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America has had its share of crooks (Warren G. Harding, Richard Nixon), bigots (Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan), and incompetents (Andrew Johnson, George W. Bush). But never before Donald Trump have we had a president who combined all these nefarious qualities.

These are admirable combined qualities of U.S. President Trump.

Professor Mekonen Haddis

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DECEMBER 19, 2017

Why Can’t France Leave Africa Alone? 

by AIDAN O’BRIEN

“Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century.”

— François Mitterrand, 1957

“Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power.”

— Jacques Chirac, 2008

“France, along with Europe, would like to be even more involved in the destiny of [Africa]…”

— François Hollande, 2013

“I am of a generation that doesn’t tell Africans what to do.”

— Emmanuel Macron, 2017

France’s great white hope – Emmanuel Macron – was selling himself in Africa recently. He was full of jokes and smiles. However, while the package had “youthful innocence” written all over it – the product was “senile dementia”. No matter the age of the man – the French attempt to lead Africa is a stale and stupid story. And the man – Macron – is yet another stale and stupid French mask.

The mask fell in a public forum in Burkina Faso when the French military and it’s presence in Africa was questioned by a girl. In response Macron hysterically told the local audience that they should applaud the French soldiers on African streets.

The problem was that the day before a local – instead of applauding – threw a hand grenade at French troops. And the following day a few more locals shouted for an end to neocolonialism. The militarization of French policy in Africa is beginning to smell like a rotten occupation.

But when has it been otherwise? Since it began occupying Africa in the 19th century France has expected nothing else but applause. The package at the beginning of this long war on Africa was “civilization”. But that never did conceal the vile racism and base capitalism that drove the French army across the Sahara.

In a giant pincer movement beginning around 1830 and ending on the eve of the First World War, France slowly but surely conquered most of West and Central Africa. Moving east from Dakar and south from Algiers the French military stole probably 40% of the continent.

However while “France” was away terrorizing Africa – Paris met it’s nemesis: Berlin. The Teutonic power woke up and ironically proceeded to do to France what France was doing to Africa. In a series of wars and occupations (1871, 1914 and 1940) Germany mercilessly crushed the place of France in the world. And by 1960, more or less, France was out of Africa. And was ripe for revolution. Or counterrevolution.

The Fifth Republic couldn’t hide the failure of bourgeois France. 1968 exposed it for all to see. And forced it to choose one way or the other. It could either follow the example of Africa and attempt to liberate itself from the culture, economics, and politics of imperialism. Or it could attempt to restore imperialism. And reconquer Africa.

The Fifth Republic chose the latter. And it has been a race to the bottom ever since. France’s significant Communist Party was rejected (the Socialist Party too – eventually). As was Jean Paul Sartre. Bourgeois mediocrity became the rule. And by the year 2000 politicians like Nicolas Sarkozy and philosophers like Bernard-Henri Lévy were ready to lead France back into the arms of NATO (De Gaulle had taken France out of NATO in 1966) and it’s naked imperialism.

France was no longer a European force but a European farce. German neoliberalism dominated the new European century. And France could do nothing but prostrate itself before Berlin and it’s demonic religion: austerity (cheap labor). However, there was one place where France could act like “France” – there was one place where France could escape the German “will to power”: Africa.

The French “will to backward power” had one dirty trick left up it’s sleeve: it’s army in Africa. When France retreated from the African continent in the 1950s and 1960s it left behind active military bases that continued to give it leverage in Africa. Indeed according to the website Stratfor:

“Following their independence, 12 [African] countries signed secret national defense agreements with France. The agreements, which have never been made public, allow France to retain a physical presence in the countries in exchange for defending their national sovereignty [sic]…”

We can guess the countries that signed up to these nefarious French deals: Morocco, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Tunisia, Chad, Cotes d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Gabon and Djibouti. A few more – according to those in the know – were later added to the list: Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire (the Democratic Republic of Congo). In any case the picture was and is clear: before leaving (and even after leaving) Africa – France threw a web around Africa.

And what did these arrangements mean in reality? In 2007 the New York Times wrote that “France intervened militarily in Africa nineteen times between 1962 and 1995.” And Stratfor in 2016 calculated 42 French interventions between 1968 and 2013.

The New York Times cut off point significantly is 1995 because in 1994 France lost out to the USA in the strategic battle for Rwanda (a million or more Hutus and Tutsis died in this battle – and millions were killed in the battles which followed in the Congo etc.). And in the years after this key turning point in African geopolitics – French power in Africa decisively decreased – not only because of the military power of the USA (AFRICOM) but also because of the new economic power of China.

The times were changing in the 1990s. France was losing “the battles” for Europe and Africa. It was becoming a second rate power. Nonetheless that trick remained up it’s sleeve: the overt and covert military arrangements it had arranged in Africa. France’s finger was still on the trigger. The counterrevolution desperately needed a new lease of life. And the “Arab Spring” gave it one.

When Tunisia began to protest in 2010, France responded by offering it’s “military might” (it’s “technical support and police know how”) to it’s Tunisian agent: Ben Ali. And when that French attempt to repress African independence failed – France led the wars against independent Libya in 2011 (Opération Harmattan) and independent Azawad (Opération Serval in northern Mali, etc.) in 2013.

In 2014 the situation was such that Newsweek claimed that “France is slowly reclaiming its old African Empire”. And by 2015 the Business Insider was reporting that “France’s military is all over Africa”. Thousands of French soldiers were spread out across the Sahara and beyond (Opération Barkhane). But the fact is that they were fighting to save not Africa but “France”.

The pathetic attempt to restore bourgeois France (dare we say Bourbon France – because it’s that bad in Europe right now) has reached the stage were France’s military is not only all over Africa but is also all over France (Opération Sentinelle). In 2015 – after gun attacks in Paris – the French army began to occupy French streets. And then in 2017 along came Président Macron (le dauphin? – the prince?) riding on “a tank” to his inauguration.

In the uncompetitive (in bourgeois terms) French economy the only competitor seemed to be the French military. They were and are occupying both sides of the francophone Mediterranean. And Macron was and is applauding. As he gives lower taxes and cheaper labor to the decrepit bourgeoisie – he gives the military the freedom of the streets. And the freedom of Africa.

Macron claims not to be telling the Africans what to do. But the French State is another matter. It has institutionalized the relationship between France and Africa (Françafrique). And it refuses to let go of it’s delusions of grandeur. In the last few years it has told Africa in no uncertain terms what it must do with Libya and Azawad (northern Mali and its environs). And today it marshals African forces (G5 Sahel) as they pursue shadows in the Sahara.

For Macron “jihadis” and “human traffickers” are the story. But neocolonialism is the bottom line. Or the French attempt to recreate neocolonialism is the real story. The French military are the claws of the French state. And as bourgeois France fades away, or slides down the memory hole of history, it’s claws are going to dig deep into whatever material is near at hand – in a desperate effort to avoid the inevitable. Africa is that material – the material of the future. While France, despite its machinations, is just flotsam.

The people of Burkina Faso are right to question the presence of the French military in Africa. They know more than the infantile French President. And they’ve a better sense of reality than the senile French State. Hand grenades do make more sense than applause.

“the French attempt to recreate neocolonialism is the real story”. “France refuses to let go of its delusions of grandeur”. This is a good article, hope you enjoy it.

Professor Mekonen Haddis

The Nile entering the Eastern Mediterranean. NASA image 1993

by ERIC TOUSSAINT

 

Sovereign debt has been a crucial factor in a series of major historical events. From the early 19th century, in Latin American countries such as Colombia, Mexico and Argentina, struggling for independence,as well as Greece when seeking funds for its war of independence, these nascent countries borrowed from London bankers under leonine conditions which finally subjugated them into a new cycle of subordination.

Other states lost their sovereignty quite officially. Tunisia enjoyed some amount of autonomy in the Ottoman Empire, but was indebted to Parisian bankers. France used the ruse of debt to justify its tutelage over Tunisia and its colonization. Ten years later, in 1882, Egypt similarly lost its independence. In the pursuit of recovering debts owed to the English banks, Great Britain launched a military occupation of the country and then colonized it (http://www.cadtm.org/Debt-as-an-ins… ).


Debt “assures” the domination of one country over another

The Great Powers were quick to realise that the interest from a country’s external debt would be massive enough to justify a military intervention and a tutelage, at a time when it was considered acceptable to wage wars for debt recovery.


The 19th century Greek debt crisis resembles the current crisis

The problems flaring up in London in December 1825, ensued from the first major international banking crisis. When banks feel threatened, they no longer want to lend, as could be seen after the Lehman Brothers crisis in 2008. Emerging states, such as Greece, had borrowed under such obnoxious conditions, and the sum in hand was so little compared to the actual loan, that fresh borrowing became necessary to repay their existing debt. When the banks stopped lending, Greece was no longer able to refinance its debt and so suspended repayments in 1827.

This is where the “debt system” is similar to the present scenario: the French and British monarchies, and the Russian Tsar – the “Troika” of the time – approved of a loan to Greece and its emergence as an independent state in order to destabilize the Ottoman Empire. In exchange, in 1832, they signed a “Treaty on the sovereignty of Greece”, which I bring to light in my book. It established a monarchy, while the independentists wished for a Republic. Otto I, the chosen regent, was a 15 years-old Bavarian prince, who had no knowledge of Greece or its language. The document stipulated that the monarchy’s budget should have a provision giving priority to the repayment of the debts to the three powers. The repayment would be routed through the Rothschild Bank of Paris through which the London bankers would be paid. Greece must also reimburse the Troika’s expenses for installing this monarchy and for recruiting 3,500 Bavarian mercenaries to wage a war of “independence”.

I have also shown that in the early 19th century, only 20% of Greece’s loans actually arrived in Greece. The rest was diverted to paying Rothschild’s commissions, the fees of the mercenaries, their travel expenses to Greece and other expenses incurred in creating the monarchy.

Since then, Greece has been living in a situation of permanent subordination, which has been even more manifest since 2010. Once again, public authorities joined hands to raise funds to pay private creditors: this time, the French, German, Belgian and Dutch banks.

History also points to a complicity between the ruling classes of the indebted countries and the creditor states

To understand the history of the debt system, the role of the local ruling class has to be kept in mind. It always urges the authorities to borrow internally and externally, these funds permit the bourgeoisie to avoid being heavily taxed. This class also lives on the income from the government bonds issued by its own country.

When Benito Juárez, the Mexican Liberal Democrat, partly repudiated the debts previously contracted by the conservatives, some of the bourgeoisie requested French naturalization hoping that France would use the pretext of reimbursing its nationals to try to overthrow the regime with a military intervention.
The same holds true today. At the end of 2001, when Argentina suspended debt repayment, the country’s bourgeoisie was offended, because the Argentine capitalists held a large part of the debt that had been issued on Wall Street.

The concept of “odious” debt that was developed in the 1920s was produced neither by the left nor by “alterglobalists”

During the 19th century, there was a series of debt repudiations, especially in the United States. In 1830, social upheavals led to the overthrow of corrupt governments in four of the states. These states also repudiated their debt to crooked bankers. Infrastructure projects planned with this debt had never materialised due to corruption.

In 1865, when the “North” won against the “South”, it was decreed that the latter should abrogate their debts to banks for financing the war (this is the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States). A debt was considered “odious” because it was contracted to defend slavery.

At the end of the 19th century, the United States also refused to allow Cuba, which had gained independence with the help of US military intervention, to repay Spain’s debt incurred in Paris on behalf of its colony. The United States considered it “odious” because it financed the domination of Cuba and the wars that Spain waged elsewhere.

In 1919, Costa Rica repudiated a debt contracted, for his family, by the former dictator Tinoco. The arbitrator who intervened and ratified the repudiation happened to be a former US president. The reason: the loan was intended for personal purposes.

Alexander Sack, a Russian legal theorist, who was exiled in Paris after the Bolshevik revolution, formulated a legal doctrine based on all these jurisprudence cases. He stated that the debts contracted by a previous regime are binding on the nation, but there is an exception: if the debt was contracted against the interests of the people and the creditors were aware or could have been aware of it, the debt can be decreed odious and be cancelled.

Sack was a conservative professor, seeking to defend creditors’ interests, and preach them caution about to whom they are lending and the purpose. His statement shows that it is possible for nations to repudiate a debt, should it be odious.

The Greek debt is “odious”

Since 2010, the Troika has been asking Greece to repay loans that have clearly been granted against the interest of the Greek people. Their fundamental rights have been throttled and their living conditions have deteriorated under such impositions. There is evidence that the money lent returned immediately to the foreign or Greek banks responsible for the crisis. It can also be proved that the Troika governments were perfectly aware and responsible for this because it was they who dictated the contents of the memorandum.

This conclusion is also valid for France

A bevy of audits, submitted in April 2014, identified 59% of the French debt as illegitimate. It did not serve the interests of the French people. It benefited a minority that enjoyed tax cuts, and banks charging high interest rates.

After a repudiation, will the States be able to find banks willing to lend again?

There is certainly an apprehension regarding creditors, but the widespread idea that a state is less likely to get fresh loans once it repudiates a debt is quite false. For example, Mexico repudiated its debt in 1861, 1867, 1883, and 1913, but found new lenders each time. This is because some bankers do not hesitate to lend when they see that a country has regained good financial health after suspending its debt service or repudiating its debt.

After repudiating its debt in 1837, Portugal went on to contract 14 successive loans with French bankers. In February 1918, the Soviets repudiated the debts contracted by the Tsar. A blockade was enforced, but it was lifted after 1922, when the British decided to lend to the Russians, so that they could buy British equipment. Germany, Norway, Sweden and Belgium followed suit. Even France renounced the blockade, even though 1.6 million French had bought Russian securities, through Crédit Lyonnais, that were repudiated after the revolution. It was the major French metallurgical producers that pressed for French loans to the Soviets, because they could sense orders at their doorsteps.

Another example: in 2003, ten days after invading Iraq, the US Treasury Secretary called upon his G7 colleagues to cancel Saddam Hussein’s debts, arguing that they were odious. The United States, however, had lent a great deal to Iraq in the late 1970s and in the 1980s to wage war against Iran. In October 2004, 80% of Iraq’s debt was cancelled.

Debt is also a stranglehold that prevents any alternative

Illegitimate debt needs to be cancelled before resources can be freed and a policy for ecological transition can be implemented, but this step alone is insufficient! Repudiating debts without implementing other policies concerning banks, money, taxation, the focal points of investments and democracy… would entail a rerun of the debt cycle. Repudiation must be part of an overall plan.

 

“I was mad when I left the camp. The fact that this is a man-made conflict, that one man has done so much harm to so many people, it’s heartbreaking,” Nikki Haley said after meeting South Sudanese refugees living in western Ethiopia.

Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations adds that the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir must be held accountable for the social and security tragedy that the country has been subjected to.

“At some point President Kiir needs to be held accountable for all of the tragedy that he’s caused these people,” Haley stressed after meeting South Sudanese refugees in Gambella.

I was mad when I left the camp. The fact that this is a man-made conflict, that one man has done so much harm to so many people, it’s heartbreaking.

The pain in the stories of refugees from S.Sudan is a reminder we can’t look away. We can’t let armed conflict be their only choice.

 

She is due to meet with Salva Kiir in Juba on Wednesday morning. South Sudan is the second-leg of her African tour which started in Ethiopia and is due to end with a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Some of the women at the camp told harrowing stories of how they had to flee violence back home. One woman spoke about eating the flesh of her burnt child, whiles another recounted being forced to eat the flesh of an “enemy,” Reuters reported.

The United Nations has warned that South Sudan’s civil war is providing “fertile ground” for a genocide. Kiir’s government has denied U.N. allegations of ethnic cleansing.

Since South Sudan spiraled into civil war in 2013, just two years after it gained independence from Sudan, nearly 350,000 refugees have flooded into Gambella. Almost 90 percent are women and children and they are mainly from the Nuer ethnic group.

View more

On Tyranny

“The odd American idea that giving money to political campaigns is free speech means that the very rich have far more speech, and so in effect far more voting power, than other citizens”. Timothy Snyder

The more money you have the more democracy you can buy.

Professor Mekonen Haddis

Trump

Trump vs. the National Security Establishment: Will There be a Revolution in US Foreign Policy?

Since the beginning of his presidential campaign, Trump had been savaged by the National Security establishment, castigated as unfit to lead, dangerous, incompetent, and ignorant.  These criticisms were woven together in an August 8 letter signed by fifty former National Security officers, denouncing a possible Trump presidency.   His national security team was also severely ridiculed by establishment media from the New Republic’s “Trump’s Court Jesters”, as “a rogues’ gallery of outcasts and opportunists, has-beens and never-weres, conspiracy-mongers and crackpots,” to the “Who?” of Top experts confounded by advisors to Donald Trump” from the New York Times.  Trump responded to the letter stating that these are the same people who brought us two decades of war – and his advisor Sam Clovis sardonically remarked that the National Security team is composed of people who “work for a living.”

Putting aside these castigations, Trump’s most egregious national security faux pas is his contestation of the Russophobic paradigm that has dominated US foreign policy since the end of WWII and the establishment of the National Security Act of 1947.  Trump’s contestation further amplifies his purported hubris to even raise the question of NATO – and his contemplation of the end of the seven decade US occupation of Europe (“We cannot afford it”).  Such perspectives fly in the face of the entire history of the National Security establishment, which, since the founding of the National Security Council (NSC), has sought to contain its former allies (Russia, and then, China) and maintain US hegemony on the European continent.

Trump could respond, of course, that Obama’s conflict with Russia is a distraction from the war on terrorism, especially in its current incarnation as ISIS.  Trump envisions Russia and the US working in tandem to defeat terrorism – and sharing the spoils of war in real estate, oil and infrastructure contracts.  Trump would of course have his war against radical Islam, but it will be fought alongside Russia.  If the presence of Carter Page and Michael Flyn on his National Security team tells us anything, it is that Trump does not see Russia as a threat, but as a potential partner in geopolitical and international business affairs.  Trump has substantial business interests in Russia and the Middle East and approaches the decade’s long conflict from a business security paradigm.  Indeed, Trump went so far as to suggest the US let Putin defeat ISIS on his own. “What do we care?”

It is clear from the intensity of its reaction to Trump’s faux pas that the National Security establishment will not tolerate deviation from the official script.  Since its beginning in the crucible of anti-Communism, the NSC – and through its surrogate organisations, such as the CIA and FBI – has waged a continuous war, internationally and domestically, on perceived threats to US global hegemony.  Russia has always been perceived as the greatest threat to a Pax Americana.  The NSC projected a strategy of full spectrum dominance from the outset, acting through political interference, regime change, assassination, cultural propaganda, psychological warfare, and domestic political repression.  This plethora of acts has come to be known collectively as the Cold War and it is Russia (and its potential supporters) which continue to be the primary target of global US national security strategy.

From this perspective, it was no accident that George H. W. Bush, a former CIA director, invaded the Middle East as the Soviet Union (a permanent, veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council) teetered on collapse.  Alongside Turkey, a longstanding NATO ally, the Middle East stood as the holy grail of global military and economic dominance – and the containment or destruction of Russia.  Before the dust settled in Iraq, Clinton undertook the eastward expansion of NATO which now stands with baited breath at Russia’s border.

Russia objected to the second Gulf War – and to Libya – but stood on the side lines of the Middle East until its 2015 intervention in Syria.  The root of Russia’s intervention lay in the dangers of regime change in Syria, especially following the US orchestrated coup d’etat in Ukraine in 2014.  What is at stake for Russia is the security of its European gas and oil markets which it sees threatened by the US and its allies.

On the one hand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel seek regime change in Syria in order to build a gas pipelines to Europe.  On the other hand, the US disrupts Russian supply chains – via the Ukrainian crisis and the European sanctions regime – to destabilize Russia and Russian-European relations.  Crimea is significant, in this light, as it is a primary distribution hub for Europe, a status threatened by the coup d’etat.  The reunification of Crimea with Russia took place directly against the background of the Syrian conflict as a response to the overall US strategies of containment and market displacement.  Further pressure has been placed on Russia through oil price deflation from shale gas and oil smuggling by ISIS.

US strategy in Syria has tragically metastasized into a policy of “nation destroying”, of proxy, mercenary warfare, destabilization, partition and ethnic cleansing (the “refugee crisis”).  Syria has made a horrific sacrifice for the US national security obsession with Russia.

For Trump to ask, “What do we care?” clearly exposes why the national security establishment has condemned his candidacy in such vitriolic terms.  In its view, to allow Putin to win in Syria would be not only to accept Assad, but also to give Russia a permanent presence in the region. To exclude and push Russia back has always been the US objective and Trump’s Russophilia is a direct challenge to the National Security establishment and its plan to throw Putin out of Europe.

Trump has however won the election and he is on a direct collision course with the National Security establishment.  Of course, Trump is an unlikely revolutionary.  He has never said he would defy the National Security Act of 1947 (no president has), which means that he will accept its shadowy apparatus and its bureaucratic methodologies. Indeed, he supports increased NSA surveillance, expanded military spending, CIA activism, FBI phone hacking, etcetera. He is simply suggesting a different target for business-as-usual, by reminding us of our last propaganda cycle, the “War on Terror”.

Yet, Trump has thus far failed to articulate the “big picture” of a Russian rapprochement in the context of the necessity of a US glasnost – of a deconstruction of the National Security state.  During a campaign characterised by serial violations of longstanding taboos (Sanders’ opposition to the CIA, his support of the Sandinistas and Cuba) and Wikileaks’ disclosure of sensitive and damaging government and campaign documents, Trump squandered his opportunity to lay out a credible vision for either radical reform or revolution.  Indeed, he has been happy to simultaneously endorse the NSA surveillance state and Wikileaks – and without irony.

Trump’s has thus far failed to articulate a coherent vision of a cooperative, multi-polar world – in other words, to invite ordinary citizens to demand a radical change in the concept of national security and of the place of the US in the world.  If he does not challenge the NSC, Trump’s insurgency will expose itself as a distraction to the urgent task of finding a pathway out of the labyrinth of empire.  In its naivety, Trump’s “revolution” would then serve to further merely consolidate the unquestioned impunity of the National Security state.

If Trump is serious, he will set forth a coherent critique of US national security and the constitutional disaster that is the National Security Act.  If Trump is serious, he will defy the National Security Act.

 

James Luchte