The British Empire, which at the end of the 19th century ruled one quarter of the earth’s land surface, is long gone. But its robust successor and heir, the United States, has set about enlarging it.
As I sought to explain in my last book ‘American Raj – How the US Rules the Muslim World,’ the US imperium exerts its power by controlling tame, compliant regimes around the world and their economies. They are called ‘allies’ but, in fact, should be more accurately termed satrapies or vassal states. Many states are happy to be prosperous US vassals, others less so.
The US power system has successfully dominated much of the world, except of course for great powers China, Russia and India. Germany and much of Western Europe remains in thrall to post WWII US power. The same applies to Canada, Latin America, Australia, and parts of SE Asia.
There is one part of the globe that has remained free from heavy US influence since 1945, sub-Saharan Africa. But this fact is clearly changing as the US military expands its operations the width and breadth of the Dark Continent.
We are seeing a rerun of the fine old 1930’s film, ‘Beau Geste’ which was taken from a cracking good 1924 Victorian novel by C. Percival Wren. Set in French North Africa, Wren’s dashing French Legionnaires end up defending a remote fort against masses of hostile Arab and Berber tribesman.
The novel and film negatively shaped western attitudes to the Arab world and its peoples but glorified the French Foreign Legion. Wren claimed to have been a member of the Legion which was the primary enforcement arm of France’s African colonial empire.
The famed Legion, which fought from Mexico to Indochina, has now shrunken to a pitiful 8,000 men. France’s thread-bare finances proved a deadlier enemy than Saharan horsemen.
Even so, the Legion is still used by Paris for sudden shock interventions across West Africa to support client French regimes and punish those who challenge the status quo. I’ve lifted a glass with many Legionnaires. They are an amazingly tough bunch: you never know whether they are going to kill you or buy you drinks.
US troops have now stepped into the boots of ‘La Legion.’ Almost unnoticed, US Special Forces – our version of the Legion – have been slipping into Africa, the newest and most exciting market for the Pentagon.
Creation of the new US Africa Command in 2007, with headquarters in Germany, was discreet but it signaled active US military and geopolitical interest in resource-rich Africa, a key target of Chinese interest. No one in Washington seems to know how many US troops operate in Africa, but it’s at least 12,000 not counting mercenary contractors and CIA units. There was consternation in Congress when these facts emerged last week.
The key US base in Africa is at Djibouti, a poxy, fly-blown French colony on the Red Sea that is also shared by the Legion and, curiously, a Chinese naval station. US forces in Djibouti operate into Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Central Africa. US forces in West Africa operate in Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Liberia, Uganda, and anywhere that pro-US regimes are under pressure. Mali and Chad, where nomadic tribes battle the central government, are key operating regions. Both are under nasty dictatorial regimes backed by Washington.
As in the British Empire, the ‘natives’ are kept under control by small numbers of skilled Western troops. There’s no need for big battalions of regulars. The key is western air power and intelligence. Particularly so in often barren sub-Saharan West Africa where French and US warplanes patrol the skies. `We have the Maxim gun (machine gun) and they have not’ wrote a Victorian poet. Nothing much has changed.
France’s previous president, Francois Hollande, charged into a local tribal squabble in Mali, a key uranium supplier, between black town dwellers and nomadic Tuareg and assorted Islamists. Unable to afford the spreading war, France asked for US help and got it. The bitterly anti-Muslim Trump administration could not miss a chance to attack Muslims in West Africa under the banner of ‘anti-terrorism.’
A ‘terrorist’ in this case is anyone who challenges the western-dominated political order, from Malian nomads to Central African Republic rebels. In the brutal dictatorial regimes of former French West Africa the only effective opposition comes from groups calling themselves Islamic. This pulls the chain of the Trump administration and its Christian fundamentalist allies at home who seek to uproot fast-spreading Islam from Africa.
So off the US military charges into Africa, with little understanding of the region and even less strategic planning. It’s Vietnam-style ‘mission creep’ all over again.
Rome : Several dozen conservative Catholic scholars and clergy have charged Pope Francis with spreading heresy, a bold but perhaps futile salvo against Francis and his reform-minded papacy.
The widely publicized, theologically dense letter was delivered to the Pope with 40 signatures on August 11, according to its organizers. It has since gained 22 more signatures and was released to the public on Saturday. In a press release, the organizers say they speak for “a large number” of clergy and lay Catholics who “lack freedom of speech.”
The letter does not accuse the Pope himself of being a heretic, but of supporting “heretical positions” on “marriage, the moral life and the Eucharist.”
Francis has not responded to the letter publicly and the Vatican declined to comment.
“Church law itself requires that competent persons not remain silent when the pastors of the Church are misleading the flock,” the conservative Catholic clergy and scholars said.
Specifically, the letter charges Francis with promoting seven “heresies,” most notably through his openness to allowing some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion.
“Scandal concerning faith and morals has been given to the Church and to the world,” the letter states. It accuses the Pope of imposing “strange doctrines on the faithful,” and asks him to publicly correct his teachings.
The lightning rod for complaints is the Pope’s 2016 document, Amoris Laetitia — which has opened the possibility for some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion — and the differing interpretations of the document, which conservatives say have sown confusion among Catholics.
A press release accompanying the letter calls it an “epoch-making act,” with no precedent since 1333. That may be true, Catholic historians say, but likely overstates the letter’s actual significance. A number of the signees are members of a traditionalist group that has already broken away from the Catholic Church.
Still, the heresy charge crystallizes some conservatives’ deep anxieties about Pope Francis, especially his teachings and impromptu statements about how to apply centuries-old Catholic doctrine to the complexities of modern life.
Last year, four cardinals, in a letter known as a Dubia, asked the Pope to clarify some of the same points raised by the Catholic scholars and priests.
Pope Francis has not responded to that letter, either.
Who’s behind the heresy charge?
None of the heresy letter’s signees are cardinals or bishops in good standing within the Catholic church. The most prominent is Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist group which broke away from the Vatican under Pope John Paul II over doctrinal issues.
In some ways, Fellay’s participation is curious. As the letter’s organizers note, Francis has sought to welcome the conservative Society of St. Pius X, provided they agree to certain church teachings.
Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, former president of the Vatican bank, is also a signee.
Joseph Shaw, one of the organizers of the letter and a professor of philosophy at Oxford University, said that he hopes the Pope will answer the letter, but that it wasn’t written for his eyes only.
“Pope Francis may be determined not to answer this, but it’s not to say that bishops and cardinals aren’t able to absorb it,” he said. “We have to press this problem on to people who can ultimately address them.”
“If people become convinced that what he is doing is a grave mistake, the machine will seize up,” he continued. “There will be a reluctance to implement what he is doing.”
Public spats and division followed the 2016 publication of the Amoris Laetitia, which resulted in different bishops around the world offering different interpretations of the teaching.
For example, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, an American newly appointed to a top Vatican office by Francis last year, has publicly disagreed with Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, about whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion.
Bishops conferences from Malta, Argentina, Poland, Germany and elsewhere have also weighed in with different interpretations of the Pope’s ruling.
Conservatives contest that the Pope is tinkering with what is written in the Bible and has been affirmed throughout centuries in the Catholic Church on marriage: that a divorced person who is remarried without an annulment may not receive communion, because the second marriage is considered adulterous.
“You can have a diversion of pastoral practice on some things,” says Shaw. “But you can’t have variation on whether marriage is indissoluble; you can’t have variation on whether you can receive communion.”
Francis’ supporters say the Pope is not changing doctrine, but updating the practice of how the Catholic Church can meet the realities of today’s families.
It is no surprise that there is resistance to change within the Catholic Church, which claims a tradition of uninterrupted teachings since the time of Christ. The question is whether Francis can hold together the church’s left and right flanks while implementing reforms in how the church applies those teachings.
Monsignor Robert Wister, a professor of church history at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, said he can’t recall anything similar to the heresy letter in recent times. Pope John XXII was rebuked in the 1330s for teaching that the souls of the dead do not see the face of God until the Last Judgment.
“But it’s really hard to make a comparison,” he said. “Nine hundred years ago, most Catholics were illiterate. Now everybody is on Twitter.”
So what effect will the heresy letter have on Francis’ papacy?
“In the grand scheme of things, it will fuel some of the more extreme anti-Francis websites,” Wister said. “And I think it will encourage various priests and bishops who do not like his pastoral direction.”
“But, if you look in the pews or even at polls, most people like Francis,” he said. “They see in him a compassion they have not seen in the church, an understanding of the very difficult reality of living in this very complicated world.”
The racially-divisive stunt that Senator Warren tried to pull last night – by quoting a letter from the late Coretta Scott King, civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr., who wrote in 1986, during Sessions’ failed confirmation hearing for a federal judgeship, that he “had used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens” as a U.S. attorney in Alabama – ended with her being silenced by Senate vote.
Tonight, we suspect she will choose to silence herself as more recent video of Coretta Scott King surfaces destroying her warrant-less claim was that King’s wife’s words framed Sessions as a bigot, as she thanks Senator Sessions for his help in the construction of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum…
As far as Senator Warren is concerned, even MLK’s niece lambasted her for playing the race card…
Still what would one expect, when all you have is an ‘identity politics’ hammer, every ‘problem’ is a nail.
WASHINGTON (CBSNEWS/AP) – Most of the approximately 230 protesters arrested on Inauguration Day will be charged with felony rioting, federal prosecutors said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The office said most of those arrested will be released without having to post bail and must return to court in February.
A first group of 10 men appeared in Superior Court just before 3 p.m., and their lawyer entered a not guilty plea on their behalf. A judge released all of them on the condition they not get re-arrested in the District of Columbia.
Interim D.C. police chief Peter Newsham said Friday that 217 people were being charged with rioting.
The arrests took place in a four-block stretch of downtown Washington around the time of President Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.
The arrests came after some protesters created chaos. Windows of downtown businesses were smashed, and police deployed pepper spray and “sting balls” against the crowd.