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October 9, 2013
IN AFRICA, CHINA IS U.S. OBSESSION
By John Pilger
Countries are "pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a great game
for the domination of the world", wrote Lord Curzon
, the viceroy of India, in 1898. Nothing has changed. The shopping mall massacre in
Nairobi was a bloody facade behind which a full-scale invasion of Africa and a war in
Asia are the great game.
The al-Shabaab shopping mall killers came from Somalia. If any country is an imperial
metaphor, it is Somalia. Sharing a language and religion, Somalis have been divided
between the British, French, Italians and Ethiopians. Tens of thousands of people
have been handed from one power to another. "When they are made to hate each
other," wrote a British colonial official, "good governance is assured."
Today Somalia is a theme park of brutal, artificial divisions, long impoverished by
World Bank and IMF "structural adjustment" programmes, and saturated with modern
weapons – notably President Obama's personal favourite, the drone. The one stable
Somali government, the Islamic Courts
, was "well received by the people in the areas it controlled", reported the US
Congressional Research Service, "[but] received negative press coverage, especially
in the west". Obama crushed it; and last January Hillary Clinton, then secretary of
state, presented her man to the world. "Somalia will remain grateful to the unwavering
support from the United States government," effused President Hassan Mohamud.
"Thank you, America."
The shopping mall atrocity was a response to this – just as the Twin Towers attack
and the London bombings were explicit reactions to invasion and injustice. Once of
little consequence, jihadism now marches in lockstep with the return of unfettered
Since Nato reduced modern Libya to a Hobbesian state in 2011, the last obstacles to
Africa have fallen. "Scrambles for energy, minerals and fertile land are likely to occur
with increasingly intensity," report Ministry of Defence planners. As "high numbers of
civilian casualties" are predicted, "perceptions of moral legitimacy will be important for
success". Sensitive to the PR problem of invading a continent, the arms mammoth
, together with Barclays Capital and BP, warns that "the government should define its
international mission as managing risks on behalf of British citizens". The cynicism is
lethal. British governments are repeatedly warned, not least by the parliamentary
intelligence and security committee, that foreign adventures beckon retaliation at
With minimal media interest, the US African Command (Africom) has deployed troops
to 35 African countries, establishing a familiar network of authoritarian supplicants
eager for bribes and armaments. In war games a "soldier to soldier" doctrine embeds
US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. The British did
this in India. It is as if Africa's proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba
to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master's black colonial elite –
whose "historic mission", warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the subjugation
of their own people in the cause of "a capitalism rampant though camouflaged
". The reference also fits the son of Africa in the White House.
For Obama, there is a more pressing cause – China. Africa is China's success story.
Where the Americans bring drones, the Chinese build roads, bridges and dams. What
the Chinese want is resources, especially fossil fuels. Nato's bombing of Libya drove
out 30,000 Chinese oil industry workers. More than jihadism or Iran, China is
Washington's obsession in Africa and beyond. This is a "policy" known as the "pivot to
", whose threat of world war may be as great as any in the modern era.
This week's meeting in Tokyo between John Kerry, the US secretary of state, Chuck
, the defence secretary, and their Japanese counterparts accelerated the prospect of
war. Sixty per cent of US naval forces are to be based in Asia by 2020, aimed at
China. Japan is re-arming rapidly under the rightwing government of Shinzo Abe, who
came to power in December with a pledge to build a "new, strong military" and
circumvent the "peace constitution".
A US-Japanese anti-ballistic-missile system near Kyoto is directed at China. Using
long-range Global Hawk drones the US has sharply increased its provocations in the
East China and South China seas, where Japan and China dispute the ownership of
the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands
. Both countries now deploy advanced vertical take-off aircraft in Japan in preparation
for a blitzkrieg.
On the Pacific island of Guam, from where B-52s attacked Vietnam, the biggest
military buildup since the Indochina wars includes 9,000 US marines. In Australia this
week an arms fair and military jamboree that diverted much of Sydney is in keeping
with a government propaganda campaign to justify an unprecedented US military
build-up from Perth to Darwin, aimed at China. The vast US base at Pine Gap
near Alice Springs is, as Edward Snowden disclosed, a hub of US spying in the region
and beyond; it is also critical to Obama's worldwide assassinations by drone.
'We have to inform the British to keep them on side," McGeorge Bundy, an assistant
US secretary of state, once said. "You in Australia are with us, come what may."
Australian forces have long played a mercenary role for Washington. However, China
is Australia's biggest trading partner and largely responsible for its evasion of the
2008 recession. Without China, there would be no minerals boom: no weekly mining
return of up to a billion dollars.
The dangers this presents are rarely debated publicly in Australia, where Rupert
Murdoch, the patron of the prime minister, Tony Abbott, controls 70% of the press.
Occasionally, anxiety is expressed over the "choice" that the US wants Australia to
make. A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute warns that any US plan to
strike at China would involve "blinding" Chinese surveillance, intelligence and
command systems. This would "consequently increase the chances of Chinese
… and a series of miscalculations on both sides if Beijing perceives conventional
attacks on its homeland as an attempt to disarm its nuclear capability". In his address
to the nation last month, Obama said: "What makes America different, what makes us
exceptional, is that we are dedicated to act."
John Pilger's new film, Utopia, is released on 15 November