FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Which Africans Will Obama Whack Next?

Durban, South Africa.

Would Barack Obama’s re-election advance African democracy and prosperity? Evidence suggests not, though the alternative in the November 6 election would probably be worse.

Obama’s most important important policy speech on Africa, in Ghana in 2009, contained the famous line, “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.

According to a recent puff piece in South Africa’s leading ezine, Daily Maverick, Obama’s top Africa official, Johnnie Carson, last month claimed that “the US wants to work with African nations to strengthen democratic institutions, good governance and efforts to stamp out corruption [and] to spur economic growth through market-driven, free trade principles.”

Yeah right. Washington’s deregulatory support for Wall Street’s market-driven binge and purge in 2008-09 contributed to the worst global economic crash in 80 years, resulting in around a million South African job losses. And official data reveal that the top 1% snagged 93% of all new income in the US since 2009, because the rancid system wasn’t fixed by a president in hock to banksters.

“Free trade principles”? Who can forget White House support for the vast ongoing agro-corporate subsidies which thwart African production. And as for corruption, is there any capital city whose political system is more conclusively bought by corporate campaign contributions than Washington, resulting in such extreme malgovernance that Obama cannot even make an effort to convict a single banker for world-historic economic misdeeds?

Carson’s most flawed economic assumption is that through increased vulnerability to chaotic world capitalism, “Africa” grows. Although a few elites have certainly grown rich from extraction, we can test this with a simple adjustment to Gross Domestic Product (GDP): incorporating the depletion of Africa’s “natural capital.” Even the World Bank’s 2011 book, The Changing Wealth of Nationsconcedes that after this adjustment, instead of growing rapidly, as often claimed by naive commentators, Africa is shrinking even faster: conservatively estimated for 2008 at a negative 6% of GDP.

The continent-wide Resource Curse requires tyrants to keep the masses in their places for the sake of multinational corporate extraction. Thanks to White House patronage, murderous African dictators still retain power until too late, most obviously Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, who is personally worth at least $40 billion (according to an ABC News report) and received many billions of dollars in US military aid in the 18 months following Obama’s speech.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Mubaraks “friends of my family” and, a few days before the corrupt tyrant was overthrown in February 2011, proclaimed, “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable.”

Another case is Gambian president Yahya Jammeh, an army colonel who after overthrowing a democrat in 1994 and later falsely claiming to have found an AIDS cure, recently beganexecuting political prisoners. Washington was quiet, I reckon, because of the Central Intelligence Agency ’s reliance upon a Banjul airport as a secret site for “rendition”, i.e. the illegal transfer of suspected terrorists to countries – including a dozen in Africa – carrying out torture or holding prisoners on behalf of Washington.

In the same spirit, last March, as the Arab Spring wave moved east from Tunisia, Obama backed the Djibouti regime of Ismail Omar Guelleh against pro-democracy protesters, apparently because the tiny dictatorship hosts several thousand US African Command (AfriCom) troops at Washington’s only solely-owned base in Africa.

These troops are increasingly active, yet the US Air University’s Strategic Studies Quarterly carried a 2010 article by Major Shawn T. Cochran citing one of Washington’s military advisors to the African Union: “We don’t want to see our guys going in and getting whacked… We want Africans to go in.” (Mali is next, probably in coming days: blowback from last year’s Libya intervention.)

Obama also infamously extended red-carpet treatment to world-class kleptocrat tyrant Ali Bongo 15 months ago, thanks to Gabon’s oil reserves. This was followed by a similarly controversial invitation in April to Ethiopia’s then prime minister Meles Zenawi, rebuffing valid complaints from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International leaders: “The US, World Bank, and other states and institutions have shown little or no attention to Ethiopia’s worsening human rights record.”

Washington’s support for Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame includes $800 million a year in aid and in June 2012, Obama’s protection against possible UN censure for supporting genocide in the Congo, attracting complaints by respected social justice. Uganda got $45 million and four drones in spite of Yoweri Museveni’s dictatorial rule.

And last year, citing US national security interests, Obama issued a waiver for more than $200 million in military aid to allied regimes in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, South Sudan and Yemen in spite of a 2008 US law prohibiting such funding because of their armies’ abuse of child soldiers.

This hypocrisy is better understood thanks to WikiLeaks, which two years ago published more than 250,000 US State Department cables, showing, for instance, how Washington’s embassies in Africa collect fingerprints, DNA, iris scans, email passwords, credit card account numbers, work schedules and even frequent flyer numbers of local political, military, business and religious leaders.

WikiLeaks also revealed that during a February 2010 meeting with Meles in Addis Ababa, “Carson encouraged Meles to hasten steps to liberalise the telecommunications and banking industries in Ethiopia.” Carson’s additional objective, agreed by Meles, was replacing the Kyoto Protocol’s binding cap on greenhouse gas emissions with the non-binding Copenhagen Accord, even if refusal to address climate change will result in the preventable death of 185 million Africans this century, according to Christian Aid.

Obama’s administration is a rotten fusion of the worst forces within neoliberalism and neoconservatism. I sincerely hope that next month, he soundly defeats Mitt Romney, who is worse on all counts – except the ability to confuse people in Africa, who might still think Washington acts in their interests.

Patrick Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society, in Durban, South Africa.

More articles by:

Patrick Bond (pbond@mail.ngo.za) is professor of political economy at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Governance in Johannesburg. He is co-editor (with Ana Garcia) of BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique, published by Pluto (London), Haymarket (Chicago), Jacana (Joburg) and Aakar (Delhi).

November 15, 2018
Elliot Sperber
Pythagoras in Queens
November 14, 2018
Charles Pierson
Unstoppable: The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and NAFTA
Sam Bahour
Israel’s Mockery of Security: 101 Actions Israel Could Take
Cesar Chelala
How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health
George Ochenski
What Tester’s Win Means
Louisa Willcox
Saving Romania’s Brown Bears, Sharing Lessons About Coxistence, Conservation
George Wuerthner
Alternatives to Wilderness?
Robert Fisk
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Three Daughters were Killed in Gaza, But He Still Clings to Hope for the Middle East
Dennis Morgan
For What?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Government is Our Teacher
Bill Martin
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
Rivera Sun
After the Vote: An Essay of the Man from the North
Jamie McConnell
Allowing Asbestos to Continue Killing
Thomas Knapp
Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?
Bill Glahn
Snow Day
November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
Patrick Howlett-Martin
A Note on the Paris Peace Forum
Joseph G. Ramsey
Does America Have a “Gun Problem”…Or a White Supremacy Capitalist Empire Problem?
Weekend Edition
November 09, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
Why Democrats Are So Okay With Losing
Andrew Levine
What Now?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Chuck and Nancy’s House of Cards
Brian Cloughley
The Malevolent Hypocrisy of Selective Sanctions
Marc Levy
Welcome, Class of ‘70
David Archuleta Jr.
Facebook Allows Governments to Decide What to Censor
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Zika Scare: a Political and Commercial Maneuver of the Chemical Poisons Industry
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail