Friday, August 9, 2013

 Beyond the fanning of US militarism in Africa
Horace G. Campbell Why is it the case that many Western analysts and critics would oppose global militarism but directly or indirectly fan the flame of U.S. militarism in Africa? It is well known among the U.S. forward planners that one of the many roles of the offshoots of the Western military-financial-information complex is to reproduce information conducive to supporting the Pentagon and its chokehold over the population of the United States. In the midst of a global capitalist crisis, some U.S.-based opinion moulders, think tanks and research institutes are busy stoking the fires of war in order to keep the order books for the military contractors full. Progressive Africans understand the sweep of U.S. militarism in a context of the massive deployment of U.S. troops and military bases worldwide to support the global accumulation by U.S. corporations. This has been the contribution of African scholars who have written on the linkages between militarism and neo-liberalism. [1] Many journalists and commentators writing about U.S. Africa Command, U.S. War on Terror in Africa, and the broad U.S. military engagement with Africa adopt a tone that reinforces the flimsy justification of U.S. militarism in Africa. Commentator and writer Nick Turse of TomDispatch committed this very error in his article, ‘The Terror Diaspora: The U.S. Military and the Unraveling of Africa.’ [2]Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist and managing editor of This platform is supposed to represent an alternative to the mainstream reports of the corporate media. I have read Nick Turse’s missives and enjoyed some of his publications. His book ‘Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam’ is a genuine contribution to the ongoing debate on the violation of humanity in Vietnam. As a progressive specialist on the military and intelligence he, along with Jeremy Scahill, National Security Correspondent for The Nation magazine, has been writing on U.S. military in Africa and the U.S. Africa Command. I have also followed with interest the exchange between Turse and the Director of Public Affairs, US Africa Command, Colonel Tom Davis. [3]Given Turse’s history, it was quite surprising to read his latest article parroting the U.S. party line that Africa is a hotbed of terrorism. The article, “The Terror Diaspora: The U.S. Military and the Unraveling of Africa,” inadvertently supports the public relations campaign for military engagement on the African continent. In the article, Turse gave a somewhat superficial overview of the U.S. military operations in Africa and concluded with the following paragraph: “Today, the continent is thick with militant groups that are increasingly crossing borders, sowing insecurity, and throwing the limits of U.S. power into broad relief. After 10 years of U.S. operations to promote stability by military means, the results have been the opposite. Africa has become blowback central.” The tone of the entire article oscillated between two problematic narratives: First, the narrative of a terror-swamped Africa overwhelmed by insecurity and instability, suggesting that the heightening of US military engagement may be justified; and another narrative of an Africa where increased U.S. militarism has not yielded enough success, indicating that more needs to be done on the military front. Because of the proliferation of negative and misleading research currently circulating from U.S.-based think tanks and given Turse’s influence and progressive base, a corrective response is required. That is, Africa is NOT a hotbed of terrorist activity. Whether it is the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The Center for International and Strategic Studies (CISS), The Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars or the Conservative Heritage Foundation, there is an infrastructure of researchers in the United States who are integrated into the United States Military Strategists Association (USMSA). These think tanks are also integrated into the journals and platforms of the differing branches of the US military and intelligence services. The think tanks are the mouthpieces of the US Military and advance its agenda contrary to the impression reproduced by the platforms of the United States Military Strategists Association that the whole of Africa is terror-swamped. Of the 54 countries in Africa, Islamist extremists are active in less than six. There might be pockets of instability in places such as Nigeria, Sudan, DRC, Somalia, Libya, Egypt and Mali, but these few places cannot be the entire story of Africa. There are 48 other countries in Africa. It is not that progressive activists do not perceive threats of military destabilization, but the point needs to be made that many of these threats are over exaggerated. One can distinguish between the forecasts of military planners who want a full scale external military intervention in Nigeria and those from entities such as Renaissance Capital that are planning for the large market that will be provided by Nigerians. Turse did not seriously distinguish himself from the writers integrated into the USMSA and failed to give an in-depth analysis on the complicity of U.S. military and clandestine activities in aiding and creating instability and conditions that breed terrorism in Africa. Where the strategists and forward planners are unable to credibly tout successful military activities as a basis for further militarization of engagement, they draw upon the narrative of “terrorists overrunning the whole of Africa” to justify increased U.S. military activities on the continent and increased expenditures from Congress for the Pentagon. In the midst of the preparation of this paper there was wall-to-wall news that the United States was closing a large number of embassies in Africa and Arabia because of a major terrorist threat. While the information regarding the al Qaeda threats in Mideast and northern Africa are still yet to fully be revealed, there is reason to be suspicious that the closing of U.S. embassies in the region is another public relations campaign to support U.S. militarism at a moment when many members of Congress and Senators are opposing the Surveillance State – in the aftermath of the revelations by the whistleblower, Edward Snowden. [4]Turse’s discussion of an Africa overwhelmed by terror could be considered a public relations gift for those who want to fight perpetual war. Turse clearly stated that the spokesperson for AFRICOM could not give U.S. military success stories in Africa (other than in Somalia, whose instability in the first place the U.S. had contributed to, and the Gulf of Guinea where U.S. originally moved to for the purpose of easy flow of oil). Instead of using the lack of credible success stories to probe the ineffectiveness of U.S. militarism in Africa, Turse seems to suggest that this failure makes a case for the stepping up of AFRICOM and U.S. militarism on the continent. By citing the discredited Failed States Index and other statistics to prove that Africa is overwhelmed by insecurity and instability, Turse is supporting the military strategists. According to Turse, “After all, in 2006, before AFRICOM came into existence, 11 African nations were among the top 20 in the Fund for Peace’s annual Failed States Index. Last year, that number had risen to 15 (or 16 if you [url=]count[/url the new nation of South Sudan).” It is no news that the failed state narrative is popular in the talking point of those American militarists who support perpetual war in Africa and elsewhere.This same old narrative about "failed states" has been used repeatedly by scholars such as Christopher Clapham, William Reno and other Afro-pessimists. Other commentators and so-called policy wonks, such as Robert Kaplan, author of ‘The Coming Anarchy’, have made a reputation for themselves as foreign policy analysts with views about state failure in Africa. This line of argument was then taken up by organizations such as the United States Institute for Peace that carried out research on “Collapsed States.” From these platforms there is then the international NGO constituency that bid for resources on the basis of the idea of “state failure” in Africa. It is a worn out idea that gained currency when the world was still under the spell of the Global War on Terror. In the article ‘Failed States are a Western Myth,’ Ross noted: “The organisation that produces the index, the Fund for Peace, is the kind of outfit John le Carré thinks we should all be having nightmares about. Its director, JJ Messner (who puts together the list), is a former lobbyist for the private military industry. None of the raw data behind the index is made public. So why on earth would an organisation like this want to keep the idea of the failed state prominent in public discourse?” [5

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