By: MIKE S.
Ray O' Light Newsletter-77 March-April 2013 - Publication of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA
AFRICOM, Mali and U.S. Imperialism’s Military Expansion into Africa
In his Inaugural Address of January 21, 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama declared, “A decade of war is now ending” and “enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”
As these nice words were being spoken, U.S. imperialism, with an African-American commander in chief, was ramping up its perpetual war machine in support of the French bombing and occupation of the North West African country of Mali – supplying the French military with full logistical and technical support including troop and equipment transport, refueling of fighter jets and U.S. drone intelligence gathering. World news media concurred that without U.S. military backing and Obama and U.S. imperialism “leading from behind,” it would have been impossible for the French imperialists to carry out this invasion. Along with the wanton death and destruction by intense aerial bombardment, the UN estimated 30,000 civilians were displaced from their homes in the first week alone.
The U.S. role has been expanding ever since. In Niger, on the border with Mali, the U.S. has just opened a drone and military base with 350 U.S. troops deployed, including special operations units. In addition, the U.S. military is now actively identifying specific targets for bombing raids in northern Mali. Along with the expanded U.S. role, thousands of U.S. trained troops from neighboring African countries have joined the occupation in an effort to put an African “face” on the suppression of the people in Mali.*
*NOTE: [Glen Ford, editor of Black Agenda Report observed, “These days the so-called scramble for Africa runs through Mali ... The French are leading the charge into the desert in Mali, but the U.S. has much bigger plans for Africa. ... [Assistant Secretary of State of African Affairs] Yamamoto told reporters that the U.S. would like to see the Mali operation evolve into an African-led affair, like the African Union mission in Somalia. However, although 17,000 Africans do the fighting in Somalia, the operation is actually run by the U.S. military and the CIA, and paid for largely by the Americans. ...” (1/30/13)
So why military aggression against the people in Mali, one of the poorest countries on earth? And why now?
The lead article in Ray O’ Light Newsletter #65, summed up U.S. imperialism’s general economic motivation in orchestrating the military onslaught against Libya in North Africa in 2011: “And it [U.S. imperialism] continues to control the vast majority of the world oil supply and reserves, still the very lifeblood of the global capitalist economy. But the Arab masses are threatening to liberate their countries and seize control of the oil in their own national territory. This in turn would render U.S. imperialism a second or third rate power. Thus the need for U.S. imperialism to establish a military beachhead in Libya and a smokescreen behind which to increase its military protection for U.S. possession of the Middle East’s vast oil wealth.” (“The Arab Masses are Taking their Future into their Hands!” Ray O’ Light Newsletter March-April 2011)
Mali is another African country rich in the vital resources of uranium, oil and natural gas – all critical for energy and armaments. In a January 15, 2013 interview on Democracy Now, Al Jazeera English reporter May Ying Welsh pointed out that, “... this whole area of northern Mali and northern Niger is a uranium rich area ... and the whole area has been divided up into exploration concessions, and there are a number of companies that are just waiting for the chance to get in there. And also gold and oil.” (Mali is the third largest African producer of gold.)
Yet these valuable resources of Mali were quickly falling out of the grasp of western imperialism. In early 2012, the indigenous Tuareg nomadic peoples, who live and travel across northwest Africa and the imposed borders of Mali, Mauritania, Algeria, Niger and Chad, rose up in defense of their culture and lands for the third time in the last 50 years. Led by the secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MLNA), the people successfully seized the northern area of Mali and declared a liberated state of Azawad. However, in response to these advances of the Tuareg people, well-armed and previously U.S. trained Islamic fundamentalist forces apparently succeeded in pushing aside many of the secular Tuareg independence fighters, with the goal of implementation of reactionary strict Islamic Sharia law in Mali.
Using this civil conflict as an excuse to invade, the French imperialists, historic plunderers of Mali, claimed they were “liberating” the people from the grip of reactionary Islamic fundamentalists and “terrorists.” In fact the invasion of Mali is propping up the teetering military dictatorship of U.S.-trained military officer Sanogo, who took power in a coup d’etat last summer.
As Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson of the International League of Peoples Struggle (ILPS) observed, “The real objective of the imperialists is to seize the oil reserves in the center and north of Mali. Fighting the ‘Islamic terrorists’ is a mere pretext. In the aggression to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya, the imperialists armed even those they would otherwise call ‘Islamic terrorists’ because the objective was to seize the oil resources of Libya.” (“ILPS Condemns Imperialist Aggression by France and Its Imperialist Allies in Mali,” Press Statement, January 17, 2013.)
Where does the little known U.S. Africa Command Center (AFRICOM), with a presence in 36 African countries, fit into this U.S. military expansion in Africa?
The War Times newspaper in an article by Sasha Wright gives some helpful background: “After 9/11 the Bush administration sought to increase U.S. influence in the Sahara, using the pretext of fighting terror in the region despite the minimal presence of any terrorist activities. In 2005, Washington set up the Trans-Sahara Counter-terrorism initiative to provide military aid to Mali, Mauritania, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal. Under the program U.S. special forces led yearly military exercises with these countries in the Sahara called operation Flintlock. ... These initiatives were later incorporated into the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) launched in 2008. ... AFRICOM is growing all the time, with massive construction at their existing base in Djibouti [base to over 2000 U.S. troops in the Horn of Africa] and other infrastructure projects that will facilitate U.S. planes and drones across the continent.”*
*NOTE: [Pointed out in the “If you’re Not Outraged ...” column in Ray O’ Light Newsletter #76, “The U.S. military has also announced that the U.S. Army will be sending teams into as many as 35 African countries beginning in 2013 ... the Pentagon acknowledged that military operations can be conducted with simple approval from the Secretary of Defense. This intensifying military build-up in Africa will give the U.S. a ready and trained military force to dispatch anywhere throughout Africa as part of the endless U.S. imperialist ‘War of Terror.’” (January-February 2013.)
War Times continues ... “AFRICOM’s key goals are to secure African oil and contain China – both of which are crucial to maintaining the U.S. as a superpower. Oil from Africa now accounts for more that 10% of U.S. oil imports, the third largest percentage after Canada and Latin America and more than all oil imported from the Middle East. Meanwhile China has major investments in exploration and industry across the continent and has surpassed the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading partner.” (“Washington’s Wars and Occupations,” January 31, 2013)
This assessment is underscored by a Wall Street Journal September 2, 2011 article entitled “In Africa, U.S. Watches China’s Rise”: “China is expanding its economic and political ties with countries across Africa, resulting in a rapid rise in influence here that has sparked concern from the U.S. government. Beijing’s investment and aid to African countries aims to tap both natural resources and a growing middle class. ... China is now the continent’s largest trading partner, edging out the U.S. Last year its trade with Africa reached $114 billion, up from $1 billion in 1980 ... On a continental scale, China’s deal-making pace far exceeds the U.S.’s. Chinese firms accounted for 40% of the corporate contracts signed last year, to 2% for U.S. firms.”
Contrary to U.S. President Obama’s Inaugural address, from Africa to the South Pacific, from East Asia to the Middle East, U.S. imperialism is in a perpetual war mode against the worlds’ people in defense of its shrinking Empire. Often unreported in the corporate-controlled U.S. news media, tens of thousands of U.S. troops and private military mercenaries remain in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan. Drone strikes against Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia continue to accelerate. The Pentagon is escalating U.S. Navy presence into the South China Sea and South Pacific region. New U.S. bases, large and small, are opening all over the world and the U.S. government is escalating its acts of war against Syria as a prelude to unprovoked war on the people of Iran.
And on the home front – while the stock market and corporate profits soar, the people are sinking. In the deep economic crisis and a “jobless recovery” every war dollar spent for profits of the military industrial complex and oil/energy industries is another dagger in the heart of millions of good jobs rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure, decent public education and other vital public services, as well as protection and expansion of the limited safety net of social security, medicare and medicaid. Now with new “sequestration” austerity budget cuts aimed at the 99%, “we the people” need to wake up and fight back!
Shut Down AFRICOM – Africa for the African People!
No to Perpetual War For Empire – Bring the War Dollars Home!