09 November 2007

Africom: US military expansion in Africa

When investigative reporters learn their trade, the first advice they get is: follow the money. For those hoping to understand something more about global politics, this should quickly be followed by advice to follow the troops.

Under the guise of expanding ’security assistance programmes’ - a euphemism for supporting client states - the US government is establishing a new unified command structure for its forces in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also motivated, no doubt, by China’s concerted effort to secure energy supplies from the continent.

This new strategy is discussed in The Nation this week by Danny Glover and Nicole Lee. For a more detailed analysis, it is worth checking out this article by Daniel Vollman in Pambazuka News.

Michael Heseltine: speaking truth after power

Did you see Question Time? I must confess I didn’t, partly because I’m out of the country, mainly because it is usually very boring. But this quote, as recounted by Seumas Milne, looks set to become one of those that is recounted to death:

”I was involved in the process of arming Saddam Hussein,” Heseltine told the BBC’s Question Time programme, in a startling answer to a question about whether the west had been right to back the military dictatorship of General Musharraf in Pakistan. “The reason we armed Saddam Hussein is because he was seen as an absolutely fundamental interest of the west against rising Muslim fundamentalism based on Iran. We have destabilised Iraq, greatly empowered Iran and the dangers to us in that process have been very considerably increased.”

File alongside:

“The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist.” - Thomas Friedman

“It’s a hard choice, but I think, we, think, it’s worth it.” - Madeline Albright, asked about the over half a million children killed by the Iraqi sanctions.

That Albright one is on YouTube. I’m still waiting for the Heseltine clip to appear there, it is archived on the BBC Question Time website for the next week.

08 November 2007

Pissing on environmental protection

According to the ETC Group, a private geoengineering company recently received an official “go signal” to dump 500 tonnes of urea into the Sulu Sea near the Philippines for a large scale “carbon sequestration” experiment without an Environmental Impact Assessment. The experimental urea dumping may happen this year. This is one of a number of spurious ‘ocean fertilisation’ schemes. Full story is here.

06 November 2007

This year’s Golden Loobrush Award goes to…

Surfers Against Sewage campaigners took to the stage at the British Environment and Media Awards (BEMAS), sponsored by Northumbrian Water, to present their own ‘Golden Loo Brush’ Award to the company’s Communications Director. The campaigners accuse the company, which plans to reduce the level of sewage treatment from its plants in the North East, of disregarding the health of the marine environment.

Full story here and here

03 November 2007

The demise of RESPECT: back to the future?

When RESPECT was founded as a ‘unity coalition’ in 2004, it always seemed like tempting fate. The British left has long been better at factional infighting than togetherness, and the record of the ill-fated Socialist Alliance – one of RESPECT’s immediate precursors – didn’t bode well.

A few years ago, Mike Marqusee wrote an excellent analysis on ‘democracy and the left’ that has more than a familiar ring today. It is worth reading in full, but here’s an excerpt that touches, in passing, on some of the issues that have come back to haunt RESPECT:

In the end, the SWP is imbued with an authoritarian ethic – most recently confirmed by their readiness to dub as “divisive” or “disruptive” anyone who voices political preferences contrary to theirs. We’ve seen this in the Socialist Alliance, where they have dumped dissenters from national officer positions and crudely packed a meeting in Birmingham in order to force out one of the few genuinely independent (and respected) trade union activists the SA could boast. We’ve also seen it in the Stop the War Coalition where decisions are taken by the SWP leadership and foist on the STWC with barely a semblance of democratic consultation, where SWP members appear on platforms as “STWC” spokespersons, though they have no links to any STWC structures, where the priorities of the SWP leadership (at the moment, campaigning for George Galloway), take precedence over the priorities of the wider movement (surely, at the moment, stepping up the pressure on Blair regarding the absent WMD and building a long-term campaign against the occupation of Iraq) - and where anyone who wanted a slightly greater emphasis on direct action, or a broader approach to the choice of speakers on the big demonstrations, or didn’t totally buy into the crude construction of “the Muslims” as a homogenous (manipulable) entity was effectively excluded. And in both the SA and the STWC, on the rare occasions when initiatives not under the direct control of the SWP emerged from democratic discussion, they were either ignored or undermined by the SWP.