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Us vs. Them

Posted on May 6, 2008

By James Harris

(Page 2)

Woods: Well, I think, James, that’s at the core of it. U.S. foreign policy has absolutely neglected Africa for much too long. When they’ve paid attention, they’ve paid attention in the wrong way, you know? Often times there’s this assumption that Africa is this poor, desperate place, but really, when we think about Africa, what we should think about is the incredible resources of that continent. So, yes, it’s the diamonds of Sierra Leone, but throughout the continent the diamonds are plentiful. But in Somalia, in Ethiopia, it’s oil, the richness of the oil. It’s uranium. These vital resources, without which the U.S. economy would not function, flow from the African continent. So in spite of the neglect in terms of foreign policy historically, there is an increasing understanding of the strategic importance of Africa. Now, right now, the U.S. gets about 12 to 15 percent of its oil resources from Africa. That amount is meant to increase to 25 percent in the coming years, so by the end of this decade some say, even, 25 percent—a full quarter of U.S. oil—will be sourced from the African continent. That makes the region of strategic importance. That makes control, particularly of waterways, of shipping lines and shipping platforms strategically important for the U.S.  And so we have to see the Somali attacks by the Bush administration as part of a larger vision of the U.S. to both control oil and other strategic resources. And we have to say, as well, to contain China, which is increasing as well in its interest in Africa.

Harris: About how many people are dying, before I continue. ... Are there any numbers attached to that?

Woods: It’s hard to say the numbers. The Somalis say it’s been hundreds that have been killed by these airstrikes, and we know there have been at least four airstrikes that have been made public so, you know, several hundred people killed as a result of these airstrikes. Now, some estimate the number as high as 300,000 of the Somalis that have been forced out of their homes. So those who are internally displaced and refugees—that’s a much higher figure.

Harris: Three hundred thousand.

Woods: Three hundred thousand is the number that’s estimated, of people that have been impacted by the political chaos in the past year.

Harris: And so, back to the United States, back to this election, back to the fact that Democrats and Republicans not only condoned it but probably profited from this over the years, should we really be as hopeful about Hillary or Obama or McCain? Will there really be a change in U.S. policy? Even though we know—you’ve set this up—even though we know that it’s inevitable that we’ll get more oil from this region of the world, we’ll want more control and we’ll have more interest in this area, is it likely that we’ll change any of this?

Woods: Well, James, that is the question of the era. I would have to say, you know, if you think about the control of multinational corporations, especially big oil, in U.S. foreign policy, it’s been exacerbated by the Bush administration, but it’s been a bipartisan phenomenon. So what we have to do is to figure out a way to get multinational corporations out of the decision-making process in U.S. foreign policy; that’s the first step. 

But we have to also envision a different world than the Bush administration has envisioned, really, of us against them. We have to see ourselves as being one human community where what happens to one side of the community affects what happens to the other. And I think part of the energy of this election, regardless of who people vote for—right? Part of the excitement of bringing in new constituencies, new constituencies of young people, new constituencies of immigrants. ... I think the potential is ripe to say, “We need to really bring about the change that’s needed in this country.” A change that will first control the wanton abuse of multinational corporations in their quest for profits that have ignored people in search of profits. We have to recognize that there are democratic forces within countries around the world, and how do we, as the United States, reach out to those democratic forces in solidarity with those forces that are expanding free media, that are expanding voices, opposition, other political actors, and expanding the political space. How do we forge alliances with these democratic forces that are there, you know, but have been so ignored as we pursue a set agenda that’s about extracting resources at the expense of people? 

So I think there is a new possibility for U.S. foreign policy; it is not just sort of a—I think it’s not just a Democratic/Republican thing. I think right now both parties are generating excitement and because of mavericks in those parties, people who are going in a different way. If we really want to go a different way when it comes to U.S. foreign policy, there really couldn’t be a better time because it’s been such a disastrous result. We see the Iraq war, we see the potential for a war in Iran, we see in so many regions of the world the flaws of this narrow-minded policy. And so I do think that the hope is in this open political space where new people, new actors, new voices, will be demanding a different way, will be demanding a more responsible, a more just, foreign policy. And whether it comes to Somalia or Africa, or Latin America, now is the opportunity to put forward a foreign policy that puts the needs of people first, that helps to build healthy societies around the world, that sustains this planet in light of climate change and global warming. I mean, these are the challenges of our time, that we can actually stand together as a global community and meet if we put forward a vision of foreign policy that leads to more responsible behavior than we’ve had to date.

Harris: And this sounds definitely like something you’re doing at the Foreign Policy in Focus group. Is that one of the principles of the organization?

Woods: Clearly. So, we are a think tank without walls. We have about 600 analysts and writers that write analyses of U.S. foreign policy. But what we do is, we critique, clearly, but we also put forward what we want. What is our vision of the world, you know? What are the values that can help sustain this planet? What does that look like when it comes to U.S. foreign engagement? And so that’s what we do. We publish, we do advocacy, we do media outreach to try to amplify the voices for a change and a more responsible foreign policy.

Harris: Well, it’s been a pleasure talking with you.

Woods: James, the pleasure is mine. Thanks so much for all you do. Keep digging for the truth.


Harris: We didn’t plan that. We didn’t plan that. With Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus, this is James Harris, and this is Truthdig.


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By cyrena, May 14, 2008 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment

I haven’t owned a vehicle in nearly 7 years Lester. And yes, I generally walk when I can. Most of the traffic in my community is bicycle traffic, and I use the bus when I can’t walk.

Having said that, I know there are still many other things for which we depend on oil. Had we consistently used it only for those things, the world would be a different place, and we would not be painted into a corner by this dependence on it for nearly everything.

dihey suggests that we can’t use hot air for our cars, but we can. (India is already delivering vehicles that run on air to their population). We CAN use water, wind, and the sun for other energy needs. 

There will always be some things for which only OIL will serve the purpose, but we’ve been consuming it out of greed, instead of using it for what can’t otherwise be efficiently operated. That was my larger point.

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By Lester Ness, May 13, 2008 at 3:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Walk, don’t drive.

Lester Ness

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By Lester Ness, May 13, 2008 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Before you know it, we’ll be reading about the “relief army” of France, USA, etc., trading food for sex, etc. 

Lester Ness, alive in the bitter sea

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By cyrena, May 8, 2008 at 5:12 pm Link to this comment


We DO need to keep up the pressure on OIL independence, and not because there aren’t certain purposes for which it is the only reasonable source, but because there is not an inexhaustible supply of it, and because of what it’s use produces in by-products.

We don’t need OIL to fuel our cars, because there are alternative ways to do that. We DO need it for other purposes however, and so it should be maintained for that.

Meantime, I agree that the blantant greed of the grabbing of it all, only leads to it’s lack of availabilty for those purposes that require it.

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By Douglas Chalmers, May 8, 2008 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment

Its not only about “American airstrikes in Somalia” but Bush has threatened Burma with “sending US Naval assets to help” with their storm-surge tsunami and hurricane-ravaged disaster, uhh.

In as false a show of crocodile tears as anyone could imagine, the Bush administration have petulantly stamped their feet at not being allowed to show their true wanton (oops, I mean generous) humanitarian nature.

Just add fellow Neocon France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner’s screaming that the UN should “force” aid upon Burma and you start to see a picture of rank opportunism quickly taking hold.

The USA and NATO desperately want to use any means they can to move in and leverage China. What they have once again managed to have denied in the Western media is that Burma/Myanmar is already receiving substantial emergency aid from Thailand, India, China and Singapore.

And all the more disgusting then that Truthdig have removed all Burma topics from their front page!?!?

See and other Asian media

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By dihey, May 8, 2008 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

Anyone who has followed the recent spike in the price of crude oil needs to understand that U.S. foreign policy ought to be, and perhaps already is primarily, about oil. One of the truly fundamental problems is that Saudi Arabia is no longer the production-buffer that can keep crude prices from rising out of the pan. The reason is that the output from the Saudi super-fields can no longer be safely ramped up. These fields are old and may have already lost so much pressure, aside from the frightening intrusion of water into them, that they may have become ordinary fields. The first thing that needs to be done therefore is to stop rattling sabers or yelling at, or promoting regime-change of all oil-producing nations and that includes Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. The expansion of NATO towards Russia must stop. Next, all foreign armed forces, including their Navies, must be withdrawn not only from producing countries like Iraq, they must be withdrawn from the neighborhoods of these countries back to their own bailiwicks. Yes, that may result in the temporary loss of oil from Iraq with a concomitant but transient spike in the cost of crude but that is the price that we Americans will have to pay for our folly of not stopping the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The presence of hundreds of thousands of armed foreigners in and around Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to create unrest and rebellion. Unrest and rebellion, as shown by Ghana, spike oil and gas prices. Finally, all talk of oil-independence must stop. We will have to enter the era of oil-dependence and -cooperation of the producing and consuming nations. Now, then what are our Democratic wannabes telling us about oil? Hillary proposes her idiotic tax rebate for the summer. Jeune-premier Obama sings arias about…...nothing but hot air which you cannot use in your car. What do they believe? That the Saudis will bail us out again? Are these the persons that want to lead our government? The Democratic Party looks like a reincarnation of ‘Know-Nothings’. I shudder.

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By Hammo, May 7, 2008 at 10:39 am Link to this comment

Simply using the “hard power” of bullets and bombs is sometimes not only not effective, it can be counterproductive in the short term and long term.

Using honorable and honest methods of “soft power” can be much more effective, but many U.S. military personnel are not trained in these kind of operations.

See the article ...

“U.S. global peace officer or corrupt cop?”

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By cyrena, May 7, 2008 at 10:10 am Link to this comment

The New Geopolitics of Energy
By Michael T. Klare
The Nation

Monday 19 May 2008 Edition

“While the day-to-day focus of US military planning remains Iraq and
Afghanistan, American strategists are increasingly looking beyond these two conflicts to envision the global combat environment of the emerging period - and the world they see is one where the struggle over vital resources, rather than ideology or balance-of-power politics, dominates the martial landscape. Believing that the United States must reconfigure its doctrines and forces in order to prevail in such an environment, senior officials have taken steps to enhance strategic planning and combat capabilities. Although little of this has reached the public domain, there have been a number of key indicators.”


“The Pentagon is also requesting funds this year for the establishment of the Africa Command (Africom), the first overseas joint command to be formed since 1983, when President Reagan created the Central Command (Centcom) to guard Persian Gulf oil.”

“Supposedly, the new organization will focus its efforts on humanitarian
aid and the “war on terror.” But in a presentation delivered at the National Defense University in February, Africom’s deputy commander, Vice Adm. Robert Moeller, said, “Africa holds growing geostrategic importance” to the United States - with oil a key factor in this equation - and that among the key challenges to US strategic interests in the region is China’s “Growing Influence in Africa.””

“Russia, too, is being viewed through the lens of global resource competition. Although Russia, unlike the United States and China, does
not need to import oil and natural gas to satisfy its domestic requirements, it seeks to dominate the transportation of energy, especially to Europe. This has alarmed senior White House officials, who resent restoration of Russia’s great-power status and fear that its growing control over the distribution of oil and gas in Eurasia will undercut America’s influence in the region. In response to the Russian energy drive, the Bush Administration is undertaking countermoves. “I do intend to appoint…a special energy coordinator who could especially spend time on the Central Asian and Caspian region,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February. “It is a really important part of diplomacy.” A key job of the coordinator, she suggested, would be to encourage the establishment of oil and gas pipelines that bypass Russia, thereby diminishing its control over the regional flow of energy.”


Taken together, these and like moves suggest that a momentous shift has occurred. At a time when world supplies of oil, natural gas, uranium and key industrial minerals like copper and cobalt are beginning to shrink and the demand for them is exploding, the major industrial powers are becoming more desperate in their drive to gain control over what remains of the planet’s untapped reserves [for more evidence of major shortages in fossil fuels, see Klare, “Beyond the Age of Petroleum,” November 12, 2007, and Mark Hertsgaard, “Running on Empty,” May 12]. These efforts typically entail intense bidding wars for supplies on international markets - hence the record high prices for all these commodities. But they also take military form, as arms transfers and the deployment of overseas missions and bases. It is to bolster America’s advantage - and to counter similar moves by China and other resource competitors - that the Pentagon has placed resource competition at the center of its strategic planning.

It’s a lengthy piece, and very informative, itemizing the funds for the various projects/equipment being built to accomplish this world heist. Money that could be used to create alternatives.

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By cyrena, May 7, 2008 at 9:44 am Link to this comment

This is a follow-up to what Ms Woods is laying testimony to in the interview. The US is now, and has been for many decades, involved in the destabalization of this nation, (by any means necessary) for the purposes of obtaining its resources. There is no other way to observe this, since we’ve seen it occur, over and over again. Somalia is a strategic prize, just like the Greater Middle East is, in the vision of these imperialist monsters. (McCain and Hillary included).

Call for Inquiry Into US Role in Somalia
  By Steve Bloomfield
  The Independent UK
  Wednesday 07 May 2008

  Nairobi - 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.

  The human rights group yesterday listed abuses carried out by Ethiopian and Somali government forces, and some committed by al-Shabaab, an anti-government militia which the US designated a terrorist group.

  According to the report, based on the testimonies of refugees who have fled Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in recent weeks, Ethiopian troops have killed civilians by slitting their throats. Ethiopian and Somali forces were also accused of gang-raping women and attacking children.

  A refugee, named Haboon, accuses Ethiopian troops of raping a neighbour’s 17-year-old daughter. When the girl’s brothers - aged 13 and 14 - tried to help her, Ethiopian soldiers gouged out their eyes with a bayonet. The Ethiopian government last night issued a statement strongly rejecting the Amnesty allegations and criticising the organisation’s “uncritical use of sources.”

  Amnesty called for an international commission of inquiry into allegations of war crimes and said the role of other countries that have given military and financial support to perpetrators should also be investigated.

  US troops trained Ethiopian forces involved in military operations in Somalia, and the US government supplied military equipment to the Ethiopian military.

  “There are major countries that have significant influence,” said Amnesty’s Dave Copeman. “The US, EU and European countries need to exert that influence to stop these attacks.”

  After attacks by Ethiopian and Somali forces on civilian areas in Mogadishu last year, European lawyers considered whether funding for Ethiopia and Somalia made the EU complicit. The results of their deliberations were never made public.

  The Amnesty report detailed a pattern of attacks. Refugees who fled the violence said al-Shabaab would launch an attack from a residential area. Ethiopian troops would respond with a security sweep, often going from door-to-door attacking civilians. Those who did not flee faced further reprisals.

  Increased military activity has turned Mogadishu into a ghost town. About 700,000 people have fled - out of a population of up to 1.5 million. The UN estimates that 2.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance - more than one quarter of the population.

  Peace talks between the Somali government and the main opposition alliance are scheduled to begin later this month.

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By cyrena, May 7, 2008 at 9:12 am Link to this comment

Purple Girl,

Try not to feel too bad about the huffpo banning. It’s happened to a few others that post on this site as well. If I’d ever bothered to post there, it probably would have happened to me as well.

But, I’ve never bothered, because I don’t believe that huffpo brings forth anything other than hypocrisy.

With a few exceptions, you’re in better company here anyway.

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By GrammaConcept, May 7, 2008 at 7:07 am Link to this comment

Thank you TD for bringing this deeper, painful view of Somalia, etc. to our attention…and thank you, Cyrena, for your insightful and thoughtful post….

My heart is bruised by the tsunami of these tmes,
and I say what I always say….

God Is (still) Love, (all) war is (always) hell…..

Truly, we all must daily, devotedly, strive on upwards towards the Everest of our Ideals in whatever form we can, beginning with our thoughts of possibility..Otherwise we do, with the force of gravity,  inexorably slip into the demonic abyss of perpetuating suffering and breeding despair, our own and others, thereby tragically mirroring that which we abhor…..
If, as is said, “rust never sleeps’, then how much more must each human being do to stay awake and to participate, each according to capacity and individual gifts, in the continued and committed upbuilding of life itself….

I encourage all partners of conscience, and, indeed, all people, to face, in a heartfelt and moral manner, whatever may come toward us out of the future..
I am taking leave of internet activity for a time so as to concentrate further…

As we think, so we become..
Strive on, please.
Your Friend here in the stunning 21st century,

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By Purple Girl, May 7, 2008 at 6:13 am Link to this comment

I notice that topics, facts and dissent regarding this adminsitration and their ‘Ministry of Truth’ is avoided at all costs.HuffPo jus tbanned me becasue I had the audacity to put a mirror and demand private banking entities (Fed Reserve) and their Profiteer leaders be held responsible for the undermining of our economy- and that THEY pay off their Foreign Debts/Creditors. Shame on me- I hur their feelings, hit a chord on what is left of their conscience. Why is it the Powerless are silenced- cnesored and the criminals allowed to do & say anything they want in Our ‘FREE’ country?
Teh General election should be changed to July 4, 2008 so our new president (Obama) can take office by Labor Day. thsi adminsitration is killing US and millions around the world- inciting & provoking future attacks- Reckless endangerment has gone on for far too long!

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By cyrena, May 6, 2008 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment

Thank you truthdig for providing this interview, and making more people aware of what is going on in this real world of which we remain ignorant.

I’m going to revisit this organization, (foreign policy in focus) since I’ve not had time to keep up with their recent work, although I know that there are organizers within the Obama movement who DO keep track of this work.

From the comments here, I think some of us are still missing the point of how our own political choices CAN assist the process, rather than continuing to impede it.

Far too many people who consider themselves to be politically active see the only alternative as totally destroying what has been built, (the wheel) to create something new from chaos.

It totally disregards the point that Emira Woods makes here, in saying that these DEMOCRATIC FORCES ALREADY EXIST, and it’s a matter of bringing them together to do what is required to bring about the changes that will act to create, rather than the continued destruction.

Too much either/or thinking happens here, and that concerns me. The suggestion that we need to avoid voting for anyone with an R or a D attached to their political persuasion is old school thinking that doesn’t allow for new ideas. It’s the same as throwing the baby out with the bath water, in addition to using that broad brush to stereotype every single mentality as one or the other.

It would suggest that we toss away all, and chose something that is totally unrecognizable to the people that need to form a unity first among ourselves, and then with the very same other democratic forces in those parts of the world that have been ignored or oppressed in the name of greed.

We cannot get away from the fact that these multinational forces of greed are supported above and beyond all else, the militarism of the US under the current fascist regime. We also cannot forget that this is part of the US history.

In revelations of the truth, we can find the US Military in direct support of the genocide in the former Yugoslavia, as well as in support of the genocide in Rwanda, and these crimes against civilians of Somalia are no different. Ms. Woods makes that crystal clear. It is ALL in the interest of greed for the transnational corporations. And, contrary to what has been suggested here, NONE of us are directly benefiting from their greed in our golden years. Americans are being exploited as much as anyone else by this culture of greed that has every intention of destroying humanity.

Again I would repeat what Ms. Woods puts forth here, (as I have on other threads) there are MANY DEMOCRATIC FORCES throughout the world that we should be attempting to form alliances with, instead of attempting to destroy them!!

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By Fadel Abdallah, May 6, 2008 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment

Emira Woods!

Thank you James Harris for hosting the enlightened and well-informed Emira Woods. Another beautiful and courageous voice for truth.

And thank you Emira Woods for being a worrier for the truth, for we know that only the truth will continue to liberate us from the tyranny and falsehoods of the evil ones!

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By jackpine savage, May 6, 2008 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

Regime change starts at home.  And, no, i’m not talking about replacing a Republican with a Democrat.  We consistently ride the high horse down the low road; there is no systemic difference between the operation of the US government (currently) and the corrupt regimes of the “developing” world.

Woods talks about the role of multinational corporations…an easy pineta to pound, a good many of us understand that they’re up to no good.  But those profits don’t materialize out of thin air.  We provide those profits and we finance our golden years with those profits.

Those companies aren’t too big to control (yet).  Destroying them is easy.  Starve them of their profits; cut off their capitalization.  If we can corral our greed and control our compulsive consumption then we have the key to solving all these other problems.

That and we need to stop voting for anyone with an R or a D after their name…

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By John Howard, May 6, 2008 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wow. I cannot believe the things we do to maintain the empire.  I thought we were out of the empire business, but its clear that we’ve just changed costumes.  There is a better, more diplomatic way to live but I don’t think our goverment is interested in that type of foreign policy approach.  We are much more gangster than we’ve ever been.

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By Tom Doff, May 6, 2008 at 7:07 am Link to this comment

We are fast approaching the day when some demented, inbred Bush or Clinton descendant will sit drooling in the oval office, joystick in hand, with a monstrous 3-D virtual image of the world before him.
A huge fleet of constantly globe-girdling attack aircraft will circle the globe, 24/7/364 (one day off for global ‘Holocaust Day’, AKA ‘Shalom’). The aircraft will be armed with various levels of munitions, from ‘Bunker Busters’ to ‘Hydrogen Bombs’, with a few land-mine dispensers and flocks of fire bombs and napalm, as well as bio-weapons.
The fleet will have exquisitely sensitive scanning and searching equipment, and be able to read the text on the garment tag of folks who have dropped their shorts, for whatever purpose, from 60,000 feet.
At the flick of a finger, the ‘Leader of the Free World’ will be able to obliterate or incinerate (or inculcate an horrific disease in) any person. Or, for that matter, any structure, town, county,  country, or continent.
What a ‘Deterent’ that will be! Finally, Peace in our time!
And, by ‘god’, it’ll be ‘Our way or the Highway’. At last, ‘Might’ and ‘Right’ will combine, and Rule the World.

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