Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Sudan, Darfur, China and the World's Shifting Alliances
Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, claims that a U.N. peacekeeping force to stop his well-financed and brutal Islamist campaign in Darfur would turn his country into "another Iraq." The statement is not as surprising or as menacing as the venue where al Bashir chose to make it-Bejing, where the Chinese are hosting an Africa summit attended by 48 African leaders.

The Chinese expect $50 billion in trade between Africa and China this year. Bejing is dispensing hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and weapons systems to secure access to the oil, copper, timber and other comodities in Africa.

In return, the Chinese protect the muderous regime in Khartoum, the ravagers of Zimbabwe, the thugs in Equatorial Guinea, the xenophobes in Ivory Coast and other unsavory people who have made life hell for their people for decades.

They do this by wielding vetos in the UN Security Council, or threatening to, and undermining every effort at bringing transparency and the rule of law across Africa. They do it by giving the al Bashir's of the world a safe platform to launch their defenses of genocide, and by aiding and abetting some of the worst regimes in the world.

Al Bashir speaks from a friendly platform, knowing that as long as he has oil, he will have the Chinese to effectively neutralize any UN-led efforts to stop the carnage he dismisses as imagined and invented by the West. No one in China will challenge him on that while he is a useful commercial partner.

This is a significant but little-noticed shift in the world's alignment of power. Sub-Saharan Africa was traditionally aligned with the West-France, Great Britain and Belgium in particular. During the Cold War, there were Marxist movements and even governments, responding to the realities of these times, but the collapse of Soviet Communism essentially ended that.

Now, European influence in Africa is rapidly dwindling, and the U.S presence there is virtually non-existent. Instead, the purely mercantile policy of the Chinese, faced with few competing forces, are rapidly gaining ground.

This shift is coupled with another-the involvement of Russia, or at least Russian agents like Viktor Bout, in the arming of militant Islamist groups in Somalia and Eritrea, as well as funneling guns to almost anyone else who can buy them.

Both powers are working directly against U.S. interests in Africa, and, one could argue, against the long-term interests of most Africans, if one accepts that most people would prefer clean government and less weapons in the hands of children.

Policy options, while pursuing two wars that are not going well, are limited. But the long-term trends need to be taken seriously, understood and viewed strategically if U.S. interests are to be defined, much less defended.

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