Dead Wrong

Dead Wrong

deadwrongIn war we focus on battles won and lost. Little question for the need to fight: the causes were reasoned as justified.  In chaos spiced with denial and obfuscation it’s like punching a cloud of smoke. You die of exhaustion without landing a single punch.

The resources the U.S. currently deploys in Africa approaches that of the Afghanistan invasion, while 60% of our State Department has been eviscerated. “The growing scale and lack of clear motive for shadow wars and African militarization is a cause for concern,” concludes the UC-Davis’ “nonpartisan” political magazine today.

And it’s not working. It’s making things critically worse.

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Gathering Gitmo

Gathering Gitmo

gitmodiaryThe release last week of the unredacted Guantánamo Diary is a terrifying reminder that America is destroying itself.

How apt at the same time a gun fit leaves 26 dead outside a little Texas church, world climate talks open with three competing US delegations, South Koreans boo Trump and announce they wish to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, and two more cabinet secretaries purge themselves.

I’m not sure we have until the midterms.

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Negotiating Position

Negotiating Position

negotiating positionThe Trump Administration’s new military rules of engagement have destroyed years of peace-making efforts that were coming to fruition. Terrorist bombings and conventional attacks are substantially increasing as the U.S. goes on the offensive, particularly in Africa.

So far the U.S. has acknowledged only one soldier killed in Somalia and 4 in Niger, but local reports suggest far more – perhaps dozens – of U.S. casualities as the Africa war explodes.

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Righteousness

Righteousness

yemenmessLast year I was with an American family staying at a small, luxury camp in the Serengeti. There were only three others in camp (or so we thought), including two very well behaved Arab boys who appeared about the same age as the California preteens I was guiding.

My kids exchanged shy glances with the others, then wider smiles and soon were taunting the other boys clearly against their father’s reproofs. So we invited the father to join us to free his kids to run around with ours.

The father was exceedingly polite, introducing himself as a luxury car dealer in Jeddah and a personal collector of Lamborghinis. His English – like his sons – was impeccable. It was our kids not his, of course, that were tempting the dark African bush with preteen mayhem, but he was the one to apologize. He declined our offers of wine but loosened up and began profusely thanking us Americans for supporting the Saudia bombing of anti-Saleh Houthis.

What?

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Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers

trumpmacronafricomLast night Trump took a “fun trip” to a “ a dystopian land of terror… a city so, so, so out of control, so dangerous.” “France is no longer France,” Trump recently pronounced.

It’s hard to believe that someone who confuses WWI with WWII and can’t even name the advisories of either one is joining the centennial celebrations of WWI. What’s behind this meeting?

The neo-cons controlling Trump. Africa is the reason for this meeting. Let me explain.

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How Much Is Right?

How Much Is Right?

rightoeducationThe success of childhood education is directly the result of how much tax payers will pay and how good the government is that implements it.

Backpedaling in America and proudful politics in Kenya forecasts doom for those countries. Instability and war not only inhibits but defiles education. Massive government investments have assured Asia will become the political, economic and cultural center of our earth. So says PISA.

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A Thousand Words

A Thousand Words

ugandapicturewordsAnyone taking a picture is arrested or shot. Then, Facebook takes down the pictures of the courageous who manage to post the massacre. A Kenyan TV journalist is charged with “abetting terrorism” for taking … TV video.

And most noteworthy of all, the organizer of the massacre, self-imposed Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni poses for a “government picture” in sunny South Africa with its despised leader, Jacob Zuma. You can truly wonder in Trumpian vernacular, “What the f*#! is happening in the world today!”

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Genocide in Uganda?

Genocide in Uganda?

ugandaviolenceMajor violence erupted in Uganda over the weekend. This morning the U.S. embassy warned travelers intending to visit the west of the country which includes its major tourist attractions.

The country’s major opposition leader, Kifefe Besigye, tweeted the photo shown above with the caption, “Genocide in Kasese.” News media have not confirmed it.

The worst violence in Uganda’s modern history follows the dictator’s self-installation Thursday for a fifth term as president, and then his implementation of several draconian laws including an anti-gay measure that some believe was withheld until Trump seemed securely in power.

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Goose Steps in Nigeria

Goose Steps in Nigeria

buhariandgeneralsDemocracy’s principle flaw allows the right to choose something that’s wrong. Mature societies seem to handle this OK. Young and troubled societies are twisted apart.

For the last decade Nigeria’s GDP has been the highest in Africa exceeding $1 trillion in just the last few years. It has more than half as many people as the U.S. but an area only about a tenth as big.

Nigeria’s history since independence from Britain in 1960 has been a dosey-doe between democracy and military rule. Today a former general is the president of a democracy, but the rumors are growing that won’t last much longer.

“We are constrained to let the cat out of the bag,” a top military commander said today in the typical African way of saying something you shouldn’t. “Some military men are making moves to remove [President Buhari].”

The current President, Muhammadu Buhari, understands this better than most. Although he was freely elected last year as President, he had also been the Head of State for two years in the 1980s after leading a coup against the then democratic regime.

Yes, that’s what I said. The man who forcefully toppled democracy on New Year’s Eve, 1983, was freely elected its democratic President on May 31, 2015.

Well, a lot can change in 32 years, no?

The longest and most damaging civil war in modern Africa was the Biafran civil war in Nigeria from 1967-1970. Only 15 years into independence, Cold War headaches were disrupting Nigeria’s polity, famine appeared in 1968, and the better educated and democratic Biafran was feeling increasingly oppressed by the growing non-secular, autocratic government that favored the Islamic north.

That was almost a half century ago. It’s happening all over, again.

The Nigerian economy is in a free fall with the price of oil, its soul fuel. The world Battle Against Terrorism is playing out in its northeast. Climate change is decimating its agriculture, and the better educated and democratic Biafran is feeling increasingly oppressed by the growing non-secular, autocratic government that favors Buhari’s Islamic north.

In a partially televised official dinner last night, President Buhari reminded his nation that two million mostly Biafrans died in that civil war:

“We were quarrelling with our brothers, we were not fighting an enemy… Somebody is saying that once again: he wants Biafra. I think this is because he wasn’t [yet] born” and doesn’t remember the horror of the war.

Agreeing with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent statement that “Nigeria is fantastically corrupt,” one of the leaders of the modern Biafran secessionist movement said yesterday:

“”Nigerians … have blood in their hands. They are ethnic bigots, unrepentant dictators, religious fundamentalists and arch genocidists. They are arch supporters of terrorism. They circumvent the electoral laws… They do not understand the basic tenets of democracy… These are men whose only mission is to annihilate their perceived enemies.”

This deputy leader of the Biafran secessionist movement is too young to have experienced his last civil war, but he’s certainly hell bent on another one.

As we know all too well here in the United States, democracy gives you the right to lie. Many of these lies are believed by the electorate without due diligence. An absolute lie becomes an unmitigated truth, and the resultant battle has clearly drawn borders: Right-vs-Wrong.

But real democracy rarely creates thoughtful policy that is neither wholly right or wholly wrong, and that reality flies in the face of the easiness and sanctity of believing something is truthful or a lie.

The gun replaces the vote. Some strongman takes over, and at least in the beginning of his reign he brings with him something all people pine for: peace.

Goose steps replace strolling.

History repeats itself.

Memorial Day 2016

Memorial Day 2016

memorialweekendToday is the Memorial Day holiday in the United States.

The holiday is intended to honor the memories of U.S. soldiers who have died in action. It’s similar to the Remembrance Days celebrated in many parts of Africa, and like in South Africa created primarily to honor the freedom fighters for independence.

But America’s Memorial Day has grown to honor all dead soldiers, not just those who fought in the 18th century revolution. In fact it wasn’t started until after the Civil War when it was first called “Decoration Day,” following a petition by recently freed slaves (most who came from Africa) to honor the Union soldiers who had freed them.

After World War I it was changed to “Memorial Day” and extended as an honor to all soldiers in all conflicts.

As a young boy it was a big red-white-and-blue festival. We decorated our little red wagons and bikes, just as we would hardly a month later for the July 4th Independence Day Holiday.

Since then my own personal regards for Memorial Day has diminished. The numerous wars my country began during my life time have mostly been unfair and unjust. The end of conscription, which happened when I was in university, changed the military so radically that it is no longer a people’s army; it no longer represents society as a whole.

Today the military is composed either of young men who can’t get any other kind of job, or who need the benefits once their service is finished, or avowed militarists.

I do stop during the day and think of my relatives in the Great Wars. I think of the way the country ultimately came together to fight world tyranny. But in my life time, there is little in America’s wars to be proud of. They are mostly memories I wish we didn’t have.

Happening Right Now, Folks!

Happening Right Now, Folks!

obamawarAstounded. Shocked. No mainstream or even maincreek media covered today’s military conference in Arusha called by and hosted by the U.S.

Even the Army’s own publications buried the story. Talk about a society burying its head in the sand… First, the news…

General Mark Miller, head of Obama’s Africom, hosted 37 of Africa’s land chief heads of force in Arusha, Tanzania, today to talk about … what? Gender mainstreaming?

You have to go to the Army’s Africom twitter account to get what’s really going on. Africom’s website might suggest it’s a conference about gender mainstreaming, but their twitter account revealed the truth.

No, they aren’t gathered primarily to talk about gender mainstreaming. The agenda is obviously secret, but here’s some suggestions:

● Drone Assassinations
● Al-Shabaab & Boko Haram
● Military budgets and hardware
● U.S. Navy docking privileges

As I’ve often written AFRICOM is the mendacious brainchild of Obama. The command’s operating budget is currently a quarter billion dollars. (Navigate to the pdf page 107, document page 104.) This does not include, of course, an equal or greater amount through the CIA or direct country-to-country assistance.

For example, in 2015 Kenya was given around $100 million to fight terrorism and undoubtedly that much or more through other agencies.

It’s a complete guessing game, but I imagine that there’s at least $5-6 billion annually for Obama’s proxy militaries in Africa.

Congress likes AFRICOM, one of the few things that Congress likes from Obama and 2017 funding is expected to increase, and that’s why there are 37 educated leaders with their hands out in Arusha today.

As I’ve conceded, AFRICOM has made America safer for the time being. And, the TV asks, isn’t that the President’s job?

The key qualifier here is “for the time being.” I know from history and common sense that budget-creep, gun-creep, militarism-creep will stifle terrorism in the short term, but terrorism is impossible to extinguish altogether.

So when a relative period of peace and stability arrives, and the budget and the military aid and the overall militarism is toned down, the ugly terrorist raises his head yet again.

Newly reborn with new technologies and a period of good night’s sleeping.

If in this interim period during which the terrorist has been suppressed, the people of the forest terrorized by the terrorist have improved their lot, they probably will support the terrorist less. If their lot has declined, they will all wholeheartedly become terrorist martyrs.

We decry the notion of “nation-building” and it is so historically loaded with baggage I suppose we should. But I can’t really think of a better moniker for what has to be done to avoid this constant cycle of greater militarism and greater terrorism.

It isn’t happening now and that’s why AFRICOM is so mendacious. All it does it rev up this terrible cycle.

And nobody, it seems, cares even to know.

Finders Keepers?

Finders Keepers?

SavingArtifactsShould the obelisk and Rosetta Stone in France be returned to Egypt? Should tens of thousands of artifacts held in western museums be returned to their origin?

The debate is not new but acquired a new edge recently with a proposed new German law and with the upcoming ten-year birthday celebration of Paris’ Musée du quai Branly.

The relatively new Parisian museum was an amalgamation of two older museums in order to consolidate the city’s most precious African artifacts. But according to critics:

“Westerners and their museums seem very keen to tell the history of Africans but they do not seem to understand … that Africans might also want to tell their own history,” explains African artifact expert, Kwame Opuko.

The point is how can Malians tell the story of Timbuktu when it’s under a threat of destruction by terrorists?

Germany is reconsidering its law to tighten ownership of foreign artifacts after a Chilean who had acquired a massive collection of African artifacts slipped into the country to avoid prosecution from authorities at home … with his collection … and then slipped out before the Germans could decide what to do about it.

It’s not clear yet whether Mr. Patterson did anything illegal. But his accumulation of rare artifacts (particularly from Benin) and his popping in and out of a variety of countries to avoid possible prosecution has opened wide the conversation whether it’s ethical to hold any foreign artifacts outside their place of origin.

No, says Yale University. Yes, says the British Museum.

This is a question that really taxes the intellect and it’s particularly timely with the trouble in Syria and Mali.

The Timbuktu library holds the largest collection of very early African manuscripts in the world. Remarkable efforts by people who lived there saved many of them from the destruction ordered during the recent brief occupation of radical Islamists.

But many probably were lost, and had that single hero not intervened all would have been lost. Timbuktu and most of Mali was “liberated” from this 21st century occupation by the French, and the argument continues in France whether the treasures of Mali should be exported there, now.

We see the wanton destruction to many of Syria’s ancient ruins. It seems to me this is example enough that Mideast treasures in the British Museum should stay right where they are.

But once Syria is peaceful, again, should they be returned?

Who will decide that “Syria is peaceful, again”? How long a period of peace is required? Is autocratic peace or dictatorial peace … peace enough?

When it gets down to it, are we just saying that only the west is capable of making this judgement? Might not Donald Trump or a new Adolf Hitler fund their infrastructures with looted artifacts from Mexico or France just as ISIS is doing now?

I believe very strongly that artifact preservation is essential to understanding ourselves. It applies mostly to our evolution but when understood in the context of the time it was created, social insights crucial to our long-term survival may become evident.

Something of this importance can’t be left to chance survival. Artifacts should not be returned to unstable areas, and the threshold of stability must be high.

Who should make the determination? The past.

That’s the best gamble. Yes Adolph Hitlers and Donald Trumps might lose the bet, but wherever artifacts have been well kept for the longest time resides the right to make the determination whether their return is safe. So, yes, the British Museum is a good place and no, Timbuktu is not.

Egypt isn’t as clear. Many precious Egyptian artifacts are held in France, yet to date none in Egypt have been destroyed. On the other hand it came very close during the April Spring.

The Arab Spring fires, looting and wanton destruction occurred right at the edge of the Egyptian National Museum. Its exterior was damaged. It’s now up to the French authorities to determine whether Egyptian artifacts should be returned.

It’s not a comfortable position, but antiquity must be preserved.

Virtual Video

Virtual Video

whichistherealsavimbiWhat’s the difference between a video game and a terrorist?

The family of a controversial Angolan rebel leader who died in 2002 is suing the manufacturer of the “Call of Duty” video game for defaming Jonas Sivimbi.

I interviewed Sivimbi in Paris when I was covering the Paris Peace talks (on Vietnam) for several U.S. newspapers. Back then in the 1970s he was a hero to the independence movement as well as the South African anti-apartheid movement, since South Africa was at the time fighting the independence movement in Angola.

Subsequent to my brief acquaintance, though, Savimbi’s reputation declined substantially.

Independence was won by a rival rebel group, MPLA, from Portugal in 1975, and though initially Savimbi was a part of the overall peace process, he immediately started a brutal civil war against the MPLA that lasted virtually until the moment he was killed by government soldiers in 2002.

During that civil war he grew vicious becoming the first warlord to finance his battle with blood diamonds. UNITA and Savimbi were ultimately investigated for war crimes by The Hague.

“Call of Duty” features Savimbi, or for sure someone who looks (and acts) the spitting image.

In answering the Savimbi family suit, the French creator and owner of “Call of Duty” claimed that Savimbi-in-the-game was actually shown in a “favorable light” and a “good guy who comes to help the heroes.”

Seeking 100 million Euros, Savimbi’s now 42-year old son said, “Seeing him kill people, cutting someone’s arm off … that’s not like Papa.”

I haven’t looked at the game. I can’t stand media violence and I know that “Call of Duty” is one of the worst.

NPR featured “Call of Duty” in its series of violence in video games in 2013 as at the time the most popular and most violent.

UNITA is now a franchised part of peaceful Angolan society, and they are encouraging – possibly joining – the Savimbi family in their suit.

The line between moral freedom fighters and amoral terrorists is thin. But there is no division at all between the violence of a video game and the violence promoted by today’s jihadists.

Games targeted to teenagers who have yet to fully develop their moral compass strikes me as one of the most barbaric outcomes of crass capitalism.

Ratings are only rarely useful and require parents or guardians actually capable of enforcing them.

If Republican candidates will blithely suggest carpet bombing the Levant, I guess it’s not radical for me to suggest that video games like “Call of Duty” should be banned.

I’ve no loyalty to my brief encounter with Savimbi, who at the time was a gentle, highly respected and admired grass roots leader. He turned, and so did a bunch of kids from Minneapolis who participated in the Westgate Mall attack and dozens of others from America who appear on jihadist videos.

Carpet bombing them simply cleans the field for new faces. Getting rid of their platform is the only way to end the game.