Latest Developments, May 11

In the latest news & analysis…

Clash of Civilizations 101
Wired reports that a US military course, which has since been cancelled, taught officers that “total war” against the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims would be necessary to protect America from terrorists.
“In the same presentation, [Army Lt. Col. Matthew A.] Dooley lays out a possible four-phase war plan to carry out a forced transformation of the Islam religion. Phase three includes possible outcomes like ‘Islam reduced to a cult status’ and ‘Saudi Arabia threatened with starvation.’

International laws protecting civilians in wartime are ‘no longer relevant,’ Dooley continues. And that opens the possibility of applying ‘the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki’ to Islam’s holiest cities, and bringing about ‘Mecca and Medina['s] destruction.’ ”

A more serious debate
Writing about the African edition of the World Economic Forum currently underway in Addis Ababa, Global Pacific & Partners’ Duncan Clarke decries the simplistic “leitmotif” of corrupt African politicians that dominates discussions of the continent’s economy.
“We need within Africa therefore to discern the deeper histories and underlying structures that moulded our economic worlds, plus the myriad forces that shape it today, let alone the unknown that will determine our lot tomorrow. There is more complexity in contemporary underdevelopment than flawed leadership allied to predation and visible political deficiencies. A more serious debate is needed.
Today there is an overabundant discourse on leadership, especially in the theatre of the talk shop, which somehow passes for sage insight or even sound economic analysis, providing a weak diagnostic framework for complex economic historiographies and contemporary realities.”

African growth
The Guardian reports that the Africa Progress Panel, led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, has concluded that Africa’s rapid economic growth is creating greater inequality.
“Although seven out of 10 people in the region live in countries that have averaged growth of more than 4% a year for the past decade, Annan’s study found that almost half of Africans were still living on incomes below the internationally accepted poverty benchmark of $1.25 a day.

‘It cannot be said often enough, that overall progress remains too slow and too uneven; that too many Africans remain caught in downward spirals of poverty, insecurity and marginalisation; that too few people benefit from the continent’s growth trend and rising geo-strategic importance; that too much of Africa’s enormous resource wealth remains in the hands of narrow elites and, increasingly, foreign investors without being turned into tangible benefits for its people,’ [wrote Annan in his foreword to the report.]”

Fear & loathing
A Center for Economic and Policy Research blog post examines the yawning gulf between foreign aid workers and those they are ostensibly in Haiti to help.
“And [this dynamic of fear and distrust] tragically emerged as a major reason for wasted opportunities and lives lost in the initial days and weeks after the 2010 earthquake, heightened by exaggerated media reports of ‘looting’ and potential chaos. The U.S. government, which secured a leading role for itself in the emergency relief effort, prioritized a military response over a non-military one, and generally treated the Haitian population as objects of fear to whom aid should be delivered, rather than active participants who could perhaps best act in the rescue and relief operations in their own communities.
This dynamic of fear and distrust, which estranges aid workers from the local population, may also help to explain the incredible disconnect that some in the NGO community seem to exhibit in their behavior, as documented by Michele Mitchell in her film “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” Mitchell records NGO staff dining at a posh restaurant where steak costs $34 and wine sells for $72 a bottle, across the street from an IDP camp where the very people these aid workers are supposed to serve struggle for daily survival.”

A dangerous policy
Former CIA officer Robert Grenier argues the US is repeating in Yemen mistakes it made in Pakistan.
“I do not claim deep knowledge of developments in Shabwa Province, but when I hear significant numbers of tribal militants being referred to as al-Qaeda operatives, and [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], a small organisation dominated by non-Yemenis, being alleged to have political control of significant parts of Yemen, I react with some scepticism, and some suspicion.
One wonders how many Yemenis may be moved in future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to US military actions against them.”

Drone journalism
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism calls on Western media to provide more balanced reporting on the US drone war as it enters “a new phase” in which host-government cooperation has been withdrawn.
“Part of the justification for the US carrying out drone strikes without consent is their reported success. And naming those militants killed is key to that process. Al Qaeda bomber Fahd al-Quso’s death was widely celebrated.
Yet how many newspapers also registered the death of Mohamed Saleh Al-Suna, a civilian caught up and killed in a US strike in Yemen on March 30?
By showing only one side of the coin, we risk presenting a distorted picture of this new form of warfare. There is an obligation to identify all of those killed – not just the bad guys.”

Corporate warfare
Global voices reports on “unrest” in Guatemala involving community opposition to the construction of a hydroelectric dam by a Spain’s Hidralia Energia.
“In late April 2012, allegations of land mines placed around the hydroelectric company to protect it from any disruptive actions triggered a series of protests where citizens expressed their concern and demanded that the company be expelled from the community. Protesters denounced the mined field at the offices of the police, and later demanded protection and action from the army.”