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350,000 people flee fighting in Mogadishu since February (Updated)

by maracatu Mon Apr 30th, 2007 at 06:15:22 AM EST

Here is another crisis that can be directly attributed to US intervention (I would call it US imperialism).  Responsible citizens need to finger the US government's key role in this humanitarian tragedy as it unfolds and do the best to reverse it.

Democracy Now has provided an excellent update and analysis of this unfolding tragedy in the piece The Most Lawless War in Our Generation, a program based on interviews with John Holmes, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator and Salim Lone, a former spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq and columnist for the Daily Nation in Kenya.  In fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea to abandon this diary altogether and simply read the entire transcript or listen to the progam from start to finish.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

Before going to the Democracy Now interviews, I feel it necessary to debunk some critical assumptions that I have tried to touch on in a previous diary posted at Daily Kos.  The whole issue of the US intervention in Somalia (and elsewhere, for that matter) being justified on the basis of the war against terrorism or chasing down Al Qaeda, is absolutely ridiculous and needs to be debunked.  You will find no sympathy from me in this argument.  If this were true, then Cuba would be justified in bombing and invading the United States in retaliation for protecting terrorist plane bomber Posada Carriles.   Furthermore, the overriding principle is that nodody has annointed the US police chief of the world.

Secondly, while I may not be in favor Sharia law, which was reportedly imposed by the Islamic Courts on Somalia, I am not Somali nor am I hubristic to the point of wanting to impose my views on anyone.  If the majority of Somalis supported the Islamic Courts, then that is their business and they must ultimately take responsibility for their own actions in this respect (Isn't that the abiding principle of democracy that George Bush so adamantly wanted to establish in the region, anyway?).  According to the BBC, which echoed most news reprorts on the subject:

...Somalia is a strongly Islamic country and many people support the courts.  During the years of warfare and anarchy, many Somalis have increasingly turned to their faith for some sort of stability.  (...)  Even those Mogadishu residents who are wary of Islamic extremism may welcome a single group being in control of the capital for the first time in 15 years, saying there will at least be some authority.  And most will prefer Islamic preachers to the warlords who have repeatedly fought over and in many cases systematically looted the city since 1991. BBC Somali analyst Yusuf Garaad Omar says the warlords were hated - even more so because of the widespread belief that they were being backed by the US.  The US has not been well thought of in Somalia since its humanitarian intervention went disastrously wrong - leading to the death of maybe 1,000 Somalis and 18 US troops in 1993.

What the US has done is plunge the region into another bloody mess which feeds Al Qaeda's propaganda of a Western crusade against Islam.  Are we fighting terrorism or feeding it?

Amy Goodman points out the extent of the current crisis in her introduction to UN Relief coordinator John Holms:

A humanitarian catastrophe now looms over Somalia. The United Nations says more people have been displaced in Somalia in the past three months than anywhere else in the world. Some 350,000 people have fled fighting in Mogadishu since February, more than a third of its population. That makes the rate of displacement in Somalia over the past three months worse than Iraq. Many of the those displaced are camped on the outskirts of Mogadishu and lack food, medicine and clean water. There is also concern for those trapped inside the capital where more than 600 people have died from acute diarrhea and cholera.

To which Mr. Holms responds (in part):

I think already this is one of the -- the biggest movement of population, displacement of population we've seen this year, in terms of numbers, particularly in terms of comparative numbers, compared to the populations of Mogadishu or indeed of Somalia as a whole, greater in that sense than Darfur or eastern Chad, and the problems there are serious enough.

Ms. Goodman goes on to highlight the lack of coverage in the US media, but it is her next interviewee that provides the all-too-obvious reason behind that.  Salim Lone says:

most Somalis will not abide this occupation. I mean, this is what is most distressing about this fighting. All fighting is terrible, but you hope in the end something good comes out of it. But in this particular case, it is clear Somalis will not abide the Ethiopian occupation or the government they put in place there. So it is not going to be a successful war for the Somali government, for Ethiopia and, of course, for the US, which is the orchestrator of the whole adventure this time.

Salim Lone, furthermore, places responsibility at the foot of the UN Security Council and the international community:

But one of the big issues here is not merely the unilateralism of the United States, but the inability of the international community and particularly the United Nations Security Council to try to play, if not an independent role, at least a moderating role. It is quite astonishing that for now three months, there has been terrible violence in Somalia, and yet we have not heard anything from the security council about how this carnage must stop. There is no interest whatsoever.  You know the death toll. I mean, you've given all the details. I don't want to go into it. But let me add that women are being raped, that hospitals are being bombed. This is clearly a huge effort to intimidate and terrorize all those who come from clans who are fighting the government. They want to intimidate the civilians, because most of the death toll is of civilians. So this has been going on, and there has been no call whatsoever for this to stop.

Ms. Goodman then goes on to excerpt a revealing exchange between a reporter and US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack about the parallels between the Iraqi and Somali invasions.  Salim Lone reverts the discussion back to the US influence over the UN Security Council in a number of instances.  In Somalia's case, he states:

To begin with, the lawlessness of this particular war is astounding. I mean, this is the most lawless war of our generation. You know, all aggressive wars are illegal. But in this particular one, there have been violations of the Charter and gross violations of international human rights, but these are commonplace. But, in addition, there have been very concrete violations by the United States, to begin with, of two Security Council resolutions. The first one was the arms embargo imposed on Somalia, which the United States has been routinely flaunting for many years now. But then the US decided that that resolution was no longer useful, and they pushed through an appalling resolution in December, which basically gave the green light to Ethiopia to invade.  They pushed through a resolution which said that the situation in Somalia was a threat to international peace and security, at a time when every independent report indicated, and Chatham House's report (pdf) on Wednesday also indicated, that the Islamic Courts Union had brought a high level of peace and stability that Somalia had not enjoyed in sixteen years.

By the way, the Chatham House Report deserves a reading, along with the Democracy Now interviews. Its main points are summarised as follows:

1.) Multilateral efforts to support Somalia have been undermined by the strategic concerns of other international actors – notably Ethiopia and the United States. 2.) Security in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, has severely deteriorated since the US-backed Ethiopian intervention in the country. 3.) The Islamic Courts, which were ousted, had strong support in the country but fell victim to the influences of ‘extremist elements’ within the country and an Ethiopian power eager for the Courts’ downfall. 4.) The standing of the Islamic Courts was damaged by their defeat but the subsequent disorder has served to make their time in control appear as a ‘Golden Age’. 5.) Support for the Courts has been fairly consistent for over a decade and is unlikely to melt away.
Since I don't want to reproduce the entire Democracy Now transcript here (plus I want as many of you as posibble to go to the original piece), I just want to add one final and very suggestive note.  It has been reported that:

Somalian Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi has announced that his government wants to entice the return of the international oil majors by introducing a petroleum law to provide a legal framework. "The parliament will approve the law within two months," says Gedi.  So guess what kind of "legal framework" will be provided? It will be Production Sharing Agreements, the basis of all the controversy surrounding Iraq's controversial Oil Law.

I think this speaks for itself about the US's ultimate intentions.  Those who are not convinced might want to take a look at a diary I wrote about this sometime ago (and please check out the comments in particular.)

Thank you for the update on this. I still am having a hard time sorting out what is really going on in the bigger picture politically, but I will read this over and chew on it...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Apr 29th, 2007 at 06:15:24 AM EST
This isn't perhaps the best of perspectives, but it might add some pieces to the puzzle: Oil in Darfur? Special Ops in Somalia?.  As a point of departure, I always hark back to this (somewhat dated but still relevant) article by Robert Higgs: What Does the Administration's Leaked Mea Culpa on Iraq Portend?.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Sun Apr 29th, 2007 at 01:49:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been keenly interested in this issue for quite some time.  At first, it looked like the Islamic Courts Union were going to pull off something almost unprecedented in the modern era, an act of state formation.  They had put together sufficient popular legitimacy and military force to drive out the warlords, and to start acting like a competent government.  Heck, they even took care of the pirates that were capturing cargo liners and holding their crews for ransoms.

Unwilling to sanction an "unauthorized" act of state formation, the US had to stop it.  After all, we can't let the "Islamofascists" win.  Nor could we have an actual, legitimate government emerge in Africa, one not controlled by Western interests or post-colonial elites.  We had a good ally in Ethiopia, who was for fairly basic strategic reasons not too keen on the re-emergence of Somalia as a functioning society.

It seems like it's only a matter of time before Ethiopia will have to pull back - if we can't afford the Iraq war, they certainly can't afford a Somali war.    With any luck, the Somalis will be able to pick up the pieces afterwards, and hopefully we will let them.  

by Zwackus on Sun Apr 29th, 2007 at 07:02:43 AM EST
Can anyone tell me how accurate/likely the U.S.' accusation about links between the ICU and al-Qaeda are? Have they released any evidence to support the claim? And if there is a link, is it extensive?

The Heathlander
by heathlander on Sun Apr 29th, 2007 at 11:17:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps Interpol, the US State Department or the CIA?  Quite frankly, I'm not particularly interested in that issue since such allegations are usually pretexts for other (hidden) agendas.  After all, the US has no qualms about jumping in bed with Al Qaeda when it suits the gov't's ends.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Sun Apr 29th, 2007 at 01:38:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't really know, and as Maracatu said, I doubt anyone outside the ICU, Al Qaida, or the relevant intelligence agencies really knows for sure.

There have been claims that Al Qaida linked individuals were involved in the ICU, although in what capacity they were involved was either not said, or forgotten by me.  That may well be possible.  It seems probable that the ICU recieved money and support from a variety of international Islamic aid and support societies, most of which the US government views as either very suspicious, or as directly supportive of terrorism.

The thing is, even if Al Qaida was giving money to the ICU, it was money that was being spent in Somalia.  The ICU wasn't supporting terrorism outside of Somalia - they had enough on their hands in Somalia.

Who knows, though,  Maybe they would have turned into another Taliban-style supporter of Al Qaida and international jihad.  Maybe Al Qaida was hoping that some covert financial aid at the early stage would get them a foot in the door.

But which is worse?  Warlords governing over chaos?  Unceasing war?  Al Qaida bases?  I dunno.  Given the array of bad possibilities, in this situation I'd probably take my chances with the ICU.  Al Qaida could, if it so chose, operate in a lawless environment almost as well as it could with full state support, I reckon.

by Zwackus on Sun Apr 29th, 2007 at 09:12:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For the larger picture of the US involvement in Africa I recommend b real´s Understanding AFRICOM at Moon of Alabama. It is really good.

But although the US government was clearly pushing for war and participating in it, I think there would have been a war anyway. Ethiopia and Eritrea has been conducting a proxy war in Somalia for quite some time now, I wrote some about it here last summer.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Apr 30th, 2007 at 08:31:44 AM EST
Thanks for the link!  Actually I just discovered the site the other day and was quite impressed.  The link you cite has now motivated me to put it on my blogroll!

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Mon Apr 30th, 2007 at 08:45:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
as they took the country. They were seen as being the only faction capable of bringing peace and order. Then the US decided to let its proxy Ethipia ( the traditional enemy of the Somalis) go in and restore a governmetn wothout one iota of support bar the Ethiopian military and a few thugs. A doomed policy if evere there was one.
Maybe the Islamic Courts were not to our taste although there was a large moderate wing but the locals wanted them. Sometimes when talking of peace the locals know a lot more about what will bring it than a bunch of neo-cons many a mile away and completley out of touch with reality.
by observer393 on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 05:52:34 AM EST
Sounds like Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is not incompetence, it's policy.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 1st, 2007 at 06:03:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hard to believe ... some 16+ years since Mogadishu fell in Civil War and westerners fled, and the situation is worse ...

And, the United States which tried (however poorly) to make the situation better 1991-94, with huge amounts of resources, and which tried through the 1990s ... is so central to the devastating situation there.

Well, in the United States, perhaps one might state that the only refugee situation getting less attention than Iraqis would be the Somalis fleeing the fighting.

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!

by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 12:06:26 AM EST

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