Yesterday, the Security Council adopted Res. 1769,
calling on "all the parties to the conflict in Darfur to
immediately cease all hostilities and commit them-
selves to a sustained and permanent cease-fire," and
establishing an "AU/UN Hybrid operation in Darfur
(UNAMID)" by no later than October – December 2007
under a "single chain of command…provided by the United Nations." As Security Council resolutions go, this one has an upside-down structure, with all of the usual baggage about "Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations" not turning up until as late as paragraph 15. But as in previous resolutions, 1769 pronounces the situation in Darfur a "threat to international peace and security," and whatever transpires in the western states of the Sudan belongs within the Security Council’s competency and jurisdiction.
Adopted with great fanfare and hand-wringing, as everything related to the "Crisis in Darfur" has been these past three-and-a-half years (or, more precisely, since early December 2003, when the UN’s head of humanitarian affairs Jan Egeland first designated it "one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world"), I wonder how many of the people who have heard something about Darfur have also heard the news that, over the course of 2007, the United States is busy establishing a new regional military command for the continent of Africa — the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)?
"The National Military Strategic Plan for the war on terrorism…lists humanitarian assistance as a key method for helping to establish conditions that counter ideological support for terrorism," the State Department’s PR staff reported some months ago. "[O]ne of the Defense Department’s motives for creating the new Africa Command…is for better coordination of U.S. development and humanitarian assistance on a continent of growing strategic importance…." As the former commander of U.S. forces in the Horn of Africa once explained, "We’re waging peace, and we’re waging it as hard as we can." The State Department staffer who authored the report I’m quoting introduced his account of the new AFRICOM with these revealing lines ("Humanitarian Missions as Important as Combat for U.S. Military," Vince Crawley, U.S. Department of State, March 6, 2007):
"Recognizing that communism thrives upon misery and discontent, the Army has always been ready to help unfortunate people improve their way of living."
– General Maxwell D. Taylor, U.S. Army chief of staff, speech in Detroit, Michigan, May 8, 1956
Trade the word "terrorism" for "communism" in the above quote, and Maxwell Taylor’s words remain as true today as they were half a century ago.
So the "War on Terror" – slash – "humanitarian missions" appear to be the two principal selling points for the latest geopolitical scramble for Africa, ca. early 21st Century. A couple of recent compilations by the Council on Foreign Relations emphasize the two edges of the sword: The Dark Continent-as-Strategic Threat; and The Dark Continent-as-Perennial Basket Case.
Needless to say, almost nobody in Africa buys this latest adaptation of the West’s civilizing mission. For the time being, the headquarters of the new AFRICOM will share space with the new NATO Special Operations Coordination Center in Stuttgart, Germany, HQ for US European Command (EUCOM). But aside from Liberia, Washington is having a hard time finding a state eager to host the permanent HQ of the new AFRICOM. (Though I’d imagine that lots of money will in the end buy Washington whatever it wants.)
Instead, it appears that in this case — as in all others — the selling points are directed at U.S. consumers, NATO-bloc consumers, and Security Council consumers. And the number of times the Security Council has taken up issues that pertain geographically to the continent of Africa having spiked upwards in recent years is hardly coincidental.
Going forward, Africa is the interventionist’s dream. Whether as a theater in the "War on Terror." Or a theater for "humanitarian" missions.
Everybody get your picks and shovels sharpened.
Come and get it!
U.S. Africa Command – AFRICOM (Homepage)
"President Bush Creates a Department of Defense Unified Combatant Command for Africa," White House Office of the Press Secretary, February 6, 2007
"DoD Special Briefing on Africa Command with Mr. Ryan Henry," U.S. Africa Command, June 21, 2007
"Foreign Press center Special Briefing on Africa Command with Mr. Ryan Henry," U.S. Africa Command, June 22, 2007
"First Africa Command Commander Nominated," U.S. Africa Command, July 10, 2007
More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa, Anthony Lake et al. (Council on Foreign Relations Press, 2006)
Beyond Humanitarianism: What You Need to Know About Africa and Why It Matters, Princeton N. Lyman and Patricia Lee Dorff, Eds. (Council on Foreign Relations Press, 2007)
"Africa Command: Forecast for the Future," Otto Sieber, Strategic Insights, January, 2007 (Vol. VI, No. 1)
National Security and the Threat of Climate Change, Gordon R. Sullivan et al., CNA Corporation, April, 2007
"The Pentagon’s New Africa Command," Stephanie Hanson, Council on Foreign Relations, May 3, 2007
"The Americans Have Landed," Thomas P. M. Barnett, Esquire, June, 2007
"The Americans Have Landed," Thomas P.M. Barnett Weblog
"Policing the undergoverned spaces; Africa and the ‘war on terror’," The Economist, June 14, 2007
"The scramble for Africa’s oil," Christopher Thompson, New Statesman, June 18, 2007
"The West must handle with care China’s growing interest in Africa," Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph, February 5, 2007
"US moves in on Africa," Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, February 9, 2007
"Humanitarian Missions as Important as Combat for U.S. Military," Vince Crawley, U.S. Department of State, March 6, 2007
"The last thing we need: The new US command for Africa will militarise the continent and inflame a string of regional conflicts," Salim Lone, The Guardian, March 12, 2007 (as posted to CommonDreams.org)
"New U.S. Command Prompts Fear in Africa," Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press, April 23, 2007 (as posted to USA Today)
"U.S. Africa Command Brings New Concerns," Walter Pincus, Washington Post, May 29, 2007
"Al-Qaida’s New African Alliance Eyed," Katherine Shrader, Associated Press, June 9, 2007 (as posted to ABC News online)
"New US Africa Command Not for Combat, Says Defense Official," Al Pessin, Voice of America, June 21, 2007
"New Africa Command To Have Unique Structure, Mission," Jim Fisher-Thompson, U.S. Department of State, June 22, 2007
"North Africa Reluctant to Host U.S. Command," Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, June 24, 2007
"Africa united in rejecting US request for military HQ," Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, June 26, 2007
"Top black army general tipped for new US Africa Command," Agence France Presse, July 10, 2007
"July 1914 redux?" Harlan Ullman, Washington Times, July 25, 2007
"Captive Nations Week, 2007," White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 10, 2007
Race and History (Homepage)
Update (August 4): Short on time. But with deunking ever on my mind.
Since Western reporting cranked-up on this "Crisis in Darfur" in early 2004 — and it required willful ignorance not to have recognized the usefulness of a humanitarian crisis in some other part of the world to divert attention and emotional energy away from the Western states then as now ravaging Afghanistan and Iraq — I’ve looked upon the conflicts as early harbingers of climate change causing drought, famine, disease, and pestilence in one area of the planet where the margins for human survival are the slimmest, and therefore the outcomes the most immediate and dramatic — unlike, say, in places such as New York, London, Paris, Brussels, or Cambridge, MA and Hollywood, CA. — Just maybe, then, if this kind of intellectual framework catches on, we will begin to hear less about a campaign of "genocide" perpetrated by Arabs against "black Africans" – so much sexier and capable of mobilizing so many more emotional tourists within the rich countries — and more about the never-ending exploitation of the peoples of Africa for geopolitical ends?
The second Hollywood picked-up the "Crisis in Darfur," you knew the fix was on.
Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment (Nairobi: United Nations Environment Program, 2007)
"Scorched," Julian Borger, The Guardian, April 28, 2007
"A Climate Culprit In Darfur," Ban Ki Moon, Washington Post, June 16, 2007
"Darfur conflict heralds era of wars triggered by climate change, UN report warns," Julian Borger, The Guardian, June 23, 2007
"Scientists find underground lake in Darfur, see chance to ease water shortages there," Rodrique Ngowi, Associated Press, July 18, 2007 (as posted to the Forecast Earth website)
"BU team discovers hope for Darfur – Ancient reservoir may mean water," April Yee, Boston Globe, July 18, 2007
"Lake find offers new hope in Darfur crisis," Mark Tran, The Guardian, July 18, 2007
"Underground lake may bring Darfur peace: scientist," Tanzina Vega, Reuters, July 18, 2007
"Huge underground lake could end Darfur conflict: US scientist," Agence France Presse, July 19, 2007 (as posted to CommonDreams.org)
"Lake seen from space brings hope to Darfur," Mike Pflanz, Daily Telegraph, July 19, 2007
"Underground lake may ease Darfur crisis," Leonard Doyle, The Independent, July 19, 2007
"A Godsend for Darfur, or a Curse?" Lydia Polgreen, International Herald Tribune, July 21, 2007
"‘Fill Full the Mouth of Famine’," John Laughland, Sanders Research Associates, July 29, 2004 (as posted to the Scoop website)
"The War on Genocide," ZNet, September 11, 2004
"Great White Warrior," ZNet, September 14, 2004
"‘Crisis in Darfur’," ZNet, October 2, 2004
"Manufacturing Public Opinion," ZNet, March 7, 2005
"‘The Secret genocide Archive’," ZNet, March 16, 2005
"Three Questions," ZNet, March 18, 2007
"Red Meat for the Christian Right," ZNet, July 2, 2005
"The Hollywood Actor’s Burden," Brendan O’Neill, Spiked Online, May 4, 2006
"Ethics and the Rearmament of Imperialism: The French Case," Kristin Ross, in Human Rights and Revolutions, Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom et al., Eds., 2nd. Ed. (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007)
"The Politics of Naming," Mahmood Mamdani, London Review of Books, March 8, 2007
"Intellectual Imperialism," Philip Cunliffe, Spiked Online, May 10, 2007
"Where anti-Arab prejudice and oil make the difference," Roger Howard, The Guardian, May 16, 2007
"Not on our watch — how Hollywood made America care about Darfur," Dan Glaister, The Guardian, May 19, 2007
"A Tale of Two Genocides, Congo and Darfur: The Blatantly Inconsistent U.S. Position," Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report, July 18, 2007
"Darfur: Colonised by ‘peacekeepers’," Philip Cunliffe, Spiked Online, August 2, 2007
"Darfur: pornography for the chattering classes," Brendan O’Neill, Spiked Online, August 14, 2007
Update (August 16): ZNet Blogs’ old friend Kelvin Yearwood sent me this gem, a quote from Che Guevara. Kelvin reminds me that Guevara was "involved in a desperate bid [in the Congo] to help resist imperialist forces in the ’60s and was lucky to get out alive." Guevara’s comment, he rightly adds, "touches on an issue which is very current."
Perhaps the children of Belgian patriots who died defending their country’s freedom are the same ones who freely murdered millions of Congolese on behalf of the white race, just as they suffered under the German boot because their Aryan blood count was not enough….Our free eyes now look toward new horizons, and are able to see what our condition as colonial slaves kept us from seeing only yesterday: that "Western civilization" conceals under its lovely facade a gang of hyenas and jackals. That is the only possible name for those who have gone on a "humanitarian" mission to the Congo. Carnivorous animals, feeding on defenceless peoples: that is what imperialism does to man.
– Quoted in: Companero: The Life and death of Che Guevara, Jorge Castaneda (Vintage Books, 1998), p. 272.