A shocking new report reveals that Ukraine donated more money to the Clinton Foundation than any other county on Earth. Ukraine beat out both of those countries — and everyone else — by donating a whopping $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. See this chart for yourself, published in The Wall Street Journal, about contributions…
Written by Geoffrey Ramsey
An independent analysis of U.S. government figures showed that the total amount of cocaine confiscated in one year was bigger than the U.S. estimate of global production — but the response from the White House was far from satisfying.
According to Narcoleaks, an Italian NGO which monitors anti-drug operations worldwide, the Obama administration’s estimates of global cocaine production are unrealistically low. In a strongly-worded press statement released last week, the group questioned the State Department’s assertion that the world production of the drug in 2009 amounted to 700 metric tons.
As the report points out, this clashes with a recent statement from the U.S. Coast Guard, which claimed that 771 metric tons of cocaine were sent to the U.S. in 2011. It also jars with the group’s estimate that 744-794 metric tons of cocaine will have been seized globally by the end of the year. Narcoleaks said that this discrepancy amounted to an “embarrassing contradiction,” and called on the Obama administration to clarify it.
The group also took on the recent claim by U.S. drug officials that Peru has outstripped Colombia as the world’s top producer of cocaine. According to Narcoleaks, this was disproved by the recent discovery of a cocaine lab in Colombia which police claimed could produce between 500 and 800 kilos of cocaine HCl per day. If this is accurate, the group pointed out, it would mean that the lab churned out between 182 and 292 metric tons of cocaine per year, accounting for almost the country’s entire cocaine output, according to a U.S. estimate which put it at 270 tons.
However, it is far more likely that the output of the lab was simply misquoted on the National Police’s website. Local press accounts quoted General Luis Alberto Perez, head of Colombia’s Anti-Narcotics Police, as giving that figure as the weekly production, not daily. Additionally, the amount of time that the cocaine lab had been operating is not known, so it is not necessarily possible to extrapolate an annual production rate. Considering its size, it seems unlikely that this lab would have been able to operate clandestinely for very long.
Still, Narcoleaks’ skepticism of the U.S. figures is not without cause. Just the Facts’ Adam Isacson also questioned the State Department’s estimate in March, noting that the estimate of 2009 world cocaine production is equal to the amount that the agency claims was seized in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru or the U.S., plus the estimate of cocaine which passed through Venezuela, leading to the unlikely conclusion that the world’s entire cocaine output was either seized, or was trafficked via Venezuela.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) responded to Narcoleaks’ allegations on its blog, claiming that the organization’s analysis was “systematically flawed.” According to the ONDCP, seizures cannot be compared to global production estimates, because cocaine becomes increasingly diluted the further it travels along the supply chain. While this is true, it is unlikely to account for the entire gap, as Narcoleaks has pointed out.
The White House office also stressed that the administration’s estimates were “just that — estimates,” and should not be taken as hard facts. As the ONDCP argues: “our estimate of potential cocaine production of about 700 metric tons (of pure cocaine or about 850 metric tons of export quality cocaine) is actually the midpoint of a range — there may have been more or less actually produced.”
This caution is a reminder of the uncertainties inherent in tracking the flow of narcotics worldwide. Because of the shadowy nature of drug trafficking, it is simply not possible to come up with exact figures on production. Still, policymakers in the U.S. and around the globe make major political decisions based on these estimates. Even in countries that are relatively small players in the hemispheric drug trade, the drug-related declarations of the U.S. government carry a lot of weight. This was illustrated recently when the government of Guyana issued a triumphant press release celebrating its absence from a U.S. government list of major transit nations, despite other official claims the country exhibits “marginal commitment and capacity at all levels of government.”
A better response to Narcoleaks’ criticisms might be for the U.S. government to work with academics and specialists to try to tweak the estimates to account for the apparent inconsistency, and leave all political considerations out of it.
- FOLLOWING THE COCAINE TRAIL: How The White Powder Gets Into American Hands (businessinsider.com)
- Most cocaine produced in Colombia; upto 95.5% (peavyblack.com)
- Obama commutes sentence of crack cocaine dealer (thegrio.com)
- Why It’s No Longer Raining Cocaine in the Dominican Republic (time.com)
Myanmar is likely to consider the issue of gas exports to Bangladesh after meeting its domestic demand.
The two countries are considering bilateral talks regarding Bangladesh’s interest in exploring offshore blocks.
- Burma And Aung San Suu Kyi: Change In Tactics Or Colors? – Analysis
- Total To Wait On Burma Expansion
- Burma: Activists Ask For More
- Burma Government Hopeful Over End To US, EU Sanctions
- Burma: Fast Forward To Democracy – Analysis
- President Obama’s Speech On The New Cold War – OpEd
- Burma: Suu Kyi’s Party Re-Registers While By-Election Date Still Uncertain – OpEd
- Burma: Soon Will Be Legal To Hold Protests
- Court In Malaysia Finds Bush And Blair Guilty Of War Crimes
- Pro-Democracy Burmese Oppose ASEAN Chair For Burma
- ASEAN gambles on Myanmar’s regional leadership (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Burma Today (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Reuters: Clinton to weigh reforms in historic Myanmar visit (focus-fen.net)
- What will happen to China as Burma (Myanmar) gets closer with Vietnam, US? (csmonitor.com)
- China urgers closer Myanmar military ties (upi.com)
- Clinton to visit Burma, boost reform efforts (sfgate.com)
- Obama sending Clinton to Myanmar to explore new ties (theglobeandmail.com)
- China, Burma To Strengthen Military Cooperation (voanews.com)
- China and Burma reaffirm strained ties (dvb.no)
- ConocoPhillips starts gas search in Bangladesh in Oct (sayou.wordpress.com)
- Gazprom eyes Bangladeshi natural gas (upi.com)
- Bangladesh ‘Feared Attack’ From Burma: WikiLeaks (wakeupbd.wordpress.com)
Tom Allard November 17, 2011
TENSIONS over the oil-rich and strategically important South China Sea escalated yesterday, as Chinese state media accused the US and the Philippines of planning a ”grab” for its resources and a senior foreign ministry official said it did not want the issue discussed at this week’s East Asia Summit in Bali.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday in Manila that the US ”will certainly expect and participate in very open and frank discussions” on the topic at the summit, which will be attended by US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
The looming confrontation over the South China Sea threatens to overshadow the East Asia Summit, a grouping of nations based on the south-east Asian countries of ASEAN that has emerged as the prime forum for security and political discussions in the Asia-Pacific region.
The South China Sea is a potential flashpoint between the US and China as the two powers seek to assert their interests in Asia, the fastest-growing region in the world.
The US has leapt on nervousness among smaller Asian nations about China’s growing military might and bellicose diplomacy to reassert its long-standing role as an anchor of security in Asia, even as its economic importance wanes. Before Mrs Clinton’s visit to Manila and the East Asia Summit, which the US will attend for the first time, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said: ”Now that Obama is scheduled to appear at the ASEAN Summit, the Philippines will embrace the ‘golden chance’ to get back at China, again churning up the South China Sea.”
The Global Times, another Chinese government mouthpiece, said the Philippines, aided and abetted by the US, was intent on ”grabbing resources from Chinese water”. ”We hope the South China Sea will not be discussed at the East Asia Summit,” Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said.
Mrs Clinton yesterday signed a declaration with her Philippines counterpart, Albert del Rosario, aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald in Manila Bay, to boost defence co-operation between the two countries and calling for multilateral talks on the South China Sea.
The Philippines is one of six countries claiming part or all of an archipelago in the South China Sea known as the Spratly Islands, which are believed to lie above significant oil and gas reserves. The area is also of high strategic value as a vital sea lane for much of the world’s trade.
This year, Chinese and Philippines naval ships have had skirmishes with fishermen and other vessels each country believed had been encroaching on its territory.
While many of the claimants – which also include Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei – want multilateral talks to solve the dispute, China insists on one-on-one negotiations.
Burma is set to chair the 2014 ASEAN and East Asian summits after members said its political reforms meant it was now a suitable candidate for the role.
The US, Australia and other participants still have sanctions in place against Burma but have cautiously welcomed the release of political prisoners and other reform in a country that was run by a military junta for decades until elections this year.
ASEAN foreign ministers ”all recognize the important and significant developments taking place in [Burma]”, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.
- Clinton warns against intimidation in South China Sea dispute – Reuters (reuters.com)
- U.S. boosts military presence in Australia (macleans.ca)
By MARK LANDLER Published: November 12, 2011
IT may seem strange in an era of cyberwarfare and drone attacks, but the newest front in the rivalry between the United States and China is a tropical sea, where the drive to tap rich offshore oil and gas reserves has set off a conflict akin to the gunboat diplomacy of the 19th century.
The Obama administration first waded into the treacherous waters of the South China Sea last year when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared, at a tense meeting of Asian countries in Hanoi, that the United States would join Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries in resisting Beijing’s efforts to dominate the sea. China, predictably, was enraged by what it viewed as American meddling.
For all its echoes of the 1800s, not to mention the cold war, the showdown in the South China Sea augurs a new type of maritime conflict — one that is playing out from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arctic Ocean, where fuel-hungry economic powers, newly accessible undersea energy riches and even changes in the earth’s climate are conspiring to create a 21st-century contest for the seas.
China is not alone in its maritime ambitions. Turkey has clashed with Cyprus and stoked tensions with Greece and Israel over natural-gas fields that lie under the eastern Mediterranean. Several powers, including Russia, Canada and the United States, are eagerly circling the Arctic, where melting polar ice is opening up new shipping routes and the tantalizing possibility of vast oil and gas deposits beneath.
“This hunt for resources is going to consume large bodies of water around the world for at least the next couple of decades,” Mrs. Clinton said in a recent interview, describing a global competition that sounds like a watery Great Game.
Such tensions are sure to shadow President Obama this week, as he meets with leaders from China and other Asian countries in Honolulu and on the Indonesian island of Bali. Administration officials said they expected all sides to tamp down disagreements, though that won’t mask the coming conflicts.
“Underlying all of this is the recognition that an increasing share of oil resources is offshore,” said Daniel Yergin, an energy expert and author of a new book, “The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World.” “When you have energy resources on land,” he said, “you know where things stand. When they’re offshore, things can get murkier.”
Twenty-nine million barrels of oil a day, one-third of global production, now come from offshore fields, Mr. Yergin said, a share that will rise steadily. The South China Sea alone is estimated to have 61 billion barrels of petroleum — oil and gas — plus 54 billion yet to be discovered, while the Arctic is projected to have 238 billion barrels, with possibly twice that in undiscovered sources.
As countries race to erect drilling rigs and send oil exploration vessels to comb the seabed, conflicting maritime claims are helping to fuel a naval arms race. It is no coincidence that the countries with the fastest-growing navies are those with stakes in these energy zones.
China expanded from 2 Soviet-era destroyers in 1990 to 13 modern destroyers in 2010, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. In its drive for a blue-water navy, one that operates in the deep waters of open oceans, it is also building an aircraft carrier. Malaysia and Vietnam are beefing up their navies with frigates and submarines. India, which wants to make sure it has access to the Far East, is bulking up. And the Israeli Navy is pushing for more vessels to counter Turkish warships circling Israeli drilling rigs.
“Countries want to make sure they have the ability to develop resources and to make sure their trading routes are protected,” said David L. Goldwyn, a former special envoy for international energy affairs at the State Department.
This competition is also behind calls for the United States to bolster its naval strength, even at a time of budget cuts. Mitt Romney, considered by many the Republican front-runner in the presidential race, declared recently he would “reverse the hollowing of our Navy and announce an initiative to increase the shipbuilding rate from 9 per year to 15.” With anemic building rates and tighter maintenance budgets, analysts say, the Navy has been forced to cope with an aging fleet that some say is not up to its challenges.
Even so, the Obama administration has been an active practitioner of gunboat diplomacy, a term that refers to achieving foreign-policy objectives through vivid displays of naval might. Last fall, Mr. Obama sent the aircraft carrier George Washington to the Yellow Sea for joint exercises with South Korea, sending a message to both North Korea and its key backer, China. The move echoed the Clinton administration’s decision in 1996 to send the Seventh Fleet to warn China against attacking Taiwan.
The United States has used gunboat diplomacy in Asia at least since 1853, when Commodore Matthew C. Perry sailed his fleet into Tokyo Bay, intimidating Japan into opening up to foreign trade. But these days, the Chinese are fashioning an Asian version of the Monroe Doctrine to press their imperial ambitions.
FOR Mr. Obama, whose roots in Hawaii and Indonesia have imbued him with a strong Pacific worldview, the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan gives him a good pretext to turn his gaze eastward. The United States has worked to shore up its ties to old Asian allies, like Japan and South Korea, as well as new giants like India. The goal, though administration officials are loath to say it publicly, is to assemble a coalition to counterbalance China’s growing power.
On a recent tour of Asia, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta pledged not to retreat from the region. “If anything,” he said, “we’re going to strengthen our presence in the Pacific.” This week, Mr. Obama is expected to announce an agreement with Australia for a permanent American military presence there.
On land, the race for energy supplies is not new, of course. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the United States maneuvered to keep Russia out of oil-rich Iran. Today, China is busy cutting deals in energy-rich Africa. But technology has changed the equation, putting undersea oil and gas fields into play as never before.
“At root, it’s a question of when and how you will have these conflicts,” said James B. Steinberg, a former deputy secretary of state with experience in all three regions. “Will countries see these as win-win opportunities, or will they see them as zero-sum competitions?”
For China, the South China Sea has long been crucial as a supply route for oil and other raw materials to fuel its economy. China’s claims have deep historical roots, dating from the 1940s, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists drew a dotted line in the shape of a cow’s tongue extending south of China, embracing most the sea and two disputed island chains, the Paracels and the Spratlys.
Quarrels over these hunks of volcanic rock wouldn’t matter much, except that China, Vietnam and the Philippines are running into one another in the race for oil. Last spring, in two separate incidents, Vietnam accused Chinese vessels of deliberately cutting the seismic survey cables of an oil exploration ship. A former American official said his nightmare scenario would be a Chinese warship’s firing on an Exxon oil-drilling ship.
If the South China Sea is simmering, then the eastern Mediterranean is seething. There, claims to huge natural-gas reserves off the coast of Cyprus and Lebanon have raised tensions with Turkey, which occupies half of Cyprus, as well as with Israel. Cyprus and Israel are drilling for gas, angering Turkey. The militant Islamic group Hezbollah, in Lebanon, has threatened to attack Israeli gas rigs.
Further complicating this is the bitter rift between Turkey and Israel after the deadly Israeli commando interception of a Turkish flotilla trying to transport aid to Palestinians in Gaza last year.
“The Turks are saying, ‘The Israelis humiliated us; what can we do in return?’” said Charles K. Ebinger, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Part of it is just the greater assertiveness of Turkey’s foreign policy everywhere.”
Perhaps the least dangerous arena of competition lies in the frigid north, partly because experts believe that many of the Arctic’s mineral deposits lie within one or another of the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of the countries that ring the ocean. But even countries with no Arctic coastline, like China and South Korea, are sending icebreakers there to explore weather patterns and fish migration.
Ironically, the biggest bone of contention there is between two stalwart allies, the United States and Canada. Melting ice has opened up the fabled Northwest Passage, which runs through an archipelago of islands in northern Canada. The United States views the passage as an international waterway, giving American ships unlimited access. The Canadian government insists it is an inland waterway, meaning that foreign ships can use it only with Ottawa’s approval.
Canada and the United States are highly unlikely to go to war, of course, though the wrangling could keep maritime lawyers busy for years. As temperatures climb, officials warn, tempers may follow. “It’s a serious legal dispute,” Mr. Steinberg said. “When it is ice-free, there will be some real issues.”
- News Analysis: A New Era of Gunboat Diplomacy (nytimes.com)
- What America Does Best (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Obama to vow bigger Asia footprint on Pacific tour – Reuters (reuters.com)
- The wrong model for China (Asia Times Online) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- Philippines seeks summit on sea row; China cool (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Canada, Mexico back Pacific free-trade bloc (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
November 12, 2011
Former Anti-”Mercenary” Sec. State Clinton is Now the Industry’s Biggest Booster
Somalia Report leaked the internal memo from Hillary Clinton directing all regional embassies to pitch the use of armed contractors on board ships. This is in line with and expands upon the UK’s approval of private security companies on just their ships. This is akin to legalizing band aids without actually curing the wounds that require them.
What also makes the U.S. stance unusual is that Clinton has reversed her aggressive election-era stance against the use of private security and become a behind-the-scenes supporter.
A November news conference in DC confirms that the United States is now officially supporting the use of private security companies aboard commercial vessels. Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs was assigned the task of communicating this reversal while addressing the Defense Trade Advisory Group (DTAG).
The simple approval of the use of deadly force and non-state actors has a number of implications. Foremost would be how do deal with the general agreement and public statements by large shipping companies that they view the responsibility of maritime security to be rooted in the flag carrier, navies and legitimate purveyors of deadly force, not the maritime industry. The industry and mariners do not see themselves as the law of the sea and only view the use of armed guards as a last resort.
The recent piracy trend in Somalia actually began in 2000 when UK trained armed Somali guards decided to hijack ships they were hired to protect. The most memorable incident was when Canadian company SomCan’s first contract in Puntland ended in 2005, when three of its own employees were arrested for hijacking a Thai fishing trawler and demanding $800,000 ransom. The current State Department may be a little short on historical briefings when it comes to Somalia.
Nations with naval power like the US and the UK only flag a tiny almost insignificant percentage of the world’s commercial fleets, making their stance more posturing than productive. The international nature of the maritime business where the largest number of mariners typically come from the poorest countries and flags of convenience being chosen more for their regulation loopholes than their military might are the de facto standard.
Pirates have been using western coast guard skills and criminal zeal to mine the insurance gap for almost a decade now. It might be the only $100M plus a year maritime business here millions of dollars are regularly paid tax free to men wearing flip flops and rusty AKs. If a hijack scenario was played out inside any western nation, a much different approach would be used. It is the insurance companies that demand the use of armed security guards on ships, not the maritime industry. And the new support of this industry based on “no armed ship grabbed by pirates” mantra does not excuse nations from defending their citizens and business interests overseas.
This direct endorsement of for-profit companies to do what navies were created to do is a seismic shift. All that is needed now is a letter of marque and a decent bounty on pirates to complete the scene. Something that mariners in the region might not be greatly opposed to but Somali fisherman might be opposed to.
There is also much work to do internationally to allow the unimpeded flow of vessels with weapons on board. Certain regions like the Suez controlled by Egypt specifically banned the presence of weapons and armed guards. Now they request a detailed list of weapons and personnel on board. Armed guards are confined to deploying from countries like Yemen or Oman who have a working relationship with security companies. But landing a ship in Mogadishu and offloading an armed crew would be violating the UN Arms Embargo. The world of user permits, arms control, general distrust of private security companies and concerns about the use of deadly force have led to like escort ships that keep the weapons off the ship but allow an armed presence.
Most legislation or industry rules are designed for land based security within a single country, making the transit of international waters and port hopping problematic for armed guards. This led to the white lie of security companies telling the customs brokers that they threw their weapons overboard when they docked with a client ship. The reality is they were kept in international waters.
The use of hired guns to fight pirates actually has historical roots in history but the political correctness of the times is sure to inflate the simple logical concept of trained ex-military quietly doing their job to the more cinematic treatment given security companies in Iraq. It should be the responsibility of the flag nation to defend the lives, hull and cargo of their ships complete with national assets providing the security but in a world of pragmatic choices it appears that hired guns will be riding shotgun on the world’s commercial fleets.
Andrew J. Shapiro remarks to the Defense Trade Advisory Group November 9, 2011
“Finally, I want to provide a brief update on our efforts to counter piracy off the Horn of Africa. This is another area where we are working very closely with industry.
Commercial shipping vessels transiting off the coast of Somalia are frequent targets for pirates. The lives of innocent seafarers have been lost and crews are often held hostage for many months in appalling conditions. The monetary total of ransoms demanded runs into hundreds of millions of dollars a year, with the total cost of piracy to the global economy estimated to be in the billions. With so much water to patrol it is difficult for international naval forces in the region to protect every commercial vessel. Working with industry, we recently established a national policy encouraging countries to allow commercial ships transiting high-risk waters to have armed security teams on board.
The reason for this is simple: to date no ship with an armed security team aboard has been successfully pirated. We believe that the expanded use of armed security teams by commercial vessels is a major reason why we have seen a decline in the number of successful pirate attacks this year. Therefore, we have recently demarched countries to permit the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on commercial vessels. And we are also working with industry and transit countries to make it less onerous for privately contracted security personnel to transit foreign ports with weapons intended for the self-defense of ships.
We have also shifted our efforts to focus on the pirate leaders and organizers ashore. The focus ashore is essential, as piracy has evolved into an organized transnational criminal enterprise conducted for profit. It is increasingly clear that the arrest and prosecution of pirates captured at sea – often the low-level operatives involved in piracy – is insufficient, on its own, to meet our longer term counter-piracy goals. To maintain the momentum and space for action gained by naval operations, we have begun an effort to identify ways to disrupt these criminal networks and to determine the means to dismantle their financial networks.” Via U.S. Dept. of State
There are some serious flaws in the thought process behind the State Department’s thinking. There is not a single mention of the impact of the thousands of mariners who have been held hostage, abused, beaten and killed. The State Dept seems to have made this decision based on financial rationale.
The U.S. also uses financial fiction to mask its decision. Piracy does not cost the shipping industry billions, the shipping industry makes millions from piracy by passing on the increased surcharges passed on to consumers. The insurance and security industry also makes money from mitigating the threat of piracy. There is nothing amoral about providing these necessary services but the ability of pirates to make millions from piracy is a direct result of the international nations doing little to nothing about ending piracy. Piracy is rooted in a handful of remote windblown ports and seaborne “action groups” monitored daily by the navies in the area. The regional governments of Puntland and Somalialand (along the other nations) have fat dossiers on the names, locations, cel phone numbers and associates of the pirates.
U.S. and UK support of the private security industry is simply a long delayed appointment with reality but still an abrogation of moral duty to protect mariners by ending piracy, not just frustrating it for profit.
© Somalia Report 2011. All rights reserved
- British Prime Minister Authorizes Armed Anti-Piracy Teams on UK-Flagged Ships
- New Pirate Tactic: Hunt Indians
- The Beginning Of The End For Somali Piracy? [INSIDER ANALYSIS]
- U.S. Goes Public with Support for Hired Guns Against Piracy (gcaptain.com)
- United States Promotes the Use of Armed Anti-Piracy Contractors on Ships (gcaptain.com)
- The Other Side of Piracy – a Somalia Report Analysis (gcaptain.com)
By Pepe Escobar
Beware of strangers bearing gifts. Post-modern Amazon and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally landed in Tripoli – on a military jet – to lavish praise on the dodgy Transitional National Council (TNC), those pportunists/defectors/Islamists formerly known as “North Atlantic Treaty Organization rebels”.
Clinton was greeted on Tuesday “on the soil of free Libya” (her words) by what the New York Times quaintly described as an “irregular militia” (translation: a heavily armed gang that is already raising hell against other heavily armed gangs), before meeting TNC chairman Mustafa Abdel-NATO (formerly known as Jalil).
The bulk of the US gifts – US$40 million – on top of the $135 million already disbursed since February (most of it military “aid”) is for a missile scramble conducted by “contractors” (ie mercenaries) trying to track the tsunami of mobile anti-aircraft rockets that by now are already conveniently ensconced in secret Islamist warehouses.
Clinton told students at the University of Tripoli, “We are on your side.” She could not possibly connect the dots and note that the shabab (young people) who started demonstrating against Muammar Gaddafi in February have absolutely nothing to do with the TNC’s opportunists/defectors/Islamists who hijacked the protests. But she did have time to unveil another US foreign policy “secret” – that the US wants Gaddafi “dead or alive”, George W Bush-style (or as the beneficiary of targeted assassination, Barack Obama-style).
The new Fallujah
In her exhausting six-and-a-half hours on “free Libya” soil, Clinton couldn’t possibly find the time to hitch a helicopter ride to Sirte and see for herself how NATO is exercising R2P (“responsibility to protect” civilians).
A few hundred soldiers and no less than 80,000 civilians have been bombed for weeks by NATO and the former “rebels”. Only 20,000 civilians have managed to escape. There’s no food left. Water and electricity have been cut off. Hospitals are idle. The city – under siege – is in ruins. Sirte imams have issued a fatwa (decree) allowing survivors to eat cats and dogs.
What Gaddafi never did to Benghazi – and there’s no evidence he might have – the TNC is doing to Sirte, Gaddafi’s home town. Just like the murderous US offensive in Fallujah in the Iraqi Sunni triangle in late 2004, Sirte is being destroyed in order to “save it”. Sirte, the new Fallujah, is brought to you by NATO rebels. R2P, RIP.
It gets much nastier. Libya is just one angle of a multi-vector US strategy in Africa. Wacko presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann, during Tuesday’s Republican debate in Las Vegas, may have inadvertently nailed it. Displaying her geographical acumen as she referred to Obama’s new US intervention in Uganda, Bachmann said, “He put us in Libya. Now he’s putting us in Africa.” True, Libya is not in Africa anymore; as the counter-revolutionary House of Saud would want it, Libya has been relocated to Arabia (ideally as a restored monarchy).
As for Obama “putting us in Africa” (see Obama, King of Africa Asia Times Online, October 18, 2011), those 100 special forces in Uganda billed as “advisers” should be seen as a liquid modernity remix of Vietnam in the early 1960s; that also started with a bunch of “advisers” – and the rest is history.
Murderous mystic crackpot Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is now a rag-tag bunch of no more than 400 warriors (they used to be over 2,000). They are on the run – and not even based in Uganda, but in South Sudan (now a Western protectorate), the Central African Republic and the long border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
So why Uganda? Enter London-based Heritage Oil, and its chairman Tony Buckingham, a former – you guessed it – “contractor” (ie mercenary). Here’s Heritage’s modus operandi, described by Buckingham himself; they deploy “a first mover strategy of entering regions with vast hydrocarbon wealth where we have a strategic advantage”.
Translation: wherever there’s foreign invasion, civil war, total breakdown of social order, there are big bucks to be made. Thus Heritage’s presence in Iraq, Libya and Uganda.
Profiting from post-war fog, Heritage signed juicy deals in Iraqi Kurdistan behind the back of the central government in Baghdad. In Libya, Heritage bought a 51% stake in a local company called Sahara Oil Services; this means it’s now directly involved in operating oil and gas licenses. Pressed about it, TNC honchos have tried to change the conversation, alleging that nothing is approved yet.
What’s certain is that Heritage barged into Libya via a former SAS commando, John Holmes, founder of Erinys, one of the top mercenary outfits in Iraq apart from Xe Services, former Blackwater. Holmes cunningly shipped the right bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label to Benghazi for the right TNC crooks, seducing them with Heritage’s mercenary know-how of enforcing “oil field security”.
Got contractor, will travel
Obama’s Uganda surge is also a classic Pipelineistan gambit. The possibly “billions of barrels” of oil reserves discovered recently in sub-Saharan Africa are located in the sensitive cross-border of Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Believe it or not, Heritage was the top oil company in Uganda up to 2009, drilling on Lake Albert – between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and playing one country against another. Then they sold their license to Tullow Oil, essentially a spin-off, also owned by Buckingham, bagging $1.5 billion in the process and crucially not paying 30% of profits to Washington’s bastard, the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Enter Libya’s state oil company, Tamoil, which was part of a joint venture with the Ugandans to build a crucial oil pipeline to Kenya; Uganda is landlocked, and badly needs the pipeline when oil exports start next year. The NATO war on Libya paralyzed the Pipelineistan gambit. Now everything is open for business again. Tamoil may be out of the picture – but so may be other players.
Trying to sort out the mess, the parliament in Uganda – slightly before Obama’s announcement – decided to freeze all oil contracts, hitting France’s Total and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, but especially Tullow oil.
But now, with Obama’s special forces “advising” not only Uganda but also the neighbors, and linking up with Heritage – which is essentially a huge oil/mercenary outfit – it’s not hard to fathom where Uganda’s oil contracts will eventually land.
The Amazon rules
Unified Protector, Odyssey Dawn and all other metaphors Homeric or otherwise for the Africom/NATO 40,000-plus bombing of Libya have yielded the desired result; the destruction of the Libyan state (and much of the country’s infrastructure, to the delight of disaster capitalism vultures). It also delivered the lethal unintended consequence of those anti-aircraft missiles appropriated by Islamists – a supremely convincing reason for the “war on terror” in northern Africa to become eternal.
Washington couldn’t care less about R2P; as the Libyan Clinton hop shows, the only thing that matters is the excuse to “securitize” Libya’s arsenal – the perfect cover story for US contractors and Anglo-French intel ops to take over Libyan military bases.
The iron rule is that “free” Libya should be under the control of the “liberators”. Tell that to the “irregular militias”, not to mention the Abdelhakim Belhaj gang and his al-Qaeda assets now in military control of Tripoli.
It’s useful to remember that last Friday, the same day the US State Department announced it was sending “contractors” to Libya, was the day Obama announced his Uganda surge. And only two days later, Kenya invaded Somalia – once again under the R2P excuse of protecting civilians from Somali jihadis and pirates.
The US adventure in Somalia looks increasingly like a mix of Sophocles and the Marx Brothers. First there was the Ethiopian invasion (it failed miserably). Then the thousands of Ugandan soldiers sent by Museveni to fight al-Shabaab (partially failed; after all the Washington-backed “government” barely controls a neighborhood in Mogadishu).
Now the Kenyan invasion. A measure of the Central Intelligence Agency’s brilliance is that operatives have been on the ground for months alongside bundles of mercenaries. Soon some counter-insurgency hotshot in Washington praying in the altar of new CIA head David Petraeus will conclude that the only solution is an army of MQ-9 Reapers to drone Somalia to death.
The big picture remains the Pentagon’s Africom spreading its militarized tentacles against the lure of Chinese soft power in Africa, which goes something like this: in exchange for oil and minerals, we build anything you want, and we don’t try to sell you “democracy for dummies”.
The Bush administration woke up to this “threat” a bit too late – at Africom’s birth in 2008. Under the Obama administration, the mood is total panic. For Petraeus, the only thing that matters is “the long war” on steroids – from boots on the ground to armies of drones; and who are the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department to disagree?
Italian geographer and political scientist Manlio Dinucci is one of the few to point out how neo-colonialism 2.0 works; one just needs to look at the map. In Central Africa, the objective is US military supremacy – on air and in intel – over Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In Libya, the objective is to occupy an absolutely strategic crossroads between the Mediterranean, northern Africa and the Middle East, with the added (nostalgic?) benefit of the West – as in Paris, London and Washington – finally getting to hold military bases as when King Idris was in power (1951 to 1969). As a whole, control must be established over northern Africa, central Africa, eastern Africa and – more problematically – the Horn of Africa.
The trillion-dollar question ahead is how China – which plots strategic moves years in advance – is going to react. As for Amazon Clinton, she must be beaming. In Iraq, Washington meticulously destroyed a whole country over two long decades just to end up with nothing – not even a substantial oil contract. Clinton at least got a private army – the “advisers” who will be stationed in the bigger-than-the-Vatican US Embassy in Baghdad.
And considering that Obama’s new African “advisers” will be paid by the State Department, now Clinton’s also got her own African private army. After November 2012, Clinton might well consider a move into the contractor business. In the sacred name of R2P, naturally.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).