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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

 

Here’s an odd question: Is it possible that the U.S. military is  present in more countries and more places now than at the height of the  Cold War?  It’s true that the U.S. is reducing its forces and giant  bases in Europe and that its troops are out of Iraq (except for that  huge, militarized embassy in Baghdad).  On the other hand, there’s that massive ground, air, and naval build-up in the Persian Gulf, the Obama administration’s widely publicized “pivot” to Asia (including troops and ships), those new drone bases in the eastern Indian Ocean region, some movement back into Latin America (including a new base in Chile), and don’t forget Africa, where less than a decade ago, the  U.S. had almost no military presence at all.  Now, as TomDispatch  Associate Editor Nick Turse writes in the latest in his “changing face of empire”  series, U.S. special operations forces, regular troops, private  contractors, and drones are spreading across the continent with  remarkable (if little noticed) rapidity.

Putting together the pieces on Africa isn’t easy.  For instance, only the other day it was revealed that three U.S. Army commandos in a Toyota Land Cruiser had skidded off  a bridge in Mali in April.  They died, all three, along with three  women identified as “Moroccan prostitutes.”  This is how we know that  U.S. special operations forces were operating in chaotic, previously  democratic Mali after a coup by a U.S.-trained captain accelerated the unraveling of the country, leading more recently to its  virtual dismemberment by Tuareg rebels and Islamist insurgents.   Consider this a sample of what Nick Turse calls the U.S. military’s  “scramble for Africa” in a seamy, secretive nutshell.

So here’s another question: Who decided in 2007 that a U.S. Africa Command should be set up to begin a process of turning that continent into a  web of U.S. bases and other operations?  Who decided that every Islamist  rebel group in Africa, no matter how local or locally focused, was a  threat to the U.S., calling for a military response?  Certainly not the  American people, who know nothing about this, who were never asked if  expanding the U.S. global military mission to Africa was something they  favored, who never heard the slightest debate, or even a single peep  from Washington on the subject. (To catch Timothy MacBain's latest  Tomcast audio interview in which Turse discusses the Pentagon’s shadowy, but fast-expanding mission in Africa, click here or download it to your iPod here.)  Tom

Obama’s Scramble for Africa:
Secret Wars, Secret Bases, and the Pentagon’s “New Spice Route” in Africa
By Nick Turse

They call it the New Spice Route, an homage to the medieval trade  network that connected Europe, Africa, and Asia, even if today’s “spice  road” has nothing to do with cinnamon, cloves, or silks.  Instead, it’s a  superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel,  food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground  transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps,  and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in  Africa. 

Few in the U.S. know about this superhighway, or about the dozens of  training missions and joint military exercises being carried out in  nations that most Americans couldn’t locate on a map.  Even fewer have  any idea that military officials are invoking the names of Marco Polo  and the Queen of Sheba as they build a bigger military footprint in  Africa.  It’s all happening in the shadows of what in a previous  imperial age was known as “the Dark Continent.”

In East African ports, huge metal shipping containers arrive with the everyday necessities for a military on the make.  They’re then loaded onto trucks that set off down rutted roads toward dusty bases and distant outposts.

On the highway from Djibouti to Ethiopia, for example, one can see the bare outlines of this shadow war at the truck stops where local drivers take a break from their long-haul routes.  The same is true in other African countries.  The nodes of the network tell part of the story: Manda Bay, Garissa, and Mombasa in Kenya; Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda; Bangui and Djema in the Central African Republic; Nzara in South Sudan; Dire Dawa in Ethiopia; and the Pentagon’s showpiece African base, Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti on the coast of the Gulf of Aden, among others.

According to Pat Barnes, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Camp Lemonnier serves as the only official U.S. base on the continent.  “There are more than 2,000 U.S. personnel stationed there,” he told TomDispatch recently by email.  “The primary AFRICOM organization at Camp Lemonnier is Combined Joint Task Force -- Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). CJTF-HOA's efforts are focused in East Africa and they work with partner nations to assist them in strengthening their defense capabilities.”

Barnes also noted that Department of Defense personnel are assigned to U.S. embassies across Africa, including 21 individual Offices of Security Cooperation responsible for facilitating military-to-military activities with “partner nations.”  He characterized the forces involved as small teams carrying out pinpoint missions.  Barnes did admit that in “several locations in Africa, AFRICOM has a small and temporary presence of personnel. In all cases, these military personnel are guests within host-nation facilities, and work alongside or coordinate with host-nation personnel.”

Shadow Wars

In 2003, when CJTF-HOA was first set up there, it was indeed true that the only major U.S. outpost in Africa was Camp Lemonnier.  In the ensuing years, in quiet and largely unnoticed ways, the Pentagon and the CIA have been spreading their forces across the continent.  Today -- official designations aside -- the U.S. maintains a surprising number of bases in Africa.  And “strengthening” African armies turns out to be a truly elastic rubric for what’s going on.

Under President Obama, in fact, operations in Africa have accelerated far beyond the more limited interventions of the Bush years: last year’s war in Libya; a regional drone campaign with missions run out of airports and bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles; a flotilla of 30 ships in that ocean supporting regional operations; a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against militants in Somalia, including intelligence operations, training for Somali agents, a secret prison, helicopter attacks, and U.S. commando raids; a massive influx of cash for counterterrorism operations across East Africa; a possible old-fashioned air war, carried out on the sly in the region using manned aircraft; tens of millions of dollars in arms for allied mercenaries and African troops; and a special ops expeditionary force (bolstered by State Department experts) dispatched to help capture or kill Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and his senior commanders.  And this only begins to scratch the surface of Washington’s fast-expanding plans and activities in the region.

To support these mushrooming missions, near-constant training operations, and alliance-building joint exercises, outposts of all sorts are sprouting continent-wide, connected by a sprawling shadow logistics network.  Most American bases in Africa are still small and austere, but growing ever larger and more permanent in appearance.  For example, photographs from last year of Ethiopia’s Camp Gilbert, examined by TomDispatch, show a base filled with air-conditioned tents, metal shipping containers, and 55-gallon drums and other gear strapped to pallets, but also recreation facilities with TVs and videogames, and a well-appointed gym filled with stationary bikes, free weights, and other equipment.

Continental Drift

After 9/11, the U.S. military moved into three major regions in significant ways: South Asia (primarily Afghanistan), the Middle East (primarily Iraq), and the Horn of Africa.  Today, the U.S. is drawing down in Afghanistan and has largely left Iraq.  Africa, however, remains a growth opportunity for the Pentagon.

The U.S. is now involved, directly and by proxy, in military and surveillance operations against an expanding list of regional enemies.  They include al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa; the Islamist movement Boko Haram in Nigeria; possible al-Qaeda-linked militants in post-Qaddafi Libya; Joseph Kony’s murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Central African Republic, Congo, and South Sudan; Mali’s Islamist Rebels of the Ansar Dine, al-Shabaab in Somalia; and guerrillas from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula across the Gulf of Aden in Yemen.

A recent investigation by the Washington Post revealed that contractor-operated surveillance aircraft based out of Entebbe, Uganda, are scouring the territory used by Kony’s LRA at the Pentagon’s behest, and that 100 to 200 U.S. commandos share a base with the Kenyan military at Manda Bay. Additionally, U.S. drones are being flown out of Arba Minch airport in Ethiopia and from the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, while drones and F-15 fighter-bombers have been operating out of Camp Lemonnier as part of the shadow wars being waged by the U.S. military and the CIA in Yemen and Somalia.  Surveillance planes used for spy missions over Mali, Mauritania, and the Sahara desert are also flying missions from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, and plans are reportedly in the works for a similar base in the newborn nation of South Sudan.

U.S. special operations forces are stationed at a string of even more shadowy forward operating posts on the continent, including one in Djema in the Central Africa Republic and others in Nzara in South Sudan and Dungu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The U.S. also has had troops deployed in Mali, despite having officially suspended military relations with that country following a coup.

According to research by TomDispatch, the U.S. Navy also has a forward operating location, manned mostly by Seabees, Civil Affairs personnel, and force-protection troops, known as Camp Gilbert in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.  U.S. military documents indicate that there may be other even lower-profile U.S. facilities in the country.  In addition to Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. military also maintains another hole-and-corner outpost in Djibouti -- a Navy port facility that lacks even a name.  AFRICOM did not respond to requests for further information on these posts before this article went to press.

Additionally, U.S. Special Operations Forces are engaged in missions against the Lord’s Resistance Army from a rugged camp in Obo in the Central African Republic, but little is said about that base either.  “U.S. military personnel working with regional militaries in the hunt for Joseph Kony are guests of the African security forces comprising the regional counter-LRA effort,” Barnes told me.  “Specifically in Obo, the troops live in a small camp and work with partner nation troops at a Ugandan facility that operates at the invitation of the government of the Central African Republic.”

And that’s still just part of the story.  U.S. troops are also working at bases inside Uganda.  Earlier this year, elite Force Recon Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) trained soldiers from the Uganda People's Defense Force, which not only runs missions in the Central African Republic, but also acts as a proxy force for the U.S. in Somalia in the battle against the Islamist militants known as al-Shabaab.  They now supply the majority of the troops to the African Union Mission protecting the U.S.-supported government in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

In the spring, Marines from SPMAGTF-12 also trained soldiers from the Burundi National Defense Force (BNDF), the second-largest contingent in Somalia.  In April and May, members of Task Force Raptor, 3rd Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, of the Texas National Guard took part in a training mission with the BNDF in Mudubugu, Burundi.

In February, SPMAGTF-12 sent trainers to Djibouti to work with an elite local army unit, while other Marines traveled to Liberia to focus on teaching riot-control techniques to Liberia’s military as part of what is otherwise a State Department-directed effort to rebuild that force.

In addition, the U.S. is conducting counterterrorism training and equipping militaries in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia.  AFRICOM also has 14 major joint-training exercises planned for 2012, including operations in Morocco, Cameroon, Gabon, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Senegal, and Nigeria. 

The size of U.S. forces conducting these joint exercises and training missions fluctuates, but Barnes told me that, “on an average basis, there are approximately 5,000 U.S. Military and DoD personnel working across the continent” at any one time.  Next year, even more American troops are likely to be on hand as units from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, known as the “Dagger Brigade,” are scheduled to deploy to the region.  The roughly 3,000 soldiers in the brigade will be involved in, among other activities, training missions while acquiring regional expertise.  "Special Forces have a particular capability in this area, but not the capacity to fulfill the demand; and we think we will be able to fulfill the demand by using conventional forces," Colonel Andrew Dennis told a reporter about the deployment.

Air Africa

Last month, the Washington Post revealed that, since at least 2009, the “practice of hiring private companies to spy on huge expanses of African territory… has been a cornerstone of the U.S. military’s secret activities on the continent.”  Dubbed Tusker Sand, the project consists of contractors flying from Entebbe airport in Uganda and a handful of other airfields.  They pilot turbo-prop planes that look innocuous but are packed with sophisticated surveillance gear.

America’s mercenary spies in Africa are, however, just part of the story.

While the Pentagon canceled an analogous drone surveillance program dubbed Tusker Wing, it has spent millions of dollars to upgrade the civilian airport at Arba Minch, Ethiopia, to enable drone missions to be flown from it.  Infrastructure to support such operations has been relatively cheap and easy to construct, but a much more daunting problem looms -- one intimately connected to the New Spice Route.

“Marco Polo wasn't just an explorer,” Army planner Chris Zahner explained at a conference in Djibouti last year.  “[H]e was also a logistician developing logistics nodes along the Silk Road. Now let's do something similar where the Queen of Sheba traveled."  Paeans to bygone luminaries aside, the reasons for pouring resources into sea and ground supply networks have less to do with history than with Africa’s airport infrastructure.

Of the 3,300 airfields on the continent identified in a National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency review, the Air Force has surveyed only 303 of them and just 158 of those surveys are current.  Of those airfields that have been checked out, half won’t support the weight of the C-130 cargo planes that the U.S. military leans heavily on to transport troops and materiel.  These limitations were driven home during Natural Fire 2010, one of that year’s joint training exercises hosted by AFRICOM.  When C-130s were unable to use an airfield in Gulu, Uganda, an extra $3 million was spent instead to send in Chinook helicopters.

In addition, diplomatic clearances and airfield restrictions on U.S. military aircraft cost the Pentagon time and money, while often raising local suspicion and ire.  In a recent article in the military trade publication Army Sustainment, Air Force Major Joseph Gaddis touts an emerging solution: outsourcing.  The concept was tested last year, during another AFRICOM training operation, Atlas Drop 2011.

“Instead of using military airlift to move equipment to and from the exercise, planners used commercial freight vendors,” writes Gadddis. “This provided exercise participants with door-to-door delivery service and eliminated the need for extra personnel to channel the equipment through freight and customs areas.”  Using mercenary cargo carriers to skirt diplomatic clearance issues and move cargo to airports that can’t support U.S. C-130s is, however, just one avenue the Pentagon is pursuing to support its expanding operations in Africa.

Another is construction.

The Great Build-Up

Military contracting documents reveal plans for an investment of up to $180 million or more in construction at Camp Lemonnier alone.  Chief among the projects will be the laying of 54,500 square meters of taxiways “to support medium-load aircraft” and the construction of a 185,000 square meter Combat Aircraft Loading Area.  In addition, plans are in the works to erect modular maintenance structures, hangers, and ammunition storage facilities, all needed for an expanding set of secret wars in Africa.

Other contracting documents suggest that, in the years to come, the Pentagon will be investing up to $50 million in new projects at that base, Kenya’s Camp Simba, and additional unspecified locations in Africa.  Still other solicitation materials suggest future military construction in Egypt, where the Pentagon already maintains a medical research facility, and still more work in Djibouti.

No less telling are contracting documents indicating a coming influx of “emergency troop housing” at Camp Lemonnier, including almost 300 additional Containerized Living Units (CLUs), stackable, air-conditioned living quarters, as well as latrines and laundry facilities.

Military documents also indicate that a nearly $450,000 exercise facility was installed at the U.S. base in Entebbe, Uganda, last year.  All of this indicates that, for the Pentagon, its African build-up has only begun.

The Scramble for Africa

In a recent speech in Arlington, Virginia, AFRICOM Commander General Carter Ham explained the reasoning behind U.S. operations on the continent: “The absolute imperative for the United States military [is] to protect America, Americans, and American interests; in our case, in my case, [to] protect us from threats that may emerge from the African continent.”  As an example, Ham named the Somali-based al-Shabaab as a prime threat.  “Why do we care about that?” he asked rhetorically.  “Well, al-Qaeda is a global enterprise... we think they very clearly do present, as an al-Qaeda affiliate... a threat to America and Americans.” 

Fighting them over there, so we don’t need to fight them here has been a core tenet of American foreign policy for decades, especially since 9/11.  But trying to apply military solutions to complex political and social problems has regularly led to unforeseen consequences.  For example, last year’s U.S.-supported war in Libya resulted in masses of well-armed Tuareg mercenaries, who had been fighting for Libyan autocrat Muammar Qaddafi, heading back to Mali where they helped destabilize that country.  So far, the result has been a military coup by an American-trained officer; a takeover of some areas by Tuareg fighters of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, who had previously raided Libyan arms depots; and other parts of the country being seized by the irregulars of Ansar Dine, the latest al-Qaeda “affiliate” on the American radar.  One military intervention, in other words, led to three major instances of blowback in a neighboring country in just a year. 

With the Obama administration clearly engaged in a twenty-first century scramble for Africa, the possibility of successive waves of overlapping blowback grows exponentially.  Mali may only be the beginning and there’s no telling how any of it will end.  In the meantime, keep your eye on Africa.  The U.S. military is going to make news there for years to come.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com.  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author/editor of several books, including the recently published Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 (with Tom Engelhardt).  This piece is the latest article in his series on “the changing face of American empire,” which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation. You can follow him on Tumblr. To catch Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which he  discusses the Pentagon’s shadowy, but fast-expanding mission in Africa,  click here or download it to your iPod here.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook. 

Copyright 2012 Nick Turse


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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you! (3+ / 0-)

    The designs of America upon the "bread basket" of Africa are so transparent to those who are not blinded by belief in the goodness of this country, its military leaders, and the bipartisan consensus between the neoliberal/neoconservative partnership on all matters related to foreign policy.

    The wars in the middle east have long since stopped being strategic from a "gaining ground" perspective.  The primary purpose of maintaining the wars in the middle east from Bush through Obama is to keep public attention focused there while the covert agenda of American business through the CIA and military could take place in Africa.

    This achieves two goals for the United States and its allies(primarily France, the UK, and the corporations that unite them):
    1) Remove obstacles to unrestrained, underregulated capitalist endeavors through propping up of corrupt ECOWAS leaders and removing those who are not so inclined.
    2) Kick sand on the diplomatic inroads China had made into Africa and scare them out.

    There is no question that the CIA is more active than it has ever been.  Throwing the racist Petraeus in as the head of the CIA made it obvious to thinking people the direction this country was headed in.  Unfortunately, there are very few thinking people left.

    Obama 2012: For More Wars!

    by chipmo on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 07:58:56 AM PDT

    •  Some further reading (3+ / 0-)

      John Pilger from 10/20/2011

      However, the main reason the US is invading Africa is no different from that which ignited the Vietnam war. It is China. In the world of self-serving, institutionalised paranoia that justifies what General David Petraeus, the former US commander and now CIA director, implies is a state of perpetual war, China is replacing al-Qaeda as the official American “threat”. When I interviewed Bryan Whitman, an assistant secretary of defence at the Pentagon last year, I asked him to describe the current danger to America. Struggling visibly, he repeated, “Asymmetric threats … asymmetric threats”. These justify the money-laundering state-sponsored arms conglomerates and the biggest military and war budget in history. With Osama bin Laden airbrushed, China takes the mantle.
      Foreign Policy in Focus
      The 100-strong force being sent to Uganda (ostensibly as advisers) will be overseen by AFRICOM, the new strategic command for Africa created by George W. Bush in 2007. AFRICOM provides billions of dollars worth of equipment to U.S. allies in Africa, as well as controversial training and intelligence-sharing programs, and even Special Forces deployments.

      For AFRICOM, security imperatives intersect with economic ones. At AFRICOM's urging, for example, the U.S. military has designed war games involving the "fall" of Nigeria, the no. 5 source of U.S. oil imports, to insurgent forces. The United States has had a strategic interest since the 1990s in demonstrating its commitment to the security of Uganda, which has fought al-Shabab in Somalia and until recently bordered Sudan. Sudan, an Islamist pariah state and also an LRA supporter, is still on the radar for U.S. and Ugandan policymakers (especially with South Sudan's formation), but Somalia is the "new" looming terror threat, a "failed state" fought over by Islamist groups like al-Shabab and infiltrated by others. The United States asserts that a strong al-Qaeda presence there today has ill designs for the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Ethiopia, Kenya, and as we saw in 2010, Uganda

      Important piece from Rick Rozoff, February 2012
      The U.S. has been involved in the war in Mali for almost twelve years. Recent atrocity stories in the Western press will fuel demands for a “Responsibility to Protect” intervention after the fashion of those in Ivory Coast and Libya a year ago and will provide the pretext for American and NATO military involvement in the country.
      AFRICOM may be planning its next war.
      The information and reporting is out there.  But it's being left at the docks to rot by the powers that be.

      Obama 2012: For More Wars!

      by chipmo on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 08:09:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent article, but one counterpoint (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cynical Copper

    Throughout the 90s and most of the 2000s, the US was roundly criticized (mostly by liberals, I might add) for ignoring Africa.  Most of this criticism rightly centered around foreign aid and diplomatic policy to combat disease and starvation. But that criticism also extended into military affairs.

    We cut and ran from Somalia (contributing to the successive 20 years of war, starvation, and failed statehood in that country)...watched the Rwandan Genocide from the sidelines, and offered only token condemnation of the situation in Darfur.  The only reason US troops ever had to be deployed to the most conflict-torn continent on the planet was to evacuate the US Embassy when the latest coup or genocidal militia rolled into a capital.

    The US was accused of only caring about humanitarianism when either oil (Iraq) or white people (the Balkans) were at risk.

    There are tremendous problems with how we've dealt with Africa in recent years (not crazy about propping up Ethiopia, the reliance on mercenaries, or the disastrous Bush-era policies on Somalia) but other actions have done a great deal to promote real long-term stability, human rights, and economic development.

    In 2003 we intervened to put a final end to Charles Taylor's regime in Liberia.  Now convicted by the ICC and to spend the rest of his life behind bars for war crimes.

    Our support for the Libyan Revolution cut off the weapons and oil billions flowing to Gaddafi-allied murderers from Sierra Leone to Zimbabwe.  

    There are many signs that Somalia is finally clawing its way out of the abyss as the Shabaab militia suffers defeat after defeat from US-backed AU & TFG troops.  Peace and normalcy are taking root in Mogadishu.

    And in the hunt for Joseph Kony, added US support has caused further dispersal of the LRA militia, now considered incapable of the kind of mass atrocities it perpetrated regularly just a few short years ago.

    More oversight and discussion is needed.  But in many respects, our attention to Africa is long, long overdue.

    Follow Me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/#!/TarantinoDork

    by TarantinoDork on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 08:08:00 AM PDT

    •  Seriously? (4+ / 0-)

      You actually believe that the "hunt for Kony" has anything to do with stopping mass atrocities?  I mean, instead of hunting across four countries for one human rights violator, the United States could simply ARREST YOWERI MUSEVENI.

      Uganda is not about human rights.  It's not about catching Kony.  It is about oil.

      Don't take my word for it.  Take Pepe Escobar's.  Or is he no longer credible since he applies the same reporting principles against the administration now that he did when Bush was in office?

      Obama 2012: For More Wars!

      by chipmo on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 08:15:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You lost me at 'Russia Today' (0+ / 0-)

        Follow Me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/#!/TarantinoDork

        by TarantinoDork on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 08:32:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I lost you (3+ / 0-)

          when I didn't parrot America supporting propaganda.  Be honest.

          Pepe Escobar is not Russia Today.

          Obama 2012: For More Wars!

          by chipmo on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 08:35:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Pepe Escobar said Al Qaeda was 'split, in tatters' (0+ / 0-)

            And Bin Laden was a minor, marginalized figure...

            http://www.atimes.com/...

            Two weeks before 9/11

            Yeah...you lost me.

            Follow Me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/#!/TarantinoDork

            by TarantinoDork on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 08:41:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  And he wrote that based on actually (4+ / 0-)

              BEING in Afghanistan at the time.  It was a first hand account of the situation of Al Qaeda at the time.  You know, reporting?

              The fact is that Al Qaeda WAS in tatters.  The Power Of Nightmares corroborates this.  Where is the evidence that it wasn't?  Tatters doesn't mean nonexistant.  It simply means it was a ragtag operation that did not compare to the image that was being portrayed at the time.

              Do you not remember the elaborate super villain underground mountain lair that was paraded around in American newspapers and "analyzed" by Tim Russert after the war started?  Well, there was no super fortress.  Al Qaeda has always been oversold by American intelligence, military, and media.

              Here's something that Escobar wrote AFTER 9/11.

              http://www.hartford-hwp.com/...

              There's a whole shitload of stuff he was writing.  But to analyze his work would take evaluating CONTEXT.  Do you understand what that word means?

              Obama 2012: For More Wars!

              by chipmo on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 08:55:07 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Here, so as not to offend (4+ / 0-)

          you and your blinders, is an article from Pepe Escobar that IS NOT on RT.

          http://www.atimes.com/...

          The reality in Uganda is an absolute, murderous mess. As much as the LRA "rebels", Museveni's government (helped by Washington) has also perpetrated horrendous massacres against civilians. Kony may even be an amateur compared to Museveni - a sort of dictator for life who has just supervised the displacement and mass murder of at least 20,000 Ugandans on behalf of British corporations. Additionally, Museveni basically stole the Ugandan elections early this year.

          Obama's Uganda surge should be seen as a crucial exchange of favors with Museveni - who has sent thousands of Ugandan troops to the African Union (AU) force that is fighting the hardcore Islamist al-Shabaab in Somalia. So while Uganda fights a proxy war for the US in Somalia, Washington helps the dictator to get rid of the LRA "rebels". No wonder the Pentagon is quite fond of Uganda; Museveni recently got $45 million in equipment, including four small drones.

          The LRA - a ragged bunch of hardcore Christian fundamentalists - is based in northern Uganda but spread out between four countries, including the new South Sudan and Congo, in Central Africa. They carry no heavy weapons. They don't stand a chance of destabilizing the Ugandan government - much less being a "national security" threat to the US. Bogeyman Kony may be in hiding somewhere along the immense Sudan-Congo border, with no more than 400 warriors left.

          Uganda's proximity to the new country of South Sudan is key in the whole equation. So far, for Northern Sudan the LRA has been a convenient, weaponized firewall against Western puppet Museveni. But most of all, this whole area is prime real estate where the fierce battle between China and the Americans/Europeans plays out, centered on oil and minerals, all part of the Great 21st Century African Resource War.

          Behold the mineral kingdom
          That brings us to Uganda as a new land of opportunity. Ah, the sheer scale of humanitarian warmongering possibilities. For a semblance of success, the initial steps of Obama's African surge would have to include a military base with a long runway attached, and a mini-Guantanamo to imprison the "terrorists". If that sounds too good to be true, that's because it is; think of the Pentagon's Africom headquarters soon entertaining the possibility of time-traveling from Stuttgart, Germany, to somewhere in Uganda.

          Any student of realpolitik knows the US doesn't do "humanitarian" interventions per se. Africom's surge parallels the real name of the game; precious minerals - and mining. Uganda - and nearby eastern Congo - happens to hold fabulous quantities of, among others, diamonds, gold, platinum, copper, cobalt, tin, phosphates, tantalite, magnetite, uranium, iron ore, gypsum, beryllium, bismuth, chromium, lead, lithium, niobium and nickel. Many among these are ultra-precious rare earth - of which China exercises a virtual monopoly.

          The mineral rush in Africa is already one of the great resource wars of the 21st century. China is ahead, followed by companies from India, Australia, South Africa and Russia (which, for instance, has set up a fresh gold refinery in Kampala). The West is lagging behind. The name of the game for the US and the Europeans is to pull no punches to undermine China's myriad commercial deals all across Africa.

          Then there's the inescapable Pipelineistan angle. Uganda may hold "several billion barrels of oil", according to Heritage Oil's Paul Atherton, part of a recent, largest-ever on-shore oil discovery in sub-Saharan Africa. That implies the construction of a $1.5 billion, 1,200 kilometer long pipeline to Kampala and the coast of Kenya. Then there's another pipeline from "liberated" South Sudan. Washington wants to make sure that all this oil will be exclusively available for the US and Europe.

          Can't read that either?

          Obama 2012: For More Wars!

          by chipmo on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 08:40:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Africa is the neo-liberals' burden, dontcha (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chipmo, Claudius Bombarnac

    know, we haz to be there.

    Meanwhile, I do so like to see that we have at least one base base in Chile. This way we won't have to rely on hired help like Pinochet the next time they're stupid enough to elect somebody to the left of Mussolini.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 10:51:51 AM PDT

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