A fitting message to the white settler nation.
Category Archives: Africa
Obama sends US Special Operations Forces to 75 countries, up from 60 last year
The US Special Operations Forces, or Green Berets, are operating in 75 countries around the world, up 25% from last year. Under the Obama administration, special ops forces have been sent to Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Ukraine, Bolivia, Peru, Turkey, the Philippines, Columbia and Paraguay, among many others. Of the 13,000 Special Operations forces worldwide, 9,000 are split between Iraq and Afghanistan. [1,2]
Obama was and still is perceived by many to be fundamentally different than George W. Bush. This only reveals how widespread gullibility and self-serving ignorance are. Under Obama, the number of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan jumped to 189,000 at end of 2009, up from Bush’s high of 186,000. Aerial bombings by US-operated drones have increased under Obama. Obama additionally employs an ‘Intelligence Community’ of 200,000 at a cost of 75 billion dollars annually. [3,4]
The United States is, regardless of its individual leadership, the greatest menace to humanity today. There is no force which plays a larger policing or military role worldwide. There is no force which drops as many bombs, invades as many countries, trains as many armed forces and spies on as many dissidents.
While US imperialism and its goons may appear strong, this is not necessarily the case. The real strength lies with the people, the masses of the Third World which make up the broad majority humanity. United under common interest, for peace, freedom and equality, and without illusions about the antagonistic nature of imperialism, the world’s masses can defeat reactionaries and lay the foundation for a better future.
US leading offensive against Somalia
They’re at it again. The US is quietly leading a major military operation against the African country of Somalia.
Since last year, the US had been training and funding the ‘Transitional Federal Government'(TFG). Now, the US is planning an offensive in the country’s capital, Mogadishu, in hopes of countering the growing influence of the Islamic group, Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahideen (al-Shabaab).
In 2006, US-backed Ethiopian forces occupied the country’s capital to drive out the ruling Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The task proved too great and in 2009 Ethiopian forces withdrew. Al-Shabaab, a splinter from the ICU, has since made significant gains against the ‘internationally-recognized’ TFG. Despite the substantial backing the TFG receives from the US, al-Shabaab controls the south of the country and much of the capital.
The current offensive against Mogadishu is the first major operation to be headed by the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM, since it was founded in 2007. However, the US has a long history of intervening in Somalia. In 1993, members of a US Special Forces team were killed, the bodies of some dragged through capital by a crowd. Most recently, in 2006 the US bombed Mogadishu as Ethiopian forces invaded the country.
The US says operations in Somalia are part of a ‘global counter-terrorism’ effort. An ‘imperialist offensive’ is more accurate.
US offensives in Somalia or anywhere else are part of a wider range of wars and conflicts, meant to reinforce US dominance around the world, including unfettered access to cheap raw materials. Sub-Saharan Africa is thought to be the center of the “next big oil-boom” and the “last real high-potential area in the world that hasn’t been fully explored.” Much of the untapped oil resides in the center of the continent, in Uganda and the Congo, and near the Horn of Africa, in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. Somalia may have 10 billion barrels in oil reserves but, due to instability, these reserves have yet to be tapped. It is the US’s intentions have as much control over this oil as possible. Overthrowing al-Shabaad’s rule and installing the TFG is all part of this plan.
Since Barakkk Obomber was elected president of the chief imperialist country, imperialist aggression has only increased. Troops remain in Iraq and have increased in Afghanistan. In the last year alone, the US has been exposed for drone bombings in Yemen and Pakistan, as well as covert operations elsewhere. Despite this, there has been no rise in anti-war, anti-militarist sentiment within the US. Anti-war marches have been at their lowest levels. For example, in the most recent ‘national march’ in Washington DC, attendance was estimated at 3,200-4,000 people (or .000013% of Amerikan citizens). Not only do Amerikans seem to think it’s OK when Obomber bombs people, some are even saying he should be more aggressive. Michael Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN, and several other conservatives have come out and publicly encouraged the US president to bomb Iran. Behind Obama and Amerika’s progressive veneer, we see the real debate: quietly bombing Third World people vs doing so in a big, highly-visible way. Regardless of which of these ‘policies’ Amerika chooses, it can only be a difference between the manner in which Amerika expands its wars in Africa and around the world.
Water and imperialism
Water is essential, in various ways, to all human activity. Water is something that humans, literally, cannot do without. Every human needs water in order live and to have a good life. Societies need water in order to be provide for the survival of their populations. Usable water, as a resource, is finite and distributed unevenly across the planet. Most societies have difficulty providing water to their populations, especially in the Third World. The inability to access water is referred to as the water crisis. The water crisis results in terrible human costs every year. And, as usable water becomes less and less available in the future, the brunt of the water crisis will befall Third World populations. The writings of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, social theorist and architect of the Bolshevik revolution, have framed discussions of imperialism and global poverty. Famously, it was Vladamir Illich Lenin who predicted cycles of world wars as the powerful nations vied for the dwindling resources of the poorer nations. In the twenty-first century, there is increasing conflict over water. Lack of usable water will be a source of great instability.
Capitalist imperialism plays a role in the crisis. And, it is the Third World that suffers from these water wars and social instability. As activist and author Arundhati Roy states, “Empire does not always appear in the form of cruise missiles and tanks, as it has in Iraq or Afghanistan or Vietnam. It appears in their lives in very local avatars-losing their jobs, being sent unpayable electricity bills, having their water supply cut, being evicted from their homes and uprooted from their land. It is a process of relentless impoverishment with which the poor are historically familiar. What Empire does is further entrench and exacerbate already existing inequalities.”(1)
The effects of the water crisis are wide ranging. According to secretary-general of the United Nations at the time, Kofi Annan, “One person in six lives without regular access to safe drinking water; over twice that number—2.4 billion—lack access to adequate sanitation.” (2) Each year more than five million people die from water-related disease. (3) The World Health Organization states that 1.8 million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and sanitation. (4)
1.2 billion people have no sanitation facilities at all. 2.5 billion lack decent sanitation.(5) Fecal matter causes the majority of illnesses in the world. At any given time, half of the poor of the developing world are ill due to water supply, sanitation and hygiene. The biggest cause of infection is poor sanitation, usually related to water. (6)
In addition, agriculture and the water crisis are connected. Firstly, the water crisis is a significant factor in the world food crisis. Poor agricultural techniques waste water. And, overall, if agriculture remains on the same path, it will produce less and less relative to the growing human population. According to one source, “Irrigation-fed agriculture provides 45 percent of the world’s food supplies, and without it, we could not feed our planet’s population of six billion people.” According to the influential head of environmental research institute Worldwatch, Lester Brown, believes that water scarcity is now “the single biggest threat to global food security” (7) Much of the current irrigation is stressed, using more groundwater reserves than can be sustained. (8) As access diminishes, overuse of current water supplies results in increased pollution and environmental damage. This, in turn, diminishes water resources. Thus, the water crisis is also a significant factor in the world food crisis.
Population growth will especially compound the problems in water and agriculture. A third of the world’s population live in “water stressed” countries currently. (9) This number will only increase in the coming years. “Population and economic growth across Asia and the rest of the developing world is a major factor driving fresh-water scarcity. The Earth’s human population is predicted to rise from 6 billion to about 9 billion by 2050, the UN reports. Feeding them will mean more irrigation for crops.” (10) Feeding an increased population will mean more water.
This full brunt of the water crisis is suffered by the Third World. Access to water varies greatly from place to place. Looking at the distribution of access to water from one place to another shows that First World has more access than the Third World. This is exactly what one would expect. Privilege in one area accompanies privileges in other areas. Those with high incomes, those in the First World, have access to food, shelter, water, and other goods required for the good life.
The median income globally is about US $ 912.50 (US $ 2.50 per day). There are 2.5 billion people living on less than US $730 a year (US $ 2 per day). By contrast, the median yearly income of a household in the United States was $46,326 in 2006. (11) The average person requires 5 gallons of water per day to survive. The average American uses 100 to 176 gallons of water a day. An average African family consumes roughly 5 gallons a day. (12) There are 2.9 billion without decent sanitation. (13) Those without access to drinking water are not in the First World.
The wealth and power of the imperialist nations translates into the ability to control access to water in the weaker nations. Imperialist nations use water as just another commodity, and they are not above brandishing their control of such a commodity for political ends. This has only increased with the rush toward globalization.
Water is increasingly playing a role in imperialist schemes against the Third World. For example, one contention between the Palestinians and Israelis is the mountain aquifer underneath the West Bank. The Israeli state and settlers have dominated the groundwater supplies. Palestinians are charged three times more for water than Israelis. (14) Under International Law, Israel is required to provide drinking water to Palestinians. Israel is not allowed to deny it to them. (15) Yet increasing costs is one way to wage war against the Palestinians using water instead of bullets. By controlling water, its distribution and cost, the Israelis and their American allies are able to wield power over the Palestinians. Control over water means control over agriculture and food supplies, it means control over sanitation, and control over human life.
The water crisis also threatens to play a role in the reversal of Zimbabwe’s land reform movement. One consequence of the land reform movement in Zimbabwe has been an increase in water problems. Land in Zimbabwe had been controlled by Europeans, reducing the African population to pauperism. Mugabe’s land reform redistributed the land back to the majority African population. One unintended consequence of the land reform was that the new land owners proved unable to maintain the water systems and irrigation dams.
These problems can be manipulated by political forces. (16) The ex-land owners, those who had benefited from the old imperialist and white supremacist system in Zimbabwe, have a vested interest in a water crisis because they stand to benefit. Such a crisis could be exploited politically to oust Mugabe and return themselves to power. These forces are backed by powerful Western allies who seek to reduce Zimbabwe to the status of a colony. (17)
The one example with a happy ending is the conflict in Bolivia. A water conflict in Bolivia also set an imperial power against a poorer people. Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. (18) Seventy percent of its population live in poverty. Ten percent of children die before age five. Bolivia’s economy was wrecked by hyper-inflation in the 1980s. A small ruling elite dominated Bolivian society. Sixty percent of the population is indigenous. Those of European background have historically had more privileges than the poorer and indigenous segments of the population. In Bolivia in 1999, Cochabamba auctioned its water supply in order to increase services. The water system was purchased by Aguas Del Tunari, a part of Bechtel, a large American corporation. As part of the purchase, the company was guaranteed a 15 to 17% rate of profit. After taking over the water system, Aguas del Tunari raised the water rates, some as high as 300%. (19) This sparked massive protests that lasted two months. The protesters accused the company of “leasing the rain” as they clashed with the Bolivian military. Hundreds were arrested and a seventeen year-old boy was shot and killed. Journalist Luis Bredow describes the revolt: “Everyone was protesting, everyone…I’ve never seen anything like it in Bolivia. Housewives were throwing stones at the police. It really was a revolt.”
The water conflict intersected with traditional nationalist sentiment. These clashes nearly collapsed the government of Bolivia. The sale of the water resources had to be withdrawn.
The view that water is a commodity like any other has led to disaster in the Third World. According to Vandana Shiva:
“At the core of the market solution to pollution is the assumption that water exists in unlimited supply. The idea that markets can mitigate pollution by facilitating increased allocation fails to recognize that water diversion to one area comes at the cost of water scarcity elsewhere.
In contrast to the corporate theorists who promote market solutions to pollution, grassroots organizations call for political and ecological solutions. Communities fighting high-tech industrial pollution have proposed the Community Environmental Bill of Rights, which includes rights to clean industry; to safety from harmful exposure; to prevention; to knowledge; to participation; to protection and enforcement; to compensation; and to cleanup. All of these rights are basic elements of a water democracy in which the right to clean water is protected for all citizens. Markets can guarantee none of these rights.”
Furthermore,“Market assumptions are blind to the ecological limits set by the water cycle and the economic limits set by poverty. Over-exploitation of water and disruption of the water cycle create absolute scarcity that markets cannot substitute with other commodities. The assumption of substitution is in fact central to logic of commodification. “ (20)
The problem of water crisis can be solved in principle. According to one source, 97.5 percent of the Earth’s water resources are salty. Of the remaining water, only a single percent is available for humans. “Even this tiny proportion, however, would be enough for humans to live on Earth if the water cycle was properly functioning and if we managed our water use wisely.” (21)
However, the nature of capitalism is to view every resource, from labor to water, as a commodity. The water crisis cannot be solved on a global scale until there is a change in social relations globally. It cannot be solve under the current system of capitalism because the very nature of capitalism itself is to put a price on resources, to eliminate the commons. This being the case, it is likely that solutions will not be put in place for a very long time. And, in the meantime, this translates into increased conflicts, even wars over diminishing access to water.
The reason that the water crisis won’t be solved in the short term is that imperialists have an interest in perpetuating the crisis. Capitalist imperialism is a system organized around profit, not human need. As long as there is profit to be made by “leasing the rain” or using the water crisis to destabilize political enemies, then the policy makers of the powerful nations will not act to solve the water crisis. It will be up to the oppressed nations to solve the water conflicts themselves as was done in Bolivia.
1. Roy, Arundhati. People vs. Empire. In These Times magazine. January 2005.
2. Hillary Mayell UN Highlights World Water Crisis for National Geographic News. June 5, 2003.
3. Pacific Institute, Dirty Water: Estimated Deaths from Water-Related Diseases 2000-2020. 2002.
5 UNICEF/WHO. Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: Special Focus on Sanitation. 2008.
6. Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). 2008. A Guide to Investigating One of the Biggest Scandals of the Last 50 Years.
7. Africa’s Potential Water Wars. BBC News. 1999. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/454926.stm
8. World Water Crisis Underlies World Food Crisis. Environmental News Service. 2008. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2008/2008-08-18-01.asp
9.The World Water Crisis. http://www.worldwaterday.net/index.cfm?objectid=E39A970B-F1F6-6035-B9F75093B863ED13
10. Wallace, Scott. Is water becoming ‘the new oil’? Christian Science Monitor. 2008. http://features.csmonitor.com/environment/2008/05/29/is-water-becoming-‘the-new-oil’/
11. US Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/
12. UN Water. Tackling a Global Crisis: International Year of Sanitation 2008. 2008.
13. UN Water. Tackling a Global Crisis: International Year of Sanitation 2008. 2008.
14. Ofori-Amoah, Abigail. Water Wars and International Conflict. 2004. http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz/OFORIAA/
15. Water war leaves Palestinians thirsty. BBS News. June 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2982730.stm
16. Maoist-Third Worldists denounce imperialist meddling in Zimbabwe. http://monkeysmashesheaven.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/maoist-third-worldists-denounce-imperialist-meddling-in-zimbabwe/
17. Banda, Ignatius. Poverty: Water Wars Hit Rural Zimbabwe. IPS. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=44294
18. Bolivia Country Report. CIA World Fact Book. 2008. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bl.html
19. Joseph, Richard. The Water War in Bolivia. Counterpunch. March 26/7, 2005. http://www.counterpunch.org/joseph03262005.html
20. Vandana Shiva. Water Wars. South End Press. 2002. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Vandana_Shiva/Water_Wars_VShiva.html
21. World Water Crisis Underlies World Food Crisis. Environmental News Service. 2008. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2008/2008-08-18-01.asp
Conflict Heats Up in Oil-Rich Niger Delta
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has recently released statements refusing offers of amnesty by the Nigerian state and, as of June 6th, given local and foreign oil workers 72 hours notice of an “imminent attack.” “The warning also applies to greedy individuals from oil communities tempted to carry out repair contracts on pipelines already destroyed,” MEND added.
These statements follow a major military campaign aimed at crushing MEND. As part of the campaign, which displaced thousands of indigenous civilians, the Nigerian military has been accused of indiscriminate aerial bombings and shelling villages. A spokesman from the Nigerian military called MEND’s warning an “empty boast by a toothless gang” and urged oil workers to disregard the threat.
In 2006, MEND began attacking oil installations, sabotaging infrastructure and kidnapping oil-industry workers for ransom. Since then, analysts have noted that the rebel group has grown more sophisticated. In June of 2008, MEND attacked Shell’s main oil platform, which, at 75 miles from shore, was thought to be safe from militant assaults. As a result, the platform, which normally produces 200,000 barrels per day, was temporarily closed, reducing Nigeria’s total oil production by 10% overnight. Since January of 2006, unrest in the Niger Delta has reduced Nigeria’s daily output from 2.6 million barrels to 1.76 million. Niger is the fifth largest importer of crude oil into the U.S.; oil accounts for 95% of Nigeria’s export income.
In January of 2009, MEND called off a four month ceasefire and resumed attacks against imperialist operations and infrastructure. MEND says that oil operations have caused massive pollution, killed local wildlife and left indigenous communities without a means of subsistence. Niger Delta communities use very little oil themselves. Almost no oil revenue makes it to the communities most affected by oil production. Instead it is exported as profits by companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron, transferred to the First World via price fixing and unequal exchange or consumed by local puppet-elites. Speaking of their own movement, MEND says, “The very reason for militancy is because of injustice. Fiscal federalism is among the things that will silence our guns.”
Under the current schema, imperialism dominates the Nigeria economy. This has predictably led to a social and environmental catastrophe. Traditional modes of existence have been destroyed through activities inherent in the maintenance of the modern global economy. In this case, foreign companies get the oil at the lowest cost possible and with no regard for existing communities or the environment and export it to consumption-based economies of the West. The people of the Niger Delta, instead of finding any benefit from this process, have lost their previous ability to feed themselves from their natural surroundings and have little opportunities to find subsistence level wages on their own land or in their own country. Regardless of natural wealth, imperialism is a death warrant for indigenous Third World peoples.
MEND’s struggle is a just one. Faced with displacement, oppression and exploitation by imperialism, Third World peoples have little alternative but fighting back at those who direct and facilitate such oppression. For groups like MEND, this means a struggle not only against the imperialist oil-industry but also against the Nigerian state. As witnessed by the military’s most recent offensive against MEND, the Nigerian state is itself an agent of imperialism whose main role is protecting, militarily if need be, the interests of multi-national oil companies.
The struggle of the Niger Delta masses against imperialism and its local puppets is one that must be supported by all revolutionary peoples. This is because the struggle in the Niger Delta is part of a larger struggle shared by the vast majority of humanity. A serious blow to imperialism in Nigeria weakens imperialism as a whole, allowing for revolutionary advances on the part of oppressed peoples elsewhere. Conversely, while MEND might be able to land some blows against Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and the Nigerian state, the struggle against imperialism can only come to a victorious resolution through a unified effort on the part of oppressed peoples from countries around the world. Only by way of a global anti-imperialist struggle can imperialist exploitation, and the devastating social and environmental impacts that accompany it, no longer remain a threat to oppressed peoples. Only through the unified struggle of oppressed peoples against capitalist-imperialism and its various local lackeys can a new world, one based on the needs of people, be built.
Imperialists are the real pirates
The Amerikan media is buzzing about pirates. In a recent incident, so-called “pirates” attempted to capture the cargo ship Maersk Alabama. According to mainstream reports, when the Somalis failed to take the ship, they fled the scene, taking the ship’s captain with them as a hostage to ransom later. Later, captain Phillips, an Amerikan, was freed by U$ Navy snipers who killed three of the Somalis and injured one other. The Somali version of events is much different than the one reported in the Amerikan media. According to Somali leader Abdi Garad, the Amerikans broke a truce agreement: “The American liars have killed our friends after they agreed to free the hostage without ransom.” (1)
The supposed “pirate menace” has provided Obama with a perfect, win-win situation. Obama was able to bloody his presidency in a low-risk engagement against a very weak enemy. Thus, Obama answered critics who claim that he is too soft. Even Obama’s usual critics are praising his action against the so-called pirate menace. Not surprisingly, the events of the past few days reveal that Obama is a run-of-the-mill imperialist. It is likely that the imperialists will use the excuse of “pirates” to increase their activity in Africa over the next decade.
Imperialists are the real pirates.
Firstly, the cargo ships that traverse the waters of the Somali coast are part of the imperialist system. They transport millions of dollars of stolen loot between the First and Third Worlds. The people of the Third World are completely justified in retrieving the wealth stolen from them.
Secondly, imperialist corporations have been destroying the Somali coastline with impunity since the early 1990s. According to Januna Ali Jama, a Somali spokesman, the actions of the Somali “pirates” are in response to “the toxic waste that has been continually dumped on the shores of our country for nearly 20 years.”
“The Somali coastline has been destroyed, and we believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas.”
These charges have been confirmed by Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia. He stated that dumping and illegal fishing allegations have been made since the early 1990s.
Again dramatically confirming the imperialist crimes, the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) reported that rusted containers of toxic waste were found washed up on the Somali coastline after the 2004 tsunami. A UNEP spokesperson said that the containers were smashed open by the waves of the tsunami. The UNEP spokesperson said that the “frightening activity” of dumping had been going on for a decade. He stated that hundreds of Somali residents had become ill, suffering mouth and abdominal bleeding, skin infections and other ailments due to the dumping.
“Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there,” he said.
“European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne.”
“And the waste is many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, and there are hospital wastes, chemical wastes – you name it.”
UN envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah confirmed the claims, “What is most alarming here is that nuclear waste is being dumped. Radioactive uranium waste that is potentially killing Somalis and completely destroying the ocean.”
According to Mohammed Gure, chairman of the Somalia Concern Group, “The Somali coastline used to sustain hundreds of thousands of people, as a source of food and livelihoods. Now much of it is almost destroyed..” (2)
All this goes to show that the real pirate menace is imperialism. The imperialists have stolen an entire coastline from the Somali people. They have stolen their health and way of life. We wish the Somali people luck in redistributing wealth from the First to the Third World. We wish them luck in taxing the real pirates, the imperialists, who have stolen so much from them.
On March 4th, 2009, the International Kangaroo Court (ICC) charged Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, with five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes. The charges, which stem from the conflict in Darfur, are the first of their kind to be leveled against a seated head of state. Since armed conflict broke out in 2001, upwards of 200,000-300,000 people have died in the Darfur region.
The decision to charge al-Bashir has been protested by many of the world’s governments. Representatives from China, a country which is heavily invested in Sudan, said the charges will set back the peace process and instead promoted a combination of negotiations and joint UN-African Union peacekeeping missions. The president of Senegal urged for the charges to be dropped. A Libyan official was quoted as saying, “the decision [of the ICC] did not take into account the views of the African Union, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Nonaligned Movement.” A number of Middle East countries, including Syria and Iran, have came out against the charges. Leaders of Venezuela, Hezzbollah and Hamas have also made statements supportive of President al-Bashir.
The decision to charge al-Bashir is especially hypocritical as it was pushed through by the United States with Europe’s backing. The United States is one of the few countries which officially labels the situation in Darfur a genocide, a term rejected by both the UN and the ICC. Over the past ten years, the United States has been increasingly meddling in the country’s affairs. In 2007, after Sudan agree to allow in UN peacekeepers, U.S. officials expressed skepticism and promised to “tighten the screws.”
Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is resource rich. It exports oil, cotton, sesame, sugar and gum arabic. It also has deposits of gold, bauxite, copper, zinc, cobalt, uranium, iron, silver, nickel, tin and natural gas. Though undeveloped by Western capitalist standards, Sudan, like many African countries, contains enormous potential profit.
The trumped up charges against al-Bashir coincide with imperialism’s increasing interest in the African continent. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Somalia have seen heightened levels of imperialist meddling and intimidation tactics over the last decade. In September of 2007, the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM, was established to ensure Amerikan military supremacy over the region. With its influence in much South America waning and its adventures in the Middle East and Central Asia clearly failing, Amerika is now predictably setting its predatory sights on Africa.
The International Kangaroo Court that issued al-Bashir’s arrest warrant is just that: a kangaroo court meant to legitimize Amerika’s global dominance. It is a tool, much like a weapon, wielded against the Third World. The charges against al-Bashir primarily serve to increase Amerika’s exploitative role in Africa, not to further a humanitarian agenda. That the charges and circumstances behind them are so outrageous demonstrates the increasingly desperate and belligerent stance of the United States. The world is right to be unified in opposition to this power play by U.S. imperialism.
Human rights violations and crimes against humanity should be addressed by the international community. The situation in Darfur certainly implicates the Sudanese government in such crimes. However, these crimes occur in the context of larger historical and structural crimes carried out by Western imperialism. Moreover, the crimes in Darfur occur not absent more obvious crimes, most notably those carried out by the the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. Any serious concern for humanity, any real international criminal court, would start at the top. Any serious attempt to prosecute crimes against humanity would not begin with President Omar al-Bashir, but the leaders of the United States and Western imperialism.
Your Playstation Has Real Blood On It
There has been recent interest in the news lately on a report by the liberal activist group Toward Freedom around what has been dubbed the “Playstation War.” It describes how the demand for a key metal used in the Sony Playstation 2 video game console was a driving force in the ongoing wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Stories about the demand for this metal, called coltan, and the wars behind it in sub-Saharan Africa, are nothing new (1). What is new about this report is that it links one specific consumer product to this conflict.
The Playstation video game console, like others on the market, is solely used for leisure and entertainment. Priced for hundreds of dollars and purchased by consumers in Amerika and other First World nations, the Playstation is a byproduct of the leisure time and disposable income available to Amerikans. Along with the console itself there are thousands of video games that are made for it, along with fan magazines and websites. According to the Entertainment Software Association video game sales reached $9.5 billion in 2007, and tens of thousands of people are employed in this industry to meet consumer demands (2). The indirect economics in terms of research and development, sales, advertising, and marketing are also vast. Video games are just one byproduct of imperialist parasitism, and in the case of the Playstation it is a direct contributor to war and suffering.
Imperialism is a system based upon exploitation and war. The production cycle of the Playstation illustrates the rabid bloodshed and exploitation imperialism brings, and the parasitism that it feeds in the core imperialist nations.
The African World War and the Playstation
The conflict known as Africa’s World War has involved eight nations and over 25 militias. It has killed and displaced millions of people over a ten year period, and its effects still linger today. According to Toward Freedom, this war also became known as the Playstation War. They state:
“The name came about because of a black metallic ore called coltan. Extensive evidence shows that during the war hundreds of millions of dollars worth of coltan was stolen from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The UN and several NGOs claim some of the most active thieves were the Rwandan military, several militias supported by the Rwandan government, and also a number of western-based mining companies, metal brokers, and metal processors that had allegedly partnered with these Rwandan factions…. And while allegations of plundering coltan from a nation in desperate need of revenue seem bad enough, the UN also discovered that Rwandan troops and rebels were using prisoners-of-war and children to mine for the “black gold.”
“Kids in Congo were being sent down mines to die so that kids in Europe and America could kill imaginary aliens in their living rooms,” said British politician Oona King, who was a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2005.”(3).
Coltan is used to make the metal tantalum, which in turn is used to make capacitors for tiny electronic devices. Up to eighty percent of the world’s coltan reserves lie in the DRC (4). Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of this metal has been stolen from the DRC during this war in order to satisfy the growing demand for electronic items like cell phones, laptops, I-Pods, and video games.
The report links the demand for the Playstation in 2000 to a spike in the price of coltan. At the same time the Rwandan military and its allied militias forcefully took over land in DRC that had coltan mines. A United Nations investigation alleged Western mining companies:
“…directly and indirectly fueled the war, paralyzing the DRC government, and [used] the conflict to keep the coltan flowing cheaply out of the Congo. Some companies were also accused by the UN of aligning with elements of the warring parties.”
Toward Freedom further states:
“David Barouski, a researcher and journalist from Wisconsin, says it is certain that the coltan from this conflict is also in SONY video game consoles across the world. ‘Sony’s PlayStation 2 launch (spring of 2000) was a big part of the huge increase in demand for coltan that began in early 1999,’ said Barouski, who has witnessed the chaos of eastern DRC firsthand.”
Sony of course engages in plausible deniability, saying it cannot really know where everything it manufactures comes from. Really, gee whiz.
Congo’s Long History of Meddling Imperialists
The DRC has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world, despite being so rich in mineral resources. The cause of this contradiction is its long history of being a victim of imperialist intervention. It has long been a site of theft, plunder, and murder by U.$. and Western imperialism. It was once known as the Belgian Congo, named after its former colonial strangler. It achieved independence from Belgium in 1961. Its first leader after independence was Patrice Lumumba, who described 80 years of colonial oppression as a “humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force” (5). Lumumba, a national leader too independent for U.$. imperial interests, became a victim of an assassination orchestrated by the CIA and Belgian intelligence shortly after he took power. He was replaced by a subservient kleptocracy led by Gen. Joseph Mobutu, head of the national army. Mobutu and his cronies went on to steal billions from the nation he renamed Zaire, while starving millions of its citizens. Mobutu also allowed the CIA free use of the country as a proxy to destabilize the rest of the region for U.$. interests against the USSR during the Cold War.
After the Cold War ended Mobutu was of no use to the imperialists, and was finally overthrown in 1997. His replacement also became a pawn of the imperialists. The nation, renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo, was led by president Kabila, who made deals with Western and Amerikan mining companies for access to its valuable mines. He had the backing of neighboring armies who wanted in on its resources. The five-year war that officially ended in 2003 was known as the African World War, the deadliest war since World War II. So far over 5 million people have died as a result. This is just one symptom of the long legacy of imperialism in this region.
Who Plays, Who Works? Electronic Sweatshops
Like almost all consumer products, the Playstation and other electronics are manufactured in Third World sweatshops that take advantage of cheap labor and few regulations.
News reports state that Sony is contracting with Foxcomm, a Taiwanese contractor with factories based in China, to build their new Playstation 3 (6). Other reports about Foxcomm factories that assembled the iPods give an indication of the conditions that these toys are made in. One factory in China has 200,000 workers, and advertises for workers over age 16 (7):
“Inside Longhua, workers labor a 15-hour day building iPods, for which they usually earn about $50 per month. When they’re not on the assembly lines, they live in secluded dormitories that each house 100 people and prohibit visitors from the outside world. The workers are allowed ‘a few possessions; and a ‘bucket to wash their clothes.’”
From one worker:
” ‘We have to work too hard and I am always tired. It’s like being in the army,’ Zang Lan, one of the workers at Longhua, told the Mail. ‘They make us stand still for hours. If we move we are punished by being made to stand still for longer. The boys are made to do pushups.’ ”
The report states the iPod Nano is assembled in a five-story factory that is secured by armed police officers. The super-slim digital music player is said to include over 400 parts which arrive from component manufacturers all over the world (8).
Another factory in Suzhou, Shanghai that manufactures iPod shuffles is completely surrounded by barbed wire. The workers take home $99 a month, with half of that income going to food and shelter. The factory advertises for women workers, because it considers them more honest. China, now under capitalist imperialist exploitation, is touted for its “low wages, long hours and industrial secrecy, [making] the country attractive to business, especially as increased competition and consumer expectations force companies to deliver products at lower prices (9).”
The End Game
“Amerikan imperialism takes the products created by the exploited labor of the Third World and passes it off to Amerika’s aristocratic ‘workers.’ From here, Amerikan ‘workers’ are overpaid to basically tinker around with the products before they are sold. In turn, Amerikan ‘workers’ use their inflated wages to buy these products, thus making possible the final realization of profit for the overall system. In this manner, Amerika uses global exploitation to keep its domestic mall economy afloat and enable its existence as an entire nation of parasites.”
-Parasitism: The Economics of Imperialism (RAIMD) (10)
Amerika’s economy is a service economy. The wealth of this country comes from the exploitation of resources and labor from outside of its borders, all so Amerikans can live overly comfortable lives. The Playstation is no exception. Millions have died and billions suffer for your entertainment. The world’s majority won’t stand for it for too much longer.
Amerikan imperialism will lose in the end. So join with the world’s oppressed majority and become a revolutionary anti-imperialist. It’ll be more fun than your Playstation anyway!
3). Lasker, John. “Inside Africa’s Playstation War.” Toward Freedom, July 08, 2008. http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1352/1. All info on the DRC and Playstations, except noted, is from the Toward Freedom article.
In our ongoing coverage of Denver’s May Day events we’d also like to take the time to report on events from the rest of the world.
First to Turkey where demonstrators and police clashed. This was the first May Day protest in Istanbul since a 1980 military coup. Prior to that, in 1977 a May Day massacre left 34 radicals dead.
In Kabul student protestors burnt and beat an effigy of George Bush and shouted “Death to Amerika” type slogans. It looks like in Afghanistan students are embracing a revolutionary education.
Hezbollah attended the annual Cairo conference. There they encourage a united resistance to U.S. aggression in the middle east and also championed Iran as a main obstacle against U.S. supremacy in the region.
The Venezuelan state under the leadership of Chavez seized the last privately held oil fields in a move that has nationalized all oil production in the country. Venezuela also formally announced that they would be pulling out of the IMF and World Bank: another blow to western imperialism.
And worldwide, 24,000 people died from starvation or malnutrition.
So what will you be doing between now and next year to fight imperialism?!