Saturday, August 08, 2009

Somalia and Africom

There was an understated news report on the BBC yesterday which informed viewers that Hillary Clinton was threatening Eritrea with 'action'. The US is accusing Eritrea of supporting the insurgents against what the BBC characterises as Somalia's 'unity government', and promising more weapons for its clients. Clinton claims that the 'al-Shahab' insurgents are liable to become a "threat" to the United States and "launch attacks against countries far and near". That rootless, worldwide conspiracy against freedom just will not go to bed.

It's important to clarify a couple of terms here, though. First of all, many of the 'insurgents' were once the government of Somalia, but were overthrown by CIA-funded warlords and a US-backed Ethiopian invasion. You may recall that this created a humanitarian catastrophe that the UN was moved to described as 'worse than Darfur' (some historical background here). Secondly, the 'unity government', as the BBC acknowledges, only controls a small section of Mogadishu - which means it isn't a government, and unites no one. (It seems rather odd that an entity backed by the immense power of the United States could be placed in such a difficult position by Eritrea. They've given millions of dollars and over forty tonnes of weapons to their clients, and yet are undone by the alleged illicit activities of a tiny neighbouring state?) The only thing that makes it a 'unity government' is that it incorporates 'moderate' elements of the old Islamic Courts Union. Apart from that, it evidently has no popular support whatsoever. Ironically, given the hysteria about Somali pirates, it is worth noting that this 'unity government' is far less effective at dealing with piracy than their Islamist opponents were.

The 21st Century scramble for Africa is taking us to some very strange and ugly departures. The US estimates that in six years, a quarter of its oil will come from Africa, but the trouble is that - as the establishment Committee on Foreign Relations complained some years back - China is doing a good job of getting its foot in the door. So, America responded by forming Africom, initially as a subdivision of Eucom and then, by October last year, as an independent command. Just on the off chance that anyone doesn't get this, Africom is specifically charged with running military operations in 53 African states. That is it's job. It's formation consolidated a conscious drive to increase military intervention into the continent. Now the main vector for US aggression in Africa, it was initially justified by 'war on terror' conspiracy theory. The anthropologist Jeremy Keenan points out that, while Africom clearly represents a militarised drive to control strategically important, resource-rich areas of the continent, the initial rationale for its creation was a lie. Specifically, it was set up allegedly in response to a faked 'terrorist' kidnapping that was actually carried out by Algerian intelligence, and which the Bush administration used to prove that there was a 'swamp of terror' that need drained. That spurious policy justification established, the US has been able to plant its troops at strategic points on the continent the better to intimidate and terrorise anyone who gets in their way. And now little Eritrea is threatened with having its lights punched out.

Chris Floyd also has some interesting thoughts on this development.