Nearly 100 national delegations met in Brussels Wednesday at the international donor conference for development called “Together for a New Mali”. Opening up the conference, EU Committee of the Regions President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso called upon delegations to pledge their support for The Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Mali. Broken down into a 12 point approach, the plan focuses on everything from ensuring “peace, security and public services everywhere” to organizing elections. But the 48 page plan that formed the basis of the conference fails to addresses the ethnic fault line that was again ripped open between sub-saharan blacks and lighter-skinned Tuaregs, Berbers and Arabs of the Saharan north by the crisis that began last January.
At the beginning of 2012 Mali descended into turmoil when the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) chased the Malian military out of the northern stretches of the country, a territory it claims is the historical homeland of the peoples of northern Mali. The MNLA is comprised predominantly of ethnic Tuaregs but it’s ranks also include Songhai, Fulani, and Arabs. Exploiting the instability battle hardened islamists from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) soon took control from the MNLA terrorizing Mali’s northernmost cities and clearing the way for the foreign mujahideen fighters of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Ansar Dine of Timbuktu to seize control of Mali’s northern expanse. Interim President Diancounda Traore requested military assistance from France after the northern territories were taken.
The French led military intervention that was launched on January 11, 2013 was swift and received widespread support from Malians. France with military assistance provided by the US (Germany, Belgium, Canada and Denmark also provided logistical and financial support for the incursion) overwhelmed the islamist forces. After reconquering territory from the islamists the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) was charged with maintaining security in the “liberated” zones of the north. As France begins reducing troops to make way for a UN peace keeping force scheduled for deployment in northern Mali on July 1st sporadic attacks continue to shake the region.
Despite The Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Mali’s stated objective – to ensure peace and security across the country and foster economic development – Malian leaders unwillingness to engage a dialogue with any factions that don’t renounce their claim to territories in the north seriously undermines the Malian governments affirmation that “the “essence of the Roadmap reflected in this plan incorporates the lessons learned from this crisis”.
A brief recap of the Tuareg’s 50 plus year struggle for independence, something unmentioned in The Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Mali highlights the irony of calling this conference Together for a New Mali.
Tuaregs and other minority ethnic groups of the north have launched successive revolts against the state of Mali since it’s independence in 1960. Although the exact boundaries of this idealized state are vague, it is clear that Azawad refers to the towns and territory that Tuaregs, Songhai, Fulani and Berabiche Arabs have historically roamed through and occupied in the Saharan north. Dreams of reclaiming this vast desert territory have led to decades of tensions between the desert dwellers of the north and sub-Saharan groups in the South that have fomented rebellion.
The first major Tuareg rebellion in the early 1960′s was ultimately quashed by the Malian army relegating Tuaregs to a virtually unrepresented ethnic group in the poverty stricken north. The second Taureg rebellion in 1990′s descended the country into an effective civil war fought in Mali’s northern territory. Though that conflict ceased with the 1995 Peace Accord and the ceremonial Burning of the Guns in Timbuktu, the Tuaregs remained restive, resentful of their lack of participation in the military, and politics and frustrated by the lack of resources invested in their region. By 2006 a short outburst had gripped the north as Tuaregs attacked government buildings in Gao, citing lack of opportunity as an aggravation. According to the IMF the more fertile south of the Sahel state constitutes 95 percent of GDP, 91 percent of the population and 99.5 percent of tax revenue.
The roots of Mali’s current conflict broke through parched earth last year when Tuareg mercenaries returned to Mali heavily armed after the fallout of Qadaffi to reclaim their historical homeland from the weak government, mired with corruption in the South.
Tensions between the north and south have only been heightened by allegations of human rights abuses carried out by Malian soldiers against Tuaregs in the North. Many Malians blame the MNLA for initiating the rebellion and problematically conflate innocent civilians in the north with separatists and Al-Qaeda. Pascal Fletcher reported in Reuters this past March:
“MNLA, Ansar Dine, MUJAO, AQIM, they are the same, they need to be punished,” said Alou Gniminou, a 39-year-old cobbler who is secretary general of the artisan market.
Having raised over $4 billion to ensure peace and security without addressing the historical grievances of a marginalized and impoverished population is bound to perpetuate future conflicts. On the issue of the restive peoples of the Saharan north the summit meeting may have been more appropriately named Together for the Same Mali.
Delegates from nearly 50 countries, as well as representatives from major international organizations met in London yesterday to attend the Somalia Conference and discuss signs of progress in a country that has been devastated by 21 years of war. The British Foreign Office described the goals of the conference in anticipation of the event:
The Somalia conference in London aims to capitalize on the significant progress made over the past year and to agree coordinated international support for the government of Somalia’s plans to build political stability by improving security, police, justice and public financial management systems.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud seized the opportunity to call upon assembled heads of governments, foreign investors and international financiers to secure the funding needed to spearhead Somalia’s security and development challenges. “We need support; we need assistance and investment; and we need protection from those who try to knock us over.”
With the United States pledging to provide $40 million in additional funds to develop Somalia’s security sector, stabilize the country and provide humanitarian assistance on top of the UK’s commitment of $54 million to assist Somalia in it’s fight against international terrorism, and piracy, it looks like Somalia left the conference with it’s gift basket full.
Somalia has a recent history of accepting assistance from countries that have helped create the problems Somalia must confront.
As early as 2001 former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speculated, “Somalia has been a place that has harbored al Qaeda and, to my knowledge, still is.” Early plans to conduct military strikes in Somalia as part of America’s “war on terror” were initially abandoned “because of insufficient intelligence”. In 2006 the United States provided training, drones and military equipment to Ethiopian troops to oust the Islamic Courts Union, a group American intelligence officials theorized had connections to an East African Al-Qaeda cell. Headed at the time by Sheik Sharif Ahmed, the United States sought to destroy the Islamic Courts Union and the Sheik himself. Once the nascent order established by the Islamic Courts Union was toppled, Al-Shabaab, the feared islamist group conference attendees vowed to help dismantle, sought to fill the power vacuum. In a policy u-turn Washington decided to support newly elected President Sheik Sharif Ahmed, the leader they overthrew three years earlier and then train and arm his security forces to confront the mushrooming enemy. In 2009 Secretary of State Hilary Clinton flew to the US Embassy in Nairobi to confirm the United State’s support for Somalia’s new leader and pledge assistance in developing the country’s security forces. Within months Somalia was receiving US training and military equipment to assist the transitional government in it’s fight against the islamist organization, Al-Shabaab.
The origins of Al-Shabaab are rooted in the 2006 intervention. After the Islamic Courts Union was defeated by US backed Ethiopian forces hardline members splintered from the movement, merged with disparate groups of radical islamists and formed Al-Shabaab. In a policy u-turn Washington decided to support the leader they previously overthrew and then train and arm his security forces to confront the mushrooming enemy.
In addition to setting the stage for Al-Shabaab the United States implementation of “preventative counter insurgency operations” in the Horn of Africa have by some estimates resulted in the killing of 42 civilians. Detailed analysis by The Nation’s Jeremy Schahill reveal the extent to which the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the CIA have been carrying out a covert war in the country with lethal consequences for enemies and non-enemies alike. On January 7, 2007 the United States carried out it’s first military strike on Somalia after tracking a suspected Al-Qaeda convoy with a predator drone which was reported to have killed militants responsible for the 1998 embassy bombings. A third air-strike three days later was reported to have had different results.
4-31 total reported killed
4-31 civilians reported killed, including 1 child
Heavy civilian casualties were reported in airstrikes on Hayi near Afmadow, on Hayi, 250km northwest of Ras Kamboni, and other parts of southern Somalia, in confusing reports which may conflate activity by US and other forces. An elder told Reuters 22-27 people had been killed, while a Somali politician told CBS News that 31 civilians ‘including a newlywed couple’ had been killed by two helicopters near Afmadow, while Mohamed Mahmud Burale told AP that at least four civilians were killed on Monday evening in Hayi, including his four-year-old son.
The young Yemeni Farea Al-Muslimi’s testimony before a Senate hearing on drones last month illustrates the counter productivity of American drone and air strikes in countries associated with the war on terror. Muslimi, whose village had been bombed by drones a week before the hearing described how these operations increased the numbers of people who sympathized with extreme islamists rather than preventing the growth of anti-American sentiments.
What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.
AQAP’s power and influence has never been based on the number of members in its ranks. AQAP recruits and retains power through its ideology, which relies in large part on the Yemeni people believing that America is at war with them . . .
I have to say that the drone strikes and the targeted killing program have made my passion and mission in support of America almost impossible in Yemen. In some areas of Yemen, the anger against America that results from the strikes makes it dangerous for me to even acknowledge having visited America, much less testify how much my life changed thanks to the State Department scholarships. It’s sometimes too dangerous to even admit that I have American friends.
With President Mohamoud lined up to receive an additional $95 million from the United States and the UK to help Somalia combat terrorism, one wonders if terrorism in Somalia is not a self-fulfilling prophecy. The United States main target in Somalia continues to be Al-Shabaab as African Command General Carter Ham reported before the American Forces Press Service. Yet Al-Shabaab was non-existent before America began it’s “classic proxy war” by assisting Ethiopia in its invasion of Somalia in 2006. Furthermore it was not until 2007 that leaders of the islamist group affiliated themselves with Al-Qaeda, six years after the United States identified Somalia as part of the war on terror.
President Mohamoud will receive the support, assistance, investment and protection he sought at yesterday’s Somalia Conference. Unfortunately he will be receiving it from those largely responsible for creating the conditions that threaten “to knock [Somalia] over”.
You can also see this article with the comments at Truth-Out.
The bomb blasts that shocked Boston on Monday were horrific and undoubtedly cruel. The stories of compassion and empathy that have surfaced as the city copes with the catastrophe are especially touching. May the victims and their families continue to receive the support they will need to help them through the aftermath of violence.
Yet it’s still to soon to draw conclusions about what exactly occurred in Boston due to lack of evidence. Nevertheless, the usual reactions to all kinds of violence except for school shootings, cinema massacres, gang warfare, police slayings of minorities, neighborhood vigilante murders of black kids, and all other “non-terrorist” related acts of violence could be observed in the moments immediately following Monday’s explosions.
First, the blame-the-Muslim scenario unfolded in textbook fashion. Within two hours of the bombs’ detonation the media was all over the Muslim terrorist plot. As the New York Post reported on Monday:
Investigators have a suspect — a Saudi Arabian national — in the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, The Post has learned.
Law enforcement sources said the 20-year-old suspect was under guard at an undisclosed Boston hospital.
It was not immediately clear why the man was hospitalized and whether he was injured in the attack or in his apprehension.
The man was caught less than two hours after the 2:50 p.m. bombing on the finish line of the race, in the heart of Boston.
So anytime a bomb goes off, investigative procedures apparently require the rounding up of any Arabs/Muslims/Both in the area for interrogation or worse. Failure to immediately apprehend Arabs in the near vicinity would predictably lead to a media firestorm with anti-Muslim pundits repeating the mantra “this is how you keep America safe?…by not questioning potential perpetrators in the name of respecting civil liberties?” To avert a public relations catastrophe the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force acted routinely and arrested a man with no other name than “a Saudi Arabian national”. Obviously, the attack could very well have been carried out by a Muslim terrorist organization, but you didn’t see the immediate rounding up of white people and the reflexive insinuation by the media of a radical right-wing white Christian group planting bombs and maiming people. It wasn’t too long ago that the media instantly blamed Muslim conspirators in a bombing later discovered to have been carried out by Timothy McVeigh.
Second, the usual pattern (terrorist attack, rapid response, followed by new rights diminishing “anti-terrorism measures”) is bound to continue if recent history is any guide to future events. You may have noticed that Obama’s first public statement did not mention the words “terrorism” or “acts of terror”. Those words came later, that is after Fox News blared headlines about Obama not calling the explosions acts of terror. In an autonomic response to the media’s suggestion that the bombings were “clear acts of terror”, despite the fact that evidence had hardly begun to be collected let alone analyzed, the White House dashed to the cameras to condemn the bombing as a “heinous and cowardly act of terror”. In short, the Obama administration has moved quickly to capitalize on the horrific event creating the fear and hysteria that will be needed to sustain the administration’s justification for increased surveillance, continual curtailment of civil liberties and permanent war with the Muslim world. If there is anything we have learned since the 9/11 attacks it is the government’s inveterate exploitation of these events to increase authority, expand powers and limit individual rights, in particular those related to privacy.
Third, widespread disgust about the kind of bombing that occurred was expressed across the media. Al-Jazeera interviewed an orthopedic surgeon who ran to assist blast victims after the explosions. He described what he saw as the kind of explosion “you see killing troops in Afghanistan. It was like an IED explosion”. Others were disgusted with the second blast that was, commentators expressed, intended to kill first responders. Is that any different from the drone attacks America carries out in the Arab world daily? Does a secondary blast “intended for first responders” really differ from the indiscriminate slaying of 12 people in New Baghdad – including the two Reuters reporters covering the US-Iraq war- by an American Apache helicopter? The first group of victims was mowed down by machine gun fire and when a father and his two sons came in a van to recover the bodies moments later they were “engaged” and riddled with bullets as the infamous “Collateral Murder Video” Bradley Manning released to wikileaks in 2010 shows.
Finally, I touched upon this at the beginning of this article, the outpouring of compassion for the victims of the attacks is as inspirational as it is needed for grieving loved ones. Glenn Greenwald put it best in his piece written yesterday:
it was really hard not to find oneself wishing that just a fraction of that compassion and anger be devoted to attacks that the US perpetrates rather than suffers. These are exactly the kinds of horrific, civilian-slaughtering attacks that the US has been bringing to countries in the Muslim world over and over and over again for the last decade, with very little attention paid.
Coming away from the horrors that shook Boston this past Monday we would be wise to not give into overblown fears about “jihad in America” or the illusion that is already being re-conjured of an America under constant threat by “terrorists who hate freedom”. As horrible the carnage of the Boston Marathon bombings it is far more likely that the government will use this opportunity to expand it’s powers than another public bombing of this sort will occur in a city near you. Furthermore, if we could expend just an ounce of the compassion and empathy we have seen so genuinely expressed to the victims here at home to the increasing numbers of victims in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and everywhere else the United States carries out its own bombings in the name of freedom rather than terror, we might gain a greater insight into the wickedness of bombings period.
Imagine someone sitting in a theatre watching a scene from a sci-fi movie where ordinary people coming and going, eyes shifty, are seen making furtive phone calls on their cell phones. It is not immediately clear what provokes their secretive calls, but the audience comes to realize that people are calling to inform someone or something that they have witnessed someone or something that causes them consternation, makes them fearful. After watching this dystopian movie the viewer exits the cinema, walks out into the street and heads towards the subway homeward bound. Approaching the turn-dial, the person notices an unattended backpack on the tarmac. Reflexively he reaches into his pocket, pulls out his cellphone and calls the 1 800 NYC SAFE. Operation Rail Safe, one of many homeland security propaganda campaigns “If you see something say something” has been seared into the informants mind. A special hotline now exists for people to contact the police when they observe something “suspicious” – a bearded man speaking Arabic on a cellphone, a latino failing to demonstrate proof of identification at a liquor store, an unattended briefcase, a homeless man reading a Koran on a subway grate. This system of reporting suspicious activity to state authorities is empowering ordinary people to tyrannize over anyone perceived as suspicious in the name of homeland security. Once phone calls are made local, transit or DHS agents are dispatched to the location where the suspicious person or thing was sited. The reporting is recorded and saved in a Fusion Center database. The suspect is checked out, questioned and if determined suspicious by security or intelligence agents, detained for further interrogation. People reporting to this hotline operate as cogs in a vast secuirty apparatus. Augmenting the powers of electronic surveillance networks comprised of surveillance cameras, biometric identification technologies like facial recogition, Iris scanning programs and bodyscanners, are these dutiful informants. The scene from our sci-fi movie is a scene from our daily lives.
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The regulators, pretending to cave to popular pressures that surfaced during the Great Recession discussed “reigning in excessive greed in the marketplace” at a closed door meeting. By gradually instating financial reform under the command of an unnamed “fierce consumer watchdog”, the regulators reasoned they could stabilze the economy, bring jobs back and show once and for all that the collapse could be blamed on a few bad apples and the widespread lack of motivation exhibited by society;s victims. The regulators also reasoned that prosecuting the bankers and chief execuitves involved in fraudelent transactions and outright corruption that helped sink the economy would be nothing short of “vindictive class warfare”, an antagonism that fails to stimulate the markets. Conflating systemic problems with moral problems was the tactic employed by the Tripartide Power Party (formerly known independently as the Republicans, Democrats and Corporatists) to hide the inherent logic of the system that begat the crisis. The TPP tweeted this message after completing the closed door meetings: “Gradual, intelligent reform must be undertaken to assure our consumers that nothing like this will ever happen again.” The only non-sycophantic remark tweeted in response read: “until it does again”.
“Gradual intelligent reform”? Crossing the river by groping stones? Does the TPP not realize they’ve quoted Mr. Deng? Deng’s dictum gives the false impression that Mao’s revolutionary struggle was piecemeal. When the Physical Science books were shelved, a popular TPP education policy, the ruling class believed it could rewrite the laws. That all force generates an equal and opposing force was erased from the new laws and deemed a superstition of science. Several disgruntled film students organized a live experiment to demonstrate Newton’s Third Law. They stood in one of the recently privatized public squares wearing masks while the crew filmed, streaming the video live. A collective effort to show what was missing in the new laws was under way. The video grew in popularity. Droves of masked Newtonians poured into the square. The Counter Terrorism Task Forces clad in black, faces hidden like their enemies, by shields instead of masks came to participate in the film students’ experiment as hypothesized. A demonstrator shouted: “Here’s to change by Tsunamai and you won’t step into this river twice; the basin has been emptied of its content so you can keep your stones. Gushing waters give way to tranquil tributaries, in the end. Your grave has already been dug. War Nam Nihadan and instead of flowers forests. Hunker down and lock your shutters. A great wave is coming and the oceans are placid.”
The web went black. Cell phone services were cut and the television aired on one channel where the TPP broadcasted it’s emergency message: “The terrorists have seized control of all communications. The military has been deployed to protect you and your local police are among their ranks. A single hotline has been salvaged by your protectors to field emergency calls. Call 9/11 if you see any unusual activity. Remember if you see something, say something. We are here to keep you safe.” The opposition part of Newton’s Third Law had been demonstrated. Showing opposing force to be equal, the film students decided, would be phase 2 of the experiment.