EBOLA Crisis Dooming Legacy of West's Capitalism/Imperialism
So far there has been only a relatively tiny amount of international aid to combat the profoundly dangerous Ebola epidemic. There have only been a few hundred international volunteer doctors and nurses, many of whom are now dead or who have withdrawn to avoid infection.
According to Niles Williamson in “The Ebola epidemic: A social disaster in West Africa”, the conditions of extreme poverty facilitating the spread of Ebola are the “legacy” of American, British and French imperialism in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Having set up these conditions for Ebola, the major capitalist countries are using the conditions of “disaster capitalism” to intensify their military operations in their former colonies.
The US has sent 3,000 troops to Liberia. This is an enlargement of AFRICOM’s foothold in Africa. Its main headquarters are in Stuttgart, Germany. The UK is about to send 750 troops to its former colony of Sierra Leone under the pretense of a “humanitarian mission.”
Patrick Martin in “Imperialism and the Ebola catastrophe” points out that the soldiers Obama is sending to the affected African areas have NO EXPERTISE in Ebola, and their only contact with the local populations now afflicted will be “shooting down victims and their panic-stricken families demanding treatment.”
Martin declares: “Washington’s major concern is that the epidemic could destabilize its political stooges like Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and threaten the profit interests of major corporations.”
Martin compares the paltry financial donations to combat Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, less than $1 billion, to the billions available to imperialist powers for the wars in Syria and Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, to be considered, the TRILLIONS of dollars that the US government readily has extended to the banks and other financial institutions since the 2008 economic crash.
Western countries are concerned with the mineral wealth in these countries, NOT THE HUMANITY IN JEOPARDY THERE!! Martin writes: “As the epidemic spreads, the local people will be regarded more as an obstacle than a labor force, and their extermination will begin to be regarded as a necessary cost of doing business.”
According to Martin, when the 2008 global economic crisis struck, conditions of impoverishment for an Ebola outbreak were set up in the isolated jungle areas of the borders of three countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Martin quotes Dr. Christopher Dye, director of strategy of the World Health Organization:
“The present [Ebola] epidemic is exceptionally large, not primarily because of biologic characteristics of the virus, but in part because of the attributes of the affected populations, the condition of the health systems, and because control efforts have been insufficient to halt the spread of infection.”
In the understated words of a health professional, this is a diagnosis, not just of the Ebola catastrophe, but of the failure of capitalism as a world system. Thousands have died and millions are at risk because the social conditions in the affected countries, long oppressed and exploited by the imperialist powers, have made adequate treatment of the outbreak impossible.
Martin explains that the Ebola disease is scientifically well understood, and had been “self-limiting” since it is spread through bodily fluids and had killed its victims before it could spread itself on to many in “isolated rural areas”.
The present outbreak began in rural Guinea and then spread to the bordering Sierra Leone and Liberia. By the time it had reached Liberia it had managed to spread into urban areas. This is a profoundly dangerous tipping point. Since Liberia has such inadequate health facilities, infected urban patients stay home and infect family and social network members readily.
According to the 2013 World Bank poverty inventory of 185 countries, Sierra Leone is 161st, Guinea is 176th and Liberia is 181st in per capita GDP.
Though the residents of these countries live in misery the countries themselves are VERY rich in terms of natural resources. According to Martin these resources have been “ruthlessly exploited by major corporations and the imperialist powers that enforce their interests.”
Liberia was founded by freed American slaves. Its resources include iron ore and palm oil. Firestone (now called Bridgestone) has operated since 1926 with the world’s “largest rubber plantation.” Sierra Leone is a former British colony. It is one of the top ten diamond producers in the world. It also has large reserves of rutile which is a titanium ore. Guinea is a former French colony. It produces iron ore, diamonds, uranium, gold and half of the world’s bauxite, which is a source for aluminum. A German company and Australian Canadian company dominate the bauxite extraction industry in Guinea.
Martin explains that in the last three decades Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been “ravaged by civil wars, coups, and ethnic massacres.” The ruling elites of these countries have oppressed and neglected their own peoples to control raw materials in order to sell them to huge Western corporations. The imperialist powers have directly and deeply intervened in these struggles to support the oppressive elites. For example, British and UN troops interfered in Sierra Leone. The US marine interfered in Liberia.
In “First Ebola case diagnosed in US” Shannon Jones reveals that Ebola is a severe and often fatal illness transmitted from wild animals to humans. It is spread from bodily fluids such as vomit, urine and blood. According to Jones the disease is RAVAGING West Africa, and agrees with Martin that it is accelerated by the widespread poverty and inadequate health care in the former colonial and still exploited countries of the region. The survival rate for Ebola according to the World Health Organization is only 50%.
Despite the hysteria being generated by the US media, Ebola is not easily communicable. It can only be transmitted AFTER symptoms develop through direct contact with the infected patient’s bodily fluids.
Jones maintains that despite over 3,000 people dead from it in West Africa this year, the US and western European powers have underresponded, even though there is an estimate that by January 1.4 million could be infected by the disease if robust measures are not taken.
Jones mourns the fact that the Obama administration is cravenly focused on deploying TROOPS to West Africa to support the unstable and exploitive regimes there rather than being interested in directly and effectively helping to combat the health needs of the outbreak’s victims and removing the conditions that foster the spread of Ebola.
In “Obama uses Ebola crisis to “surge” 3,000 troops into West Africa” Bill Van Auken contends that the US government is striving to edge out China in controlling Africa’s markets and resources and is illegitimately and opportunistically using its military thanks to this international crisis to do this. By deploying US forces into West Africa Van Auken accuses the Obama administration of once again exploiting the veneer of “humanitarian operations” to “further imperialist interests”.
Van Auken points out that the occupation of Somalia in 1992 occurred under the pretext of fighting famine. The "humanitarian" pretext was used when US military forces were deployed into Southeast Asia after the 2005 tsunami and after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. A humanitarian operation veneer once again covers up illegitimate economic exploitation.
The CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control) budget, reveals Van Auken, compared to the Pentagon’s is a mere 1%. It has gone through “draconian” cuts especially in the past five years. 42,000 jobs within it were destroyed.
Obama’s administration is seeking $58 million from Congress for the CDC to develop an effective vaccine and $30 million to send CDC workers and equipment to Liberia. Compare this, asserts Van Auken, to the $500 million that the Obama administration is seeking for the Pentagon’s “Overseas Contingency Operations” for military ops in Africa.
Non-government organizations such as Doctors without Borders encourage US SUPPORT OF A MEDICAL NATURE ONLY in the Ebola threatened African regions and are concerned that the heavy US military deployment will make matters worse. Van Auken quotes Meredith Stakem, a spokesperson for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in West Africa: “What we don’t want to see is the US military going in with guns and enforcing quarantines.”
The Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Van Auken perceives as having exercised an incompetent and punitive response to the Ebola outbreak. In the Monrovian slum district where the residents are strongly anti-government, there has been overly severe security force quarantining and this has resulted in violent encounters between the residents and the police.
Liberia’s security forces have been trained by the Pentagon under a program known as “Operation Onward Liberty”. US special forces troops supposedly are “mentoring and advising” their counterparts in Liberia since the founding of AFRICOM in 2007. AFRICOM also has actively intervened in the the governments of Libya, Nigeria, Somalia and Central Africa. AFRICOM is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, due to the hostility of so many among the African populations toward western imperialists maintains Van Auken.
In “Ebola outbreak grows exponentially” David Brown reveals that the World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control view the Ebola outbreak as spreading “exponentially” in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. By mid-Novermber WHO expects 10,000 new cases EACH WEEK.
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea according to Brown have less than two doctors for every 100,000 people. There is little running water and little water sanitation. Brown stresses that such “immense poverty” is FERTILE GROUND FOR EBOLA TRANSMISSION!!! Basic and adequate sanitation and health care could effectively remove the continuing threat of wide scale infection.
Brown also mentions the Monrovian slum district in Liberia. He explains that 70,000 people live there with no sanitation, running water or garbage collection. It was forcibly quarantined for 11 days in August, there has been no accurate casualty body count there and dead bodies have been discarded into two nearby rivers, guaranteeing the serious spread of infection to other locations. As new treatment centers are set up in the capital of Liberia, from day one they have been overwhelmed with needy patients. Since many desperate Ebola victims cannot be accommodated, they are forced to return home to be caretaken by family members and friends whom they will ultimately infect.
The international community has the money and the know-how to contain this crisis. It had it to contain it much sooner. It does not have the collective will to respond with REAL humanitarianism.
Tragically and typically, corporate pimped-out leaders of western governments are not going to do what is necessary and possible to avert this dire and world-threatening health crisis! Most only will heed the siren, sociopathic calls of "disaster capitalism" despite well-acted, mainstream media sound bites of concern and commitment.
[cross-posted on open salon]