— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 22, 2014
Mostly absurd. Nothing is more precious to media elites than their – now mostly delusional – claim to be able to tell the general public what is true and what is not. Arbitrating reality for the wider public is not only the source of the elite media’s social power, but also a power trip for those Very Serious People in journalism. They’re the self-proclaimed deciders of what is and is not true in your world.
Fortunately, fewer and fewer Americans believe what the media elite say and basic cognitive research has made a compelling case that no human being, let alone institution, is actually capable of “objectivity” or what Jay Rosen of the NYU School of Journalism calls “the view from nowhere.” Objectivity is folly, the only true source of legitimacy in journalism is transparency.
But the establishment struck back with a truly foolish conceit, that a group of elite journalists would evaluate what is and was not a fact. The name of the group is Politifact and it has already been awarded a Pulitzer Prize by other elite journalists (self-hug) despite having a track record that leaves-much-to-be-desired.
Recently Politifact weighed in on a brazen statement made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her book Hard Choices. Clinton claimed “The U.S. military footprint in Africa is nearly nonexistent.” A claim Politifact ruled as “True” which is the highest ranking their evaluation system has and ranges from “True” to “Pants on Fire” for claims that are outright false. The “True” rating is the best rating for the truthfulness of a statement that is evaluated.
Unfortunately for Politifact, Clinton’s statement is, in fact, false. The US military footprint is extensive in Africa. The background information Politifact cites for its ruling involves quoting officials from the Department of Defense and noting how small the ostensible budget is for AFRICOM in relation to other areas. Amazingly Politifact also notes – in the ruling affirming the “non-existent footprint” in Africa – that Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti contains 2-4,000 personnel. Though they then try to minimize their own cited fact by claiming many of those people are “contractors” before concluding “There is a military presence in Africa, but it’s limited to one base with little combat infrastructure, and it’s commanded from a location that is not even located on the continent.”
The actual facts tell a different story.
As perhaps most comprehensively pointed out by Nick Turse, the AFRICOM footprint is quite large. Rather than a “non-existent footprint” the US is quite heavily involved in numerous military operations throughout the continent.
They’re involved in Algeria and Angola, Benin and Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi, Cameroon and the Cape Verde Islands. And that’s just the ABCs of the situation. Skip to the end of the alphabet and the story remains the same: Senegal and the Seychelles, Togo and Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia. From north to south, east to west, the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, the heart of the continent to the islands off its coasts, the U.S. military is at work. Base construction, security cooperation engagements, training exercises, advisory deployments, special operations missions, and a growing logistics network, all undeniable evidence of expansion — except at U.S. Africa Command…
The proof is in the details — a seemingly ceaseless string of projects, operations, and engagements. Each mission, as AFRICOM insists, may be relatively limited and each footprint might be “small” on its own, but taken as a whole, U.S. military operations are sweeping and expansive. Evidence of an American pivot to Africa is almost everywhere on the continent.
This next Scramble for Africa has American military personnel and “contractors” all over the continent conducting operations to further perceived US interests.
In fact, “contractors”, such as those Politifact noted were present at the US’ official base in Djibouti, are being hired to fly spy missions over large swaths of the continent according to the Washington Post. The Post notes in the story that one of the tactics the Department of Defense uses to disguise its footprint is to outsource spying operations to “private contractors.” I guess it works on prize-winning fact checkers.
Politifact dutifully noted that AFRICOM only receives $270 million in the defense budget – not a small sum comparatively speaking by the way – but what they apparently forgot or blew past was that much of the operations are covert and come from other funds in the unauditable Pentagon. The $270 million figure is just the tip of the iceberg to an entire marine ecosystem of cash channeling its way all over Africa. Or maybe $270 million really goes that far.
In any case, the US military’s activities in Africa leave a massive continent wide footprint. And that’s a fact.