Intercepted: Another U.S.


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Aug 22, 2023

Intercepted: Another U.S.

U.S.-trained military officers have taken part in 11 coups in West Africa since 2008. Troops from Niger ousted the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, last week. One of the

U.S.-trained military officers have taken part in 11 coups in West Africa since 2008.

Troops from Niger ousted the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, last week. One of the coup leaders had previously received training from the U.S. government, becoming the 11th coup in the region led by U.S.-trained officers. This week on Intercepted, Nick Turse, investigative journalist and contributing writer with The Intercept, joins Jeremy Scahill and Murtaza Hussain to discuss the unfolding events in Niger and the Sahel region. Turse outlines how Africa has seen elevated conflict and instability as the U.S. has increased its military involvement on the continent over the last two decades.

[Intercepted intro theme music.]

Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.

Welcome to Intercepted. I’m Jeremy Scahill.

Murtaza Hussain: And I’m Murtaza Hussain.

The Sahel region of Africa has been wracked by instability in recent years, including extremist violence, climate change impacts, and a series of military coups that have deposed democratic governments in six countries.

The latest coup took place last week in Niger, where U.S. trained military officers moved to depose an elected leader who sent the country into chaos.

JS: We’re joined now by Nick Turse, he’s an investigative journalist and a contributing writer for The Intercept. Nick has been reporting on the African continent and the U.S. influence in various African nations for many years. He was in Niger on a reporting trip earlier this year, and has been reporting on that country for a sustained period of time.

Nick Turse, you’ve been on this program many times, and we thank you once again for being with us here on Intercepted.

Nick Turse: Thanks so much for having me on.

JS: Nick, I want to start with just, basically, a TikTok of what happened in Niger, who the coup leaders are, and the events that led us to this moment. Take us through the timeline and what exactly went down.

NT: Yeah. Just this past week, there was a junta that rose up in Niger. It began with the presidential guard kidnapping the president, basically taking him hostage, holding him for some time. And, while the president was being held hostage, about ten high-ranking Nigerien officers appeared on state television to tell the country that they had deposed the president, that the regime had so bungled the counterterrorist response over the last several years that they were taking charge.

It’s still shaking out as to who the real power players in this junto are but — as I reported for The Intercept this week — one of them is Brigadier General Moussa Salaou Barmou, who is the chief of the special operations forces in Niger, and he’s been a darling of the U.S. government for many years. He was trained in the United States at Fort Benning — since renamed — but this has been a school for foreign military officers for many years, and also in Washington at the National Defense University. At least those two; likely more.

There are many pictures on U.S. military websites of him embracing U.S. military officers, being involved in U.S. military activities. And, just last month in June, he met with a three-star commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Forces in Niger at a large U.S. military base there. So, he’s really wired into the U.S. security matrix.

JS: One follow-up to that. You’re mentioning the U.S. ties of one of the coup plotters, but isn’t it also true that the current government, also, has curried a lot of favor with the United States? The U.S. has viewed it as not necessarily a full-blown client state, but close to it.

So, what’s going on there? Because, also, the Biden administration, even before the coup was officially announced, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken came out, basically warning that no one should attempt to seize power in Niger.

So, what’s happening here, given what you just described about the U.S. training background of at least one of the coup plotters?

NT: Yeah. The United States has viewed Niger as a true counterterrorism bulwark in the region for many years. Niger has become increasingly more important to the United States in the region over the last several years, but there’s been a longstanding relationship, and U.S. taxpayers have sent more than half a billion dollars in security assistance to Niger since just 2012, and the United States has really been pumping assistance, military aid, weapons, sending trainers, advisors into Niger since about 2002, 2003. Right at the beginning of the war on terror.

So, we have a very strong security relationship there, and Antony Blinken, as you mentioned, he came out forcefully about this coup. He had been in Niger earlier this year, talking about just how important that country is to the U.S. security apparatus within West African Sahel and across the continent as a whole.

MH: Can you talk a bit about the conflict in Niger, which the U.S. is participating in as supporting the Niger government. Obviously, this conflict has been going on for some years, but I think it’s very poorly understood by people outside the region, especially in the U.S.. But the U.S. has been very intimately involved, as you said, for quite a long time.

Tell us, briefly, what are the dynamics and the origins of this conflict?

NT: Yeah. As I mentioned, the United States has been involved here since about 2002, 2003, but when they first got involved, there was very little terrorist activity in the region. But, over the period of the last 20 years, there’s been a tremendous rise, and it’s taken place in an area they call Liptako Gourma, a tri-border region where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso all meet.

Basically, there are a number of terrorist groups operating there. Some are Al Qaeda affiliated, some are affiliated with the Islamic state, some are free agents, but they have a very similar playbook. These are jihadists who generally attack on motorcycle. They will roll into villages; generally, they’ll come before attacking, to tell people how they want them to dress, to act.

These are, generally, in these countries, Muslim people, but they want them to ascribe to a more strident version of Islam. They want women to wear the veil, they want men to wear short pants, they want alcohol to be completely verboten. And, if you don’t comply — if you don’t pay Zakat, the Islamic tax — they will come back, and they will come back shooting. And they’ve terrorized villages in these regions and, generally, the militaries of these countries have been unable to protect their people.

The United States has poured security aid in, supposedly to bolster these militaries, to make them more effective in protecting their people. But, every year over the last ten years, the number of terrorist attacks have gone up, the number of civilian fatalities has gone up.

And, basically, the only metric where the United States has been successful is training military officers who are able to overthrow their own governments. They’ve been unable to combat the jihadists in any kind of effective way.

JS: Nick, there’s a lot of pushback against France happening on the African continent, especially in countries where French colonialism reared its ugly head for a sustained period of time, and both the United States and France have troops that are on the ground in Niger. I think, by last time I checked, France has roughly one and a half thousand troops there, and there are more than a thousand — I think 1,100 — U.S. troops. And most of those, as I understand, are stationed at drone bases that are used to carry out strikes, either in Niger or elsewhere.

But talk a little bit about the place that French colonialism holds in, not just Niger’s current day politics, but also in some of the other coups or rebellions that we’ve seen in former French colonial nations in Africa.

NT: Yeah. There’s a great deal of anti-French sentiment in the Western Sahel, in the countries that I talked about — Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali — and the United States has been really wired into the French military response there. [They] aided France in many ways with ISR, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, worked alongside French troops.

But the militaries in these countries and the civilian populations have really soured on the French who, as you mentioned, the colonial relationship there has never really gone away. These are still treated by France as de facto colonies in many ways, French corporations dominate the landscape there, and people see them as very extractive, taking mineral wealth, uranium, you know? And people want these resources back, and don’t think the French should have their hands on them.

And I think the United States has, because they’re so wired in with the French, has taken on some of that colonial sheen. You know, the population sees them as working together. So, that hasn’t benefited the United States.

And I think, also, just the ineffectiveness of the French counterterrorism effort and the U.S. counterterrorism effort over the last 20 years, it’s really soured common people in these countries. And also a lot of military officers, who are now looking elsewhere — Russia, the Wagner group — as a possible solution, because 20 years of the United States and France conducting counterterrorism missions, sending in advisors, sending in special operations forces, training, advising local troops. It just hasn’t worked. The terrorism has just increased, year after year, civilian deaths increasing, year after year.

MH: Nick, you mentioned earlier that this issue of terrorism was less prominent in the region 20 years ago when the war on terror began, but something happened in that time to exacerbate it. Can you explain the dynamics by which it began to increase over the past generation or so?

And, second to that, in a lot of places in the world, jihadist groups tend to exploit currently existing ethnic conflict. Is there a dynamic of ethnic conflict in Niger, in this region you’re talking about, where the epicenter of jihadism is?

NT: Yes. One, when we’re talking about the increase in terrorism, it’s been profound.

Back in 2002, 2003, when the United States first began putting counterterrorism funds into Niger, the State Department counted something like a total of nine terrorist attacks in sub-Saharan Africa. I mean, a tremendously small number. Last year, in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger alone, there were more than 2700 terrorist attacks. So, we’re talking about a 30,000 percent increase since the U.S. began its counterterrorism efforts. So, it’s a tremendous increase.

And you mentioned the ethnic conflict, local dynamics. Yeah, it’s very much the case. Actors like Al Qaeda and ISIS have been able to play on this. There’s an ethnic group that spans all three countries, sometimes called the Fulani, sometimes called the Peul, and this group has been marginalized, really, since colonial times, when the French colonized the region. And this group has been really kept out of government positions. They’ve wanted a place in the military, have been kept out of that, and they’re generally Islamic herders.

Some of the other groups are Christian groups that have had a preferred place in the government and in business. And just the changing dynamics in the country, economics, climate change, all these things have affected these Peul herders. And because they are then recruited due to this dissatisfaction with the government by these terrorist groups, the governments in these regions generally assume that all Peul are terrorists, and treat them as such. So, they abuse these communities, they commit atrocities there, they arrest and disappear men, and this drives the Fulani herders further towards the terrorists.

So, again, it’s outside. The U.S. counterterrorism model has helped to feed this by empowering these militaries more, allowing them to target these communities further, and just ramped up the terrorism in there. So, it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy and, really, an endless cycle and spiral of violence.

JS: You know, this coup happens at a really interesting time in not just world affairs, but also in African affairs. It happens, as you have this Africa summit taking place in St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the stated purposes of the conference was the continued liberation from colonialism and neocolonialism. This coup happens while you have Russia’s war continuing to rage in Ukraine.

You mentioned earlier the Wagner Group and its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Prigozhin, when this coup happened in Niger, was actually, I think The New York Times described him as hovering on the margins of the conference on Africa in St. Petersburg. But he praised the coup, Prigozhin did, and actually suggested that he could send his own armed fighters to help. And, of course, the Wagner Group — and you’ve reported on this for The Intercept — the Wagner Group is already entrenched in several African nations, including in Mali, in Mozambique, and elsewhere. They also serve as the presidential guard for some military juntas.

Talk more about Wagner and Prigozhin in Africa, and specifically what they might want out of Niger. Because Wagner, like many mercenary companies, often tends to operate in the economy of natural resources. And so, looking, just in a surface way at Niger’s natural resource wealth, it seems quite clear what one of the motivations would be.

But talk a bit about the broader posture of Wagner in Africa and, specifically, what they might want out of Niger.

NT: We haven’t seen that Wagner is involved in Niger yet, but you can look to neighboring Mali to get an idea of what the playbook might be. And there, Mali was — like Burkina Faso before it, and Niger — dissatisfied with the current state of counterterrorism in the country. And, in all these countries now, you’ve had military officers rise up, all of them have been U.S.-trained military officers.

But, in Mali, even though we trained that officer, he brought Wagner group in, and my understanding is that Wagner is paid $11 million a month for trainers and advisors, but, really, they’re troops on the ground who are conducting military operations. And they also have been given access to mineral resources, specifically artisanal gold mines, which there are a lot of in the Western Sahel.

So, there’s great mineral wealth to be had there, and this has generally been their playbook. They want to get their hooks into these mines, and it’s a tremendous profit center for them, and it’s an opportunity for them to burnish their image and just expand their reach.

As you mentioned, they’re in several places on the continent: Central African Republic, Mozambique, Mali. And it looks like Prigozhin is interested in going to Niger and, depending on how the United States and France respond to this, I think they’re worried about driving Niger into the arms of Wagner. And I think it’s going to be a very delicate dance by the United States to condemn this coup but use every possible method to keep their influence there, and to keep some sort of aid going, and keep Niger in the U.S. counterterrorism column instead of Wagner.

[Intercepted mid-show theme music.]

MH: You mentioned Wagner has been active in some of the neighboring countries, including Mali, in the region.

Can you tell us a bit about what we know about the conduct of Wagner in these conflicts? I know Human Rights Watch and some local journalists have done reports on some of the impact of Wagner operations. How may that model, which you described, be applied to Niger if it does come into play?

NT: You know, as I’ve reported recently for The Intercept — and this was off some stellar on the ground research by Human Rights Watch — Wagner has been accompanying Malian troops into the field and committing some exceptionally heinous atrocities.

They’re going into areas where terrorist groups are active, but targeting the civilian populations there. So, they will come in by helicopter, land in a village, round up the men. They’ll go house to house and loot these homes. Generally, it’s just a few Malian troops, but mostly Wagner forces. The people who are being attacked, some of them call them Wagner, some of them call them Russians, some of them call them just white soldiers, but they don’t speak French, and they’re a new type of force with new types of tactics.

And these men are generally rounded up and taken away. Human Rights Watch shared some video footage with me of villagers who went out and found the men from that village that had been disappeared. And the camera takes you out into a field, and it’s littered with bodies. Some of them have been shot, some of them have had their throats slit. In most cases, it looks like the men were bound before they were killed. So, these were summary executions by Wagner forces.

And this seems to be the Wagner playbook, they’ve done this in the Central African Republic as well. But some really brutal methods, and it’s a worry that this will again repeat itself in Niger, but I think it’s certainly a possibility.

JS: In your assessment, given that you follow this conflict quite closely, were there gaps in what Human Rights Watch reported? And are there, not discrepancies, but are there differences in the way that you can tell that Human Rights Watch approaches the crimes, or alleged human rights violations, or extrajudicial killings of individuals, where the perpetrator is a Russian-backed force versus a U.S.-backed force, if you get what I’m saying?

Were there inconsistencies there, or double standards at play? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but just give us an assessment of how you think Human Rights Watch and others approach these kinds of questions, when it’s the case of a Russian-backed mercenary firm committing the crimes versus U.S. proxies.

NT: I think that groups like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty; I mean, they do good work, but sometimes the framing of the issue can see a difference there. Though, I should say, in some cases they hit it harder when it’s Russian-backed.

Now, generally, the U.S. at least keeps a lower profile when it heads out with its local proxies in the region, and we generally don’t have the same type of reporting on that, it often doesn’t come to light. Human rights groups, generally back off to some degree when they’re talking about U.S. proxies, and really pushing the line that these are U.S.-trained forces. And some of it owes to the fact that the United States is able to keep these missions secret.

We know in Niger, for example, the United States have run something called 127-Echo programs there for years, and these went on under the radar for a very long time, until October of 2017, when there was an ambush by Islamic State forces of U.S. troops. [They] killed four U.S. soldiers, two of them Green Berets, wounded a couple more U.S. troops, and killed a number of Nigerien proxies who were with them.

The United States came out and said this was an advise and assist mission, but really what it was and what came to light was that this was the United States operating under Section 127E of the U.S. Code, which allows U.S. forces to employ local Nigerien forces as proxies in the field. They’re doing the United States’ bidding, they’re out there to achieve U.S. aims.

But rarely do these come to light. So, we know there are a lot of atrocities by Nigerien forces. Were they accompanied by the United States during these? You know, it’s often impossible to tell. The United States has played such a strong role in backing Nigerien forces over the years, there’s a good chance the United States is involved in one way or another, and this is something that often doesn’t come through in reports by human rights groups. Often, I think, because they don’t have the visibility on it, but it’s something that, at least, could be raised more in these reports, in the same manner that they would raise when it comes to Russia or Wagner group.

MH: Nick, given your breadth of experience across the region, you’ve actually connected the dots in a very interesting way about the relationship, incidental or intentional, between U.S. training of militaries and this wave of political instability in coups which have taken place across the Sahel region and beyond in Africa. I think The New York Times actually had a story the other day, noting that there have been coups from one coast of the Sahel to the other over the past few years; a pretty remarkable string of unrest.

So, I wanted to ask you: is there causality between this training relationship, in the sense that something benefits the U.S. in having this political instability? Or is it more a product of a lack of control or incompetence on the part of U.S. policymakers? On what sides do U.S. interests lie?

And, secondarily to that, how are these coups all related to each other, if they are? It seems like this geographical proximity has some sort of salience, but what is that? How is the region’s instability infecting other countries?

NT: Yeah, I’ve noticed, since this coup, there’s been a tremendous number of security analysts, Western security analysts on Twitter, folks that parrot the U.S. line. They’ve attacked my coverage, saying that I’m claiming there’s causation here, that there’s causality that the United States either — there’s something in U.S. training that makes these folks overthrow their governments.

And I don’t claim causation in the way that I think they want to frame the reporting. And, in fact, I think that the way they frame it is actually much more damning.

You know, they say that the United States floods the region with money and trains tremendous numbers of officers. When you break that down and think about it, the amount of money that’s been pumped into these conflicts and how poorly they’ve gone… I mean, it doesn’t speak very well for U.S. training, and it doesn’t speak very well for U.S. advising for the counterterrorism paradigm that we’ve sold to these countries.

And, it’s true. I mean, many, many officers across West Africa have gotten U.S. training, and not all of them overthrow their governments. But I think the case is that the United States isn’t able to control how this training is used. It doesn’t seem to be effective in any type of way for its stated purpose: counterterrorism, making these countries safer. But the officers that it’s trained there, it doesn’t seem to have had an impact when it comes to laws of war, when it comes to democratic principles, and these are things that the United States always stresses that they are imparting on their trainees across the region.

So, yeah. I think, at least, it should give U.S. policymakers pause, and say, this doesn’t seem to be effective in any of the ways we’ve wanted it to be. We’ve used the same paradigm for the last 20 years. Maybe we need to rethink at this point. Maybe it’s time to think about another way forward, because 20 years of counterterrorism assistance, billions and billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars pumped into the region has just left us with coups now by 11 U.S.-trained officers.

You know, again, correlation doesn’t equal causation, but the metrics are exceptionally bad.

JS: Yeah. And, I mean, you also have the entire duration of modern U.S. history. You mentioned one of the coup plotters being trained at Fort Benning, and just to remind people, it used to be known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas. You had string after string after string of military officers from Central Latin America who came to the United States and received training at what was then called the School of the Americas, who, not only committed human rights abuses while they were members of U.S. client state militaries, but also then joined paramilitary groups, or became assassins.

The people that assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980 in San Salvador, the Archbishop of San Salvador, the group that assassinated him included individuals that were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas. That also has been replicated in African nations, and in Asia, and elsewhere, where you have foreign military officers who’ve received extensive and advanced training from the United States then go on to commit heinous human rights abuses, or antidemocratic regimes come to power with graduates of U.S. military training.

And I think that, to an extent, I saw some of the criticism being levied at you, Nick. I think a lot of it is really baseless because, just to point to the most obvious, I mean, history is on your side in your analysis here. And it is not just fair game to point out the U.S. role in training people that go on to commit human rights abuses or engage in antidemocratic putsches around the world, but also to ignore it, or to just preemptively say that this isn’t a data point we should look at is a totally intellectually dishonest exercise.

Oftentimes, people who are levying that kind of criticism at people like you are the very people who have to be forced to acknowledge that the U.S. played any role whatsoever in any of the events that have taken place around the world. So, I would just completely set that aside, but I think it opens a door for a different sort of a nuanced conversation or question to you, and that is to explain, post-9/11, why the U.S. started taking increased interest in African nations — and particularly Niger — and what the past almost 23 years of so-called counterterrorism strategy have looked like on the African continent. There’s, of course, drone strikes, but that’s not the entirety of it.

This has been the heart of a lot of your reporting over the past two decades on Africa, and I think it would be great if you just walk people through, how did we get to this point where the U.S. was using Niger and other African nations in the way it has used them since 9/11?

NT: Sure. I mean, just after 9/11, the United States looked out on the world and just made a decision that, basically, they would look to places that they considered the ungoverned spaces, places where they thought that terrorism could take hold. This was just a theory that you would have to flood these areas with security assistance, get U.S. advisors on the ground, create a counterterrorism regime. And they did this in place after place, area after area, in Africa.

And, generally, there were no transnational terror groups in Sub-Saharan Africa at the time; even Al Shabaab was still a glint in the eye of the Islamic Courts Union. There were none of the threats that they were so worried about. 20 years later, U.S Special Operations Command Africa counts about 50 transnational terrorist and militant groups on the continent.

So, you’ve had a tremendous increase over that time. And, again, correlation doesn’t equal causation, but I think you can look at the way that the United States has structured its aid, how it’s bolstered this counterterrorism mindset that has turned localized conflicts into regional conflicts, that has taken, what were local problems between ethnic groups and their governments, and internationalized them by creating openings for transnational terror groups to come in and recruit.

Just in almost every context you can look at where the United States has put real counterterrorism dollars into real significant numbers of U.S. troops, the conflicts have all worsened for the countries involved. And, especially, for the people that are living in these conflict areas. Things have just gotten exponentially worse over this time.

And you mentioned drone strikes have been one part of this, mostly in Somalia, earlier on in the war on terror and in Libya. That’s subsided, at least for the moment, but the United States has put a lot of boots on the ground. Small numbers, but a lot over time, and they cycle these special operations teams in and out of these countries. And Niger has been one, as I mentioned, where they used this shadowy 127E authority, 127-Echo.

Again, this is small numbers of U.S. commandos on the ground working alongside Nigerien forces, who they use as proxies to fight, kill America’s enemies on the continent. They’ve done this in country after country. They do it in Somalia, they’ve done it in Cameroon, in Burkina, in Mali at one point, and in Niger. We had a small window into those types of operations due to the debacle in 2017, but one thing that came out of that — as I said, U.S. Africa Command said that this was an advise and assist mission, that this was a complete fiction. And an investigation by a three-star U.S. general found that Nigerien forces had had no input in the planning process or the decision to execute these missions.

What the U.S. said were advise, assist, accompany, were more like U.S. direct action missions, and “direct action” is a special ops euphemism for strikes, raids, other offensive missions. And this has been what’s been going on in the continent in secret for more than a decade now. The United States is running teams of Navy SEALs, Green Berets in, and conducting offensive operations.

These are wars by another name that, generally, the American public doesn’t know about, and this has been a major portion of counterterrorism strategy on the continent.

MH: So, given this unrest in this very critical region — obviously, Sahel’s became a zone of great power competition, China and Russia both have a presence there; and some of China, maybe you can enlighten our readers about.

But I wanted to ask: given the U.S.’s very military focused role in the Sahel over the past generation, could you give us a sense of what may be a more constructive policy? The U.S. obviously has been training these military officers and setting them loose, and they’ve been, in many cases, either ineffective or actively agents of destabilization in the region.

Is there a better way that the U.S. could support the people of the region and the governments, as opposed to the current course they’ve taken, which has caused so much havoc?

NT: Generally, I think these questions are above my paygrade and are better served by smarter people than me. I try not to give prescriptions on these things.

But I think that to start, at least, U.S. lawmakers should be taking a really hard look at this long and sordid history of U.S. intervention there, and ask some really pointed questions of the State Department and U.S. Africa Command.

Generally, in testimony before Congress, AFRICOM gives up some talking points, there’s some predictable questions. No one asks the hard questions, or tells them that they need to come up with metrics to show that 20 years of counterterrorism efforts have helped in any way, and I think they’d be hard pressed to do that. So, I think, as a start, that needs to be done.

These countries, generally, I think the unrest is driven by poverty and by the governments that we’ve been supporting that have driven people into the arms of terrorists. So, I think a greater focus on humanitarian aid, not only suspending aid when coups happen, but when you have year after year, decade after decade, reports of governments that are abusing their populations, sending militaries out, committing atrocities, and driving terrorism, that the United States needs to take action in these ways. Cut off aid before we have 20 years of ineffectiveness and a military uprising.

So, I think those are some places where, at least, that there could be a start.

JS: Nick, just one follow-up. Murtaza had mentioned China and great power competition. Can you comment a bit on the difference in approach between the United States and China in the Sahel, and how these countries both have tried to assert their influence or economic or diplomatic power?

NT: The United States has spent the last 20-plus years with this counterterrorism whack-a-mole strategy, and China has really pushed a soft-power approach. I think the Chinese have been very effective at what they’ve done.

The best example that always comes to mind, and it’s in the Sahel, in Mali: a few years ago, the United States had given Mali a large sum of money through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is an economic aid the United States supplies to African countries. And it was for a major construction project, and the U.S. casted about looking for a U.S. firm that would carry out this work, the building project, but there were no U.S. corporations that were interested in going to Africa and building this big public works project.

Eventually, the company that was hired was a Chinese firm, state-connected. So, it was U.S. taxpayer dollars but, when Malians looked at this project, they saw Chinese on the ground, they saw Chinese writing on it, they assumed it was a Chinese project.

I mean, I think it’s emblematic of how things have gone. The U.S. is putting the money out there and China’s able to take the credit. I mean, they’ve eaten our lunch over and over again in circumstances like this, and this one was one of the more egregious, but it shows that China knows how to play the game on the continent, and the United States is flailing about, I would say, in a rather ineffective manner.

JS: All right. Nick Turse, thank you so much for joining us once again here on Intercepted.

NT: Thanks so much for having me.

MH: That was Nick Turse, an investigative journalist and contributing writer for The Intercept.

[Intercepted end-show theme music.]

JS: And that does it for this episode of Intercepted.

Intercepted is a production of The Intercept. José Olivares is the lead producer. Our supervising producer is Laura Flynn. Roger Hodge is editor-in-chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed our show, and this episode was transcribed by Leonardo Faierman. Our theme music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky.

If you want to support our work, you can go to Your donation, no matter what the size, makes a real difference. And, if you haven’t already, please subscribe to Intercepted, and definitely leave us a rating or a review wherever you find your podcasts. It helps other listeners to find us as well.

If you want to give us feedback, you can email us at [email protected].

Thank you so much for joining us.

Intercepted is going to be on hiatus for a few weeks, but we will be back in September. Until then, I’m Jeremy Scahill.

MH: And I’m Murtaza Hussain.


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