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Mali lifts state of emergency ahead of election

Press TV

Mali has lifted a nearly six-month-old state of emergency before the start of the campaign for the July 28 presidential election.

The central government made the announcement in a statement issued on Saturday.

The state of emergency was declared on January 12, a day after France launched a war in the West African country under the pretext of driving out militants occupying the north.

On Friday, the Malian army reestablished control over the strategic city of Kidal, which had been held by Tuareg rebels.

The Tuareg rebels had agreed to allow the army to enter the northern city in a peace deal that was signed between the government and the rebels last month.

The peace agreement — mediated by regional African powers, the United Nations, and the European Union — was signed on June 18 by Mali’s Territorial Administration Minister Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly and representatives of two Tuareg movements in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso.

The consensus was reached after nearly two weeks of negotiations between all sides.

“The signing of this agreement represents a significant step in the stabilization process in Mali,” said UN Special Representative to Mali Bert Koenders, who attended the signing ceremony.

On February 1, Amnesty International said “serious human rights breaches” — including the killing of children – were occurring in the French war in Mali.

Chaos broke out in Mali after President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The coup leaders said they mounted the coup in response to the government’s inability to contain the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country, which had been going on for two months.

However, in the wake of the coup d’état, the Tuareg rebels took control of the entire northern desert region, but the Ansar Dine extremists then pushed them aside and took control of the region, which is larger than France or Texas.

Putin: West supports in Syria forces he fights in Mali

Al Manar

The Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday the Western powers are fighting in the African state of Mali the same forces they are supporting in Arab state of Syria against the President Bashar al-Assad.

“The West is supporting some forces in Syria while fighting them in Mali,” he stated in an interview with the state-run “Russia Today” channel.

Putin, moreover, stressed that the Syrian government should have recognized the need for fundamental changes in the appropriate time in order to prevent what happened in the country.

“Radical transformations have been matured in Syria, and the Syrian government had to touch it at that time and take the initiative to make the required changes.”

“If they have done so, what happened wouldn’t have been happened,” Putin said.

During the interview, the Russian leader reiterated that his country is not “a lawyer for the current Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad,” yet “any opposition is acceptable if it behaves within the framework of Law,” he stressed.

Warning of the risks waged by the so-called al-Nusra Front, which fights in Syria alongside the Syrian opposition, and does not hide its link to al-Qaeda terrorist movement, Putin pointed out that the West lacks a clear policy toward the group.

“Al-Nusra Front is a major component of the armed opposition and is blacklisted by the U.S.,” he said, while recalling the military support the group has gained from the west.

Putin also expressed hope that the international initiatives, including the Egyptian, the British and the American-Russian ones, will contribute to the creation of new opportunity for a political solution in Syria.

Touching on the US war on terrorism, the Russian President noted that there is a terrorism axis waging in the region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“This worries us. The region is close to our borders,” he stated.

However, Putin indicated that the United States “does not seek to avoid civilian casualties in its battle against terrorism,” stressing the need to impose control on drone attacks.

Regarding the world development during last week, Putin said he notices escalating tension in the Middle East, making it clear that the West criticizes Russia and the eastern countries on how they deal with their oppositions, “knowing that it (the West) deals with its opposition in the same way.”

“We don’t want to interfere in relations between Sunnis and Shiites,” he voiced.
As for the Iranian peaceful nuclear program, the Russian leader denied his country has any evidence that the Islamic Republic violates the international law in developing its nuclear program.

‘The caring facade of french imperialism’

by David Cronin, source

The “public relations” accompanying wars has become wearily predictable. Whenever one of its governments or allies conducts a military action, there is a near certainty that the European Union will host or participate in a “donors’ conference”.

One of these grotesque events has been dedicated to Afghanistan each year since it was invaded by the US in 2001. After Gaza was bombed for three weeks in late 2008 and early 2009, the EU rushed to foot the bill for damage caused by Israel (often to infrastructure previously built or equipped with Western aid). And now the European taxpayer is expected to pick up the tab for destruction wrought by France during its military expedition in Mali.

Let me be absolutely clear: I’m fully in favour of increasing aid to healthcare and education in Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries. Yet this Wednesday’s donors’ conference – jointly organised by France and the EU – is not really designed to reduce hardship in Africa. Rather, its purpose is to cover French imperialism with a veneer of benevolence.

At this juncture, there can be no doubt that France’s “intervention” was motivated primarily by its determination to control natural resources in Mali and Niger. An analysis published in February by in-house researchers at the defence ministry in Paris points out that these two neighbouring countries possess 60% of global uranium reserves. While exploitation of these reserves by Areva, the French nuclear firm, is “certain,” according to the researchers, “instability in the Sahel has an impact on economic projects in the whole region”.

Less than a month after he was sworn in as president last year, François Hollande hinted that he regarded this uranium as effectively Areva’s property. Following talks with Mahamadou Issoufou, his counterpart from Niger, Hollande said that Areva must be allowed to extract uranium from the giant mine of Imouraren at the earliest possible date.

As the former colonial power, it was France which set the border between Mali and Niger. The Touareg people who straddle this artificial frontier have been striving for autonomy since the 1960s. Hollande has been eager to quell the recent resurgence in the Touareg struggle and to bolster the Malian authorities.

His efforts have been sold as being part of a fight against “terrorism”. A more plausible explanation is that he wishes to make sure that the uranium in this area doesn’t fall into the “wrong” hands. It is no accident that French troops were deployed earlier this year in both Mali and around the Arlit mine – a key source of uranium for Areva – in Niger.

There is a fundamental dishonesty behind this week’s donors’ conference. Briefing material prepared by its organisers gives the impression that it is part of the EU’s overall development aid activities. The objective of development aid is defined in the EU’s Lisbon treaty as reducing and eventually eliminating poverty (indeed, the inclusion of this principle is one of the few positive things in a treaty that has a right-wing ideological orientation). Raiding the aid budget to help a resource grab in Mali runs counter to that objective. It can, therefore, be considered as illegal.

This is not the first time that the EU is violating its own law. A 2011 EU strategy paper on the Sahel blurs the distinction between military and development aid.

The pretext cited is that security is a prerequisite for progress. This ignores how it is poverty and oppression that beget conflict.

With some rare exceptions, the EU’s governments have reneged on a decades-old commitment to earmark at least 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) for tackling global poverty. Diverting some of the already inadequate development aid budgets to military training exercises is tantamount to blowing raspberries at the hungry.

Apart from tiny Luxembourg, all of the EU’s governments spend a higher proportion of GDP on the military than on international development. Not content with that manifest injustice, corporate-funded think tanks have pounced on the French intervention in Mali to advocate that Europe’s military expenditure should be even higher.

Nick Witney, the first head of the European Defence Agency – a body tasked with boosting military cooperation between both private firms and nations – has written an especially opportunistic tract for his current employer, the European Council on Foreign Relations. Witney laments that the “crisis in Mali once again exposed the hollowness of Europe’s military pretensions”. France was “left to do the job alone,” he writes, because of the lack of a “shared strategic culture in Europe”.

His proposed solution is to have a similar level of scrutiny for the military spending of EU governments as that introduced for other types of expenditure over the past few years. This is despicable: the scrutiny to which he refers enables the Brussels bureaucracy to insist that countries eviscerate their schools and hospitals in the name of deficit reduction. Witney advocates that the same bureaucracy can simultaneously demand greater expenditure on drones.

Meanwhile, a pamphlet by Notre Europe – an institute headed by one-time European Commission chief Jacques Delors – labels many of the EU states as “free-riders” because they did not deploy fighter jets in Libya during 2011 or help France in Mali this year.

These pamphlets have been produced as part of a concerted effort to step up the pace of the EU’s militarisation. You can be sure that they won’t be allowed gather dust.

France to buy US-made Reaper drones for use in Mali: Report

(File photo)

Press TV

France has plans to purchase US-made unarmed Reaper surveillance drones in a bid to back up its military operations against fighters in the crisis-hit African country, Mali, a report says.

According to the report published by Air et Cosmos specialist magazine on Friday, France will buy two American medium-altitude Reaper drones following a deal reached between Paris and Washington.

The report added that the French Air Force, which has already deployed Israeli-made armed unmanned drones to the West African nation, intends to acquire more modern drones rapidly.

In February, a report published by the World Tribune indicated that the French military has used “Harfang” medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) drones manufactured by Israel in the war-torn country.

The Air et Cosmos report also stated that the French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is currently on a visit to the US, is set to make an official announcement in this regard.

France launched its war on the resource-rich West African country in January under the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda-linked extremists.

The French-led war on Mali has caused a serious humanitarian crisis in the northern areas of the country and has displaced thousands of people, who now live in deplorable conditions.

Amnesty International said on February 1 that serious human rights breaches including the killing of children were being conducted in Mali.

Some political analysts believe Mali’s abundant natural resources, including gold and uranium, are among the reasons behind the French war against the African country.

Colonial Reoccupation of West Africa?

(File photo)

Colonial Reoccupation of West Africa? French Troops Will Stay in Mali Even After United Nations Forces Arrive. Paris has been re-occupying the West African state since January

by Abayomi Azikiwe, source

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has visited the West African state of Mali where his troops have been fighting since January. France intervened in the central and northern regions of Mali in a purported campaign to remove the presence of several Islamic organizations which have been designated as terrorists by Paris and other imperialist states.

Recently the United Nations Security Council authorized the deployment of approximately 12, 500 peacekeeping troops which will establish bases at various points in these contested areas of Mali. This UN force is also structured to take the place of a 6,000-person regional African force which has been fighting alongside the French troops against three armed Islamist groups in the north.

Although Francois Hollande’s government said in January that the French operation in Mali would be short-lived, the plans have now been revised. France claims that it has drawn down some its troops leaving 4,000 in the country.

According to reports from the French defense ministry at least 1,000 troops will remain in Mali until the end of the year. 250 of these soldiers are specifically slated to be involved in a training mission with the Malian army, while the other 750 are to continue combat operations.

A major area of the fighting has been in Gao where the French Defense Minister Le Drian visited. The official announced that several hundred troops would be transferred from Timbuktu to Gao, leaving only 20 behind in the ancient city which centuries-ago was a center of Islamic scholarship and international trade.

In addition to the presence of French soldiers, a contingent of troops from neighboring Burkina Faso is operating in Timbuktu. These Burkinabe soldiers are part of the West African regional force mobilized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

According to French Colonel Cyrille Zimmer, the Burkinabe troops are taking over control of military operations in Timbuktu. He said that “We are leaving a small detachment of 20 men who are going to operate with the Burkinabe battalion. This detachment is going to stay in Timbuktu while the Burkinabes are there.” (Associated Press, April 29)

There have also been efforts to draw more western states into the war in Mali. Germany has committed to supplying military trainers through the European Union.

The United States has been involved in Mali for many years with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) supplying training, equipment and monetary resources. However, these efforts have only created instability inside the country.

When the junior military officers seized power in March 2012 from the elected President Amadou Toumani Toure, these soldiers were led by a U.S.-trained colonel, Amadou Sanogo, who had studied in several academies set up by the Pentagon. The Pentagon has been transporting French troops into the battle in Mali and has recently deployed 100 Special Forces in neighboring Niger in addition to establishing a drone station there.

There has also been a call made by Michael Byers, Chair of Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia in Canada, to have Ottawa become more involved in the Malian crisis. Byers in an editorial published in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s leading newspaper, attempted to make an argument for the deployment of troops to Mali.

Byers wrote on April 29 that “Canadian soldiers would be highly valued as ‘force-multipliers’ who maximize the impact of other, less well-trained troops. For nearly half a century, Canada filled this niche in every UN peacekeeping mission.”

He continued saying “Although Canada has disengaged from peacekeeping in recent years, that shift was a political decision. When Canada’s military leaders sought to have General Andrew Leslie appointed commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo in 2010, it was the Harper government that intervened and claimed that Canada’s commitments to the NATO mission in Afghanistan precluded his taking part.”

Therefore, the priority of the Harper government was to engage in more direct occupation efforts in Afghanistan as opposed to what would be considered a neutral stance in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nonetheless, the UN forces being placed in Mali could very well be subjected to hostile fire and other military actions by locals.

This peacekeeping mission will have three obvious challenges. It will be operating as a supposed neutral force while at the same time French and Malian troops are continuing their offensive operations against Ansar Dine, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Also there is a growing degree of alienation on the part of the Malian people in relationship to both French troops and Malian soldiers. These soldiers have been accused of committing atrocities against the population where deaths, injuries and illegal detentions have taken place.

Humanitarian Situation Worsens in Mali

As a result of the military coup and the subsequent civil war in the north between Tuareg separatists and later Islamic rebel groups fighting against the national Malian army, large-scale displacements have taken place. The economic impact of the conflict has been devastating to those that have forced to flee as well as people remaining in their towns and villages.

Food prices have skyrocketed which has impacted working people and the poor. In a recent article published in the Guardian newspaper in London, it examines the growing food shortages in Mali where French troops have been the most active against the targeted rebel organizations.

According to the Guardian, “On Thursday (April 25) four international agencies warned that northern Mali will descend to emergency levels of food insecurity in less than two months if conditions do not improve. Recent food crises in the region have left many people weakened and still in a period of recovery.” (April 29)

Even the Guardian acknowledges that the French intervention has worsened conditions for people living in the combat areas. In addition to cutting off supply lines it has created shortages and therefore precipitated hyperinflation.

This same article goes on to point out that “Food distribution has been disrupted by the closure of the Algerian border – an important route for supplies into northern Mali – and the departure of many traders. Aid agencies say herders have been unable to use traditional pastures and water points, while the falling value of livestock has made it harder to buy cereals.”

With the intervention of UN peacekeepers there is still no guarantee that the situation will normalize. If the experiences of other states are of any indication, such as the DRC, Somalia and Sudan, the deployment of UN forces may very well exacerbate tensions as oppose to lessen them.

The situation in Mali requires a political solution that can only be reached between the varying parties, governments and interest groups involved. This issue portends much for the future of Africa and must be seriously addressed by the African Union (AU) at their upcoming summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

With the increasing intervention of U.S., French and other NATO military forces in Africa, the social, political and economic situations in various African states will inevitably worsen. African states and regional organizations must devise a strategy to deal with this escalation of imperialist militarism which has implications for the continent as a whole.

French war creates humanitarian crisis in Mali

(File photo)

Press TV

The French-led war in Mali has caused a serious humanitarian crisis and has displaced tens of thousands of people, many of whom reside in refugee camps in neighboring countries in deplorable conditions.

Malian refugees, who have fled to their western neighbor, Mauritania, have said they have no plans to return, Press TV reported.

They said they fear insecurity and reprisals due to the ongoing French-led war on the country. Some 74,000 Malians have taken refuge in Mbera camp in Mauritania alone.

The people of northern Mali say the French war and the ruling junta are blocking the flow of humanitarian assistance to the war-affected areas.

The northern Malians say the blockade of the area by French and Malian troops has undermined the activities of healthcare workers in several refugee camps. Most of the camps have dire shortages of necessities such as food and medicine.

A UN humanitarian official said on February 27 that Mali remains in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

About “200,000 children are not getting any education and haven’t for the last year,” said John Ging, director of operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Approximately 170,000 Malians fled to neighboring countries since April last year. There are some 53,000 people in Niger and 74,000 in Mauritania, and another 260,000 are internally displaced in Mali.

France launched a war in Mali on January 11 under the pretext of halting the advance of rebel fighters in the country.

On February 1, Amnesty International said “serious human rights breaches” — including the killing of children – were occurring in the French war in Mali…

France will soon repent for backing al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria

(Syria- File photo)

by Yusuf Fernandez, source

In late February, some international agencies reported that hundreds of foreign rebels were fleeing from the Idleb Province in Northwestern Syria through Turkey under the claim that they were planning to join al-Qaeda militants in Mali in order to fight against French troops deployed there.

The reason of this withdrawal is not clear. Some observers said that the real reason behind it was the Syrian army´s offensive against terrorist groups in the province and the disappointment of some militants who have seen that their fight is not popular in Syria, as their recruiters had made them believe before going to Syria.

The irony is that France, which invaded Mali some weeks ago to theorically fight against radical groups in that country, will have to end up fighting against the same groups that the French government has been openly funding. These militants have used French money and training in Syria in order to gain combat experience and they will implement this newly-acquired knowledge against French troops in Mali.

According to observers, France has become the most prominent Western backer of Syria´s armed opposition and is now directly funding terrorist groups around Aleppo and other parts of the Arab country as part of a new attempt to overthrow the Syrian government. Large sums of money have been delivered by French government proxies across the Turkish border to rebel commanders, diplomatic sources have confirmed. The money has been used to buy weapons inside Syria and to fund armed operations against government forces.

On March 14, French FM Laurent Fabius announced that France and the UK would ignore a EU ban on sending weapons to Syria in order to supply terrorist groups fighting there with more arms. The goal remains the same: to overthrow Bashar al Assad´s government. The French newspaper Le Figaro also reported in those days that French military advisers had recently met with rebel groups inside Syria, in an area between Lebanon and Damascus. It is worth pointing out that sending military personnel to a country without the permission of its government amounts to a military invasion.

Despite all this support, the political goal of France in Syria seems to be as far as ever. “Things are not moving. The solution that we had hoped for, and by that I mean the fall of Bashar and the arrival of the (opposition) coalition to power, has not happened”, acknowledged Fabius on January 24. In December 2012, he had claimed that the “end is nearing” for the Syrian president. A senior Lebanese official who visited the France towards the end of last year told the daily Al Safir that “France was surprised by the fact that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, his regime and his army could resist”.

For its part, the Syrian government has condemned this French interference in its internal affairs. “France is acting like a hostile nation”, said National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar to AFP. “It is as if it wants to go back to the time of the occupation,” he added, referring to the French rule in Syria after World War I. Damascus has made it clear that France´s current policies will weaken or even eliminate its political, economic and cultural influence in Syria, maybe forever.

Moreover, France is now getting nervous about the possibility of reprisals from the al-Qaeda-linked groups, similar to those it is funding in Syria, for its intervention in Mali. On March 1, three suspected militants were arrested in southern France for allegedly planning an attack in the deays ahead, the Paris prosecutor said.

Change of foreign policy

The boomerang effect of supporting terrorism in Syria is just one of the disastrous consequences of the change of the French policy towards the Arab and Muslim world, which started when the pro-Israeli and pro-NATO Nicolas Sarkozy became President. Prior to that fact, France had gained a solid reputation due to its Gaullist foreign policy, one of whose pillars was the independence of the country with respect to the United States. In February 2003, French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, was universally applauded when he opposed Colin Powell´s pathetic attempts to justify the then-forthcoming invasion of Iraq with blatant lies about the non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The new French foreign policy, under influence of Zionist politicians such as Sarkozy himself, Bernard Kouchner or Laurent Fabius and Zionist activists as Bernard Henry-Levy, changed the equation. France began to promote pro-Israeli and neo-colonial policies in Africa and the Middle East, where France adopted an even more radical stance against Syria and Iran than any other Western country.

In Africa, Paris has increased its military presence in recent years. France´s intervention in Mali, with a contingent of 750 troops, has sought to bolster the Malian army against the al-Qaeda rebels, who have controlled the north of the country for about two years. However, the war in Mali is still beginning and, even worse, it is becoming another asymmetric and far-reaching war which could involve France for years, although Paris has repeatedly announced its willingness to evacuate its army from the African country as soon as possible.

Qatar, France´s ally, supported extremists in Mali

On the other hand, Qatar, which just happens to be a major ally of France in the Syrian question, has criticized Paris´s intervention in Mali arguing that the force would not solve the problem. French officials have openly accused Qatar of funding the Mali rebels.

The first accusations of Qatari involvement with Tuareg separatists and al-Qaeda-linked groups came in a June 2012 article in French weekly the Canard Enchainé. The publication quoted an unnamed source in French military intelligence saying: “The MNLA (secular Tuareg separatists), al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine and MUJAO [movement for unity and Jihad in West Africa] have all received cash from Doha.” “The French government knows perfectly well who is supporting these terrorists. Qatar, for example, continues to send so-called aid and food every day to the airports of Gao and Timbuktu.”
The speculation is that Qatar is keen to increase its influence in Mali in order to develop business ties with this nation, which is believed to have significant oil, gas and uranium resources. Moreover, its presence in Mali “greatly increase the Emirate´s influence in West Africa and the Sahel region”, regional geopolitical expert Mehdi Lazar, who specialises on Qatar, wrote in French weekly news magazine L’Express in December. Qatar would also be trying to destabilize Algeria, one of the Arab countries remaining free from its political influence.

France, for its part, is determined to help the pro-French military junta rule the entire nation and sees Qatari activities in Mali with dismay. The Canard Echainé wrote: “Earlier this year, several notes from the DGSE (the French Intelligence Service) alerted the Elysee Palace on international activities and, dare we say, the emirate of Qatar.”

On 22 January, French news site France24 published an article entitled “Is Qatar fuelling the crisis in north Mali?” which claimed that Doha had taken sides with the Mali insurgents. According to author Segolene Allemandou, Qatari rulers aim to spread extremism in Africa with the help of these rebels. The subtle message was clear: the emirate´s support for terrorism will damage its long-term image in Europe.

Destroying a pluralist Syria

In this context, everyone can understand that Saudi and Qatari support extremists who fight against a multifaith and multicultural Syria and against all the religious groups supporting interfaith cooperation and coexistence, such as mainstream Sunni Muslims, Shiites, Alawites and Christians. After all, in Saudi Arabia only the Wahabi current enjoys full religious freedom. The rest of the faiths are discriminated, persecuted or banned. But some people can find it difficult to understand why the West, including France, is allied with extremist Salafist groups persecuting Christians and destroying churches.

The anwer is that France and other Western governments are actually not interested in democracy or political and religious freedom but in pursuing their own political, strategic and economic interests at any cost. French aggressions in Africa have led to the death of thousands of innocent people and have ruined the lives of millions of others, not to mention its involvement in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. With its current policies towards Syria, Paris only tries to reimpose their neo-colonial yoke on that country. However, after many decades of independence and of enjoying their sovereignty, Syrian people are not willing to become slaves of European goverments or of corrupt, backward, terrorist-friendly and despotic regimes as the Saudi or the Qatari.

By funding and delivering weapons to terrorist groups, the French government, alongside with its allies, is not only violating the international law but it is also destroying the possibility of a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict and leaving its resolution in the hands of the military. In this way, Syria´s friends should take good note of this fact and multiply their military aid to Syria in order to prevent their own interests from being damaged. The Syrian state is strong and its people is indomable, but there is no doubt that Syria will need all kind of support from free people in the world in order to resist this aggression.

The West’s war against African development continues

(File photo)

RB comment: I don’t agree with the manner some of the ideas were presented in this article but I decided to post it because it contains information about plans the take over Africa.

The African Union, Algeria and Mali

by DAN GLAZEBROOK, source

Africa’s classic depiction in the mainstream media, as a giant basketcase full of endless war, famine and helpless children creates an illusion of a continent utterly dependent on Western handouts. In fact, the precise opposite is true – it is the West that is reliant on African handouts. These handouts come in many and varied forms. They include illicit flows of resources, the profits of which invariably find their way into the West’s banking sector via strings of tax havens (as thoroughly documented in Nicholas Shaxson’s Poisoned Wells). Another is the mechanism of debt-extortion whereby banks lend money to military rulers (often helped to power by Western governments, such as the Congo’s former President Mobutu), who then keep the money for themselves (often in a private account with the lending bank), leaving the country paying exorbitant interest on an exponentially growing debt. Recent research by Leonce Ndikumana and James K Boyce found that up to 80 cents in every borrowed dollar fled the borrower nation in ‘capital flight’ within a year, never having been invested in the country at all; whilst meanwhile $20billion per year is drained from Africa in ‘debt servicing’ on these, essentially fraudulent, ‘loans’.

Another form of handout would be through the looting of minerals. Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo are ravaged by armed militias who steal the country’s resources and sell them at sub-market prices to Western companies, with most of these militias run by neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi who are in turn sponsored by the West, as regularly highlighted in UN reports. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, are the pitifully low prices paid both for African raw materials and for the labour that mines, grows or picks them, which effectively amount to an African subsidy for Western living standards and corporate profits.

This is the role for which Africa has been ascribed by the masters of the Western capitalist economy: a supplier of cheap resources and cheap labour. And keeping this labour, and these resources, cheap depends primarily on one thing: ensuring that Africa remains underdeveloped and impoverished. If it were to become more prosperous, wages would rise; if it were to become more technologically developed, it would be able to add value to its raw materials through the manufacturing process before exporting them, forcing up the prices paid. Meanwhile, extracting stolen oil and minerals depends on keeping African states weak and divided. The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example – whose mines produce tens of billions of mineral resources each year – were only, in one recent financial year, able to collect a paltry $32million in tax revenues from mining due to the proxy war waged against that country by Western-backed militias.

The African Union, established in 2002 was a threat to all of this: a more integrated, more unified African continent would be harder to exploit. Of special concern to Western strategic planners are the financial and military aspects of African unification. On a financial level, plans for an African Central Bank (to issue a single African currency, the gold-backed dinar) would greatly threaten the ability of the US, Britain and France to exploit the continent. Were all African trade to be conducted using the gold-backed dinar, this would mean Western countries would effectively have to pay in gold for African resources, rather than, as currently, paying in sterling, francs or dollars which can be printed virtually out of thin air. The other two proposed AU financial institutions – the African Investment Bank and the African Monetary Fund – could fatally undermine the ability of institutions such as the International Monetary Fund to manipulate the economic policies of African countries through their monopoly of finance. As Jean Paul Pougala has pointed out, the African Monetary Fund, with its planned startup capital of $42billion, “is expected to totally supplant the African activities of the International Monetary Fund which, with only US$25 billion, was able to bring an entire continent to its knees and make it swallow questionable privatisation like forcing African countries to move from public to private monopolies.”

Along with these potentially threatening financial developments come moves on the military front. The 2004 AU Summit in Sirte, Libya, agreed on a Common African Defence and Security Charter, including an article stipulating that “any attack against an African country is considered as an attack against the Continent as a whole”, mirroring the Charter of NATO itself. This was followed up in 2010 by the creation of an African Standby Force, with a mandate to uphold and implement the Charter. Clearly, if NATO was going to make any attempt to reverse African unity by force, time was running out.

Yet the creation of the African Standby Force represented not only a threat, but also an opportunity. Whilst there was certainly the possibility of the ASF becoming a genuine force for independence, resisting neocolonialism and defending Africa against imperialist aggression, there was also the possibility that, handled in the right way, and under a different leadership, the force could become the opposite – a proxy force for continued neocolonial subjugation under a Western chain of command. The stakes were – and are – clearly very high.

Meanwhile, the West had already been building up its own military preparations for Africa. Its economic decline, coupled with the rise of China, meant that it was increasingly unable to continue to rely on economic blackmail and financial manipulation alone in order to keep the continent subordinated and weak. Comprehending clearly that this meant it would be increasingly forced into military action to maintain its domination, a US white paper published in 2002 by the African Oil Policy Initiative Group recommended “A new and vigorous focus on US military cooperation in sub-Saharan Africa, to include design of a sub-unified command structure which could produce significant dividends in the protection of US investments”. This structure came into existence in 2008, under the name of AFRICOM. The costs – economic, military and political – of direct intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, however – with the costs of the Iraq war alone estimated at over three trillion dollars - meant that AFRICOM was supposed to primarily rely on local troops to do the fighting and dying. AFRICOM was to be the body which coordinated the subordination of African armies under a Western chain of command; which turned, in other words, African armies into Western proxies.

The biggest obstacle to this plan was the African Union itself, which categorically rejected any US military presence on African soil in 2008 – forcing AFRICOM to house its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, a humiliating about turn after President Bush had already publicly announced his intention to set up the HQ in Africa itself. Worse was to come in 2009, when Colonel Gaddafi – the continent’s staunchest advocate of anti-imperialist policies – was elected Chairman of the AU. Under his leadership, Libya had already become the biggest financial donor to the African Union, and he was now proposing a fast-track process of African integration, including a single African army, currency and passport.

His fate is clearly now a matter of public record. After mounting an invasion of his country based on a pack of lies worse than those told about Iraq, NATO reduced Libya to a devastated failed state and facilitated its leader’s torture and execution, thus taking out their number one opponent. For a time, it appeared as though the African Union had been tamed. Three of its members – Nigeria, Gabon and South Africa – had voted in favour of military intervention at the UN Security Council, and its new chairman – Jean Ping – was quick to recognize the new Libyan government imposed by NATO, and todownplay and denigrate his predecessor’s achievements. Indeed, he even forbade the African Union assembly from observing a minute’s silence for Gaddafi after his murder.

However, this did not last. The South Africans, in particular, quickly came to regret their support for the intervention, with both President Zuma and Thabo Mbeki making searing criticisms of NATO in the months that followed. Zuma argued – correctly – that NATO had acted illegally by blocking the ceasefire and negotiations that had been called for by the UN resolution, had been brokered by the AU, and had been agreed to by Gaddafi. Mbeki went much further and argued that the UN Security Council, by ignoring the AU’s proposals, were treating “the peoples of Africa with absolute contempt” and that “the Western powers have enhanced their appetite to intervene on our Continent, including through armed force, to ensure the protection of their interests, regardless of our views as Africans”. A senior diplomat in the South African Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Relations said that “most SADC [Southern African Development Community] states , particularly South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia which played a key role in the Southern African liberation struggle, were not happy with the way Jean Ping handled the Libyan bombing by NATO jets”. In July 2012, Ping was forced out and replaced – with the support of 37 African states – by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma: former South African Foreign Minister, Thabo Mbeki’s “right hand woman” – and clearly not a member of Ping’s capitulationist camp. The African Union was once again under the control of forces committed to genuine independence.

However, Gaddafi’s execution had not only taken out a powerful member of the African Union, but also the lynchpin of regional security in the Sahel – Sahara region. Using a careful mixture of force, ideological challenge and negotiation, Gaddafi’s Libya was at the head of a transnational security system that had prevented Salafist militias gaining a foothold, as recognized by US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in 2008: “The Government of Libya has aggressively pursued operations to disrupt foreign fighter flows, including more stringent monitoring of air/land ports of entry, and blunt the ideological appeal of radical Islam…Libya cooperates with neighbouring states in the Sahara and Sahel region to stem foreign fighter flows and travel of transnational terrorists. Muammar Gaddafi recently brokered a widely-publicised agreement with Tuareg tribal leaders from Libya, Chad, Niger, Mali and Algeria in which they would abandon separatist aspirations and smuggling (of weapons and transnational extremists) in exchange for development assistance and financial support…our assessment is that the flow of foreign fighters from Libya to Iraq and the reverse flow of veterans to Libya has diminished due to the Government of Libya’s cooperation with other states…”

This “cooperation with other states” refers to the CEN-SAD (Community of Sahel-Saharan States), an organization launched by Gaddafi in 1998 aiming at free trade, free movement of peoples and regional development between its 23 member states, but with a primary focus on peace and security. As well as countering the influence of Salafist militias, the CEN-SAD had played a key role in mediating conflicts between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and within the Mano River region, as well as negotiating a lasting solution to the rebellion in Chad. CEN-SAD was based in Tripoli and Libya was unquestionably the dominant force in the group; indeed CEN-SAD support was primarily behind Gaddafi’s election as Chairman of the AU in 2009.

The very effectiveness of this security system, was a double blow for Western hegemony in Africa: not only did it bring Africa closer to peace and prosperity, but simultaneously undercut a key pretext for Western intervention. The US had established its own ‘Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership’ (TSCTP), but as Muatassim Gaddafi (Libyan National Security Advisor) explained to Hilary Clinton in Washington in 2009, the “Tripoli-based Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) and the North Africa Standby Force obviated TSCTP’s mission”.

As long as Gaddafi was in power and heading up a powerful and effective regional security system, Salafist militias in North Africa could not be used as a ‘threatening menace’ justifying Western invasion and occupation to save the helpless natives. By actually achieving what the West claim to want (but everywhere fail to achieve) – the neutralization of ‘Islamist terrorism’ – Libya had stripped the imperialists of a key pretext for their war against Africa. At the same time, they had prevented the militias from fulfilling their other historical function for the West – as a proxy force to destabilize independent secular states (fully documented in Mark Curtis’ excellent Secret Affairs). The West had supported Salafi death squads in campaigns to destabilize the USSR and Yugoslavia highly successfully, and would do so again against Libya and Syria.

With NATO’s redrawing of Libya as a failed state, this security system has fallen apart. Not only have the Salafi militias been provided with the latest hi-tech military equipment by NATO, they have been given free reign to loot the Libyan government’s armouries, and provided with a safe haven from which to organize attacks across the region. Border security has collapsed, with the apparent connivance of the new Libyan government and its NATO sponsors, as this damning report from global intelligence firm Jamestown Foundation notes: “Al-Wigh was an important strategic base for the Qaddafi regime, being located close to the borders with Niger, Chad and Algeria. Since the rebellion, the base has come under the control of Tubu tribal fighters under the nominal command of the Libyan Army and the direct command of Tubu commander Sharafeddine Barka Azaiy, who complains: “During the revolution, controlling this base was of key strategic importance. We liberated it. Now we feel neglected. We do not have sufficient equipment, cars and weapons to protect the border. Even though we are part of national army, we receive no salary”. The report concludes that “The Libyan GNC [Governing National Council] and its predecessor, the Transitional National Council (TNC), have failed to secure important military facilities in the south and have allowed border security in large parts of the south to effectively become “privatized” in the hands of tribal groups who are also well-known for their traditional smuggling pursuits. In turn, this has jeopardized the security of Libya’s oil infrastructure and the security of its neighbors. As the sale and transport of Libyan arms becomes a mini-industry in the post-Qaddafi era…the vast amounts of cash available to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are capable of opening many doors in an impoverished and underdeveloped region. If the French-led offensive in northern Mali succeeds in displacing the Islamist militants, there seems to be little at the moment to prevent such groups from establishing new bases in the poorly-controlled desert wilderness of southern Libya. So long as there is an absence of central control of security structures in Libya, that nation’s interior will continue to present a security threat to the rest of the nations in the region.”

The most obvious victim of this destabilization has been Mali. That the Salafist takeover of Mali is a direct consequence of NATO’s actions in Libya is not in doubt by any serious analysts. One result of the spread of NATO-backed destabilization to Mali is that Algeria – who lost 200,000 citizens in a deadly civil war with Islamists in the 1990s – is now surrounded by heavily armed Salafist militias on both its Eastern (Libya) and Southern (Mali) borders. Following the destruction of Libya and the toppling of Mubarak, Algeria is now the only state in North Africa still governed by the anti-colonial party that won its independence from European tyranny. This independent spirit is still very much in evidence in Algeria’s attitude towards Africa and Europe. On the African front, Algeria is a strong supporter of the African Union, contributing 15% of its budget, and has $16billion committed to the establishment of the African Monetary Fund, making it the Fund’s largest contributor by far.  In its relations with Europe, however, it has consistently refused to play the subordinate role expected of it. Algeria and Syria were the only countries in the Arab League to vote against NATO bombings of Libya and Syria, and Algeria famously gave refuge to members of Gaddafi’s family fleeing NATO’s onslaught. But for European strategic planners, perhaps more worrying than all of this is that Algeria – along with Iran and Venezuela – is what they call an OPEC ‘hawk’, committed to driving a hard bargain for their natural resources. As an exasperated article in the Financial Times recently explained, “resource nationalism” has taken hold, with the result that “Big Oil has soured on Algeria [and] companies complain of crushing bureaucracy, tough fiscal terms and the bullying behavior of Sonatrach, the state-run energy group, which has a stake in most oil and gas ventures”. It goes on to note that Algeria implemented a “controversial windfall tax” in 2006, and quotes a western oil executive in Algiers as saying that “[oil] companies…have had it with Algeria”. It is instructive to note that the same newspaper had also accused Libya of “resource nationalism” – that most heinous of crimes for readers of the Financial Times, it seems – barely a year before NATO’s invasion. Of course, ‘resource nationalism’ means exactly that – a nation’s resources being used primarily for the benefit and development of the nation itself (rather than foreign companies) – and in that sense Algeria is indeed guilty as charged. Algeria’s oil exports stand at over $70bn per year, and much of this income has been used to invest in massive spending on health and housing, along with a recent $23billion loan and public grants programme to encourage small business. Indeed, high levels of social spending are considered by many to be a key reason why no ‘Arab Spring’ style uprising has taken off in Algeria in recent years.

This tendency to ‘resource nationalism’ was also noted in a recent piece by STRATFOR, the global intelligence firm, who wrote that “foreign participation in Algeria has suffered in large part due to protectionist policies enforced by the highly nationalistic military government”. This was particularly worrying, they argued, as Europe is about to become a whole lot more dependent on Algerian gas as North Sea reserves run out: ”Developing Algeria as a major natural gas exporter is an economic and strategic imperative for EU countries as North Sea production of the commodity enters terminal decline in the next decade. Algeria is already an important energy supplier to the Continent, but Europe will need expanded access to natural gas to offset the decline of its indigenous reserves.” British and Dutch North Sea gas reserves are estimated to run out by the end of the decade, and Norway’s to go into sharp decline from 2015 onwards. With Europe fearful of overdependence on gas from Russia and Asia, Algeria – with reserves of natural gas estimated at 4.5 trillion cubic metres, alongside shale gas reserves of 17 trillion cubic meters – will become essential, the piece argues. But the biggest obstacle to European control of these resources remains the Algerian government – with its “protectionist policies” and “resource nationalism”. Without saying it outright, the piece concludes by suggesting that a destabilized ‘failed state’ Algeria would be far preferable to Algeria under a stable independent “protectionist” government, noting that “the existing involvement of EU energy majors in high-risk countries like Nigeria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq indicates a healthy tolerance for instability and security problems.” In other words, in an age of private security, Big Oil no longer requires stability or state protection for its investments; disaster zones can be tolerated; strong, independent states cannot.

It is, therefore, perceived to be in the strategic interests of Western energy security to see Algeria turned into a failed state, just as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have been. With this in mind, it is clear to see how the apparently contradictory policy of arming the Salafist militias one minute (in Libya) and bombing them the next (in Mali) does in fact make sense. The French bombing mission aims, in its own words, at the “total reconquest” of Mali, which in practice means driving the rebels gradually Northwards through the country – in other words, straight into Algeria.

Thus the wilful destruction of the Libyan-centred Sahel-Sahara security system has had many benefits for those who wish to see Africa remain consigned to its role of underdeveloped provider of cheap raw materials. It has armed, trained, and provided territory to militias bent on the destruction of Algeria, the only major resource-rich North African state committed to genuine African unity and independence. In doing so, it has also persuaded some Africans that – in contrast to their united rejection of AFRICOM not long ago – they do, after all, now need to call on the West for ‘protection’ from these militias. Like a classic mafia protection racket, the West makes its protection ‘necessary’ by unleashing the very forces from which people require protection. Now France is occupying Mali, the US are establishing a new drone base in Niger and David Cameron is talking about his commitment to a new ‘war on terror’ spanning six countries, and likely to last decades.

It is not, however, all good on the imperialist front. Far from it; indeed the West had almost certainly hoped to avoid sending in their own soldiers at all. The initial aim was that Algeria would be sucked in, lured into exactly the same trap that was successfully used against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, an earlier example of Britain and the US sponsoring a violent sectarian insurgency on their enemy’s borders, attempting to drag their  target into a destructive war in response. The USSR’s war in Afghanistan ultimately not only failed but destroyed the country’s economy and morale in the process, and was a key factor behind the gratuitous self-destruction of the Soviet state in 1991. Algeria, however, refused to fall into this trap, and Clinton and Hollande’s good cop-bad cop routine – the former’s ‘pressure for action’ in Algiers last October followed by French attempts at sucking up 2 months later – came to nothing. Meanwhile, rather than sticking to the script, the West’s unpredictable Salafi proxies expanded from their base in Northern Mali not North to Algeria as intended, but South to Bamako, threatening to unseat a Western-allied regime that had only just been installed in a coup less than a year earlier. The French were forced to intervene to drive them North and back towards the state that had been their real target all along. For now, this invasion appears to have a certain level of support amongst those Africans who fear the West’s Salafi proxies more than the West’s own soldiers. Once the occupation starts to drag on, boosting the credibility and numbers of the guerillas, whilst exposing the brutality of the occupiers and their allies, we will see how long that lasts.

Humanitarian crisis unfolding in northern Mali

Press TV 

According to Malians living in the North, French troops and Malian security authorities have increasingly made it impossible for both local and foreign humanitarian organizations access to their area.

They say the blockade by the French has caused the deterioration of the health and humanitarian conditions in several camps. As a result many refugees are suffering from both food and medical shortages.

The Malians’ health and living conditions in the north can only be described as tragic, with many living under poor shelters in the desert heat.
The nearest hospital is in Mopti and can only be accessed using a pay canoe which many say they cannot afford.

Survival in this Mopti camp entirely depends upon those who can dip their nets into the waters for a fish catch, otherwise many have simply given up hope of any humanitarian assistance.

The displaced people in northern Mali say they have not received any assistance because of the restrictions imposed against humanitarian organizations by the French making their conditions to describe the least, unbearable…

500 EU troops due in Malian capital to back up French war

Press TV

Some 500 European Union (EU) troops are due in the Malian capital of Bamako to back up France in its war in the West African country.

According to reports, the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) for Mali will arrive in Bamako later on Friday and military sessions will be held northeast of the city.

This comes after the EU foreign ministers agreed to back up France in its war in Mali by launching a USD 16.33-million military operation to purportedly train and restructure the West African country’s army.

Foreign ministers of the 27-nation bloc appointed French Brigadier General Francois Lecointre as commander of the mission, which is slated to last for 15 months.

France launched its war on Mali on January 11 under the pretext of halting the advance of fighters in the country. The war has left thousands of Malians homeless.

On February 1, Amnesty International condemned “serious human rights breaches” including the killing of children in the French war in Mali.

The rights organization said there was “evidence that at least five civilians, including three children, were killed in an airstrike” carried out by French forces against the local fighters.

Some political analysts believe that Mali’s abandoned natural resources, including gold and uranium reserves, could be one of the reasons behind the French war.

Cameron in Blunderland

by Felicity Arbuthnot, source

The refuge of the morally, intellectually, artistically and economically bankrupt is war.

— Martin H. Fischerm, 1879-1962

It has not been an auspicious couple of weeks for UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

His Cabinet colleagues, largely a bunch of millionaires, have accused the unemployed of being work-shy and a burden on the taxpayers – never mind that businesses are closing in near industrial numbers and that often hundreds, if not thousands, apply for one job. Additionally, according to the Literacy Trust: ”One in six people in the UK struggle with literacy. This means their literacy is below the level expected of an eleven year old … Men and women with poor literacy are least likely to be in full-time employment at the age of thirty.”

A junior Health Minister has accused the poor of being fat because, she has decided, they eat the wrong things.

The latter, of course, implies that the overweight poor will be a further burden on Britain’s National Health Service, being more likely to develop chronic conditions. It seems this health fascism exempts government Ministers and politicians such as the Minister for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, who must flatten the tyres and springs of his Ministerial limousine, along with other political rotunds, politicians who, of course, live entirely at the taxpayers expense, from large salaries, with all financial outputs covered and health care.

David Cameron himself stated that without the health help he had received, often twenty four hours a day, for his little son Ivan, suffering a chronic condition which subsequently proved fatal, his family would have been unable to cope. Now under his government, the Health Service too is under government fire – slash and burn style. Cuts in welfare include attempting to force the very disabled, even potentially terminally ill, back to work. Some have committed suicide.

Public anger and resentment is palpably mounting against pretty well all policies in a government seen as completely blind to the reality in Britain’s villages, towns and cities.

The government message. of course, is fiscal belt tightening, ”getting the economy back on track.”

Then the Prime Minister cancelled a long planned address in Europe on Britain and the EU (another mess) leapt on a ‘plane for Mali, a geographical stone’s throw away from the ruins of his last African foray, Libya, and announced support for France’s reckless insurgency in one of the few countries the British have not invaded, plundered or colonised. So much for fiscal probity.

The opposition Labour Party’s Defence spokesman, Jim Murphy, commented of what rapidly became Operation Creep: “The UK commitment to Mali has grown from lending the French two transport aircraft, to the deployment of perhaps hundreds of troops to the region.” Most will be there, Cameron has assured, on a “training mission.”

In what should have been a mega reality check for anyone but the Prime Minister, former Labour Cabinet Minister, Frank Dobson, pointed out that: “The American catastrophe in Vietnam started off with a deployment of troops in a training capacity.”

From there he went to meddle in Algiers, popped in on the remains of Libya in a sixteen vehicle armed and armored motorcade, where he addressed a police training college (in English) and assured them that: “In building a new Libya you will have no greater friend than the United Kingdom. We will stand with you every step of the way.” That should send a chill down spines.

Cameron’s decision to fly to the Maghreb, wrote one commentator, “was a Blair-style statement that Britain intends to stay involved. Indeed, Cameron’s references to a ‘generational struggle’ make him sound remarkably similar to Tony Blair after 9/11.”

“I believe we are in the midst of a long struggle against murderous terrorists and a poisonous ideology that supports them,” he told the World Economic Forum in Davos on returning.

Whilst “We’ve successfully put pressure on al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so al-Qaida franchises have been growing for years in Yemen, in Somalia” and across parts of Africa he warned. His predecessor, “Peace Envoy” Tony Blair, wanted by lawyers and others worldwide for his Iraq lies, cheered on Britain in Mali from the television studios.

It now transpires that David Cameron relies on Blair, who may yet be headed for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, as seemingly some sort of mentor, from whom, it is reported, he has been taking personal advice.The Chancellor, George Osborne, is reported as referring to Blair as “the master”.

Cameron is quoted as being “very admiring of Blair, whom he regards as a nice person and has conviction.” With judgment like that there may be those who feel he would be dangerous in charge of a broom, yet alone a country.

Iraq’s ruins, widows, orphans, three million dead, five million displaced are testimony to Blair’s “conviction” and niceness, in this tenth anniversary of the invasion year and twenty second of the embargo, which Blair endorsed, helped sustain its strangulation, colluded with – with UK aircraft aiding the illegal US bombings, during his term in office, 1997-2007.

On Monday (February 4) David Cameron hosted Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan at a dinner at the Prime Ministerial country home, Chequers “as part of his ongoing efforts to help to strengthen Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and promote regional peace and stability”, according to The Independent.

It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall as the canapes did the rounds. Ahead of this much touted mini summit, President Karzai gave lengthy interviews to the Guardian and ITN. It was to put it mildly, a bit of a broadside:

“In 2002 through 2006, Afghanistan had a lot better security. When we had our own presence there, with very little foreign troops, schools were open in Helmand and life was more secure”, said the President.

Moreover, whilst he appreciated “the sacrifices” and “contributions” of the British forces: “ … we also would like our allies in the west to recognise the immense sacrifices of the Afghan people in the last ten years, the immense loss of life and the suffering that the Afghan people put up with …”

Acknowledging corruption within the Afghan government and its agencies (indeed the allegations leveled at his own family and connections are a litany) he stated that: “In comparison to the corruption coming through the international donor contracts, and the way the money was spent (it was) really insignificant.” He gave examples.

Asked about the attacks by Afghan troops on coalition forces, he said it “pained” his Administration as a “serious breach of hospitality” for which Afghanistan is known, but “ …there has to be a lot more cultural sensitivity by our allies when they send troops to Afghanistan. Plus much more.”

Given night raids, wholesale destruction of lives, livelihoods, homes, terrorism by Drones, his restraint was commendable, the more so since he and colleagues survived a US “friendly fire” missile attack in 2001, suffering serious injuries, his also involving damage to facial nerves, still sometimes noticeable.

Asked what stood in the way of progress in Afghanistan: “The risk is continuation of foreign interference …” Further: “The exit of foreign forces will not bring more violence … but a serious, strong, good reduction in violence will occur.” Earlier he had said: “On our own, as Afghans, we will be good. It’s the external factors that will determine the extent of progress and stability or the lack of it.”

On the planned departure of western troops from Afghanistan one comment was that perhaps the reason was: “ …that they have felt that there was no fight in Afghanistan from the very first day, that terrorism was not in Afghanistan to be found, that they had to go to the (Taliban’s) sanctuaries long time back, that they didn’t do that and since they cannot do that even today there is no point for them to stay in Afghanistan, so they would like to leave …” Ouch!

(It should be said that in the mid nineties Karzai not only worked with the Taliban, but they asked him to be their Ambassador to the United Nations.)

In a long interview there are certainly some enlightening lines. US and UK “progress” and conquest of “hearts and minds” over twelve years in Afghanistan seems to lie buried in that “graveyard of empires.”

The US is committed to “an enduring presence” in Afghanistan (it’s the minerals, stupid.) So far Hamid Karzai is talking a conciliatory line. They would perhaps be confined to the odd base, but in no towns or villages. Mr Karzai seems like a man who is capable of changing his mind.

It is to be hoped nothing went wrong with the menu of that bridge-building Prime Ministerial dinner. Britain has had another major food scandal, with horsemeat found in beefburgers – and pork in halal meat. Hope none found its way to Chequers to round off Cameron’s latest accident prone couple of weeks.

US, France agree to set up UN Mali force: US VP

Press TV

US Vice President Joe Biden says Washington and Paris agreed on a need to hand over the French led war in Mali to a UN mission.

“We agreed on the need to as quickly as reasonably possible establish the African-led international mission in Mali and as quickly as is prudent transition that mission to the United Nations,” Biden said on Monday after a meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris.

Biden arrived in the French capital on Sunday to hold talks with Hollande over several issues including French war in the West African country of Mali.

He said on Saturday that US praised France’s war launched in Mali on January 11 under the pretext of halting the advance of the fighters in the African country.

He said the US “stands with France and other partners in Mali” and “provides intelligence support, transportation for the French and African troops and refueling capability for French aircraft,” there.

He added that the fight “may be far from America’s borders, but it is fundamentally in America’s interest.”

It came as French planes reportedly carried out airstrikes around Kidal and Tessalit in Mali’s far north from Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday.

Hollande visited the Malian capital, Bamako, on Saturday, and told Malian that French troops would stay in Mali as long as necessary.

Thousands of people in Mali have been forced to flee their homes amid the French war, which involved some 3,500 troops on the ground supported by warplanes, helicopters and armored vehicles.

Analysts believe behind the military campaign are Mali’s untapped resources, including oil, gold, as well as the uranium in the region.

France will stay in Mali as long as necessary, Hollande says

Press TV

President Francois Hollande says France would continue its combat mission in Mali and French troops will stay in the country as long as necessary.

“We’ll stay as long as we need to, but there’s no question of us getting entrenched here, this is a short operation. We’ll stay by your side as you address rebuilding in your nation,” the French president told thousands of Malians in the capital, Bamako, on Saturday.

Hollande also praised the work done by French troops in Mali and pledged more support for the African country.

“France will stay with you as long as it takes, until the time for Africans themselves to replace us. Until then we will be beside you to the end, as far as north Mali.”

Also on Saturday, Hollande, accompanied by Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traore, traveled to the northern city of Timbuktu, which was recaptured by French and Malian troops on January 26.

“It (the war) is not over yet, it’s going to take several weeks, but our goal is to pass the baton,” he said.

Hollande arrived in Mali on Saturday for a one-day visit nearly four weeks after France launched the war on Mali under the pretext of halting the advance of anti-government fighters in the country.

Analysts believe that behind the military campaign are Mali’s untapped resources, including oil, gold and the uranium in the region.

R2P and genocide prevention

(File photo)

The Good Intentions That Pave the Road to War

by DIANA JOHNSTONE, source

Paris.

Opposing genocide has become a sort of cottage industry in the United States.

Everywhere, “genocide studies” are cropping up in universities.  Five years ago, an unlikely “Genocide Prevention Task Force” was set up headed by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary William Cohen, both veterans of the Clinton administration.

The Bible of the campaign is Samantha Power’s book, “A Problem from Hell”.  Ms. Power’s thesis is that the U.S. Government, while well-intentioned, like all of us, is too slow to intervene to “stop genocide”.  It is a suggestion that the U.S. government embraces, even to taking on Ms. Power as White House advisor.

Why has the U.S. Government so eagerly endorsed the crusade against “genocide”?

The reason is clear.  Since the Holocaust has become the most omnipresent historical reference in Western societies, the concept of “genocide” is widely and easily accepted as the greatest evil to afflict the planet. It is felt to be worse than war.

Therein lies its immense value to the U.S. military-industrial complex, and to a foreign policy elite seeking an acceptable pretext for military intervention wherever they choose.

The obsession with “genocide” as the primary humanitarian issue in the world today relativizes war.  It reverses the final judgment of the Nuremberg Trials that:

War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

Instead, war is transformed into a chivalrous action to rescue whole populations from “genocide”.

At the same time, national sovereignty, erected as the barrier to prevent strong nations from invading weaker ones, that is, to prevent aggression and “the scourge of war”, is derided as nothing but a protection for evil rulers (“dictators”) whose only ambition is to “massacre their own people”.

This ideological construct is the basis for the Western-sponsored doctrine, forced on a more or less reluctant United Nations, of “R2P”, the ambiguous shorthand for both the “right” and the “responsibility” to protect peoples from their own governments.

In practice this can give the dominant powers carte blanche to intervene militarily in weaker countries in order to support whatever armed rebellions they favor. Once this doctrine seems to be accepted, it can even serve as an incitement to opposition groups to provoke government repression in order to call for “protection”.

One among many examples of this cottage industry is a program called “World Without Genocide” at the William Mitchell College of Law in my home town, Saint Paul, Minnesota, whose executive director Ellen J. Kennedy recently wrote an article for the Minneapolis Star Tribunewhich expresses all the usual clichés of that seemingly well-meaning but misguided campaign.

Misguided, and above all, misguiding.  It is directing the attention of well-intentioned people away from the essential cause of our time which is to reverse the drift toward worldwide war.

Ms. Kennedy blames “genocide” on the legal barrier set up to try to prevent aggressive war: national sovereignty.  Her cure for genocide is apparently to abolish national sovereignty.

For more than 350 years, the concept of “national sovereignty” held primacy over the idea of “individual sovereignty.” Governments basically had immunity from outside intervention despite human-rights violations they perpetrated within their borders. The result has been an “over and over again” phenomenon of genocide since the Holocaust, with millions of innocent lives lost in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo, Guatemala, Argentina, East Timor — the list is long.

In fact, Hitler initiated World War II precisely in violation of the national sovereignty of Czechoslovakia and Poland partly in order, he claimed, to stop human rights violations that those governments allegedly perpetrated against ethnic Germans who lived there. It was to invalidate this pretext, and “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, that the United Nations was founded on the basis of respect for national sovereignty.

Of course, there is no chance that the United States will abandon itsnational sovereignty.  Rather, all other countries are called upon to abandon their national sovereignty – to the United States.

Ms. Kennedy’s lengthens her list by arbitrarily grouping disparate events under the single label of “genocide”, mostly according to their place in the official U.S. narrative of contemporary conflicts.

But the significant fact is that the worst of these slaughters – Cambodia, Rwanda and the Holocaust itself – occurred during wars and as a result of wars.

The systematic rounding up, deportation and killing of European Jews took place during World War II.  Jews were denounced as “the internal enemy” of Germany.  War is the perfect setting for such racist paranoia.  After all, even in the United States, during World War II, Japanese American families were dispossessed of their property, rounded up and put in camps.  The result was not comparable, but the pretext was similar.

In Rwanda, the horrific slaughter was a response to an invasion by Tutsi forces from neighboring Uganda and the assassination of the country’s president.  The context was invasion and civil war.

The Cambodian slaughter was certainly not the fault of “national sovereignty”.  Indeed, it was precisely the direct result of the U.S. violation of Cambodia’s national sovereignty. Years of secret U.S. bombing of the Cambodian countryside, followed by a U.S.-engineered overthrow of the Cambodian government, opened the way for takeover of that country by embittered Khmer Rouge fighters who took out their resentment against the devastation of rural areas on the hapless urban population, considered accomplices of their enemies. The Khmer Rouge slaughters took place after the United States had been defeated in Indochina by the Vietnamese.  When, after being provoked by armed incursions, the Vietnamese intervened to overthrow the Khmer Rouge, they were condemned in the United Nations by the United States for doing so.

Some of the bloodiest events do not make it to Ms. Kennedy’s “genocide” list.  Missing is the killing of over half a million members of the Indonesian Communist Party in 1965 and 1966. But the dictator responsible, Suharto, was “a friend of the United States” and the victims were communists.

But while ignoring over half a million murdered Indonesians, she includes Bosnia on her list.  In that case, the highest estimate of victims was 8,000, all men of military age.  Indeed, the NATO-linked International Criminal Tribunal (ICTY) has ruled that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre was “genocide”.   To arrive at this verdict, despite the fact that the alleged perpetrators spared women and children, the ICTY found a sociologist who claimed that since the Muslim community of Srebrenica was a patriarchy, murdering the menfolk amounted to “genocide” in a single town, since the women would not return without the men.  This far-fetched judgment was necessary to preserve “Bosnia” as Exhibit A in the case for NATO military intervention.

It is generally overlooked that Srebrenica was a garrison town where the Muslim men in 1995 were not all natives of that originally multi-ethnic town and had been carrying out attacks on surrounding Serb villages.  Nor have Western media given much attention to the testimony by Srebrenica Muslim leaders of having heard the Islamist party leader, Alija Izetbegovic, confide that President Clinton had said that a massacre of at least 5,000 Muslims was needed to bring the “international community” into the Bosnian civil war on the side of the Muslims.  Those Muslim leaders believe that Izetbegovic deliberately left Srebrenica undefended in order to set up a massacre by vengeful Serbs.

Whether or not that story is true, it points to a serious danger of adopting the R2P principle.  Izetbegovic was the leader of a party which wanted to defeat his enemies with outside military aid.  The world is rife with such leaders of ethnic, religious or political factions.  If they know that “the world’s only superpower” may come to their aid once they can accuse the existing government of “slaughtering its own people”, they are highly motivated to provoke that government into committing the required slaughter.

A number of former U.N. peacekeepers have testified that Muslim forces in Bosnia carried out the infamous “Marketplace bombings” against Sarajevo civilians in order to blame their Serb enemies and gain international support.

How could they do such a horrid thing?  Well, if a country’s leader can be willing to “massacre his own people”, why couldn’t the leader of a rebel group allow some of “his own people” to be massacred, in order to take power?  Especially, by the way, if he is paid handsomely by some outside power – Qatar for instance – to provoke an uprising.

A principal danger of the R2P doctrine is that it encourages rebel factions to provoke repression, or to claim persecution, solely to bring in foreign forces on their behalf. It is certain that anti-Gaddafi militants grossly exaggerated Gaddafi’s threat to Benghazi in order to provoke the 2011 French-led NATO war against Libya.  The war in Mali is a direct result of the brutal overthrow of Gaddafi, who was a major force for African stability.

R2P serves primarily to create a public opinion willing to accept U.S. and NATO intervention in other countries.  It is not meant to allow the Russians or the Chinese to intervene, say, to protect housemaids in Saudi Arabia from being beheaded, much less to allow Cuban forces to shut down Guantanamo and end U.S. violations of human rights – on Cuban territory.

U.S. intervention does not have a track record of “protecting” people.  It is easier to imagine an effective intervention where none has been attempted – for instance in Rwanda – than to carry it out in the real world.

In December 1992, a Marine battalion landed in Somalia in “Operation Restore Hope”.  Hope was not restored, Marines were massacred by the locals and were chased out within four months.  It is easier to imagine an effective intervention where none has been attempted – for instance in Rwanda – than to carry it out in the real world.

For all its military power, the United States is unable to make over the world to its liking. It has failed in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The 1999 “Kosovo war” is claimed as a success – only by studiously ignoring what has been going on in the province since it was wrested from Serbia by NATO and handed over to Washington’s ethnic Albanian clients.  The “success” in Libya is publicly unraveling much faster.

Like all the R2P advocates, Ms. Kennedy exhorts us “never again” to allow a Holocaust. In reality there has “never again” been another Holocaust.  History produces unique events which defy all our expectations.

But what, people ask me, if something that dreadful did happen?  Should the world just stand by and watch?

What is meant by “the world”?  The Western ideological construct assumes that the world should care about human rights, but that only the West really does.  That assumption is creating a deepening gap between the West and the rest of the world, which does not see things that way.  To most of the real world, the West is seen as a cause of humanitarian disasters, not the cure.

Libya marked a turning point, when the NATO powers used the R2P doctrine not to protect people from being bombed by their own air force (the idea behind the “no fly zone” UN resolution), but to bomb the country themselves in order to enable rebels to kill the leader and destroy the regime.  That convinced the Russians and Chinese, if they had had any doubts, that “R2P” is a fake, used to advance a project of world domination.

And they are not alone and isolated.  The West is isolating itself in its own powerful propaganda bubble. Much, perhaps most of the world sees Western intervention as motivated by economic self-interest, or by the interests of Israel.  The sense of being threatened by U.S. power incites other countries to build up their own military defenses and to repress opposition militants who might serve as excuses for outside intervention.

By crying “genocide” when there is no genocide, the U.S. is crying wolf and losing credibility. It is destroying the trust and unity that would be needed to mobilize international humanitarian action in case of genuine need.

Humanitarian situation worsens in Mali

Press TV

The humanitarian situation in Mali following the outbreak of the French war has worsened and forced thousands of people to flee their homes, Press TV reports.

Some 380,000 people are left without shelter as the French war entered its fourth week.

About 700 Malian refugees have been staying at a refugee camp in Niger since January 11, when France launched the war on Mali under the pretext of halting the advance of fighters in the country.

The United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark have voiced support for the French war.

Along with Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso also provide the displaced Malians with shelter.

The Malian refugees, however, face shortage of food, fuel and water in the camps.

The conflict has also raised concerns over the issue of human rights violations.

Human Rights Watch has called for an investigation into the alleged reprisal killings by French-backed Malian troops. The African office of the rights group based in Johannesburg has also called on French forces to minimize atrocities against civilians.

Meanwhile, battalions of troops from Niger and Togo have arrived in the Malian city of Gao to reinforce the French war. The city was controlled by anti-government fighters for nearly 10 months, but it was seized by the French military last week.

The UN Security Council is considering plans to deploy peacekeepers to assist the French forces.

Analysts believe motives to exploit untapped resources including oil, gold and uranium in the region are behind the multinational military campaign in Mali.

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