The U.S. has nothing to offer Africa but guns, drones and an extended half-life for the neocolonial order.
Chastened by the long-awaited Mueller report–or at least what we’ve learned about the two-year probe into “Russiagate” from Attorney General William Barr–the U.S. corporate media have been forced to partially abandon their ludicrous claim of “collusion” between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Or maybe the hysteria-makers were finally exhausted by their marathon of lies. But the civil war within the U.S. ruling class will continue to simmer, because it is rooted in real contradictions–primarily, a fear that Trump cannot be depended on to keep up the momentum of President Obama’s global military offensive and thus disrupt the rise of China and its strategic ally, Russia.
The Lords of Capital are painfully aware that U.S. imperialism has been drained of whatever “soft” power it once had in the world and left with only two cards to play: multi-theater, unremitting military aggression and full-spectrum weaponization of the dollar. “Regime change” is the localized manifestation of Washington’s desperate bid to upend and disrupt the emerging new global order, as China returns to its historical place at the center of the world–the position it held when Columbus embarked on his pillages. Therefore, although Donald Trump has gotten a respite from Mueller, the orchestrated demonization of Russia, China, Venezuela, Syria and “socialism” will remain the daily fare of the U.S. propaganda machine that masquerades as journalism. In other words, a step back to “normal.”
The New York Times can thus continue to personalize its New Cold War hysteria with Putin-bashing–while leaving Trump out of it. For example, in an article this week titled “Russia’s Military Mission Creep Advances to a New Front: Africa,” the Times claims that “expanding Moscow’s military sway on the continent reflects Mr. Putin’s broader vision of returning Russia to its former glory.” The piece is sheer polemics disguised as journalism, citing recent Russian military “cooperation with Guinea, Burkina Faso, Burundi and Madagascar” and Russian “major oil and gas interests in Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria” as grave threats to stability in Africa. Yet, in a 1,500 word article, the Times fails to even mention AFRICOM, the U.S. military command that has virtually occupied the entire continent since its inception in 2008, climaxing with President Obama’s 2011 assault on Libya that plunged the whole northern tier of the region into flames. By 2017, according to journalist Nick Turse, AFRICOM was “conducting 3,500 exercises, programs, and engagements per year, an average of nearly 10 missions per day, on the African continent…” a “signal of America’s deepening and complicated ties” in Africa.
Nothing Russia has done in Africa comes close to Washington’s deep penetration of the continent, yet the Times writes that “the United States military has a relatively light footprint across Africa.” The U.S. and Europe fund and oversee every African “peace-keeping” mission, including the conflict in Somalia, where the CIA directs a full-scale drone war that has been dramatically escalated under President Trump. In the eight years that Barack Obama was president, “AFRICOM went from three military bases to 84 bases” on the continent, said Paul Pumphrey, co-founder of Friends of Congo. Six million Congolese have died as a result of interventions by neighboring, U.S.-backed regimes in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, with the full complicity of Washington. Under U.S. and Israeli tutelage, Africa’s largest nation, Sudan, was split in two in 2011, only to see South Sudan erupt in a civil war two years later that has killed nearly 400,00 people. The United States and France overcame their imperial rivalry in Africa and have partnered to occupy Mali and Niger, where four U.S. Special Forces troops were killed in 2017 and the U.S. is building a huge drone base, to be staffed by at least 800 American personnel.
The U.S. military footprint is heavier and wider, by far, than any other nation, but Times reporter Eric Schmitt apparently feels confident in stating, as fact, that the U.S. has a “light footprint” in Africa because that’s what AFRICOM’s top brass has been saying since 2012. Therefore, it must be true despite the numbers that say differently. Nick Turse, whose reporting got him black-balled by AFRICOM’s high command, wrote in 2018 that the U.S. maintained “34 sites scattered across the continent, with high concentrations in the north and west as well as the Horn of Africa.” The biggest military facility is located in Djibouti, a desperately poor country that has been turned into a foreign base farm for the U.S., France, Italy, Saudi Arabia Japan and China–Beijing and Tokyo’s only bases in Africa, purportedly to patrol against piracy on the Somali coast.
Russia has no bases in Africa, but is said to be exploring establishing one in the Central African Republic, the former French colony where the U.S. briefly imprisoned Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide after overthrowing his elected government in 2004. The talks between Moscow and Bangui have caused consternation in Washington and Paris, anxieties that have been relayed to the New York Times with full confidence that the paper’s private sector propagandists are better liars than any military press spokesperson. The Times dutifully writes that France’s minister of armed forces is unhappy. “We feel very much concerned by the growing Russian influence in a country that we know well, the Central African Republic,” Florence Parly told reporters during a recent visit to Washington.
France knows the country well because it oppressed and exploited the Central African people for generations–an expertise that white Americans tend to respect.
So, Africa is swarming with U.S. troops stationed at bases throughout the continent, second only to the French presence in the region, but the Times can say with a straight face that the U.S. Africa Command has a “light footprint,” while the baseless Vladimir Putin dreams of “of returning Russia to its former glory” through “a more militaristic approach in Africa,” in the words of an American general. There should be little doubt that Russia, the second biggest arms merchant in the world, behind the U.S., is actively seeking African markets for its weapons. What scares the U.S. is that African nations like Guinea, Burkina Faso, Burundi and Madagascar want to do arms and training deals with Russia, to diversity their defense suppliers and create a “multi-polar” environmentin Africa.
U.S. imperialism tolerates only one pole–its own–and instructs its media mouthpieces to vilify all competitors. But the U.S. cannot compete economically with Russia’s partner, China, whose trade with Africa surpassed the United States in 2009. African states are eager to become part China’s New Silk Road, or Belt and Road Initiative, the world’s greatest public works, transportation and trade project, which offers Africa unprecedented “connectivity” to the planet’s economic center in the East. The U.S. has nothing to offer Africa but guns, drones and an extended half-life for the neocolonial order–and Russia can cut a better deal on the guns.
The New York Times and the rest of the corporate media tell tales that only Americans believe, in service of a crumbling imperial, racist order. The U.S. media bubble is a scary place, populated by demons and villains that are determined to steal or destroy an “American way of life” that most Americans–especially Black folks–have never lived.
Having nothing to offer the people but endless war and austerity, the Lords of Capital invent enemies, complete with full-blown fictitious pathologies, conjured histories and fabricated motives. Amid the imperial rot, the oligarchs turns on each other, as they did in 2016 in a fit of panic called Russiagate. A Deep State referee named Mueller has called for a pause in the fratricide among the corporate brethren, but that can only signal an intensification of the lies that corporate media tell against external “enemies” and actual dissidents on home front.
In decline, the Lords of Capital have no good stories to tell. To the extent that they control the domestic narrative, everything becomes slander.