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By Monica Moorehead
The Bush administration has sent a military team of 32 Marines and specialists to Liberia to assess whether the U.S. should send more troops to this impoverished West African country. The reason given is that they may be necessary to end the civil war that has plagued this country for more than a decade. The real reason is oil.
President George W. Bush has repeatedly said that he will accept nothing less than the departure of the elected president of Liberia, Charles Taylor.
On July 6 Taylor met with the president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, at the airport outside the Liberian capital of Monrovia, where an agreement was made to provide Taylor temporary asylum in Nigeria if he leaves.
Taylor helped to lead a rebellion against the previous Liberian president, Samuel Doe. The rebellion lasted from the late 1980s until the mid 1990s, even though Doe was assassinated in 1990. Taylor was elected president in 1997 and has faced armed opposition to his presidency since 1999.
The real prospect that U.S. troops will be sent to Liberia comes at a time when Bush is on his first trip to Africa. He plans to visit five countries within five days: Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria. South Africa and Botswana are among the countries in the world with the highest percentages of people living with the HIV virus and AIDS.
Bush is using the carrot and stick maneuver, offering billions of dollars in aid to pressure each country to open its markets to U.S. imports and its military and police to collaboration with the U.S. in the so-called war against terrorism. Washington heavily subsidizes U.S. agribusinesses. If African countries were to change their agricultural policies and allow in unlimited quantities of cheap U.S. agricultural products, local farmers would be destroyed.
The U.S. military presence in Africa is more ominous than ever. Rapid deployment troops and semi-permanent forces from the Army, Air Force and Marines are now stationed or will be stationed in the Horn of Africa as well as countries in North and West Africa. A command base with 2,000 troops was established in Djibouti in May.
Lisa Hoffman of Scripps Howard News Service wrote on June 13: "Little noticed among the Pentagon's plans to radically reshape the U.S. military presence overseas is the groundbreaking possibility of basing thousands of American troops in or around West Africa.
"Under discussion: everything from positioning a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group off Africa's vast west coast to establishing one or more forward operating bases in Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Equatorial Guinea or the tiny island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.
"The spurs for what may prove an unprecedented U.S. military beachhead in sub-Saharan Africa are the region's instability, potential attractiveness to terrorists and, most pivotal, its rich oil resources, Pentagon officials and Africa experts say.
"As much as 15 percent of America's oil now comes from West Africa--about the amount imported from Saudi Arabia. By next year, the West African portion is expected to jump to 20 percent."
The U.S. seeks to overtake its European imperialist rivals as the dominant power in areas of Africa where oil is plentiful, like Nigeria.
Nigeria is home to one-fourth of the people living in sub-Saharan Africa. It also has one of the world's largest oil reserves.
The Nigerian people do not control the oil wealth of their country. Big oil conglomerates such as Chevron-Texaco and Shell make tremendous profits exporting millions of barrels of oil from Nigeria to other parts of the world while the Nigerian masses remain extremely poor. The average annual per capita income of Nigeria is only $290.
The Nigerian Labor Congress just organized a powerful general strike against the skyrocketing price of gasoline, which lasted several days before the government offered a compromise.
U.S. and Liberian relations
Liberia's population is less than 4 million people. According to UNICEF August 2002 statistics, the poverty rate is 85 percent and the extreme poverty rate is 55 percent. Per capita income is less than $100 per person.
News accounts say a sector of the Liberian masses look to foreign intervention, including U.S. troops, to help bring an end to the bloodshed and bring economic relief to their country. Some of this hope may be rooted in what some perceive as long-time close relations between Liberia and the U.S.
The U.S. history books and the big business press claim that Liberia was founded in 1822 by freed slaves who migrated from the U.S. But that theory is disputed. There is evidence to show that the American Colonization Society, a group of whites including slaveowners, bought land in Liberia in 1817 for next to nothing.
One of the most prominent of these slave owners was Francis Scott Key, credited with writing the words of the Star Spangled Banner, the U.S. national anthem. Another slaveowning member of the ACS was William Thornton, an amateur architect who designed the U.S. Capitol. It was mainly slaves who built that historic building and others in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
Former slaves were encouraged to emigrate to Liberia by the ACS, not to escape the horrors of slavery but to keep them from fighting for the right to jobs, education and political representation that whites on the whole had won. In other words, the ACS, seeing that the days of their slavocracy were numbered, mapped out this strategy in order to undermine the potential that former slaves might win democratic rights, including receiving 40 acres and a mule from the federal government.
In the 1920s the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. got a 99-year lease for 1 million acres of Liberian land at 6 cents per acre per year. Its Liberian rubber plantation became the company's main source of profit while Liberia sunk deeper into poverty.
Untapped oil reserves in Gulf of Guinea
Bush and the Pentagon claim that the only motive for sending U.S. troops into Liberia would be to help bring about "stability and democracy" for the war-weary Liberian people. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real truth lies in the U.S. wanting to control the most important world resource--oil.
Liberia could be a jumping-off place for U.S. troops to control the nearby Gulf of Guinea. Vast untapped oil reserves were recently discovered there. Whatever imperialist power controls this strategically oil-rich region will be in the position to dramatically increase its oil markets. For the U.S., this could mean a 25-percent increase in oil imports from Africa.
Nigeria and the former Portuguese col ony of Sao Tome and Principe are located on the Gulf of Guinea. So is Ivory Coast, which is in the midst of a civil war instigated by its former French oppressors.
Kayode Fayemi, the leader of the Center for Democracy and Development based in Lagos, Nigeria, stated, "The focus on oil in the Gulf of Guinea would probably ensure that the United States looks the other way when it comes to human rights, account ability and transparency. In Nigeria, the example of that would be how does the United States respond to campaigns from local communities for equitable and local management of resources." (NY Times, July 6)
The U.S. government certainly did not offer any support over a year ago for the justifiable takeovers of oil facilities in the Niger Delta organized by defiant Nigerian women, who demanded that the oil conglomerates fund jobs and educational opportunities for their sons. A Nigerian paper, This Day, reported that the U.S. may be deploying troops to the Niger Delta to "protect" oil facilities there.
Bush's quest for endless war cannot be separated from what is going on in Liberia, Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Bush is accusing Taylor of instigating war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone, but it is Bush who is the biggest war criminal of all.
Bush envisions himself as a modern-day emperor, similar to the rulers of the vicious Roman empire, and the majority of the world as an appendage of U.S. corporations.
Reprinted from the July 17, issue of Workers World newspaper
(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via email: email@example.com.)
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