The Africa Command

More Blood for Oil
By Carl Bloice

01/16/07 “Black Commentator” — — Forget about all that stuff about Ethiopia having a ‘tacit’ o.k. from Washington to invade Somalia. The decision was made at the White House and the attack had military support from the Pentagon. The governments are too much in sync and the Ethiopians too dependent on the U.S. to think otherwise.

And, it didn’t just suddenly happen. Ethiopian troops, trained and equipped by the U.S. began infiltrating into Somali territory last summer as part of a plan that began to evolve the previous June when the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) took control of the government. In November, the head of the U.S. Central Command, General John Abizaid (until last week he ran the U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq) was in Addis Ababa. After that, Ghanaian journalist Cameron Duodu has written, Ethiopia ‘moved from proving the Somali government with ‘military advice’ to open armed intervention.’

And not without help. U.S Supplied satellite surveillance data aided in the bombardment of the Somali capital, Mogadishu and pinpointing the location of UIC forces resulting, in the words of New York Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman, in ‘a string of back-to- back military loses in which more than 1,000 fighters, mostly teenage boys, were quickly mowed down by the better-trained and equipped Ethiopian-backed forces.’

As with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the immediate question is why was this proxy attack undertaken, in clear violation of international law and the UN Charter? And again, there is the official line, the excuse and the underlying impetus. The official line from Addis Ababa is that it was a defensive act in the face of a threat of attack from Somalia. There’s nothing to support the claim and a lot of evidence to the contrary. As far as the Bush Administration is concerned, it was a chance to strike back at ‘Islamists’ as part of the on-going ‘war on terror.’ For progressive observers in the region and much of the media outside the U.S., the conflict smells of petroleum.

‘As with Iraq in 2003, the United States has cast this as a war to curtail terrorism, but its real goal is to obtain a direct foothold in a highly strategic region by establishing a client regime there.,’ wrote Salim Lone, spokesperson for the United Nation mission in Iraq in 2003, and now a columnist for The Daily Nation in Kenya. ‘The Horn of Africa is newly oil-rich, and lies just miles from Saudi Arabia, overlooking the daily passage of large numbers of oil tankers and warships through the Red Sea.’

In a television interview broadcast on the day of the full-fledged Ethiopian assault, Marine General James Jones (who ironically, like Abizaid, recently lost his position), then-Nato’s military commander and head of the US military’s European army, expressed his concern that the size of the U.S. army in Europe had ‘perhaps gone too low.’ Jones went on to tell the CSpan interviewer the US needed troops in Europe partly so that they could be quickly deployed in trouble-spots in Africa and elsewhere.

‘I think the emergence of Africa as a strategic reality is inevitable and we’re going to need forward-based troops, special operations, marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors to be in the right proportion,’ said Jones.

‘Pentagon to train sharper eye on Africa,’ read the headline over a January 5 report by Richard Whittle in the Christian Science Monitor. ‘Strife, oil, and Al Qaeda are leading the US to create a new Africa Command.’

‘Africa, long beset by war, famine, disease, and ethnic tensions, has generally taken a backseat in Pentagon planning – but US officials say that is about to change,’ wrote Whittle, who went on to report that one of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s last acts before being dismissed from that position was to convince President Bush to create a new Africa military Africa command, something the White House is expected to announce later this year. The creation of the new body, he quoted one expert as saying, reflects the Administration concern about ‘Al Qaeda’s known presence in Africa,’ China’s developing relations with the continent with regards to oil supplies and the fact that ‘Islamists took over Somalia last June and ruled until this week, when Ethiopian troops drove them out of power.’

Currently, the US gets about 10 percent of its oil from Africa, but, the Monitor story said but ‘some experts say it may need to rely on the continent for as much as 25 percent by 2010.’ Reportedly, nearly two-thirds of Somalia’s oil fields were allocated to the U.S. oil companies Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips before Somalia’s pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in January, 1991.

Read it here.

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