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Somalia


Sid Walker
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New wars seem to be coming thick and fast.

It's hard to keep up with them.

I'd be interested in other people's views about the latest 'troubles' in Somalia.

Why Somalia? Why now?

I don't pretend to know... but here, for what it's worth, is speculation I haven't seen elsewhere that seems at least worth exploring...

The PBS web page Interactive Map: The Significance of Saudi Oil shows that if the Straights of Hormuz do close to traffic - a substantial amount of Saudi oil could still be shipped out via the Red Sea.

In that event, control of the Bab el Mandeb would be vital. This is the strait linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It already represents one of the world's most active shipping lanes, according to the CIA Factbook. Those lanes might get even busier...

Controlling southern access to the Red Sea involves taming three countries: Somalia, Eritrea and Yemen. All three have predominatly Moslem populations. Somalia are Eritrea are in bad shape, economically and politically. Both have suffered long periods of instability and warfare (Yemen too, although since unification it has become wealthier and more stable).

An attack on Iran - possibly (God forbid!) employing nuclear wepons - would provoke a massive backlash against the US/Israeli Imperium. This would not be confined to the Moslem world - but Moslems would clear feel great anger. Retaliatory moves are likely.

For that reason, intimidating Governments and other power brokers within that unstable region at the base of the Red Sea - and getting Ethiopian proxies involved on the ground - is a predictable preparatory measure on the part of the Imperium.

Illegal assaults on a sovereign nation by Ethiopian and US forces are carried out under the ideological cover of the 'War on Terror' (what else?)

The intended stay-behind message for the locals? Something like: "Do what We say - or We'll bomb hell out of you! Oh, and by the way, don't even think about taking independent action contrary to Our interests!"

A political map of Africa helps illustrate the strategic issues:

africa.gif

Edited by Sid Walker
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Niall Ferguson (whom I usually just skip, since his stuff is so often right-wing nonsense) gave an interesting background perspective in the LA Times the other day. Here's a quote (from http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-...on-columnists):

"As with all history, the same events can be narrated in at least two mutually contradictory ways. Here, first, is Somalia's recent history from a neoconservative perspective:

Somalia's troubles can be traced to its partition by the incompetent European imperial powers (especially the cheese-eating French), but the rot really set in during the late 1970s, when the detente-obsessed Carter administration failed to assist Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre in his war against communist Ethiopia.

After Siad's overthrow, the country descended into civil war. As a failed state, it became a potential base for terrorist operations. In 1993, the Clinton administration sent U.S. troops to Somalia. This was a disaster for four reasons.

First, the intervention was authorized by a United Nations Security Council resolution, thus compromising American freedom of action (by giving the French a say).

Second, President Clinton reduced the size of the U.S. military presence when he should have increased it.

Third, unforeseen operational difficulties led to the loss of two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters and 18 U.S. military personnel, damaging American credibility in the region. (The number of Somalis killed is not known.)

Finally, instead of seeing the intervention through, Clinton cut and ran, even specifying in advance the departure date for U.S. forces.

These blunders had negative consequences for U.S. national security. Al Qaeda established a base in the south of the country. The 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were almost certainly planned there.

Last summer, a militant Islamist organization calling itself the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts seized power in Mogadishu. Similar to the Taliban in its militancy, the council imposed strict Sharia law. There were prohibitions on chewing khat, the local drug of choice, and even watching soccer games in public places. The overall head of the council was Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, a suspected Al Qaeda operative. As U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said in December, the council leaders were "extremists to the core."

U.S. policy has been to prevent Somalia from becoming a new front in the global war on terror, but without overt intervention, which could be politically problematic. Accordingly, the United States provided logistical naval support to the recent Ethiopian invasion and has announced an aid package of $17 million to assist the new transitional federal government of Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi.

As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday: "The Somali people … have a historic opportunity to begin to move beyond two decades of warlordism, extreme violence and humanitarian suffering."

Now let me offer you the alternative reading of events.

Long before the arrival of European imperialism, Somalia was a country plagued by warfare. There were recurrent attempts by Ethiopia to subjugate the Somalis. There were also frequent feuds between the various Somali clans themselves, like the Hawiye clan, which has its base in Mogadishu. The new prime minister is in fact a Hawiye, but has forfeited much credibility by acting as an Ethiopian puppet. In the eyes of many Somalis, recent events are just the latest of many wars with Ethiopia. That is why the recent rout of the Islamists is unlikely to be the last act in the Somali tragedy.

The Islamists offered Somalia order; not a Western order, to be sure, but order nonetheless. Under their rule, the price of an AK-47 in the Mogadishu markets slumped to $15, a sure sign that the warlords were being forced to downsize their militias. Young men no longer roared through the streets in the Mad Max-style vehicles known locally as "technicals" — trucks mounted with antiaircraft guns. Some were returning to school and university. Others were getting jobs with private electricity companies and airlines. Internet cafes were beginning to displace militia training camps. Kalashnikovs were being traded in for mobile phones.

Now, with the Islamists gone, the most likely scenario is a return of the warlords. Worse, the Islamists may now revert to the tactic of suicide bombing to destabilize the new government. As has happened in Afghanistan, the overthrow of an Islamist government will be followed not by a new order but by the old disorder.

As I said, it would take a satirist of Evelyn Waugh's genius to do justice to this story — to lay bare all the unintended consequences of yet another enforced regime change. At least in the Cold War, "our son of a bitch" — the local anti-communist strongman — could be counted on to impose a brutal kind of order. Now, in the war on terror, the United States would rather see a country torn apart by multiple sons-of-bitches than ruled under Sharia law.

But the more U.S. foreign policy promotes anarchy instead of order, the stronger the Islamists' appeal will be. And the darker the shade of mischief that will ensue."

My best bet is that the US military were trying to throw up some dust to divert attention from the shrub's attempt to escalate the war in Iraq.

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There's an interesting discussion of The Somalian Labyrinth by R. T. Naylor in Counterpunch.

Naylor subjects claims of Al Qaida involvement to critical analysis.

One gets the impression the author has followed the Horn of Africa's tangled history for many years - and doesn't only pick up interest when CNN & co decide it's 'news' once again.

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Sid and David,

Thanks for those informative posts.

My guess, and my knowledge of the Somali situation is far from comprehensive, is that PM Gedi called the Americans in to sort out a few troublemakers whom he percieved to be a threat.

It also gave the Americans a chance to push around a few more 'ragheads' and show the world why the AC 130 Hercules gunship is the world's most expensive aircraft. The targets (and whoever was unlucky enough to be loitering in the vicinity) wouldn't have known what hit them. The AC 130 can fire with accuracy from over a kilometre away, leaving corpses which resemble mincemeat.

A report in today's Daily Telegraph quotes a US intelligence official as stating, "I don't think we got them all". Get ready for another visit from Team America.

Just like in Stone and Parker's film of the same name, these people should be grateful that Team America is on hand to step in and kill the 'terrorists'---even if they ravage the countryside and innocent citizens while they're at it. :blink:

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Remember how Nixon increased his bombing campaign in Vietnam before he began to withdraw troops. It is about television images. Using modern aircraft to bomb civilians on the ground helps to convince the American public that they are giving the enemy a thrashing. There are still some idiots who believe that the US won the war in Vietnam. These images of the war on terror being about hunting down the enemy by air will obviously go down with the right-wing. Not that it will do anything but increase the number of Muslim fundamentalist terrorists in Somalia.

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There are still some idiots who believe that the US won the war in Vietnam.
Actually I think their theory is the US was winning and would have won but not for the press or the protesters or some other scapegoat. These same idiots think the US can win in Iraq.
These images of the war on terror being about hunting down the enemy by air will obviously go down with the right-wing. Not that it will do anything but increase the number of Muslim fundamentalist terrorists in Somalia.

Unfortunately I think you’re right.

Len

Edited by Len Colby
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Guest Stephen Turner

Just another variation on a theme that has been playing since the end of WW2, lets call it the evil terrorist/empire symphony. As members know this involves the demonisation, sometimes a former ally, of a "Bad guy/state/organisation, many have been called upon to fill this role, Nasser, the USSR, Castro/Cuba, Allende, Bin Laden and Sadam/Iraq to name but a few. The aim is not to defeat this enemy, but simply to HAVE an enemy, one that is easily painted as evil personified, and most importantly, a threat to the "American way"(cue violins, pictures of bald Eagles swooping majestically, and politicians talking about freedom and old glory.)All this has two main advantages for the ruling elite,Spending on military hardware goes, and stays through the roof, and it keeps the general population in a state of hightened anxiety, and anixious people are easily manipulated people.

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Just another variation on a theme that has been playing since the end of WW2, lets call it the evil terrorist/empire symphony. As members know this involves the demonisation, sometimes a former ally, of a "Bad guy/state/organisation, many have been called upon to fill this role, Nasser, the USSR, Castro/Cuba, Allende, Bin Laden and Sadam/Iraq to name but a few. The aim is not to defeat this enemy, but simply to HAVE an enemy, one that is easily painted as evil personified, and most importantly, a threat to the "American way"(cue violins, pictures of bald Eagles swooping majestically, and politicians talking about freedom and old glory.)All this has two main advantages for the ruling elite,Spending on military hardware goes, and stays through the roof, and it keeps the general population in a state of hightened anxiety, and anixious people are easily manipulated people.

Good point.

I haven't actually counted them, but most of Bush's speeches are littered with the words 'the enemy'. The storyline never seems to vary: the enemy is evil, cunning, resourceful etc., but we will hunt them down and bring them to justice. The enemy must always be the focus.

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Remember how Nixon increased his bombing campaign in Vietnam before he began to withdraw troops. It is about television images. Using modern aircraft to bomb civilians on the ground helps to convince the American public that they are giving the enemy a thrashing. There are still some idiots who believe that the US won the war in Vietnam. These images of the war on terror being about hunting down the enemy by air will obviously go down with the right-wing. Not that it will do anything but increase the number of Muslim fundamentalist terrorists in Somalia.

I don't know if a media blitz covering the murder of civilians will work. It's the 21st century.

I agree that the real war is over. It's time for Team America to take the stage.

It's my favorite part of the show.

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Guest Stephen Turner
Just another variation on a theme that has been playing since the end of WW2, lets call it the evil terrorist/empire symphony. As members know this involves the demonisation, sometimes a former ally, of a "Bad guy/state/organisation, many have been called upon to fill this role, Nasser, the USSR, Castro/Cuba, Allende, Bin Laden and Sadam/Iraq to name but a few. The aim is not to defeat this enemy, but simply to HAVE an enemy, one that is easily painted as evil personified, and most importantly, a threat to the "American way"(cue violins, pictures of bald Eagles swooping majestically, and politicians talking about freedom and old glory.)All this has two main advantages for the ruling elite,Spending on military hardware goes, and stays through the roof, and it keeps the general population in a state of hightened anxiety, and anixious people are easily manipulated people.

Good point.

I haven't actually counted them, but most of Bush's speeches are littered with the words 'the enemy'. The storyline never seems to vary: the enemy is evil, cunning, resourceful etc., but we will hunt them down and bring them to justice. The enemy must always be the focus.

Yep, and its as old as the hills, divide and conquer. In this case divide the workers off against themselves on Nationalistic, Patriotic, and religious lines, and while their foaming at the mouth about barbarian "others" secure your position, and most importantly, make off with all the prizes (just ask Haliburton :lol: ) Quickly everybody, time for four minutes hate, Eurasia's at the door.

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  • 2 months later...

Another 'neocon' foreign policy disaster and extension of the ludicrous and (intentionally?) counter-productive WoT.

U.S.-Made Mess in Somalia

by Ivan Eland

(Monday, April 9, 2007)

"U.S. experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia should teach foreign policy experts and the American public that U.S. meddling abroad is often counterproductive and dangerous. Yet the U.S. media help the U.S. government disguise these policy failures by failing to expose the underlying causes of violence, enabling the U.S. government to make the same mistakes over and over again."

The media often report overseas developments, but don’t always explore their underlying causes, which, in many cases, conveniently lets the U.S. government off the hook. The recent internecine violence in Somalia provides a classic example.

The U.S. media have focused to date almost exclusively on the rising Islamist movement in Somalia and U.S. “covert” assistance to the Ethiopian invasion that supported Somalia’s transitional government against the stronger Islamists. The media should be focusing on one of the major causes of the Somali mess: U.S. government meddling.

After 9/11, the Bush administration feared that the absence of a strong government in the “failed state” of Somalia could turn the small east–African country—slightly smaller than Texas—into a haven for terrorists. The administration ignored the fact that other states with weak governments have not become sanctuaries for terrorists. Even if Somalia had become a terrorist enclave, the terrorists, absent some U.S. provocation, probably would not have attacked the faraway United States.

As a result of the administration’s unfounded fear, the United States began supporting unpopular warlords in the strife-torn nation. That’s when the real trouble began.

The radical Islamists in Somalia never had much following until the Somali people became aware that an outside power was supporting the corrupt and thuggish military chieftains. The popularity of the Islamist movement then surged, allowing the Islamists to take over much of the country. In sum, where no problem with radical Islamists previously existed, the U.S. government helped create one.

In many respects, the Somali episode is a replay of other horribly counterproductive past U.S. interventions. In the 1980s, for example, the U.S. government supported the radical Islamist Mujahadeen—then fighting the non–Muslim Soviet occupiers in Muslim Afghanistan—that metamorphosed into al Qaeda, which is now attacking the United States for its non–Muslim military presence in the Persian Gulf.

History followed a similar pattern in Iraq. The Bush administration justified the U.S. invasion of Iraq in part by al Qaeda’s alleged link to Saddam Hussein—a thug, to be sure, but one who had been wise enough, in reality, to support groups who didn’t focus their attacks on the United States. Now, in Iraq, where there were no anti–U.S. Islamic terrorists before, we have plenty to fight.

Somalia is the third example of the United States creating a potentially anti–U.S. Islamist threat where none previously existed. The U.S.–supported Ethiopian invasion weakened the Somali Islamists, but they are still fighting fiercely for control of Mogadishu, the capital. Like those in Iraq, all the Somali Islamists have to do is hang on until the foreign occupier gets exhausted and leaves. When that happens, the Islamists could very well become the dominant political force in the country, capitalizing on their “patriotic” resistance to the hated Ethiopian occupiers and their U.S. benefactors.

The U.S.–backed Ethiopians, already unpopular, have become even more despised as a result of their alleged indiscriminate shelling of Mogadishu’s civilian areas, which human rights groups are calling a war crime. Unlike the period when the Islamists controlled Mogadishu, the transitional government has been unable to keep order, undermining both its credibility and public support. As a result, many in Somalia see the period of Islamic rule as good days, and now long for its return.

And that’s probably what will happen. Like the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, whose recent good fortunes were brought about by continued foreign occupation of that country, we will likely see the Somali Islamists make a comeback.

U.S. experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia should teach foreign policy experts and the American public that U.S. meddling abroad is often counterproductive and dangerous. Yet the U.S. media help the U.S. government disguise these policy failures by failing to expose the underlying causes of violence, enabling the U.S. government to make the same mistakes over and over again.

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