Summary: There’s an institutional drive for growth, just like that in biological entities. Sometimes it become cancerous, inimical to the overall organism. So it is with our mad profitless empire — which makes previous empires (eg, Spain, British) look like works of genius. Here Nick Turse looks at the latest expansion, taking US forces — financed with borrowed money — into Africa. The tyrannical juntas there need our support!
Obama’s Scramble for Africa
Secret Wars, Secret Bases, and the Pentagon’s “New Spice Route” in Africa
By Nick Turse
Originally published at TomDispatch, 12 July 2012.
Reposted with the author’s generous permission.
- Introduction by Tom Endlehardt
- Our main feature by Nick Turse
- Reply by Africom, and Turse’s response
- About the author
- For more information about our empire
(1) Introduction by Tom Englehardt
Here’s an odd question: Is it possible that the U.S. military is present in more countries and more places now than at the height of the Cold War? It’s true that the U.S. is reducing its forces and giant bases in Europe and that its troops are out of Iraq (except for that huge, militarized embassy in Baghdad). On the other hand, there’s that massive ground, air, and naval build-up in the Persian Gulf, the Obama administration’s widely publicized “pivot” to Asia (including troops and ships), those new drone bases in the eastern Indian Ocean region, some movement back into Latin America (including a new base in Chile), and don’t forget Africa, where less than a decade ago, the U.S. had almost no military presence at all. Now, as TomDispatch Associate Editor Nick Turse writes in the latest in his “changing face of empire” series, U.S. special operations forces, regular troops, private contractors, and drones are spreading across the continent with remarkable (if little noticed) rapidity.
Putting together the pieces on Africa isn’t easy. For instance, only the other day it was revealed that three U.S. Army commandos in a Toyota Land Cruiser had skidded off a bridge in Mali in April. They died, all three, along with three women identified as “Moroccan prostitutes.” This is how we know that U.S. special operations forces were operating in chaotic, previously democratic Mali after a coup by a U.S.-trained captain accelerated the unraveling of the country, leading more recently to its virtual dismemberment by Tuareg rebels and Islamist insurgents. Consider this a sample of what Nick Turse calls the U.S. military’s “scramble for Africa” in a seamy, secretive nutshell.
So here’s another question: Who decided in 2007 that a U.S. Africa Command should be set up to begin a process of turning that continent into a web of U.S. bases and other operations? Who decided that every Islamist rebel group in Africa, no matter how local or locally focused, was a threat to the U.S., calling for a military response? Certainly not the American people, who know nothing about this, who were never asked if expanding the U.S. global military mission to Africa was something they favored, who never heard the slightest debate, or even a single peep from Washington on the subject.
(2) Our main feature, by Nick Turse
They call it the New Spice Route, an homage to the medieval trade network that connected Europe, Africa, and Asia, even if today’s “spice road” has nothing to do with cinnamon, cloves, or silks. Instead, it’s a superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel, food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps, and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa.