Saturday, August 20, 2005

In Africa

While we are busily murdering the population of Iraq, and planning to extinguish a few lives in Iran and Syria (watch this space -- Iran is next, Syria to follow once the Yanks have freed up the troops to do it), we have stood by and watched truly indecent regimes murder their people. And done nothing, putting the lie to any wiffle about "bringing freedom" to the world, or being in opposition to despots.

In Sudan, half the country is gleefully murdering the other half, trained and supported by the government, which pretends it is simply an ethnic conflict that it cannot control. Please send us weapons, it says, so that we can fight the bad boys.

The weapons are of course passed on to the militias, which use them to brutalise the people of Darfur. The two populations of Sudan have long clashed over water, which is scarce in a desert country, but fighting is happening even in the well-watered Nilotic regions. Why?

Sudan has oil. The oil is under the control of the elite, which happily murders anyone who tries to claim a share. So long as it does that, we'll not intervene. We're not concerned that the government of Sudan are Islamists. The southern Sudanese look disturbingly pink to us: they want to use the oil revenues for the benefit of the people. Fuck that. We need to use them for the benefit of very rich Americans.

However, Sudan is becoming an important source of oil for China, which has been willing to drill in areas that are suffering turmoil. The Chinese don't care. They are happy to help suppress the natives. They make Americans look like angels. I have no qualms about saying I'd rather live in an American world than a Chinese one. It has nothing to do with their skin colour -- I couldn't care less -- or their "strangeness" to an Anglo-Saxon. None of that. It's their ubercapitalism that scares me. They worship money in a way even Americans can't match. They worship power even more so, and they have been very good at it. They destroyed their nation -- made it into ruins -- and still held on to power. A billion citizens could not muster a revolution strong enough to displace a government that was, in a country blessed with abundant resources, bringing them lives thin on hope and low on material prosperity. (I have no illusions about China under the Reds. I don't think what they pursued was anything like communism. I don't think Marx imagined "work units", pass laws, a secret police culture and the destruction of all enterprise.)

Sooner or later, the Yanks will wake up to what is happening in Africa, and the troops will go into Sudan. The accommodation between the Arab elites and the southern rebels is built on shaky foundations and the genocide in Darfur could quickly become another generalised civil war. We won't want China to be able to take advantage by heavily arming the Arabs and helping them suppress the south with enormous bloodshed (which they did not previously do -- when they were not so oil-hungry -- because of course they do not care much for Islamists, having a large Muslim minority themselves and they do not much care for socialists either; what they like is extremists who will do anything to keep power and will keep the place open for business).

While the Arabs are simply murdering blacks, and the oil is flowing, and the Chinese presence has not become threatening, no one is going to be concerned. But as the oil begins to run out elsewhere (and with the Arabs and Western partners' having lied about how much they have, it will start to run out a lot sooner than most in America realise), minor producers such as Sudan will become more important (even the least observant of our American friends will have noted their government's involvement in Venezuela, where it promoted a coup against the democratically elected government, while uninterested in other South American countries, pulling the plug even on Argentina).

Elsewhere in Africa, a disgusting old tyrant has decided that his nation's biggest problem is that the rural poor, starving because of drought and economic mismanagement, have come to the cities.

So he has evicted them, by forcefully displacing them and dispersing them in the country, with inevitably grim consequences.

Zimbabwe has no oil. Not a drop. It does have some resources, but on a relatively small scale. There, the Chinese have also involved themselves, chasing the dollar. But Americans are not interested in business on a small scale. Most small American businesses tend to be parochial (they have a large home market to service) and most larger businesses follow a model of exploiting foreign resources and exporting higher-value goods, rather than servicing smaller markets (if you visit a market in Africa or India, you'll see many more English than American products). That's not to say Americans do not export low-value goods, just that they tend to do so through local importers or subsidiaries, on a different model from that used by China in places such as Zimbabwe. China tends to export to the Third World through entrepreneurs, who penetrate small markets on a small scale. This is for obvious reasons, which I won't go into here, but is to do with big business's being emergent in China, while small business has existed and thrived for some time.

The key similarity between the Arab rulers of Sudan and Mugabe in Zimbabwe is that neither can exist without our help. You can't shoot peasants with helicopters if you are not sold helicopters. These people cannot build their own. They don't have the technological means, nor the money to build the factories. Mugabe's elections would have been exposed had the South Africans not supported him. He certainly didn't win them. Outside America, most of us feel that votes should be counted, not thrown into rivers or burned. (In America, of course, you feel the best way to have a fair election is to disenfranchise a chunk of the population and then count their votes on machines that are not auditable: a bit like vote black holes. If people like Mugabe introduced electronic voter machines, and if those machines were built by people who openly supported Mugabe, we'd cry foul straight away: it would be obvious that the system was invented so that votes could be "lost".)

Mugabe is an old man now and will probably only have a few more years. But his party will live on. It's to be hoped that their grip on power will slip if Mugabe is replaced by someone a little less megalomaniac, and perhaps a measure of sanity will return to Zimbabwe. But there will be a great deal of suffering, I fear, before that happens.


At 7:57 am, Blogger José Joseph said...

"The key similarity between the Arab rulers of Sudan and Mugabe in Zimbabwe is that neither can exist without our help. You can't shoot peasants with helicopters if you are not sold helicopters."

Excuse me! What help do they get from us? They're on the USA shit list, and their Russian-designed helicopters come from Romania and China. The USA usually tries to do the right thing - not always easy to do, so give them credit.

At 8:48 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

I haven't suggested that the US supplies either of those countries. "We" in this instance is "everyone", not the US (given that I'm not American, that should be obvious). The US does not try to do the right thing! That's an astonishing thing to say. The US supplies people equally as bad as Mugabe.


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