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Glen Ford: Western intervention aims to make region malleable to neoliberal economic policies and further militarize the continent

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Ford Report.

Now joining us is Glen Ford. He is the cofounder and executive editor of Black Agenda Report.

Thanks for joining us, Glen.

GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Thank you for the invitation.

DESVARIEUX: So, Glen, we’ve seen a lot of press about the kidnapping of an estimated 276 girls in Nigeria. Michelle Obama, she even Tweeted this photo, holding up a sign saying, “#Bring Back Our Girls.”

You recently wrote an article titled “Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of U.S. Imperial Policy in Africa”. Can you just walk us through your argument?

FORD: Well, you know, this deal with the Boko Haram, this terrible kidnapping of the Nigerian school girls, is for the United States manna from Heaven. It has allowed them to make a huge breakthrough, in terms of penetration of West Africa. Just recently it was announced that a meeting–which was actually called by France, but France said it was the Nigerians’ idea–a meeting has resulted in an agreement between Nigeria and its four neighbors, who are colonies of the French (Nigeria was a British colony), that these countries will share intelligence and will be provided with training expertise and, we can assume, money by the West. Well, the West means AFRICOM plus France.

So already we’re seeing structural changes in the region, bringing it even more tightly into the AFRICOM web. We’re seeing structural changes in terms of how tightly the United States and France have become. They at some points were competitors for influence in Africa. Now they work hand-in-glove, AFRICOM working with what is still in effect the French Foreign Legion in Africa after the operation in Niger, now that kind of cooperation deepening in Nigeria. So the noose is tightening.

And when we’re talking about new and improved groupings, alliances, configurations in West Africa as a response to this Boko Haram threat, we’re really talking about a situation in which Africa is permitted no defense except those defenses that are approved by the Americans and Europeans. And, of course, that is not a defense against European and American neocolonialism, but only a defense against other Africans. Africans can only then defend themselves against each other, but not against their former colonizers and the great danger presented by the United States.

DESVARIEUX: But then, Glen, it’s clear that this is pretty horrific. I mean, your heart can’t help but want to try to help these nearly 300 girls that were kidnapped before their final exams. How do you think the United States could be of assistance in a more positive way?

FORD: Let’s make this real clear. The United States can be of no assistance to Africa. All assistance that would be beneficial is totally theoretical and, in a practical sense, will never be forthcoming. We know what the United States is about in Africa. It is setting up networks of bases and relationships with the military class in order to control the political and therefore the economic destiny of Africa. It does not have good intentions for Africa. So a conversation about what can the United States do to help is counterproductive.

What the United States did do is launch a war against Libya, which as a net result has set the northern part of the continent ablaze, destabilized the region. It has resulted directly in the strengthening of Boko Haram. The weapons that just spilled across Libya’s border with the fall of Gaddafi’s regime, which was a bulwark against jihadism, are now in all kinds of hands that do pose threats to the stability of governments. And when those governments feel unstable, they run to the Europeans and the United States to bolster their stability and become even more neocolonial in nature.

DESVARIEUX: So, Glen, if I’m understanding you correctly, if the United States can’t be of any assistance in a positive way, then how do we resolve this issue? How do we get back these girls?

FORD: Africa has to resolve its own issues. Everyone has compassion for the Nigerian schoolchildren. But remember, this is an internal African affair, a Nigerian affair, and those fighters from Boko Haram are Nigerians. The United States does not have any legitimate interest here. Every human being of course empathizes with children in distress. Africa’s full of children in distress. Six million people have died in the eastern Congo since 1996, many, many of them children. The United States is complicit in those deaths. The United States’s intentions are not good. If it is able to locate through its intelligence apparatus the location of these girls, that does not mean that the United States will prevent them from being killed. In fact, U.S. and French involvement, this war-making machinery, the pressures that are being put on all the governments, may make it more likely that the girls are killed. We don’t know that, but we do know one thing: the United States doesn’t really care. It benefits from the almost universal outrage at Boko Haram, because it provides a unique and almost miraculous opening for the further expansion of AFRICOM.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let’s talk some more specifics here. Like, who are we talking about when we’re saying, you know, interests are concerned with the U.S. getting more involved in Africa. Who’s going to benefit here?

FORD: Oh, the oil companies benefit. And, of course, they are interlocking. Some of them are American. Others are European. They are quite concerned not just about gorilla activity in Nigeria, the golden location for oil in Africa; they’re also concerned about Nigerians wanting their legitimate share of oil revenues, and the people in the surrounding regions which also have lots of oil. This is the main concern of big oil companies, and therefore the main concern of the governments that protect them.

And so they want to create domestic situations in Nigeria, in Benin, in Cameroon, in Niger, in which the civil society is unable to make demands of the multinational corporations that exploit their resources. The United States, of course, with AFRICOM, will be there to lend its weight to the multinational corporations. Schoolgirls are really not at the center of U.S. policy in Nigeria today. What’s at the center of U.S. efforts today is to weave these five nations, Nigeria and its four neighbors, into a more malleable bloc for manipulation by the Americans and the French.

DESVARIEUX: Now let’s talk about the resistance. Is there actually any resistance behind the president’s plan to get more involved in Nigeria? Is there any opposition coming from Congress or any political leaders?

FORD: No. And, in fact, the Congressional Black Caucus has made it quite clear through its individual members that President Obama has a blank check as far as they’re concerned, that all they’re worrying about is the safety of the girls. That is the blank check that the United States government sought in Central Africa when Obama, two years ago, used the mere presence of Joseph Kony and his much-diminished Lord’s Resistance Army to justify sending in about 100 special forces troops on permanent duty in Central Africa. Earlier this year he doubled the size of that contingent, all based upon humanitarian grounds. This country makes war ostensibly for humanitarian reasons, and when a tragedy such as with the schoolgirls in Nigeria occurs, it is a blessing to the Pentagon.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, thank you so much for joining us.

FORD: Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Glen Ford is a distinguished radio-show host and commentator. In 1977, Ford co-launched, produced and hosted America's Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. In 1987, Ford launched Rap It Up, the first nationally syndicated Hip Hop music show, broadcast on 65 radio stations. Ford co-founded the Black Commentator in 2002 and in 2006 he launched the Black Agenda Report. Ford is also the author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion.