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US using Ebola crisis to move more of it's military forces into Africa

category international | anti-war / imperialism | other press author Wednesday September 17, 2014 23:08author by fred Report this post to the editors

It seems the US has realised it can cynically exploit the current Ebola crisis to further increase it's military presence in Africa. Speaking at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia Tuesday afternoon, President Barack Obama declared: “Faced with this outbreak, the world is looking to the United States and it is a responsibility we are prepared to embrace. We are prepared to take leadership on this.” This is, of course a load of horseshit. It's just an excuse to bolster US military forces in a resource rich region.

Business as usual from the US as it continues it's policy of putting military bases and US military assets in strategic locations using humanitarian aid as the cynical excuse. Obamas wife with her "Save our girls" campaign. Now this. The figures show that much more is being spent on getting a military presence in the affected regions than on actually combating the virus itself and searching for an effective vaccine. Also the money available for actual research into ebola comes not from some altruistic fund but from the military budget, i.e. any findings will be used to help further the US bioweapons program.

While in his remarks Tuesday Obama portrayed the massive military deployment as a means of facilitating the work of medical teams being sent to the region, it is not clear that the US even has such personnel available. A White House “fact sheet” mentioned only the dispatch of 65 members of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to staff the initially proposed hospital for health care workers.

China has itself sent 174 doctors into the region, while Cuba is dispatching 165 health care workers.

In other words they are sending 3000 troops with weapons to support 65 US medical personnel. Meanwhile china and cuba have already sent a multiple of this number with no military. One wonders how cynical can these people in the state department get?

The Obama administration and the Pentagon have announced the “surge” of 3,000 US troops into West Africa, ostensibly in response to the escalating spread of the Ebola virus in the region.

The militarized response to the deadly epidemic has underscored Washington’s increasingly heavy reliance on its residual military superiority in what has become a second “scramble for Africa,” pitting the US against China in a struggle for control of the continent’s markets and resources.

Speaking at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia Tuesday afternoon, President Barack Obama declared: “Faced with this outbreak, the world is looking to the United States and it is a responsibility we are prepared to embrace. We are prepared to take leadership on this.”

Obama cast the Ebola outbreak as a “national security priority” for the United States based not on a threat that the disease could spread to the US, which he described as “extremely low,” but rather that it would trigger the destabilization of West Africa posing “profound economic, political and security implications.”

“It’s a potential threat to global security if these countries break down,” the US president warned.

For all of Obama’s talk of the world looking to the US to lead in the fight against Ebola, the reality is that US spending, amounting to barely $100 million over the past nine months, has been widely viewed as negligible.

Moreover, Tuesday’s announcement of the massive military deployment followed by barely a week an earlier US proposal for the Pentagon to build a 25-bed field hospital in the Liberian capital of Monrovia that would be dedicated to providing care to foreign health and aid workers. The plan met with widespread condemnation as less than a drop in the bucket in the face of an epidemic whose infection rate has risen to nearly 100 new cases a week and which, according to some estimates, could claim up to a million victims over the next several months, if it is not contained.

The sudden about-face is based, as Obama’s speech indicated, not on any new assessment of the threat posed to the lives of West Africans, but on a changed analysis of how to advance US strategic objectives in the region.

The deployment of US forces in West Africa follows a long line of similar “humanitarian” operations designed to further imperialist interests, ranging from the occupation of Somalia on the pretext of combatting famine in 1992 to the deployment of US military task forces in Southeast Asia after the 2005 tsunami and in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

Obama revealed in his Atlanta address that Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, head of US Army Africa, the core unit of the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM), has already arrived in the Liberian capital of Monrovia to oversee the creation of what the Pentagon described as a Joint Force Command to provide “regional command-and-control support to US military activities and facilitate co-ordination with US government and international relief efforts.” In addition, a “staging area” will be set up in Senegal. Thousands of troops are to be flown into the region over the next two weeks.

The US president’s staging of his address at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta represented something of an anomaly, as the overwhelmingly military character of the US operation would have made the Pentagon a far more appropriate venue.

The CDC’s budget represents one percent of the Pentagon’s, and public health in the US has been subjected to a relentless series of draconian budget cuts over the past five years, resulting in the destruction of some 42,000 jobs in the sector.

A direct request for the US military to intervene came from Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has faced mounting popular opposition over her government’s incompetent and punitive response to the Ebola outbreak. Last month, she ordered the sprawling Monrovia slum district of West Point, a hotbed of anti-government sentiment, sealed by security forces, quarantining tens of thousands of people under increasingly desperate conditions. The action resulted in violent clashes between residents and troops.

Sirleaf, whose government was described by Foreign Policy as “kleptocratic and nepotistic,” is among Washington’s closest and most servile African client states—even as it, too, has signed trade deals with China. Its security forces have been trained by the Pentagon under a program known as “Operation Onward Liberty” in which US special forces troops “mentor and advise their Liberian counterparts.”

Since founding AFRICOM in 2007, Washington has steadily expanded its operations, which now include active armed interventions in Libya, Nigeria, Somalia and Central Africa as well as training and joint exercises with African military forces throughout the continent. It has until now, however, been unable to establish its headquarters on the continent—it remains in Stuttgart, Germany—because of popular hostility to Western colonialism. It remains to be seen whether the current Liberian operation will be used to remedy that

Full article here:

author by fredpublication date Fri Sep 26, 2014 17:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

another article from WSWS revealing how capitalism has failed the people experiencing this outbreak

“The present [Ebola] epidemic is exceptionally large, not primarily because of biologic characteristics of the virus, but in part because of the attributes of the affected populations, the condition of the health systems, and because control efforts have been insufficient to halt the spread of infection.”
—Dr. Christopher Dye, director of strategy, World Health Organization

In the understated words of a health professional, this is a diagnosis, not just of the Ebola catastrophe, but of the failure of capitalism as a world system. Thousands have died and millions are at risk because the social conditions in the affected countries, long oppressed and exploited by the imperialist powers, have made adequate treatment of the outbreak impossible.

Ebola is a well-understood disease, spread only through direct contact with bodily fluids, and almost self-limiting in isolated rural areas because it usually kills victims before they can transmit the virus to many other people. The cumulative death toll from all previous outbreaks of Ebola was barely 2,500 people—a number exceeded in only three months by the current outbreak.

The epidemic began in rural Guinea before spreading to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia. In Liberia, for the first time, Ebola became an urban and not a rural phenomenon, and the capital Monrovia is the first large city to experience such an outbreak, with terrible consequences.

In all three countries, the local health care systems have collapsed under the impact of the epidemic. In Sierra Leone, for example, the country’s only large children’s hospital has been forced to close after a child was diagnosed as suffering from Ebola. In Liberia, there are only a few hundred treatment beds available, meaning that most victims stay home and are cared for by family members, who then become infected.

These three countries are among the poorest in the world, ranking 161st (Sierra Leone), 176th (Guinea) and 181st (Liberia) in per capita GDP according to the 2013 World Bank listing (185 countries total). The combined health care spending of the three countries is only $900 million, a pitiful $45 per head.

Their people live in misery, but the countries themselves are rich in natural resources that have been ruthlessly exploited by major corporations and the imperialist powers that enforce their interests.

Liberia (founded by freed American slaves, and a de facto US colony) has vast resources of iron ore and palm oil, and Firestone (now Bridgestone) has operated the world’s largest rubber plantation there since 1926. Sierra Leone, a former British colony, is a top-ten diamond producer, with large reserves of rutile, a titanium-based ore. Guinea, a former French colony, has iron ore, diamonds, uranium, gold and an astonishing half of the world’s total reserves of bauxite, from which aluminum is derived. The Australian-Canadian firm Rio Tinto Alcan and Dadco Alumina of Germany dominate bauxite extraction in Guinea.

In the past three decades, all three countries have been ravaged by civil wars, coups and ethnic massacres, with their ruling elites fighting to control sources of raw materials to sell to the giant Western corporations amid increasingly difficult economic conditions on the world market. The imperialist powers directly intervened, with British and UN troops occupying Sierra Leone and the US Marines landing in Liberia.

It was the combined effect of decades of imperialist exploitation and intervention, exacerbated by the global economic crisis that erupted in 2008, which created the conditions for the present health catastrophe. When the Ebola virus made its way out of isolated jungle areas where the borders of the three countries come together, the resistance of the social organism to the epidemic was as weak as the resistance of the individual human organism to the attack of the virus.

Full article here:

author by fredpublication date Sun Oct 12, 2014 02:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

World powers stand by as Ebola death toll passes 4,000

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Friday that the death toll in the ongoing Ebola epidemic continues to rise with 4,033 deaths out of 8,399 cases in seven countries. Almost all of the deaths have occurred in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. According to the latest report by the WHO, there is no evidence that current efforts have been able to bring the epidemic under control.

Given the scale of the social disaster in West Africa and the threat to the entire world’s population, the response by the United States and other imperialist powers has been derisive and entirely irresponsible. Rather than reacting immediately with a massive multibillion-dollar emergency humanitarian aid program involving the deployment of thousands of doctors, nurses and health care workers, the US government waited almost an entire year to respond in any significant way to the Ebola outbreak.

Now the Obama administration is planning to spend $1 billion over the next year funding a military operation to build a limited number of treatment centers. This response is grossly inadequate for stopping the epidemic and derisory compared to the $1.1 billion the US government has spent in the last four months alone on bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Instead of seeking to halt the Ebola epidemic in its tracks, the Obama administration is utilizing the humanitarian crisis as cover for expanding its military presence in Africa.

Over the next year approximately 4,000 soldiers will be deployed to Liberia under the command of AFRICOM under the guise of building Ebola treatment centers and testing laboratories. There are no plans for US military doctors or medics to directly engage in the treatment of Ebola patients.

full article here:

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