May 15, 2012

SOF, Kony 2012, and The Great Game in Central Africa

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  The War on Terror is winding down, or so we are told, with all but a token force left behind in Iraq and a phased withdrawal set to begin in Afghanistan soon.  Interestingly, the war seems to be expanding outwards in all directions with covert and other low visibility operations in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Colombia, the Philippines, and beyond.  That’s not even taking into account the constellation of drone bases being established throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Africa and The Great Game:

The Chinese have been making serious inroads in Africa over the last few decades with billions in investments.  China has approached many African nations and offered them a better deal than the United States.  They stay out of African internal politics and offer military aide and infrastructure support in exchange for access to natural resources.  As we know, Sub-Saharan Africa has large deposits of rare earth minerals needed in the manufacture of electronics as well as the natural gas and oil fields off the coast of Mozambique and Libya respectively.

Over the years, Western organizations like the IMF and the World Bank haven’t exactly made a good name for themselves in Africa.  By all accounts they’ve raped many third world countries and have no success stories to their credit.  At the same time, direct military intervention by America seems unrealistic, especially coming off of over a decade of war in the Middle East.  So how does the West intend to counter Chinese influence in Africa?

Time to do some corporate branding!

But first a word from our sponsors:

Let’s wind back the clock a bit.  On October 12th, 2011 the Obama administration announced that they would be deploying 100 combat troops to Uganda with all the mandatory euphemisms to indicate that the objective was the capture or kill Joseph Kony.  Without a doubt Kony is a giant dirtbag, but he’s a minor dirtbag.  Kony was never really a regional much less a global player.  Some of my acquaintances are old hands in the region, being Africans themselves who served in Rhodesia, South Africa, Angola, and elsewhere.  They tell me that Kony is just some old asshole hiding out in the jungle and is liable to keel over from some tropical disease any day now.  Hardly the menacing Osama Bin Laden-type boogyman of the African continent that we’ve been told he is.

Take another step back.  Even before Obama’s October 12th announcement, I’ve been told that there was an interesting deployment of a US Army Civil Affairs unit to the Congo in 2010.  My information is that an interesting character with the CA team and that he was walking around the markets collecting SIGINT data.  This is what we would call Operational Preparation of the Environment or OPE.  “Atmospherics” is the buzzword used for this type of data, the type of data that would come in handy when tracking down Kony’s cross-border jungle hide out.

Uganda was on someone’s agenda going back a lot farther than what the public is aware of and I doubt it has anything to do with Joseph Kony.

Slick Multi-Media Roll-Out Makes War Look Trendy

The “Save Uganda” propaganda quota maxed out in March of 2012 with the release of Kony 2012.  The video quickly went viral with celebrities such as Rihanna and Justin Bieber promoting it on Twitter.  Looking at the official Kony 2012 video that was uploaded to YouTube I see that the documentary now has 89 million views.  Kony 2012 uses story telling to attain viewer empathy, getting young Americans to relate to a trendy white kid who goes to Uganda to help people and than makes a powerful call-to-action by stating that 2012 is the year that Kony should finally be stopped, brought to justice, or whatever.

Joseph Kony

The film is clever on many levels with high production values.  My favorite part is when the director uses his son as a prop, sitting him down for a briefing.  Like a General issuing marching orders to his Soldier, he slides a picture of Kony across the table.  “This is the bad guy?” the kid asks.  Yeah, we are told.  Now we’re all in the role of the child which makes sense in a way because this is how we are use to the media talking to us.  We’ve got our marching orders as well.

Becoming a viral sensation, Kony 2012 had its intended effect.  Walking around the campus of Columbia University in New York City, I began noticing signs and stickers for Kony 2012.  The trendy kids picked up on the documentary’s call-to-action, never questioning what motives may have been beneath the surface.  These flying monkeys did exactly what they were told to do and plastered billboards all over the city.

Who is behind Kony 2012?

Jason Russell is the director and star of Kony 2012.  Ten days after the release of his film, Jason was arrested in San Diego for irrational behavior.  Running around in the nude, pounding his fists on the ground, public masturbation, that sort of thing.  Happens to the best of us.  His family was quick to issue a statement saying that he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol but was suffering from a “brief reactive psychosis”.

Jason Russell: Christian Evangelist, public masturbator, and patsy.

It seems that this tough guy who was calling for America to go to war with Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army just couldn’t take the criticism that his film had gotten from Ugandans who thought the film was misleading and guys like me that are pretty skeptical about these sorts of wars that masquerade as humanitarian actions.  To be clear, I’m not alleging that Russell is part of some dark and sinister cabal that seeks to align Americans against Kony, providing the perfect pretext for the deployment of the US military to counter Chinese influence in central Africa.  No, that would require someone who knew what they were getting into.

Sadly, Russell is just a useful idiot in this whole scheme.

The Media Manipulator:

I don’t want to alarm anyone but I think you should know that your government often lies to you.  An interesting document that came out of the whole Wikileaks affair was a CIA memo titled, “Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-led Mission-Why Counting on Apathy May not be Enough.”  If you think I’m being cynical or paranoid you should read this memo.

The abstract reads: “The fall of the Dutch Government over its troop commitment to Afghanistan demonstrates the fragility of European support for the NATO-led ISAF mission. Some NATO states, notably France and Germany, have counted on public apathy about Afghanistan to increase their contributions to the mission, but indifference might turn into active hostility if spring and summer fighting results in an upsurge in military or Afghan civilian casualties and if a Dutch style debate spills over into other states contributing troops. The Red Cell invited a CIA expert on strategic communication and analysts following public opinion at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) to consider information approaches that might better link the Afghan mission to the priorities of French, German, and other Western European publics.”

The memo is a contingency plan for what might happen if European Soldiers began to be killed in droves in Afghanistan.  When the paper was written in March of 2010 the CIA assessed the European public as being completely ambivalent about the war and their troops fighting abroad.  However, the CIA felt that a back up plan should be kept in reserve in case voters attempt to force their leaders to withdrawal European troops, you know, the kinda of thing that an elected leader of a sovereign democracy might do.

America...not prepared to go it alone in A-Stan.

The document goes on to coldly analyze the ideological concerns specific to civilians in France and Germany, addressing how those people can be propagandized to help sure up the European public’s support for the war in Afghanistan.  Here is the key part:

“Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission.”

So modern liberal sensibilities towards women’s rights issues can be exploited by re-branding Operation Enduring Freedom with a media campaign that highlights some heart strings stories, manipulating the public into giving further support to the war.

Does this sound familiar yet?  It should, because this has all happened before with the infamous Kuwaiti incubator babies in the run up to the Gulf War.

Of course the great hypocrisy of Kony 2012 is that the International Criminal Courts have also indicted the government of Uganda for stirring up a war with the Congo, including the use of child soldiers.  If anything, it sounds like the current government of Uganda is actually a lot worse than Kony!

Troops on the Ground:

US Special Operations Forces are now on the ground, supposedly on the hunt for Kony.

“‘We don’t necessarily go and track into the bush but what we do is we incorporate our experiences with the partner nation’s experiences to come up with the right solution to go out and hopefully solve this LRA problem,’ said Gregory, a 29-year-old captain from Texas,” according to the Huffington Post.  “Central African Republic soldiers largely conduct security operations in and around the town, while Ugandan soldiers, who have been in the country since 2010, conduct longer-range patrols looking for Kony and his men.”  Supposedly, Kony has gone dark to avoid electronic interceptions and is hiding out with 150 to 300 of his followers on the border between Sudan and the Congo.

With 3rd Special Forces Group tied up in Afghanistan, they’ve had to abandon their normal Area of Responsibility which is Africa.  For now at least, 10th Special Forces Group is filling the gap.  Word is that SEALs are on the ground in Uganda as well.

Thus far, the African Bin Laden remains elusive.

Long Term Agenda

To understand the strategic significance of Uganda you just have to look at a map.  Whoever exerts the greatest influence, or outright control, over Uganda gains access to a huge swath of Central Africa.  Uganda shares borders Kenya, Sudan, The Congo, Tanzania, and Rwanda.  By building espionage networks, drone airfields, initiating military advisory programs, technology transfers, and even surreptitious pay offs via large loans made by international money lending organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, will allow the United States to project itself into all of the surrounding nations.

But first they need to use Kony to get their foot in the door.

Like most red blooded Americans, I think that people like Joseph Kony just need to be shot.  That said, I know a fraud when I see one and Kony 2012 is nothing but PR hype designed to bait Americans into supporting a long term geo-political strategy that places US forces all over the world.  I’d prefer to see the troops brought home and shift our focus onto fiscal responsibility and steering clear of conflicts that have nothing to do with our country.

Maybe you are of another political persuasion and that’s fine.  What bothers me is that people support wars under false pretenses, leading to larger problems down the road when we can’t support our own soldiers in theater because we never had any real commitment to the cause.  I know some people who consider themselves to be liberals who are vehemently anti-war…when a Republican is in office.  As soon as that passes, a Democrat takes his seat in the Oval Office and these same anti-war activists turn into raging war mongers.  MSNBC rolls out some war rhetoric tailored to their demographic and they can’t wait to start dropping bombs.  Use the right window dressing, call it a humanitarian action, and these dupes are all over it.

Whatever your political beliefs and world view is, just make sure that you are supporting military action for the right reason and not because you’ve fallen under the spell of some glossy PR stunt.

 

About the Author

is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he is now working towards a degree in Political Science at Columbia University. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, the PROMIS series, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

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  • Old PH2

     @Will_In my own bubble Uganda is being exploited in many ways, but i personally wonder if the US presence is due to other factors than the obvious.   http://cryptome.org/eyeball/uganda-bio/uganda-bio.htm   This facility in Entebbe is certainly one for concern.  Personally I make good use of the Economist, they really do give a great synopsis and intelligent analysis of world news.   

  • Will_In my own bubble

    I am very cynical about many things (Maybe being British makes me that way!) Anyway I laugh at these conspiracy theories that people come with because there are so many assumptions that are not logical. This article however, is very refreshing to have an analytical stance without emotions attached or outrage. (I hate tabloid newspapers for this reason) "The Economist" is always ahead of the curve in quality journalism, the Chinese have been "helping" (read exploiting) Africa on a large scale since 2005. See here : http://www.economist.com/node/18586448?story_id=18586448Africa will be the next battle ground. 

  • jrexilius

     @JackMurphyRGR  @ColonelProp Yes, they are going to have some problems and it's hard to imagine them becoming quite the global economic powerhouse that people are projecting given the core problems they have. But I doubt the strides forward they are making in regional military strength and influence will disappear.  The Russians didn't look so hot in the early 1900's but eventually proved to be a serious problem.  And that was before you could steal all American commercial and military know-how with a DSL line and some scripts.  And I don't remember us spending billions teaching the Soviets how to build industrial capacity..  

  • JackMurphyRGR

     @ColonelProp  @JackMurphyRGR  @jrexilius Not to mention artificial economic growth in China.  They are going to be a mess in the coming decades...

  • ColonelProp

    @JackMurphyRGR @jrexilius Excellent points all, if I may ramble a bit... I believe China has a bigger issue than raw material to handle, they have a serious demographic issue that will bring them down. They have a huge disparity in this generation between men and women, their government is providing an outlet - likely too late. I believe the excuse is also a valid point. Will we find something we don't like about Uganda that can not get released? Likely, just as I believe the Iraq WMD were found, but their origin could not be released...read the ISG reports. Amazing what they don't address. Should we chase downers? You bet, just don't lie to us. Bring home the troops to lock up the borders..that is the first step to security. Change the tax code, everyone over 18 yrs of age should pay 10% max income tax, same for US corps that make 100% (including energy) of their product here. You will see this country go berserk, less than 2% unemployment (I don't believe the BS stats we see now....). Then we can sit back and pick off our enemies and help our carefully chosen friends...my 2 cents.