Somalia and the U.S. are apparently doomed by fate to collide at critical moments in global politics. The collision has never brought anything but trouble to both parties. We are about to crash into one another again, this time in an expanded war on terrorism.
The east African nation of Somalia is being mentioned with increasing frequency as a possible next target in the U.S.-led war against international terrorism. Somalia is a failed state–with what passes for the central government controlling little more than a section of the national capital of Mogadishu, a separatist government in the north, and rival warlords and clan leaders controlling most the remainder of the country. U.S. officials believe that cells of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network may have taken advantage of the absence of governmental authority to set up operation.
The U.S government’s announced intention to broaden the war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan has triggered growing concern that other important U.S. foreign policy goals and principles will be subordinated in the process.
Two years ago in Seattle, demonstrators in the streets brought previously esoteric negotiations of government ministers at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the world’s eye as never before. Less noticed, inside the meetings, African trade ministers denounced the lack of transparency in the proceedings. “African countries are being marginalized and generally excluded on issues of vital importance for our peoples and their future,” they declared in a public statement. The next day the summit adjourned with no agreement, as developing countries rebelled at being pushed aside, and Europe and the U.S. also failed to resolve their own differences.
Let us take as a starting point that the broadly consensual strategy and basis for self-activity in what we can term Global Justice Movements is the following: to promote the globalization of people and halt (or at minimum radically modify) the globalization of capital. But this strategy conflicts with the objectives of at least four other tendencies that also appear to have solidified in recent years. Since the full-blown emergence of an international financial crisis around mid-1997, the world has witnessed a revival of Third World Nationalism, a Post-Washington Consensus reform option, obstinacy on the part of Washington Consensus powerbrokers, and a formidable Rightwing Resurgence.
A brutal civil war that has raged off and on for nearly half a century in Sudan is putting the Bush administration just where it does not want to be–under domestic political pressure to try to affect the outcome of a seemingly intractable African conflict. Congressional action may force the issue.
The United States, the self-described leader of human rights, effectively decided to boycott the UN conference against racism in Durban, South Africa. The U.S. could have made a strong, positive impression by sending its African-American Secretary of State, a descendent of slaves, and making a forceful stand against racism. Instead, it chose to send a low-level delegation.
Some 200 nations are gathered in Durban, South Africa from August 31 to September 7 for the UN World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). Unfortunately, America’s official conduct leading up to the conference has not been its finest hour. Rather than deal with its own sorry legacy of slavery, discrimination, and racism, the Bush administration has chosen at the highest level to deny that historical matters and redress have any place on the agenda. It has withheld support and threatened to stay home.
The black and white-checked scarves, known as kafeeyyehs, symbolizing the Palestinian resistance, were everywhere among the 6,000 delegates to the UN Non-Governmental Forum that preceded the governmental portion of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR). Soon they were joined by white t-shirts exhorting participants to “fight racism, not Jews.” As predicted, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has loomed over both the NGO Forum and now the main event, given mega-prominence by the refusal of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to attend while statements equating Zionism with racism are anywhere on the table.
The international community appears poised to intervene to end the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially in Africa where, according to the United Nations Agency for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), more than 25 million Africans live with the virus or are dying of AIDS. Few infected Africans have access to life saving anti-HIV/AIDS medicines that have transformed the disease from a feared to a manageable chronic infection in the West. Through a combination of street protests, sophisticated policy reviews, media exposes, and powerful commentaries in the print and electronic media, AIDS activists have forced the issue of access to HIV/AIDS care in developing nations.