Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Golden Sands of Mali

How quickly things can change. Harold Wilson is credited with saying a week is a long time in politics. Well, two months is an eternity.

Back in November, a book was published showing that Britain has attacked 90% of the countries of the world at some point in our history. Only 22 countries had escaped our ire.

Now, after the UK Government's declaration that it is sending 240 military "trainers" to war-torn Mali and its neighbours, arguably that total is now down to 21. As if desperate not to miss out on the action, the Cameron Coalition has pledged support to the French-led force that has arrived in the country and is driving northwards, taking the legendary city of Timbuktu just yesterday.

The official narrative, of course, is that the western troops are saving a moderate regime which until their intervention was at the mercy of foaming, bloodthirsty al-Qaeda terrorists - Islamists, the news reporters keep parroting. And yet, as ever, the truth is far more complicated.

The official Mali government is in fact a military dictatorship that seized power in 2013 and whose troops stand accused by international human rights monitors of the same atrocities as its opponents. Its coup d'etat sparked long-oppressed Tuareg tribes in the north to declare their independence and within a short time fighting broke out. Always ready for conflict in the name of religion, there is no doubt that a fair number of mujahadeen turned up to aid the Tuaregs - but to characterise the northern insurgency as some sort of jihad is overstatement of the highest order and indeed northern Mali (renamed Azawad) has also seen heavy conflict between the Tuaregs and the Islamists. Rather, the issue is the declaration of independence being viewed as a threat to the corporate interests of French mining and mineral companies operating in the country - because Mali literally is a gold mine. As well as being the third largest producer of gold in Africa, it additionally has large deposits of uranium, diamonds and other precious metals.

And so, yet again, our troops are being sent off on a dubious mission creep, placing them in harm's way and our nation at risk for the benefit of multinationals under the guise of a war for freedom and faith. Along with a range of other western countries, we are supporting the bombing of towns by French and Malian aircraft - precisely the same tactic we have condemned the Syrian regime for deploying in its bloody civil conflict. But yet again, under cover of nobler aims, we excuse the excess and justify it by anathematizing the other side. So the blood continues to flow - and so do the profits.

21 countries to go (these are the only countries in the world never invaded by Britain):

Central African Republic
Congo, Republic of
Ivory Coast
Marshall Islands
Sao Tome and Principe
Vatican City

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