Obama in South Africa: Washington tells Pretoria how to ‘play the game’ in Africa

Protesters greet Obama, June 28, 2013.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

July 1, 2013Links International Journal of Socialist RenewalUS President Barack Barack Obama’s weekend trip to South Africa may have the desired effect of slowing the geopolitical realignment of Pretoria to the Brazil-India-Russia-China-South Africa (BRICS) axis. That shift to BRICS has not, however, meant deviation from the hosts’ political philosophy, best understood as “talk left, walk right” since it mixes anti-imperialist rhetoric with pro-corporate policies.

Overshadowed by Nelson Mandela’s critically ill health, Obama’s implicit denial of a US imperial agenda could not disguise Washington’s economic paranoia. As expressed on June 25 by White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, “What we hear from our businesses is that they want to get in the game in Africa. There are other countries getting in the game in Africa – China, Brazil, Turkey. And if the US is not leading in Africa, we’re going to fall behind in a very important region of the world.”

Over a century earlier, another Rhodes – Cecil John – explained that very game: “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” Although there is no longer formal slave labour within formal colonies, this sentiment readily links the neoliberal agenda of both the BRICS and the US.

Perhaps embarrassed, Obama himself retracted Ben Rhodes’ confession of inter-imperial rivalry when asked by the White House press corps: “I want everybody playing in Africa. The more the merrier. A lot of people are pleased that China is involved in Africa.”

This must have raised cynical eyebrows, because he added, “China’s primary interest is being able to obtain access for natural resources in Africa to feed the manufacturers in export-driven policies of the Chinese economy.” Continue reading

South Africa: Protesters Denounce US Foreign Policy, as Obama visits

Obama meets Mandela family, police disperse protestersWhile the US media focused on Obama meeting the Mandela family, and claiming a link to the iconized figure of Nelson Mandela. police disperse protesters opposed to US drones and foreign policy

U.S. President Barack Obama met the family of South Africa’s ailing anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela but faced protests by South Africans against U.S. foreign policy.  Obama faced protests by South Africans against U.S. foreign policy, especially American drone strikes.

Police fired stun grenades on June 29 to disperse several hundred protesters who had gathered outside the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg, where Obama was due to address a town hall meeting with students.

JOHANNESBURG — Police fired rubber bullets and a stun grenade into a crowd of hundreds of protesters before President Obama arrived at the University of Johannesburg on Saturday.

The crowd quickly scattered as police officers walked up the street pushing protesters away with shot guns.

“I feel my rights are being infringed,” said 24-year-old Bilaal Qibr, who was at the protest. “We can’t protest anymore. Personally, I feel like this is an extension of the U.S.” Continue reading

South African Lawyers Call for Obama’s Arrest for war crimes, during his visit

[This is not the first effort at bringing imperialist “human rights” law against imperialists and the imperialist machinery, and once again it will fail, undoubtedly.  But it does have the educational benefit of highlighting the hypocritical “exemption” which bourgeois law grants the international bourgeoisie as a class.  Furthermore, the protest campaign against US imperialist foreign policy, while signed onto by the South African neo-colonial (some say sub-imperialist) Tripartite Alliance ruling class, is more a “faux anti-imperialist” fig leaf and a bid for mass confusion and nationalist credibility, than a genuine call to action.  It invokes the popular hatred of imperialism, but only for self-serving “populist” ends.  See the announcement of the South AfricanCampaign to Protest USA Foreign Policy” during the visit of President Barak Obama, below. — Frontlines ed.]

by Christopher Gevers
On Friday a group of South African lawyers lodged a complaint with the country’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) calling for President Obama’s arrest for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide when he visits South Africa this month. More specifically, the group – the Muslim Lawyers Association – submitted a docket to South African authorities requesting that President Obama be “investigated, charged, arrested and tried in a South African Court for War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and Genocide”. According to the group’s Press Release:

“The complaint, dubbed the “Obama Docket” encourages South Africa to take seriously its domestic and international obligations and to act against International War Criminals lest they consider South Africa a safe haven and travel here freely with impunity.

In terms of the ICC Act, diplomatic immunity is not a defence and a Head of State is not immune from prosecution for the aforementioned crimes. The Complaint asks for Obama’s arrest when he enters South Africa or the securing of his attendance at a trial by other lawful means.

In the alternative, the complaint requires South Africa as a State Party to the Rome Statute, to refer the case to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the Hague to exercise Jurisdiction in terms of the Rome Statute.

The Obama administration’s Drone programme which has resulted in massive losses of innocent lives in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan. The programme is responsible for extra-judicial killings both innocent civilians as well as US citizens abroad. The drone strike policy has continued unabated with total disregard for territorial sovereignty and this is cited as the primary reason that Obama should be investigated and tried for War Crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The large number of well documented civilian deaths are said to constitute international crimes and the complaint refers to numerous International Reports which have documented evidence on the USA drone policies. Other crimes cited include extra judicial renditions and torture.” Continue reading

US / Israel: Behind the Mask of “Human Rights” — Spies for Repression

ADL Spies
by JEFFREY BLANKFORT

“[T]he Anti-Defamation League for many years has maintained a very important, confidential investigative coverage of Arab activities and propaganda….Our information, in addition to being essential for our own operations, has been of great value and service to both the United States State Department and the Israeli government. All data have been made available to both countries with full knowledge to each that we were the source.”

–  Letter from Benjamin R. Epstein, National Director, Anti-Defamation League to Saul Joftes, Executive Secretary, B’nai B’rith, July 7, 1961.

Those were the days when snooping usually meant digging through garbage cans, checking other people’s mailboxes, and primitive phone tapping. How the Anti-Defamation League is doing it today one can only imagine.

Over the last three days of April, the ADL celebrated its 100th anniversary in Washington DC in high style with Vice President Joe Biden the featured speaker at its Centennial Gala dinner on April 30 and Attorney General Eric Holder doing the obligatory genuflecting the day before.

Standing next to the ADL’s ubiquitous current national director, Abe Foxman, Biden told the one thousand paying guests, “You have become the conscience of this country, no matter what the issue. You have been a pillar of the Jewish community, but you reach out and you have reached out your embrace for all communities.”

For hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals the ADL’s embrace has been too close for comfort and “unconscionable” would be a term more befitting the organization’s activities. What is definitely in order is a reminder that this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the exposure of a nation-wide spying operation run by the ADL that went back at least five decades. Continue reading

“We Are All Turkish Democrats”: Solidarity from South Africa

“We Are All Turkish Democrats”: a Statement of Solidarity with the Turkish
Struggle

Abahlali baseMjondolo is a democratic, membership based movement of shack dwellers and other poor people in South Africa. In 2005 our experience of suffering and injustice led us to decided to organize ourselves and to represent ourselves. We are struggling for land and housing as a vital step towards the restoration of our dignity and the recognition of our equality. We have been severely punished by those who want to keep us in our place and we have faced serious repression.

When we have come under attack we have received solidarity from across the world – from Auckland to Istanbul, Nairobi, London and New York. We have stood with comrades facing repression in places like Haiti and Palestine. Today we stand with our comrades in Turkey and with all Turkish democrats.

We keep over movement strong by making sure that it always remains in the hands of its members and that we take forward the struggles that affect people’s everyday lives. We call this a living politics. But we take very seriously the fact that the system that has marginalized and oppressed us here in South Africa is the very system that marginalizes and oppresses the people of Turkey. And we have not forgotten that the first people to be in solidarity with our struggle outside of South Africa were the comrades at Sendika and People’s House in Turkey. Continue reading

Washington in Africa: Who will Obama ‘whack’ next?

[An important and detailed look at Washington’s Obama-era African policy initiatives.  Lengthy, but well worth reading.  The conclusions drawn from the information provided are the author’s, and do not necessarily imply Frontlines’ perspective.  —  Frontlines ed.]

Graphic from The Economist

 

by Patrick Bond, Address to the Muslim Youth Movement 40th Anniversary Conference, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, September 30, 2012.  Article was posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author’s permission.

 

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends. – Former US president Jimmy Carter, 25 June 2012, New York Times

US actions since 9/11 represent the final stage in the US’s century-long effort to complete the project of making US-led globalization a concrete reality across the world through three historical moments: 1) the attempted creation of a global Monroe doctrine between 1898 and 1919; 2) the Roosevelt administration’s creation of the Bretton Woods Institutions – the World Bank and IMF – and the UN; and 3) globalization – the US-led effort to establish a new global regime based on free trade, deregulation, and privatization. – Neil Smith, The Endgame of Globalization, 2005

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and former three-time ambassador, Johnnie Carson, was feted by Brooks Spector recently at Daily Maverick, in an article entitled “America’s Mr Africa”. While it is always fitting to honour African-Americans who persevere to the top despite that country’s deep internal racism, Spector makes contentious political and economic claims about the “new” US Africa policy. “For some observers at least”, he says, “Barack Obama’s new partnership with Africa was announced in his speech in Accra [July 11, 2009], when he declared the era of the authoritarian African big man to be over – kaput!”[1] As described below, however, Washington has maintained extremely cozy relationships with a variety of African dictators.

Spector then endorses Carson’s claims that “US interests in the continent fundamentally stem from its interest in strengthening trade to help African states grow their economies and meet development needs”, and that “the US wants to work with African nations to strengthen democratic institutions, good governance and efforts to stamp out corruption [and] to spur economic growth through market-driven, free trade principles”. Sorry, but we recall Washington’s deregulatory support for Wall Street’s market-driven binge, which in 2008-09 contributed to the worst global economic crash in 80 years, resulting in around a million South African job losses. We know that only the wealthy recovered so far, and that in the US, the top 1 per cent received 93 per cent of all new income since 2009, because the system wasn’t fixed. And who can forget White House hypocrisy when it comes to vast and often illegal US agro-corporate subsidies which continue to thwart African production? And is there any capital city whose political system is more corrupted by corporate (especially banking) campaign contributions than Washington, resulting in such extreme malgovernance that Obama cannot even make an effort to convict a single banker for world-historic economic misdeeds?

Spector’s most flawed assumption is that by increasing trade with (and vulnerability to) the world economy, “Africa” grows. Although a few elites have certainly grown rich from extraction, the opposite is more true, if we make a simple, rational adjustment to GDP: incorporating the wasting of Africa’s “natural capital” (a silly phrase but one used increasingly by powerbrokers eyeing the ‘Green Economy’). Measuring this loss is something that 10 African leaders agreed to start doing so in May, in the Gabarone Declaration initiated by Botswana president Ian Khama and the NGO Conservation International. The adjustment entails counting the outflow of natural capital (especially non-renewable mineral/petroleum resources) not only as a short-term credit to GDP (via “output of goods” measuring the resources extracted and sold), but also as a long-term debit to the natural capital stocks, as non-renewable resources no longer become available to future generations. Number-crunch the resource depletion, and net wealth declines in Africa as well as the Middle East. Continue reading

NGOs, weapons of “populist/humanitarian” imperialism, now wielded by competing imperialists in the new scramble for Africa

[From the Crusades and in the earliest years of colonialism, conquests and conquistadores arrived with more than guns and swords and armies.  They brought Bibles, and missionaries, and, in time, Christian charities, anthropologists, humanitarians and investors, intelligence operatives of CIA and other varieties.  In time, the restructuring of direct colonial relations into neo-colonial forms introduced by the Ford Foundation, vast arrays of “civil society” groups, cultural programs and comprador governments and training programs for junior officers and police captains.  And these came from throughout the global imperialist system, but unevenly.  Largely dominated by the US, with increasing inputs from Europe, there were parallel NGO-type ventures launched by the Soviets during its waning years, and growing Islamic charities and Jewish charities.  None of which were accountable to the local populations they each claimed to serve and represent.  Now, as the world imperialist system is confronted by ever-sharpening crisis, the US/EU hegemonic bloc is no longer riding securely and unchallengable or unchallenged, and so the growing competitive imperialist powers and blocs-in-formation are bringing similar instruments into the developing fray (which is still largely regional but getting some global features).  Not surprisingly, the ever-growing-imperialist China is opening this field of political and cultural cultivation to match their economic onslaught in Africa and elsewhere.  The ventures described here have not often been clarified, but along with their media work (CCTV) and their BRICS “development” initiatives, it bears watching and giving close attention.  Worldwide, revolutionary forces are learning to keep their distance from these imperialist tools and to carefully guard their independence and revolutionary initiative. — Frontlines ed.]

Africa-China4Challenging opportunity

By Liu Hongwu (China Daily), 2013-04-26

Increased grassroots engagements will help Chinese NGOs blaze new trail

Increased engagements and people-to-people exchanges, especially between non-governmental organizations from China and Africa, have given a new dimension and perspective to what Africa and the rest of the world thinks about China.

Taking a cue from the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000, many Chinese companies are spreading their wings in Africa and are fast becoming vital parts for Chinese NGOs.

Chinese NGOs have ensured that their activities are broad-based and cover important segments like healthcare, environmental protection and education. Prominent among them are the China NGO Network for International Exchanges and the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation. Several national and regional commerce chambers like the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade are also doing projects in Africa. Academic institutions and groups like the Chinese Society of Asian and African Studies are also in the fray.

According to current estimates, there are more than 100 Chinese NGOs in Africa. There are several factors that are unique to these engagements. Continue reading