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Why is sub-Saharan Africa being called the next hot spot for anti-American terrorism?

Don't Panic!... Your war questions answered

Telling readers what's hot and what's not is one of journalism's most important tasks. I take it very seriously. Here are some of my picks:

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Lindsay Lohan, hot! Usher, hot (and pretty slimy, if you listen to the lyrics)! Prospects for increased sub-Saharan terrorism aimed at the United States, hot!

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By the way, Britney Spears, nu-metal and invading countries that pose no imminent threat to the safety of the United States are so not hot that I almost sorta feel sad for them.

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But back to the question. Last fall, President Bush gave one of the most coherent speeches of his career to the well-endowed National Endowment for Democracy. The subject was democracy in the Middle East and the need for more of it. The speech included a one-paragraph mea culpa on the nation's behalf (wouldn't that be a wea-k culpa?), 'fessing up to the ill effects of decades of support for repressive regimes.

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Said Dubya: "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe — because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment, and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo."

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To devout democrats (lower-case "d") everywhere, that's powerful stuff.

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Implicit in Bush's statement is a promise that the United States will no longer kick democracy aside for the short-term promotion of other goals, because in the long run it doesn't do us any good. Incidentally, our four big goals in the Middle East over the last 60 years are/were: securing cheap and steady oil (and making money while doing it), protecting Israel, fighting the spread of Communism, and more recently, fighting the spread of fundamentalism.

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There it is, straight from the Bush's mouth. Supporting repressive regimes in the Middle East came back and bit us on the ass. Continuing to do so would be "reckless" he says.

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But if you look at sub-Saharan Africa (don't be bashful, it's OK to look), supporting repressive regimes is exactly what we're doing. And here's a shocker: We're doing it for the sake of oil. If we keep it up, it's only a matter of time before it bites us on the ass, too.

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Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis? I'm talking about Equitorial Guinea.

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It's a tiny nation in the armpit of west Africa. (That's not meant as an insult. Find the country on a map and you'll know what I mean.) In 1996, we shut down our embassy there because the country's despot-in-chief, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, threatened to kill our ambassador for complaining about the country's horrible human rights record. Talk about a nutty coincidence — that same year, we found a bunch of oil there. American oil companies have since invested billions in Equitorial Guinea. At the same time, they've also launched a PR campaign aimed at portraying the country as pleasant and democratic. In 1996, oil-company-funded observers happily declared the country's farcical presidential election free and fair. In the election, Obiang claimed 99.2 percent of the vote.

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Dubya and Co. ain't never met an oil company they could refuse, so of course they reopened the embassy. American oil companies, with Bush's approval, are now funneling billions of dollars into the hands of an awful dictator who by all accounts is using the money to get more awful. How awful? On July 5, 2004, Amnesty International issued a report titled "Equatorial Guinea: Stop the killings, the rapes and the arbitrary arrests."

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It's not just Equitorial Guinea. We're doing roughly the same thing in Angola, a country where 70 percent of the people live in poverty even though (or, some would argue, because) we import more oil from them than we do from Kuwait. We also have similar devil's bargains with Gabon and Nigeria.

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We're well on our way to creating a second, albeit more humid, Middle East.

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andisheh@creativeloafing.com



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