US bloody hands on South Sudan's civil war

The following article first appeared on Counterpunch. We post here to give readers some background into the meaning of current events in South Sudan and particularly the role of imperialist rivalry in the conflict.

Another Proxy War

The USA v. China in South Sudan


If one asks the question "who benefits from the South Sudanese civil war?" the answer is clear. The USA is presently the ONLY beneficiary of the ongoing horrors in South Sudan for this latest round of conflict has once again shut down the Chinese run oil fields in the country.

The USA has determined that its in its "national interests" to deprive China of access to Africa's oil fields and has succeeded in its goal of again shutting down Chinese oil production in Sudan, the only majority Chinese owned oil field in Africa.

What other evidence links the USA to the South Sudanese civil war? Thanks to Wikileaks we know that the USA via the CIA has been paying the salaries of the South Sudanese Army (SPLA) since 2009. In other words, both the soldiers ("rebels") supporting Riek Machar and the soldier supporting President Salva Kiir are being paid by the USA, paid to kill each other? Don't take my word for it, go check Wikileaks.

Another question NOT being asked by the international media is how is Riek Machar funding his army? Where is he getting the funds to pay for his soldiers ammunition, the fuel to run their trucks and equipment, to pay for their food? Where is this money coming from in a country complete destroyed by the ongoing fighting? If its coming from funds stolen by Riek Machar while he was Vice President of South Sudan, where are the funds deposited and how is he accessing them?

The USA prefers proxies to do its dirty work so as to keep its self insulated from charges of foreign interference and to keep its "hands clean" so to speak. The fact that "rebels" supporting Riek Machar have been receiving weapons from Ethiopia is a matter of public record with reports from the past year exposing what is just the tip of the iceberg in the matter.

What is Ethiopia's interest in this, isn't the Ethiopian regime a "neutral party" hosting "peace talks"?

The fact that Ethiopia has some 10,000 soldiers/peacekeepers on the Sudan/South Sudanese border this past year including the oil fields is another matter being ignored by the media. Again, thanks to Wikileaks, we know that Ethiopia has an ongoing fuel crisis and spends up to 75% of its foreign currency earnings on fuel imports. The Sudanese oil fields are the only immediately available supply for Ethiopia's problem and with Brazil promising to build a $1 billion railway from the South Sudanese border to Addis Ababa this would be the quickest solution to Ethiopia's major headache.

I for one am really, really sick of Africans being portrayed as tribalistic animals murdering each other in never ending slaughters when the only real beneficiary of such are foreign powers, mainly the USA and its western vassals. If one does just a little research into these holocausts one begins to see who really benefits and when it comes to the civil war in South Sudan the only party presently benefiting from these crimes is the USA.

How this will play out will be an omen of things to come for the USA and China are certain to be at odds in the future when it comes to exploiting Africa's oil fields which today supply half of the USA's oil imports.

Thomas C. Mountain is a life long revolutionary activist, educator and cultural historian, living and writing from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at thomascmountain_at_gmail_dot_com

As Geneva 2 talks begin - US crimes and double talk

Today is the first day of the Geneva 2, "so-called" peace talks regarding the civil/proxy war in Syria. There is little hope that the talks will lead to any kind of peace as the constellation of "rebel" fighters on the ground don't take them seriously, nor do they accept the Syrian National Coalition and its weak Free Syrian Army that the US and its allies want to prop up as "legitimate" rulers. At the same time Assad's army seems to be winning against the opposition in battle and is unlikely to cede control of Syria, a key condition of the US and the West going into the talks. As imperialist powers led by the US one side and Russia on the other - along with regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran all jockey for stronger political position, the people of Syria continue to suffer and their is little prospect that the so-called "peace talks" in Geneva will do anything to improve their situation. Here in the US let's strongly condemn the role of the US government in the atrocities being carried out on the Syrian people and call for the US government to stay out of Syrian affairs. - Nat Winn

The following article by Ajamu Baraka appeared on the Counterpunch website. Baraka lays out quite powerfully the farce of the current talks in Geneva and the crimes of US imperialism that lay behind all its hypocritical talk of seeking out a "democratic" solution. 

Undermining the Peace Conference

The Obama Administration's Orwellian Subterfuge on Syria

by Amaju Baraka

There is one thing that the so-called peace conference on Syria is guaranteed to achieve and that is that when the last speech is made and the delegates leave the hall, the grotesque bloodletting and devastation will continue for the people of Syria. Why? Because for the Obama Administration, the diplomatic process was never intended to bring about a peaceful resolution to the war. Its main purpose was always to affect their main strategic objective – the removal of President Bashir al-Assad from power and the disappearance of Syria as an independent state.

Fidelity to this goal continues to drive U.S. policy. U.S. strategists care little about the fact that, in their quest to oust the Syrian President, they have created an unholy alliance between the U.S. and its Wahhabi allies from Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda as their "boots on the ground." It is an alliance that ensures that, should the Al-Assad government fall, the Syrian people will either live under totalitarian fundamentalist Wahhabi rule or see their country disappear as a coherent state and into warring factions.

By juxtaposing U.S. rhetoric that expresses concerns for democracy, pluralism and the human rights of the Syrian people with actual U.S. decisions, we see a dramatic illustration of the astonishing hypocrisy of U.S. policies. The Obama Administration understood the scale of human suffering it would unleash in Syria by arming, funding, training and providing political support for the opposition—opposition that it moved from a non-violent protest movement to a violent insurgency, as part of its larger geo-strategic plan for the region.

That is why commitment to regime change, rather than to a peace based on Syrian realities and the needs of the Syrian people, is the price of admission to this week's conference in Montreux, Switzerland. It is a conference that it would be more accurate to call a 'war conference' rather than a 'peace conference' due to U.S. Secretary of State Kerry's insistence on keeping the scope of the conference confined to the terms of the Geneva I communique, which calls for a political transition in Syria.

The Syrian National Coalition is a mirage. Its "Free Syrian Army" has no standing and the most effective fighters are the al-Qaeda linked jihadists armed by the U.S. and the Saudi government. They are now the real power brokers on the ground.

For these fighters, Geneva II is an irrelevant sideshow that has no bearing on them and they have rejected the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition. So who does the Syrian National Coalition represent, when the bulk of the fighters have shifted to al-Qaeda and the other more than 1,000 Islamist rebel groups that between them have 100,000 fighters, all united in their commitment to a post-Assad state in which Sharia, or Islamic Law, will be established throughout Syria?

Yet on January 16, Kerry restated the U.S. position on Geneva 2 "It is about establishing a process essential to the formation of a transition government body — governing body — with full executive powers established by mutual consent," he told reporters.

The consent of whom? Who assumes power and will a new government represent the aspirations for democracy, civil liberties, workers' rights, respect for religious and community difference that the "revolution" promised or is Syrian's future already written from the Libyan experience?

There are now voices inside and outside the Administration saying that the U.S. should abandon the Syrian National Coalition and work instead with the Salafi-Wahhabi fundamentalists who have joined together under the umbrella of the Islamic Front (IF) and are being presented as the "moderate" alternative to the radicalism of al-Qaeda. However, the Syrian people, who have a history of secularism and respect for different religions, have not signed on to a post-Assad society and government ruled by a group that has publically stated its opposition to democracy and intention to establish an Islamic state under Sharia law.

But who cares what the Syrian people want? It does not seem to matter to the U.S. that supporting Salafi-Wahhabi fundamentalism is the antithesis of the justification it gave for supporting the "revolution" against al-Assad. It does not matter because in the end the interests of the Syrian people are of little concern to these policymakers who prioritize U.S. imperialist interests above every other consideration.

In the long annuals of crimes by U.S. and Western imperialism, the slow, protracted destruction of the Syrian state, including the tens of thousands of lives sacrificed, is starting to emerge as one of its most significant crimes, if not in numbers then in terms of scale. It can be listed with crimes like the Christmas season carpet bombing of North Vietnam in 1972 and the millions murdered in Iraq during the period of sanctions and full-blown military attack.

In this era in which war is peace and wars are fought for "humanitarian purposes," it is hard for many to get to the truth. But one thing is certain—the humanitarian disaster in Syria that was supposed to be the justification for intervention by the U.S. and its allies will continue unabated for the foreseeable future.

Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and writer. He is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. Baraka's latest publications include contributions to two recently published books "Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA" and "Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral."


Drop the charges against the CUNY 6!

This semester the war criminal ex-general David Petraeus was appointed to lecture at the City University of New York. Students at CUNY have righteously resisted this appointment by protesting outside of the building he teaches in; every single class. Last Monday six students were attacked by the NYPD, beaten and arrested. Today over a hundred people protested against Petraeus and in defense of the CUNY 6. The protests will go on as long as Petraeus lectures at CUNY, exactly as it should be. (Intro by Nat Winn)

The following article first appeared on the Revolutionary Students Coordinating Committee website.


Press release

Contact: Portia Seddon, 347-740-8834 or Tafadar Sourov, 646-331-1266

Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY,

Unprovoked police attack against peaceful protest by CUNY students and faculty against ex-Gen. David Petraeus

NEW YORK, 17 September — Six students were arrested this evening in a brutal, unprovoked police attack against a peaceful protest by City University of New York students and faculty against CUNY’s appointment of former CIA chief ex-General David Petraeus. Students were punched, slammed against vehicles and against the pavement by police captains and officers, after the NYPD forced them off the pavement and into the street. The demonstration was called by the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY.

The arrested students are presently being held and are to be arraigned this Wednesday, September 18, at some point between 9:00 a.m. and the afternoon in the Arraignment Court in the Manhattan Criminal Court at 100 Centre Street. All defenders of students’ basic right to protest are urged to come to the arraignment and show their support.

“As students were chanting ‘War Criminal Petraeus Out of CUNY Now,’ I was shocked to see several police officers grab and brutalize one of the demonstrators,” said City College student Yexenia Vanegas. “This was completely unprovoked, as demonstrators made clear that they were there to defend our university in a peaceful protest.” The attack occured in front of CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College, where Petraeus has been appointed to teach a class on public policy. “Protestors were marching in a circle on the sidewalk and chanting, but the police forced them into the street and then charged. One of the most brutal things I saw was that five police officers slammed a Queens College student face down to the pavement across the street from Macaulay, put their knees on his back and he was then repeatedly kneed in the back,” said Hunter student Michael Brian. The student was one of those pointed out by “white shirt” officers, then seized and brutalized. A Latina woman student was heaved through the air and slammed to the ground.

A broad range of CUNY students, faculty and staff members, have been carrying out a campaign of “protest and exposure” against the Board of Trustees’ appointment of Petraeus, whose documented actions as Iraq/Afghanistan war commander and CIA chief include drone attacks upon civilians, and the creation of torture centers and death squads. When Petraeus was setting up Special Police Commandos, the “dirty tactics” that were used included the use of white phosphorus, a chemical weapon, against the population in Fallujah. “Petraeus’ man” Col. James Steele, who organized death squads in Central America, had been brought to the area for the same purpose.

With the NYPD being sent to brutalize and arrest CUNY students on behalf of a certified war criminal, organizers state that this blatant use of police brutality against peaceful protestors wil not intimidate or deter those who expose the truth about the actions of David “Death Squad” Petraeus and oppose attempts to turn the City University into “a war college.”

Obama and Syria: this is a bloodletting

U.S. preparations for attacking Syria and Obama's speech

The Middle East is a pivotal region for the whole world – economically and geopolitically – and the U.S. has dominated it since WW 2. Everything it has done and continues to do is based on maintaining and deepening that domination. Right now the region is in tremendous upheaval – the old arrangements that "held things together" (for the imperialists and local butchers) have come under increasing strain and in some cases begun to disintegrate, and there is a massive scramble by all kinds of forces. These include rivals like the Russians, who back Assad; "friendly" imperialists like the French, who back the rebels; all kinds of local butchers; etc. And, painfully, there is no coherent progressive force acting within this mix. ...

In this situation, the U.S. may be pulling a page from the bloody playbook it used in the Iran-Iraq War. In that war, the U.S. aimed for both sides to devastate each other, and the result was a million deaths.

Many people will see this as a situation in which "something must be done." Even people who have some sense that the U.S. is driven by anything but humanitarian motives will argue that at least U.S. intervention will stop the horror right now.

But reality doesn't work that way. It matters – in fact it is decisive – to understand the nature of a U.S. attack on Syria, and what would be driving it. It would be an attack driven by the needs of a global capitalist-imperialist superpower intent on maintaining its domination of the planet. How is any move on that basis going to contribute anything positive to a humanitarian nightmare in Syria?


2 September 2013. Following are excerpts from two articles that appeared in Revolution, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The first, posted on 27 August 2013, is entitled "Only Worse Suffering and Horrors Can Result from a U.S. Attack on Syria". The second, signed by Larry Everest, was called "Obama's Speech on Syria: Lies to Justify an Immoral War".

There is a growing danger of a direct U.S. military attack on Syria – which is being framed as a "surgical strike"– using planes and/or Cruise missiles. U.S. Secretary of "Defence" Hagel announced that "the U.S. military is "ready to go" if ordered to attack Syria.

These attacks must be opposed with determined political protest and clear-eyed understanding of how they would make the situation worse. It is essential that people understand what is behind U.S. moves and not be duped into passive complicity with a U.S. attack on Syria that would make the situation much worse for the people of Syria, and the world.

The rulers of the U.S. view atrocities and war crimes – real, or invented – through the warped and twisted lens of "How does this work for us." Shelling hospitals, like Israel did in the 2008-9 massacre in Gaza is ignored. Staged, fake human rights outrages, like false testimony in the U.S. Congress that Iraqi troops disconnected incubators killing babies in Kuwait are concocted and then invoked to justify all kinds of U.S. crimes. The incubator hoax was invoked to justify the first U.S. invasion of Iraq, "Operation Desert Storm", that killed 100,000 Iraqis and created great suffering for millions, including babies who died as a result of cutbacks in medical care resulting from U.S. sanctions that followed that war.


Boston: It's Not a Chechen Thing

Why It's Not a Chechen Thing, But All About the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

What Motivated the Boston Bombers

New details emerge every day, raising more questions. But the outlines of the stomach-churning story seem clear. Two young men, brothers who emigrated from Kyrgyzstan twelve years ago with their parents and sisters—high-achieving, “well-assimilated” immigrant men—planted bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring well over 250. They killed an MIT campus policeman for no apparent reason, hijacked an SUV, engaged in a gunfight with police, and sowed citywide fear for five days. Both self-identified as Chechens, although neither grew up nor spent much time in the Russian republic of Chechnya; and as Muslims, although the older was the observant one, the younger a pot-smoking (maybe pot-dealing) Hennessey drinker. The older held a green card and had applied for U.S. citizenship but had been denied it.

How to define these men, and to describe the event? Let us step back and survey the big picture.

Racism and Islamophobia Shape the Coverage

The U.S. remains a deeply racist society, the nature of its racism always evolving, old targets forgotten, new targets found. The habit of hate does not diminish but merely seeks new objects. The “No Irish Need Apply” signs of the 1860s (here in my city of Boston) are a distant historical memory after the election of presidents of Irish descent. Young people in the Obama era can hardly imagine the Jim Crow laws in the South in effect to the 1960s. The Japanese-American internment camps of the 1940s are treated officially as a national shame. Old racisms survive of course (just consider the Black unemployment and incarceration rates) but new ones more energetically flourish. Especially since 9/11, Middle Eastern ethnicities have been popular targets. Hate crimes against people appearing to be of Middle Eastern origin quadrupled in the following year.

After the 9/11 attacks, it was not difficult for those promoting a U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq to win over the majority of people in this country. They were able to convince them that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were in cahoots. They argued this based on contrived evidence too thin to persuade any critical mind, but that was not the point. The war-mongers knew they could rely on the (sometimes subconscious) racist reasoning: the attackers were Arabs, Saddam is an Arab, they all hate America, they must be working together to attack us, we must defend ourselves by preventative action. The plan worked, as it could not have if the “us vs. them,” essentializing anti-Arabism had not resonated somewhere deep in the American soul.

Most people in this country are unclear about the distinctions between Arabs, Iranians and Turks (the three major ethic groups in the Middle East), much less distinctions within the Arab nations. So when a “War on Terror” was declared, and targets as in fact dissimilar as al-Qaeda, Iraq, Yassir Arafat, Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran, Syria, a tiny faction of Iraqi Kurds, etc. lumped together and labeled “terrorist,” the way was paved, psychologically and ideologically, for ongoing war against anyone in the Middle East.  GIs in Iraq decorated their barracks with posters showing images of bin Laden alongside images with Saddam, linking them both to 9/11, urging the troops to see their occupation of Iraq as somehow retaliation for those attacks.


U.S. moves to crush Guantanamo hunger strikers

The hunger striker Fayiz al-Kandari told his lawyer, "I scare myself when I look in the mirror. Let them kill us, as we have nothing to lose. We died when Obama indefinitely detained us. Respect us or kill us, it's your choice. The United States must take off its mask and kill us." (Russian Times, 27 March 2013)

The following article first appeared on A World to Win News Service.

15 April 2013. After weeks of minimizing the extent and seriousness of a hunger strike at the U.S.'s Guantanamo prison camp, the authorities have moved to stop it by force. Shortly after 5 am on 13 April, guards moved in to the communal living area with the intention of forcing the men into individual cells. Prisoners "resisted with improvised weapons" and the guards fired "four less than lethal rounds", causing injuries, none of them serious, according to a statement from the U.S. military's Southern Command, which refused to provide further details. The weapons were said to be broom and mop handles.

The reasons given for this assault are mutually contradictory on the face of it. The statement says that the action was in response to the covering up of surveillance cameras, windows and glass partitions by the prisoners, and at the same time, it claims that the "ongoing hunger strike necessitated" that the prisoners be moved into individual cells for "medical assessments". The media was also informed that prisoners had to be isolated from one another to prevent "coercion" by their fellow detainees to join the hunger strike.


KOE: Solidarity with Cyprus resistance to troika

Cryprus has now become the first country to reject the austerity terms of the IMF, the European Union, and the European Central Bank. Cyprus may now be expelled from the Euro-zone, perhaps triggering a Euro-wide crisis. Kasama will continue to report on these events as the unfold. -eric ribellarsi


The Cypriot NO represents Hope for the Peoples (20/3/2013)

 [KOE Translator’s Note: Yesterday the Cypriot parliament, surrounded by a huge demonstration, rejected, with 36 NO and 19 abstentions, the decision of the Eurogroup - which had been adopted last Friday following Germany’s demands. This unprecedented decision, to “bailout” the banks through a direct “haircut” of the citizens’ bank deposits, had initially been accepted by both the right-wing Cypriot government and the docile Greek tripartite government.]

The Communist Organization of Greece salutes the Cypriot NO and congratulates the Cypriot people, who are facing the catastrophic policy and the cynical threats of the Eurogroup’s and IMF’s loan sharks, for their Dignity. The new Cypriot NO, following the massive rejection of the imperialist “Annan Plan” back in 2004, is a proud response against the plans aiming at Cyprus’ economic devastation and pushing forward the transformation of the Republic of Cyprus into a protectorate.

The martyred Cypriot people, who have shed their blood in order to gain their Independence and are very well aware of what invasion and foreign occupation means, once again stand up and send a message of Resistance, Dignity and Hope to all the European peoples. It is in Cyprus that, for the first time, the blackmailing dilemma “Memorandum or Bankruptcy” is rejected. It is in Cyprus that, for the first time, the supposedly “almighty” Merkelist policy and the supposedly “omnipotent markets” receive a heavy blow.

Simultaneously, these developments are a slap on the face of the Samaras’ tripartite Greek government. Not only because of the despicable and docile attitude of the Greek Finances’ minister Stournaras during the Eurogroup’s meeting, where he supported the unprecedented German demands… Not only because Samaras trampled his electoral commitment to “renegotiate the unproductive and failed Memorandum imposed by the Troika”… But mostly because now it is clearly demonstrated that a different way exists: refusing the catastrophic Memoranda and imposing a negotiation, instead of continuing the submissive and servile attitude kept by the successive Greek governments.

What is expected in the immediate future is that Troika and Merkel shall climax their aggression in order to punish the “rebels”. This is why the Left must undertake immediate initiatives in order to coordinate all the progressive, anti-systemic and popular forces in Europe’s South and in the Mediterranean, focusing on the solidarity with Cyprus and expanding the Cypriot NO.

Moreover: Today more than ever, it is time for solidarity and fraternity among the peoples of Greece and Cyprus. It is time to initiate a new era of common course. That’s how the Cypriot NO will stand firm! That’s how Cyprus shall mark a victory against Troika and Merkel! Together we can build a solid prospect, without Memoranda. Together we can pave the way towards popular sovereignty, genuine democracy and social progress, for a different Greece and Cyprus in a different Europe.

Today it is time for the peoples of the South, and primarily for the Greek people, to draw strength from the example of the Cypriot people. The Left has to coordinate with the popular demand for a common march of Greece and Cyprus, abolishing the Memoranda and reconstructing our countries.

In a few days, on March 25, we shall celebrate the Anniversary of the Independence Revolution. This shall be a good occasion for our people to send the message of solidarity with the Cypriot people, but also to exalt our morale and to further intensify the struggle in order to get rid of the Troika and of the Memoranda.

Athens, March 20, 2013

Poem: Imperial bird of prey

Things which distinguish the National Bird

Golden feet with
Razor sharp talons.
Cold reptilian eyes, as large as a human's
But four times as sharp.
A hooked beak evolved to tear through muscle and tendon,
but nimble enough to feed flesh strands to its young.

A shrill high pitched call that pains the ear--
produced not by vocal chords
but in a bony chamber located where the trachea divides.

Wide broad wings that allow it to soar almost two miles high
Without expending its own energy.
The eagle soars by catching drafts of warm air
that rise from the sun-cooked earth.

Its body is black and brown.
Its head, neck, and fanned tail--white.
Hatched, the eagle is brown-black from head to toe.
It takes around five years for its head to go "bald,"
its beak to turn gold.
There is no other large blackish-brown bird with a white head and tail in North America.

It looks to be a vicious bird of prey.
And it can be.
But it prefers carrion to live meat.
Close cousin to the vulture
It feeds on flopping fish,
seeks the fresh rot.

A predator and a scavenger
it sits atop the food chain,
yet is still vulnerable to concentrated toxins
that pool in the corpses it feasts on.
Its numbers in the continental US
have exploded, from a few hundred in the 1967
to almost ten thousand now.
Concentrated now in Louisiana and Florida
It remains the only eagle that is unique to North America.

The Eagle's secret is in its seven thousand ingenious feathers,
which serve as both an on board navigation and an insulation system.
Together the feathers weigh twice as much
as all the eagles bones do (beak and talons included).

The eagle's bones are hollow,
making its skeleton--when plucked of feathers and flesh--
extremely light.

Imperialism & crisis: France in Mali

The French military intervention in Mali – taking the North of the country in a firestorm of imperialist arrogance and air power – has the French rulers and press gloating about easy victories and the apparent support of much of the Malian population and a majority of French too, arguing "There's no other solution". A small demonstration of Malians in the southern capital city of Bamako disputed this charade of "liberation" with hand-printed signs reading, "Down with imperialist interests, down with ECOWAS".

This crisis in Mali reveals a maelstrom of contradictions in the entire region of West and North Africa known as the Sahel-Sahara that no imperialist army or state will even begin to solve. In fact their role is certain to accelerate the contradictions that have spun into a war and a multi-national occupation of Mali spearheaded by French imperialism. It is the imperialists who are largely responsible for the impoverished, very short and crushed lives most Malians lead.

The immediate war was triggered by the descent from the North of an alliance of armed Islamic forces who had seized control of the key northern cities last spring. In early January 2013 they advanced right up to the doorstep of the southern region where Mali's central state is headquartred, 90 percent of the population live and most of its resources are to be found. Yet the crisis is long in the making, with French colonial and imperialist footprints, along with those of many others, all over it.

Last March 2012, just before national elections, junior army officers, some trained and equipped by the U.S., staged a coup d'etat and ousted Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré, allegedly because he hadn't taken a strong enough stand against the most recent rebellion by the Tuareg minority in January 2012. Within a short time, the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), reinforced by a large number of defections from the Malian army itself, including some Tuareg officers, declared the North to be independent, under the name of Azawad. Touré fled to Senegal.

A friend of Muammar Gaddafi who supported the Libyan government and opposed France's intervention there, Touré claims to have warned NATO that overthrowing Gaddafi would have destabilising effects in the region. The interim government that replaced Touré in Bamako has little legitimacy among the population. The national army, quickly overrun by the offensive in the North, was left weakened, dysfunctional and divided, just like the rest of the Malian state.

The French plan to intervene was already in preparation, but was speeded up when the jihadists descended towards the southern cities of Mali in a stream of 300 pick-up trucks. The French government had got a UN Security Council resolution passed in December 2012 to allow military intervention primarily by West African ECOWAS soldiers (Economic Community of West African States) that France would command and train. The neighbouring countries Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria were dragging their boots until the terms of financing this all-African ground force-for hire were spelled out. At the 29 January 2013 meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, a first sum of USD 470 million was raised, mainly by imperialist powers.

The French enlisted the help of these West African troops under the guise of Africans "settling their own affairs" in order to "peacefully [!] restore the territorial integrity of Mali". This meant, at least for public opinion's sake, driving out the Islamist jihadists from northern Mali who reportedly had cast aside the Tuareg-based MNLA and imposed their authority. The French imperialists also clearly aim to prepare the ground for a reinforced central state apparatus in Mali, in line with strengthening French interests in its historical zone of influence. The alternative press in France is calling out Francois Hollande for his hypocrisy, since less than a year ago, during his successful campaign for the French presidency, he was heard insisting on an end to "FrancAfrique" (France's privileged relationship with its former West African colonies and interference in their affairs).

Thus with U.S. and British intelligence and logistical support and the Algerian government's agreement to let France use its airspace, the French moved into northern Mali on 11 January. In what they said was an act of retaliation, jihadist forces attacked a British Petroleum gas production site in southern Algeria, taking some 40 foreign hostages. The Algerian government wasted no time negotiating and brutally ended the operation in its southern desert, bombing the jeeps with hostages on board retreating to Libya and killing some 70 people. Many believe Algeria, which has the largest army in North Africa, is pursuing regional interests of its own.

On 11 February 2013, while French and Malian troops with some West African soldiers' assistance had taken control of the northern cities – mostly through air superiority and little on the ground fighting – Islamic Mujao forces re-entered the city of Gao via boats on the Niger River and attacked the police station. The fighting lasted a few hours, backed by French airpower and, significantly, involved suicide bombers for the first time. French and Malian troops have moved into the mountainous areas in the eastern province of Kidal, to where it was assumed the Islamic forces would retreat. Much of the debate around the world has focused on the new "Sahel-istan"– in other words, the potential "bogging down"of the French army in Mali, with Hollande revising the schedule of French troop withdrawal on nearly a daily basis. Sound familiar?

Neo-colonial dependence governed by weak state

Mali – a large country sitting geographically at the heart of the French West African colonial empire and one of the world's poorest – became formally independent from France in 1960 but has continued a dependent (if sometimes strained) relationship since that time, its economy straightjacketed by imperialist domination and international financial institutions. After independence the pro-Soviet "socialist-leaning" Modibo Keita took power. He was a close ally of Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah and Guinea's Sekou Touré, with ties to Cuba and China, and the Algerian and other liberation movements in Africa. Keita was overthrown in 1968 and replaced by a more imperialist-compliant regime in the first of several military coups d'etat over the past 45 years, reflecting the weakness and instability of the Malian state. A multi-party constitution was adopted only in 1992, after student-led rioting against the government, and a Tuareg revolt had been brutally repressed in 1991 by Touré's predecessor.

For the Malian people it's been a story of overwhelming poverty rooted in neo-colonial relations of domination and dependence under the watch of client governments and the IMF. This has kept the development of the country's productive forces at a very low level. Mali's immense territory straddles the Saharan Desert in the North and Sahel grasslands in the South, and is divided by the Niger River Valley. Only 4 percent of the land is arable but 80 percent of the people are involved in agriculture, either growing crops or animal herding and fishing.

One feature of French colonialism was the cash crop policy of monocultures – peanuts in Senegal for example, and in Mali, cotton for France's own textile needs. So instead of varied food crops for mainly local needs, peasant farmers are contracted to grow cotton even more cotton, in an effort to boost national export earnings, but in the process becoming chained to foreign distributors and volatile imperialist markets like so many countries in Africa and the third world. When world market prices for cotton crashed starting in the late 1990s, caused partly by subsidized dumping of cheaper European and American cotton, Malian farmers were the ones to suffer, and national debts mounted.

In the 1990s under IMF structural readjustment plans, Mali was assigned to the category of Highly Indebted Poor Countries, which after six years of belt tightening supposedly in exchange for debt relief – but in reality to cut the rich countries' losses – ended up with even higher debt service payments than before. The 2006 independent film Bamako by Abderrahmane Sissako stages a mock courtyard trial of the IMF, World Bank and Western interests, showing the devastating effects of structural adjustment on Mali. (

A relatively small bourgeoisie in and around the state has grown wealthy from gold mine profits in the eastern part of the country (although 80 percent are siphoned off, mainly by South African and Canadian multinationals, Mali is Africa's third largest gold producer). They also benefit from the extensive donor aid and skim off profits from the vast networks trafficking drugs and other commodities. Yet the state itself has carried out very little infrastructural and other development in either the North or the South and has never had much support from the population. Of the some 15,000 kilometres of roads, less than 2,000 km are paved, for example. Healthcare is abysmal and life expectancy only 49 years (with only 2 percent living past the age of 65).

In the main, the tiny educated elite travel to Dakar, Abidjan or Paris for their studies and few new schools have been built over the decades, resulting in an astonishingly low literacy rate, especially among women. Less than 30 percent of the population vote in national elections. Keeping the masses illiterate and ignorant is partly a political strategy too, scholars argue: the state fears the rise of politically astute students and educated strata that are more likely to expose and challenge it.

So while many Malians at first welcomed the "rescue"by French forces from the reactionary and intolerable exactions, amputations and suppressions of basic freedoms under jihadist rule in the northern cities, it is important to understand the heavy hand of imperialism in Mali's highly distorted economic development that has been long opposed and exposed by revolutionary and nationalist political movements against the regime and in the region.

Ethnic groups, the national question and Islam

The Tuareg minority, related to the Berbers of North Africa's coastal mountains, is itself composed of several different tribal groupings. Together with people of Arab origin, Tuaregs are estimated to make up 10 percent of the 15 million total population and live primarily in the North. Since 1960 Tuaregs have led four separate rebellions against the central Malian government and its neglect of the northern region, centred around the demand for autonomy there. Mostly nomadic herders, they are spread across a more or less contiguous area in several countries – Algeria, Libya and Niger as well as Mali.

With significant investments in Mali and ties to both the Malian state and the movement for autonomy in the North, Gaddafi had also incorporated Tuaregs into the Libyan army. Thus after the imperialists invaded, led by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy's Mirage jets in March 2011, and Gaddafi's government eventually collapsed, Tuaregs seized modern Libyan weapons and headed for northern Mali, according to numerous reports. Although this is likely only one reason for the plentiful supply of guns and equipment in Mali, it begins to explain why the poorly organized Malian army was easily defeated when the Tuareg movement took over northern cities and declared Azawad independent.

Then also heavily-armed and well-equipped jihadist forces, organized into groups such as Ansar-al-Dine, Mujao and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), took over militarily as the MNLA pulled back and reportedly offered to negotiate. The French maintain they are bombing only the jihadist groups (with numerous civilian casualties) and many within French political circles are arguing for talks with the MNLA, while others say they are only a political cover for the jihadists who settled in the main town of Timbuktu as well as Gao and others along the Niger River. Competing heads of clans still figure heavily in the social structures of the northern territory and are said to be another factor in what appears to be constant reshaping of alliances and splits between Islamic armed groups. Local residents apparently told reporters that the armed group who invaded and took over Konna last April 2012 was composed of lighter-skinned Tuaregs and Arabs as well as blacks speaking several different languages from Mali and from the neighbouring countries of Niger and Nigeria. According to press accounts, Canadian and French citizens also were involved in the militias.

As soon as the French launched their air strikes in mid-January, driving the Islamic forces further into the desert areas, some emboldened Malian army soldiers carried out retaliatory acts against people they suspected of supporting the Islamists (perhaps this was not unrelated to the army's having been routed by them a year ago). This helped fuel press reports that ethnic conflicts were behind the war. In addition, local residents furiously targeted mainly Arab businesses, many run by merchants from neighbouring Mauritania with a long history in Mali. When these stores were ransacked, large caches of ammunition where found in some of them that merchants had either stocked willingly or under pressure for the Islamic forces. This increased suspicion that Arab merchants had supported the Islamists during the 10-month occupation.

In fact imperialist meddling does stir up the possibilities for these divisions to take nasty forms among the people. The African Arab slave trade predating colonisation also left its mark on ethnic divisions between North and South. Many Malians are quick to say that they have lived for centuries with numerous different and languages and tribal groupings, mostly black-skinned, but also mixed (Peul) and lighter skinned peoples, and that these ethnic differences are not the main factor driving this crisis as the media has sometimes implied.

Ninety percent of the Malian people are Sunni Moslems, the remaining 10 percent mostly animist. Thus much of the local population in the northern cities initially did not see a strong distinction between themselves and the Islamists, and did not put up much resistance to them. However, reports say most people quickly turned against the fundamentalists who made life miserable for them by banning radio and television (including televised football events!), beating women, cutting off hands for "blasphemy" or "loose moral behaviour", and carrying out executions under the new and much harsher version of Islamic law they rapidly imposed on the population.

In the process of the foreign grab for Africa's land, resources and zones of influence that has also benefited small parasitic ruling classes and elites, imperialist relations of domination and organised dependence become mixed with remaining pre-capitalist social relations. In Mali, this includes a not-so-distant past of slavery, not legally abolished until 1905. Scholars describe a caste-like system in which some tribal/ethnic groups were vassals (often referred to as slaves) of others, including among the Tuaregs. There are reports that the current war has also created the social terrain for "masters" in the North to recuperate their former vassals, or their children, still recognised as belonging to inferior castes, thus stirring up further resentment.

Under Islam, the traditional social code of polygamy and child marriages as well as female genital mutilation represents a huge oppressive burden on Malian women. On top of this, when Islamic fundamentalists occupied the northern cities they began flogging women in public for not fully covering themselves with the newly-imposed veil, reportedly whether they were young girls, grandmothers or pregnant mothers. Suddenly women were not even allowed to talk to their own brothers in public.

Scholars argue that the Islamisation of the Malian state has in fact already been well underway for some time and that Moslem law in the form of shariah is already mixed in practice with "modern jurisprudence". The absence of the state from the daily lives of most of the population, heightened by the 2012 coup d’etat, created a vacuum that "moderate" Islamic forces in the High Islamic Council have stepped into more vigorously, both providing services to the people and taking up a cabinet post in the government. The New York Times reports that they oppose the jihadists and have already played an important political role for the Malian government by negotiating the multimillion-euro ransoms paid for the release of hostages taken in the North by AQMI over the past decade.

Trafficking hub with state complicity fuels parasitism, warlords, and jihadis

In a word, the North is awash in money and guns, but has no paved roads or electricity. In addition to not developing the region, the deposed central government in Bamako is accused of tolerating organized criminal trafficking networks, from which it profited nicely. Customs officials are apparently generously compensated or rare in the porous border area that Mali shares with Mauritania, Algeria and Niger and some Bamako bureaucrats are said to have become rich on sources other than government salaries.

Centuries-old trading routes have become conduits for cigarettes, drugs and other forms of trafficking in the northern region, at the vortex of the southern Algerian and Libyan Sahara, Niger and west from Mauritania. In addition to cocaine, Moroccan cannabis resin and a significant amount of ransom "business" through hostage-taking in the past several years, trade has expanded into guns, through the changing political situation in North Africa. The control of smuggling also appears to be intertwined in the Tuareg political rebellions. At stake are large profits both from trafficking and from taxes numerous networks controlling the routes impose on each other as goods are moved through the region. To try to maintain its authority and keep control over the north, in 2006 the Malian government utilised these rivalries by pitting one group of Tuareg rebels against others.

Geopolitical stakes being played out in Mali

Mali shares borders with seven West and North African countries, all former French colonies and the dynamics of the conflict are clearly regional in nature. Stretching from Senegal on the western coast across the Sahel to Sudan and Chad, Islam is historically the main religion, and most countries have radicalised Islamic movements.

Whatever France's stated immediate aim and belligerent means of achieving it, clearly France has been accelerating its efforts to shore up its influence in the Sahara-Sahel. Contrary to its image after refusing to join the war against Iraq initiated by former president G.W. Bush, the French state has not been idle militarily. Far from it. Sarkozky dispatched troops to Afghanistan and into the conflict in Ivory Coast, and recently special forces into Somalia. Deploying 2,000 Chadian mercenary soldiers in Mali's North, who are not part of ECOWAS but have plenty of experience in previous conflicts in Central African Republic on France's behalf, also figures into its strategic plans, experts point out. Despite the talk of ending "Francafrique", the business daily Les Echos wrote that in Mali the stakes for France are its future presence in Africa.

A new political order and the role of the imperialist powers within it are being fought out and recast in the region. The crumbling of the old order of post-independence states in the Sahel-Sahara has been accelerated by the mass uprisings against the U.S.'s Mubarak in Egypt and France's Ben Ali in Tunisia. There is also the instability and opening that Gaddafi's fall in Libya created, together with other armed conflicts in the Sahel, notably Sudan. And the antagonism between Western imperialism and the political Islam shaping many developments in the Middle East is influencing the internal dynamics and struggle over this recasting of political configurations in West and North Africa as well.

Algeria, also a French colony until France lost a bitter war of independence, is considered by many a key player in the machinations behind the crisis in Mali. In worrying that France may finds itself bogged down in Mali like the U.S. in Afghanistan, Le Monde writes that it must rely on the Algerian army. At the same time Algeria's links with the U.S. have grown steadily stronger in the "fight against terrorism" since the 1990s when the Algerian army carried out massacres of both civilians and armed jihadists following the Islamist electoral victory. This has included significant provisions of arms.

The U.S. is increasingly a major player in this geopolitical recasting of the region, through active intelligence bases in several countries, training soldiers and solidifying ties with the leadership of a number of West African armed forces. The US-Africa command, or Africom, was set up under George W. Bush in 2008 expressly for the purpose of monitoring Islamist forces and preventing their implantation in a West African state where they could find a haven. According to Rudoph Atallah, former U.S. director of counter terrorism for Africa, the Sahel is a "destabilized region with ethnic conflict that if not dealt with quickly many disgruntled groups will be recruited by Al Qaida". He said that military intervention is one approach the U.S. is considering in Mali, while assisting France and helping to pay the bill. US drones are already flying in Malian skies. In fact it appears that the imperialists are actively destabilising the region for an outcome more to their liking, sometimes cooperating and sometimes acting on their own. Already huge camps of Malian refugees fleeing the fighting sprawl along the borders and are causing tensions with neighbouring states.

Economic interests and particularly exploring new energy sources also underpin the scramble to reshape states and political configurations in the Sahel. France is heavily dependent upon uranium deposits in Niger for its nuclear power. Several imperialist countries, together with Algeria, Qatar and China (a rising aggressive presence throughout Africa) have their eye on the untapped gas fields, oil and uranium deposits apparently lying under the northern desert sands in Mali. China recently constructed a third bridge in Bamako and in many African countries it has combined commercial penetration with infrastructure development.

For the people of Mali nothing good can come out of French imperialist military intervention, with or without West African or UN troops to project a different image, or out of religious rule. In fact, imperialist domination has provided the conditions for obscurantism to persist and grow in new forms. Both imperialism and Islamic rule maintain the Malian people in a position of continued subordination to dominant interests and the whole ensemble of economic and social relations they need to break out of to build a radically different society.

Charlie Post: Claims of a world without labor aristocracy

Is the working class divded? How is it divided? What does this mean for revolutionary strategy? A new book by a Zak Cope, Divided World, Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism  which some see as theoretical  evidence for the politics of third worldism has sparked a great deal of debate? Kasama will be posting a series of reviews of Cope's work in order to spark discussion on the relation between class composition, imperialism,and revolutioinary strategy. Other posts can be found here and here. The following review by Charlie Post is from the webzine New Socialist

Workers in the Global North: A Labor Aristocracy?

Review of Zak Cope, Divided World, Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism (Kersplebedeb, 2012)

By Charlie Post

A specter has haunted anti-capitalist radicals and revolutionaries for more than 150 years—the specter of working class reformism and conservatism in the global North of the capitalist world economy. Why have those who Marx called the "grave-diggers of capitalism," the wage-earning majority of the industrialized societies, embraced politics that either seek to "balance" the interests of capital and labour (reformism) or blame other workers for falling living standards and working conditions (conservatism)?