarian aid to help those affected by the conflict in Syria, the sum hardly keeps up with the rising needs of the afflicted people.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien made the remark on Saturday while on a tour of the Zaatari camp, which is Jordan’s largest facility for Syrian refugees.
When asked about the aid shortage, O’Brien said that “need has risen so much that even though we are securing record amounts of funding, record amounts of political will and support, nonetheless the (funding) gap has widened,” because of protracted conflicts in the region, such as those in Syria, South Sudan and Yemen.
Meanwhile, Hovig Etyemezian, the director of the UN-run Zaatari refugee camp, said the international community “hasn’t woken up yet to the need to assist Jordan” to address the refugee crisis.
For 2015, aid agencies requested over USD 7.4 billion, both for refugees and those internally displaced by the crisis in Syria. However, the agencies have received only USD 2.8 billion so far, according the UN refugee agency.
Refugee aid programs in host countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq were reportedly just 41 percent funded as of September.
In a separate development on Sunday, German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Muller announced that Berlin would donate USD 22.6 million to the World Food Program (WFP) to supply Syrian refugees with food.
“This means that around 500,000 Syrian refugees in the region can be supplied with food for three months,” Muller told the German Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
In late July, the WFP slashed by half its food assistance for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon due to a funding crisis.
The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has reportedly claimed more than 240,000 lives up until now.
The cost of global war in the year 2014 reached $14.3 trillion, or 13.4 percent of the global gross domestic product, a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace says.
Last year, the cost of global conflict equaled the combined economies of Britain, Germany, France, Brazil, Canada, and Spain, according to a recent report by the Australia-based group.
The statistics mark a 15.3-percent spike in the cost of conflicts since 2008 when the financial impact was recorded as $12.4 trillion, the report notes.
“Large increases in costs are due to the increases in deaths from internal conflict, increases for IDP (internally displaced person) and refugee support, and GDP losses from conflict, with the latter accounting for 38 percent of the increase since 2008,” the report stated.
Since 2008, the cost of supporting IDPs and refugees has increased by 267 percent and the number of people forced to relocate by war has reached its highest since the Second World War, the report noted.
It also described the Middle East and North Africa as the most violent regions in the world and Europe as the most peaceful, adding that Saudi Arabia’s ongoing aggression against Yemen has dragged down the overall outlook for the Middle East.
According to the report, Syria, which has been gripped by deadly unrest since March 2011, was world’s least peaceful country, followed by Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
By supporting South Sudan’s independence from Sudan, the US, UK and Norway have created conditions for the civil war, which broke out in the world’s youngest country in 2013, leaked documents from an inquiry by the African Union allege.
In 2005, the US, UK, Norway and the East African trading bloc, IGAD, pushed through a peace deal, which legitimized the South Sudanese rebels, and paved the way for the country’s independence in 2011.
According to a draft of the African Union inquiry obtained by Reuters, the actions of the Western powers helped establish “a politically unchallenged armed power in South Sudan” that acted with impunity and legitimized “rule of the gun.”
At least 10,000 people were killed and another 1.5 million have been displaced since July 2013 when the fighting between the forces loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, and the militants led by his sacked deputy Riek Machar began.
The findings of the inquiry were to be presented to the African Union’s Peace and Security Council in late January, but it was decided the document will be shelved.
According to a Reuters source, it was done due to concerns the publication may disrupt the talks on forming a transitional government in South Sudan, which are currently underway between Kiir and Machar.
The inquiry suggested that South Sudan’s president and his rival should “be barred from participation in the transitional executive,” and the oil producer should be effectively placed under African Union control for a period of five years.
The investigation, led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said that Kiir and Machar are responsible for the political crisis in December 2013 and “the organized massacres and the large-scale violence that followed.”
Officials from the US, UK and Norway said that they won’t comment on the document, which they haven’t seen.
“I think that the investigation that the African Union has started and the commission’s position, it needs to be made public,” Borge Brende, Norway’s Foreign Minister, told NRK broadcaster.
The call to make the inquiry public is supported by Washington, London and the UN Security Council.
On May 23, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) trade show in Tampa, Florida to share her vision of “smart power” and to explain the State Department’s crucial role in extending the reach and efficacy of America’s growing “international counterterrorism network.”
First, there is such a thing as a “Special Operations Forces Industry Conference trade show.” Without some keen reporting by David Axe of Wired, that peculiar get-together might’ve flown completely under the radar—much like the shadowy “industry” it both supports and feeds off of like a sleek, camouflaged lamprey attached to a taxpayer-fattened shark.
Second, “special operations” have officially metastasized into a full-fledged industry. United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and, therefore, conveniently located near the special operations trade show, which happened again this year at the Tampa Convention Center. The theme was “Strengthening the Global SOF Network” and the 600,000-square-foot facility was filled with targets of opportunity for well-connected and well-heeled defense contractors.
According to the SOFIC website, this year’s conference afforded attendees “the opportunity to engage with USSOCOM Program Executive Officers, Science and Technology Managers, Office of Small Business Programs and Technology & Industry Liaison Office representatives, and other acquisition experts who will identify top priorities, business opportunities, and interests as they relate to USSOCOM acquisition programs.”
Third, Hillary’s widely-ignored speech marked a radical departure from the widely-held perception that the State Department’s diplomatic mission endures as an institutional alternative to the Pentagon’s military planning. Instead, Secretary Clinton celebrated the transformation of Foggy Bottom into a full partner with the Pentagon’s ever-widening efforts around the globe, touting both the role of diplomats in paving the way for shadowy special ops in so-called “hot spots” and the State Department’s “hand-in-glove” coordination with Special Forces in places like Pakistan and Yemen.
Finally, with little fanfare or coverage, America’s lead diplomat stood before the shadow war industry and itemized the integration of the State Department’s planning and personnel with the Pentagon’s global counter-terrorism campaign which, she told the special operations industry, happen “in one form or another in more than 100 countries around the world.”
If this isn’t entirely unexpected, consider the fact that under then-Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the State Department fought attempts by the Pentagon to trump its authority around the globe and, as reported by the Washington Post, “repeatedly blocked Pentagon efforts to send Special Operations forces into countries surreptitiously and without ambassadors’ formal approval.”
But that was before Hillary brought her “fast and flexible” doctrine of “smart power” to Foggy Bottom and, according to her remarks, before she applied lessons learned from her time on the Senate Armed Services Committee to launch the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which she modeled on the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review. That Pentagon-style review spurred the creation of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations to “advance the U.S. government’s foreign policy goals in conflict areas.”
According to a Congressional Research Service analysis, the initial intent of the Conflict Bureau was to replace the ineffectual Office of the Coordinator of Reconstruction and Stabilization, which was created in 2004 to help manage “stabilization” efforts in two nations the U.S. was actively destabilizing—Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the new, improved bureau does more than just react to messes made by unlawful invasions or direct costly remediation efforts in war zones—it also collaborates with “relevant partners” in the Department of Defense and NATO “to harmonize civilian and military plans and operations pertaining to conflict prevention, crisis response, and stabilization.”
This integrated relationship between State and Defense was confirmed by U.S. Special Operations chief Admiral William McRaven shortly after Hillary’s speech. When asked about the “unlikely partnership,” McRaven assured DefenseNews that SOCOM has “an absolutely magnificent relationship with the State Department” and that SOCOM doesn’t “do anything that isn’t absolutely fully coordinated and approved by the U.S. ambassador and the geographic combatant commander.”
As David Axe aptly described it in Wired, “Together, Special Operations Forces and State’s new Conflict Bureau are the twin arms of an expanding institution for waging small, low-intensity shadow wars all over the world.”
In fact, during Hillary’s time as America’s chief diplomat, the State Department embraced the shadowy edge of U.S. foreign policy where decision-makers engage in activities that look like war, sound like war and, if you were to ask civilians in places like Yemen and Pakistan, feel a lot like war, but never quite have to meet the Constitutional requirement of being officially declared as war.
The Whole-of-Government Shift
Once upon a time, “low-intensity shadow wars” were the Congressionally-regulated bailiwick of the Central Intelligence Agency. But 9/11 changed everything. However, the excesses of the Bush Administration led many to hope that Obama could and would change everything back or, at least, relax America’s tense embrace of “the dark side.”
Although the new administration did officially re-brand “The War on Terror” as “Overseas Contingency Operations,” Team Obama employed an increasingly elastic interpretation of the 9/11-inspired Authorization for Use of Military Force and expanded covert ops, special ops, drone strikes and regime change to peoples and places well-beyond the law’s original intent, and certainly beyond the limited scope of CIA covert action.
Obama’s growing counter-terrorism campaign—involving, as Secretary Clinton said, “more than 100 countries”—took flight with a new, ecumenical approach called the “Whole-of-Government” strategy. Advanced by then-Secretary of Defense Bill Gates and quickly adopted by the new administration in early 2009, this strategy catalyzed an institutional shift toward inter-agency cooperation, particularly in the case of “state-building” (a.k.a. “nation building”).
During remarks to the Brookings Institution in 2010, Secretary Clinton explained the shift: “One of our goals coming into the administration was… to begin to make the case that defense, diplomacy and development were not separate entities, either in substance or process, but that indeed they had to be viewed as part of an integrated whole and that the whole of government then had to be enlisted in their pursuit.”
Essentially, the Whole-of-Government approach is a re-branded and expanded version of Pentagon’s doctrine of “Full-Spectrum Dominance.” Coincidentally, that strategy was featured in the Clinton Administration’s final Annual Report to the President and Congress in 2001. It defined “Full-Spectrum Dominance” as “an ability to conduct prompt, sustained, and synchronized operations with forces tailored to specific situations and possessing freedom to operate in all domains—space, sea, land, air, and information.”
In 2001, Full-Spectrum Dominance referred specifically to 20th Century notions of battlefield-style conflicts. But the “dark side” of the War on Terror stretched the idea of the battlefield well-beyond symmetrical military engagements. “Irregular warfare” became the catchphrase du jour, particularly as grinding campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq exposed the reality that the full spectrum still wasn’t enough.
An assessment by the Congressional Research Service identified the primary impetus for the Whole-of-Government “reforms” embraced by Team Obama as the “perceived deficiencies of previous inter-agency missions” during the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those missions failed to address a myriad of problems created—culturally, economically and politically—by the wholesale bombing and occupation of those countries. The Full-Spectrum was half-baked. Lesson learned.
But the lesson wasn’t that the U.S. should avoid intervention, regime change or unleashing nascent civil, ethnic or religious conflicts. Instead, the lesson was that the “Whole-of-Government” must be marshaled to fight a worldwide array of Overseas Contingency Operations in “more than 100 countries.”
This Whole-of-Government shift signaled a renewed willingness to engage on variety of new fronts—particularly in Africa—but in a “fast and flexible” way. With other agencies—like the State Department—integrated and, in effect, fronting the counter-terrorism campaign, the military footprint becomes smaller and, therefore, easier to manage locally, domestically and internationally.
In some ways, the Whole-of-Government national security strategy is plausible deniability writ-large through the cover of interagency integration. By merging harder-to-justify military and covert actions into a larger, civilian-themed command structure, the impact of the national security policy overseas is hidden—or at least obfuscated—by the diplomatic “stabilization” efforts run through the State Department—whether it’s the Conflict Bureau working against Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, “stabilizing” post-Gaddafi Libya or spending $27 million to organize the opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime.
The Pass Key
The cover of diplomacy has traditionally been an effective way to slip covert operators into countries and the State Department’s vast network of embassies and consulates still offers an unparalleled “pass-key” into sovereign nations, emerging hot spots and potential targets for regime change. In 2001, the Annual Report to the President and Congress foresaw the need for more access: “Given the global nature of our interests and obligations, the United States must maintain the ability to rapidly project power worldwide in order to achieve full-spectrum dominance.”
Having the way “pre-paved” is, based on Hillary’s doctrinal shift at State, a key part of the new, fuller-spectrum, Whole-of-Government, mission-integrated version of diplomacy. At the SOFIC’s Special Operations Gala Dinner in 2012, Hillary celebrated the integration of diplomatic personnel and Special Operations military units at the State Department’s recently created Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications—a “nerve center in Washington” that coordinates “military and civilian teams around the world” and serves “as a force multiplier for our embassies’ communications efforts.”
As with most doors in Washington, that relationship swings both ways and mission-integrated embassies have served as an effective force multiplier for the Pentagon’s full spectrum of activities, particularly around Africa.
In his 2011 testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Don Yamamoto noted that State had “significantly expanded the number of DoD personnel who are integrated into embassies across the continent over the past three years,” and read a surprisingly long laundry list of collaborative efforts between State and the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), including: “reduction of excess and poorly secured man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS); Defense Sector Reform in Liberia, DRC, and South Sudan; counterpiracy activities off the Somali coast; maritime safety and security capacity building; and civil-military cooperation.”
It seems that “civil-military cooperation” is a primary focus of the State Department in Africa. Most notably, Yamamoto told Congress that “embassies implement Department of State-funded Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs, which further U.S. interests in Africa by helping to professionalize African militaries, while also assisting our African partners to be more equipped and trained to work toward common security goals.”
As the ever-vigilant Nick Turse recently reported, U.S. presence on the continent has only grown since that testimony was given in 2011. On TomDispatch.com, Turse identified the infamous attack on Benghazi on September 11, 2012 as the catalyst for “Operation New Normal”—the continent-wide response to, quite ironically, the political potboiler still simmering around Secretary Clinton. Whether or not Congressional Republicans find anything more than incompetence at the root of Benghazi, the U.S. military certainly finds itself in a “new normal” of increased activity in response to the forces—and the weaponry—unleashed by U.S.-led regime change in Libya. According to Turse, the U.S. is “now conducting operations alongside almost every African military in almost every African country and averaging more than a mission a day.”
Those missions are, of course, integrated with and augmented by the State Department’s Conflict Bureau which has used a variety of state-building programs and its diplomatic “pass key” in places like Libya, Nigeria, Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and six other African nations, all to develop a growing roster of “host country partners.”
Establishing “host country partners” is the nexus where the State Department, its Conflict Bureau and the AFRICOM meet—implementing the Whole-of-Government strategy in emerging or current conflict zones to fuse a mounting counter-terrorism campaign with stabilization, modernization and state-building initiatives, particularly in oil and resource-rich areas like the Niger River Delta, Central Africa and around AFRICOM’s military foothold on the Horn of Africa.
As Richard J. Wilhelm, a Senior Vice President with defense and intelligence contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, pointed out in a video talk about “mission integration,” AFRICOM’s coordination with the Departments of State and Commerce, USAID is the “most striking example of the Whole-of-Government approach.”
And this is exactly the type of “hand-in-glove” relationship Secretary Clinton fostered throughout her tenure at State, leveraging the resources of the department in a growing list of conflict areas where insurgents, terrorists, al-Qaeda affiliates, suspected militants or uncooperative regimes threaten to run afoul of so-called “U.S. interests”.
Ultimately, it became a hand-in-pocket relationship when Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates developed the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF) to “incentivize joint planning and to pool the resources of the Departments of State and Defense, along with the expertise of other departments, to provide security sector assistance for partner countries so they can address emergent challenges and opportunities important to U.S. national security.”
Although he’s been criticized as feckless and deemed less hawkish than Secretary Clinton, President Obama’s newly-proposed Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF) is the logical extension of the Clinton-Gates Global Security Contingency Fund and epitomizes the Whole-of-Government shift.
The $5 billion Obama wants will dwarf the $250 million pooled into the GSCF and will, the President said at West Point, “give us flexibility to fulfill different missions including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.”
That “flexibility” is exactly what Hillary Clinton instituted at State and touted at the SOFIC conference in 2012. It also portends a long-term shift to less invasive forms of regime change like those in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, and an increased mission flexibility that will make the Authorization for the Use of Military Force functionally irrelevant.
Normalizing the War on Terror
The ultimate outcome of this shift is, to borrow from Nick Turse, yet another “new normal”—the new normalization of the War on Terror. What the adoption of the Whole-of-Government/mission integration approach has done is to normalize the implementation of the re-branded War on Terror (a.k.a. Overseas Contingency Operations) across key agencies of the government and masked it, for lack of the better term, under the rubric of stabilization, development and democracy building.
It is, in effect, the return of a key Cold War policy of “regime support” for clients and “regime change” for non-client states, particularly in strategically-located areas and resource-rich regions. Regimes—whether or not they actually “reflect American values”—can count on U.S. financial, military and mission-integrated diplomatic support so long as they can claim to be endangered… not by communists, but by terrorists.
And because terrorism is a tactic—not a political system or a regime—the shadowy, State Department-assisted Special Ops industry that fights them will, unlike the sullen enthusiasts of the Cold War, never be bereft of an enemy.
KHARTOUM – The United States has welcomed the resumption of oil production in South Sudan, saying it signaled an important step in implementing a cooperation agreement it signed with Sudan last September.
The Sudanese government announced on Friday that the first barrels of oil would begin to flow through the pipelines to Port Sudan on Saturday.
“We congratulate both countries on this important step in implementing the cooperation accords they signed on 27 September 2012”, the US embassy in Khartoum said in a statement on Saturday.
“We welcome the spirit of cooperation between Sudan and South Sudan and urge the leadership of both countries to continue the full and immediate implementation of the agreements”, it added.
South Sudan took with it nearly three quarters of the oil wealth when it seceded from the north in July 2011, but remains dependent on Sudanese infrastructure to pump its oil to export markets.
The resumption of oil production marks the first stage in the implementation of a wider cooperation agreement signed by both countries in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
South Sudan halted oil production last January following a dispute with Sudan over transportation fees.
In an increasingly bitter argument, the South also accused Sudan of diverting oil for its own profit.
Speaking to the press on Friday, Sudanese government spokesman Barnaba Marial said oil production would restart in Tharjiath oilfield in Unity state’s Koch county before being pumped north to Port Sudan via a 1,400 kilometre-long pipeline.
Another oilfield in the Heglig/Panthou area in Pariang county is also expected to resume production in the coming days.
Both countries have suffered a severe economic downturn as a result of the loss of oil revenues, with South Sudan depending on oil for 98 per cent of its revenue.
The worsening economic crisis following the oil shutdown forced both countries to cut back on spending, as well as introduce a raft of austerity measures.
The two countries as a result of the oil shutdown had to cut back on spending in their institutions by introducing austerity budgets.
WASHINGTON – The United States State Department announced on Friday that it will host a conference this month for discussions on economic challenges facing South Sudan and ways to help the country face it.
In a press release the US said that the forum taking place on April 16 is held in coordination with the United Kingdom, Norway and the European Union.
“These governments and international financial institutions, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank, are working with the Government of the Republic of South Sudan to explore concrete options to help bridge the fiscal gap exacerbated by the oil shutdown of the past year, as well as plans to diversify South Sudan’s economy to allow for sustainable long-term growth,” the statement said
“The South Sudan Economic Partners Forum is an opportunity for representatives of governments and international financial institutions to discuss strategies to address South Sudan’s economic challenges with South Sudanese Government officials and offer support for sound government policy-making”.
The announcement comes weeks after Khartoum and Juba reached an agreement by which oil flow from landlocked South Sudan would resume.
South Sudan, which relied on oil revenues for around 98 percent of income, pumped around 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) before a row over transit fees and Khartoum’s move to seize part of the oil prompted it to shut production last year.
The country which became independent in July 2011 must pump its oil to the Red Sea via a pipeline across former civil war foe Sudan to Port Sudan to sell it on international markets.
Both countries stand to receive billions of dollars that will help ease the sharp economic crisis they faced throughout the oil shutdown.
Yesterday the Sudanese finance minister predicted that Khartoum will receive around $2 billion in transit fees from South Sudan.
The US has been unhappy with South Sudan’s decision to suspend oil production and warned Juba that many western countries are not in a position to bail them out given the global economic crisis.
“A percentage of something is better than a percentage of nothing,” former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters about importance of reaching an oil deal last year after meeting with South Sudan president Salva Kiir.
In December 2011 the US hosted the International Engagement Conference for South Sudan in Washington which discussed issues connected to the strategic development priorities of the Juba government and highlighted opportunities for engagement with private and public sector investors.
- South Sudan oil will resume flowing to Port Sudan today (sudantribune.com)
Six political prisoners have been freed, after President Omar al-Bashir ordered all political detainees to be released.
The release took place on Tuesday. Most of those freed are believed to have been held for more than two months at the Kober Prison in the capital Khartoum in connection with a conference in Uganda.
The conference held in January released a charter for using both armed and peaceful means to end the president’s 24-year rule.
“We confirm we will continue our communication with all political and social powers without excluding anyone, including those who are armed, for a national dialogue which will bring a solution to all the issues,” said Bashir.
Meanwhile, the opposition headed by Farouk Abu Issa has said that Bashir’s move to release the political detainees is a step toward genuine talk.
Vice President Ali Osman Taha made an offer last week to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-North) rebels and opposition political parties to partake in a constitutional dialogue.
The country is in need of a new constitution to replace the 2005 document, which was based on a peace agreement that ended the country’s 23-year civil war.
The peace agreement also led to the country’s splitting up in July of 2011, causing South Sudan to become an independent nation.
- Bashir to release political prisoners (morningstaronline.co.uk)
The last electoral campaign in Israel has been dominated by racism. It is not just racism against Arabs, which is as old as the existence of the Zionist entity, but also racism against Black people, whose life is becoming more and more miserable in Israel. According to the statistics, there are currently about 60,000 African immigrants in the Zionist entity. Most of them come from South Sudan, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Congo and other countries.
The situation of Africans in Israel, both Jews and non-Jews, is actually desperate. Some thousands have low-quality jobs where they are unscrupulously exploited by Israeli employers. Others are homeless and are begging on the streets of Israeli cities to survive. In spite of claims of rampant crime in the suburbs of South Tel Aviv where most Africans live, a senior police commander, David Gez, was quoted as saying the level of crime among this population was actually relatively low.
The last episode of anti-Black racism was a recent video made by the religious Shas party – which represents Sephardi Jews, who ironically have also been historically subjected to discrimination by Jews of European-origin (Ashkenazis). The five-minute video sought to fuel fear of Africans and increase support for the Shas´s anti-immigration platform ahead the January 22 parliamentary elections.
The message of the video was that only the leader of the Shas party, Eli Yishai, who is also currently interior minister, can successfully fight against the “threat” allegedly posed by African immigrants, whom Yishai and other Israeli politicians repeatedly refer to as “infiltrators.” In an interview with Ynet, Yishai said the “the threat from infiltrators is no less severe than the Iranian nuclear threat.”
In May, Yishaid told Maariv that in the previous months dozens of Israeli women had been raped by “infiltrators” in South Tel Aviv but they had decided not to report the attacks so that people would not think they had “contracted AIDS”.
The content of the video was not different to other similar ones made by far-right European parties. There were in it remarks by local residents who express their fear for their safety and anger over a housing shortage — all allegedly due to the African immigrants. According to the Times of Israel, one woman says that “it is their fault that there are no apartments. It is their fault that housing is very expensive.” A man complains that “tomorrow the Sudanese will keep on walking around here, continue to beat (people) up, continue to stab and continue to rape our women.”
The narrator says that the black “infiltrators” “control neighbourhoods in south Tel Aviv, Eilat, Ashdod, and other cities,” and pose a “social, religious and security threat.” He goes on to assert that the “greatest threat of all is the demographic threat.” The video also claims that the majority of African migrants are Muslim, and that they therefore “do not believe in the State of Israel´s right to exist.”
Ironically, the Shas has also denounced the racial bias of the other Israeli parties. Recently, Aryeh Deri, the number three of the party, accused the Likud-Yisraeli Beitenu party of “being a party of Russians and whites” and having ostensible bias against Sephardi Jews, who have been considered a second-class citizens in the Zionist entity, where the power has been traditionally in the hands of Ashkenazi Jews, who mostly came from Eastern Europe.
For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he wants to expel tens of thousands of African undocumented immigrants and that the inflow into Israel from Egypt has been brought to a halt due to the new barrier. “Our aim is to repatriate tens of thousands of infiltrators now in Israel to their countries of origin,” he said, adding Israel was in contact with some governments from Africa “to solve this problem”.
On May 23, Likud leading members took part in a demonstration in Tel Aviv’s impoverished suburb of Hatikva to protest against the presence of Africans in Israel. Miri Regev of Likud addressed the rally to which more than 1,000 people attended. There, she described the Africans as a “cancer in our body” and pledged to do everything she could “in order to bring them back to where they belong”. She attacked human rights and “left-wing” groups aiding the immigrants.
Danny Danon, another leader of Likud, said that the only solution to the issue of the “infiltrators” would be to “start to talk about their expulsion”. “We must expel the infiltrators from Israel. We should not be afraid to say the words “expulsion now”,” he said. He went on saying that Africans had set up an “enemy state”, whose capital was Tel Aviv.
Shortly after the speeches, violent incidents broke out. Demonstrators smashed shops, properties and cars belonging to the African immigrants and beat up men and women while chanting “Blacks out”.
In April, apartments where Africans lived as well as at a kindergarten were attacked with Molotov cocktails in Shapira in south Tel Aviv.
On July 12, an Eritrean man was badly burned and his pregnant wife suffered smoke inhalation after attackers tried to burn down their apartment in central Jerusalem (Al Quds). The incident, the second arson attack on African immigrants in the city within six weeks, took place near the city’s Mahane Yehuda market, AFP quoted a police source as saying.
The Israeli government has refused to condemn these attacks on African immigrants and instead used them as an excuse to promote its anti-migrant agenda, which included a new law allowing the authorities to keep undocumented Africans imprisoned for three years and jail those who help them for up to 15 years. According to recent polls, one in three Israelis support those attacks.
Even “left-leaning” parties, such as the Labor, support racist policies. The Labor leader, Shelly Yachimovich, accused recently the the government of “having failed… and let the slums be flooded by migrant workers and refugees, thereby helping to kindle wild passions” and claimed the need to “protect the country from facing a huge mass of migrant workers”.
In March, Israel started to build a huge prison camp, the world´s largest, in the Negev desert. Such a facility is situated near the Ketziot prison, where thousands of Palestinian prisoners have been jailed. The camp will be run by the prison service and thousands of Africans will be locked up there. A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Interior confirmed that Yishai wanted to eventually jail all of the thousands of undocumented African immigrants currently in the Zionist entity.
Other immigrants have already started to be expelled. On June 10th, the immigration police began a mass roundup operation, which was initially focused on South Sudanese nationals but was then expanded to include those from the Ivory Coast. Hundreds of these Africans were detained and around 240 were sent to Juba, capital of South Sudan.
There is no doubt that racism and xenophobia are being fueled by the current Israeli government and nearly all the Zionist parties. Their main goal is to divert growing outrage over the decline of living standards and rising social problems by promoting racist claims and demands to preserve the “Jewish identity” of the Zionist entity at a time when the latter is getting weaker and more internationally isolated due to its settlement policies.
KHARTOUM – The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Sudan blasted the U.S. administration saying it is relying on tactics rather than its strategic interests in its handling of Sudan and is interfering in its affairs under the pretext of improving bilateral ties.
The head of the NCP external relations sector Ibrahim Ghandour said that his country is keen on establishing normal relations with the U.S. based on mutual respect and non-interference in its internal affairs.
Ghandour stressed that Sudan accepted U.S. role as a mediator due to its influence and clout in the world but is not desperate to normalize ties under Washington’s terms.
The NCP official was responding to statements this week by outgoing U.S. special envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman in which he stressed that Washington would not normalize ties with Khartoum without resolutions to conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
Lyman proposed a roadmap to normalize bilateral ties including allowing humanitarian access to the Nuba Mountains, settlement of the conflict in the three areas and to resolve the outstanding issues with South Sudan.
But Ghandour said that Sudan is more keen than the U.S. on finding solutions to these problems adding that it is in Washington’s best interest to forge good ties with it.
“We hope that the U.S. realizes that Sudan led by the federal Government will continue, through its geographical position with political and economic abilities and its influence in the region, as a state which is very important to be for the U.S. administration to have relations with” he said.
In October 1997, the US imposed comprehensive economic, trade and financial sanctions against Sudan in response to its alleged connection to terror networks and human rights abuses. Further sanctions, particularly on weapons, have been imposed since the 2003 outbreak of violence in the western Darfur region.
Washington promised Khartoum last year that should the South Sudan referendum go peacefully it would quickly remove the East African nation from the list of states that sponsor terrorism as early as July 2011.
The US has yet to de-list Sudan from the terrorism designation, a decision which appears to be in light of the new conflicts that have erupted last year in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
JUBA – South Sudan police detained three journalists from the Gurtong website on Friday in the capital Juba, two days after a leading political commentator, Isaiah Ding Abraham Chan Awuol, was shot dead by unknown gunmen.
At around 10am the journalists’ driver was arrested and taken to a police station after he failed to show his driving licence. The incident occured on the road to Hai Referendum in Gudelle , the western suburb of the capital where Awuol was killed early on Wednesday morning.
The three reporters say they followed the police car which had taken their colleague to Bukul police station but when they entered a scuffle broke out and they were all beaten and detained. The police had wanted to delete photos taken by the journalists, one of the reporters said.
However, the pressmen added, a more senior police officer intervened and released the reporters, recommending that they open a case against the police for mistreating them.
The spokesman of the South Sudan Police Services, Col. James Monday, told UN Radio Miraya FM’s ’Inside South Sudan Program’ at 5 pm on Friday that the three policemen who were involved had been placed in detention for further questioning.
One of the journalist told Sudan Tribune that the police “did not know that we journalists” until they started taking photographs at the police station. Although they had press cards, the journalists said that they did not have time to show them to the police before they were beaten and detained.
He said that their cameras and recorders were taken from them as the policemen wanted to delete any information or photos taken but the equipment was returned upon their release.
All the three journalists work for the Gurtong website, one of the online publications that the late Isaiah Ding Abraham Chan Awuol used to write for before his death.
UN concerned over death of columnist
On Friday the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) expressed “deep concern” over the death of the independent columnist who was also known as Diing Chan Awuol and wrote under the pen name, Isaiah Ding Abraham.
Awuol had worked for the United Nations during the war as well as, at other times, fighting with the southern rebels which now govern independent South Sudan.
In a statement, UNMISS said that the full and thorough investigation promised by South Sudan President Salva Kiir was of “utmost importance”.
Awuol was shot outside his home in Gudelle between midnight and 4am on 5 December. Family members and friends have spoken anonymously about the threats he received before his death due to articles, which were often critical of government.
As well as Gurtong, Awuol also wrote frequent columns for Sudan Tribune and also wrote for the Destiny newspaper, while it was publishing.
Reporters Without Borders said on Thursday that Awuol’s “death is a tragic setback to the hopes cherished by South Sudan’s defenders of freedom of opinion since independence” in July 2011 as part of a landmark 2005 peace deal with Khartoum.
The press freedom group added: “The way this case is handled will be test for freedom of information and free speech in this young nation. Only a tireless fight against impunity for crimes of violence against journalists and other news providers will preserve these freedoms, which are the basis of democracy.”
If it is established that Awuol’s death was motivated by his writing, he will be the first South Sudanese journalist to be killed in connection with his work.
South Sudan’s ruling party – the SPLM – and the young nation’s army – the SPLA – have proven sensitive to criticism since they came to power in 2005, struggling to adjust to the move from guerilla movement to responsible governance.
One of Awuol’s relatives told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday: “I knew he would one day be assassinated for his writings and I told him to stop but he said he would prefer to die than to stop writing.”
- South Sudan police authorities investigate killing of political commentator (sudantribune.com)
- RWB: Opinion writer gunned down outside Juba home (sudantribune.com)
The Obama administration has waived nearly all US sanctions against countries using child soldiers despite a recent executive order to fight human trafficking.
US President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum on Friday waiving sanctions under the Child Soldiers Protection Act of 2008 for Libya, South Sudan and Yemen that Congress legislated to halt US arms sales to countries that are “worst abusers of child soldiers in their militaries,” the US-based periodical Foreign Policy reports Tuesday.
According to the report, Obama also partially waived penalties against the Democratic Republic of the Congo in an effort to allow continued military training and arms sales to the African country.
Angered by Washington’s move, human rights activists say the waivers are damaging to the aim of using US influence to discourage nations that get American military support from using child soldiers. They also insist the measure contradicts the rhetoric Obama used in a speech he delivered on Friday when signing the executive order.
“When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery,” Obama claimed during his address. “It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world. Now, as a nation, we’ve long rejected such cruelty.”
Many among the American human rights community are upset that despite such forceful oratory against the use of child soldiers, the US president has waived for the third consecutive years all penalties against states that are major abusers of the human rights violation.
“After such a strong statement against the exploitation of children, it seems bizarre that Obama would give a pass to countries using children in their armed forces and using U.S. tax money to do that,” said Jesse Eaves, the senior policy advisor for child protection at World Vision, as quoted in the report.
Eaves insists that the Obama administration wants to maintain its ties with regimes that it needs for security cooperation and that such blanket use of US waivers allows the administration to avert the objective of the law, which was supposedly to uphold internationally recognized human rights and child protection protocols when dishing out American military aid to other nations.
“The intent in this law was to use this waiver authority only in extreme circumstances, yet this has become an annual thing and this has become the default of this administration,” Eaves was quoted as saying in the report.
According to the periodical, Obama first waived the sanctions in 2010, the first year they were to go into effect. At the time, the White House failed to inform Congress of its decision in advance, triggering a strong backlash. A reported justification memo pointed to a number of security-related excuses for the waivers. Sudan was going through a fragile transition, for instance. Yemen was crucial to counterterrorism cooperation, the administration argued.
- Obama waives sanctions on countries that use child soldiers (thecable.foreignpolicy.com)
- Obama Demands Right to Recruit Minors for Military (infowars)
- White House Says Child Soldiers Are Ok, if They Fight Terrorists (alethonews)
KHARTOUM — A bipartisan group of 38 Congressmen urged United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to work for imposing sanctions against the Sudanese government because of its failure to allow humanitarian access to the Two Areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
On 4 August the mediation announced that Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) have reached an agreement to provide civilians in the rebel held areas with humanitarian assistance.
However until now the operation has not begun as the Sudanese government and tripartite committee, of UN agencies, Arab League and African Union, continue to hold meetings over its implementation.
The rebel SPLM-N called for an international operation from South Sudan or Ethiopia but the demand is rejected by Khartoum. Senior members of the SPLM-N rebels were recently in Washington and urged Congressmen to act on Sudan’s humanitarian crisis.
In their letter of 21 September, the lawmakers said they were concerned by the humanitarian crisis in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan reminding them that some 650,000 people have already been displaced or severely affected by the conflict in these border states.
After praising Resolution 2046 and the threat to impose sanctions if its dispositions are not met, the Congressmen state that “the Security Council’s principled position must be enforced in order to be credible. Accountability is key when lives hang in the balance.”
The UN Security Council is to meet next week to assess the whole process including the talks between Khartoum government and rebels.
In a statement issued on 21 September, the 15 member council said it was gravely concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in the states.
“The members of the Council once again stressed the urgency of immediately delivering humanitarian relief supplies to the affected civilian populations, so as to avoid any further suffering or loss of life,” the statement said.
They further urged the two parties to “begin direct talks, urgently agree to and implement a cessation of hostilities, and create a conducive environment for further progress on political and security issues.”
In Khartoum the Sudanese humanitarian commissioner Suleiman Abdel-Rahman told the official SUNA that they had reports that an aircraft belonging to a foreign aid group landed in the rebel-held town of Kauda without permission from the Sudanese government.
He also said that humanitarian assistance was recently delivered to the rebel-held areas through an unspecified neighbouring state or air drop operations.
- Sudan rebels say town entered, army camp destroyed (dailystar.com.lb)