Iraq, Libya, Syria: Three reasons African Americans should oppose U.S. intervention in Africa
Mass slaughter, rape, torture, pillage, perpetual war, cultural degradation, creating social divisions, psychological manipulation – the essential tools employed by Western powers to establish their 522-year domination over many of the peoples of the world – are still being used with frightening efficiency and effect to maintain that dominance.
Just over the last decade and a half the orgy of violence unleashed by the U.S. and the gangster states of NATO in the name of promoting democracy and the racist absurdity of a “responsibility to protect” has been incalculable. Masked by the oxymoronic language that connects the White West with humanitarianism, the U.S. and its NATO allies have been on a killing spree in more than a dozen countries. President Obama has conducted imperialism’s version of a drive-by shooting with his drone warfare where wedding parties, funerals and even family gatherings are subject to being blown to bits just because the U.S. has the technology to do so and the power to get away with mass murder.
In “normal” times the racist megalomania of the U.S. that produced and is producing the carnage in Iraq, Libya, Syria and throughout the world would have been enough to caution African Americans against any pleas to the U.S. to militarily intervene to “bring back our girls” in Nigeria. But of course these are not normal times.
A brief historical recap of U.S. policy in Africa
There have been two factors that help to explain the relative success of white supremacist capitalist power to construct and impose an historical narrative in which they have been absolved of their criminal activities in Africa – the post 9/11 focus on counter-terrorism, and the election of the first black president of the U.S.
Puerto Rican activist and writer Aurora Levins Morales reminds us that as the oppressed gain agency in their fight against dominance, memory is a site of struggle: “One of the first things a colonizing power or repressive regime does is attack the sense of history of those they wish to dominate by attempting to take over and control their relationship to their own past.”
African American internationalism has always been a central component of the African American radical tradition. That approach to politics always linked the struggle for African American liberation with that of the anti-colonial struggle in Africa and throughout the colonial world. A critical read of U.S. policy on Africa from that perspective, one that is alien to the pro-imperialist perspective of Barack Obama, suggests that throughout the post-World War II anti-colonial struggles that took place in Africa there is not one instance of the U.S. being on the side of African independence, not one.
In fact, in every struggle on the part of Africans to free themselves from the oppressive yoke of European colonialism, the U.S. aligned with the colonial powers across the continent to undermine African independence. U.S. policy in Africa was consistently pro-white power, from its continued support for the white settler regimes in Algeria, Kenya, Rhodesia, and South Africa to its direct logistical and military support to the Portuguese through NATO to fight against African freedom fighters in Angola and Mozambique.
This support for colonial white supremacy in Africa was consistently executed by both corporate parties in the U.S.
The assault on historical memory continued and intensified with the election of Barack Obama. Obama’s election not only blurred a critical perspective on U.S. policy in Africa and globally on the part of many in the black communities, but did so at a historical moment when the U.S. state was undergoing a severe crisis of legitimacy and strategic confusion. That confusion was marked by vacillation between the use of aggressive, hard power that characterized the large-scale use of the military under the Bush administration, and more nuanced, soft power, i.e. the ideological, symbolic and diplomatic manifestations of state power.
The institutional developments and key decision-making over the last six years has reflected the inchoate character of that ongoing strategic confusion. But even with that confusion, Obama’s deployment as the smiling face of imperial power has had a devastating impact. His deployment has made it exceptionally difficult to demystify the elite interests embedded in his policies. The confusion is such that, for the first time in U.S. history, it has become possible to win majority black support for the retrograde policies of U.S. imperialism.
The Strategic Plan for Africa under Obama
By the fall of 2008, many among the capitalist elite and within the agencies of the U.S. government had concluded that the U.S. would have its first (and hopefully only) black president. It was also in the fall that the U.S. Strategic Command (AFRICOM) was created.
The clear objective of U.S. policy in Africa, as spelled out by U.S. State Department advisor to AFRICOMDr. J. Peter Pham in 2007, was “protecting access to hydrocarbons and other strategic resources which Africa has in abundance, a task which includes ensuring against the vulnerability of those natural riches and ensuring that no other interested third parties, such as China, India, Japan, or Russia, obtain monopolies or preferential treatment.”
Therefore, while the Chinese were involved in economic activities that resulted in direct investments in infrastructural and technological development as well as access to low interest loans, the objective of U.S. policy was to encourage what the U.S. does best – introduce death and destruction through destabilization and militarization.
In line with the historic role of capitalist development in Africa, a capitalist relationship that at its core has always been dependent on violence and plunder, is it an incredulous position to conclude that the real interest of the U.S. policy in Nigeria is less a concern with the lives of Nigerian girls and more with bringing key strategic areas in Africa under their control in order to block the Chinese?
And while all of us mourn for the more than 200 girls who have been kidnapped and can only imagine what their families must be going though, we also have to make sure that we don’t allow the very real emotion of the issue to cloud our analysis – something that is probably easier for us who are not directly impacted. We have to do this because it is precisely at these moments that we have to be clear-eyed and not allow ourselves to be manipulated.
Militarization in the name of fighting terrorism – the terror phenomenon seems to develop in whatever country the U.S. has a strategic interest – is the cornerstone of the “new” strategy of counter-terrorism partnerships that President Obama revealed in his famous (or infamous, depending on one’s view) speech at West Point on May 28.
Even though the speech was attacked by the Washington Post, New York Times and theWall Street Journal, the strategy of reducing the U.S. footprint by relying on small numbers of special forces – Delta force, Seals, Green Berets etc. – and not committing massive ground forces, thus reducing the possibility of U.S. casualties and the attention of the public, reflects a serious strategic threat to the cause of peace and anti-interventionism. It is not only a strategy that commits the U.S. to a permanent war posture, especially since the connection of covert U.S. support to these terrorist operations is now well established, it also means that the plan for Africa is being written in the blood of the people in Iraq, Syria and Libya.
Similar to its policies in those countries, the U.S. has embarked on a strategy of destabilization in Africa, operating through non-state terrorist operations like their al Qaeda proxy’s directly, or al Qaeda linked organizations like Boko Haram in Nigeria. The objective is to create security emergencies that weaken the state and creates a situation where the U.S. then comes to the aid of the embattled states and is able toentrench itself within the life of various nations on the African continent.
The educational and organizational imperative:
The aggressive posture of U.S. imperialism over the last few years has proceeded with very little organized opposition from the capitalist center in the U.S. Not just because of the institutional weakness of left and progressive forces but, even more ominously, because of the ideological collaboration and alignment by left forces with the imperial project. This latter phenomenon is more characteristic of positions taken by some of the more chauvinistic elements of the white left than our ranks, but even within our ranks the confusion seems to be increasing when, for example, you look at the positions taken by some on Nigeria, Zimbabwe and the U.S. NATO assault on Libya.
As a consequence of this theoretical and ideological confusion, we are not able to meet the challenges posed by the new strategic innovations introduced in Obama’s speech at West Point, innovations that not only have a military component but powerful cultural and ideological elements. The confusion generated by the “bring our girls back” campaign where we have African Americans calling on the U.S. to intervene in Nigeria is understandable. But what it dramatically demonstrates is that it is absolutely imperative that we embark on a massive educational campaign with our folks that will expose the real intentions of the U.S. on the continent and worldwide.
Black Left forces must engage in respectful ideological discussions with our people at every level, from community organizations and youth groups to church groups where we once again attempt to determine “who is a friend and who is an enemy” related to U.S. policies. Global militarism and the growing domestic police state are fundamentally linked: Both are expressions of the desperate moves by capital to maintain its hegemony. But its growing dependence on military options, as dangerous as that is, still provides revolutionary forces some strategic educational and organizing opportunities.
That is why in my humble offerings I have been attempting to make the links between all of these various global maneuvers so that we can connect them theoretically and devise the correct response politically and organizationally as we struggle to rebuild and unite the black left. The imperialist machinations in Iraq, Syria, Libya and even the Ukraine are not exotic issues disconnected from our concerns but part of the global right-wing collaboration the U.S. is leading to undermine national anti-colonial projects in the global South and the militarization of working class and nationally oppressed communities and peoples’ in the U.S. Making these connections and grounding ourselves in the global struggle against white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchy is a central element of the Black radical tradition.
The explosion of death and destruction that we see from Kenya and Somalia across the Sahel to Nigeria and down to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and now developing in Mozambique, reflects the emergency situation that we face today. We can no longer dance around the need to level direct and devastating criticism of the oligarchical and imperialistic interests being championed by Barack Obama. Critical revolutionary consciousness does not emerged spontaneously from de-politicized “practice.”
We must arm our people with the critical theoretical tools needed to wage the life-and-death struggle that we and the people of the world are waging against a rapacious enemy willing to destroy the planet in order to maintain their unearned privilege. As brother George Jackson reminded us “International capitalism cannot be destroyed without the extremes of struggle. The entire colonial world is watching the blacks inside the U.S., wondering and waiting for us to come to our senses.” It is time that we let the world know that we are back and that massa’s days are numbered.
Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. His latest publications include contributions to two recently published books “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA” and “Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral.”