South Africa Rejects US Africa Militarism

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[Column: Astle’s Global View]

The US military is reporting the deaths of six US troops in Iraq.

A roadside bomb in Sunni-majority Diyala Province where the US has been fighting Sunni Arab guerrillas killed four. Another was killed "north of Baghdad" (i.e. Sunni territory). The sixth was a non-combat death.

Despite the brouhaha about alleged Iranian support to Shiite militias, Sunni Arabs who are hostile to Iran killed all the five KIAs. This situation is the typical one in Iraq. So why isn't Bush talking about Sunni Arab insurgents instead of about Iran?

Contradicting recent claims by both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that U.S. intelligence had proof of Iranian government responsibility for the supply of weapons, the unnamed officials who briefed the media Sunday admitted that the claim is merely "an inference" rather than based on a trail of evidence.

Taking into account the false notes struck by the anonymous officials, the damaging admissions they made and the absence of information they needed to make a case, the briefing appears to have been a serious setback to the Administration's propaganda campaign. It will certainly haunt Administration officials trying to convince Congress to support its increased aggressiveness toward Iran.

News has come in that a British C130 was landing in Maysan province and caught in an explosion. Its crew had to be rescued and the plane was destroyed. Maysan is a stronghold of the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr.

We learnt that Austrian rifles sold to Iran are showing up in the hands of Iraqi snipers. Iran is notorious for its black market arms smuggling (in which Ronald Reagan and Ollie North once got involved if readers remember). I guess now Bush will have no option but to go to war with Austria.

Anyway, with all of America’s troubles Valentine’s Day seem to have gone off well except in Arizona where a Miss Tiffany Sutton decided it was the day to drink up her lover. She persuaded the 45-year-old man to be tied up naked on the bed and then as he thought of Valentine bliss she pulled out a knife and cut into his leg and then 23-year-old Sutton commenced to drink the flowing blood. Thoughts of a passionate Valentine’s Day immediately vanished from naked boy friend’s mind. He broke from his bonds and ran for his life pursued by Sutton brandishing a pick axe. According to the police statement the victim passed out before his friend found him covered in blood. For readers who might doubt this observation, please visit www.Azcentralcom. And they say cannibals are found in Africa?

Switching to the African continent: In the Ivory Coast, a Dutch-based Oil Company agrees to pay Cote d'Ivoire 152 million euros in respect of the deadly toxic poison case of last year.

Cote d'Ivoire decided to abandon legal action in the toxic waste saga. This is therefore an amicable agreement over the case of the vessel that discharged the waste in the country's economic capital, leading to at least 10 deaths and the poisoning of over 10,000 others, according to Ivorian authorities. You can guess who pockets the pay out.

Meanwhile, Accra, Ghana has seen the visit of the great character John Prescott, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister who described Ghana as a rising star of Africa. At a meeting with President John Agyekum Kufuor at the Castle he was to say: “Ghana is gradually re-assuming its leadership role in Africa�. He is of course quite right: however there are new rumbles coming out of the country of external funds being diverted. They are not rumors and let’s hope that the opposition is on to it.

Prescott is making a name for himself by apologizing and following the slave trade route, but I doubt if he will go back in years to the Romans sweeping up the young from Britain or the selling into slavery of the able bodied of Somerset and nearby counties to the owners of the West Indies plantations during the civil wars of England.

While in Guinea-Conakry, there is growing anxiety throughout the world concerning the situation there and at last UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has reiterated his deep concern and deplores the continued loss of human life and the immediate need to protect the people who are victims of deadly repression perpetrated by security forces.

About 60 US nationals were last evening evacuated by air to Dakar from
Conakry. Officially Washington has refused to comment on the evacuation. I thought Bush would say they had gone to celebrate Valentine’s Day. No doubt he had thought it wise to shut up during these difficult days when almost everyone seems fed up with him. However, all is not lost; France is going to send the Transport de Chalands de Debarquement (TCD) landing platform dock ship, the pride of the French Navy.

And in South Africa, from this great country comes the following

“American military command will worsen Africa's problems. Governments protect their interests in various ways, but the mighty United States has opted to increase its military presence in Africa through the creation of a military command post, known as Africom.

Rational decisions about access to oil resources and geostrategic regions such as the Horn of Africa and the Middle East dominate US foreign policy decisions. The continent that must host Africom is characterized by a vulnerability to globalization and identity politics.

It is therefore disturbing to note that democracy, health, education; economic growth and development are being tied to military interests. Why would the military improve these services? The war in Iraq has proven that military might does not produce compliance or acquiescence within a region or a country.

The expansion of an American strategic geopolitical military base on the continent will worsen many of the problems Africa has at present. The planned US military presence, possibly in Addis Ababa, is most likely a counterpoint to China's economic expansion in Africa, inducing deja vu about Cold War tensions in Africa. 

US oil interests and the "war on terror" lie behind the most recent plans, as Africom in Ethiopia would provide the US with a  launch pad into the Middle East and the volatile Horn, also marked as a haven for "terrorists". Africom's presence in Ethiopia would raise that country's profile internationally, but at the same time jeopardize its relations with its immediate neighbors and the rest of the continent.


Africom is meant to bring peace and security to the people of Africa, and promote common goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth. These are commendable ideals, but they are unilateral in their origin and their attachment to a military base or institutional framework leaves much to be desired. More importantly, as a result of military activity, whether it is foreign or local, a militarized community emerges.

From South Africa we say that in the light of the above, it is necessary for Africans to oppose the expansion of US military power on the continent. Debates will emerge about Africom's interests, maneuvers and probable outcomes, but we should also examine the potential social, economic and political destabilization of an already vulnerable continent.�

Meanwhile, in East Africa, Uganda is rumbling under new pressures both in the north and west, but what I see as pure madness under an American Evangelist guidance is getting rid of the contraceptive and we have the spectacle of a church leader dashing into Makerere University with his robes flapping to the wind with his voice shouting out to the skies “Shame, shame on you sinners!� and then in front of startled students who for the moment thought the planet had come to its end, call in his flock trailing behind him to pile up boxes of American gifts of these “abominations,� as he called them, poor helpless contraceptives and set fire to the lot.

Most of us know that America can within its general dynamic progress get up to some weird cult events but the massacre of contraceptives just when Uganda was freeing itself from the curse of AIDs seems to me outrageous. But this is how Ugandans suffer under foreign influence. Meanwhile up in the Karamoja region of Uganda, four UPDF (Uganda People's Defense Forces) soldiers and seven armed pastoralists were on Monday, 12 February, evening killed in a clash between the army and Karimojong warriors at Kailong, a watering point 20km southwest of Kotido town, north-western Uganda. The government spokesman on today’s radio said: "From the trail of blood, the warriors must have suffered heavy casualties."

I started with today’s chore with a blood drinker and it is sad that I end with yet another kind of bloodletting.


Columnist, Astles, once an advisor in the Idi Amin regime in Uganda, lives in Portugal. It's widely believed that the book and the movie, "The Last King Of Scotland," is based on his life.

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