AMERICA'S AFRICA: Hollywood Celebrities Provide "Mood Music" and "Star Appeal" for US "Humanitarian Wars"
by Finian Cunningham
It’s a sign of the times: Hollywood heart-throbs, pop divas and TV chat show celebrities are turning on the mood music for America’s never-ending global war.
In a world of lawlessness, state terrorism, rank mendacity and war criminals masquerading as government leaders, what better than to engage the glamor of reassuring celebrities to add a certain “star appeal” to otherwise barbaric endeavours?
George Clooney, Rihanna, Oprah Winfrey are just some of the big names lending their faces and voices to a script worthy of Hollywood – only the script is coming out of the Pentagon.
Perhaps unwitting agents, these consumer-culture icons are ironically lending cover and justification to crimes and human suffering that they claim to be opposed to. Take actor George Clooney. Last month, he caused a media stir when he was arrested for his part in a demonstration outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington protesting against Khartoum’s alleged violations in neighboring South Sudan. The day before his arrest, Clooney had a private meeting with President Barack Obama in the White House to discuss the Sudanese conflict.
Two weeks later, Obama hosts Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan, the newly formed North African state which broke away from Sudan last July after decades of civil war. Media reports claimed that Obama urged South Sudan to not engage in conflict over border disputes with its northern neighbour. Another two weeks later, South Sudan’s army dramatically escalates conflict by invading northern Sudan and seizing its vital oil installations in the district of Heglig. The attack triggered much sabre-rattling by Khartoum with President Omar Bashar all but declaring war on South Sudan. Fears of all-out war have subsided in the past few days after South Sudan’s forces withdrew across the border. This may be just the first of many renewed skirmishes to come.
There is no way, as Glen Ford, editor of Black Agenda Report, points out, that South Sudan would have embarked on such reckless aggression without prior tacit approval from Washington. On that score, the likes of Clooney provide a crucial propaganda function. The genial screen star lends credibility to the long-running Washington narrative that the villain in the Sudanese conflict is the northern state of Omar Bashar. After all, Bashar is wanted as an alleged war criminal by the Western-controlled International Criminal Court. Clooney’s campaigning, no doubt motivated by well-meaning human concern, nevertheless adds a Hollywood dimension to the fraudulent “responsibility to protect” principle that Washington and other Western powers have been deploying as a cover for neo-imperialist intervention.
Meanwhile, pop diva Rihanna and chat show queen Oprah Winfrey have joined other celebrities in giving emotive public support to Washington’s posse of Special Forces sent to hunt down African renegade Joseph Kony. The elusive rebel commander shot to notoriety after the release of a documentary film, Kony 2012, which accuses his Lord’s Resistance Army of kidnapping, raping and murdering thousands of children in the jungles of Africa. The outpouring of public anger engendered by the film, made by a little-known charity group Invisible Children, coincided conveniently with President Obama announcing the dispatch of American Special Forces to go after Kony across four African countries: Uganda, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
Sceptics have pointed out that the modern-day bounty hunter saga of Kony and the LRA is long out of date. The height of his alleged depredations was 6-10 years ago during the LRA’s guerrilla war against Uganda state forces. In recent years, the LRA has faded into relative obscurity. To suggest that Kony and his rabble of a few hundred fighters present a threat to African state security or American vital interests is risible.
Moreover, the alleged crimes of Kony’s LRA need to be put in perspective. If the fate of kidnapped, child slaves is the genuine motive of charity groups and celebrities, then they would find much greater cause for concern in the hundreds of thousands of African children who are exploited and killed every year in the legalised mining and cocoa growing industries that operate across Central and West Africa. While the mining and chocolat companies cannot be held directly responsible for these "malpractices", this continental-size exploitation of African children is, nonetheless, part of a profit driven economic agenda which is rarely addressed by the so-called "international community".
An understanding of the process of impoverishment, oppression and human suffering in what is best described as "America's Africa" is drowned out by the public hysteria whipped up by tearful celebrities, paving the emotional way for the Pentagon to dispatch its "humanitarian forces" to track down “evil monsters”. Hysteria also conceals, conveniently, important historical facts about the causes of conflict in all of these African countries. Conveniently, because Washington’s proxy war-making is a major cause of ongoing conflicts, and yet Washington is posturing, thanks in part to homey celebrities, as a savior of the suffering.
Far more culpable of crimes against humanity than Joseph Kony is Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. For more than 25 years, Ugandan forces under Museveni have been waging scorched-earth campaigns of genocide against his own people to displace them from mineral-rich northern territories. The death toll runs into millions. Down through the genocidal years, Museveni has been backed by successive White House administrations. The notion that Obama has just sent Special Forces to Africa belies the fact that American covert operations have been active in Africa for decades.
In 1996, US Special Forces backed Uganda’s invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo unleashing a covert war that continues to haunt large swathes of Central and East Africa, with a death toll that again runs into millions. Another advantage of the US-backed plundering by Museveni in northern Uganda was the provision of a conduit for arms and supplies to the separatists in southern Sudan in their decades-long civil war with Khartoum, which resulted in over two million dead. Humanitarian crises in Sudan from famine and war are therefore a legacy of Western intervention. Yet celebrities like George Clooney are calling for more of this kind of intervention in the guise of “humanitarianism”.
Oil-rich and strategically located, Sudan has been a long-held prize for Washington and other Western powers. When Sudan fragmented along a North-South divide last year, it can be seen as a success of Washington’s proxy war-making and a mere staging post on the way to eventual control over the entire territory. Recall that Sudan was one of the seven countries – along with Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Iran – disclosed by former US General Wesley Clark as part of a 2001 Pentagon plan for hegemony in the world’s oil-rich regions. The re-ignition of Sudanese conflict this month is consistent with a continuation of Western policy of regime change towards Sudan, north and south.
Sudan is one of the main oil producers in Africa. But in recent years, Khartoum’s antagonism with the West meant that China became the dominant partner in Sudan’s oil industry, building refineries and pipelines. Over two-thirds of Sudan’s oil exports were shipped to China in 2010. US regime change in Sudan would kill two birds with the one stone: gaining control of Sudanese oil and dislodging global competitor China from an important foothold on the African continent.
Uganda is set to become a new African oil giant, with the recent discovery of more fields on its eastern border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The DRC is known to have vast deposits of metals and minerals. Untold rich natural resources across the continent of Africa are the real reasons for Washington’s proxy wars that have been responsible for massive misery and poverty and ongoing conflicts that threaten to explode again into all-out wars.
Covering the ugly truth of America’s destruction in Africa are brainless, fact-less, hysterical “documentaries” about African bogeymen and humanitarian crises. Celebrity angst and voice-overs add star quality to the deception and set the scene for the yet more “humanitarian intervention”.
One thing these American celebrities need to get straight in their heads is the fact that their government is on a murderous rampage across the globe from Africa to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and beyond. Syria and Iran show the bloodlust is far from over. The psychopathic mass murders by individuals like Sgt Robert Bales are just the shadows of the criminal wars of American government.
Pleading with this same government to take up humanitarian causes in Africa is like expecting a psychopath to deliver medicine down the barrel of a gun.
Read to Judge O’Toole during his sentencing, April 12th 2012.
In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy ” way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it.
Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard-and the government spent millions of tax dollars – to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.
In the weeks leading up to this moment, many people have offered suggestions as to what I should say to you. Some said I should plead for mercy in hopes of a light sentence, while others suggested I would be hit hard either way. But what I want to do is just talk about myself for a few minutes.
When I refused to become an informant, the government responded by charging me with the “crime” of supporting the mujahideen fighting the occupation of Muslim countries around the world. Or as they like to call them, “terrorists.” I wasn’t born in a Muslim country, though. I was born and raised right here in America and this angers many people: how is it that I can be an American and believe the things I believe, take the positions I take? Everything a man is exposed to in his environment becomes an ingredient that shapes his outlook, and I’m no different. So, in more ways than one, it’s because of America that I am who I am.
When I was six, I began putting together a massive collection of comic books. Batman implanted a concept in my mind, introduced me to a paradigm as to how the world is set up: that there are oppressors, there are the oppressed, and there are those who step up to defend the oppressed. This resonated with me so much that throughout the rest of my childhood, I gravitated towards any book that reflected that paradigm – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I even saw an ehical dimension to The Catcher in the Rye.
By the time I began high school and took a real history class, I was learning just how real that paradigm is in the world. I learned about the Native Americans and what befell them at the hands of European settlers. I learned about how the descendents of those European settlers were in turn oppressed under the tyranny of King George III.
I read about Paul Revere, Tom Paine, and how Americans began an armed insurgency against British forces – an insurgency we now celebrate as the American revolutionary war. As a kid I even went on school field trips just blocks away from where we sit now. I learned about Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, John Brown, and the fight against slavery in this country. I learned about Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, and the struggles of the labor unions, working class, and poor. I learned about Anne Frank, the Nazis, and how they persecuted minorities and imprisoned dissidents. I learned about Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the civil rights struggle.
I learned about Ho Chi Minh, and how the Vietnamese fought for decades to liberate themselves from one invader after another. I learned about Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Everything I learned in those years confirmed what I was beginning to learn when I was six: that throughout history, there has been a constant struggle between the oppressed and their oppressors. With each struggle I learned about, I found myself consistently siding with the oppressed, and consistently respecting those who stepped up to defend them -regardless of nationality, regardless of religion. And I never threw my class notes away. As I stand here speaking, they are in a neat pile in my bedroom closet at home.
From all the historical figures I learned about, one stood out above the rest. I was impressed be many things about Malcolm X, but above all, I was fascinated by the idea of transformation, his transformation. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie “X” by Spike Lee, it’s over three and a half hours long, and the Malcolm at the beginning is different from the Malcolm at the end. He starts off as an illiterate criminal, but ends up a husband, a father, a protective and eloquent leader for his people, a disciplined Muslim performing the Hajj in Makkah, and finally, a martyr. Malcolm’s life taught me that Islam is not something inherited; it’s not a culture or ethnicity. It’s a way of life, a state of mind anyone can choose no matter where they come from or how they were raised.
This led me to look deeper into Islam, and I was hooked. I was just a teenager, but Islam answered the question that the greatest scientific minds were clueless about, the question that drives the rich & famous to depression and suicide from being unable to answer: what is the purpose of life? Why do we exist in this Universe? But it also answered the question of how we’re supposed to exist. And since there’s no hierarchy or priesthood, I could directly and immediately begin digging into the texts of the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, to begin the journey of understanding what this was all about, the implications of Islam for me as a human being, as an individual, for the people around me, for the world; and the more I learned, the more I valued Islam like a piece of gold. This was when I was a teen, but even today, despite the pressures of the last few years, I stand here before you, and everyone else in this courtroom, as a very proud Muslim.
With that, my attention turned to what was happening to other Muslims in different parts of the world. And everywhere I looked, I saw the powers that be trying to destroy what I loved. I learned what the Soviets had done to the Muslims of Afghanistan. I learned what the Serbs had done to the Muslims of Bosnia. I learned what the Russians were doing to the Muslims of Chechnya. I learned what Israel had done in Lebanon – and what it continues to do in Palestine – with the full backing of the United States. And I learned what America itself was doing to Muslims. I learned about the Gulf War, and the depleted uranium bombs that killed thousands and caused cancer rates to skyrocket across Iraq.
I learned about the American-led sanctions that prevented food, medicine, and medical equipment from entering Iraq, and how – according to the United Nations – over half a million children perished as a result. I remember a clip from a ’60 Minutes‘ interview of Madeline Albright where she expressed her view that these dead children were “worth it.” I watched on September 11th as a group of people felt driven to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings from their outrage at the deaths of these children. I watched as America then attacked and invaded Iraq directly. I saw the effects of ’Shock & Awe’ in the opening day of the invasion – the children in hospital wards with shrapnel from American missiles sticking but of their foreheads (of course, none of this was shown on CNN).
I learned about the town of Haditha, where 24 Muslims – including a 76-year old man in a wheelchair, women, and even toddlers – were shot up and blown up in their bedclothes as the slept by US Marines. I learned about Abeer al-Janabi, a fourteen-year old Iraqi girl gang-raped by five American soldiers, who then shot her and her family in the head, then set fire to their corpses. I just want to point out, as you can see, Muslim women don’t even show their hair to unrelated men. So try to imagine this young girl from a conservative village with her dress torn off, being sexually assaulted by not one, not two, not three, not four, but five soldiers. Even today, as I sit in my jail cell, I read about the drone strikes which continue to kill Muslims daily in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Just last month, we all heard about the seventeen Afghan Muslims – mostly mothers and their kids – shot to death by an American soldier, who also set fire to their corpses.
These are just the stories that make it to the headlines, but one of the first concepts I learned in Islam is that of loyalty, of brotherhood – that each Muslim woman is my sister, each man is my brother, and together, we are one large body who must protect each other. In other words, I couldn’t see these things beings done to my brothers & sisters – including by America – and remain neutral. My sympathy for the oppressed continued, but was now more personal, as was my respect for those defending them.
I mentioned Paul Revere – when he went on his midnight ride, it was for the purpose of warning the people that the British were marching to Lexington to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, then on to Concord to confiscate the weapons stored there by the Minuteman. By the time they got to Concord, they found the Minuteman waiting for them, weapons in hand. They fired at the British, fought them, and beat them. From that battle came the American Revolution. There’s an Arabic word to describe what those Minutemen did that day. That word is: JIHAD, and this is what my trial was about.
All those videos and translations and childish bickering over ‘Oh, he translated this paragraph’ and ‘Oh, he edited that sentence,’ and all those exhibits revolved around a single issue: Muslims who were defending themselves against American soldiers doing to them exactly what the British did to America. It was made crystal clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to “kill Americans” at shopping malls or whatever the story was. The government’s own witnesses contradicted this claim, and we put expert after expert up on that stand, who spent hours dissecting my every written word, who explained my beliefs. Further, when I was free, the government sent an undercover agent to prod me into one of their little “terror plots,” but I refused to participate. Mysteriously, however, the jury never heard this.
So, this trial was not about my position on Muslims killing American civilians. It was about my position on Americans killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims should defend their lands from foreign invaders – Soviets, Americans, or Martians. This is what I believe. It’s what I’ve always believed, and what I will always believe. This is not terrorism, and it’s not extremism. It’s what the arrows on that seal above your head represent: defense of the homeland. So, I disagree with my lawyers when they say that you don’t have to agree with my beliefs – no. Anyone with commonsense and humanity has no choice but to agree with me. If someone breaks into your home to rob you and harm your family, logic dictates that you do whatever it takes to expel that invader from your home.
But when that home is a Muslim land, and that invader is the US military, for some reason the standards suddenly change. Common sense is renamed ”terrorism” and the people defending themselves against those who come to kill them from across the ocean become “the terrorists” who are ”killing Americans.” The mentality that America was victimized with when British soldiers walked these streets 2 ½ centuries ago is the same mentality Muslims are victimized by as American soldiers walk their streets today. It’s the mentality of colonialism.
When Sgt. Bales shot those Afghans to death last month, all of the focus in the media was on him-his life, his stress, his PTSD, the mortgage on his home-as if he was the victim. Very little sympathy was expressed for the people he actually killed, as if they’re not real, they’re not humans. Unfortunately, this mentality trickles down to everyone in society, whether or not they realize it. Even with my lawyers, it took nearly two years of discussing, explaining, and clarifying before they were finally able to think outside the box and at least ostensibly accept the logic in what I was saying. Two years! If it took that long for people so intelligent, whose job it is to defend me, to de-program themselves, then to throw me in front of a randomly selected jury under the premise that they’re my “impartial peers,” I mean, come on. I wasn’t tried before a jury of my peers because with the mentality gripping America today, I have no peers. Counting on this fact, the government prosecuted me – not because they needed to, but simply because they could.
I learned one more thing in history class: America has historically supported the most unjust policies against its minorities – practices that were even protected by the law – only to look back later and ask: ’what were we thinking?’ Slavery, Jim Crow, the internment of the Japanese during World War II – each was widely accepted by American society, each was defended by the Supreme Court. But as time passed and America changed, both people and courts looked back and asked ’What were we thinking?’ Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist by the South African government, and given a life sentence. But time passed, the world changed, they realized how oppressive their policies were, that it was not he who was the terrorist, and they released him from prison. He even became president. So, everything is subjective - even this whole business of “terrorism” and who is a “terrorist.” It all depends on the time and place and who the superpower happens to be at the moment.
In your eyes, I’m a terrorist, and it’s perfectly reasonable that I be standing here in an orange jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and people will recognize this day for what it is. They will look at how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and maimed by the US military in foreign countries, yet somehow I’m the one going to prison for “conspiring to kill and maim” in those countries – because I support the Mujahidin defending those people. They will look back on how the government spent millions of dollars to imprison me as a ”terrorist,” yet if we were to somehow bring Abeer al-Janabi back to life in the moment she was being gang-raped by your soldiers, to put her on that witness stand and ask her who the “terrorists” are, she sure wouldn’t be pointing at me.
The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with ”killing Americans.” But, as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic.
While the Sahel security crisis continues to deteriorate following Tuareg rebels’ declaration of an independent state in Mali’s troubled northern territory , recent events in Nigeria indicate a potential for increased regional instability. Boko Haram, a Salafist organization seeking to overthrow the secular administration of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, has recently killed 38 civilians in a suicide car bomb targeting nearby churches holding Easter services in the northern city of Kaduna . As part of an ongoing campaign of sectarian violence, the group has strived to implement sharia law through the establishment of an Islamic State in northern Nigeria . The group’s belligerent acts of violence claimed more than 500 lives during 2011 , prompting President Jonathan to call the current security crisis more dire than that experienced during 1967’s Biafran civil war, adding that jihadi sympathizers have successfully infiltrated his government and security agencies .
The group has claimed responsibility for the August 2011 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja , and its adoption of sophisticated tactics indicate that Boko Haram is receiving arms and training from abroad. Mainstream outlets can now be seen readying public opinion for an increased presence in Africa under the Right to Protect Doctrine (R2P) by warning of increased terrorist attacks in Europe, following shifts in Islamist activity away from Iraq and Afghanistan, to the "ungoverned spaces" of the Sahel . While the ongoing War on Terror provides the needed justification for the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to expand its base of operations throughout the Sahel and the troubled regions of east and central Africa, the modus operandi of Boko Haram indicates foreign nurturing in numerous mediums.
The Nigerian Tribune has reported that Boko Haram receives funding from different groups from Saudi Arabia and the UK, specifically from the Al-Muntada Trust Fund, headquartered in the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia’s Islamic World Society . During an interview conducted by Al-Jazeera with Abu Mousab Abdel Wadoud, the AQIM leader states that Algeria-based organizations have provided arms to Nigeria's Boko Haram movement "to defend Muslims in Nigeria and stop the advance of a minority of Crusaders" . It remains highly documented that members of Al-Qaeda (AQIM) and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) who fought among the Libyan rebels directly received arms  and logistical support  from NATO bloc countries during the Libyan conflict in 2011. While top AFRICOM General Carter Ham claims terrorist networks pose a "real challenge" to the United States , warning of the threat posed by Al-Qaeda and the stock of chemical weapons they obtained after raiding Gaddafi’s weapons bunker , the confirmed reports accusing the US of arming and training Islamist terrorist groups remain safely neglected in official Pentagon press statements.
While NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Admiral James Stavridis openly acknowledged the presence of Al-Qaeda fighters among Libya’s rebels , the New Yorker has recently confirmed that the US has trained members of the Iranian opposition group Mujahideen-e-Khalq in Nevada , a US State Department listed terrorist organization (#29)  responsible for the recent assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists . As the UN warns that weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades and explosives from Libya may reach Boko Haram , armed Tuareg fighters in northern Mali have been seen operating in army issue Toyota Hi-Lux technical trucks , armed with mortars, machine guns, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons originally belonging to the LIFG, al-Qaeda affiliated Libyan rebels . UN reports also disclose that Boko Haram members from Nigeria and Chad had received training at Al-Qaeda camps in Mali in 2011 .
Nigerian recruits were reportedly trained in an earlier incarnation of AQIM, referred to as the Algerian Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC) , and superficial aspects of Boko Haram’s operations reflect Nigeria’s 1982 Maitatsine uprisings, a fundamentalism movement countering perceived government oppression . As sectarian violence continues unimpeded, the prospects for a civil war between Nigeria’s economically dominant Christians in the South and marginalized Muslims in the North remains ever present. Although most Nigerians find themselves less divided by religious differences and more victimized by the nations notoriously corrupt political institutions, outside forces funding Boko Haram’s deplorable campaign of violence are bent on exploiting tension between Nigeria’s two largest religious groups.
A divided and warring Nigeria ultimately serves the interests of the United States as cited by Zbigniew Brzezinski, top adviser to Barack Obama and leading US foreign policy theoretician. Brzezinski, who co-founded the Trilateral Commission and openly credits himself with the creation of the Afghan Mujahideen , has influenced policy that encourages the division of existing nation-states by the succession and emergence of microstates, based on all cultural, ethnic and religious peculiarities. Author and historian Dr. Webster G. Tarpley writes, “For Africa, Brzezinski recommends the so-called ‘micro-nationalities’ concept, which means that national boundaries established in the 19th century should be swept aside in favor of a crazy quilt of petty tribal entities, each one so small that it could not hope to resist even a medium-sized oil multinational” .
Following the mass exodus of Chinese business interests during the Libyan conflict, a shattered Nigeria would ultimately create conditions where China’s growing cooperation with Abuja can be challenged and ultimately, disrupted. China has provided extensive economic, military and political support to Nigeria, an important source of oil and petroleum for Beijing. In addition to sponsoring Nigeria for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council , China has invested in Africa’s booming telecommunications market by building and launching a geostationary commercial satellite, owned by Nigeria and operated in Abuja,  as a gesture of increased partnership between the two nations. In 2010, China and Nigeria signed a $23 billion deal to construct three fuel refineries in Nigeria, adding an extra 750,000 barrels per day of domestic refining capacity .
While Algerian intelligence confirms a direct link between Boko Haram and western-financed AQIM , Boko Haram spokesman Abu Qaqa claims to have visited Mecca with Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, where the group received financial and technical support from Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia (AQAP) . While US officials acknowledge the presence of Al-Qaeda within the militant Syrian opposition , the Saudi Arabian Monarchy and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have created a multimillion-dollar fund to pay salaries to members of the rebel Free Syrian Army, to encourage soldiers to defect from the Syrian military and join opposition ranks , as part of an ongoing regime change program. A recently released subcommittee report issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security entitled “Boko Haram: Emerging Threat to the US Homeland”  further indicates the long-term objectives of counter terrorism operations in the region. The document reiterates the importance of sensitive resources within the Niger Delta region, and calls for using extrajudicial assassinations and unmanned aerial drone bombardments to combat the growing threat of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
The United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania conducted a series of African war game scenarios in preparation for the Pentagon’s expansion of AFRICOM under the Obama Administration. One scenario tested the US Africa Command’s capacity to respond to a disintegrating Nigeria on the verge of collapse amidst civil war, by sending 20,000 US troops to battle vying rebel factions seeking to control the Niger Delta oil fields . At a press conference at the House Armed Services Committee on March 13, 2008, former AFRICOM Commander, General William Ward stated that AFRICOM would operate under the theatre-goal of “combating terrorism” to prioritize the issue of America’s growing dependence on African oil . At an AFRICOM Conference held at Fort McNair on February 18, 2008, Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller openly declared the guiding principle of AFRICOM is to protect “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market”, before citing China’s increasing presence in the region as challenging to American interests .
In 2007, US State Department advisor Dr. J. Peter Pham commented on AFRICOM’s strategic objectives of "protecting access to hydrocarbons and other strategic resources which Africa has in abundance, a task which includes ensuring against the vulnerability of those natural riches and ensuring that no other interested third parties, such as China, India, Japan, or Russia, obtain monopolies or preferential treatment."  As covertly supporting terrorist organizations to achieve foreign policy aims appears to be the commanding prerequisite of foreign policy operations under the Obama Administration, Boko Haram exists as a separate arm of the US destabilization apparatus, aimed at shattering Africa’s most populous nation and biggest potential market. As Russia and China continue to assert themselves in the UNSC against calls to intervene on behalf of Syria’s militant opposition, the international community must adequately investigate the sources responsible for orchestrating insurgent activity in the Sahel and reprimand those parties accordingly.
A British foreign policy think tank has this week released a study claiming that the terror group Al Qaeda is regrouping in Africa creating “an arc of instability” from the Western Sahel to the Eastern Horn.
The Royal United Services Institute, based in Whitehall, London, and closely aligned to official British foreign policy, cites “disturbing new trends” across the continent that “Osama bin Laden’s terror network” is seeking influence in Somalia, North Africa and the Western Sahara-Sahel.
“If correct [sic], this assessment would raise the worrying prospect of an arc of regional instability encompassing the whole Sahara-Sahel strip and extending through to East Africa, which the now weakened Al Qaeda-core could well exploit to regroup, reorganise and reinvigorate its terrorist campaign against the West,” the report said.
Meanwhile, in other media reports it is claimed that Al Qaeda elements are joining forces with the Tuareg military rebels to consolidate the latter’s coup in the West Africa country of Mali. The alleged involvement of Al Qaeda in Mali has been cited by former colonial power France in its pledge to crush the coup.
The purported Al Qaeda link in Mali appears incongruous. The Tuareg rebels – a nomadic group inhabiting northern Mali and Niger – were formerly fighting in Libya in support of the Gaddafi government against Western-backed insurgents. The Western-backed Libyan insurgents are known to have comprised Al Qaeda jihadists. Now it is being claimed by France and media reports that Al Qaeda are in league with their former enemies – the Tuareg – in the takeover of Mali. What these various reports suggest is that Al Qaeda is being raised as a “spectre” over Africa to justify increased intervention by Western powers in that continent under the guise of “global security”.
The RUSI, with an old colonialist flourish, says Al Qaeda “appears to be adopting a strategy of ‘going native’, which implies seizing upon and exploiting local grievances with the ultimate aim of securing a stable foothold in volatile countries”.
Significantly, that scary thought allows the RUSI study to conclude: ““The focus of anti-jihadist counter-terrorism is shifting to Africa.” In other words, the pretext of anti-jihadist counter-terrorism by Western powers is shifting to Africa.
But in point of fact, the Western counter-terrorism pretext is not shifting; it is more accurately being extended to Africa, as NATO is continuing its illegal occupation and wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
This represents a strategic expansion of the global war agenda that the Pentagon and its Western allies have been pursuing in the Middle East and Central Asia incorporating a region for hegemonic control stretching from the Mediterranean to the Caspian – a region that compromises at least 60 per cent of the earth’s known oil and gas reserves.
The seven-month aerial bombing campaign of Libya by NATO during 2011 that led to the overthrow of the government in Tripoli can be seen as serving as a beach-head for the US-led powers in North Africa, and for their continued militarization across the East-West continental belt, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.
Already, the Western powers are engaged in a new scramble for Africa that can be traced back to the setting up of the new US military command of AFRICOM under the George W Bush administration. Since then, and especially under the Obama administration, there has been a scaling up low-intensity involvement of US, French and British forces in Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and on the east in Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti. American aerial drones and French naval forces have played a key role in supporting the Kenyan and Ethiopian army campaigns against Al Shabab militants in Somalia since October last year.
Other African countries where the Western powers are believed to be running clandestine Special Forces include Senegal, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Sudan – all of them former British and French colonial possessions. There have also been claims of US staging violence in Nigeria to justify a state crackdown on popular protests against the government of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Africa’s undeveloped but vast natural resources of oil, metals, other minerals and agricultural potential is a bonanza that the stagnant capitalist powers cannot afford to miss out on, especially given China’s rise as a trading partner with many African states. The irony is that while Western governments, their think-tanks and mainstream media mouthpieces may talk up “an Al Qaeda arc of instability across Africa”, the real source of instability and militarization from the continent’s West to East is stemming from the neocolonialism of Western powers. To this end, the “spectre” of Al Qaeda is serving as a convenient pretext to justify further imperialist encroachment.
Expect more Western mainstream media reports of mysterious Al Qaeda jihadists destabilizing poor, starving African countries, thus requiring the noble dispatch of NATO forces to “save the Dark Continent”.
Of course, the killer irony is that Al Qaeda is a global terror network created by the CIA, MI6 and Saudi Arabia to do the dirty work of Western powers, as Michel Chossudovsky, Peter Dale Scott and other writers have carefully documented.
The Al Qaeda brand has proven to be a lucrative “investment”. From 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq to Libya and currently Syria. And, now, the neocolonial reconquest of Africa. That’s what you call “return on money”.
Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa Correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and its largest oil producer, is from all evidence being systematically thrown into chaos and a state of civil war. The recent surprise decision by the government of Goodluck Jonathan to abruptly lift subsidies on imported gasoline and other fuel has a far more sinister background than mere corruption and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) is playing a key role. China appears to be the likely loser along with Nigeria’s population.
The recent strikes protesting the government’s abrupt elimination of gasoline and other fuel subsidies, that brought Nigeria briefly to a standstill, came as a surprise to most in the country. Months earlier President Jonathan had promised the major trade union organizations that he would conduct a gradual four-stage lifting of the subsidy to ease the economic burden. Instead, without warning he announced an immediate full removal of subsidies effective January 1, 2012. It was “shock therapy” to put it mildly.
Nigeria today is one of the world’s most important producers of light, sweet crude oil—the same high quality crude oil that Libya and the British North Sea produce. The country is showing every indication of spiraling downward into deep disorder. Nigeria is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the United States and twelfth largest oil producer in the world on a par with Kuwait and just behind Venezuela with production exceeding two million barrels a day. 1
The curious timing of IMF subsidy demand
Despite its oil riches, Nigeria remains one of Africa’s poorest countries. The known oilfields are concentrated around the vast Niger Delta roughly between Port Harcourt and extending in the direction of the capital Lagos, with large new finds being developed all along the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria’s oil is exploited and largely exported by the Anglo-American giants—Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco. Italy’s Agip also has a presence and most recently, to no one’s surprise, the Chinese state oil companies began seeking major exploration and oil infrastructure agreements with the Lagos government.
Ironically, despite the fact that Nigeria has abundant oil to earn dollar export revenue to build its domestic infrastructure, government policy has deliberately let its domestic oil refining capacity fall into ruin. The consequence has been that most of the gasoline and other refined petroleum products used to drive transportation and industry, has to be imported, despite the country’s abundant oil. In order to shield the population from the high import costs of gasoline and other refined fuels, the central government has subsidized prices.
Until January 1, 2012, that is. That was the day when, without advance warning President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan announced immediate removal of all fuel subsidies. Prices for gasoline shot up almost threefold in hours from 65 naira (35 cents of a dollar) a liter to 150 naira (93 cents). The impact rippled across the economy to everything including prices of grains and vegetables.2
In justifying the move, Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi insisted that “The monies will be used in provision of social amenities and infrastructural development that will benefit Nigerians more and save the country from economic rift.”3 President Goodluck Jonathan says he is phasing out the subsidy as a part of a move to “clean up the Nigerian government.” If so how he plans to proceed is anything but apparent.
The huge unexpected price hike for domestic fuel triggered nationwide protests that threatened to bring the economy to a halt by mid-January. The president deftly took the wind out of protester sails by announcing a partial rollback in prices, still leaving prices effectively double that of December. The trade union federation immediately called off the protests. Then, revealingly, Goodluck Jonathan’s government ordered the military to take to the streets to “keep order” and de facto prevent new protests. All that took place during one of the bloodiest waves of bombings and murder rampages by the terrorist Boko Haram sect creating a climate of extreme chaos.4
The smoking gun of the IMF
What has been buried from international accounts of the unrest is the explicit role the US-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF) played in the situation. With suspicious timing IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde was in Nigeria days before the abrupt subsidy decision of President Jonathan.5 By all accounts, the IMF and the Nigerian government have been careful this time not to be blatant about openly announcing demands to ends subsidies as they were in Tunisia before food protests became the trigger for that country’s Twitter putsch in 2011.
During her visit to Nigeria Lagarde said President Jonathan's 'Transformation Agenda' for deregulation "is an agenda for Nigeria, driven by Nigerians. The IMF is here to support you and be a better partner for you." 6 Few Nigerians were convinced. On December 29 Reuters wrote, "The IMF has urged countries across West and Central Africa to cut fuel subsidies, which they say are not effective in directly aiding the poor, but do promote corruption and smuggling. The past months have seen governments in Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon and Chad moving to cut state subsidies on fuel." 7
Further confirming the role US and IMF pressure on the Nigerian government played, Jeffery Sachs, Special Adviser to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, during a meeting with President Jonathan in Nigeria in early January days after the subsidy decision, Sachs declared Jonathan's decision to withdraw petroleum subsidy “a bold and correct policy.” 8
Sachs, a former Harvard economics professor became notorious during the early 1990’s for prescribing IMF “shock therapy” for Poland, Russia, Ukraine and other former communist states which opened invaluable state assets for de facto plundering by dollar-rich western multinationals. 9
Making the sudden decision to end the domestic fuel subsidy even more suspicious is the manner in which Washington and the IMF are putting pressure on only select countries to end subsidies. Nigeria, whose oil today sells for the equivalent of $1 a liter or roughly $3.78 a US gallon, is far from cheap. Brunei, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia all offer their petrol very cheap to their people. The Saudis sell their oil at 17 cents, Kuwait at 22 cents.10 In the US gasoline averages 89 cents a liter.11
That means the IMF and Washington have forced one of the poorest economies in Africa to impose a huge tax on its citizens on the implausible argument it will help eliminate corruption in the state petroleum sector. The IMF knows well that the elimination of subsidies will do nothing about corruption in high places.
Were the IMF and World Bank genuinely concerned with the health of the domestic Nigerian economy, they would have provided support for rebuilding and expanding a domestic oil refinery industry that has been let to rot so that the country need no longer import refined fuels using precious state budget resources to do so. The easiest way to do that would be to expedite a two-year-old deal between China and the Nigerian government to invest some $28 billion in massive expansion of the oil refinery sector to eliminate need for importing foreign gasoline and other refined products.
Quite the opposite—the criminal cabal inside NNPC and the Government making huge profits on the old subsidy system are suddenly making double and potentially triple more to maintain the old corrupt import system, and, of course, to sabotage Chinese refinery construction that could put an end to their gravy train.
Cutting their nose to spite the face…
Rather than benefit ordinary Nigerians as the IMF proclaims to want, the elimination of the subsidies has further pauperized the 90 per cent living on less than $2 a day, according to Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Nigerian Central Bank governor.12 An estimated 40 million Nigerians are unemployed in the country of 148 million.
Because transport costs are a significant factor in delivery of food to the cities, food price inflation has soared along with costs of public transportation for the majority of poorer Nigerians. According to the Nigerian Leadership Sunday, “prices of commodities which shot up as a fallout of the fuel pump price increase have refused to come down.” Everything from street vegetable sellers to carwashes to roadside photographers are feeling the shock of the rise in fuel prices. Unemployment is rising as small businesses fold. 13
The argument of the IMF and the Jonathan Administration is that by freeing fuel prices, funds would be available to more social services and rebuild Nigeria’s “infrastructure.” Both the IMF and the Government know it would have been far more economically viable to replace the current corrupt system of importing refined gasoline and fuels with investing in rebuilding Nigeria’s domestic refining capacity.
Son Gyoh of the Nigerian Awareness for Development organization stated, “Would it not be more expedient to pressure government to service the refineries to full production capacity given the implications on overhead and competitiveness for local industries?” 14
Gyoh pointed to the source of the problem: “Why have successive governments left the refineries in a state of disrepair while spending huge on subsidy? Is there any chance that the savings from subsidy withdrawal will go directly into rehabilitating the refineries? Does deregulation imply NNPC will no longer operate a monopoly in importation of refined petroleum product or is this lobby a self-serving lifeline to continue its monopoly? ” He concludes, “In any case, there is good reason to doubt subsidy removal will solve the fuel scarcity problem as the cabal will only regroup to change tactics, a fact Nigerians are only too aware of.” 15
After Nigeria partly nationalized its oil sector in the late 1970’s they also took control of Shell Oil’s Port Harcourt I refinery. In 1989 Port Harcourt II refinery was built. Both refineries fell into serious disrepair after 1994 when the Abacha military dictatorship cut the “take” of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) from domestic sale of refined oil products such as gasoline from 84% to 22%. That caused a cash crisis for NNPC and a halt to refinery maintenance. Today only one of four refineries operates at all.16
What developed since was a system of NNPC importing foreign gasoline and other refined products for Nigeria’s domestic needs, naturally at a far more expensive cost. The price subsidies were to relieve that higher import cost, hardly a sensible solution but a very lucrative one for those corrupt elements in the state and private sector making a killing, literally, off the import process.
NNPC criminal enterprise
The IMF is well aware of the real cause of Nigeria’s fuel industry problems. A Nigerian legislative committee examining the sources of the industry’s problems recently released a report documenting that at least $4 billion annually is taken from taxpayers in fuel industry corruption with the state Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) at the center. According to the commission, “every day, fuel importers drop off 59 million liters of fuel. The country consumes 35 million liters daily. That leaves 24 million liters of oil available for smugglers to export, paid for by government fuel subsidies. This costs the Nigerian people roughly $4 billion yearly, according to Reuters.” 17
The Nigerian government has said that the 7.5 billion dollars spent yearly on fuel subsidies could be used to provide desperately needed infrastructure. But they omit any mention of the rampant siphoning off of $4 billion of oil by black market smugglers, reportedly with connivance of high NNPC government officials, to sell to neighboring countries at a hefty profit. The refined imported fuel is reportedly smuggled into neighboring countries like Cameroon, Chad and Niger where petrol prices are far higher, according to Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Deputy Governor of Kano State.18
China as IMF target?
One major geopolitical factor that is generally ignored in recent discussion of Nigerian oil politics is the growing role of China in the country. In May 2010 only days after President Jonathan was sworn in, China signed an impressive $28.5 billion deal with his government to build three new refineries, something that in no way fit into the plans of either the IMF or of Washington or of the Anglo-American oil majors.19
China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited (CSCEC) signed the deal to build three oil refineries with Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in the biggest deal China has made with Africa. Shehu Ladan, head of NNPC, said at the signing ceremony that the added refineries would reduce the $10 billion spent annually on imported refined products. As of January 2012 the three Chinese refnery projects were still in the planning stage, reportedly blocked by the powerful vested interests gaining from the existing corrupt import system.20
A report in China Daily last November quoted Nigeria’s Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga, the minister of trade and investment that Nigeria was seeking added Chinese investors for its energy, mining and agribusiness industries. Last September on a visit to Beijing, Nigeria central bank governor Lamido Sanusi announced his country planned to invest 5 percent to 10 percent of its foreign exchange reserves in China's currency, the renminbi (RMB) or yuan, noting that he sees the yuan becoming reserve currency. In 2010 China's loans and exports to Nigeria exceeded $7 billion, while Nigeria exported $1 billion of crude oil, Sanusi stated.21
Until now Nigeria has held some 79% of her foreign currency reserves in dollars, the rest in Euro or Sterling, all of which look dicey given their financial and debt problems. The move of a major oil producer away from dollars, added to similar moves recently by India, Japan, Russia, Iran and others, augurs bad news for the continued role of the dollar as dominant world reserve currency. 22 Clearly some in Washington would not be happy with that.
The Chinese are also bidding to get a direct stake in Nigeria’s rich oil reserves, until now an Anglo-American domain. In July 2010, China's CNPC (China National Petroleum Corporation) won four prospective oil blocks -two in the Niger Delta and two in the frontier Chad Basin, with plans to become core investor in the Kaduna refinery, and construction of a double track Lagos-Kano railway.23 As well China’s oil company, CNOOC Ltd has a major offshore production area in Nigeria.
The IMF and Washington pressure to lift subsidies on imported fuels is at this point in question as is the future of China in Nigeria’s energy industry. Clear is that lifting subsidies in no way will benefit Nigerians. More alarming in this context is the orchestration of a major new wave of terror killings and bombings by the mysterious and suspiciously well-armed Boko Haram. This we will look at next in the context of Nigeria’s recent transformation into a major narcotics hub.
F. William Engdahl, author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order