Although the U.S. huffed and puffed in the days following a military takeover in Niger, history suggests that notwithstanding the heavy U.S. military presence in Africa, the commitment of U.S. troops to direct armed combat on African soil is unlikely. That’s because the U.S. has never had the guts to tell the truth about how it has bullied and exploited Africa from a distance by using covert operations, drone and air strikes, and proxy military forces to do the dirty work needed to accomplish its imperialist objectives.
But like all liars, the U.S. occasionally slips up and discloses the truth. For example, during the lead up to the Supreme Court’s recent evisceration of affirmative action in higher education, a brief filed by retired military leaders that went unnoticed by many argued that preserving affirmative action for military academies and ROTC is important because: “officer corps diversity is far more than a laudable goal – it is a strategic imperative.” To make the point, the brief explained:
“Recent military engagements have frequently required close collaboration with people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. In February 2020, for example, the Secretary of Defense ordered deployment of an Army brigade to Africa to train and assist African countries to better compete with China and Russia in those regions.”
This statement betrays the Pentagon’s cynical, and racist strategy of trying to put a black face on U.S. imperialist military adventures in Africa. It is only one element of U.S. activities in Africa that are sneaky, loathsome, and downright cowardly.
U.S. weasel-like behavior in Africa goes way back. In the closing days of 1884 and in the early part of 1885, representatives of most western countries convened in Berlin to collectively decide how the African continent would be parceled out for colonization. Although the U.S. attended the conference, and ultimately colonized Liberia, the U.S. has never been popularly regarded as a colonizer in Africa— at least not in the same way as France, England, Portugal, and other European countries. This image has been of tremendous value as the U.S. has presented itself as a bastion of democratic ideals and champion of self-determination while arrogantly and self-righteously wagging its finger at rivals and hostile governments.
Although the U.S. did not maintain colonies in name, it has nevertheless always been deeply involved in reaping the benefits of colonialism in Africa while flying way below the radar. U.S. corporations have ripped off and exploited Africa’s natural resources for years with the full support and protection of the Central Intelligence Agency, which was demonstrably willing to do anything, including assassination to accomplish U.S. strategic objectives. But given U.S. ambitions in Africa, intelligence operations proved to be inadequate, and military forces were needed.
The idea of deploying U.S. troops to Africa brought with it a number of worrisome risks, not the least of which was the shattering of the illusion of the U.S. as the holier-than-thou western superpower that did not have African colonies. It’s likely there were also unspoken concerns about how U.S. soldiers of African descent and the broader Black community might respond to orders to engage in hostile aggression against their ancestral homeland.
Enter U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which was birthed by the George W. Bush Administration and nurtured to full maturity by the Obama Administration. AFRICOM lurks in Africa’s shadows, maintaining a military presence in almost all African countries, but rarely taking direct military action. Instead, AFRICOM trains and deploys African armies to essentially function as U.S. military proxies.
For its part, AFRICOM claims its core mission is to assist “African states and regional organizations to strengthen their defense capabilities…” The security threat cited most often is terrorism. However, this begs the question of why, in their affirmative action brief the retired military leaders instead referenced “…deployment of an Army brigade to Africa to train and assist African countries to better compete with China and Russia in those regions.”
The fact is, AFRICOM comes closer to telling the truth about its objectives when it admits that in addition to Africa’s security, it “responds to crises in order to advance U.S. national interests…” AFRICOM is not a benevolent project. It is a reaction to the erosion of U.S. dominance in Africa. Remarkably, this loss of influence has much to do with the heavy-handed military approach the U.S. has taken in Africa, as China and Russia have instead approached Africa with either feigned or actual respect accompanied by assistance with infrastructure development and humanitarian assistance. This fact is lost on the U.S. as it stubbornly stays the military course, further alienating a continent that it strives to control.
The U.S. military is cordially hated by many in Africa, and for good reason. Its role in not only the destruction of Libya, but also Muammar Gaddafi’s efforts to establish a gold-backed Pan-African currency has been noted and remembered. And it’s not just what the U.S. did, but also how it did it. The Washington Times reported:
“The State Department initially approved a weapons shipment from a California company to Libyans seeking to oust Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 even though a United Nations arms ban was in place, according to memos recovered from the burned-out compound in Benghazi.”
This was during a period when an assortment of miscreants and thugs, including “the brigade for purging slaves, black skin” went on a genocidal rampage against entire communities of Libya’s Black immigrants. This preceded a mob’s rectal disembowelment of Gadhafi by bayonet. All of this dirty work was not done in the name of the U.S., even though in many ways the U.S. facilitated Libya’s collapse.
The U.S. doesn’t limit itself to hiding behind African armies and racist mobs. It has also crept timidly in France’s shadow and paid the cost for having followed that country into a quagmire. France has maintained a heavy military presence in Niger for years, primarily to protect extensive French uranium mining operations. The U.S. desire to get in on the action has been disguised as part of its war on terrorism. But the people of Niger, who resent French exploitation of Niger’s resources, likely resent the U.S. as well because of its drone bases and U.S. troops stationed in their country.
More than 60 percent of Niger’s population survives on less than one dollar a day, and a journalist based in the region said: “The air, water and land are polluted around the mining towns… and the animals of the pastoralists are constantly falling sick due to their grazing pastures being contaminated with radioactive dust.” In 2017, four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger, leaving countless U.S. citizens stunned because even they were unaware the U.S. had deployed soldiers in that country. While the killings have been blamed on terrorists, given the understandable hostility of Niger’s people it would not be surprising if the soldiers died at the hands of everyday people.
Niger’s history makes it easy to understand why large numbers of people in that country welcomed the military takeover. President Mohamed Bazoum’s greatest crime in their eyes was giving cover and protection to France and the U.S., and Niger’s people have dared either country to attempt restoration of the old order.
The U.S. likely believes it can threaten invasion as long as it can successfully frame the military takeover as a coup that pushed out a democratically elected head of state. But if the rhetoric about protecting democracy collapses, then we can pretty much count on the U.S. creeping back under a rock and waiting until there is an opportunity to accomplish its imperial objectives without having to in any way place its own interests or its own military personnel at risk.
Originally published here [x].