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Imani Tafari-Ama | War is big business in Babylon

Published:Sunday | December 3, 2023 | 12:06 AM
Sudanese refugees gather outside a field hospital in Acre, Chad.
Sudanese refugees gather outside a field hospital in Acre, Chad.

November 25 marked the annual International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) and the start of 16 Days of Activism that will climax with the observance of International Human Rights Day on December 10. In sharp contrast, accounts of dehumanisation, torture and murder of Palestinian men, women and children by Israeli security forces loom large at time of writing. So, too, do the millions killed in the relentless wars grinding on in the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Although these wars are not foregrounded in the mainstream media, they have created humanitarian crises for citizens of these and neighbouring countries.

Approximately seven million deaths have been recorded in the DRC, while the latest figures hover around a million killed in the latest fighting in the Sudan. Multiple millions have been displaced and are facing starvation. Drilling down to the political and economic interests involved in the ongoing conflicts in the DRC, it is evident that the USA is losing the control of the minerals to China, the superpower that is also supplying weapons being used in the war.

On the local front, police brutality rankles as much as it does elsewhere in the world. Even so, I was shocked to watch a short video that came up on my feed of an 11 year-old boy being man-handled to the ground by a Jamaican police officer who also pepper-sprayed him. This seemed to be excessive force to be using (along with verbal abuse) against an unarmed child. The officer, egged on by his colleagues, seemed to be berating the child for a wrong committed before the start of the recording. Regardless of the offence, the violence used is a crime in itself, which the commissioner of police should urgently investigate.


One can infer from this critical incident that there is a hostile interface between the police and civilians in Jamaica, especially those living below the poverty line. Despite phenomenal achievements of citizens living in these underserved areas, the disproportionately high number of people murdered per annum in these beleaguered areas, by police and criminals alike, demonstrates that these districts have been imploding for decades.

Jamaicans who live below the poverty line may routinely report that “war a gwaan” or that deadly conflicts between rivals are disrupting community life. People from the wider society often look at these disturbances from a distance, unable to comprehend how people who grew up together in relatively small spaces can be killing each other over turf, drugs, guns or the dubious distinction of “running the place”. Meanwhile, the State and its security apparatus implement states of emergency, the infamous SOEs, as the Band-Aid measure to future-proof the problem.

When we consider war on a larger scale, it is unfathomable that, beyond the carnage, human loss and suffering, some people benefit from the destruction. Those who own and operate the military industrial complex reap huge dividends from the sale of weapons of human destruction. The phallic composition of bombs, bullets, guns, and fighter jets all show the preoccupation of the architects of war and associated death machinery with penile power.

The psychosocial satisfaction that the winner gains over the vanquished finds parallel with the winner-loser dynamic that operates in the court system. No wonder restorative justice advocates are anxious to replace this winner-loser model with a more equitable justice system. Restorative justice is a win-win process based on the Ubuntu principle – I am because we are – where forgiveness is used to defuse the dangerous responses of recrimination and revenge.


Often, though, the winners ravage the resources of the losers. The spoils of war are invariably looted and appropriated by those leading the charge against the vulnerable. Valuables like many African artefacts, including the celebrated Benin Bronzes that currently grace European museums, speak volumes of the material benefits derived from conflicts. Reparations advocates are having a hard time retrieving the looted property.

Land is the most prized commodity confiscated as a consequence of war. Even more lucrative are the resources concealed in the land. Cynics quickly figured out that the United States of America’s (USA’s) hawkish interest in Iraq was about gaining control of the oil-rich land. The hundreds of thousands of people killed was just collateral damage for getting access to this prize. Cronyism provided key war supporters with the value-added of lucrative contracts for reconstructing the devastated war zones.

When you look at the role of successive USA secretaries of state (SoS) in the instigation of war as a core foreign policy and domestic mobilisation strategy, you get insight into the contradictions that are inherent to big-ticket war efforts. In the recent past, Colin Powell was the SoS to George W. Bush who instigated the second Iraqi war on the pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The justification narrative that accompanied this disinformation campaign was that these alleged weapons threatened (North) American interests.

Hillary Clinton was the SoS in President Barack Obama’s regime. She is most memorable for the disastrous intervention in Libya that laid waste the Gaddafi administration. This was one of the most tragic outcomes vis-à-vis the development of the African continent.

Henry Kissinger was the SoS under both Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He presided over the catastrophic Vietnam war and introduced unprovoked bombings over the Vietnamese border in Cambodia. This catalysed the subsequent massacre of millions that was spearheaded by the Khmer Rouge. Now a centenarian, Kissinger was never formally charged with crimes against humanity. However, he is widely acknowledged as the instigator of acts which cost the lives of millions of people, far removed from the USA mainland.

The now-infamous report that bears his moniker documents that Kissinger also acted with impunity in the implementation of a depopulation programme in African and other vulnerable countries. This programme aimed to achieve the inverse outcome of USA enrichment. As stated in the Kissinger report, “The US economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries. That fact gives the US enhanced interest in the political, economic, and social stability of the supplying countries. Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States.”

This depopulation strategy is a familiar and racialised form of war. Well, Rastafari can say ‘I and I told you so’, having long ago asserted that “birth control is a plan to kill out black people”, How then can we win a war if the other side is busy ensuring that you will lose? How do you eliminate violence when some people have vested interests in maintaining the status quo? Routing the violence of greed and the entitlement of white supremacy seem like pragmatic starting points. However, it means that the right to bear arms would have to apply equally to both sides, because passive aggression is suicidal when the enemy has taken your innocence for target practice.


Imani Tafari-Ama, PhD, is a Pan-African advocate and gender and development specialist. Send feedback to