President Bush has announced plans to travel to Africa from Feb. 15-21.
His second visit to the continent, the president wants to "see firsthand" the fruits of U.S. efforts in Africa.
Although the president and the State Department consistently boast of the increased benefits of attention paid there, the reality does not reflect the rhetoric.
For the fifth year, the President's own flagship initiative for Africa the "President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief" will remain woefully under-funded. During his Jan. 28 State of the Union Address, he proposed level funding for 2008, making it literally impossible for African nations to get ahead the spread of the virus. His plan will make it possible to merely treat an additional 500,000 new infections in the next five years worldwide. This in the midst of a pandemic that will cost the lives of at least two million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters this year alone. Limiting doctors and healthcare facilities on the African continent even further, President Bush has blocked every effort to increase the effectiveness of treatment dollars, by refusing to allow countries to buy generic medications instead of costly brand name drugs. It is clear he is not serious about assisting the people of the African continent.
What does President Bush take seriously? U.S. military positioning and control of the African continent's natural resources. According to the National Intelligence Council, the United States is likely to draw 25 percent of its oil from West Africa by 2015, surpassing the Persian Gulf.
Despite overwhelming opposition by African nations, the Pentagon has begun to restructure U.S. forces to bring the new Africa Command online, with a headquarters on the continent and "lily pads" around the continent. These lily pads allow for "forward basing" of U.S. military enabling them to ignore national boundaries and political sensitivities.
In the face of opposition, the administration has begun to spin new stories lauding the benefits of good works completed by U.S. military forces in Djibouti, such as water wells and good roads for the poorest of Africa's poor. However, Djibouti, which hosts the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, remains a country strapped with political concerns and rampant disease with the average life expectancy of 43 years for its citizens. There is no evidence that the presence of the U.S. military automatically improves the lives of Africans.
The historical record cannot be disputed. U.S. military power has left nations devastated and unstable. Past administrations have under-funded vital programs, undermined indigenous democracies, backed vicious dictators and used the African continent as a playground for proxy wars. In short, there is little reason that U.S. military motives on the African continent can be trusted.
The price of oil is at an all-time high. The African continent is becoming an attractive investment site for many other growing economies, notably China. Africa's governments and peoples know the Bush Administration and its corporate allies want to ensure U.S. control over the continent's vast resources.
Some have said this new attention will put the African continent more at the center of U.S. foreign policy. Administration officials have claimed that a US military presence on the continent proves that Africa is important and central to the US. But not all attention is good. Iraq and Afghanistan remain at the center of our Pentagon-driven foreign policy and we can all see the devastating, deadly results.