March 22, 2017 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 174

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: 2017 French presidential election campaign and the UN counterinsurgency mission in Mali. People: Bill and Nate. Produced: March 20th, 2017.

Episode 174 (51 min):
AFD 174

Further reading:
– 2014: “EU Elections, the Rising Populists, and Why Europe is Worried”
Our partial archives on Mali

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Music by friend of the show @StuntBirdArmy.

Former peacekeeping role model tries to reject peacekeepers

2015 Burundian Constitutional Crisis

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Burundi has consistently been one of the largest contributors to African Union peacekeeping forces for years, but when it comes time for an AU deployment in Burundi suddenly Burundi is a champion of national “sovereignty” and freedom from peacekeeper interference…

“Burundi lawmakers reject AU peacekeeping offer despite spiralling violence” – France24:

Burundi’s parliament on Monday criticised a proposed African Union peacekeeping mission already dismissed by the government as an “invasion force”.

 

Compaoré wanted for 1987 Sankara murder

Burkina Faso’s former longtime dictator Blaise Compaoré, still in exile since his October 2014 ouster, now faces an international arrest warrant for his role in the bloody 1987 coup that brought him to power against his once-friend Captain Thomas Sankara. The body believed to be that of Sankara, while still not positively identified, is “riddled with bullets” according to an autopsy released in October 2015.

Burundi: Political mass murder or ethnic mass murder?

2015 Burundian Constitutional Crisis

Flag of Burundi

Flag of Burundi

Cold comfort from Human Rights Watch — France 24 – “Burundi’s worsening crisis ‘is political, not ethnic’”:

“It’s a different situation from the 1990s,” she said. “This is not an ethnic conflict but a political one, pitting a president who is clinging on to power against a variety of opponents.”

Tertsakian said a handful of politicians had indulged in some sort of ethnic rhetoric to whip up support, but that they had largely failed to ethnicise the crisis.

She added that people targeted by security forces included both Tutsis and Hutus opposed to Nkurunziza.

 
Nearly a hundred people were killed on a single day in capital clashes with security forces last week.

Last month:
“Burundi appears to be sliding into full-blown meltdown”

Op-Ed | France and the West: Inconvenient Questions

This essay originally appeared in The Globalist.

January 2013: French troops being airlifted to Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon)

January 2013: French troops being airlifted to Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon)

Nothing can ever justify or excuse an act of terrorism against civilians. But that does not absolve us from truly comprehending the links between the foreign and military policy approaches pursued by Western governments and the reactions this generates.

The aftermath of a terrorist attack is an especially difficult time to ask difficult questions about strategy. But just as the United States has faced a lot of (justified) criticism for refusing to acknowledge the direct linkages between misguided interventions and blowback incidents, we cannot apply a different yardstick to France.

Watch for the warmongers

This is all the more critical as, in the wake of the events in Paris, there are those pundits and policymakers who are trying to let slip the dogs of war or beat the drums by defining the scourge of “radical Islam” and “homegrown terrorism” as the root of all evil.

If we should have learned one thing by now, it is that tough talk is not the same as serious, strategic policymaking. It is irresponsible to undertake foreign policies without accurately representing to the public the likely risks to them that it will create.

As we assess the future approach, we must also take account of the role that Western governments have played in creating this catastrophe.

This applies especially to all those who glibly claim that ISIS “cannot be contained; it must be defeated,” as Hillary Clinton has just done.

Such an argument conveniently overlooks the fact that it was the U.S. government that inadvertently gave rise to this movement. Its decades of invasions and unpopular interference in the region ultimately culminated in the Pandora’s box war of choice in Iraq. Out of, and in reaction to, these policies grew al Qaeda and ISIS.

The advocates of such a strategy must also explain what can possibly be accomplished by responding with yet more force in an already war-torn region.

An eye for an eye strategy, while sounding principled, makes the whole world blind to the pitfalls such an approach has been triggering.

The French example

France can actually serve as Exhibit A of the pitfalls of a more “muscular” approach. The cruel attacks in Paris are demonstrably reactive in nature.

The unfortunate reality no one wants to discuss at the moment is that France’s Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012) and François Hollande (2012-present) have pushed the envelope for modern France on maintaining a highly aggressive and forcible military presence in majority Muslim countries.

Not since perhaps the Algerian War has France meddled with, sent troops to or bombed so many predominantly Muslim regions in such a short span.

President Sarkozy led regime change in Libya by air campaign in 2011 at the nadir of his domestic popularity. We know what that resulted in. He did it for oil and whatever it was that Iraq War apologist Bernard-Henry Lévy promised him would transpire.

But his successor, President Hollande, went way, way farther — claiming, almost George W. Bush style, that he was fighting ‘them’ over there to protect France from terrorist attacks at home. This approach painted a much bigger target on France’s back.

Hollande’s misadventures

The Hollande record is this: First, he invaded Mali in January 2013, after it collapsed as part of fallout from the Libya meltdown. He did so purportedly to stop terrorism and prevent the creation of a terrorism launching pad near Europe (despite Libya being much closer and truly festering).

In December 2013, he then invaded Central African Republic to ‘save’ Christians from Muslim militias that had already been disbanded. (It did not help that French troops now implicated in widespread child abuse stood by as Christian militias mutilated Muslim civilians’ corpses in front of them.)

In May 2014, Hollande announced a large, permanent rapid strike force deployment to five “Sahel-Sahara” West African nations, all of which were majority or plurality Muslim. He sent jets to bomb Iraq in September 2014. Finally, a year later in September 2015 he sent jets to bomb Syria.

It is difficult to understand Hollande’s declaration that the November 2015 Paris attacks are an “act of war” by ISIS, in view of the reality that France has already been at war with ISIS for more than a year.

Note, too, that the United States was barely involved in half of those misguided efforts.

Whether or not it can match U.S. capacity, France is no longer a junior partner or even hapless “sidekick” to the United States’ mayhem. In that sense, Hollande has gone much further than Tony Blair ever did during the Iraq War episode. Blair restrained himself to just being a sidekick.

France under Hollande has turned itself into an active cyclone by pursuing a militarized foreign policy – a strategy that may prove self-defeating. Read more

Libya talks: A pox on both your houses of parliament

A top Libyan Muslim Brotherhood leader has called for the fractured country’s UN-brokered talks to dump both rival expired governments and start over with a wider table that acknowledges power realities on the ground, according to the Libya Herald:

A peace deal had to be based on national consensus, he said. Moreover, it could not ignore those who had power on the ground, such as the Libya Dawn militias in the west of the country, and in the east, not just members of the Benghazi and Derna shoura councils but the Khalifa Hafter’s Operation Dignity as well. Tribal and political leaders equally had to be involved along with elders from across the country and representatives of Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani’s Dar Al-Ifta, and even supporters of the former regime.

Any attempt to build peace around the HoR [House of Representatives] and the GNC [General National Congress] would fail, he warned. They were deeply unpopular with the Libyan public and could not contribute to stability in Libya.

 
This is pretty fair given that both rival governments’ democratic mandates have now entirely expired and the last UN negotiator turned out to be secretly on the payroll of the United Arab Emirates, which was bombing one of the sides. It’s also worth noting that his list of participants specifically includes the people most virulently opposed to his own faction, as well as various ideological rivals and quasi-allies.

Map of three coastal cities in Libya. Adapted from Wikimedia.

Map of three coastal cities in Libya. Adapted from Wikimedia.

Rwanda hit squads keep targeting hit squad whistleblowers

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

“Rwandan officer who leaked assassination-list evidence becomes a target” – The Globe and Mail

The U.S. State Department warned former Rwandan Major Robert Higiro of a “credible” threat to his life (while residing in Belgium) after his evidential participation in efforts to stop the current Rwandan regime from continuing its global hit squad operations against critics and opposition figures. (This has been an ongoing crisis for many years now.)

Interesting to watch the U.S. State Department finally cooling significantly on its past enthusiasm for the Kagame regime in Kigali, Rwanda — in large part due to Kagame’s bid for an infinite presidency.