Let’s All Drink To The Death Of A Clown!

The troops, never mind whose, have marched into Abidjan, securing it for Western capitalism (of a special type) as completely as the troops which marched into the Ashanti country in 1895. There is looting and rape and murder, but as Donald Rumsfeld (inspirer of the current wave of plutocratic plunder) pointed out, stuff happens, and freedom (of a special type) is messy. In any case, as Human Rights Watch (which does not need to be instructed to say so by their patrons in the Pentagon and the State Department) incessantly shouts, the other side is much worse (by virtue of being the other side), and therefore it does not matter how bad our side is.
South Africans are prepared to follow instructions and celebrate the fall of Laurent Gbagbo, whom they know nothing about except that they are expected to celebrate his fall, and celebrate the rise of Allison Outtara, whom they know nothing about except that they are expected to celebrate his rise. Exception and expectation should be followed by expectoration, but they are, of course, not. We are too well-trained and too unthinking, like the participants in a Nuremberg rally. “One hundred thousand men in a single block!” cries the newspapers, and can one hundred thousand blockheads be wrong?
The clowns who rule Africa and Arabia and Central Asia are an embarrassment. They were installed, duly, by the West in order to create the illusion of independence. That was why clowns were chosen; they could clown for the cameras so that the West could roll the tape and explain that Western governments were not clowns and therefore all was well at home by comparison. And, of course, Arabia was the same. The West did its best to do the same for Asia — a typical example being the clowns who have scampered across the governmental stages of Pakistan — but were most successful in Central Asia, where the post-Soviet “independent republics” were exactly as independent as the dead calf in a game of dead calfball, a game characteristic of Central Asia, and which is played by Russia, China and the United States with the Central Asian Republics and their governments. But what counts for us is Africa.
The clowns in suits and battledress (or Mao) jackets are still with us, of course. What has happened, however, is that the opportunity for clowning has become somewhat restricted. Nowadays the script is dictated from Washington and includes a carefully-determined array of worshipful observations about Western interests combined with a strictly-limited collation of hypocrisy and mendacity intended to simultaneously cover up international corruption and facilitate accusations of African corruption.
Africa initially had the advantage that clowning made absolutely no difference. It was a country of incredibly weak states and strong capitalist comprador ruling classes. Win over the President, a few dozen generals, civil servants, businessmen and tribal chiefs, and you had the country. Of course, these people had to have the right to steal what they pleased, and frequently they squabbled over whose turn it was to eat. Their underlings had to have the right to steal, more modestly, but there could be no question about that right, for if they did not have that right then the leaders would not have the right, and if the leaders did not have the right to steal then the public might ask where the money was going.
Where it was going was, of course, overseas. First it went directly overseas, via the usual neo-colonial systems of overworked, underpaid plantation and mine labourers. Then in the 1980s commodity prices collapsed, so the rulers were easily persuaded to borrow money which they could not repay, after which interest rates were carefully raised so that African countries ceased wasting money on pretending to develop themselves and instead poured the money directly into the pockets of Western bankers. A few countries held out against this, but not for long. Presently in the 1990s came the call for the people of Africa to rise up against their leaders and stop them being so corrupt, and some even were fooled into doing this, and then less corrupt people were installed who focussed their attention on plundering the country directly for the benefit of foreigners, without diverting more than a tributary of the river of gold into their own Swiss or Brazilian bank accounts.
And now the situation is changed again, and not for the better. It is worth noting that the two Arab countries which the West has particularly chosen to attack since 2000 — Iraq and Libya — are two countries where the dictator tried to plough some of the state cash, controlled by a state-owned oil company, back into development again. Maybe this is coincidence, for these happened to be countries which the West wanted to attack anyway, because they had carefully demonised both dictators, and also because the West had an opportunity (though in the case of Iraq certainly, and Libya probably, the West worked extremely hard to create that opportunity).
But in Africa south of the Sahara, there have been a sequence of Western-backed invasions or “uprisings”; the DRC in 1997, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Somalia, the long torment of the Sudan, and now, of course, Ivory Coast. (The Ethiopia-Eritrea war was also one where the US had a hand, and perhaps it fits the system, because ever since that war Ethiopia has been firmly in America’s back pocket.) These are not, for the most part, important countries. However, they are opportunities for countries which the West has powerful interest in to display apparent power, and they are also opportunities for the West to ensure that a government is entirely under its authority, like the hapless Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia. And to punish governments which are not under its authority, which is why Charles Taylor is waltzing with kangaroos in The Hague.
What seems to be going on is that the West is becoming a little desperate. It is true that the economic crunch happened only in 2007-8, whereas many of the invasions of Africa and elsewhere happened well before that. However, the West has been in big economic trouble for some time. It is true that Clinton and Bush both pretended that all was well with the economy, but both of them knew that their respective economies depended ultimately upon financialised bubbles which would burst sooner or later. Both of them also knew that when those bubbles burst the economy would slow down if nothing happened to ease it, and both of them were aware that there were powerful forces elsewhere which could threaten U.S. economic hegemony — both were painfully aware of the power of China even though both chose to pretend that it did not threaten them.
So is it coincidence that both leaders attempted to develop control over important sources of natural resources? Clinton, via Rwanda, gained control of much of the world’s coltan production which facilitated the short-lived electronics boom of the 1995-2005 period. Bush, more traditionally, threw his weight into the oil supply. Cheaper oil would have helped the United States in the short run; the fact that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was so badly bungled that it briefly lowered rather than raising Arab fear of U.S. power counteracted this, and in any case oil is running low and so a fall in the oil price was undesirable. (Besides, it could have harmed U.S. financial interests which are heavily involved in oil futures.)
These solutions have turned out not to be solutions, and now the problem is multiplied by the fact that the West is now in approximately the situation of those hapless African countries in the 1980s. The West does not export enough to fund its imports, and it is massively in debt and therefore is suffering from capital flight. What is to be done about this? If it were possible to put pressure on Latin America and Asia, then this could be done, but Latin America and Asia are not easily crushed — Latin American governments are united in distrust of the United States, and most of Asia can shelter either under the Chinese wing or the Indian wing — and both China and India are highly ambiguous allies for the United States, and both are active competitors with Europe. Japan is no longer so supine towards the United States as it used to be, although it is probably the most abject supporter of U.S. power in east Asia. No, these countries are not credible sources of wealth or power. Nor is Central Asia so secure now that the United States faces massive competition there from both China and Russia, both of whom are restless about American empire in the region.
Is terrorizing Africa going to be a solution? The comprador elite can no doubt be persuaded to screw their populace more thoroughly. There may be some more natural resources to plunder more effectively, although the United States needs little more from Africa than oil. However, it is hard to believe that this will provide more than a tiny fraction — probably less than one percent — of the increment that the Western ruling class wants each year in order to keep itself in the expansive style to which it is accustomed. Moreover, the more armed aggression against Africa, the weaker the comprador elite becomes. Then, the more probable that countries will sag into internal uprisings on the Somalian model which will require foreign troops, or at least foreign funding for local mercenaries that the West is beginning to find difficult to afford and which will counterbalance any money gained from such operations.
So it does not look like a solution. But for the moment it might look like one. At any event, the Western populace needs to be unified behind some distraction and aggression against Africa is likely to be a popular policy, pandering to racism while dressed up as the liberation of the continent. Like the liberation of the arrival of the missionaries, the liberation of the arrival of the colonists, the liberation of the departure of the colonists, the liberation of the arrival of the World Bank and IMF and Lehman Brothers. Ah, we have been well and truly liberated, about as liberated as a continent can be and still draw breath.
If only we could free our own minds! Well, perhaps we can. Perhaps we even have. But unfortunately, with the press and other media firmly in the grasp of those with no minds and no concept of freedom, we have little hope of learning about it.

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One Response to Let’s All Drink To The Death Of A Clown!

  1. JackClaxton says:

    Santé!

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