U.S. agitprop on Africa

In the spirit of Kim Jong Il, a Pentagon scribe tries to spin a growing U.S. military presence off the coast of Africa.

Published July 5, 2006 9:48PM (EDT)

Earlier today I mentioned the propaganda coming out of zany Kim Jong Il's North Korean news agency. In the interest of balance, I took a look this afternoon at the sober and objective reporting coming out of the U.S. military's official news agency.

Lo and behold, I uncovered a fascinating story about the expanding U.S. military footprint in the Gulf of Guinea, off of the oil-rich west coast of Africa. "U.S. military engagement along southwestern Africa's Atlantic coast has increased exponentially," the article reports.

Why, you might ask? The intrepid Pentagon reporter delves deep: "The region faces several potentially destabilizing factors: narcotics trafficking from South America, smuggling of illegal aliens into Europe, about $1 billion a year in illegal fishing, and pollution that threatens the coast and the local food supply, among them."

That's right, folks. Soldiers, Marines, sailors are being deployed to the coast of Africa to prevent  wait for it  European immigration, water pollution, illegal fishing and cocaine use. This is the sort of stuff that makes you long for the candor of Kim Jong Il.

Later in the article, the reporter gets to the heart of the matter: "Africa provides almost 15 percent of the United States' oil supply, much of which comes from the Gulf of Guinea."

The story of U.S. military expansion in Africa remains largely untold, because of the ongoing military crises in Iraq, North Korea and Afghanistan. But the trend can be traced back to a 2002 white paper (pdf) by an obscure Israeli think tank called the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. Among other things, the paper called for a "new and vigorous focus on U.S.-military cooperation in sub-Saharan Africa" as the "Gulf of Guinea emerges as a new energy center of gravity and a vital U.S. interest." Pentagon officials helped create the paper, which was quickly embraced by a bipartisan group in Congress.

That's the U.S. government for you. Always looking ahead to the next war. I can see the headlines now: "U.S. Invades Equatorial Guinea to Stop Fish Poaching in Polluted Waters."

By Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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