US Militarism from the Pacific Islands to Africa
On my January 1st blog post, I mentioned the US patriarchal militarist state and it’s use of increasingly sophisticated surveillance technologies. The US has just signed a ‘deal’ with Niger which will allow them to fly drones above, below and throughout the Sahara. We are told the drones will be for surveillance purposes but as Jake Appellbaum explained in his excellent 29C3 keynote address how surveillance information is used - surveillance is the first step in the killing process. Put bluntly, surveillance is straight up murder….
The targeting information for the thousands of DRONE killings is fed to the CIA [NSA and all the other members of patriarchal military surveillance state] from surveillance listening points [One is being built in Utah at this moment with relay stations around the US and very possibly overseas in Uganda, Kenya and other AFRICOM friendly states.] and from intelligence factories. In short there is a direct relationship between survelliance and support of straight up murder…..The way the Drone killings are carried out is that the central committee that is those who gets to decide who lives or dies or Obama’s assassination star chamber — this is just hop or two away from surveillance. So when you support the surveillance state this is just a stop away from killing children. [paraphrased]
The Pacific Pivot is the decidedly and considered shift of US military forces to the Asia Pacific in response to the combination of our collapsing economy and China’s rise, not just economically but culturally and technologically” [paraphrased]
While in Gangjeong, I also marveled at the quality and abundance of some of the purest fresh water in the world, which could be contaminated by the base. After rain falls atop Mt. Halla, the sacred dormant volcano which gave birth to the island, it sinks deep into the volcanic bedrock, where it is lava-filtered, before rising up again in Gangjeong, creating a freshwater springs that supply the southern half of the island with drinking water. A navy base could contaminate this water supply with trichloroethylene, a carcinogenic chemical solvent used for degreasing aircraft and ships and found in the groundwater of every location where there is a functioning military base.
The history of US military operations in the Pacific has wiped out reefs and other marine ecosystems, threatened deep-ocean and shoreline wildlife and ecosystems, and impacted farmlands, forests, wetlands, and groundwater sources. And when the US military sets up a base next to island communities, it rapidly replaces sustainable subsistence economies with fast food restaurants, big-box stores, bars, brothels, and other consumptive demands to cater to the lifestyles of troops.
Private security firms are essentially mercenaries who offer services to spare western governments the political cost of incurring too many casualties. While they are often based in western cities, many of their employees come from so-called Third World countries. For all involved, it’s much safer this way, for when Asian, African or Arab security personnel are wounded or killed on duty, the matter tends to register, if ever, as a mere news item, with little political consequence, Senate hearings or government enquiries.
The Last Word
I am no expert on Mali but once again AmerEuro imperialism including the media continue to frame interventions as humanitarian: saving us from each other, saving us from ourselves even where the seeds of destruction were sown by the imperialists themselves, and saving cultural heritages and texts from savage ignorant Islamists while the destruction of cultural heritages by drones is collateral damage which in their language is justification. Emily O’Dell has an excellent article in Jadaliyyia which gives some historical, religious and political context to the destruction of ancient religious texts and shrines in Mali and elsewhere.
Cultural heritage is almost always a casualty of war. Yet it is only when such destruction is framed under the banner of Islam–especially as a prelude to foreign military intervention–that it garners widespread international attention and outrage. For instance, if cultural heritage is damaged by drones or in the digging of military trenches, it is framed as collateral damage, but if it is framed as a target or victim of religious ideology, its damage is lamented in the nightly news, and it becomes a rallying cause for global consternation.
As we express concern and dismay over the destruction of texts*** which as O’Dell points out have taken on human form, on the other side of the world the same imperialist intervening to save texts and people in Africa, have little concern for the very real damage to the oceans, islands and people of the Pacific. Really we must engage in a more critical reading of events and actions and not rely on the imperialists mouth piece.
*** A Statement by the Director of the Timbuktu Manuscripts contradicts the recent reports of burning of texts…
Since the start of this week there are reports about the destruction of library buildings and book collections in Timbuktu. It sounds as if the written heritage of the town went up in flames. According to our information this is not the case at all. The custodians of the libraries worked quietly throughout the rebel occupation of Timbuktu to ensure the safety of their materials. A limited number of items have been damaged or stolen, the infrastructure neglected and furnishings in the Ahmad Baba Institute library looted but from all our local sources — all intimately connected with the public and private collections in the town – there was no malicious destruction of any library or collection.