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Bombing Backdrop: The G8 Summit

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—The G8 gathering in Scotland, featuring George Bush crashing his bicycle and Tony Blair strutting back and forth as the new kingmaker of Europe, provided the symbolic background for
today’s terrorist bombings in London. The conference permits the assembled
heads of African states to come forward, hat in hand,
to thank their benefactors and ask for more, in the
form of debt forgiveness. All in all, the summit is one of
the more ludicrous meetings of rich and poor in recent
times.

It was made only more so by Bob Geldof’s Live 8
concerts, in which the world’s music stars lent their names to the African cause. They managed to create the impression the rest of the world cared about Africa, when in fact, it
does not.

Thus the G8 summit affords the terrorists a moment in which to take advantage of a division between rich and poor. But let’s not make the mistake of casting them as Robin Hoods ready to rescue an oppressed continent. There is nothing that ever has come out of al Qaeda that would suggest any genuine interest in the plight of
Africa.

The bottom line at the summit, especially, has been business as usual. Bush, always thinking of the business supporters who financed his campaign, pledged himself once again to
oppose steps to reduce global warming. “I walked away
from Kyoto because it would have damaged the American
economy, it would have destroyed the American economy,
it was a lousy deal for the American economy,” Bush
told British TV before the G8 opened. “If you’re
trying to make me say I support Kyoto, the answer is
no.”

Bush joined Blair in promising an increase in the
developed world’s charity to Africa through
something called the Millennium Challenge Account—but that agency behind it
hasn’t spent much money so far . The British want total debt relief and the establishment of a financing facility
to pay for education and medicines in Africa, but Bush
is against the idea. “It doesn’t fit our budgetary
process,” he said.

Casting the image of someone who cares for sick
and starving people in Africa doubtless plays to the
president’s evangelical following—a movement that offers charity
as a lure in the search for converts.

From the developed world’s point of view, there are
growing problems in Africa. First and foremost is the issue of
energy. Middle Eastern oil supplies have begun to decline, meaning the U.S., if it is not going to
dramatically back alternative fuels, must hustle about
scrounging oil and gas wherever it can be had. There
are substantial new supplies of oil and gas along the
west African coast in the Gulf of Guinea. Many of
these countries here are former French colonies. The U.S.
is now replacing the French and plans to set up a
sizeable military base in the area.

The economies of African nations remain fixed in
time, never seeming to move beyond 19th century
colonial status. Africa is immensely rich in natural
resources, which for hundreds of years have been
exploited by the industrialized nations of the
West. Nothing changes here. American companies dominate
bauxite production in Guinea. DeBeers, of South
Africa, still runs the diamond business. Gold and
silver and platinum are the province of British-U.S.
mining combines. Cobalt for jet engines comes from
Zambia; chrome for stainless steel from South Africa
and Kinshasa. Cocoa for chocolate comes from the
Ivory Coast and Ghana. Tea is grown in Ghana and
Nigeria and Zaire. Three countries—Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi—depend on coffee for more than three quarters of all their
exports. There is a developing market for cut flowers
grown in Zimbabwe and Kenya and shipped by air
overnight to supermarkets in New York and elsewhere.

This reliance on the export of low-priced raw
commodities in Africa by cheap (and sometimes slave)
labor never changes. Today it is reinforced by the
policies of the IMF and World Bank which, if anything,
push for more exports at the expense of developing
national economies.

It is this situation that al Qaeda and allied groups, whose members have tried to take credit for today’s attack, seek to exploit.


Additional reporting: Natalie Wittlin and Halley Bondy

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