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Our motivation for placing US troops in Africa is the same as in Iraq: oil. --Daphne Wysham, IPS
The Pentagon plans to move between 5,000 and 6,500 troops from bases in Germany to various countries in Africa with the express purpose of protecting US oil interests in Nigeria, which in the future could account for as much as 25% of all U.S. oil imports. Permission for this military expansion will be on President Bush s agenda as he travels throughout Africa this week. But critics charge that this means the U.S. will once again be placing US troops in harm s way in order to secure a free flow of oil for US consumers, fomenting the same sort of anti-American resentment and violence that is being targeted at US troops in Iraq.
A Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and expert on Nigeria, Daphne Wysham, says President George W. Bush s trip to Africa is an attempt to shore up African support for a stronger US military presence in the region under the guise of humanitarianism. Current plans have the US increasing its military presence from 1,500 Marines in Djibouti to 5,000 to 6,500 troops in semi-permanent bases in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Mali, Ghana, and Kenya. According to the Wall Street Journal, US officials claim that a key mission for U.S. forces [in Africa] would be to ensure that Nigeria's oil fields& are secure.
Despite its stature as the fifth largest oil producing nation in OPEC, and the largest country in Africa, 70 percent of Nigerians earn less than a dollar a day. Two elections, in 1999 and 2003, have handed Olusegun Obasanjo the presidency. Yet Nigeria remains a dictatorial democracy, with over 10,000 people killed in violent reprisals by the Nigerian police and military under Obasanjo s rule mostly in the oil-rich Niger Delta--and no constitution created of, by and for the Nigerian people.
The people of Nigeria are destitute after decades of corruption, environmental despoilation, and human rights abuses fed by our oil companies and their corrupt leaders, said Wysham. That frustration will not go away if US troops are brought in quash it; it will only explode into more violent outbursts, with serious consequences for Nigeria s stability, for our troops and for our economy.
We are losing American boys in Iraq every day under the same misguided foreign policy that values control of oil resources over human lives, liberties and the environment, says Wysham. We can t afford to make the same mistakes again in Nigeria. Instead, we should be holding our oil companies accountable to clean up their decades of oil spills, to protect human rights, and to a higher standard with regard to transparency of oil revenues. And we should hold the Nigerian government to a higher standard with regard to deepening and strengthening its democratic institutions.
For more information or to schedule an interview call Joia Nuri at 301-920-0670 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
-------------------- The above is an extract from my fictional novel, "The random postings of Edame".
In the beginning was the word. And man could not handle the word, and the hearing of the word, and he asked God to take away his ears so that he might live in peace without having to hear words which might upset his equinamity or corrupt the unblemished purity of his conscience.
And God, hearing this desperate plea from His creation, wrinkled His mighty brow for a moment and then leaned down toward man, beckoning that he should come close so as to hear all that was about to be revealed to him.
"Fuck you," He whispered, and frowned upon the pathetic supplicant before retreating to His heavens.
Seems to be part of the determination to find other sources of oil. Invade Afghanistan to get access to the Caspian, invade Iraq to sew up the middle east, and get a grip on those oil reserves off the west coast of Africa.
Of course the people who actually live in these places won't see a dime of it.
A desire to loosen Opec's stranglehold on petroleum prices lies behind Bush's interest in Africa and his plans for Iraq, writes Randeep Ramesh
Friday July 11, 2003
America's new world order appears founded on a declaration of independence. George Bush, an oil man from an oil state, wants America to wean itself off a dangerous addiction to faraway hydrocarbons. As the president's national energy plan puts it, this is "a condition of increased dependency on foreign powers that do not always have American interests at heart".
Although admirably blunt, this statement has haunted the Bush administration since it was made in May 2001 - months before the attacks of September 11. America's war on terrorism is often viewed as a scramble for black gold.
There is a logic to this. Getting gas out of the Caspian is a lot easier if you are faced with a pliant Afghanistan. If Iraq is not run by a dictator determined to use oil as a weapon of war - as Dick Cheney said "[to] seek domination of the entire Middle East" - then Americans could sleep easier.
So no surprise that when Mr Bush landed in Africa, whose western coast floats above rich oil-bearing sea beds, the image is of the president as plunderer of a continent's mineral wealth rather than provider of American benevolence.
Oil is not scarce - but most of it lies under the sands of the Middle East. Since 1973, when Arab nations imposed an embargo on oil exports to the US, US presidents have been promising to end America's reliance on energy from potentially unfriendly sources.
Mr Bush may succeed where his predecessors failed. The reason is simply this: America is moving swiftly from influencing the affairs of other nations to controlling them.
This shift sees the dovetailing of two strategic imperatives: energy security and terrorism. The hatred and contempt of America is undoubtedly fed by US high-handedness but it can also be funded by oil revenues.
So oil-rich states that have turned a blind eye to militant anti-Americanism will pay a heavy price. Any that seek to use their wealth to buy weapons of mass destruction will also be threatened with American military might. Viewed from such a perspective, it is easy to see why Iran has been targeted by the Bush administration.
Unlike the imperialists of the British empire who sought control of the Middle East's vast oil reserves by owning them, America's approach is more subtle. Getting oil from many different sources - Africa's share of US imports could replace the Middle East's this decade - is not enough of an answer.
It is the price of oil that can bring the American economy to its knees. To see just how destructive oil price shocks can be, it is worth noting that they have cost America $7 trillion dollars (?4.2 trillion) in the past 30 years.
Oil is a fungible commodity, worth nothing until sold. How can America ensure that the price of oil is stable - low enough for its citizens to afford but high enough for producers to recoup investment costs and make tidy profits?
The answer is to tame unruly regions and coax friendly oil-rich nations to pump more oil on to the world markets. Neither is easy especially given that, as populous nations such as China and India grow, the demand for energy will rise, putting upward pressure on the oil price in decades to come.
From such a vantage point, it is easier to understand how America's interests are served by occupying Iraq. Sitting on top of the globe's second largest oil reserves, Iraq has the potential to become one of the world's biggest petrol pumps.
Installing a US-friendly administration in Baghdad would not only serve foreign policy objectives - securing an ally in a troubled region - but also the American economy. America aspires to having the same relationship with Iraq as it had, before September 11, with Saudi Arabia.
In this future scenario, Baghdad would displace Riyadh as America's friendly swing producer - able to flood the market if there was any attempt to send oil prices skyward by cutting back on production. Of course this will require massive investment and a sustained nation-building effort, but as Mr Bush puts it America is in for the long haul.
All this points to the US's latent intent: to finish the oil cartel Opec. It will be interesting to see whether Mr Bush can convince Nigeria that its interests lie in an alliance with Washington not with the Middle East.
If Lagos were to leave Opec or even argue America's case, then Mr Bush's African expedition would have yielded a significant gain for America. Another triumph would be if Mexico, whose president is in political trouble, allowed foreign investment into its inefficient, state-owned petrol industry. Helping Mexico to pump more oil will help loosen the grip that Opec has on the current oil price.
Perhaps the most interesting American advance is that which is least talked about. US oil companies are reckoned to have brought rights to almost 75% of the oil and gas output from the Caspian, which potentially contains tens of billions of barrels of oil.
The region's powers - Iran, China and Russia - all are wary of a growing US military presence in central Asia. But seen from Capitol Hill, it makes sense to have troops around to secure American investment and the route of potential pipelines in the face of rival powers.
If America's attempt to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan is not ground to dust by the warlordism and chaos that threatens both countries, Washington may reap a significant future peace dividend in the shape of lower oil prices. Oil was not the reason for going to war, but it appears a good enough reason to win the peace.
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