First Somali Congressperson Legitimizes AFRICOM And US Drone War
Rep. Omar recently commended the US war machine for increasing the “transparency” and “accountability” of its bombing of her native country.
“Instead of this being an asset to expose AFRICOM and to the decolonization Africa, Rep. Omar validates the role of AFRICOM.”
United States representatives, no matter their racial or ethnic backgrounds, appear unable to perceive the inherent white supremacy in the notion that the US has some altruistic responsibility to police the continent of Africa with military troops and supervisors. As a result, “people of color,” such as the Somali-“American” Congresswoman IIhan Omar provide political and moral cover to the presence of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the dubious claims about “US interests” on the continent.
Only an erasure of brutal European colonization from history and its “Scramble for Africa” to steal her rich mineral resources and vast tracts of arable land can justify giving heirs of European colonialism a role of benevolence. AFRICOM is the colonization of Africa by the U.S. and constitutes the new scramble for Africa tantamount to when, in the 1800s, the colonial powers fought over which of them would dominate which parts of the resource rich continent.
It is a strange but illuminating irony that AFRICOM’s most intense drone war is in Somalia and that the U.S. Congress has its first House representative of Somali origin. Instead of this being an asset to expose AFRICOM and to the decolonization Africa, Rep. Ilhan Omar validates the role of AFRICOM.
“AFRICOM is the colonization of Africa by the U.S.”
Recently, the Minnesota Representative sent a letter to AFRICOM General Stephen Townsend commending AFRICOM for a “step to provide increased transparency and public accounting of U.S. military operations and as part of our national commitment to minimizing civilian casualties.” This essentially legitimizes the dehumanizing European concept of collateral damage, something only colonizers and minions of colonizers would concede to.
For AFRICOM, what matters more than Black Lives is what Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, former AFRICOM Deputy admitted is, “Protecting the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market.”
Rep. Omar’s letter was prompted by discrepancies between AFRICOM’s reporting of casualties of its drone war against Somalia versus the reporting by NGOs like Amnesty International and AirWars. Omar’s letter expresses concern for the credibility and productivity of a phony U.S. counterterrorism strategy and was co-signed by Reps. Adam B. Schiff, Eliot L. Engel, André Carson, James R. Langevin, Terri A. Sewell, and Karen Bass.
AFRICOM has admitted to killing only two civilians in Somalia, while AirWars found that between 71 and 139 civilians have been killed since 2007. Amnesty International ’s analysis of 9 cases since 2017 says US airstrikes have killed 21 civilians and injured 11 more.
“Omar essentially legitimizes the dehumanizing European concept of collateral damage.”
A call for AFRICOM to be more transparent and accountable obscures its insidious nature by presuming it has a benevolent purpose. Like its 11 counterparts, this Command serves the neocolonial interest of the US and generates less security, less democracy and diminished human rights for the masses of African people who are in conflict with governments occupied by a comprador class propped up by the U.S. and Western Europe.
African independence movements since the 1950s have been destabilized by U.S. administrations of both parties. Leaders such as Patrice Lumumba of Congo, assassinated by the CIA, and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, who was overthrown in a CIA orchestrated coup, fell victim to U.S. meddling. Long-standing U.S. military aid to, and close joint operations with, Rwanda and Uganda led proxies of these countries into the Congo, contributing to the deaths of 6 million people between 1998 and 2007. In 2018 thousands of Ghanaians rallied in the streets of their capital to protest a deal that would give the United States military an expanded role in Ghana.
The U.S. mainstream media and politicians blame the crisis in Somalia on Al-Shabaab, an Islamist insurgent group that controls much of southern Somalia. The main culprit behind the crisis, however, is the United States government that led a military invasion of the country from 1992 to 93 in a nefariously dubbed Operation Restore Hope. Ever since, Somalia has been in a perpetual state of war, the condition that landed Rep. Omar and her family in a Kenyan refugee camp as a child before eventually making it to the U.S.
“The Command generates less security, less democracy and diminished human rights for the masses of African people.”
Al-Shabaab is a product of this U.S. destabilization and the U.S. continues to benefit from a situation that it created by using this radicalized and extreme resistance to U.S. domination as an excuse to have AFRICOM in the region.
AFRICOM operates under the paradigm of innocent civilians versus enemy combatants. U.S. President George W. Bush first used the enemy combatant framework following 9/11 by claiming the executive power to invent “black sites” in nearly every part of the globe. These enemy combatants were denied due process and were subjected to torture, immoral actions that are counter to international law and the Geneva Conventions.
Today AFRICOM is able to declare anyone an enemy combatant, regardless of whether they are part of Al-Shabaab or not.
During the U.S./NATO’s war on Libya the CIA was not merely conducting covert surveillance on the Islamists based in eastern Libya, but providing them with direct aid and coordinating their operations with the war in Syria. After Col. Gaddafi was executed on October 20, 2011 there were daily reports of fighting all across Libya with levels of insecurity unprecedented in the history of the country, with over 1,700 roaming militias. This has allowed Islamist forces throughout Northern and Eastern Africa to obtain weaponry and further destabilize countries in the region, including Somalia.
U.S. and Western power in oppressed nations depends on neo-colonialism to create the repressive force of a mis-leadership class that will quash dissent and grant Pan-European, white supremacist, capitalists patriachy unfettered access to Africa’s mineral and human resources, land, and markets.
“NATO’s war on Libya allowed Islamist forces throughout Northern and Eastern Africa to obtain weaponry and further destabilize countries in the region.”
Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided opportunities for these misleaders on the African continent to pass regulations curtailing freedoms, like the contraction of civic space; bans on movement and assembly; and even on free speech. AFRICOM works in tandem with this kind of repression.
With misleading headlines, earlier this year the Department of Defense claimed a troop drawdown for AFRICOM that was really only a deployment shift from West Africa to East Africa. The United States far exceeds all other countries in military spending while it’s also number one in COVID-19 deaths. U.S. military expenditures reached $732 billion in 2019, more than the next 10 countries combined and is substantially more than the bottom 139 combined. Any Black leader worthy of the title would not miss pointing out this obscene contradiction against the disproportionate rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths among the African (Black) working class in the U.S.
The US settler state amasses great amounts of economic wealth from the exploitation of its domestic African (Black) working class population, then allocates vast amounts of that wealth to oppress their kin back in the Motherland.
“The United States far exceeds all other countries in military spending while it’s also number one in COVID-19 deaths.”
Until the Black working class, particularly within the U.S., can establish itself as the main social force of a reconstituted Black Liberation project committed to an authentic process of decolonization in every sense of that term, the U.S. will continue to exert direct influence on the continent through AFRICOM.
Plans were recently revealed indicating that the Pentagon is interested in expanding its infrastructure in Africa, for drone intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance, and warfare, as well as training camps and lily-pad bases for increasing the U.S. capacity to project forces in key regions: the Horn of Africa, East Africa and the Sahel.
Anyone embracing an allegiance to U.S. geopolitical interests objectively pits themselves against the interests of Black people everywhere in the world. To act in the best interest of Black people and all of humanity means calling for the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Africa and for the demilitarization of the African continent, and the world.
Tunde Osazua is on the Africa Team of the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) and Coordinator of BAP’s US Out of Africa Network.
Netfa Freeman is an organizer in Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and on the Coordinating Committee of the Black Alliance for Peace. He is also co-host/producer of the WPFW radio show and podcast Voices With Vision.