It is clear that power relations in the global system have been severely tested since the events of September 11, 2001, so much so that it has become fashionable these days for people to argue that the world has irrevocably changed with those events. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on September 11th, 2001 were calculated moves to test the standing and political and economic positions of the world’s sole superpower. They were aimed at delivering a blow that could carry several messages around the world at once. Indeed, it is clear that this fateful event was a manifestation of the contradictions of the modern world system since its foundation some five hundred years ago, and the messages the attacks were calculated to transmit were intended to convey to all and sundry those contradictions.

The first of these messages was the expression of anger by those disaffected social and political forces, that felt mistreated, marginalized, and oppressed by U.S. global power relations. The second was to demonstrate to the U.S. that those global power relations were vulnerable and could be attacked at the very heart of the system any time. Thirdly, the attacks gave signal to other disaffected groups opposed to U.S. dominance of the world that it was possible to weaken this power in such a way that their grievances could be addressed through the overthrow of that system. Fourthly, by attacking these two pillars of U.S. economic and military power, al Qaeda wanted to demonstrate that the U.S. was not as powerful as it thought and that its economic power and military power could be broken down by well organized, and well manned attacks.

These messages had other side interpretations. To U.S. neo-conservative forces as well as to some in the right-wing liberal political establishment, these attacks signaled an attempt by fundamentalist political Islam to overthrow Western civilization at the core and, in this respect, the attacks were interpreted as not just constituting a threat to the U.S. as a country but to the whole Christian, western civilization project. This was in fact what president Bush dubbed an “attack on civilization” in his condemnation of the strikes. This interpretation had the effect of influencing the way the world looked at the attack and the U.S. response to it. While not necessarily accepting this interpretation, it forced all foreign governments, with the exception of the very few, to side with the U.S. ideologically on the issue. Thus in addition to the overwhelming humanistic outpouring of sympathy for the victims, it enabled the Bush administration to arm-twist all governments and individuals throughout the world to side with its response on the grounds that the attacks were not on the U.S. as such but on “civilization” in general. It forced these governments to side with the U.S. government, faced with its accompanying threat that: “Either you are with us, or you are against us.”

At the same time, the attacks had other interpretations. The generalization of the consequences of the attack also put emergent “anti-globalization” activists on the spot since any attempt by them to express sympathy with the attackers by asking that the causes of the attacks be examined and addressed was interpreted as being “unpatriotic” expression of sympathy with “the enemy.” For this reason, the attacks had the effect of dampening the activities of the global solidarity movement, at least for some time, since its strong showing at the Seattle WTO demonstrations in 1999. This interpretation was also used to crack down on the democratic and civil rights of U.S. citizens and to reinforce authoritarian regimes throughout the world. Thus, the event and the reactions surrounding it were turned from a political discourse into a moral-religious event in which “the enemy” was equated with evil and barbarism, while the victim was equated with virtue and civilization.

Nevertheless, these interpretations have begun to have an opposite effect in that the widening of the net in “the war against terrorism” with the attack against Iraq has caused many countries to pose questions that were not posed earlier. Questions are being asked whether the tragic events of September 11 are not being misinterpreted to advance a narrow political agenda of some cliques within the U.S. political establishment. Something like a return to a political discourse is beginning to emerge with a call being made to address the real causes that led to the September 11th attacks against the headquarters of the “Free World” and for the United Nations to resume its responsibilities for international peace and security. President Bush’s threats against the United Nations to act according to his will “or become irrelevant” are being taken as rantings of a president whose unilateralism has gone wild. The war against Iraq has again undermined the hope of a return to a multilateral world.

In may ways, therefore, these events, and particularly the unilateral action of launching the war against Iraq with the support of Britain and the so-called “alliance of the willing,” have confirmed a predictable hegemonic trend in U.S. foreign policy since the end of World War 2. This trend has afflicted all great hegemonic powers in history. Nevertheless the role of the U.S. in international relations since the end of that war has confirmed the traditional realist and hegemonic stability theories, which have argued that for the stability of institutions of global international public good to prevail, there must be a hegemonic power that is able to enforce certain rules of behavior in international relations, because the hegemon in that case can afford the short-run costs of achieving the long-run gains, which also happens to be in its national interests. These theories have been challenged by institutional stability theorists, who have argued that the model of institutionalized hegemony, which explains the functioning of multilateral arrangements based on the cooperation of a number of core countries to overcome “market failures,” is preferable to the hegemonic power model [Keohane, 1980].

The U.S. in the post-war order

The hegemonic stability theories seem to have been backed by evidence of the early phase of the post-World War 2 period in which the U.S. was able to push the former European imperial powers to accept a multilateral economic system, which existed beside the United Nations system, with the U.S. playing the leading role. This Bretton Woods system was predicated on the coincidence of three favorable political conditions. The first was the concentration of both political and economic power in the hands of a small number of (western) states; secondly, the existence of a cluster of important (economic and political) interests shared by those states; and thirdly, the presence of a dominant power “willing and able” to assume a leadership role in the new situation [Spero, 1977: 29].

It is the evolution of the contradictions of this combination that Spero spoke about that has created the predicament in which the present situation for the U.S. arises. The domination of the U.S. in global economic and strategic institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and the Bretton Woods institutions characterized the Cold War period. These institutions expressed the interests of the western powers (at first hostile to Japanese emergence on the world economic scene) as the culmination of the western modern system based on liberal-monopolistic capitalism. The institutions also expressed political military power that the western countries wielded throughout the world. Western systems of economic, political, and military power in fact protected those economic interests that were threatened by “communism,” and as time passed, by the emergent nationalism of what came to be called “Third World” or “developing” countries.

Indeed, as Paul Kennedy argued in his book: The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers [1988], economic power is always needed to underpin military power, while the latter is also necessary in order to acquire and protect wealth that superpower status demands. The problem arises when a disproportionate share of a hegemon’s economic resources is increasingly diverted from wealth-creation and allocated to military purposes. The result is the weakening of the economic backbone of the military power of the hegemon in the long run, which often leads to its eventual collapse.

This reality took some time to come through in the case of the U.S. The rise of U.S. transnational corporations in the world economy, for a time, reinforced U.S. economic, political, and strategic power, which many states in the world were obliged to comply with due to the imperatives of the situation. Having suffered from its isolationism of the interwar years and thereby contributing to the eventual collapse of the economic system and of the peace that had followed World War 1, the U.S. in the period following World War 2 was prepared for an outward push through the Bretton Woods multilateral system and the NATO alliance.

Having settled into the role of a superpower only challenged by the Soviet Union, the U.S. begun to pursue a series of policies in the international arena that tended to undermine its own political belief in the independence of states against European colonialism. To some extent, this was prompted by U.S. determination to resist “communism.” But that consideration was only marginal. The real major consideration was the need to defend a western system of values built around Christianity, liberal democracy, and world capitalism. Now these values and interests appear to be threatened by the al Qaeda attack on the U.S.

Regarding its relations with Third World countries, many of these countries originally considered the U.S. to be a “progressive” and friendly power because of its opposition to the European colonial system, especially in the interwar years and the immediate post-war period. U.S. partial support for the right of self-determination for colonial countries, articulated in the Wilsonian “Fourteen Point” Speech after World War 1, symbolized this “progressive” image. But soon the U.S.’s own economic and strategic interests compelled it to structure the post-war multilateral system in such a manner that its hegemonic interests were taken care of globally. It was therefore not surprising that its role as a neo-colonial power emerged in the course of this historical process. This reality was revealed in its dealings with the former colonial powers, as both began to rely on NATO to suppress the struggles for self-determination against the former British and Portuguese colonies in Southern Africa and elsewhere.

The same happened in other parts of the Third World—in Asia and Latin America. The existence of the U.S.S.R. as an opposite hegemonic power implied the need to confront it not only on its own home ground, but also in the now politically independent countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. From confronting Cuba in the U.S.’s own back yard, the “anti-communist” crusade spread to all regions of the world. The United States came to increasingly rely on right-wing military rulers as “comrades in arms” in the fight “against communism” in Third World countries. They increasingly supported military dictators such as Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, General Suharto in Indonesia, General Mobutu in Congo, as well as General Pinochet in Chile.

These dictators represented the rear-guard of United States policy in the Cold War period in Third World countries. A stage was reached when the fight against the U.S.S.R. was equivalent to the fight for control of the world’s natural and human resources for the benefit of the “Free World” against those of the East led by the U.S.S.R. Oil, strategic materials, and mineral wealth as well as trade and investment outlets became vital strategic areas to defend.

The Oil Crisis of the mid-1970s signaled the heightening of the United States political and strategic position in the Middle East, as we have seen, while the survival of Israel in the sea of Arab nationalism also determined the shape of U.S. foreign policy in that area. Arab nationalism and the Palestinian struggle against Israel appeared to contradict United States global policy and this set the environment for the September 11th events. Indeed, the U.S. has viewed the Middle East as an “arc of crisis” since the late 1970s.

It will be remembered that in 1979 President Carter signed Presidential Directive 18 to order the creation of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF), composed of some 250,000 men and women, designed to meet contingencies after the Iranian revolution. The force was supposed to protect U.S. interests in 19 countries stretching all the way from Morocco through the Persian Gulf up to Pakistan, which the Pentagon regarded as the “cockpit of global crisis in the 1980s.” In fact the real purpose was the protection of the oil fields in the area.

With the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the RDF was expanded. By 1984, the force had been expanded to 400,000 men and women to be on the standby for action in the “worst case scenario” of possible Soviet invasion of Iran. This understanding was based on the calculation that by 1985, the Soviet Union would have become a net importer of oil and therefore constituted a serious competitor to the U.S. monopoly of Arab oil. This happened during the second oil crisis in 1979, a period heightened by the instability in Iran, which has never ended as far as the U.S. is concerned. All these developments are interlinked and therefore provide a necessary background to understanding pre- and post-September 11 developments.

The U.S. in the post-September 11 world

Old and New Alliances

The above background clearly demonstrates that the U.S. has throughout the period of its hegemony used its power to bolster its interests, which in many cases in effect meant the U.S. standing against the interests of the peoples of the Third World. Its support for reactionary and authoritarian regimes has not abated even in the post-Soviet period. Clearly, the collapse of the Soviet empire very much eased its strategic pressures, but the much vaunted and expected “peace dividend” never materialized. This is because the U.S. has continued to face military challenges to its power and its major concerns now are how it can reign in “rogue” and “terrorist” states, which constitute the “axis of evil.” The enemy image has shifted from the U.S.S.R. to these “rogue” states in the Third World. The events of September 11th must, therefore, in our view, be seen as part of this strategic problem facing the U.S. since its assumption of leadership of western interests against the rest of the world. Having played a role in the collapse of the U.S.S.R., it finds itself faced with an even stronger enemy within the ranks of Third World nationalism, which in its judgment constitutes many terrorist and “rogue” states and groups.

In comprehending the issues at stake, it is important to focus on the year 1979 as the watershed in the emergence of this new U.S. dilemma. This watershed was marked by the decline of Soviet power, especially weakened by its defeats in the war in Afghanistan; while at the same time, 1979 also signaled the beginnings of challenges to U.S. power in the Muslim world starting with the Iranian revolution of that year. It has also to be noted that that year and the following year also signaled a shift of western political power to the right—with the rise of Margaret Thatcher in the U.K. and Ronald Reagan in the U.S.

Supporting Muslim forces against the U.S.S.R. in Afghanistan in its efforts to “contain” the Soviet influence in the Middle East, the U.S. created a temporary convergence of interests with the radical Islamist groups in its anti-Soviet confrontation, while at the same time creating conditions for the emergence of radical political Islamism. For a time, the convergence of interests was beneficial to the U.S., but there began to emerge a divergence of interest with the collapse of the Soviet Union. This force eventually grew and assumed political importance, which eventually turned against U.S. expansionism in the Middle East. In this sense, it can be said that the collapse of the U.S.S.R. was at the same time the beginnings of the problems for the U.S. with the Muslim world in the Middle East, and in the Third World in general. In that scenario, it can be said that the seeds that germinated and forced their way out of the ground on September 11th were sown in the Afghanistan anti-Soviet war.

Samuel Huntington, in his book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order [1997], located the rise of radical Islamism in the squalor of the marginalized Moslem masses in the Arab world in the mid-seventies. It is also well known that the Iranian Islamic revolution was, to a great extent, fueled by the worsening economic conditions in Iran that led to mass discontent and eventual rebellion. The discontent was clearly linked to western (imperialist) dominance in the region, where foreign oil corporations exploited local oil resources in alliance with the traditional ruling families against the interests of the masses of the people. These contradictions are still at the core of the conflicts in the region, which the U.S. continues to ignore.

One consequence of this development was to put radical and militant Islam at the center of the Muslim states, whose leaders were increasingly challenged to abandon western symbols of power. The enemy was the cultural imperialism of the west led by the U.S. From that broad anti-imperialist strategy, the Islamic radicals were able to win support for their cause from non-Muslim Third World peoples. In working for the defeat of communism in Afghanistan and the world as a whole, the U.S. played on the Muslim and Christian fundamentalist fear of communism as a “godless creed.” The U.S. worked closely with Islamic fundamentalists so long as this served its global hegemonic ambitions in defending its oil bases in the Persian Gulf region. At the same time, it pursued the secular values of democracy, freedom, and justice, which were perceived by its allies as hypocritical.

With the collapse of communism in 1989, the U.S. in its triumphalism, symbolized by the new drive for globalization, begun to be viewed by the Islamic forces as an equally “godless creed” with its emphasis on empty materialism and consumerism. This was seen as a soulless and nihilistic cultural imperialism, which was being imposed on the Arab and Muslim peoples. It was a challenge to the Islamic belief in a non-secular state system as well as to the values of western style nationalism. The U.S. could no longer invoke the Cold War in its support, since the Soviet Union was now also becoming a capitalist and secular system. Its earlier alliance with radical Islam, which enabled the U.S. to recruit people like Osama Bin Laden to its anti-communism cause, began to wane. Its support among the Taliban could only be maintained by bribery and corruption in pursuit of its materialist creed and ambitions.

Still in search of oil

So in order to understand the September 11th events without conjuring up conspiracy theories, it is important to note that the issue of the change of the Taliban government in Afghanistan was uppermost in the minds of certain business and political interests in the U.S. at the material time. In testimony before the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Region of the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives on February 12, 1998, John J. Maresca, the UNOCAL vice-president for international relations, argued that there was need for multiple pipeline routes for Central Asian oil and gas resources, as well as the need for the U.S. to support international and regional efforts aimed at achieving balanced and lasting political settlements to the conflicts in the region, “including Afghanistan.” He also pointed out that there was need for U.S. “structured assistance” to encourage economic reforms and the development of appropriate investment climates in the region. Therefore, in his view, one major problem, which had as yet to be resolved, was how to get the region’s vast energy resources to the markets where they are needed.

At this time, there was a consortium of 11 foreign oil companies, including four American companies, Unocal, Amoco, Exxon and Pennzoil, which were involved in the exploration in the region. This consortium conceived of two possible routes, one line angling north and crossing the north Caucasus to Novorossiysk; the other route across Georgia to a shipping terminal on the Black Sea, which could be extended west and south across Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. But even if both pipelines were built, they would not have had enough total capacity to transport all the oil expected to flow from the region in the future. Nor could they have had the capability to move it to the right markets.

The second option was to build a pipeline south from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean. One obvious route south would cross Iran, but this was foreclosed for American companies because of U.S. sanctions legislation against Iran. In Maresca’s view, the only other possible route was across Afghanistan, which had of course its own unique challenges. The country had been involved in bitter warfare for almost two decades, and is still divided by civil war. He emphasized: “From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company” [Emphasis added].

These developments indicate that the whole situation around September 11th can now be seen to have been part of a wider geo-strategic process of U.S. economic and political interests. While not conjuring up conspiracy theories, one can surmise that there was more to the incidents than meets the eye. It is reported that senior U.S. officials in mid-July 2001 told Niaz Naik, a former Pakistani Foreign Secretary, that military action was planned to be taken against the Taliban by mid-October, 2001. Bush declared war against Afghanistan, though the Taliban did not order the attack on the U.S. It was alleged by the U.S. government that Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi national residing in Afghanistan, ordered the attack. The U.S. action against Afghanistan resulted in the ouster of the Taliban regime and a change of government. Was this a calculated move or was it a genuine war against terrorism? Within a few months of the ouster of the Taliban regime, the U.S. government under President Bush quietly announced on January 31, 2002 that it would support the construction of the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline. Then on February 2, 2002 the Irish Times announced that President Musharraf of Pakistan (now popularly known as Busharraf) and the new Afghan leader, Mohamed Karzai, had “announced an agreement to build the proposed gas pipeline from Central Asia to Pakistan via Afghanistan.” Although September 11th might have been an event that took place independently of the wishes of the U.S. oil interests in the area, the issues connected with the event were clearly interlinked [Onyango-Obbo: 2002:8].

Africa in the ‘new world order’

The events of September 11th have had a spectacular impact on the African continent. Although terrorist attacks against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania signaled a new development for these countries in terms of their security, which U.S. presence posed, the issue was nevertheless seen as a distant threat. In the new situation and due to pressures from the U.S. government, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in October 2001 quickly adopted a Declaration Against Terrorism, which had different connotations from the earlier initiatives by the African States themselves. At the same time, efforts were exerted to propose a Treaty on Terrorism in terms of the new definitions emanating from the U.S. Before September 11th, the OAU had in July 1999 adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, which in article 1 condemned “all forms of terrorism” and appealed to member states to review their national legislation to establish criminal offences against those engaged in such acts. The Convention had gone a step further to define terrorism and to distinguish it from the legitimate use of violent struggle by individuals and groups. The Convention pointed out that political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other motives could not be used as justifiable defense for terrorism. Nevertheless, in article 3 (1) it declared:

Notwithstanding the provisions of article 1, the struggle waged by peoples in accordance with the principles of international law for their liberation or self-determination, including armed struggle against colonialism, occupation, aggression and domination by foreign forces shall not be considered as acts of terrorism.

It can be seen here that the African states had made some attempt to be objective on what constituted terrorism. But the events of September 11th seem to have pulled the clock backwards. Soon after the attacks on the U.S., the U.S. National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, reminded the African States that:

One of the most important and tangible contributions that Africa can make now is to make clear to the world that this war is one in which we are all united. … We need African nations, particularly those with large Muslim populations, to speak out at every opportunity to make clear … that this is not a war of civilizations. … Africa’s history and geography give it a pivotal role in the war. … Africa is uniquely positioned to contribute, especially diplomatically through your nations’ memberships in African and Arab and international organizations and fora, to the sense that this is not a war of civilizations. This is a war of civilizations against those who would be uncivilized in their approach towards us [Emphasis added].

Following this appeal, the OAU Central Organ in November 2001 issued a Communiqué on terrorism in which the organization “stressed that terrorism is a universal phenomenon that is not associated with any particular religion, culture or race.” It added that terrorism “constitutes a serious violation of human rights, in particular, the rights to physical integrity, life, freedom and security.” The Communiqué also added that terrorism “poses a threat to the stability and security of States; and impedes their socio-economic development.” The Communiqué further stressed that terrorism cannot be justified under any circumstances and consequently, it “should be combated in all its forms and manifestations, including those in which states are involved directly or indirectly, without regard to its origin, causes, and objectives.”

This Communiqué demonstrated sensitivity to the problem of terrorism because of the multiethnic, multireligious, multiracial, and multicultural composition of the continental organization. It specifically excluded the religious connotations that terrorism was having in the U.S. It included, to some extent, state-sponsored terrorism as part of the evils to be combated, “without regard to its origins, causes or objectives.” But in another sense, many states now began to respond to the dictates of the Bush administration in their understanding of the problem in order to curry favor with the U.S. Some African States initiated legislation directed at their internal opposition in terms of the new U.S. definitions of terrorism. Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Uganda were the first ones to do so.

Uganda, in particular, emphasized the fact that it had been fighting terrorism even before the U.S. began to do so consistently. It rushed legislation though parliament, which was aimed at the legitimate opposition as well as groups fighting the government by way of “armed struggle.” These groups fighting the government “in the bush” were listed and sent to the U.S. and the UNO to be included among terrorist organizations. The Lords Resistance Army (LRA) and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), fighting in different parts of Uganda, were now listed internationally as terrorist organizations. At the same time, a law against terrorism was also rushed through parliament, which the opposition regarded as being targeted against them. Soon, it listed its opponents as “terrorists” to be treated as criminals in any part of the world.

These negative developments indicated the real impact on world affairs initiated by the U.S. response to terrorism. The statement by Condoleezza Rice demonstrated the concerns of the U.S. government as to the role Africa could play in the “war.” But it missed the very important point that Africa was largely a Christian and Muslim continent, where these two civilizations met and intermingled with African traditional religions and civilizations. This combination has created a more racially, religiously, and culturally tolerant continent. Indeed, it is said that the American officials in Guinea were extremely impressed by the fact that on the very day of the attack against the U.S., the entire Cabinet of the government of Guinea, which is an all Muslim country, went in one body to the U.S. Embassy in Conakry to deliver their condolences to the American people. This single incident demonstrated that African Islam was important to the U.S. in moderating Islamic radicals on the continent.

The pursuit for oil in Africa

But the U.S.—in its usual way of “divide and rule” to maintain its hegemonic position in the world—has already seized on this positive African approach and tried to pit Africans against the Arabs on the issue of oil to break the solidarity among the Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries (OPEC). It is this hegemonic “divide and rule” imperialist strategy that turns “friends” into enemies at any time it pleases the U.S. government. It is this same approach in an earlier phase that, in the U.S. interests for oil, used Saudi Arabia as a “friend” of the U.S. in order to weaken the Arab peoples’ cause for nationhood, but was now turning against it when it did not any longer suit those interests.

On 25th January 2002, the State Department released information at a breakfast seminar sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS) entitled: “African Oil: A Priority for U.S. National Security and African Development” about the projected U.S. strategies on oil and the growing importance of African oil to the U.S. economy. The U.S. officials, among them an Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Walter Kunsteiner, added: “It is undeniable that this (oil) has become of national strategic interest to us.”

According to James Dunlop, an assistant to Kunsteiner, who also spoke at the meeting, the United States already was getting 15 per cent of its oil imports from the African continent, and the figure was growing. A U.S. Air Force, Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, a political/military officer assigned to the Office of Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, confirmed that Africa was important to U.S. national security. She authoritatively added that she spoke as ” a U.S. government policymaker in the area of sub-Saharan Africa and national security interests.” She tried to justify the shift in U.S. interests by pointing out that the U.S. relationship to African countries was non-colonial, based on a generally positive history. In this, she did not refer to the past relationship of slave trade, which had a negative impact on today’s development prospects for Africa. What was important to the U.S. at this juncture was to try to woo African states in the new strategic game of U.S. “security interests” and Africa’s oil had now become important to the U.S. security interests because the availability of Arab oil could no longer be relied upon. According to the U.S. National Intelligence Council’s document “Global Trends 2015” report, which came out in December 2001 after the September attack, 25 per cent of U.S. oil imports in 2015 were projected to come from sub-Saharan Africa. The prime energy location sites were in West Africa, Sudan, and Central Africa.

In this respect, Africa was seen as being important for the “diversification of our sources of imported oil” away from the “troubled areas of the Middle East and other politically high-risk areas.” In fact this drive to diversify sources of oil was behind the U.S. policy to bring about “regime change” in Iraq. In this context, the vast oil and gas reserves of Africa, Russia and the Asian Caspian regions had become critical for U.S. hegemony. The proven reserves of the African continent were said to be well over 30 billion barrels of oil, and over 40 different types of crude were available. Under current projections, the U.S. expects to import over 770 million barrels of African petroleum by the year 2020. U.S. investments in this direction were expected to increase so that by 2003, these would exceed $10 billion a year. Between two-thirds and three-fourths of U.S. direct investment in Africa will be in the energy sector, and this was expected to contribute to Africa’s economic development.

The U.S. has vigorously begun to pursue this policy in the Sudan and Nigeria. Recent U.S. peace moves in the Sudan are linked to this strategy. At a dinner honoring Reverend Leon Sullivan on the 20th of June 2002, President Bush stated that the U.S. would continue the search for peace in the Sudan, while at the same time seeking to end her sponsorship of terrorism. He added:

Since September the 11th there is no question that the government of Sudan has made useful contributions in cracking down on terror. But Sudan can and must do more. And Sudan’s government must understand that ending and stopping its sponsorship of terror outside Sudan is no substitute for efforts to stop war inside Sudan. Sudan’s government cannot continue to block and manipulate U.N. food deliveries, and must not allow slavery to persist.

It was therefore imperative to put to an end the war in the Sudan in order to explore the vast oil resources in all Sudan. It was estimated that 3-4 billion barrels of oil lie in the Southern Sudd area of the country, which was under the control of the SPLM. The new anti-terrorism policy in Sudan, combined with the shift of U.S. strategic considerations from the Middle East in terms of oil production, required that a peace settlement be worked on as a matter of priority and this explains the role the U.S. played in bringing about the Machakos Peace Agreement between the government of Sudan and the SPLM in July 2002. Recently, the Sudanese government in the North reported that it had discovered a new oil source in the Northern parts of the country. This suggested that the U.S. would in the future play the South against the North in order to assure itself of energy supplies. Hence its efforts to bring about peace in the Sudan were not wholly genuine.

As regards Nigeria, the U.S. government is said to be targeting the Gulf of Guinea as a replacement to the Gulf of Persia as the future main source of U.S. oil imports. This region is now dubbed the “Africa Kuwait” in the U.S. strategic lexicon. A White Paper submitted to the U.S. Government by the African Oil Policy Initiative Group (AOPIG), pointed to the growing fear of insecurity in the continued supply of crude oil from the troubled Persian Gulf. According to Dr. Paul Michael Wihbey, a leading member and Fellow of the American Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (AIASPS), the U.S. expected to double its oil imports from Nigeria from 900,000 barrels per day to around 1.8 million barrels per day in the next five years. He pointed out that one major lesson of the September 11th terrorist attack was that the U.S. needed to diversify its major source of oil away from the Persian Gulf. A Lagos newspaper quoted him as saying:

Statistics from the US Department of Energy showed African oil exports to the US will rise to 50 percent of total oil supply by 2015. Nigeria is the energy super power of Africa. The private sector, small and major operators, administration and officials, have come to realize that Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea are of strategic importance to the US.

The U.S. government had in fact already begun discussions on the new initiative with the Nigerian government. An important factor that was creating a greater focus on its oil was that Nigeria had created an atmosphere of stability since the democratically elected government of President Olusegun Obasanjo had come to power. U.S. President George W. Bush visited Nigeria and four other African countries in the first quarter of 2003. In fact all this made a lot of sense at the very time when the U.S. was distancing itself from Saudi Arabia, its former ally. A briefing to a Pentagon defense panel described Saudi Arabia as a “kernel of evil.” The Washington Post of August 6, 2002 reported that the briefing had described Saudi Arabia as the enemy of the U.S. Laurent Murawiec, in his July 10th 2002 briefing, is said to have stated: “The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from ideologists to cheerleaders.” He added that Saudi Arabia supported U.S. enemies and also attacked U.S. allies. He described Saudi Arabia as “the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the dangerous opponent” in the Middle East. The Washington Post added that although the briefing did not reflect official U.S. policy, these views represented a “growing currency” within the Bush administration. Yet in trying to play Africa against the Arab world, the U.S. was exploiting certain weaknesses within the African polity created by the European colonial strategy of “divide and rule.” The U.S. reasoned that its reliance on African sources of oil was better assured in Africa than in the Arab world. One official argued that it would be difficult to find a Saddam Hussein in Africa. The reason was Africa’s political disunity because of the African political elite having accepted former colonial boundaries as sacrosanct. The U.S. could exploit these divisions even more, especially when it came to the “Anglophone” and “francophone” divisions, which the U.S. and France could exploit to advance their interests. Moreover, it could also exploit the democracy and good governance cards to topple regimes that put road blocks in its way.

It is clear that the U.S. had gained wide acceptance of its anti-terrorist policies among the majority of African States. There is also indication that although at the G8 Summit at Kananaskis (Alberta, Canada) the U.S. did not offer much by way of financial backing to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the U.S. and other members of the G8 had placed great importance on the NEPAD initiative if only because it gave Nigeria and South Africa a predominant voice in Africa’s affairs. It was believed that these two countries would bring the other African leaders under disciplined control through the Peer Review Mechanism on Good Governance, which the leaders had imposed on themselves as a condition for financial support for NEPAD.

Indeed, one of the very first “projects” under NEPAD was a project to fight terrorism. During his whistle-stop tour of West Africa in April 2002, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, acknowledged that the September 11th attacks on the United States had effected a real change in the way everybody looked at the world. In his address to the Ghana Parliament, Blair argued that increased financial support to Africa was part of the process of fighting “terrorism” because engaging African states could reduce the risk of their becoming “breeding grounds for the kind of people who carried out the U.S. attacks.” He further argued: “If we leave failed states in parts of Africa, the problems sooner or later end up on our door step.” So the African countries are part and parcel of the September 11th alliance against terrorism, but African continued support will depend on how the U.S. plays its game, which is very dicey.

Africa must pursue Ubuntu policy

The U.S. attack on Iraq has altered the situation somewhat. South Africa played a key role in developing an anti-Iraq war position for the African Union and the Non-Aligned Movement, which came out with strong statements against the war. President Mbeki of South Africa is chairperson of both organizations. Almost all the African states took a position against the war. The only exception is the so-called “New Breed” of African leaders from Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Rwanda. All these countries are in internal and cross-border conflicts themselves and so it suits them to try to woo the U.S. in the war against each other. Moreover the anti-terrorism rhetoric of President Bush and the U.S. government also seems to help them to fight one another on the basis that they are against terrorism promoted by the other. This is non-sustainable.

The U.S. also did not play its Iraq war game well with some of African states. According to an investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, the C.I.A. Chief, George Tenet, told a closed-door session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that between 1999 and 2001, Iraq had sought to buy 500 tonnes of uranium oxide from the African state of Niger, which would have been enough to build 100 nuclear bombs. This so-called connivance of Niger with Iraq was later used in the British government “Iraq Dossier” to prove that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The same “fact sheet” was cited by President Bush in his State of the Union Address on the issue of Iraq. It was used to “prove” that since it had tried to “cover up” this purchase, it was also lying about its program for developing weapons of mass destruction. According to the investigative reporter, this story about Iraq’s attempted purchase of Uranium from Niger was used as “evidence” to convince the U.S Congress to endorse military action against Iraq.

In less than two weeks before the initial U.S. bombing of Iraq, the Head of the Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, decisively discredited the accusations that had all along been denied by Niger, but with no one paying attention. The documents, which were allegedly exchanged between the governments of Niger and Iraq confirming the deal, were proved to have been forged. The documents consisted of a series of faked letters between Iraq and Niger officials. One letter that was dated July 2000 bore an amateurish forgery of the Niger president’s signature. Another letter was sent over the name of a person identified as Niger’s foreign minister, when that person had left the position ten years prior to the date of the letter!

The selection of Niger—a poor African country with little voice internationally—as the fall guy was also intentional. According to Hersh, the forgers assumed that it would be much more credible to implicate a poor African country rather than any one of the other three leading exporters of uranium oxide: Canada, Australia and Russia. While these countries could have proved the charges false, Niger, on the other hand, lacked the means of persuading the world that the accusations were false.

It is very impressive that despite Africa’s marginalisation and poverty, very few African states have been wooed to be part of the “alliance of the willing.” Most impressive was the resistance by Cameroun, Guinea and Angola, at the time African alternate members of the Security Council, to accept U.S. bullying and bribery to support the alliance against Iraq. These examples go to show that small states can stand up to great power pressure and maintain a new human morality based on a democratic world order. What the U.S. wanted to achieve in Iraq with high-tech “smart weapons” was to demonstrate to all that whatever the U.S. says “goes.” This kind of political behavior would not be a world order, but an attempt to create world disorder.

Africa should therefore stand firm in support of the United Nations and in solidarity with the Arab world in these testing times, despite the fact that some Arab countries participated in the enslavement of the African people and, indeed, continue to do so in Mauritania and Sudan. Africans continue to suffer at the hands of Arab enslavers, who are committing acts of genocide against them in these two countries. It is the duty of Africans to unite and continue to resist these acts of inhumanity and pursue claims for reparations against those Arab countries that participated in this trade and the continued acts of slave trade even up to the present moment. At the same time Africa must insist that these and similar acts, including acts of terrorism and state-terrorism against other peoples, be solved on the basis of internationally agreed solutions based on principles of international law and Ubuntu.

These principles include truth, acceptance of responsibility, compensation and reparation for wrongs against other human beings, justice, and reconciliation. Ubuntu draws deeply from African civilisational values. According to former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, later to become chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa:

Africans have this thing called UBUNTU… the essence of being human. It is part of the gift that Africans will give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, willing to go the extra mile for the sake of others. We believe a person is a person through another person, that my humanity is caught up, bound up and inextricable in yours. When I dehumanize you I inexorably dehumanize myself. The solitary individual is a contradiction in terms and, therefore, you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own community, in belonging [Mukanda & Mulemfo, 2000: 52-62].

These philosophic values called Ubuntu also draw from other cultures and civilizations. It is the only civilized way we can manage problems and handle disputes in the twenty-first century, which should be a century of peace. Africa has therefore acted correctly in refusing to side with the U.S. in its war against Iraq. It is an unfair war. Such a war will have the fateful consequences of harming the interests of the Arab peoples, but also have adverse consequences for international security, which would affect African countries as well. Africa should also disassociate itself from the actions of the Bush administration in declaring Iran, Iraq, and North Korea to be the “Axis of Evil.” African states should maintain contacts and relations with all these countries. Mzee Mandela gave a lead in responding to what the U.S. regarded as terrorism when it tried to isolate Libya over the Lockerbie aircraft-bombing affair. Mandela broke the blockade against Libya by visiting Tripoli against U.S. protestations. By so doing he strengthened the African states, which also resolved to end the blockade through the Organization of African Unity (OAU). This African action made it possible for Libya to cooperate more willingly with the international community in resolving the dispute through the courts and is now part of the alliance in the fight against terrorism under UN resolutions.

Furthermore, Mzee Nelson Mandela correctly refrained from endorsing Bush’s blank concept of “terrorism” by qualifying it to not apply to genuine cases of peoples’ discontent. He argued that the right to self-determination and other peoples’ rights should not be confused with terrorism. He argued that it is by ignoring these rights, as in the case of Palestine, that acts of violence occur, which some people may prefer to describe as terrorism. He explained that these kinds of violence are the result of frustrations arising out of the non-recognition of peoples’ demands for the right to self-determination and peoples’ democratic rights. Later he called Bush a “bully” when he dismissed Iraq’s unconditional acceptance of the United Nations return of weapons inspectors and called on the U.S. to respect the United Nations. He also condemned those leaders in the world who kept quiet “when one country wants to bully the whole world.”

This is the way forward. We cannot keep quiet to the gimmicks of an outlaw behaving as if he were in the “Wild West” when it comes to the responsibilities of states to maintain peace and security in the world. While Saddam Hussein himself might have behaved like a bully himself, that is not the way he should be treated. The philosophy of “tooth for tooth, eye for eye” leaves all of us toothless and blind. We need a humane way of handling human affairs and a reasonable system of conflict management, control and resolution, which the Ubuntu philosophy offers. Therefore, the only civilized way of dealing with these issues is through the principles and spirit of Ubuntu in international relations.

The U.S. should emulate this African Ubuntu approach instead of following the path of violent confrontations with the Arab countries and Muslim political groups engaged in violence against it for causes that need to be addressed in a humane way. Violence begets violence and those who are more powerful should be more guarded in resorting to its use. As the English proverb has it: “those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” This truism holds for the U.S. as well. Instead the U.S. should acknowledge the right of all peoples’ to self-determination, including the right of the Palestinian people, for whom the Bush administration has had little regard. We cannot afford to have one set of rules for the Palestinians and another set of rules for the Israelis. A completely new approach to the problems of the 21st century is required and the answer lies in ensuring security for all in all its manifestations.

We agree with Francis Kornegay of the Center for Africa’s International Relations, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, when he suggests that Africa should be declared a zone of peace, which the African Union could monitor. This would be part of a doctrine in international relations based on the philosophy of Ubuntu in which African states and people commit themselves to be a continent that unites all the world’s people by insulating the continent from becoming a battleground in the war against terrorism as has already happened in Kenya and Tanzania. In this direction, the U.S. has already named a number of countries in the Horn of Africa to be part of their strategy of fighting terrorism on the African continent. African states should not collaborate in this scheme and instead declare that the continent is “terrorism free” and a “zone of peace.” But to do this, Africa would have to return to a strong commitment to the non-alignment movement in solidarity with the Arab world as well as other parts of the oppressed world.


In conclusion, it should be pointed out that the attack on the U.S. on September 11th 2001 was directed at U.S. strategic interests, which it has developed since the end of WW2. The analysis here has shown that this policy has been developed against the interests of Third World peoples, whose resources are subjected to U.S. control and exploitation. The U.S. believes that as a leader of the “Free World” it has the responsibility to ensure global peace and security and to do this, it needs to develop the resources in the entire world on a “free trade” basis. But, as we have seen, this has been achieved through manipulation and the use and threat of use of force against its weaker opponents in the Third World. The U.S. claims that its actions are motivated by the interest of the whole world, although it also at the same time claims to be defending “civilization,” which is a coded-word for western civilization and western interests.

Therefore while it calls on the whole world not to permit the al Qaeda to turn the present war against terrorism into a war of civilizations, it actually creates conditions that could ultimately turn such a conflict into a generalized conflict between civilizations on a global scale. The only answer to this conflict therefore lies in insisting that all problems between countries, cultures, and civilizations be resolved through dialogue and negotiations, which recognizes the interests of all as equally important. We have to use organs of global dialogue such as the United Nations, Global Summits and Conferences through which agreements can be reached and implemented. It is for this reason that the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, called for a dialogue between civilizations as a task of this century, if indeed the century is to be a peaceful one.

For the U.S. therefore to emphasize that the war against terrorism is not a civilisational one, while at the same time calling on the African states to agree that it is “a war of civilizations against those who would be uncivilized in their approach towards us” is to take Africa for granted and to try to use Africans against other peoples who may have genuine grievances against the U.S. It should be remembered that up to this point, the U.S. government still regards Africans and their descendants in the United States as being less than human beings and still treats them as uncivilized beings. Why? Because, alongside the other western powers and some of the Arab world, they refuse to consider demands for reparations for the exploitation and sufferings of those Africans who were enslaved by them and exploited as sub-humans in the building of the wealth which they now enjoy. Africa must push for the need to have dialogue on all these issues. The U.S. cannot have its cake and eat it. She cannot expect Africans to defend their civilization while at the same time refusing to compensate them for acts of inhuman behavior against them.

Global security of the 21st century requires that security of one country becomes the security of another and security in this new understanding must be understood in its broadened sense to mean human security for all. As the Social Science Research Council has come to recognize, security concerns should no longer be seen in the context of the geopolitics of the Cold War period. The field of security considerations has changed greatly since the early 1980s with the increasing realization that threats to security of individuals, communities and states around the world originate from a variety of sources other than the military dimension of great power competition and rivalry, which characterized the period of the Cold War. Such `small events’ as localized wars, small arms proliferation, ethnic conflicts, environmental degradation, international crimes, and human rights abuses are all now being recognized as being central to the understanding of security at local, national, regional, and global levels.

The U.S., just like all countries of the world, must adjust to this new reality and address all these different concerns of security in order to create conditions for security for all. It has now to be realized and accepted by all of us on this planet that security for ‘us’ must mean security for `them’ as well, otherwise there cannot be security for all. That must be the lesson we should learn from the events of September 11th 2001. In short, September 11th requires us to embrace and enhance a holistic security consciousness that should inform global security policy based on Ubuntu.

Dani Nabudere is an Executive Director at Afrika Study Center, Mbale, Uganda. Most recently Nabudere has edited Globalisation and the African Post-colonial state (AAAPS, Harare, 2000) and is author of Africa in the New Millennium: Towards a post-traditional renaissance (forthcoming-Africa World Press).


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