Sierra Leone collapses the United States announces the dispatch
of a Cyclone-class patrol boat, the USS Thunderbolt. Just
a "precautionary measure," the Pentagon explains
with characteristically soothing dishonesty. The Clinton
Administration has also announced its readiness to transport
"peacekeepers" from Bangladesh, Jordan and India
to Sierra Leone. The British have gone further. They have
sent a Navy taskforce of six ships. It includes an aircraft
carrier, a helicopter carrier, a frigate, two landing ships,
and a supply ship. Also dispatched are four Chinook helicopters
and 700 paratroopers. The ostensible reason is to help evacuate
British, European and Commonwealth citizens. However, we
are now informed, that the forces will provide "logistical
support" to the United Nations mission. The paratroopers
have already secured Lungi airport outside the capital Freetown.
As always Government officials are busy reassuring everyone
that the troops will, of course, not engage in any combat.
"We would certainly want to support that logistic movement,"
explains British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, "but
I would hope that when the UN reaches full force, there
would be not the need for the presence of others."
Note his weasly words. Cook knows perfectly well that there
is no "peace" in Sierra Leone. Therefore, a UN
"peacekeeping" mission is an oxymoron. The issue
is not who does the actual fighting, but who underwrites
the mission. The goal is to take the Sierra Leone over.
As for warfare, that can always be allocated to other, lesser
Americans and the British are getting away with murder.
It was the United States and Britain who insisted that Revolutionary
United Front (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh be given a senior
government position and that the perpetrators of atrocities,
gruesome even by Africa’s standards, be granted amnesty.
"Sankoh is delivering the right message," the
hideous harridan of Foggy Bottom declared last year, "and
I hope very much he will continue to intensify his efforts
to insure full adherence to the Lome accord. The atrocities
must end…. he peace must be sustained." Such latitude
is of course never extended to Slobodan Milosevic or Radovan
Karadzic. But then Africans come higher in the pecking order
than Serbs. Blacks are the Democratic Party’s most important
constituency. Who cares about Serbs? But then US decisions
as to "good" guys and "bad" guys are
always opaque. The Tutsis are the "good" guys;
the Hutus the "bad" ones. Clinton "apologizes"
for the 1994 massacre of the Tutsis in Rwanda. Yet he says
nothing about the slaughter of the Hutus by the Tutsis in
the Congo in 1996-7.
is nothing terribly new about the notion of "humanitarian
intervention." Throughout history, imperialists have
justified conquest and their right to rule over others by
claiming that their only concern is the welfare of their
subjects. As bearers of a higher civilization, the conquerors
have a moral duty to rescue primitive men from their benighted
condition. Imperialism is always humanitarian imperialism.
The rhetoric of the Clinton Administration echoes uncannily
the moral zealotry of the nineteenth century, but adds to
it a contemporary politically-correct twist. In 1998 Clinton
went to Africa and everything he saw made him gush: "My
dream for this trip is that together we might do the things
so that 100 years from now, your grandchildren and mine
will look back and say this was the beginning of a new African
renaissance." Then he went into his standard routine
of sucking up to an audience by apologizing for the deeds
of others. "Going back to the time before we were even
a nation," he mused, "European Americans received
the fruits of the slave trade." Then he apologized
for the Cold War: Too often, we "dealt with countries
in Africa…more on how they stood in the struggle between
the United States and the Soviet Union than how they stood
in the struggle for their own people’s aspirations to live
up to the fullest of their God-given abilities." On
Rwanda: "It may seem strange to you here…but all over
the world there were people like me sitting in offices...who
did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which
you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror."
UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, architect of the US intervention
in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor is a fervent believer of
getting "involved" in Africa. "It’s better
to dream the larger dream and try to lead people towards
it," he drooled last December in Pretoria, "In
the coming year, we will work long and hard to attain more
support for our programs. We will continue to make the case
that it is in America’s interest to see an Africa that is
at peace, prosperous, and whose people are free and empowered
to shape their own destinies."
there is one sense in which today’s imperialism is unlike
the nineteenth-century variety. In the last century, as
we know, the Europeans acquired in Africa cheap raw materials
as well as secure markets for their manufactured products.
Today’s imperialism does not work like that. The West is
not looking for markets. And raw materials are not as important
as they once were. What the West is after are higher profits.
The goal is to try to build up Africa’s export industries.
Africa remains a source of cheap labor. And there are fewer
health, safety and environmental regulations to worry about.
The rate of return on investment is a lot better than in
Europe, the USA or even Southeast Asia. Not surprisingly,
the biggest enthusiasts for getting "involved"
in Africa are the giant multinational corporations and their
cheerleaders in the media.
the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Hacks rave about
it as if the future of the Continent depended on America’s
importing more cheap clothes from the Third World. Opponents
of the bill have been attacked with extraordinary malevolence.
"Shame on the people blocking this bill. Shame on them,"
cried the reliably fatuous Thomas L. Friedman. Since America
is already inundated with cheap clothing from all over the
world, the sale of a few jeans and T-shirts will not dramatically
alter Africa’s destiny. That is not really the point. The
point is to force us to accept the dogma of Friedman and
his ilk that there is something sinister about people trying
to protect their jobs. Looking out for oneself is some antediluvian
throwback that needs to be eliminated. There are no nations;
there is just globalism. But this is the way imperialists
always talk. They always set their sights on higher things.
Ordinary people suspect, rightly, that empire is a vast
drain on resources; and that whatever benefits there may
be will go not to them but to the elite.
is rich in natural resources and has plenty of fertile agricultural
land. There is no reason, therefore, for Africa to be poor.
The Europeans granted their former colonial subjects independence
as part of the Cold War strategy. A grateful post-colonial
elite would look upon the West with gratitude, enable Western
companies to make money and deny Communists the opportunity
to seize the "nationalism" issue. But Africa’s
rulers squandered their chances. Instead of enriching their
people, they only enriched themselves and turned on one
another. Newly independent states degenerated into civil
wars. Tribes fought tribes; ethnic group sought to exterminate
one another; and private armies took up arms for the right
to run states as their own little fiefdom. The West did
not care very much, so long as Africa’s rulers did not turn
for aid to the Soviet Union. Once the Cold war ended, however,
everything changed. Africa’s glittering prizes seemed to
beckon again. Africa once again became a mission. The imperial
idea was reborn. It was only a matter of time before the
cry went up for the "white man’s burden."