Obama’s Legacy In Africa: Terrorism, Civil War & Military Expansion

Independent geopolitical analyst Eric Draitser examines the effect of the Obama administration on Africa. What he finds is less hope and change, and more chaos and death.
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    NEW YORK — (Opinion) The corporate media is predictably churning out nauseating retrospectives of Obama’s presidency, gently soothing Americans to sleep with fairy tales about the progressive accomplishments of President Hope and Change.

    But amid the selective memory and doublethink which passes for sophisticated punditry within the controlled media matrix, let us not forget that in Africa the name Barack Obama is now synonymous with destabilization, death, and destruction.

    The collective gasps of liberals grow to a deafening roar at the mere suggestion that Obama is more sinner than saint, but perhaps it would be useful to review the facts and the record rather than the carefully constructed mythos being shoehorned into history books under the broad heading of “Legacy.”


    ‘Africa’s future is up to Africans’

    In the summer of 2009, little more than six months after being inaugurated, President Obama stood before the Ghanaian Parliament to deliver a speech intended to set the tone for his administration’s Africa policy. In addressing a crowd of hundreds in the Ghanaian capital, he was, in fact, speaking directly to millions of Africans all over the continent and throughout the diaspora. For if Obama represented Hope and Change for the people of the United States, that was doubly true for African people.

    In that mostly forgettable speech, Obama declared:

    “We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans … the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.”

    Building prosperity, shedding corruption and tyranny, and taking on poverty and disease, he said
    “can only be done if you take responsibility for your future. And it won’t be easy. It will take time and effort. There will be suffering and setbacks. But I can promise you this: America will be with you every step of the way, as a partner, as a friend.”

    Despite being the First Black President, Obama’s words and deeds with respect to Africa perfectly embody “the White Man’s Burden” — that desire to help those poor, lowly wretches whose poverty, corruption, disease, and violence must be the product of some natural deficiency. Surely, five centuries of colonialism, combined with Obama-style imperial arrogance, had nothing to do with it.

    But let us take Obama’s words at face value and evaluate whether Obama was able to live up to those high-minded and idealistic goals throughout his two terms in office.

    Obama repeatedly stressed African agency, arguing that the United States and the West cannot solve Africa’s problems for her. Instead, he argued that the United States will be a “partner” and a “friend.” And yet, within two years of the pledge to let Africans resolve their own problems, U.S.-NATO jets were dropping bombs on Libya in support of al-Qaida-linked terrorists who would topple and brutally assassinate Moammar Gadhafi, perhaps the single strongest voice for African independence and self-sufficiency.

    Considering the tens of thousands of deaths and the utter destruction and dissolution of Libya into warring tribal militias and multiple fragmented governments barely able to be called legitimate, it is particularly galling that Obama stood before the United Nations and declared the U.S.-NATO war on Libya to be a success. Exactly one month before Gadhafi’s heinous torture and assassination, Obama arrogantly stated on Sept. 20, 2011:

    “This is how the international community should work in the 21st century — more nations bearing the responsibility and the costs of meeting global challenges. In fact, this is the very purpose of this United Nations. So every nation represented here today can take pride in the innocent lives we saved and in helping Libyans reclaim their country. It was the right thing to do.”

    Yes, the very same president who two years earlier proclaimed that “Africa’s future is up to Africans” was a champion of French, British, Italian, and U.S. military forces imposing their will on a prosperous and independent African nation, transforming it into a chaotic and bloody failed state. So much for Hope and Change.

    But of course the tragic story of Libya does not stop with just the destruction of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the assassination of Gadhafi. Rather, the war on Libya opened the floodgates for weapons smuggling, terrorism and destabilization all over the African continent. According to a 2013 report by the U.N. Security Council’s Group of Experts:

    “Cases, both proven and under investigation, of illicit transfers from Libya in violation of the embargo cover more than 12 countries and include heavy and light weapons, including man-portable air defense systems, small arms and related ammunition and explosives and mines.”

    The report continued, warning that “illicit flows from the country are fueling [sic] existing conflicts in Africa and the Levant and enriching the arsenals of a range of non-State actors, including terrorist groups.”

    A photo from 2011 shows buildings ravaged by fighting in Sirte, Libya. Islamic State militants have controlled the city since August 2015. The U.S. military has announced ongoing airstrikes against targets in Sirte.

    A photo from 2011 shows buildings ravaged by fighting in Sirte, Libya. ISIS militants have controlled the city since August 2015 as the U.S. military has carried out airstrikes against targets in Sirte, and other Libyan cities.

    “The proliferation of weapons from Libya continues at an alarming rate.”

    Indeed, those weapons flowing from Libya have directly fueled the civil war in Mali, facilitated the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria, empowered the terror group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and led to the rise of terrorist gangs and death squads in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, and elsewhere on the continent. In effect, Obama’s war on Libya was the opening salvo of a continent-wide destabilization the effects of which are still being felt today and likely will continue to be felt for years, if not decades, to come.

    With these troubling facts in mind, we return to Obama’s speech in Ghana, where he haughtily pronounced that the West is not responsible for Africa’s problems. Naturally, any student of colonialism and African history would immediately object to such selective memory. One wonders whether decades from now, when the legacy of the wars and terrorism that grew out of Obama’s policies is still being felt, another president will stand before Africa and again chastise her for not solving her own problems.


    Obama: The smiling face of neo-colonialism

    Were Obama’s crimes against peace in Africa limited only to the war on Libya and its effects, one could simply call it a blunder of historical proportions. But Obama had much more blood to spill in Africa while expanding the U.S. military footprint there.

    Primary among these initiatives to grow the U.S. military presence in Africa was the expansion of the U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM. In June of 2013, Ebrahim Shabbir Deen of the Johannesburg-based Afro-Middle East Centre noted:

    “[AFRICOM] has surreptitiously managed to infuse itself into various African militaries. This has been accomplished mainly through military-to-military partnerships which the command has with fifty-one of Africa’s fifty-five states. In many instances, these partnerships involve African militaries ceding operational command to AFRICOM.”

    In fact, while President George W. Bush was responsible for the establishment of AFRICOM, it was Obama who expanded it into a continental military force into which national military forces have been subsumed. In effect, Obama was able to make African nations, and especially their militaries, into wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Pentagon and U.S. military-industrial complex. But it’s ok, Obama did it with a smile and with the credibility of the “native son” of the continent.

    Similarly, Obama is directly responsible for the ongoing bloodshed in South Sudan, where he championed the separatism which led to the creation of that country and the predictable civil war which has followed. Obama declared in 2011 upon the formal independence of South Sudan that: “Today is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible. A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn.” But Obama may have spoken too soon, as the darkness of war drags on in the devastated country where a “new dawn” seems about as likely as Obama admitting his failure.

    And while Obama, as usual, waxed poetic about independence and freedom, the reality is that his backing of South Sudan was more about gaining a geopolitical advantage against China than about high-minded ideals.

    Similarly, Obama used the expanded capabilities of U.S. military and CIA in Africa to greatly increase the Pentagon and Langley’s presence in Somalia. As Jeremy Scahill reported in The Nation in December of 2014:

    “The CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted ‘combat’ operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.

    As part of its expanding counterterrorism program in Somalia, the CIA also uses a secret prison buried in the basement of Somalia’s National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters … Some of the prisoners have been snatched off the streets of Kenya and rendered by plane to Mogadishu.”

    It should be noted that the policies — the crimes against peace — highlighted here represent only a fraction of the eight years of Obama policies on the continent; a complete accounting of Obama’s crimes against Africa would likely require a book-length analysis. The intent here is to illustrate that the man who stood before Africa professing to be a friend was as much friend to Africa as the hangman is to the condemned.

    Were it someone other than the first black president, perhaps there might have been an outcry at the rape and plunder of the continent, the militarization and destabilization of Africa. And yet, throughout the past eight years, there has been a deafening silence from liberals whose ideals and values apparently extend only as far as party loyalty allows.  

    In a beautifully precise term coined by Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, Obama represented not the lesser, but “the more effective,” evil. And when it came to Africa, that was doubly true. Who but Obama could have destroyed nations, fomented terrorism, plundered the wealth, and militarized and destabilized the entire continent all while flashing a hypnotic grin?

    For the African people, however, Obama’s perfect teeth and intoxicating smile hide a forked tongue. And as for Obama’s Africa “legacy,” it can be found in the graveyards of Libya, Nigeria, and beyond.

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    • James Wherry

      I realize the “birther’s” may not understand it, but “Africa” is not a place in the United States of America. African nations have created their own messes. If they don’t like U.S. corporations, they can kick them out, or tax and regulate them. This article is another excuse to justify dictators and demagogues.

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    • Patricia P. Tursi

      Qaddafi was such a threat to Obama’s plans in Africa and could have helped Africa climb out of Colonialism. Taking Libya out left Africa exposed and without Libya, ISIS, IS,etc moved in on Suyia with the US arming them. Meanwhile the US Armed the radicals and pretended to fight them at the same time. . And Obama is worshiped as such “cool” president.

      • James Wherry

        Qdaffy Duck was a “threat” to no one. He was heavily embroiled in a war against the very ISIL affiliates he had been sending off to Iraq for a decade to murder U.S. Soldiers. He might still have lost his civil war, even without NATO’s illegal intervention.

        President Obama had NO intention of spreading ISIL in Africa or anywhere else. The strikes against Qdaffi were senseless, pointless, ill conceived and not thought out at all. Libya is as much President Obama’s disaster as Iraq may be seen as Bush’es mess – and it is still lingering, except that the Leftists who run our media always gave Obama a free pass.

    • Norm
    • James Wherry

      This ridiculous article looks like it was written by a lifetime member of the John Birch Society or some other Far Right group castigating President Obama.

      1. There is no part of Africa that is part of the United States of America. Folks, those of us who are military isolationists also recognize that we aim to limit our efforts to confront, castigate and verbally assault other nations. Withdrawing from being “Team America: World Police” also means that we are no longer willing to serve as the dictators of the world, either. As SEC of STATE Nominee Tillerson said in his Senate nominating hearing, ‘We have to be less concerned with what goes on in a country, internally, and more concerned with working together, externally.’ That does not mean we have to be silent on human rights, but understand the limitations of our engagement and recognize first off that we do not run other nations (which makes the citizens of other nations angry with us).

      2. The United States spent more money and gave more resources to help defeat the latest outbreak of Ebola – which this article IGNORES. Europeans simply did nothing nearly as detailed and expensive as we did. No surprises and no apologies.

      3. America continues to spend on HIV/AIDS treatment. It should re-prioritize that treatment to focus on those nations which still have high infection rates like Botswana. Congratulations to Uganda for reducing a 25% population infection rate to a 7% infection rate. We helped.

      4. The United States backs AMISOM in its fight against al-Shebaab in Somalia. This is an “African solution to an African problem and avoids America getting into another “Blackhawk Down.” This Shi’ite website whines that we do too much that inadvertently supports Sun’ni jihadists. Would they prefer that we not?

      5. South African leaders through away their opportunity to create a new and vibrant nation with lots of oil and other natural resources. They do so because of the usual “tribal warfare.” It’s bad for business and that means bad for U.S. corporations. In short, we didn’t want it.

      6. This Shi’ite website has no objection with Robert Mugabe continuing to wreck his nation. Blame yourselves.

      7. The fact that Gabon is headed to a transition in power is a good thing, not a bad thing.

      8. Libya IS the U.S. and NATO’s disaster and they should eat it. More to the point, the U.S. under President Trump should try to figure out how to undo this mistake without committing American troops. Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria are the natural solutions. An “African solution to an African problem.”

      • Brodie Kurczynski

        Avoid a “Black Hawk Down” situation? Like try to not rape children?

        • James Wherry

          The book and movie “Blackhawk Down” were not about American Leftists and their rape of children: it was about a disaster brought on our troops by incompetent planning at the highest levels of government.

          • Brodie Kurczynski

            I doubt the “hero” in those embellished stories was a leftist, but he did rape a kid. It would also have went a lot better if the highest levels of government never sent military to Somalia in the first place.

            • James Wherry

              I’ve never heard that allegation. Where’s your proof?

              The attack on Americans was not a response to any se-Yao misconduct of any kind.

              • Brodie Kurczynski

                It definitely happened, Google anything about John Stebbins.

                • James Wherry

                  I googled it. You’re talking about something that happened a decade after Somalia, that did not happen in Somalia and that has nothing to do with Somalia.

                  Sounds like you’re simply seeking to undermine the USA “through other means.” Typical propaganda “strategy.”

                  • Brodie Kurczynski

                    You’re talking about Black Hawk Down which was fabricated after the actual event happened. Big difference between events and movies.

                    Only to undermine the United States’ imperial policies, which is far from propoganda. It’s a sad truth.

                    • James Wherry

                      You have not provided any example of anything that was fabricated about the book or the movie.

                      You’re only Imperial problem was directed at those of us who served our nation in uniform, and not the government itself.

                      • Brodie Kurczynski

                        How the military actions are built up to be seen as “heroic” and the racist adaption of the natives.

                        Imperialism requires government and military, both make the conceous decision to further it.

                      • James Wherry

                        The US military is run by the civilians who govern our nation. Nothing happened under President Obama that he did not want to happen.

                        Yes: my heroes are the ones running toward the sound of gunfire and not away from it: America’s uniformed servicemen and women.

                      • Brodie Kurczynski

                        And that’s what makes it so disgusting, he knew and promoted immoral acts of imperialism.

                        Oh please, you’re only glorifying violence and war. Those people are running towards the gunfire as they violate international sovereignty and show no respect for those who don’t align with America’s interests. There’s nothing heroic in doing that.

                      • James Wherry

                        What country did President Obama invade? He took us out of Iraq. We are back in and in Afghanistan only with the SOVEREIGN permission of those nations.

                        Yes,yes: shame on America for entering into World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the golf war to push back Saddam Hussein from doing the very thing that you claim you oppose.

                      • Brodie Kurczynski

                        He did not take us out of Iraq, we still have military there. Libya, Syria, and Pakistan to name a few. This article explicitly talks about Libya.

                        Gulf* war. You clearly don’t understand how any of those conflicts started, it certainly wasn’t imperialism and none of them threatened the US.

                      • James Wherry

                        I served in Iraq, twice and do know what I am talking about.

                        1. No U.S. troops remained in Iraq at the end of December, 2011 other than the usual Marine guards at the U.S. Embassy. Any that are there now returned later on, after that, in answer to the disaster that the IRAQI government helped created. “The withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq began in December 2007 with the end of the Iraq War troop surge of 2007 and was completed by December 2011, bringing an end to the Iraq War. The number of U.S. military forces in Iraq peaked at 170,300 in November 2007..” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Withdrawal_of_U.S._troops_from_Iraq

                        2. We never invaded Libya, either. We foolishly helped Britain and Fance under the umbrella of NATO. It’s “the Sinai in 1956” all over again, only this time we didn’t issue France and Britain ultimatiums. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suez_Crisis

                        3. Nope: no imperialism.

                        4. Yep, t”Gulf War I” was in our national interest due to the oil wells and the likelihood that Saddam was headed to a complete takeover of the entire Arabian Peninsula. Six months before that, he urged the Gulf states to impose a boycott on America so we know what would have happened.

                      • Brodie Kurczynski

                        And I’ve been to Mexico, that doesn’t mean that I know anything about the country’s politics.

                        But they were sent back in 2014…under Barack Obama.

                        We lead military strikes against the soviergn nation of Libya, you can’t do that to countries.

                        So because Iraq wanted to boycott us, that makes it okay for us to attack them and kill thousands of their civilians?

                      • James Wherry

                        3. Iraq boycott? No, Brodie: because Saddam Hussein ILLEGALLY did the thing you condemn America for doing (attacking and invading other countries), we had the right to go after Saddam as a threat to world peace, subject to U.N. Security Council support and Congressional approval – both of which George H.W. Bush got. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_678; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authorization_for_Use_of_Military_Force_Against_Iraq_Resolution_of_1991. Resolutions of the U.N. Security Council have the force of international law, of course, and Congressional approval is necessary for the U.S. because only CONGRESS has the power in our government “to make and declare war.”

                        What Saddam intended was not to “boycott” America, but to CONQUER OTHER nations and hold the world hostage to a ransom of oil by cutting off our access to OTHER PEOPLE’s OIL that those OTHER PEOPLE wanted to see to us. G.H.W. Bush was clear from the beginning that the “national interest” of America that was being affected was our access to our #1 energy source: middle eastern oil.

                        For Japan in WWII, the issue was not that we cut off the Japanese Empire’s access to OTHER PEOPLE’s OIL, but that we refused to sell them oil. Had we done otherwise, the Japanese would have had a lawful pretext for war.

                      • Brodie Kurczynski

                        Saddam Hussein was not a threat to world peace, the US is and has been the biggest threat to world peace for decades. If he were such a threat, the US should have never supported him in the first place. The instability in the Middle East has been caused almost entirely by our intervention.

                        He would never have had the slightest chance of inflicting any damage to Saudi Arabia or Iran, we did it purely to promote and control US interests. It’s not the job of America to police the world as we see fit.

                      • James Wherry

                        So the invasion of Kuwait did not threaten world peace and the planned invasion and take over of the other golf countries did not threaten world peace?

                        Any war between two nations is not only a threat to world peace it is a complete and utter violation of world peace per se. You don’t have to trigger World War II in order to destroy world peace.

                        It is one thing for me and for you to agree that a Civil War is an internal affair that America should not involve itself with. It is quite another thing to sit by and pretend that wars between two nations have not already destroyed world peace.

                        Worse yet, Saddam Hussein planned to hold the United States of America and Western Europe hostage By cutting off all oil to them. I was alive and well then and in law school, and I remember tracking his statements carefully as part of my own interest in international law. The subsequent invasion of Kuwait came as zero surprise to me and others. Holding Americas energy hostage is a direct threat to our own national security.

                        You are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own facts.

                      • Brodie Kurczynski

                        No, it did not come close to threatening world peace. There are many more international conflicts going on that threaten world peace, but the US stands silent because it doesn’t gains no benefit in doing so. So to keep world peace by the means of killing numerous civilians of a soviergn nation simply because US interests are at stake isn’t really a good point.

                        The US has plenty oil resources here and has forcefully avoided the pursuit of alternative energy sources in the past. Having Saddam Hussein only threaten to stop giving the US oil is also not a meaningful point for war.

                        These are facts, facts that aren’t embellished to promote American policy.

                      • James Wherry

                        Brodie, you misunderstand or misstate me.

                        1. Iraq. My original statement is that he got us out of Iraq and that’s evidence we are not an imperialistic or hegemonic power. We returned at the INVITATION of the Iraqi government. We are there lawfully.

                        2. Libya? When in the past 4 years have I EVER posted one word that suggests I supported the disaster we helped NATO make in Libya?!?

    • FrontLine

      The ruthless neo-colonialists of 21st century

      • TecumsehUnfaced

        There are many that could benefit from reading that.