Journalist Nick Turse’s study, entitled “AFRICOM’s Gigantic ‘Small Footprint,’” reviews the increasing role of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) at TomDispatch.com. It illustrates why this issue should become a major focus of Western peace, anti-war and anti-imperialist movements. Little attention has been paid to imperialist interventions in the oppressed African nations.
Although there have been significant U.S. demonstrations against war threats aimed at Syria, the latest machinations of the White House and of the French Prime Minister François Hollande government should not be the sole focus of the anti-war movement. Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency subversion and military intrigues in Africa also require close attention from the movement.
If these trends in Africa are presented cohesively, there could be an upsurge in actions about these events. The United National Antiwar Coalition’s panel discussion, entitled “The War on Africa,” at June’s New York Left Forum attracted a standing-room-only audience. Its success illustrates that there is growing interest in Western imperialism’s interventions in Africa. A plenary session on these issues could have had a stronger impact.
West intent on dominating Africa
Western efforts have intensified to dominate Africa, a continent which has been subjected to nearly six centuries of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism. With the People’s Republic of China playing a greater economic role there, the U.S. ruling class is scrambling to edge out Beijing by increasing its military and intelligence presence.
The Pentagon/NATO seven-month bombing campaign of Libya in 2011 demonstrated the extent to which the imperialists will go to overthrow and remake states. Yet, since Gadhafi’s government fell, Libya has been plunged into economic distress and political chaos.
The U.S. is constructing drone stations throughout the Horn of Africa and in Niger, while it subsidizes a 17,500-person military force in Somalia — now the focus of oil exploration and exploitation, along with other East African states.
Turse says of the Pentagon, “They’re involved in Algeria and Angola, Benin and Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi, Cameroon and the Cape Verde Islands. And that’s just the ABCs of the situation. … Skip to the end of the alphabet and the story remains the same: Senegal and the Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia. From north to south, east to west, the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, the heart of the continent to the islands off its coasts, the U.S. military is at work.”
Turse tracks Pentagon joint military exercises with various African states and the construction of military bases within them. He reviews the building and expansion of the Camp Lemonnier base in Djibouti and the utilization of drone technology to monitor events and offensively strike targeted individuals and organizations.
The escalating Pentagon presence in Africa is also shown by AFRICOM-related bases of operation outside the continent. Located mainly in European countries and in islands under their control, these facilities should concern the continent’s left and anti-war forces, given the history of European colonialism in Africa.
Turse notes, “When considering the scope and rapid expansion of U.S. military activities in Africa, … [note] … key ‘African’ bases are actually located off the continent. … AFRICOM’s headquarters is located at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart-Moehringen, Germany.”
Turse reveals, “… The base in Stuttgart and the U.S. Air Force’s Air Operations Center in Ramstein were both integral to drone operations in Africa. Key logistics support hubs for AFRICOM are located in Rota, Spain; Aruba in the Lesser Antilles; and Souda Bay, Greece, [and] Ramstein.” AFRICOM maintains an operating base on Britain’s Ascension Island, 1,000 miles off Africa’s coast in the South Atlantic.
Anti-imperialist forces must protest
These findings should provide the basis for a more concentrated effort opposing the growing Pentagon and CIA presence in Africa. The organization of a clear anti-imperialist response would encourage revolutionary organizations and movements in Africa, leading to alliances between Western progressive forces and those on the continent.
Study groups should review the history and current events related to imperialist militarism. Task forces should be set up to organize protests against military training facilities and boycotts against corporations involved in these events in Africa.
Pamphlets, books, papers, web pages and other resources should be developed to convey this concrete information to the people in the imperialist countries, Africa and other regions of the globe.