Just over a week ago, news broke that four US soldiers were killed in Niger. The attack against them took place near the border with Mali. There are conflicting reports from US authorities about the attacks, some certain that the attackers were from ISIS, others doubtful of this. There is now a suggestion that the villagers of Tongo Tongo, the village near the attack, set up the US forces for the ambush. It is being reported that the chief of the village - Mounkaila Alassane - has been arrested by the police in Niger. It will take a long time to clear up the precise details of the story.
Meanwhile, it is astounding that US elected officials - such as Senator Lindsey Graham - are surprised by the US role in Niger. After all, the US is building an enormous drone base in Agadez, and has spent millions of dollars on this and other projects of a military nature in the Sahel.
My report at Alternet takes us from Tongo Tongo (Niger) out to Gao (Mali) and to Agadez (Niger), a belt of towns that are the borderland of various kinds of trade, from trade in cocaine to guns, and indeed in refugees and migrants. This is an interesting region, where the War on Terror has focused its architecture against a problem far more complex than 'terrorism'. You can read my story here.
I had written a similar story (which you can read here) from Mali in 2009, where the US War on Terror seems positioned to deal a hammer blow against various social issues that it did not understand. Grave consequences of climate change, the collapse of agriculture in parts of the Sahel and in West Africa, the desire for commodities by Europeans (cocaine and uranium) and other factors are far more responsible for the devastation of this southern border of the Sahara Desert than the extremists of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram.
As this story broke, many of our friends in North Africa met in Tunis to craft a declaration on food sovereignty and the rights of people to survival. This event got almost no publicity. Please read the charter on food sovereignty from this new network here. It is an antidote to the narrow world of the War on Terror.
Back to Puerto Rico. The consequences of the storm have not been mitigated. Power is still off in most places, hospitals still on triage and the social collapse unaddressed. Last fortnight, in Frontline, I had compared the experience in Puerto Rico to Cuba, where the devastation had been largely managed by the socialist state and the socialist society. Volunteers had been trained to deal with such contingencies and they worked effectively to bring most of that island back to life.
No such luck in Puerto Rico, a society that suffers both from a colonial relationship with the United States and from the depredations of free market capitalism against its public services.
The current issue of Frontline has my report from Puerto Rico, helped along by Rosa Perez, a journalist with Abayarde Rojo. 'No one is coming to save Puerto Rico', Rosa Perez told me. 'It is the people in such places as the campsites of the forgotten' in Utuado that are 'trying to save themselves'. These small gestures of mutual aid provide hope. It is what has allowed people to survive. The US state has been largely absent. It is an indictment of the system. The picture above, by the way, is from Utuado.
You can read my report here.