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U.S. military presence in Africa not in our, or that continent’s, best interests

To the editor:

I read with interest and some dismay John Paradis’ guest column “A Young Marine ramps up” (Gazette, Sept. 14) describing the posting of Marine Corps Lt. Gordon Adams to Africa. While admiring the loyalty and bravery of all members of our armed services, one must ask why is the United States “ramping up” its military presence in Africa?

AFRICOM is the newest Unified Combat Command of the U.S. military. In part this presence is aimed at al Qaida-type movements; our recent Fulbright stay in Ethiopia was located near a U.S. drone base aimed at neighboring Somalia.

But of equal if not greater importance to U.S. strategic goals is access to Africa’s natural resources, particularly its oil and rare minerals. As Hampshire College Professor Michael Klare’s new book, “The Race for What’s Left,” points out, competition with China and other countries may very well lead to new armed conflicts.

Africa, of course, is not a country but a continent of 54 countries rich in minerals including uranium, platinum, cobalt, titanium and Coltan (columbite–tantalite), which is essential for mobile telephones and the cause of much violence in eastern Congo. Nigeria is the world’s fourth-largest producer of oil, with Sudan and Chad not far behind. Newer offshore oil fields have emerged throughout the West African coast from Senegal to Angola, with the Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, British Petroleum and the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation among the largest producers.

So while we value the bravery of soldiers like Lt Adams, let us question the acquisitive reasons we are in Africa as we put our young men and women in harm’s way. Do we want another war for oil, now in a new continent? To cut our dependence on oil, we must cut our consumption, conserve what we have and seek alternative energy sources.

Elliot Fratkin


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