The Africa Center for Strategic Studies looks, from the outside, harmless enough. Even its website, with its dot org URL, makes it appear to be merely another think tank working to improve the largest continent's developing nations.
But the ACSS is not merely another think tank, any more than the Project for a New American Century is just another think tank. The ACSS was launched in 1999 by the United States Department of Defense -- that's right, the Pentagon, not the State Department -- with a goal of, among other things, fostering "informed and productive inquiry on the military's role in a democracy among non-government civilian leaders, government officials and military officers."
In the years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, however, a primary goal of the ACSS has been assisting the US in its so-called "war on terror":
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies supports the efforts of the Department of Defense and other U.S. agencies to counter ideological support for terrorism... (and to) Build understanding and support for the War on Terror.Now, all this is fine in and of itself. It is curious, I think, that we have largely if not entirely ignored Africa up until now, and continue to ignore many African crises, such as the one we witness in Darfur. When one considers, too, that Africa's total, global, external debt is less than two-thirds of what the United States has spent in the last three-and-a-half years in its invasion and occupation of Iraq, it is impossible to wonder if "ideological support for terrorism" would be most easily countered by a global policy of debt forgiveness (as urged by the late Roman Catholic Pontiff, the Holy Father Pope John Paul the Great).
But that is not the way this administration works.
In 2003, US agents began training operatives for four North African countries - Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia. ACSS has begun classes in counter-terrorism operations that seek to "share best practices and lessons learned regarding counter-terrorism policies and programs." (Presumably, "best practices" include physical abuse "tantamount to torture," suspension of fundamental human rights such as due process of law, kidnapping suspects, etc.) And in 2005 George W. Bush called for the US military training of 40,000 African troops to combat terrorism and "keep peace" in Africa.
Again none of this, on the surface, raises eyebrows. That is, perhaps, one of the reasons so little has been reported about the ACSS. But the parallels to the School of the Americas are frightening. The SOA began as a counter-insurgency training institute for Latin American military. It became, by the 1980's, a school for assassins and death squad leaders.
It isn't right. Write your Congressional Representatives and demand sufficient oversight.