"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Aid’

What If Kobe Bryant Were An Imprisoned Palestinian Football Player?

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Oldspeak:”The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.”-Jodi Rudoren

By Dave Zirin @ The Nation Magazine:

Imagine if a member of Team USA Basketball—let’s say Kobe Bryant—had been traveling to an international tournament only to be seized by a foreign government and held in prison for three years without trial or even hearing the charges for which he was imprisoned. Imagine if Kobe was allowed no visitation from family or friends. Imagine if he was left no recourse but to effectively end any future prospects as a player by terminating his own physical health by going on a hunger strike. Chances are we’d notice, yes? Chances are the story would lead SportsCenter and make newspaper covers across the world. Chances are all the powerful international sports organizations—the IOC, FIFA—would treat the jailing nation as a pariah until Kobe was free. And chances are that even Laker-haters would wear buttons that read, “Free Kobe.”

This is what has happened to Palestinian national soccer team member Mahmoud Sarsak. Sarsak, who hails from Rafah in the Gaza Strip, was seized at a checkpoint on his way to a national team contest in the West Bank. This was July 2009. Since that date, the 25-year-old has been held without trial and without charges. His family and friends haven’t been permitted to see him. In the eyes of the Israeli government, Sarsak can be imprisoned indefinitely because they deem him to be an “illegal combatant” although no one—neither family, nor friends, nor coaches—has the foggiest idea why. Now Sarsak is one of more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike to protest their conditions and lack of civil liberties. As the New York Times wrote last week, “The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.”

But no organization has claimed Sarsak as a member or issued fiery calls for his freedom. All we have is a family and a team that are both bewildered and devastated by his indefinite detention. His brother Iman said, “My family never imagined that Mahmoud would have been imprisoned by Israel. Why, really why?”

His family doesn’t understand how someone, whose obsession was soccer, not politics, could be targeted and held in such a manner. But in today’s Israel/Palestine, soccer is politics. Sarsak is only the latest Palestinian player to be singled out for harassment or even death by the Israeli government. In 2009, three national team players, Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshtahe, were killed during the bombing of Gaza. The National Stadium as well as the offices of the Palestinian Football Association were also targeted and destroyed in the Gaza bombing. In addition, their goalie, Omar Abu Rwayyis, was arrested by Israeli police in 2012 on “terrorism charges.” If you degrade the national team, you degrade the idea that there could ever be a nation.

More than police violence is a part of this process of athletic degradation. Currently the Palestinian soccer team is ranked 164th in the world and they’ve have never been higher than 115th. As one sports writer put it delicately, “Given the passion for football that burns among Palestinians, such lowly status hints at problems on the ground.”

These problems on the ground include curfews and checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza that often mean the forfeiting of matches. If Palestinians living in Israel’s borders want to play for the team, they have to give up any benefits of Israeli citizenship. The end result is that the Palestinian national team becomes dependent on the Diaspora, relying heavily on Palestinians who have lived for two and three generations in South America and Europe. This is why many of the key players on Palestine’s national team are named Roberto or Pablo.

In 2010, Michel Platini, president of European football’s ruling body—Israel plays in the European qualifiers—threatened Israel with expulsion from FIFA if it continues to undermine football in Palestine. Platini said, “Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for their behaviour.” Yet Platini never followed through on threats and quite the opposite, awarded Israel the 2013 Under-21 European Championships.

On Wednesday, the British organization Soccer Without Borders, said that they would be calling for a boycott of the tournament, writing:

Football Beyond Borders, a student-led organisation which uses the universal power of football to tackle political, social and cultural issues, stands in solidarity with Mahmoud Sarsak and all of the Palestinian political prisoners currently being detained by Israel on hunger strike, as together we protest the injustices being inflicted upon Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and draw attention to their plight. [We] take this opportunity to announce our official boycott of the UEFA 2013 Under-21 European Championships, which Israel has been awarded the honour of hosting.

Soccer Without Borders joined forty-two football clubs and dozens of team captains, managers and sports commentators in Gaza who submitted a letter to Platini in 2011 demanding that European football’s governing body reverse its decision to allow Israel to host the under-21 tournament.

Amidst all this tumult is Mahmoud Sarsak, a threat for reasons no one can comprehend and Israel will not reveal. As long as Sarsak remains indefinitely detained and as long as Israel targets sport and athletes as legitimate targets of war, they have no business being rewarded by FIFA or the UEFA, let alone even being a part of the community of international sports. If Sarsak is to see the inside of a courtroom and if Israel is to, as Platini said, “face the consequences for their behaviour,” silence is not an option. After all, even a Celtic fan would surely agree, we’d do it for Kobe.

 

Scramble For Africa: Redux – Has Obama Just Kicked Off Another Oil War In Africa? This Time In Uganda?

In Uncategorized on November 11, 2011 at 11:13 am

Oldspeak:” ‘African oil is of national strategic interest to us, and it will increase and become more important as we go forward.’ - Walter Kantsteiner III,  Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, 2002. On this Veterans Day 2011, Meditate on the fact that our Nobel Peace Prize winning President has initiated another barely reported military incursion into another oil rich region of Africa. Allying our troops with another murderous dictator who tortures and kills his own citizens, unscrupulous oil and natural gas corporations and private military corporations to protect oil production/exploration efforts. Once again being explained as a “humanitarian mission” with the supposed purpose of’ stopping human rights abuses and ‘furthering U.S. national security interests and foreign policy’. Never mind that this effort is all part of the new “Great Game“, of keeping oil away from China, and securing it for U.S. use.  ‘One of the rationales Obama gave for sending JSOC troops to Uganda, was that the LRA recruits and uses child soldiers’. Nevermind the unabated recruitment of child soldiers throughout the horn of africa who’ll likely be armed with U.S weapons as result of Obama’s repeatedly waiving restrictions on military aid to ‘Chad, Yemen, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)–four countries with records of actively recruiting child soldiers…Any country even remotely close to the horn of Africa (like these distinguished four) is just too strategically important…So, for the time being, it’s still guns for the kids’ -Mother Jones. Nevermind the hypocrisy of partnering with maniacal dictators in Uganda, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, but hunting and killing others in Iraq and Libya. In light of recent events, that guy should be very afraid. It’s clear that when the U.S. no longer has use for you, you are very quickly cut loose, labeled a terrorist who kills and tortures your own people, and done away with exercising extreme prejudice. And the people of Uganda should be very afraid. When the U.S. deploys its military in your country, you can bet dollars to doughnuts, innocents will die at their hands. “Profit Is Paramount”.

Related Stories:

Why No Outcry Over These Torturing Tyrants?

US-Saudi Deal On Libya Exposed: Obama OK’ed Bahrain Invasion In Exchange For ‘Yes’ Vote On “No-Fly Zone

The West Goes To War For Oil And Power In Libya

By Steve Horn @ Alter Net

On Friday, October 14, President Barack Obama announced he would be sending 100 Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces to Uganda to “remove from the battlefield” (meaning capture or kill) the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony. “I believe that deploying these U.S. Armed Forces furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa,” wrote Obama in a letter to U.S. House Majority Leader, John Boehner, R-OH.

The LRA, whose horrific deeds have been have been well-documented by scores of human rights reports and the documentary film, Invisible Children, can best be described as a Christian cult militia engaged in violent armed rebellion against the Ugandan government, located primarily in northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan. An arrest warrant was issued in 2005 by the International Criminal Court against the LRA leadership for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Kony, the LRA ringleader, possibly has over 80 wives (i.e. sex slaves), according to a 2009 story by the Guardian, and has fathered over 40 children.

It gets worse.

According to a May 2009 article in Newsweek, “[H]e and the hundreds of forcibly conscripted children who serve as his killing squads are feared throughout the region for their horrific levels of brutality and the butchery of tens of thousands of defenseless civilians. Their swath of destruction has displaced well over 2 million people. Kony has forced new male recruits to rape their mothers and kill their parents. Former LRA members say the rebels sometimes cook and eat their victims.”

The mainstream media, at least those who have covered this new U.S. military adventure, have taken the Obama administration at face value on its stated claim that JSOC troops are necessary in Uganda and neighboring countries, for the purpose of murdering the elusive and brutal war criminal-at-large, Joseph Kony.

But is this the true motive for sending JSOC troops into the region? A probe into the last several years of geopolitical posturing in Africa by the United States reveals another tale. It is the tale of a 21st century “scramble for Africa” for the procurement of oil, using imperial tools, such as drones, mercenaries and military bases, in a desperate effort to gain control of this valuable commodity.

An African Scramble for Oil

In October 2008, AFRICOM, the United States Africa Command, became the U.S. military’s sixth regional Unified Combatant Command center, joining those already housed in South America (SOUTHCOM), North America (NORTHCOM), Europe (EUCOM), the Middle East (CENTCOM), and the Pacific (USPACOM). The Unified Combatant Command centers serve as regional strategic hubs for the U.S. military planners to plot and implement the ways in which the U.S. will dominate these various regions for whatever it might deem to be in line with the national interest or national security purposes.

AFRICOM, though, did not come out of the blue and was years in the making before its realization. Not long after 9/11, in early January 2002, a key symposium titled “African Oil: A Priority for U.S. National Security and African Development” took place in Washington, DC; it was hosted by the neoconservative think-tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS).

IASPS is most famous for its authorship of a paper called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” a 1996 paper that, among other things, called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, foreshadowing the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the neoconservative-lead Bush administration foreign policy team.

At the symposium, then Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Walter Kantsteiner III, stated, “African oil is a national strategic interest…[and] it’s people like you who will…bring the oil home.”

Later, in May 2004, Kantsteiner chaired a congressionally funded Africa Policy Advisory Panel report titled, “Rising U.S. States in Africa,” in which he stated, “African oil is of national strategic interest to us, and it will increase and become more important as we go forward.”

In the midst of these summits, the U.S. set up crucial military bases — in spring 2003 in Djibouti, a base called Camp Lemmonier, and in 2004 at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda.

The U.S. was now firmly implanted in the region to begin an African safari, featuring, most prominently, tours of prospective and already existing oil rigs and pipelines spanning every contour of the continent.

Oil Safari to Uganda

Not long after AFRICOM became a reality, multinational corporations also flocked into Uganda to search for oil.

The search was a flaming success story, with 2.5 billion barrels of oil now having been discovered, but still to this date, not yet procured. The royalties accompanying the oil’s usage could reach up to $2 billion a year by 2015, reported the Economist in May 2010.

This oil is located off of Lake Albert in northwest Uganda, a lake shared by both Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Multinational corporations are required to sign something known as a Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with the Ugandan government in order to drill for Uganda’s oil. In essence, a PSA is a contractual agreement between a foreign corporation benefiting from a country’s resources and the government of a country whose resources are being benefited from.

In October 2006, according to a WikiLeaks cable, Tullow Oil, a British company, and Heritage Oil, a Canadian company, signed a PSA with the Ugandan government, led by President Yoweri Musveni. This particular PSA, though, was no ordinary one, and indeed, could serve, in part, as an explanation for the logic of Obama’s October 14 announcement.

For the first three years the PSA was signed, the details were kept secret from everyone but upper-level Tullow and Heritage executives and Museveni’s inner circle. A February 2010 report written by PLATFORM, a British nonprofit organization, titled, “Contracts Curse: Uganda’s oil agreements place profit before people,” explains the PSA best and for the first time, made public its content.

The PSA, PLATFORM explained, “contain[s] no clauses covering security provision[s]…There is no public agreement setting out the relationship between the oil companies and the military or police forces. Thus it is unclear what promises and guarantees the Ugandan government has made to ensure security and what rights the oil companies have been awarded.”

This raised numerous vital questions for PLATFORM, including, “Do oil company security or private military contractors have the right or authority to arrest, injure or kill those they perceive as a threat?” and “Is the Ugandan government incentivised to prioritise security interests over the human rights of local populations?”

That same report also included revelations by PLATFORM that the Ugandan government had constructed a “new military base on ten square miles” near Lake Albert, where the oil was located. The report also disclosed that Museveni had created something called an Oil Wells Protection Unit (OWPU), which amounted to his own security forces, or mercenaries, guarding oil rigs.

Concerned about the OWPU, PLATFORM wrote, “Apparently its mandate is ‘to provide physical security for the oil and gas industry’ and ‘conduct strategic intelligence activities in all areas where oil will be processed and marketed.’ However, the OWPU has no Web site and no clearly known structure or chain of command…In this context, the OWPU could easily be misused to repress opposition to oil extraction activities, further political gains by the government and commit human rights abuses without accountability.”

Enter Heritage Oil and Ties to Private Mercenary Armies

Possibly the most crucial fact about the undisclosed clauses concerning security provisions in the PSA, was this vital detail: The Canadian oil company Heritage, which is owned by Tony Buckingham, who many credit for being the first innovator behind the modern-day private military corporation (PMC) (think Blackwater USA, now known as Xe Services), was formerly the main stakeholder in the Albertine Basin.

In 2010, Heritage sold its stake in the project to the British company Tullow Oil for $1.5 billion. Though Heritage is no longer exploring for oil in the hopes of drilling for it in Uganda, Buckingham’s background and business connections are still crucial to grasp.

Buckingham is a former officer of the British Special Air Service (SAS) — a parallel to the U.S. JSOC forces sent into Uganda by Obama — according to a 1997 story. In 1992 Buckingham became the founder and CEO of Heritage Oil. A year later, in 1993, Buckingham founded a PMC called Executive Outcomes (EO). EO officially closed shop in 1998, but during its time of existence, it consistently followed in the footsteps of the locations that Buckingham took Heritage’s oil rigs. And Buckingham’s close ties to mercenary armies did not terminate with EO’s fall. Instead, he formed a special relationship with a key figure, the half-brother of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Salim Saleh.

The special relationship between Saleh and Buckingham also goes a long way toward explaining the Obama decision to invade Uganda.

Salim Saleh, Erik Prince, and Guns-For-Hire in the Horn of Africa

Upon the eclipse of EO in 1998, rather than decay into oblivion, it instead morphed into a multi-tentacled machine of various PMC split-offs, the most crucial of which, at least as far as Uganda is concerned, is Saracen International.

Salim Saleh owns a 25-percent stake in Saracen. “[Saracen International] was formed with the remnants of Executive Outcomes, a private mercenary firm composed largely of former South African special operations troops who worked throughout Africa in the 1990s,” explained the New York Times in a January 2011 article.

Saleh, now Museveni’s military adviser, is a former high-ranking official for theUganda People’s Defence Force, the military of the Ugandan government. He is also a well-connected mercenary, as seen through his ownership stake in Saracen.

Saracen, in turns out, also maintains an important relationship with Blackwater USA founder and CEO, Erik Prince.

The same article that revealed the ties between EO and Saracen International also revealed that Prince possesses an ownership stake in Saracen. The Times wrote, “According to a Jan. 12 confidential report by the African Union, Mr. Prince ‘is at the top of the management chain of Saracen and provided seed money for the Saracen contract.’”

Blackwater, under Prince’s leadership, has been involved in the game of guns-for-hire in the Horn of Africa since February 2009, according to a WikiLeaks cable. The cable reveals that Blackwater won a contract to operate an armed ship, called McArthur, from a port in Djibouti, the country which is also home of the U.S. military’s Camp Lemonnier base.

The cable also reveals that McArthur “will have an unarmed UAV” (Unarmed Vehicle, aka a drone), “will likely engage…Kenya in the future,” and that Blackwater “has briefed AFRICOM, CENTCOM, and Embassy Nairobi officials.” In other words, this means the Prince and Blackwater mission had the blessing of top-level U.S. military and diplomatic officials.

Could Prince’s and Saleh’s guns-for-hire be teaming up with JSOC forces in the Albertine basin to guard oil rigs? History provides some highly relavant precedent.

Erik Prince, Blackwater USA and Oil: History Repeating Itself?

Prince’s Blackwater has been involved in such engagements before. Rewind to Azerbaijan and Iraq, where Blackwater was tasked with guarding crucial oil pipelines and oil wells for the world’s wealthiest oil and natural gas corporations.

Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, in his book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, revealed that “Blackwater USA was hired by the Pentagon…to deploy in Azerbaijan, where Blackwater would be tasked with establishing and training an elite…force modeled after the U.S. Navy SEALs that would ultimately protect the interests of the United States and its allies in a hostile region.

“Blackwater joined a U.S. corporate landscape [in the region] that included…corporations such as Bechtel, Halliburton, Chevron-Texaco, Unocal and ExxonMobil … Instead of sending in battalions of active U.S. military to Azerbaijan, the Pentagon deployed…Blackwater…that would serve a dual purpose: protecting the West’s new profitable oil and gas exploitation in a region historically dominated by Russia and Iran, and possibly laying the groundwork for an important forward operating base for an attack against Iran,” Scahill continued.

Azerbaijan, like Uganda, is home to a vast array of oil and natural gas, and also a key pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which, after reaching its respective coastal homes in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, ends up on the global export market.

In Iraq, as revealed by the Guardian in a March 2004 article, Blackwater, via a Pentagon contract, recruited Chilean “commandos, other soldiers and seamen, paying them up to $4,000 a month to guard oil wells against attack by insurgents…many of [them] had trained under the military government of Augusto Pinochet.” Pinochet, many will recall, was the brutal dictator who came to power after the CIA-initiated 1973 coup of Salvador Allende.

Iraq, like Uganda and Azerbaijan, is home to vast amounts of oil. Major syndicates ranging from BP America, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillips have all flocked to Iraq in the mad dash for Iraq’s resources since the 2003 onset of the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq.

WikiLeaks Cables Reveal Ugandan Oil Bid Corruption

ExxonMobil, teaming up with Tullow Oil, as seen through the lens of important Wikileaks State Department diplomatic cables, has also shown great interest in the economic opportunities surrounding oil exploration off of Lake Albert, as well as great concern over governmental corruption in the nascent Ugandan oil industry.

A key December 3, 2009 cable, titled, “Uganda: Corruption Allegations Accompany Arrival Of Major Oil Firms,” reads, “Executives from ExxonMobil visited Uganda on November 18-19, and met with Ambassador (Jerry) Lanier (the U.S. ambassador to Uganda), Mission Officers, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD), Uganda’s Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD), and Tullow (Oil)…ExxonMobil representatives who traveled to Kampala said they were ‘very impressed’ with…the Ugandan government oil representatives…”

Roughly a month later, yet another important WikiLeaks-provided State Department diplomatic cable was produced on January 13, 2010, titled, “Uganda: Security Report Details Oil Sector Corruption,” which discusses the impacts rampant corruption unfolding in the Ugandan oil industry would have on the U.S. if the ExxonMobil deal falls through.

“A corrupt…agreement would undermine a potential multi-billion dollar deal between ExxonMobil and Tullow, and have serious long-term implications for U.S….in Uganda in terms of…economic development,” the cable reads.

The State Department’s diplomatic cables make it quite clear that ExxonMobil and its partner, Tullow Oil, were both deeply interested in the Ugandan oil industry, but also gravely concerned about corruption.

Yet, Tullow and ExxonMobil had little to worry about, based on both Prince’s ExxonMobil ties during his days at Blackwater USA, as well as a crucial March 2008 meeting between the Salim Saleh-led Ugandan military and high-level Tullow Oil officials, as exposed by Wikileaks.

Tullow’s Mercenary Presence Long in the Making at Lake Albert Basin

Tullow, as revealed by State Department diplomatic cables leaked to Wikileaks, has been building up a mercenary army presence in the Lake Albert area for over three years.

A March 2008 State Department diplomatic cable reads, “…Tullow Oil, one of the four exploration companies operating in western Uganda, said that as the oil activity on Lake Albert increased, a security presence would be vital.”

The cable also mentions that U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Steven Browning and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Rear Admiral Phillip Greene “met with representatives from Tullow Oil and the Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF), as well as local leaders…on March 4.” The UPDF is lead by Salim Saleh, who also owns a 25-percent ownership stake in Saracen International, the private mercenary army also owned in part by Erik Prince.

During the meeting it was also “noted that oil exploration and production would raise the profile of the area, which could lead to increased incidences of violence between Ugandan locals and security forces…” and the meeting concluded with a request for “an assessment team…to provide the Ugandan military with an organizational, doctrinal, training, and equipment needs assessment for a future lake security force.”

Toss into the ring the ongoing great power politics rivalry between the U.S. and China, and things become even more complex.

Great Power Politics Posturing in the Works?

Though ExxonMobil and Tullow Oil lost out on the corrupt oil bid in late 2009, while exploration has been done, drilling has yet to occur in Uganda. In that vein, 100 U.S. JSOC troops, likely teaming up with Erik Prince, Salim Saleh and Yoweri Museveni-backed mercenaries, have swooped into the Lake Albert area to secure the prize, oil, before its rival does.

The opponent? China.

On October 24, Tullow sold $2.9 billion worth of its shares of oil to France’s Total Oil and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), though it has yet to be approved by the Museveni government and requires his approval.

Throughout all of this, it is vital to bear in mind the bigger picture, which is that the United States and China have been competing against one another in the new “African Scramble” for Africa’s valuable oil resources.

Serge Michel and Michel Beuret, in their 2009 book China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing’s Expansion in Africa, write, “China’s advances in Africa’s oil-rich regions have been viewed with concern bordering on paranoia in the United States….[It] could…deteriorate into a a head-to-head clash between China and the United States, prompting the kind of open conflict that some see as inevitable by 2030.”

One has to wonder what will happen with regards to this recent oil deal, knowing the players involved, and seeing the geopolitical and resources maneuvering taking place in the Lake Albert region.

If the United States and its well-connected guns-for-hire have any say, Tullow Oil, Heritage Oil, ExxonMobil will take home all the royalties, and CNOOC will be sent home packing.

Another Piece of the Puzzle: Senate Bill 1067 of 2009

It appears that since the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009, Senate Bill 1067, a bill that called for, among other things, to “apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield…and to disarm and demobilize the remaining Lord’s Resistance Army fighters,” the United States has Lake Albert targeted in its crosshairs.

An important provision squeezed into the bill was a section mandating that an official strategy be written up to “disarm and demobilize” the LRA.

“Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall develop and submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a strategy to guide future United States support across the region,” the bill reads. “The strategy shall include…a description of how this engagement will fit within the context of broader efforts and policy objectives in the Great Lakes Region.”

The Great Lakes Region includes Lake Albert and “broader efforts and policy objectives” translates into, based on State Department diplomatic cables and public statements made in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the control of precious oil resources in the Albertine Basin.

Signed into law by Obama in May 2009, it is crucial to put when the bill was written into proper historical context.

As revealed by State Department diplomatic cables, this was roughly a year after the special meeting between Tullow Oil representatives; U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Steven Browning; and then head of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, Rear Admiral Phillip Greene near Lake Albert. It was also roughly half a year after the launch of AFRICOM.

Some may have been surprised by this latest announcement to invade another country by the Obama administration, but based on recent history, there are no real surprises here. Still, despite evidence that seems to fly in the face of the reason offered by Obama to send troops to Uganda, it is still worth scrutinizing his rationale.

Humanitarian Intervention for Kony?

If there is one thing that is nearly for certain, it is that the Lord’s Resistance Army and Joseph Kony, as awful as they are, likely have nothing to do with this most recent U.S. military engagement in Uganda.

In the end, it all comes back to oil, even if top-level U.S. officials maintain that this has “nothing to do with oil.”

For one, days before this incursion, it was announced that the “the Obama administration quietly waived restrictions on military aid to Chad, Yemen, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)–four countries with records of actively recruiting child soldiers…Any country even remotely close to the horn of Africa (like these distinguished four) is just too strategically important…So, for the time being, it’s still guns for the kids,” wrote Mother Jones.

One of the rationales Obama gave for sending JSOC troops to Uganda, was that the LRA recruits and uses child soldiers, which, given this recent decision, made for the second consecutive year, is certainly not something high on the list of Obama’s concerns.

Furthermore, if human rights were actually the chief concern, why did the United States show interest in Kony only after the discovery of oil in the region? Not only that, but Kony, as many have made clear, is nowhere to be found in Uganda and is on the run or in hiding somewhere outside of the country.

To top it all off, Yoweri Museveni and his brother, the gun-for-hire Salim Saleh, both have deplorable human rights records, and unlike the LRA, maintain state control over the people of Uganda. An article titled “Uganda’s Tyrant,” written in 2007 by the Guardian, sums up the human rights situation under Museveni:

“President Museveni’s…regime is a constitutional dictatorship, with a rubber stamp parliament, powerless judiciary, censored media and heavily militarised civil institutions…Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International…confirm the harassment of Museveni’s political opponents, detention without trial, torture, extrajudicial killings, suppression of protests and homophobic witch-hunts.”

Abhorrent as his human rights record may be, the United States sent a $45 million military aid package to the Museveni-lead government in July 2011, which included four drones.

Do not be surprised if, months from now, ExxonMobil or another U.S. oil industry superpower walks away with drilling rights in the Lake Albert region and CNOOC, the current main possessor of Uganda’s Lake Albert oil resources, is sent packing.

Also don’t be surprised if Erik Prince and Salim Saleh lead Saracen International, working alongside JSOC troops, who work closely with the Central Intelligence Agency, are working as “security forces” off of the Albertine oil basin.

These are not only likely scenarios, but probable ones. Joseph Kony and his LRA allies might be taken down, but the people of Uganda, on the whole, will not benefit from this “humanitarian intervention.”

Things, unfortunately, will probably only worsen for the people of Uganda as time progresses.

Steve Horn is a researcher and writer for DeSmogBlog. He lives in Madison, WI.

Horn Of Africa Famine: Millions At Risk In Deadly Cocktail Of War, Climate Change, Neoliberalism

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Two-year-old Aden Salaad looks up toward his mother as she bathes him in a tub at a Doctors Without Borders hospital, where Aden is receiving treatment for malnutrition, in Dagahaley Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya Picture: AP/Rebecca Blackwell

Oldspeak:”Militarism, globalization, resource extraction/exploitation, rampant unregulated financial speculation on food, historical & current pollution by the global north, support for ruthless dictators who serve foreign interests instead of native ones, obstructionist stances to climate and environmental policies that will help the global south adapt technologically and socially to climate change though not necessarily benefit financially the global north have spawned the epic disaster we see unfolding in the Motherland. And the disaster capitalist in agribusiness are licking their chops. This tragedy provides them with the perfect opportunity to foist their genetically modified frankenfood on weakened and desperate people, ostensibly benevolent, offering its seeds for ‘free’. At the same time legally absolving themselves of all liability for their products’ less desirable effects. The same script was drawn up in Haiti after their most recent disaster, but they rejected it, choosing instead to retain what little sovereignty they have left over their food supply. Hopefully North African farmers will do the same by echoing this sentiment: “We reject Monsanto and their GMOs. GMOs would be the extermination of our people.” -Doudou Pierre, national coordinating committee member of the National Haitian Network for Food Sovereignty and Food Security (RENHASSA),

By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez @ Democracy Now:

Guests:

Kiki Gbeho, country head in Somalia for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. She is based in Nairobi and returned from Somalia last week.
Christian Parenti, is contributing editor at The Nation magazine and an award-winning author of several books, most recently Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. He visited the Horn of Africa for research on the book.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The United Nations has called an emergency meeting to discuss the Horn of Africa drought, which it says has already claimed tens of thousands of lives. Famine was declared in two regions of Somalia on Wednesday, where 3.7 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Another eight million people need food assistance in neighboring countries, including Kenya and Ethiopia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls the situation a “catastrophic combination of conflict, high food prices and drought” and has appealed for immediate aid. Writing in the Los Angeles Times today, he said, quote, “To save the lives of the people at risk—the vast majority of them women and children—we need about $1.6 billion in aid. So far, international donors have given only half that amount. To turn the tide, to offer hope in the name of our common humanity, we must mobilize worldwide.”

The World Food Programme’s director spoke about the conditions in southern Somalia and also called for urgent assistance.

JOSETTE SHEERAN: I’ve met here today people from all over southern Somalia. And there’s no food where they are. And what we’ve heard from them—I just heard from one woman who’s lost three of her children. And so, we’re calling on the world to really back operations to scale up very quickly to reach those in the epicenter, in the famine conditions in southern Somalia. It’s very dangerous and risky, but we have to reach people. They’re not making it all the way here to Mogadishu. These are the ones lucky enough to make it here. And even these feeding centers are overrun.

JUAN GONZALEZ: That’s World Food Programme director Josette Sheeran.

Meanwhile, the U.N. says that pastoralist communities in Kenya and Somalia have also lost millions of their livestock. Carcasses lie all over Kenya’s North Eastern Province as the worst drought in decades continues to ravage the region.

MOHAMED HADJI: [translated] To say the truth, for the past six to seven years, we have not had any rain here. The population was around 6,000 to 7,000. But since the drought became serious, the population has drastically reduced, and it is just a few of us remaining. The others have left and have gone to look for water in pastures elsewhere.

AMY GOODMAN: To discuss the situation in the Horn of Africa, we’re joined on the phone from Nairobi by Kiki Gbeho, the country head for Somalia of the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. She has just returned from Somalia.

We’re also joined in our New York studio by Christian Parenti, author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. He visited the Horn of Africa as he researched his book.

Kiki, let’s go to you first in Nairobi. Explain the scope of the problem.

Kiki Gbeho—

KIKI GBEHO: [inaudible] recently in Somalia in two locations—Mogadishu, the capital, and a location called Dolo. In both places, we met people who had walked for weeks in search of food. Some people say that they buried children along the way. And what was most disturbing about what I saw and what I heard was that the people I met said they were the better off. They had a limited amount of resources left, and so were able to move. They said they fear for those who they had left behind. The situation is dire.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you feel needs to be done?

KIKI GBEHO: Well, we need to scale up to respond to the need immediately. At the moment, even though we have received some funding from donors, it is insufficient to meet the needs. When famine was announced on Wednesday, we said we needed $300 million in the next two months to scale up response. So, one of the key issues for us right now is resources to be able to respond.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And why do you think that Somalia has been so particularly hard hit in the Horn of Africa?

KIKI GBEHO: Well, it’s a deadly cocktail. We have the ongoing conflict. We’ve had several consecutive seasons of drought. And then we’ve had severe price hikes. Prices have risen in the last year by almost 300 percent. So, even though there is some food available on the market, it is simply out of the reach of the common person on the ground. So when you mix these factors together, you get what we have in Somalia at the moment. We have been talking about this since last year, so we can’t say that we are surprised. But we need to do—we need to take urgent action now, because tens of thousands of people have already died, but it is possible to save lives if we act now.

AMY GOODMAN: How did it get to this point, Kiki Gbeho? The warnings had been coming out for quite some time.

KIKI GBEHO: As I said, I think it is a deadly cocktail. It’s an ongoing conflict. We have challenges with access, so we don’t have, as you would see in other aid operations, large numbers of international agencies working on the ground. And then the global crisis, we see price hikes all over the world. The whole Horn is affected by the drought. And you end up where we are now.

I think that the good news in all of this is that we still do have the possibility to save lives. When we talk to the technical people on the ground who assess for us, they tell us, if we act now, if we take advantage of the upcoming raining seasons and plant, if we manage to get food into the country, if we manage to put cash in the hands of people, and if we manage to scale up our health interventions, we could prevent the situation from deteriorating further. At the moment, only two regions have been declared as being in drought, but if we don’t do something, we can see the remainder of the regions in the south quickly roll into the same situation.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, Christian Parenti, you’ve been to the Horn of Africa, and in your recent book you dealt with the effects of climate change and the situation that’s occurring in countries like Somalia. Talk about your sense of what’s happening.

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Well, yeah, this was predicted long ago by people on the ground. We could see it coming. And the other guest is correct: it’s a combination of war, climate change and very bad policy, particularly an embrace of free market—radical free market policies by regional governments that mean the withdrawal of support for pastoralists, the type of people you saw with their dead cattle. There are no programs from the government of Kenya, for example, to help them drill new wells, to help them with veterinary services for their ill animals, to help introduce new forms of livestock such as camels.

And then, on a broader international stage, there’s the tolerance for really rank speculation by firms like Glencore and Cargill, which have a lot to answer for in terms of this famine. One of the key events that has driven up food prices was climate change last year—worst drought in a hundred years in the Black Sea region of Russia, major flooding in U.S. and Canada. That helped drive up grain prices by almost 100 percent. But it wasn’t just that, because Russia then imposed an export ban. Glencore actually publicly lobbied for Russia to ban exports, much of which went to the World Food Programme. For example, 95 percent of the World Food Programme’s wheat comes from these Russian contracts. So, these speculators, Glencore, encouraged the Russians to impose this ban. They do that. Prices go up. Glencore then has a $60 billion IPO. So there are these—even far from the field, there are these factors that help exacerbate this emergency situation.

Then there’s the deeper structural thing of undermining state capacity and also military support, historically and presently, for wars that have helped produce failed states like Somalia. I mean, Somalia failed in part because the U.S. supported it in a decade-long war against Ethiopia, which led to its collapse.

AMY GOODMAN: We just read in headlines, Kiki Gbeho, about the al-Shabab announcing that the ban on foreign aid groups remains in effect in their area. How does that affect the United Nations and all of the aid groups coming in?

KIKI GBEHO: Well, aid agencies have worked throughout. We say the situation is difficult, but not impossible. How they operate is they work with local communities, district by district. And in dialogue with these communities, they agree on targeting communities and providing assistance. Our only interest in Somalia at this moment is to save lives, nothing else. We welcome the previous statement by al-Shabab, welcoming humanitarian agencies to resume operations in areas under their control. And I think we will continue to reiterate that the need is to increase assistance to populations in acute distress. Our only interest in Somalia at this moment is to save lives, nothing else.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Kiki, what about this issue, as you mentioned, the 300 percent increase in food prices, and Christian was mentioning? Has there been any approach made to the suppliers of these grains about bringing their prices down, especially in these countries that are so hard hit?

KIKI GBEHO: Well, I think that it’s difficult. Partly, the previous speaker mentioned the fact that there is a failed state in Somalia. We do not have a government that controls the whole country and can therefore regulate. We believe that if we were able to get food into the country, and if we were able to put cash in the hands of individuals, it could work with—we could influence the market. But the price—the high prices are not something that’s seen only in Somalia. I believe it’s in the the whole Horn. And in fact, it is global. There are global factors at play here.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring in what happened this week at the U.N. Security Council, discussing the effect of climate change on peace and security. Security Council members debated whether the most powerful U.N. body should address climate change as a security matter. Speaking at the meeting, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, insisted it should.

SUSAN RICE: We have dozens of countries in this body and in this very room whose very existence is threatened. They have asked this Council to demonstrate our understanding that their security is profoundly threatened. Instead, because of the refusal of a few to accept our responsibility, this Council is saying, by its silence, in effect, tough luck. This is more than disappointing. It’s pathetic, it’s short-sighted, and frankly, it’s a dereliction of duty.

AMY GOODMAN: Christian Parenti, is this a shift in policy for the U.S.? What’s the significance of what Susan Rice said at the U.N. Security Council? We don’t usually think of the United States taking proactive stances on climate change. They were quite obstructionist, for example, at the Copenhagen climate change conference.

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: It’s not really a shift. I mean, it’s tricky when you first look at it. But really what’s going on is the Security Council, dominated by the U.S., France, and the U.K., with Russia and China as other permanent members, and then rotating members, is essentially making a move to impose itself and sort of, some would say, hijack the discussion around climate change within the U.N. process. Now remember, there’s also another U.N. process in which the U.S. is not demanding that there be action, but is stalling, and that is theUNFCCC negotiations for a successor agreement to Kyoto, and the U.S. has played a very destructive role in that.

And so, many countries in the General Assembly were saying, “Hey, you know, we’re already dealing with climate change. Yes, it is a security problem, but that doesn’t mean it should have a primarily military response, because that doesn’t work, ultimately. In the short term, maybe it works; in the long term, it leads to failed states. What we need is to deal with creating an international fund, which is part of these negotiations, which can transfer capital and technology to the Global South. It needs to be done within the context of the General Assembly.” And there are these ongoing negotiations that the U.S. has essentially almost sabotaged. And now the U.S. wants to appear proactive and use the discourse and methods that it dominates, which are military methods and control this through the Security Council.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And is that why Russia and China sought to block this effort? Or were there other reasons—

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Yes.

JUAN GONZALEZ: —some of the stuff you were mentioning about Russia before in terms of food supply?

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Yeah, yes and no. I think that there’s an element of those two countries, as emerging economies, wanting to push back against the OECD countries on the Security Council, but then there’s also the fact that, I mean, the Security Council is made up of historical polluters and current polluters. I mean, Russia is a major oil exporter. China is a major consumer of fossil fuels. So I think there were those issues, as well, that they’re hesitant to be brought to account on those issues.

AMY GOODMAN: And then you have the Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee that voted yesterday to ban funding in next year’s budget for Obama’s initiative to support poor nations in adapting to climate change or pursuing clean energy. That doesn’t mean it has passed through the Senate, but it was voted.

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Yeah, and that’s one of—that’s a sort of domestic analog to one of the key issues in these international debates, which is setting up $100 million—or $100 billion fund to help with adaptation and mitigation in the Global South. So, I mean, in the Horn of Africa, there is no state capacity, there is no money, for helping people to adapt to this extreme climate—i.e. bringing in new livestock, developing water-harvesting techniques, because it does rain in the Horn of Africa, but it usually comes down, due to climate change these days, as sudden deluges. So there needs to be technological and social adaptation to that.

This fund that will be part of the successor agreement to Kyoto is essential in that, and so the Republicans are signaling that they won’t have anything of it. And we should recall that, of course, the preceding agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, was signed by Clinton but not ratified by the Senate, so it never became force of law here in the U.S. And it had, as a result, very minimal impact internationally in terms of reducing carbon emissions.

AMY GOODMAN: Money that goes into the military versus into this kind of aid?

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: At first, it looks very proactive and necessary. There’s all this instability. But if you look historically at the role of U.S. military aid, it undermines stability. I mean, look at the U.S. role in Somalia. It supported Siad Barre until he collapsed, and there hasn’t been a military state—

AMY GOODMAN: The long-reigning dictator there.

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Yeah, who started a war in ’77 against Ethiopia. Look at Pakistan—not the same region, but one of the most water-stressed countries in the country, just suffered a major drought. The U.S. has poured $20 billion in military aid into that country. It becomes less and less stable every year, and I would argue, as a result of flooding it with cheap weapons, developing these asymmetrical assets, and, you know, neglecting land reform and social justice. And that’s a country that is prime for, you know, relative state failure, state failure in some parts.

AMY GOODMAN: Christian Parenti, we want to thank you for being with us, contributing editor at Nation magazine, author of a number of books, including his most recent, just out, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence_. His violence”>first chapter is on our website at democracynow.org. And thanks so much to our guest in Nairobi, to Kiki Gbeho, head of the Somalia Office of U.N. Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Thanks so much for being with us.

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