Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

Seattle Teachers Boycott of Unfair & Unnecessary High Stakes Tests Spreads to Second High School

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

In the most promising teacher and community resistance to corporate education reform since the Chicago Teachers Union strike last fall, instructors at Seattle's Garfield High School are standing up for their students by refusing to administer the so-called “Measure for Academic Progress” or MAP tests given in Seattle the last three years.

Dissident teachers point out that the test, for which Seattle paid $4 million in a no-bid deal, doesn't affect graduation, so students have never taken it seriously and it is not aligned with existing state standards for what schools are required to teach, or with the materials actually taught.

The test has nothing to do with teaching or learning. Its purpose under the model of corporate-inspired “run your school like a business” education reform, is to generate so-called “hard data” --- numbers to measure student progress, numbers that indicate teacher performance, and as is happening in hundreds of school districts across the country, numbers that justify which schools will next be closed and replaced by charter operations which generate handsome profits off public dollars.

Teachers point out that the MAP test, which is also given in Chicago, New York City and elsewhere, is doubly specious because district administrators “...reported that the margin of error for this test is greater than an individual student's expected score increase...” from year to year, according to a story printed in the suthoritative Substance News.

The corporate school reform agenda insists, however, that this sort of testing go on everywhere because letting go of as many experienced teachers as possible is a necessary step in privatization. Think about it. If you're a privatizing boss, experienced teachers don't just cost more, they know how to do their jobs without you. Some of them are organized to boot, with deep roots in school communities. The corporate model calls for making teachers into temporary workers, on the Wal-Mart and McDonalds models, with no ties to local communities and certainly no tradition of collective action.

This kind of testing labels schools and their students as “failures.” Seattle teachers are refusing to set their students, and themselves up for failure. As in Chicago, community leaders and students themselves have come out to support their teachers, who have been threatened with 10 day unpaid suspensions. The test boycott is spreading to other schools in Seattle, and beyond. On January 26, teachers at a second Seattle high school, Chief Sealth, joined their Garfield colleagues pledging to boycott the test, and teachers are reportedly considering the same move at other schools in Seattle, Portland and elsewhere. There is a call in and fax-in scheduled today in support of Seattle teachers, and a number of online petitions in support of their effort.

In his 2012 State of the Union speech, President Obama dropped a phrase about how teachers shouldn't be required to “teach to the test.” We can tell however, what side the president is on not by his words, but by his policies. If he meant those words, he'll not only commend the stand Seattle teachers have taken, but suspend his signature Race To The Top Program, which forces schools to give these tests, to tie teachers jobs and whether schools in minority communities remain open to them. We're not holding our breath on that one.

For more news on the ongoing resistance to corporate school reform, check out Substance News at http://substance.net. For the latest on the situation in Seattle schools, the place to go is http://seattleducation.wordpress.com.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com

Direct download: 20130130_bd_seattle_test_boycott.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:13am EST

Meeting and Greeting the Crusaders in Africa

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

African officials were handing out orders and directives to other Africans, as if they were actually in charge of something.”

These days the so-called scramble for Africa runs through Mali, and in two directions. As the British, the Italians, the Germans, the Spanish, the Dutch, the Belgians and the Danish follow the French into northwest Africa, the Africans rush up to meet them, as if these white people were old friends coming to visit, again. Cargo planes ferry French fighters and equipment into the Mali desert, where they search for jihadists – Muslim fighters that are politically indistinguishable from the ones the Europeans and the Americans backed in Libya, and are now arming, in Syria.

If the Mali operation takes much longer – which it certainly will – the United States will assume much of the airlift duties, since no other nation in the world has the capacity to resupply a long war on the African continent. Cracking northern Africa wide open is a job for a superpower – which is fine with the Americans. Don Yamamoto, the deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, was hanging around the African Union meeting in Ethiopia, where African officials were handing out orders and directives to other Africans, as if they were actually in charge of something. Yamamoto predicted that “it could take several years” for the Mali mission to completed. “This is only the first phase,” he said. So, what is that mission? Will it take the combined forces of the United States, France, much of the rest of NATO, and of soldiers from all over Africa to defeat, at most, a few thousand jihadists in a treeless desert? Do the Europeans and the Americans really have to stay so long?

Oh yes, said deputy secretary Yamamoto. He claims, “A lot of the rebel groups that are now fighting in the region were under Gaddafi’s troops.” Ah, so that’s how the U.S. will tell the story.

The U.S. has much bigger plans for Africa.”

It’s true that many Tuareg nationalists seeking independence for their homeland in northern Mali worked with Gaddafi’s security forces, and emerged from Libya heavily armed. But, no sooner had the secular Tuareg rebellion begun than it was overwhelmed by Muslim fundamentalists – jihadists who were Gaddafi’s sworn enemies. The jihadists, many of them foreigners, could be run out of the cities of Mali and militarily contained with little effort. But, the Tuaregs live there, and always have. It is, therefore, necessary for the United States to claim that the entire Tuareg people – several million of them – are infested with jihadism, and that this will require a long-term Euro-American presence in Mali and the region.

The French are leading the charge into the desert in Mali, but the U.S. has much bigger plans for Africa. Deputy secretary Yamamoto told reporters that the U.S. would like to see the Mali operation evolve into an African-led affair, like the African Union mission in Somalia. However, although 17,000 Africans do the fighting in Somali, the operation is actually run by the U.S. military and the CIA, and paid for largely by the Americans.

AFRICOM is now assisting six of Mali’s regional neighbors – Niger, Chad, Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Togo – with their transport and equipment needs for the fighting ahead. Those countries militaries will always want American guns and financing – which means AFRICOM will never leave. At least, that’s the plan.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130130_gf_MaliHeatsUp.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:49pm EST

Republicans Suppress Black Vote; Democrats Scatter It

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

The real question is: Whose plantation?”

Democrats in Virginia are up in arms, because the Republicans took advantage of a Black state lawmaker’s absence to push through a redistricting bill that increases the GOP’s chances to take decisive control of the state senate. The Black state senator felt it was more important to attend President Obama’s inaugural. The Republican redistricting plan would increase the number of majority Black districts to six, from the current five. But, in pulling enough African Americans together to make a new Black district, the plan moved Blacks out of districts represented by white Democrats, weakening the party’s chances of taking the senate.

The Democratic state caucus chairman was livid. “This was nothing more than what I call plantation politics,” he declared. The real question is: Whose plantation? Certainly, Virginia Republicans intended to weaken the Democratic Party as a whole by moving African American voters out of some white Democrats’ districts. The Democrats like to scatter Black voters around, so they can provide the winning margin in a close contest. They want to keep Blacks as reliable voters on their plantation. Republicans would prefer to keep Blacks from voting, at all, but if they must vote, the GOP wants as few of them as possible in contestable districts. So, let’s be clear: both parties are playing plantation politics with Black voters, for their own purposes. In this case, it is the Republican plan that would result in an additional Black state senate seat.

The political life of the community is stilted in a process in which they must choose between the lesser evils among white politicians.”

The Democrats claim that concentrating the Black vote dilutes Black voting strength, even if more African Americans are elected to office. But that’s only true if one accepts that white Democrats who win office with Black help actually represent Black people. In reality, Black concerns rarely see the light of day in electoral contests in which Blacks are not majorities or near majorities. The political life of the community is stilted in a process in which they must choose between the lesser evils among white politicians. In such elections, Blacks never get to argue among themselves about the kind of future they want to build for their own communities. They are just fodder for white Democrats.

Truth be told, conservative Black politicians have mastered the art of marginalizing Black voters, even in majority Black districts. In 2002, former Black Republican Denise Majette defeated Cynthia McKinney for Congress, in Georgia, in a Black majority district, while winning only 15 percent of the African American vote. That same year, former Black New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, a lifelong Republican, won office in a Black city as the white people’s candidate. Philadelphia’s horrible Black law and order mayor Anthony Nutter won in 2007 because of his “unprecedented appeal” to whites. And City Councilman Charles Barron, a former Black Panther, won half the Black vote but still lost by a landslide in a majority Black congressional district to Hakeem Jeffries, a darling of Wall Street and school privatizers.

Need I mention the name, Barack Obama?

No, what Black America needs are Black political conversations, preferably in Black majority circumstances. To hell with the Republican and Democratic plantations.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130130_gf_BlackDistricts.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:32am EST

Symbols Are All We Need: Four More Years of Black Silence, Irrelevance

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

We've all lived to now to see the US elect thousands of African American local and state officials and re-elect the first black president.

It's important somehow, that all these mayors, congress creatures and the rest from county sheriffs to the president are black, and that they all ceaseless evoke the epic Black Freedom movement of 45 and 50 years ago. It's much less important that black leadership has few or no victories to boast for the seventies, the eighties, the nineties or the new century, apart from their own illustrious careers, or that the war on drugs and the prison state sprung AFTER the Freedom Movement ended and continue effectively unchallenged on their watch.

It matters immensely that the first black president has beautiful children and a lovely wife from the south side of Chicago descended from former slaves out of South Carolina, and that his administration's many black faces in high places along with the over forty blacks sitting in the House of Representatives are role models for black youth everywhere.

It matters much less that black unemployment remains at record levels, that US wages have not risen in thirty years and that the first black president apparently forgot his campaign promise to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour almost as soon as he made it. And it certainly matters when racist Republicans diss our president.

But it matters very little that the black role model president conducts weekly “Terror Tuesday” meetings in the White House basement at which he dispatches drones to murder and special forces to kidnap and torture in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and across the African continent. It matters not at all that the First Lady is a shameless flack for Wal-Mart, that the Department of Justice prosecutes whistle blowers instead of war criminals, or that black military and diplomats like Susan Rice are up to their armpits in African blood.

Our black political class is utterly self-interested. It cannot begin to mobilize black communities to demand higher wages, a massive jobs program to relieve unemployment, a rollback of the prison state, a new paradigm of urban economic development that isn't just moving poor people out of neighborhoods and richer ones in. It can't begin to make these things happen because foisting itself and its own advancement off as “representing” the black oppressed masses is the beginning and the end of who they are and what they do.

For them, the election and and re-election of Barack Obama is the end of black history. Addressing black unemployment, pervasive economic injustice, cutting back the warfare and prison states, opposing the neoliberal agenda of privatization and austerity put forth not just by the black president, but by an entire layer of black officials are, in their language not pragmatic or “realistic.”

So if our black leaders have anything to say about it, four more years of Barack Obama mean four more years of black silence and irrelevance on the issues that matter most to our communities --- on jobs, economic injustice, the prison state. It means black leadership will wring its hands and do nothing as federal policies drive the militarization of Africa, more police and fewer experienced teachers in our schools, and continually falling wages.

We've got our role models, and inaugural parties, and some of us have our careers. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Email him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20130123_bd_4_more_years.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:26pm EST

The Coming Imperial Implosion in the Arab World

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Although the NATO powers account for about 70 percent of total worldwide arms spending, they are by no means fully in charge of their own offensive in North Africa and the Middle East.”

The French intervention in Mali and the deadly Salafist assault on an Algerian natural gas facility on the border with Libya reveal the deepening crisis of U.S. and European imperialism in northern Africa. What is playing out in the western Sahel is the direct, and broadly predictable, result of the aggressive Euro-American response to the outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring.

Two years ago, Washington, Paris and London were swept by panic at the prospect of a realignment of forces in the Arab world. With Egypt’s Mubarak on the way out, the West’s henchman in Tunisia overthrown, and America’s warlord in Yemen facing opposition from all quarters, the NATO powers decided to alter the regional chessboard to what they thought would be their own advantage with a mass application of force against Libya. The assault on Muammar Gaddafi’s government, with absolutely no provocation and no basis in international law, was designed to put a Euro-American spin on the momentum of change. Almost simultaneously, Syria was targeted for massive subversion, and it was universally assumed that Algeria was next on the hit list.

This scheme for wholesale game-changer in the region necessitated an even deeper alliance with the royal regimes of the Persian Gulf. In practice, it was the West that became dependent on the Saudis and Qataris to provide Arab cover for NATO’s military and, much more importantly, to provide the Islamist fighters who would actually seize power on the ground in Libya and then Syria and beyond. Moreover, the Saudis and Qataris are rich, and can afford to pursue their own political objectives.

The Islamists hate them with far more intensity than the secular leftists and Arab nationalists that the U.S. and Europe are so keen to destroy.”

This fundamental reordering of the relationship between the West and its royalist Arab allies is reflected on the ground in Libya, where it is Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s Islamist friends who wield the guns. The real crisis in Benghazi was that the Islamist fighters for whom NATO had provided an air force were not totally dependent on the U.S., Britain and France. They have rich friends in the Persian Gulf, on whom the West is now also dependent. Although the NATO powers account for about 70 percent of total worldwide arms spending, they are by no means fully in charge of their own offensive in North Africa and the Middle East. The Islamist fighters and their Persian Gulf patrons have their own agendas.

Ultimately, the Pentagon and the CIA and their counterparts in Europe cannot win this game. They are racist imperialists who will always make themselves hated. Certainly, the Islamists hate them with far more intensity than the secular leftists and Arab nationalists that the U.S. and Europe are so keen to destroy. That’s why the Americans can’t operate safely in Benghazi.

The great contradiction is that the Islamic fundamentalism with which the West is now allied and critically dependent behaves, in practice, like a nationalism without borders. And, like nationalism, it is ultimately incompatible with imperialism, which today is corporate rule without borders.

The fighters that attacked the gas facility in secular-ruled Algeria surely entered through Libya, partially controlled by fellow Islamists who are friends with the guys who killed the U.S. ambassador, and who are also friends with the Saudis and Qataris who are supposed to be America’s allies. The Arab Spring is far from played out, and nowhere near under U.S. control. For the West, it will end in a huge implosion, because this house of cards cannot stand.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130123_gf_FranceInMali.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:32am EST

Until Housing is a Right, Blacks Will Live Marginalized Lives

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The very notion that housing should be affordable to all – much less that housing is a right – has all but disappeared from major party political discourse.”

This year’s Martin Luther King Day report from United for a Fair Economy critiques U.S. housing policy, which has always been geared towards individual family home ownership. In recent decades, as Wall Street consolidated its political and economic dominance, government policy has been to treat housing as an asset whose value is to be constantly boosted; that is, housing as a wealth-building mechanism. It is a policy that ultimately serves the financial capitalists – a class that produces nothing, but grows more and more wealthy by manipulating the value of assets ever upward. Artificially inflating the price of housing also creates value against which homeowners can borrow – which is great for the banks but creates artificial bubbles in the economy that finally burst with catastrophic consequences.

In all of this mad, artificial wealth and bubble building, the very notion that housing should be affordable to all – much less that housing is a right – has all but disappeared from major party political discourse. United for a Fair Economy’s report, State of the Dream 2013: A Long Way From Home, puts housing policy at the center of what’s wrong with economic policy. Author Tim Sullivan says the steady “hemorrhaging of wealth in communities of color stems largely from treating housing policy as an asset-building policy.” Home ownership accounts for roughly half the total wealth of Black and Latino families, “but only 28 percent for white families,” who have other sources of wealth. The report urges that the government invest “in affordable housing and policies that reach people for whom homeownership is not the best or most viable option” – that is, renters, or forms of community-owned housing. Housing should be treated as a right, and housing policies must be informed by the realities of race.

The very presence of Blacks devalues the surrounding land and structures, in terms of market price.”

If anything, the report is understated. In a pervasively racist society like the United States, race becomes an overwhelming factor. Race has shaped the social geography of the United States – and, therefore, the geography of wealth – as in no other modern society. Just as Black life is devalued in the criminal justice system, so the very presence of Blacks devalues the surrounding land and structures, in terms of market price. Race – and by that, I mean white racism – distorts and deforms this country’s market system, lowering the value of assets based on their proximity to concentrations of Black people, and artificially boosting the value of land and buildings that are located at a distance from Black neighborhoods.

Informal racial redlining remains probably the most powerful pricing mechanism in the American real estate market. One can cross an invisible line from a largely Black and brown city to a mostly white town, and the property values immediately soar upward, regardless of the quality of the actual houses. Urban development schemes pre-suppose the breaking up or clearing out of Black population concentrations before any economic revitalization is even attempted. Public housing has been marked for extinction, based, at root, on the assumption that concentrations of Black people are bad for business and for society. These facts of American life require that Blacks demand that affordable housing be provided as a right, not as something that trickles down. Otherwise, African Americans will remain marginalized people living on marginalized properties.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130123_gf_Housing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:22am EST

FCC Opens Rulemaking Process To Lower Price of Prison Phone Calls

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Some years ago, one of my own children was in prison on the other side of the continent. She used to call home 15 minutes each Sunday night. That brief weekly phone call cost our family almost $100 each month. We were not alone.

The families of millions of federal, state and local prisoners have been viciously squeezed by the legal collusion of long distance phone companies with jailers from the Federal Bureau of Prisons down to state departments of corrections and local sheriffs. Federal regs require phone companies to deliver cheap local phone service, with a locality usually defined as the telephone exchange, the first three digits after the area code. Rates for calls outside an exchange however, were classified as “long distance,” and not subject to rate controls.

Phone companies made deals with jailers for exclusive access to their prisons and jails in return for lucrative one time kickbacks or a percentage of the gross, along with the occasional campaign or charitable contribution. For the jailers and phone companies it was a classic win-win situation in which everybody at the table got over, except of course prisoners and their families. Researchers attempting to gather information on the actual rates across the country have often been met with non-cooperation on the part of state and local officials reluctant to divulge their manifestly corrupt deals which have constructed this onerous toll booth blocking communication between prisoners and their families.

Ten years ago a grandmother filed a petition with the FCC noting that a five minute call with her grandson cost $18. In the decade since agitation and organizing across the country has finally moved the Federal Communication to take the first tentative step to remedy the problem. On December 28, 2012, the FCC finally issued a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” the beginning of the period in which it assembles information and takes public comment prior to the issuance of new rules.

At some point in the next few months a period of open public comment will ensue, in which members of the general public can weigh in online, by mail or in person on the issue. The place to go for updated information is www.phonejustice.org, that's www.phonejustice.org.

We need to re-integrate and absorb those currently behind prison walls into our families and communities. The cost of communicating with our relatives behind those walls must come down.

Visit phonejustice.org and sign up for their email list to keep our families connected. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works near Marietta GA and is a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon@blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20130116_bd_prison_phone_justice.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:43pm EST

Are African Union Peacekeeping Troops Really The Answer?

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Back in the late 1970s and early 80s, in Nicaragua, Mozambique and Angola, Uncle Sam unveiled one of the era's most potent weapons of mass destruction against local revolutions in poor and underdeveloped nations. In Nicaragua they called themselves “contras” the counter-revolutionary army. The US supplied and equipped contras avoided combat with the national army, instead focused exclusively on raiding day care centers, schools, farmers' markets, health care facilities, irrigation, water and power works --- classic terrorism calculated to make ordinary economic and social life, and national development impossible.

In Mozambique and Angola, Africans had thrown off brutal Portuguese colonial rule, and were engaged in a regional war of resistance against the apartheid regime of South Africa. There the US supplied and equipped contra armies of RENAMO and UNITA followed the same brutal, cowardly course, and introduced a new wrinkle. They kidnapped children, and after forcing them to watch their parents, siblings and neighbors put to death, used them as child soldiers in wide-ranging terror campaigns that depopulated large areas of the countryside.

When the apartheid regime of South Africa fell in the 1990s, these forces lost their outside suppliers and were forced to come to the negotiating table. But the ghastly precedents had been set. In the 1980s Yoweri Museveni shot his way to power in Uganda with an army that included child soldiers, which were also seen in the 1990s Liberian civil war and other places. Both sides in the Rwandan civil war used child soldiers, and by the late 1990s an ever-shifting cast of local militia groups, sometimes fighting with and sometimes against the armies of Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Kenya, Burundi, Namibia and Zimbabwe virtually depopulated the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, killing seven million people since 1996, while ensuring that the country's raw materials, its timber, gold, diamonds and coltan, the strategic mineral used in every computer, aircraft and cell phone on earth, continued to flow mostly to the West.

And what is the Western-administered cure for the scourge of nameless militias of brutalized child soldiers? It's more men with guns, actual grownups and better trained --- peacekeeping forces of the African Union, airlifted and supplied by the masters of disaster, the same United States that trains the military of every African country except Libya and Eritrea.

You see the problem here. Men, and sometimes children with guns can start or stop a civil war. But economies and societies are built with teachers, with health care workers, by engineers, artists, and construction workers. The African Union is sending peacekeeping troops this week to the Central African Republic, but it can't send the teachers, the health care workers, the engineers and such to build hospitals or medical schools or to usher in universal free public education and health care,in the Central African Republic. The African Union can't do this for the Central African Republic because they can't do it in their own countries either --- their own governments are devoted mostly to extracting resources, rent and debt payments from their own lands and people to the west, and their outsize military establishments trained by the US are the guarantors of that anti-social contract.

Until the African Union and its member states are free enough themselves to send not just men with guns to places like the Central African Republic, but the doctors, teachers, artists and engineers it takes to build vibrant civil societies in the places that need them most, it fails to fulfill the reason for its existence.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works near Marietta GA and is a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon@blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20130116_bd_peacekeeping_troops_but_no_peace.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:33pm EST

France and the U.S. Play Tag-Team in Africa

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Only the United States has the logistical capacity to maintain a long war over great distances in Africa.”

The French military has taken the lead in attacking Islamists in the former French African colony of Mali. If recent history is any guide, the United States will be not far behind. Remember that France was, initially, the most aggressive in calling for a NATO war against Libya, in 2011. But the fact is, only the United States has the logistical capacity to maintain a long war over great distances in Africa. Without U.S. refueling tanker aircraft and the awesome infrastructure of U.S. Navy carrier groups, NATO’s eight-month assault on Libya would have been impossible.

In the same way, France would never have committed to putting at least 2,500 ground troops into Mali without assurances that the American superpower has its back. Without U.S. airlift capacity and other logistical support, neither France nor the West African nations of the region can hope for a swift victory over the rebellious Tuaregs of northern Mali.

The war in Mali is a direct result of the Euro-American aggression against Libya. The Tuareg people live in deep poverty. Many found employment in Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, as did immigrant workers from elsewhere in Africa. Some worked with Libyan security services. When Libya’s government was brought down by the U.S. and its allies, the Tuaregs gathered up as many weapons as they could in the chaos and headed south for home.

Many other Tuaregs never left, and were employed by the Malian Army and its sugar daddy, the United States. The year after 9/11, the U.S. military established its Pan Sahel Initiative, enlisting the militaries of Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania into America’s so-called War on Terror on the African front. By 2005, the U.S. had added Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria and Tunisia to what was now called the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative. This was the beginning of AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Military Command, which assumed control in 2008.

The war in Mali is a direct result of the Euro-American aggression against Libya.”

In Mali, the Americans relied heavily on Tuareg soldiers to fight their war against Islamists and independence fighterss in the northern part of the country. But when their Tuareg brothers returned from Libya, three of the four Malian military commanders in the north defected to the rebels , which then led to the virtual collapse of the Malian Army.

Now the French, as the former colonial master, have sent their warplanes to strike at the Tuareg fighters and are preparing to send in 2,500 French soldiers. A regional African force was not scheduled to come to the aid of the Malian army until September, but with the rebel advance and the French response, that timetable will be speeded up. The Americans will be arriving soon, with their massive airlift capacity. And soon the U.S. will have serious boots on the ground in Africa, when a 3,500-member combat brigade from Fort Riley, Kansas, arrives to hold exercises with military units from 35 African countries, later this year. It seems more likely that the brigade will find itself in an actual war in the Sahel.

Back in October of 2011, we wrote that NATO’s “attack on Libya threatens to set the whole northern tier of Africa ablaze,” providing “a pretext for further U.S. and French operations.” In the east, the Horn of Africa is already in flames, and central Africa has become a cemetery for millions. Now it is the Sahel’s turn to burn.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130116_gf_FranceInAfrica.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:20pm EST

The Master as “Guest”: The U.S. Military Swarms Over Africa

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The 2nd Brigade’s deployment is a much larger assignment, aimed at making all of Africa a theater of U.S. military operations.”

2013 is the year the U.S. kicks off its wholesale military occupation of Africa. The escalation should come as no surprise, since the Army Times newspaper reported, back in June, that a U.S. brigade of at least 3,000 troops would become a permanent presence on the continent in the new year. On Christmas Eve, the Pentagon announced that 3,500 soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade, in Fort Riley, Kansas, will be sent to Africa, supposedly to confront a threat from al-Qaida in Mali, where Islamists have seized the northern part of the country. But the 2nd Brigade is scheduled to hold more than 100 military exercises in 35 countries, most of which have no al-Qaida presence. So, although there is no doubt that the U.S. will be deeply involved in the impending military operation in Mali, the 2nd Brigade’s deployment is a much larger assignment, aimed at making all of Africa a theater of U.S. military operations. The situation in Mali is simply a convenient, after-the-fact rationale for a long-planned expansion of the U.S. military footprint in Africa.

The Pentagon’s larger purpose in placing an army brigade on roving duty all across the continent is to acclimate African commanders to hosting a permanent, large scale U.S. presence. This is a very different kind of invasion – more like an infiltration-in-force. The Pentagon’s strategy is designed to reinforce relationships that the U.S. Africa Command has been cultivating with African militaries since the establishment of AFRICOM during George Bush’s last year in office. As an infiltrating force, AFRICOM has been a phenomenal success.

Militarily, the West Africans are totally dependent.”

Militarily speaking, the African Union has become an annex of the Pentagon. The AU’s biggest operation, in Somalia, is armed, financed and directed by the U.S. military and CIA. The 17,000 African troops on so-called peace-keeping duty in Somalia are, for all practical purposes, mercenaries for the Americans – although poorly paid ones. Ethiopian and Kenyan forces act as extensions of U.S. power in the East Africa. U.S. Special Forces roam the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic – ostensibly looking for the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony but, in reality, establishing a web of U.S. military infrastructures throughout center of the continent. Uganda and Rwanda keep the eastern Congo’s mineral riches safe for U.S. and European corporations – at the cost of 6 million Congolese lives. Their militaries are on the Pentagon’s payroll.

In northwest Africa, the 16 nations of the region’s economic community await the intervention of the United Nations – which really means the United States and France – to expel the Islamist forces from Mali. Militarily, the West Africans are totally dependent. But, more importantly, they show no political will to escape this dependency – especially after the demise of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

The creeping, continental U.S. expeditionary force, soon to be spearheaded by the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade, will bunk down in African military bases throughout the continent, not as invaders, but as guests. Guests who pay the bills and provide the weapons for African armies whose mission has nothing to do with national independence and self-determination. Three generations after the beginnings of decolonization, the African soldier is once again bowing to the foreign master.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20130109_gf_USTroopsAfrica.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:01am EST