A U.S. special forces soldier demonstrates how to detain a suspect during Flintlock 2014, a U.S.-led international training mission for African militaries, in Diffa, Niger, on March 4, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Why are US military personnel in Africa? The question is evaded or answered with “It’s classified.” And that’s that. The point is, the American people don’t know, and the American corporate media don’t really seek answers. The dead US soldiers are casualties of Washington’s endless war system.

Where’s the authorization to have a presence across Africa? There are at least 6,000 US troops in Africa, many of them special forces. The reasons aren’t hard to comprehend. We’ll start with some confessions.

Confessions of a US senator

The obvious answer would be the resources stretching across North Africa, including oil, phosphate, gold, uranium (Niger and Somalia) and natural gas. Metals, timber, tea, coffee, grains and diamonds are plentiful below the Sahel.

US Senator Lindsey Graham gave an insight into the sycophancy to, and ideological thought shared between the US political establishment and the US military. Graham, a former colonel, was being interviewed regarding the death of US soldiers in Niger, stating that “they died in defense of America.” As noble as that seems, it’s a hollow American jingoism at this late stage in the perpetuated “war on terrorism,” which should be better understood as “fluid war” or never-ending war.

Dear old Lindsey then discloses that “this war is getting hot where it was cool and we have to go where the enemy takes us … the American public needs to get ready for more operations, not less. We’re probably going to go to other countries because that’s where they’re taking us. We’re going to be more aggressive.”

Lindsey, you madman. This statement translates as “mission creep” toward the African continent, with Graham basically saying that the military finds the problems and the US Congress just funds them.

Themes we’ve seen before

There are some common themes between past US military adventurism and the increasing pivot toward Africa. In fact, it’s a blueprint of what has happened previously in many US targets and what is happening in Africa.

First, the US establishment will explain to the public that their military is defending the lives and rights of civilian populations, and Lindsey Graham said “they died in defense of America.” But why is the onus on the US military? And again Graham suggested “this war is getting hot,” meaning that the employed military tactics will inevitably lead to civilian deaths that will be waved off as collateral damage – accidental or unavoidable.

Second, nearly all the post-World War II interventions were carried out under the guise of “freedom” and “democracy,” yet nearly all defended parties were dictatorships controlled by pro-US elites. In Vietnam, Central America and the Persian Gulf, the US didn’t defend “freedom” but an ideology (capitalism) or economic interests (such as US corporate investments).

In Africa, this is done through the establishment of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) to increase its military presence, providing US dollars with a safe haven from instability, to increase the “fluid war” through the guise of the “war on terror” by maintaining the military economy and spending, and to challenge the growing influence of China.

Third, the US often portrays itself as a neutral peacekeeper, with nothing but the purest humanitarian motives. But come on; is the US in Africa to help its impoverished people? No, it’s there to secure or maintain its economic interests in Africa in direct opposition to China.

The US is militarizing the continent, because it doesn’t have the industrial capacity, developmental will, or monetary clout to emulate the mutually beneficial state-sponsored Chinese investments across Africa, through infrastructural road, ports, mining projects, and energy projects

The US is militarizing the continent, because it doesn’t have the industrial capacity, developmental will, or monetary clout to emulate the mutually beneficial state-sponsored Chinese investments across Africa, through infrastructural road, ports, mining projects, and energy projects.

China also has self-interests, but its foreign policy is based on mutual financial benefit and development, which does aid impoverished African nations. Having said that, the Chinese are building coal plants in Africa to employ Chinese workers abroad, maintaining employment, but exporting pollution.

The curious case of Somalia

This brings us to the fourth theme, which is where the US divides a country into “friends” and “foes,” pitting one side against another. This occurred in Somalia when US and other foreign corporations were raiding the fish from the waters off that East African country and depriving Somali fisherman of their livelihood. The fisherman confronted these large corporate ships and the US pressured the Somali government into supporting the corporations.

Thus the US pitted Somali against Somali. This sort of strategy tends to inflame rather than dampen a conflict and deepens resentment of the US. It’s counterproductive even if US rationales are correct. This destabilizes, then fuels, an asymmetrical reaction from the indigenous population, leading to the rise of bogeymen.

In Somalia, this asymmetrical bogeyman is al-Shabaab, which has been funded by local businessmen who agree with resisting the looting of their seas by US foreign corporations, even if al-Shabaab’s activities are disruptive. And now, the latest US raid in Somalia that killed 10 civilians incited retaliation from Somali tribes with the dreadful bombing in Mogadishu, creating another bogeyman.

There are many quintessential bogeymen in Africa; take your pick: Daesh (Islamic State/ISIS) across Libya and Tunisia (thanks, US), al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (thanks, US), Nigeria’s Boko Haram, and Somalia’s al-Shabaab.

The casus belli For AFRICOM

The fifth theme is that the US always condemns violence by its opponents as “terrorism,” but defends identical actions by its allies. Washington’s double standard maintains that a US ally’s action is defensive and an enemy’s retaliation is offensive, such as the US Somali raid that killed civilians versus the Mogadishu bombing.

The “terrorism” of civilians led Somali tribes to bomb Mogadishu, an action-reaction. Both the action and the reaction are abhorrent. This is also the case with plundering Somali fishermen’s livelihoods, drone strikes, and even supporting jihadi fanatics against Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

This leads to the sixth, and final, theme: the demonization of an enemy leader, followed by action against him, as in Libya. These two combined actions perpetuated the “war on terrorism” or “fluid war” by spawning the terrorists needed for the guise of fighting terrorism. Military action destabilizes a country, leaving a chaotic vacuum, as in Libya, which empowered the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and al-Qaeda’s and Daesh’s North African expansion.

Libya’s stability had been an influential buffer between the Islamic world and Africa, and sought to create a pan-African currency, the gold dinar, upsetting the petrodollar. It also led resistance against AFRICOM in Africa. That’s why AFRICOM is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, not in Africa, and since 1986, why US administrations had sought to kill Gaddafi.

The increasing US operations in Africa, since the fall of Libya, may have a rationale, but they weren’t discussed by the American public, and their macro objective is equally about the Chinese-African disruption, and making countries more malleable to US interests.

However, the contiguous use of violence and military presence, used as a magnet for terrorism, is increasing instability that’s ever harder to manage. Looking for military solutions to challenge China’s economic outmaneuvering is a pivot that lacks industrial and innovational policies, and only furthers terror. Isn’t that antithetical to what the US is trying to do, Lindsey?

Andrew Brennan

Andrew Brennan is a dual Irish/American citizen who was educated in Ireland. He holds two Master of Arts degrees from the National University of Ireland, Galway. He has experience in radio, research, and domestic television, and also currently contributes to Forbes and Global Times.

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