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

Why Isn't Closing 129 Chicago Public Schools National News?

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

If you don't live in Chicago you might not know that the CEO and the dozens of other six figure a year mayoral cronies who run the Chicago Public Schools want to close 129 public schools this year, more than a third of the city's total. It's not national news for the same reason that closing 40 public schools in Philadelphia last year wasn't national news, and massive school closings in the poorer neighborhoods of cities across the country is not news either.

It's not news because school closings and school privatization, the end game of the bipartisan policies the Obama administration, Wall Street, the US Chamber of Commerce, a host of right wing foundations and deep pockets and hordes of politicians in both parties from the president down are pushing down the throats of communities across the country, are deeply unpopular. The American people, and especially the parents, teachers, grandparents, and other residents of poorer neighborhoods where closings and privatization are happening emphatically don't want these things.

Even the word describing their policy, “privatization” is so vastly unpopular that they've taken it out of circulation altogether. The best way, our leaders imagine, to contain and curtail resistance to their deeply unpopular policies is to avoid naming them for what they are, to keep them on the down low, to not report on their implementation, and certainly to not cover any civic resistance to them.

Local elites in each city and school district concoct real or imaginary “crises” to which the solution is always firing more experienced teachers, hiring more temps in their place, instituting more high-stakes testing, closing more public schools and substituting more unaccountable (and often profitable) charter schools, frequently in the same buildings that once housed public schools. In Chicago the “crisis” is precipitated every year when the CPS (that's Chicago Public Schools – Chicago's never had an elected school board, they're all mayoral appointees) honchos announce the schools are in a billion dollar hole. The Chicago Teachers Union of course, took a look over the same books and revealed that despite the host of top $100,000 a year officials whose jobs never seem to be cut, the system was nine figures in the black, not ten in the red. Naturally, local and national media didn't report that either.

Chicago's teachers have done what those in New York, Houston, Dallas, L.A. and others have not, and spent their union dues funding outreach and collaboration with parents across the city, so neighborhood hearings on the school closings are packed to overflowing with outraged parents, indignant local business people, angry teachers and concerned students. If CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News gave the school closings and privatization story a fraction of the coverage they gave deceptive and dishonest pro-privatization movies like Waiting For Superman and Won't Back Down, the outrage against the move to privatize education would be unstoppable. The most coverage the wave of school closings have received lately was a misleading segment on Melissa Harris-Perry's weekly TV show on whether school closings were “racist” or not, with no examination of the how or why they happen or the growing resistance to them.

Oceans of ink and hot air have been expended claiming that “social media” would somehow take up the slack created by the disappearance of local news gathering organizations, and how these things can somehow fuel and sustain a wave of public outrage that can topple unjust authority and make the will of the people felt. But when it comes to the war of our elite waged to privatize public education, we haven't seen it yet.

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

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. A longtime Chicagoan, he now lives in exile near Marietta GA, where he is a state committee member of the Georgia Green party and a partner in a tech firm. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)

Direct download: 20130227_bd_why_aint_closing_129_chgo_public_schools_news.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:02pm EDT

Farewell Jesse Jr., We Hardly Knew Ye: A Lesson on the Limits of our Black Political Class

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

It was late afternoon on a special election day in Chicago, 1995. I was working for a congressional candidate, former State Senator Alice Palmer. The outcome was not in doubt, we were going to lose. But a professional does what a professional has to do, so I'd rounded up a couple brothers to work the thousands of homeward bound commuters passing through the 95th St. el station for our candidate those last three or four hours before the polls closed.

As it happened, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., the father of our main opponent was working the same crowd for his son, Jesse Jackson Jr. the next congressman from that district. When the crowd slacked off a little between trains, we talked. It was impossible not to feel good for Rev. Jackson, who was about to see his son have a chance to expand and build upon the work he'd pursued for decades. Junior, I remember telling his dad, was about to have a chance to do a lot of good, maybe even some great things, and I congratulated him before leaving.

Jesse Jr. wasn't the first or the worst African American princeling to be handed a congressional seat by his family at or before the age of 30. He probably did a lot less damage in his 17 years than Memphis TN's Harold Ford, whose folks gave one to him at 27. To be entirely fair, Junior also did a lot less harm to the long-term interests of African America than many of his other colleagues in the Black Caucus, worthless souls like Alabama's Artur Davis, New York's Greg Meeks, or Georgia's David Scott.

With longtime Jackson strategist Frank Watkins, Junior co-authored a valuable and insightful book, Toward a More Perfect Union, in which he proposed constitutional amendments for the rights to vote, to a decent job at a living wage, a clean environment, and more. The other two books which he co-authored with his father were forgettable at best.

If Junior had shown imaginative leadership in Congress, he might have been mayor of Chicago by now. But imagination and leadership seem to have eluded the young prince. Junior mostly kept his head down in Congress, voted with the crowd on Iraq and other mattters, and by 2003 he was shilling for a south side casino and a new airport in his district supposedly as “job creation” measures.

The very specific acts that led to his downfall and disgrace are almost inexplicable. Blonde bimbo stripper girlfriend, $40,000 gold Rolex watches, buying Michael Jackson's hat and living off one's campaign fund are all such obvious no-no's it's hard not to view them as cries for help from a man who might have been over his head almost from the beginning. Who knew the life of a black prince came with so much pressure, so many expectations and demands he just could not meet? Personally I hope Junior eventually gets it together and finds a way to make a real contribution.

For the rest of us, the lesson of Junior's rise and fall is that it's time to put aside the princes and princesses of our black political class, and come up with new leaders, new pathways to, and new models of leadership. That's going to mean casting aside the two party system, in the Democratic half of which our black political class have made their careers.

A young man in Junior's former south side Chicago congressional district, LeAlan Jones has apparently survived a challenge to his status on the ballot as a Green Party candidate. If Jones can get it together for the special election in April, and the November 2014 general election, maybe we'll see a glimpse of what that new leadership could look like.

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

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. A longtime Chicagoan, he now lives in exile near Marietta GA, where he is a state committee member of the Georgia Green party and a partner in a tech firm. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)

Direct download: 20130227_bd_farewell_jesse_jr.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:36pm EDT

Remember: Sequestration was Obama’s Idea

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Disaster capitalism is manifesting itself as disaster governance.”

The Obama administration has been very skillful in framing itself as the good guy in the latest looming fiscal disaster, this time under the heading of “sequestration.” On Friday, across-the-board cuts of $85 billion are set to go into effect, wreaking havoc on most government operations. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and what’s left of welfare are not directly affected, but these so-called “entitlement” programs have, in fact, always been the primary targets of this cascade of manufactured crises. Disaster capitalism is manifesting itself as disaster governance, and President Obama is fully complicit in the corporate-imposed charade. Indeed, Obama is most culpable for infecting the nation with austerity fever.

It was Obama who swallowed whole the corporate argument, previously championed by Republicans, that the national debt was Crisis Number One and that entitlement programs were the root cause. From the moment in January of 2009 when Obama served notice that Social Security and all other entitlements would be put on the chopping block, he became the chief mover and shaker for so-called entitlement reform. He created the model for austerity, through his Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission. It was Simpson-Bowles that provided the basis for the massive cuts offered by President Obama in 2011. When the Republicans balked at even a modest tax increase for the rich, it was the White House National Economic Council Director, the corporate deal-maker Gene Sperling, who came up with the sequestration scheme, which was timed to explode right after the 2012 elections. The idea was to make every popular constituency in the country scream – and accept the inevitability of massive entitlement cuts.

The Republicans are his partners, not his opponents.”

Let me repeat: Sequestration was Obama’s idea. So-called entitlement reform is Obama doctrine. Austerity was embedded in the Democratic Party’s agenda under President Obama. More than any other individual, it was Barack Obama who engineered the current disaster scenario. These waves of austerity crises were not inevitable, but they are the inevitable result of President Obama’s calculated statements and actions since Election Day 2008. The Republicans are his partners, not his opponents. The closest thing he has to an opposition – at least on paper – is the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose two co-chairs introduced a bill that would turn the austerity juggernaut on its head. It’s called the Balancing Act of 2013, and would replace all of the sequestration cuts with new revenues, and then add a $276 billion stimulus to the economy. Needless to say, the progressive bill will get nowhere, not just because of Republican opposition, but because the top Democrat, Barack Obama, wants to go down in history as the smart austerity president. Just as he said he wasn’t opposed to wars, but only to dumb wars – which is why he has built tens of thousands of the smartest drones and smartest bombs ever devised by man. He’s outsmarting what passes for a Left in the United States at every turn. They cheer him as he effectively consummates his grand bargain with the GOP, in a cacophony of manufactured crises, exhausting what little opposition remains. That’s why we at BAR call him the more effective evil.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20130227_gf_Sequestration.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EDT

U.S. Gives Haiti the Gift of Prisons

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The United States somehow thinks it has something to teach Black people in Haiti about prisons.”

U.S. imperialism never runs out of tricks to play on Haiti. The latest project of the U.S. overseers who overthrew Haiti’s democratically elected government in 2004, is prison-building. The new penitentiaries will be constructed under the auspices of none other than the Narcotics Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy to Haiti. U.S. narcs care so deeply for the Haitian people, they are building them two prisons, one for men and one for women.

The top U.S. narcotics agent at the embassy says America’s concern is humanitarian. The men’s prison will replace the penitentiary that was destroyed in the coup sponsored by the United States in 2004 – so it would be fair to say that Washington owes Haiti that prison. The lack of prison space and other public safety infrastructure means Haiti’s incarcerated population – which is somewhere between two and three thousand – is held in some of the worst conditions in the world, and for a very long time. The U.S. embassy says it wants to reduce overcrowding, disease and violence in Haiti’s prisons, to bring them up to international standards.

The United States, itself, has never paid much attention to international standards when it comes to prisons. It locks far more people up for far longer periods of time than any other developed country. On any given day, 50,000 to 80,000 U.S. prison inmates are held in solitary confinement, some of them for decades at a stretch – a form of torture according to most international standards. Violence in U.S. prisons is endemic, especially rape. Through its sheer size, alone – encompassing one out of every four prison inmates on the planet – the U.S. prison Gulag contains the greatest concentrations of prison evils in the world. The U.S. serves as an example of how not to treat prisoners, and how not to treat Black people, who are far more likely to wind up in U.S. prisoners at some point in their lives. But, the United States somehow thinks it has something to teach Black people in Haiti about prisons.

The occupiers withhold from the government that they installed the means to claim even the most elemental legitimacy.”

The U.S. claims it wants to move Haitian inmates more quickly through the system. It has not done very well, here at home. On any given day, more than 735,000 inmates crowd local U.S. jails, 60 percent of whom cannot make bail. Most remain economic prisoners for at least 50 days.

Rather than provide the Haitian government with money to construct the two prisons, the U.S. is making all the arrangements, itself, and will spend between $5 million and $10 million. That’s consistent with American and European behavior since the occupation of Haiti: they deny the Haitian government funds for even the most basic functions of the state: law and order. Having overthrown the legitimate government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and virtually outlawed his political party, the occupiers withhold from the government that they installed the means to claim even the most elemental legitimacy. The Americans and their allies’ mission is to maintain Haiti as a failed state, one that can neither protect nor punish those accused of crime, nor pay the judges, police and jailers that are fundamental to any notion of government. Anything resembling the rule of law in Haiti must be seen as a gift of the U.S. embassy – a gift of prisons, from the greatest international lawbreaker of all, the United States.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20130220_gf_HaitiPrisons.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:55am EDT

There is No Effective Constituency for Africa in the United States

A Black Agenda Radio commentary executive editor by Glen Ford

The greatest threat to Africa is the United States and its junior partners, the French and British.”

The general nominated by President Obama to take over AFRICOM wants the U.S. to increase by 15 times U.S. spying on the African continent. Army General David Rodriquez told the Senate Armed Services Committee that AFRICOM has only half the drones, spy planes and satellites it needs to keep an eye on northern Africa, where the U.S. is backing up the French intervention in Mali and where the U.S. and NATO dropped tens of thousands of bombs on Libya in an unprovoked, eight-month war. For the whole of the African continent, General Rodriquez is pushing for a 15-fold increase in “intelligence gathering and spying missions.” The United States already has, or will soon build, drone bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Niger, Burkina Faso, and the Seychelles Islands, enabling the Americans to carry out missions over vast regions of Africa. That doesn’t count the drones that can be launched from U.S. Navy fleets, which have greatly increased their patrols of Africa’s coastal waters, especially in the offshore oil zones of the west coast. U.S. Special Forces have a forward base in Kenya, and are roam freely in Congo, Uganda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. It is inconceivable that these Special Forces in the heart of Africa do not work closely with manned and unmanned aircraft, operating from a network of secret bases dotting the continent. In other words, the U.S. has already erected a formidable intelligence and command-and-control network in Africa – but General Rodriguez and AFRICOM want to expand that network 15-fold.

There is only one conclusion to be drawn: the United States is building the capability to militarily control all of Africa, in conjunction with its European allies and its African proxies. It may be true that the U.S. war machine is making a “pivot” to the Pacific, to pick a fight with China, but what the Americans are doing on in Africa is a full court press – preparations for Africa’s total subjugation.

The Black American misleadership class doesn’t give a damn about Africa.”

The Obama administration has already designated its own “Axis of Evil” in Africa. The current list includes whoever the U.S. decides to call “al-Qaida” in Africa; Somalia’s Shabaab fighters, who have been resisting U.S. and Ethiopian invasion since 2006; and Nigeria’s Muslim Boko Haram, an armed fundamentalist movement. Washington admits that none of these groups represents a threat to the United States.

The greatest threat to Africa is the United States and its junior partners, the French and British. They have already pacified most of Africa, through bribery and coercion, and are now ready to plunge the continent into endless war. Forty million African Americans could stop this growing holocaust in its tracks. But the Black American Misleadership Class doesn’t give a damn about Africa. They may buy expensive Kinte cloth for show-off occasions, and many of them make a fetish out of Kwanzaa every year – but that’s about it. Armenian-Americans will fight for Armenia, Irish-Americans for Ireland, and let’s not even mention what American Jews will do for Israel. But the U.S. can make war against Africa at will, because Africa has no effective constituency in the United States.

Now, think on that, as we celebrate Black History Month.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20130220_gf_AfricaNoConstituency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:46am EDT

Christopher Dorner: The Defector Who Went Out With A Bang

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

“Dorner is best described as a disaffected soldier in the ranks of the U.S. global and local Los Angeles occupation armies.”

Although his fans will argue otherwise, Christopher Jordan Dorner was neither a Nat Turner nor a Spook Who Sat by the Door.

Nat Turner was a leader of men, who inspired approximately 70 enslaved and free Black men in a glorious attempt to overthrow the slave system in Virginia, in 1831. The rebellion that goes by his name was a collective struggle that shook the slavocracy to its core, and one of the few U.S. slave revolts that was not betrayed by informers. Christopher Donner enlisted no one in his fatal and solitary vendetta against those he felt had done him personal harm. He died alone trying to hide his huge Black self in a mostly white mountain recreation area, leaving behind a “manifesto” that was mainly about himself and his service to the national and local armed forces.

Chris Dorner was no Dan Freeman, the protagonist “Spook” of the 1973 movie about an urban Black rebellion in the United States. Freeman is a Black nationalist who joins – infiltrates – the CIA, learns all he can about their evil arts, then returns to the Black community to train a cadre of urban guerilla fighters. The war of liberation catches fire. Christopher Dorner’s manifesto reveals a man who – until the unraveling – had been wholly captured by the myth and mystic of superpower America, a proud reserve lieutenant in the imperial Navy and officer in the LAPD who wanted only to serve with personal honor as a man-at-arms.

Dorner is best described as a disaffected soldier in the ranks of the U.S. global and local Los Angeles occupation armies, who made his psychologically break with the forces of racial oppression – or, was broken by them – only after having first been ejected. He transformed his ejection into a bloody defection, and flamed out – effectively, a suicide-by-cop (and, almost certainly, a victim of execution by white phosphorous-like incendiary).

“He transformed his ejection into a bloody defection, and flamed out.”

His self-definition could not survive separation from the institution that became his personal nemesis. In the end, he was as lonely as Rambo in First Blood, and just as politically lost.

A public death belongs to the public. Dorner’s fans, his African American public, whom he did not serve but who would inevitably embrace his weeklong death-throe defection from the LAPD, imbue him with qualities they wish were reliably available to the struggle: a Nat Turner, a Spook Who Sat by the Door. The Bronx, New York dope dealer, Larry Davis, who in1986 succeeded in shooting six of seven cops who came to his sister’s apartment to arrest or assassinate him, achieved similar fame. Davis eluded capture for 17 days, negotiated a live surrender at his public housing hideout as residents chanted "Lar-ry! Lar-ry!" – and beat the charges of attempted murder of cops. (William Kunstler and Lynne Steward were his lawyers.) His fans forgave Davis’s dope dealing ways, just as Dorner’s fans forgave his previous service to the Los Angeles Occupation Army.

The enduring lesson of Dorner’s saga is that the transformation of the LAPD into a majority-minority police force does not change its nature as an army of occupation, whose mission is racist to the core, regardless of its ethnic composition. That fact finally dawned on Christopher Dorner – and it killed him.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at


Direct download: 20130213_gf_Dorner.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:28pm EDT

Obama Inherits & Normalizes the Arrogance, and Impunity of Tricky Dick Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Both Bushes

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Back in the early seventies, when Richard Nixon secretly bombed Laos and Cambodia, two countries the US was not at war with, and concealed it from Congress and the public, the crime was serious enough to be the fourth article of impeachment drawn up against him. A dozen years later, when Ronald Reagan defied Congress to wage a bloody contra war in Central America funded by running drugs into the US from Central America and selling arms to Iran, Reagan only avoided impeachment by pretending he just couldn't remember much of it any more and letting his henchmen take the fall. George W. Bush too was widely reviled as a murderous fraud for his lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and more, with millions of Americans and millions more around the world protesting his invasion of Iraq before it even began.

But in the end, none of these Republican warmongers were impeached while in office or indicted afterward because Democrats, in control of Congress every time, could never bring themselves to pull the trigger. So Tricky Dick Nixon stepped down. Reagan doddered off to the ranch, and Dubya's at home right now watching American Idol. Barack Hussein Obama may be a different color and from a different party but he inherits their arrogance, their immunity, their impunity.

This White House openly brags about its “Terror Tuesday” meetings in which US special forces and drones have been dispatched to and from dozens of undisclosed countries to kidnap, torture or murder thousands of people, in the case of drone strikes mostly innocents, to the cheers and jokes of cruise missile liberals like Ed Schulz and Bill Maher, who calls Obama the “black ninja president.” The potent symbol of a black face in that high place has normalized the conduct of lawless aggressive war and secretive state murder among parts of the population which had no trouble calling a crime a crime when committed by a white Republican. In that sense, the First Black President is a little bit unlike, but mostly very much like his nefarious predecessors.

It's worth noting that in the debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, kill-at-will drone wars, the militarization of Africa, Wall Street's immunity from prosecution, and the push to privatize and charterize public education were points upon which both candidates were in complete agreement. But if Mitt Romney were president today wouldn't many more of us be in the street about these things? Black apologists, as Davey D notes, try to shut criticism of this president down in the misguided name of black unity, and some white activists stay home because they don't want to be seen as racist whites hating on the black president.

A Facebook friend in Atlanta remarked last week that whenever George Bush was rumored coming to town, his inbox would be full of emergency mobilization notices. But with the current War President about to visit, he said, it looked like his only correspondent might be the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It's going to be a long, long four more years.

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

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)

Direct download: 20130213_bd_obama_inherits_nixons_reagans_bushes_arrogance_impunity.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:20am EDT

Just Like Crack in the 80s, the Police State Thrives on Gun Hysteria

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

The presence of guns in Black inner cities is sufficient excuse to create a Constitution-free zone.”

From the moment it became known that 20 suburban, mostly white children had been massacred by a young white man in Connecticut, it was inevitable that Black America would pay the price. The nation’s reflexive response to crime and domestic mayhem – real or imagined, and regardless of the actual race of the perpetrators – is always to punish Black people. Whenever the symptoms of the national sickness – America’s endemic violence and alienation – become catastrophically acute, as in Newtown, the standard treatment is mass Black incarceration, by which huge proportions of the Black male population are expelled from the social body like foreign organisms.

The madness in a well-off town in Connecticut had nothing to do with Black inner city violence, which is overwhelmingly rooted in the absence of a legitimate economy, and a lack of social justice – and requires an economic and social justice response. But America is preprogrammed to treat violence as a Black phenomenon. As could be expected, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel – President Obama’s former chief of staff – proposed mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. It is a huge step backward. Mandatory minimum sentences have been largely responsible for making the United States home to one out of every four prison inmates in the world, and many states have been backing away from the practice. Opposition to mandatory minimums has historically been strongest in Black America. However, in the current gun hysteria, Black activists and politicians have talked themselves into a corner. When President Obama shed tears over the tragedy in Connecticut, African Americans demanded that he show similar concern for young Black victims of gunfire. It was demanded that “do something.”

America is preprogrammed to treat violence as a Black phenomenon.”

Then came the shooting death of 15 year-old Chicagoan Hadiya Pendleton. The gun violence issue now had a Black face. Whatever was going to be done about guns, would be done to Blacks, through mandatory minimum sentences and adoption of New York-type stop-and-frisk policies. According to the Gallup polling organization, 44 percent of whites own guns, versus only 27 percent of Blacks and other non-whites. Yet, white gun ownership is politically sacrosanct – untouchable –while the presence of guns in Black inner cities is sufficient excuse to create a Constitution-free zone.

Until Newtown, momentum had been building for Black resistance to the American police state. But history shows it can just as easily collapse. Back in the mid-Eighties, the Reagan administration whipped up an hysteria around crack cocaine. As Michelle Alexander chronicled in her book The New Jim Crow, Reagan’s men used the panic to institute draconian criminal justice policies, including passage of a bill that mandated 100 times the penalties for crack versus powder cocaine. Three hundred and one members of Congress co-sponsored the legislation, including a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus. Many hundreds of thousands of African Americans spent millions of collective years in prison, because Black political leaders jumped on the mass incarceration bandwagon. The stage is being set for another such betrayal – by Black leaders and activists who fail to think before they ask the powers-that-be to “do something.”

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20130213_gf_Guns.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:02am EDT

Fleets of Drones Descend on Africa

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

Drone warfare has become central to the modern U.S. version of gunboat diplomacy.”

With the U.S. and European military offensive in Africa in full swing, the drone wars are set to enter a new phase. Therefore, it is appropriate that U.S. anti-war activists will descend on the White House, on April 13, to demand “Drones Out of Africa and Everywhere!” The activists, including former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and the ANSWER Coalition, say the real target is Africa’s vast natural resources. Drone warfare, say the organizers, has become central to the modern U.S. version of gunboat diplomacy, to “force exploitative terms of trade and political accommodations.”

The West African nation of Niger has been very accommodating to the Americans, as she has been to the French, the former colonial master. According to a high Niger official quoted by Reuters news service, Niger has “given the green light to accepting American surveillance drones on its soil to improve the collection of intelligence on Islamist movements.” However, there is no reason to believe that the U.S. drones will be restricted to unarmed surveillance. Sources in Washington say “there are no constraints to military-to-military co-operation within the agreement" with Niger, which presumably means the U.S. can use the drones as it likes. The U.S. base in northern Niger puts the robotic planes within easy reach of Mali, Algeria and Libya.

The U.S. already has a drone base in neighboring Burkina Faso, which also borders on Benin, Togo, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast.

Ethiopia is now home to a new U.S. drone base, as are the Seychelles Islands, offshore in the Indian Ocean.”

In East Africa, the U.S. has been terrorizing Somalia with drones since 2006, when it instigated the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. The U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM, sends out drones from its large, permanent base in neighboring Djibouti, from which it can watch – or attack - most of the Horn of Africa, including Eritrea, right next door, one of the few countries in Africa that has no relationship with AFRICOM. Eritrea is under constant threat from Ethiopia, from which it won independence after a 30-year war.

Ethiopia is now home to a new U.S. drone base, as are the Seychelles Islands, offshore in the Indian Ocean and within easy drone range of most of the East African coast: Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.

In the very heart of the African continent, the 17,000-man United Nations peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo wants to use U.S. drones to monitor armed groups in the region, where U.S. Special Forces are also operating. Those drones would be deployed under much the same UN Security Council language that NATO used to launch its war against Libya, in 2011, allowing “all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack.”

At the same time, another section of the United Nations is about to launch an investigation into the legality of U.S. drone warfare in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. Thus, it is possible that the United Nations Security Council could wind up calling in American drones to attack people in the Congo region, while the U.N.’s special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism is investigating whether U.S. drone warfare violates international law.

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

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20130206_gf_DronesInAfrica.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:38am EDT

Obama and Co. Make Up the Law as They Kill

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

The white paper empowers Obama to delegate the kill-at-will authority.”

Unlike the bombast that characterized the Bush administration’s assaults on U.S. and international law, the Obama regime tends to dribble out its rationales for gutting the Bill of Rights and every notion of global legality. This president prefers to create a fog – let’s call it the fog of his war against human rights – as he arrogates to himself the power to perpetually imprison or to summarily execute anyone, at any time, anywhere in the world. Obama assures us such authority is constitutionally rooted – it’s in there, believe me, he tells us – but he never produces legal chapter and verse to prove that presidential dictatorship is lawful. Instead, we get dribs and drabs of the administration’s position from lawyers defending Obama’s preventive detention law in the courts, or from informal statements by the attorney general, or even little tidbits gleaned from an Obama conversation with comedian Jon Stewart.

The latest hors d'oeuvre to be dished out comes in the form of a leak. I say “dished out” because leaked documents are commonly placed in public view by the administration in power, to test the political waters. This leaked Justice Department “white paper” appears to have been drawn up after the execution-by-drone of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki, in Yemen. It justifies the killing of anyone occupying a position of status in al-Qaida, or with the ever-changing universe of groups said to be “associated” with al-Qaida. The document stretches the definition of “imminent threat” to cover anyone engaged in activities directed against the U.S., whether or not an actual operation is planned or in progress. Most interestingly, the white paper empowers Obama to delegate the kill-at-will authority to "an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government." Which has a certain logic, since dictators certainly have the power to delegate the carrying out of their unjust acts to whomever they choose.

It justifies the killing of anyone occupying a position of status in al-Qaida.”Eleven U.S. senators are asking for further clarification of the administration’s legal position. But that is just more fog, since the Congress overwhelmingly passed Obama’s preventive detention law – twice!! – a law based on the same assumption that due process of law does not apply when the president says it’s wartime. Therefore, the commander-in-chief can lock up any American, without charge or trial, forever, or until he declares peace. The U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, has made the administration’s position clear enough. Due process, he says, does not necessarily mean access to the judicial process – meaning, a trial. The process is whatever the president or the nearest “informed, high-level official of the U.S. government" says it is. Obama had redefined war, itself. The president told the Congress, after bombing Libya for eight months, that by his definition – which is the only one that counts – no state of war exists unless Americans become casualties, even if the U.S. kills tens of thousands, or millions. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fond of saying that the arc of history bends towards justice. In the long term, that may be true. But Martin’s arc is not bending towards justice under this administration. It bends towards fascism, with a Black presidential face. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20120206_gf_KillAuthority.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:32am EDT