Medialens on Somalia

As Andy Rowell and James Marriott have noted, the key fact is that “some 30 per cent of America’s oil will come from Africa in the next ten years”. (Rowell and Marriott, A Game as Old as Empire – The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption, edited by Steven Hiatt, Berrett-Koehler, 2007, p.118 )

The US has plans for nearly two-thirds of Somalia’s oil fields to be allocated to the US oil companies Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips. The US hopes Somalia will line up as an ally alongside Ethiopia and Djibouti, where the US has a military base. This alliance would give America powerful leverage close to the major energy-producing regions.

Chatham House, a British think tank of the independent Royal Institute of International Affairs, commented on US and Ethiopian intervention last year:

“In an uncomfortably familiar pattern, genuine multilateral concern to support the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Somalia has been hijacked by unilateral actions of other international actors – especially Ethiopia and the United States – following their own foreign policy agendas.” (http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/15545)

Predictably, the government’s strategic silence is reflected in press reporting. In the last year, the words ‘Somalia’ and ‘famine’ have appeared in a grand total of seven British broadsheet newspaper articles discussing the topic. Of the few references to the latest US attack in the British press over the last week, only the Independent and the Sunday Times made briefs references to Somalia’s humanitarian crisis. The Independent noted that life for Somalia’s nine million residents has become “unbearable”. The Guardian merely quoted Reuters:

“Western security services have long seen Somalia as a haven for militants. Warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre in 1991, casting the country into chaos.” (Reuters, ‘US airstrike kills head of al-Qaida in Somalia,’ Guardian International, May 2, 2008 )

The Amnesty report was mentioned in three broadsheet newspapers. Of these, the Guardian failed to mention the US role at all. Ian Black commented:

“Ethiopia sent in troops in December 2006 and ejected them. Since then, Mogadishu has been caught up in a guerrilla war between the government and its Ethiopian allies and the Islamist insurgents. Up to 1 million Somalians are internally displaced.” (Ian Black, ‘Somali refugees speak of horrific war crimes,’ The Guardian, May 7, 2008 )

By contrast, a short Independent piece led with the US role:

“Amnesty International has called for the role of the United States in Somalia to be investigated, following publication of a report accusing its allies of committing war crimes.” (http://www.independent.co.uk/news /world/politics/call-for-inquiry-into-us -role-in-somalia-822166.html)

Amnesty’s Dave Copeman was cited:

“There are major countries that have significant influence. The US, EU and European countries need to exert that influence to stop these attacks.”

This is the sole reference to Copeman’s comments in the entire national UK press.

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China & Burma

On 3rd May Cyclone Nargis hit Burma and caused massive destruction. The death toll from the cyclone continues to rise and over 1.5 million people are now at risk. We know that diseases, such as cholera, dysentery and malaria, are spreading. If the world does not intervene soon, the death toll could rise by thousands every day.

No country could cope with a disaster of this scale alone, yet Burma’s Generals are shunning the world’s offers of help; they’d rather see their citizens die than accept help from overseas.

If any country can make the generals change their mind, it is China. We have witnessed the recent terrible loss of life in China following the devastating earthquake. However, the response to the two natural disasters could not be more different. While the Chinese government responded quickly, dispatching 50,000 troops, and Premier Wen Jiabao immediately flying to the disaster area, the Burmese regime continues to block aid efforts.

China has a very close relationship with Burma’s generals, supplying them with weapons, economic assistance and protecting them at the UN Security Council. This weekend China blocked moves at the UN for a Security Council resolution telling the generals to let aid in. Every hour China protects Burma, more people will die.

Please take action now.
Please help us break the deadlock. Please email China and demand that they stop blocking UN action. Your email will be sent to the Chinese representatives at the UN and in the UK.

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Racist Corporatists- Hoist, Petard

Dozens of US and foreign companies will be forced to fight off costly lawsuits claiming that they helped South Africa’s white rulers repress blacks during the apartheid era, after the US Supreme Court failed to intervene on Monday.

ExxonMobil, IBM, Credit Suisse and 30 other companies had tried to persuade the court to reverse an appeals court ruling that had allowed the apartheid case, American Isuzu Motors v Ntsebeza, to proceed.

Several justices had earlier expressed a dim view of the apartheid “reparations” litigation, but the court was unable to intervene because too many justices held stock in or had some family connections with the companies involved, and so had conflicts of interest that prevented them from sitting on the case.

The Supreme Court’s failure to act will allow the lawsuit, which at one point claimed $400bn in damages, to go forward in a New York court.

But this does not guarantee victory to the plaintiffs, apartheid victims who claim big multinational companies aided and abetted apartheid South Africa’s violations of international law.

The Bush administration had backed the companies before the Supreme Court, saying that the lawsuit, “effectively seeks to overturn South Africa’s post-apartheid policy of reconciliation”.

The case involves the Alien Tort Statute, which allows non-US citizens to bring suit in US federal courts for some violations of international law.

The US business community has been struggling for years to persuade the Supreme Court to limit such Alien Tort suits and yesterday’s move constitutes a setback for this effort.

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of elite capitalist bigots, their own investments, their own unprincipled greed finally throws on a big hat with KARMA written on it and their game is up.