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ASAR ALKEBULAN (Uncle ASAR) is an American(ized) African expatriate to West Africa and is a poet, philosopher, storyteller, essayist, lyricist and resolute Pan-Africanist.

EBOLA: The “Shock” heard round the world

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Ebola Victim

Ebola Victim

Tales of hideous subhuman vampiric creatures that lurk in the dark and prey on unsuspecting mortals can be found in every corner of the African continent. Whether hook-footed tree dweller (Asanbosam); baboon-like shape-shifter (Tikoloshe); body invading demon (Obayifo); or a chief’s dirty deeds doer (Ramanga) (http://vampireunderworld.com/african-vampires/), the African vampire is typically recognizable, striking at will and in a variety of ways. Oppositely, the European bloodsucker/parasite, appearing as an irresistibly charming and seductive human, is said by vampire folklore to be unable to enter a home without being invited . . .

In an interview with Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the United States President, Barack Obama, ominously defined the West Africa Ebola outbreak as a “national security priority.” This determination by the Obama administration and the US subsequently assuming leadership of an international humanitarian response to the crisis, lays open the path for the welcomed and inconspicuous entrée of American military forces onto the African continent via a region traumatized, devastated and decimated by the relentless Ebola virus. A casual glance at the past reveals volumes of information regarding similar historical instances where the power elite enacts eco-political machinations upon peoples and places in times of weariness, stress and confusion — shock!

On August 8th of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola epidemic in West Africa to be an “international public health emergency.” On August 28th the WHO published “. . . a roadmap to guide and coordinate the international response to the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa (http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/response-roadmap/en/).” The WHO website explains:

“The roadmap aims to stop ongoing Ebola transmission worldwide within 6 – 9 months, while rapidly managing the consequences of any further international spread. It also recognizes the need to address, in parallel, the outbreak’s broader socioeconomic impact.”

Nations, charitable organizations and volunteer medical professionals from the global community have responded with alacrity, compassion and courage. Capital resources, medicines and supplies have been committed and distributed to assist in containing the disease, while treatment facilities and laboratories are being constructed to increase healthcare capacity.

Aside humanitarian contributions, a number of governments have implemented a variety of precautionary measures to protect their citizenry from the spread of Ebola. Ranging entry restrictions, flight cancellations and health screenings for foreign nationals hailing from Ebola affected countries, to issuing travel alerts for the entire West African region, most preventive actions enforced via national authorities are believed to be prudent, reasonable and responsible.

The United States of America (US) — the world’s only remaining “super power” — has assumed leadership of the international mobilization effort. On September 16th, in a speech delivered at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, the US President, Barack Obama delivered this lofty statement:

“Faced with this outbreak, the world is looking to us, the United States, and it’s a responsibility that we embrace, we are prepared to take leadership on this, to provide the type of capabilities that only America has and mobilize our resources in ways that only America can do.”

President Obama then shifts his language, utilizing the most frightening and despondent expressions to characterize the Ebola crisis:

“. . . West Africa is facing a very different situation, especially in the hardest hit countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and in Guinea. . . . the scenes . . . are just horrific. More than 2,400 men, women and children are known to have died — and we strongly suspect that the actual death toll is higher than that. Hospitals, clinics and the few treatment centers that do exist have been completely overwhelmed. An already very weak public health system is near collapse in these countries. Patients are being turned away, and people are literally dying in the streets.”

“Now, here’s the hard truth: In West Africa, Ebola is now an epidemic of the likes that we have not seen before. It’s spiraling out of control. It is getting worse. It’s spreading faster and exponentially. Today, thousands of people in West Africa are infected. That number could rapidly grow to tens of thousands. And if the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political and economic and security implications for all of us. So this is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security – it’s a potential threat to global security if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic. That has profound effects on all of us, even if we are not directly contracting the disease.”

The US Ebola strategy includes more than $175 million in aid; ample numbers of relief workers; distribution of medical and laboratory supplies and equipment; and construction of Ebola treatment units. As well, the US President will also deploy more than 3,000 troops to West Africa’s most affected locales [Note: As US troops begin arriving in Liberia, Thursday, October 9, CBS News reports that “U.S. President Barack Obama has committed up to 4,000 troops in West Africa to combat the disease (http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/us-troops-deploy-to-aid-with-ebola/).”], establishing a joint operations command center in Monrovia, Liberia to “coordinate relief.” The Whitehouse website informs:

The United States will leverage the unique capabilities of the U.S. military and broader uniformed services to help bring the epidemic under control. These efforts will entail command and control, logistics expertise, training, and engineering support.

–U.S. Africa Command will set up a Joint Force Command headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia, to provide regional command and control support to U.S. military activities and facilitate coordination with U.S. government and international relief efforts. A general from U.S. Army Africa, the Army component of U.S. Africa Command, will lead this effort, which will involve an estimated 3,000 U.S. forces.

–U.S. Africa Command will establish a regional intermediate staging base (ISB) to facilitate and expedite the transportation of equipment, supplies and personnel. Of the U.S. forces taking part in this response, many will be stationed at the ISB.

The US Defense Department website corroborates the White House plans announcing, “U.S. Africa Command will set up a Joint Force Command Headquarters in Liberia to support U.S. military activities and help coordinate expanded U.S. and international relief efforts to fight the West Africa Ebola outbreak (http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=123171).”

Moreover, in an article published on its website entitled, Obama authorizes use of National Guard to fight Ebola in W. Africa (Published time: October 16, 2014 20:37), the Russian-based, 24 hour cable/satellite news channel RT reported that, “President Barack Obama authorized the Pentagon to call up members of the National Guard and other military reserve units on Thursday to help combat the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Obama said the guardsmen would ‘augment the active forces in support of Operation United Assistance, providing humanitarian assistance and consequence management related to the Ebola virus disease outbreak in the West Africa region’ in a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Hill reported.”

RT continues saying, “The Guard members would join the nearly 4,000 regular troops deploying to West Africa in the coming weeks in an effort to contribute in the fight against the Ebola virus outbreak in the region, according to the Pentagon.”

“Obama signed the executive order Thursday afternoon, permitting the Pentagon to use the reservists and Guard troops, the Associated Press reported. The DOD said the use of an executive order was necessary to speed the deployments, and would allow the president to send additional forces as needed, according to NBC News.”

This does not sound merely of a humanitarian effort. Considering the war preparedness jargon strategically positioned amid philanthropic rhetoric, let’s determine what exactly US Africa Command is. The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) website defines itself as:

“. . . one of six of the U.S. Defense Department’s geographic combatant commands and is responsible to the Secretary of Defense for military relations with African nations, the African Union, and African regional security organizations. A full-spectrum combatant command, U.S. AFRICOM is responsible for all U.S. Department of Defense operations, exercises, and security cooperation on the African continent, its island nations, and surrounding waters.”

Describing its mission, AFRICOM “. . . builds defense capabilities, responds to crisis, and deters and defeats transnational threats in order to advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity.”

Disconcertingly, this sounds — looks, smells, walks and talks — of a military campaign (security implications; regional security; global security; military and broader uniformed services; command and control troops; command center; regional command and control support; intermediate staging base (ISB) to facilitate and expedite the transportation of equipment, supplies and personnel; forces taking part in this response; Joint Force Command; military activities; national security priority; combatant commands; military relations; National Guard and other military reserve units; augment the active forces; consequence management; additional forces; full-spectrum combatant command; Defense operations, exercises, and security cooperation; builds defense capabilities; responds to crisis; and deters and defeats transnational threats). Yet, because of the rampaging Ebola virus, the US Ebola military intensive response is nearly universally welcomed into West Africa as a purely benevolent response from its Western younger brother; but is it necessary? Are there ulterior motives — “to advance U.S. national interests?”

The late John Henrik Clarke, Pan-Africanist, historian, educator, writer and pioneer in establishing the field of Africana Studies, said this of the Western World: “Nothing the European mind ever devised was meant to do anything but to facilitate the European’s control over the world.”

Characteristically then, AFICOM was initiated in 2006 under the direction of former US President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense appointee, Donald Rumsfeld and in February of the following year, Rumsfeld’s successor, Robert Gates, and “the Bush administration announced the creation of AFRICOM with an emphasis on US interests, especially in fighting the war on terror.” AFRICOM was vehemently rejected by nearly all African nations, despite an extensive three-year development and repackaging campaign. AFRICOM was refused by African leaders due in part — and deservedly so — to “the looming prospect that a US combatant command of hundreds of military personnel would be placed on the continent. This prospect came in the wake of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the 2006-7 US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. In addition, many African leaders were upset that they had not been consulted before the February 2007 announcement.” Eventually, however, “Only the reversal of the directive to place the command on the continent brought grudging acceptance, along with US offers of training exercises and other forms of security assistance.” (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:hJt-FvMa1CcJ:www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc%3FAD%3DADA)

Ultimately, AFRICOM established its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany and today occupies small, but strategically significant positions in a suspected 17 nations across every region of the continent. US AFRICOM operations in Africa include drone bases, Special Forces and troops campaigning, and Middle East and North Africa regional surveillance. Now, self-positioned in the role of leader in the fight against Ebola, the US, through its Ebola Strategy, is gifted an opportunity to establish a fully functioning and permanently installed military base in Liberia, West Africa.

Returning to the language of the US Strategy to confront Ebola, its pervasive, circumlocution shrouded, military invasion inferences are accompanied by lurking capitalists’ cost-benefit analysis rhetoric:

Of the “four key goals” listed on The White House Fact Sheet: U.S. Response to the Ebola Epidemic in West Africa, “Mitigating second-order impacts, including blunting the economic . . . tolls,” is number two behind “Controlling the epidemic at its source in West Africa (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/16/fact-sheet-us-response-ebola-epidemic-west-africa).”

AFRICOM’s mission states, “. . . to advance U.S. national interests and promote . . . prosperity (http://www.africom.mil/about-the-command).”

Declaring Ebola an epidemic in West Africa, the WHO stated, “It also recognizes the need to address . . . the outbreak’s broader socioeconomic impact (http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/response-roadmap/en/).”

US President Barack Obama said, “And if the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at . . . profound political and economic and security implications for all of us (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/16/remarks-president-ebola-outbreak).”

The late poet-activist, multi-hyphenate, Gil Scott-Heron — most noted for his politically prophesying masterpiece, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1970 & 1971)” — aptly characterizes, in verse, the dubious coupling of troop deployment with profit priority purposes, in his composition “Work for Peace”:

“The Military and the Monetary,
get together whenever they think it’s necessary,
They turn our brothers and sisters into mercenaries, they are turning the planet into a cemetery.
The Military and the Monetary, use the media as intermediaries,
they are determined to keep the citizens secondary, they make so many decisions that are arbitrary
. . . kept us all wondering if all of this was really truely, necessary.”
[“Work for Peace” appears on the studio album Spirits, by Gil Scott-Heron; TVT Records (Released: March 29, 1994)]

The poetry of Gil Scott-Heron fittingly moves this discourse toward its final phase, being an analysis of the previously referenced and examined current events and reports, reflected against the clarity of evidentiary historical hindsight. Most apropos in this regard, is the sagacious offering of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), from which this analytical endeavor commenced and here continues: “Of all our studies, History is most qualified to reward our research.”

Stating the obvious, West Africa and indeed the entire world has been “shocked” by the Ebola virus.

Shock /ʃɒk/ noun
1. a sudden upsetting or surprising event or experience
2. an acute medical condition associated with a fall in blood pressure, caused by such events as loss of blood, severe burns, allergic reaction, or sudden emotional stress, and marked by cold, pallid skin, irregular breathing, rapid pulse, and dilated pupils.

Ironically, with the appearance of Ebola in Dallas, Texas, the United States is more shocked than West Africa — a discussion belonging to another time. Be that as it may, “shock” is a pertinent description of the peoples and a region besieged with the deadly Ebola Virus. Accounting for more than half of the official Ebola deaths (2,458 of 4,500) (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/19/ebola-liberia-death-toll-data-sorious-samura), Liberia is indisputably ground zero for the hemorrhagic fever — most “shocked.” Indeed, this is the location designated to receive the greatest humanitarian assistance and resources. However, is a military occupation also necessary?

Surprising and answering the question directly, Anthony Banbury, head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, is quoted by boston.com, in a timeline of Ebola related events occurring October 20, 2014, ostensibly condemning US troop deployment to the effected West African region: “We’re fighting a war against Ebola. We need soldiers on the ground. But instead of soldiers in camouflage, we need soldiers in lab coats and PPE suits taking care of the victims (http://www.boston.com/health/2014/10/19/ebola-today-worker-cruise-ship-cleared-texas-hospital-admits-mistakes/5mqUdKXbyL3yVw7dKMKRiO/story.html).”

Returning to the “shock” of Ebola, let us contemplate the following historical illustration. In search of gold and later black bodies, the European invasion of West Africa in 1441 “shocked” the indigenous inhabitants of a continent that is tantamount in beauty and danger. Persevering in a perilous environment of nature’s extremes, exacerbated by intermittent conflict, West Africans were caught completely unawares (vulnerable) at the invading Europeans; “shocked” by the aggressive, violent and treacherous behavior, exhibited by the white Christian explorers and missionaries. In short, capitalizing upon the distress and confusion caused by their arrival, the Europeans enslaved the Africans and imposed upon them an eco-political structure beneficial for the whites/Europeans/the West and detrimental for the Blacks/Africans. A mere 50 years later, a similar display of eco-political terrorism was enacted across an entire ocean to subdue the indigenous peoples of the new world — the blueprint had been established. From that point onward, to this day, the innovative strategy of designed or leveraged destabilization (terror) — “divide and conquer 2.0” — would be used around the world to perpetuate a socio-political and economic doctrine of European/Western/white superiority.

Author Naomi Klein, in her provocative work, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, delineates brilliantly on the concept of market and capital flow manipulation (control) through the exploitation of social and eco-political structures in the midst of and immediately following natural and designed catastrophes — “shock.” In a transcript appearing on democracynow.org of the documentary entitled, The Shock Doctrine, co-written by Klein, the narrator states:

“It’s a fundamental hypothesis of this handbook that these techniques are, in essence, methods of inducing regression of the personality. There is an interval, which may be extremely brief, of suspended animation; a kind of psychological shock or paralysis. Experienced interrogators recognize this effect when it appears and know that at this moment the source is far more open to suggestion; far likelier to comply than he was just before he experienced the shock.”

Klein follows, remarking, “But these techniques don’t only work on individuals; they can work on whole societies. A collective trauma, a war, a coup, a natural disaster, a terrorist attack puts us all into a state of shock. And in the aftermath, like the prisoner in the interrogation chamber, we too, become childlike; more inclined to follow leaders who claim to protect us.”

She continues, “One person who understood this phenomenon early on was the famous economist of our era, Milton Friedman. Friedman believed in a radical vision of society in which profit and the market drive every aspect of life, from schools to healthcare, even the army. He called for abolishing all trade protections, deregulating all prices and eviscerating government services.”

“Friedman understood that just as prisoners are softened up for interrogation by the shock of their capture, massive disasters could serve to soften us up for his radical free-market crusade. He advised politicians that immediately after a crisis, they should push through all the painful policies at once, before people could regain their footing. He called this method ‘economic shock treatment.’ I call it ‘the shock doctrine.’”

“Take a second look at the iconic events of our era, and behind many you will find its logic at work. This is the secret history of the free market. It wasn’t born in freedom and democracy; it was born in shock.”

Interviewing with democracynow.org host, Amy Goodman, Klein frankly articulates the thesis of her book:

“Well, the shock doctrine, like all doctrines, is a philosophy of power. It’s a philosophy about how to achieve your political and economic goals. And this is a philosophy that holds that the best way, the best time, to push through radical free-market ideas is in the aftermath of a major shock. Now, that shock could be an economic meltdown. It could be a natural disaster. It could be a terrorist attack. It could be a war. But the idea, as you just saw in the film, is that these crises, these disasters, these shocks soften up whole societies. They discombobulate them. People lose their bearings. And a window opens up, just like the window in the interrogation chamber. And in that window, you can push through what economists call “economic shock therapy.” That’s sort of extreme country makeovers. It’s everything all at once. It’s not, you know, one reform here, one reform there, but the kind of radical change that we saw in Russia in the 1990s, that Paul Bremer tried to push through in Iraq after the invasion. So that’s the shock doctrine.”

In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attack in New York City, the patriot act was composed and imposed upon the American people in record time, virtually decimating the US constitution; severely restricting the rights of the citizenry; and tightly regulating the flow of money in and out of the country, thereby propelling the world economy into a dizzying downward spiral.

In a guest blogger article appearing in the Washington Post April 7, 2010, Loretta Napoleoni, author of “Terrorism and the Economy: How the War on Terror is Bankrupting the World,” and “Terror Inc.: Tracing the Money Behind Global Terrorism,” indicts the Patriot Act in unambiguous terms, by first asking, then answering a very serious question:

“Could the war on terror have plunged the United States and the world economy into the current crisis? The answer to such an unconventional question rests on the legacy of the Patriot Act.”

“Legislation that greatly reduces the liberties of U.S. citizens, the Patriot Act includes financial provisions that are the toughest anti-money laundering regulations so far introduced in a Western country.”

“But the impact of the war on terror upon the world economy and upon our daily lives goes well beyond the changing flows of money laundering. The Patriot Act represented the first step towards the neo-con new world order which required, among other things, a regime change in Iraq.”

Likewise and further condemning Western eco-political and military contrivances, Naomi Klein “connects the dots” on specific “shock-driven” economic policy changes:

“At the most chaotic juncture in Iraq’s civil war, a new law is unveiled that would allow Shell and BP to claim the country’s vast oil reserves…. Immediately following September 11, the Bush Administration quietly out-sources the running of the “War on Terror” to Halliburton and Blackwater…. After a tsunami wipes out the coasts of Southeast Asia, the pristine beaches are auctioned off to tourist resorts…. New Orleans’s residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, discover that their public housing, hospitals and schools will never be reopened…. These events are examples of “the shock doctrine”: using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters — to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy. Sometimes, when the first two shocks don’t succeed in wiping out resistance, a third shock is employed: the electrode in the prison cell or the Taser gun on the streets.”

We’ve traveled a great distance beyond Ebola in this writing; and fittingly, because nothing exists purely as it seems. To be clear, however, there is a ruthless killer virus decimating entire communities in West Africa. So much the unimaginable carnage, the US military has responded to the humanitarian call for assistance by deploying thousands of troops to the disaster epicenter, Liberia — most certainly, additional forces will arrive. Contemplating, the rationale in establishing a US military command base amidst the fight against a ferocious microscopic disease foe, appears on the surface to be misapplied and excessive — more precisely, disingenuous and suspect.

Inauspicious, the Ebola outbreak, the US armed troop deployment and the accompanying capitalist imperialism double talk have converged like the elements of a perfect geopolitical storm. Heeding the assertions of Naomi Klein’s insightful work, The Shock Doctrine — whose claims are firmly rooted in an evidenced history of Western eco-political diktats levied in the wake of natural and fabricated catastrophe — this perilous weather upon us won’t end with a dazzling rainbow unfurling across the African sky. So then, is this a surreptitious US/Western military invasion of Africa — most recently emerging as AFRICOM — to completely redesign the mercantile structure and process of removing the continent’s wealth (oil, gold, diamonds, cocoa/cacao (chocolate), timber, bauxite, manganese, coconut oil, tobacco, bananas, mango, pineapple, groundnuts (peanuts), cotton, copper, iron ore, cobalt, platinum, cashew nuts, coffee, palm oil, maize (corn), sorghum, rice, cassava, yam, livestock, fish and fishery products, etc.)? Time will tell.

Honestly, I don’t know exactly what to conclude, the appropriate questions to ask or what should be done — if anything can be done. I’m not a conspiracy theorist and what I’ve shared here is not a conspiracy theory, but simply an earnest and discerning examination of unfolding world events. So, in the final analysis, for me and hopefully for you, whatever goes down, it won’t be a shock . . .

Copyright © 2014 ASAR ALKEBULAN

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