27 Oct 2011

Wasted $1 trillion in the futile Iraq war? Being defeated by medieval Afghan tribesmen? Can’t pay your bills at home or abroad? Government paralyzed? Worried about China?

What’s the answer? Simple.

A new little war in Africa.

Having finished off former ally Muammar Gadaffi, the US Pentagon, CIA, and the new US Africa Command are now focusing on East Africa.

In recent weeks, the long simmering conflict in the Horn of Africa burst into flames as the US and France intensified military operations against Somalia’s rag-tag nationalist/Islamist militia, Shebab.

Western politicians and media warn Shebab is a dire international threat that must be stamped out, though most could not find Somalia on a world map.

Though CIA chief Leon Panetta recently admitted only 25-50 al-Qaida members were active in Afghanistan, it seems new al-Qaida threats are popping up all over Africa and the Mideast.

Just in time for Halloween, the ghost of Osama bin Laden is haunting us.

The US will send 100 special hunter-killer troops to Uganda, an undemocratic US ally. This new US force will also operate in Congo (ex-Zaire), Central African Republic, Kenya, and South Sudan – whose independence from Sudan was recently engineered by Washington.

The ostensible reason America’s new involvement in darkest Africa is a deeply obscure bunch of Ugandan bush rebels, the Lord’s Resistance Army, that has been kidnapping villagers and stealing chickens for decades.

At the same time, Washington is bankrolling a Kenyan invasion of southern Somalia, and France is providing naval support and arms. Kenya says it is reacting to attacks from Somalia by Shebab. But the real attackers were more likely traditional local Somali bandits known as “shiftas.”

CIA teams, US-financed mercenaries, Predator drones and Ethiopian forces are currently attacking Shebab.

All this should have been unnecessary. In 2005, a moderate Muslim movement, the Islamic Courts Union, had established control over most of chaotic southern and central Somalia. This was its first stable government since 1991.

But the Bush administration, still reeling from 9/11, went ballistic over the name “Islamic” and ordered the Courts Union overthrown. In early 2006, Washington financed Ethiopia, a close US ally, to invade Somalia. The Courts Union government was duly ousted, but the Ethiopians, ancient blood foes of the Somalis, had to eventually withdraw, leaving more chaos in their wake.

Enter Shebab, an Islamic youth organization dedicated to liberating Somalia from foreign control. Its fiery leaders took 19th Century Somali resistance to British colonialism as their model, and imposed Sharia law.

Meanwhile, northern Somalia went its own way in the form of autonomous Puntland and Somaliland, from which piracy flourishes.

The US set up a figurehead regime in Mogadishu, the grandly titled but powerless and derided “Transitional Federal Government,” which was sustained by 9,000 US financed Ugandan mercenaries called the “African Union Peace Force,” backed by Ethiopian forces on the border. US drones, fighter aircraft and special forces based in Djibouti now routinely attack Somali targets as well as ones in Yemen.

In the midst of this bloody confusion, famine and drought are ravaging the Horn of Africa, producing millions of desperate refugees. Shebab is accused of blocking food aid. But Shebeb sees the UN and other aid groups as “soft power” tools of the western powers.

Doesn’t Washington have enough on its hands without sending troops to Uganda and Somalia, or South Sudan?

The US is moving into southern Africa for two main reasons. First, to secure South Sudan’s important oil deposits and possible energy finds in Uganda. Second, to block the spread of further Chinese economic influence in the region. France’s neoconservative government is greatly alarmed by China’s involvement in its African sphere of influence.

However, there are manifest dangers for the US. Washington may get sucked into a complex, turbulent region in which it has no real strategic interests other than the lust for energy and a knee-jerk reaction to anything Islamic.

The White House is supposed to be cutting expenses at a time when budgets are out of control and 44 million Americans subsist on food stamps.

Let Washington’s squabbling politicians deal with budget headaches says the mighty US national security establishment. We’re in charge. Onward to Kampala and Juba!

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2011

This post is in: International Politics, Military and Security Affairs

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