[Dehai-WN] Globalresearch.ca: Ignoring Non-Islamic Culprits in Somalia Famine

[Dehai-WN] Globalresearch.ca: Ignoring Non-Islamic Culprits in Somalia Famine

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Mon, 31 Oct 2011 22:36:45 +0100

Ignoring Non-Islamic Culprits in Somalia Famine

Hunger from harmful aid and agriculture policies


by Julie Hollar


 <http://www.globalresearch.ca> Global Research, October 31, 2011


As Somalia sank deeper into famine in late summer, with 63 percent of
southern Somalia's population at risk of starvation, U.S. media coverage
focused on stories of misery and resilience. Measuring children's emaciated
arms and describing the scraps of dignity people struggled to maintain in
refugee camps substituted for investigation of causes, or discussion of
remedies beyond appeals for donations.

A typical report came from CBS Evening News (8/8/11): "The faces dusted with
the desert and...the eyes that have seen too much," with an interview with a
woman "who had fought to save her children in an unforgiving land." The next
day (8/9/11), the network brought us "people with lessons to teach about
life and death in an unforgiving land."

While drought can be a natural phenomenon, famine in the modern era is
political-and avoidable. A variety of factors play into the current Somalia
famine, but media could only seem to find one culprit: Islamic terrorists.
Al-Shabaab, the militant youth group that controls much of Somalia and has
been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, "is widely
blamed for causing a famine in Somalia by forcing out many Western aid
organizations," explained the New York Times (

And nearly all of the rest of the media agreed. "Terror Group Blocking Aid
to Three Million Starving Somalis" blared a USA Today headline (
ram=49965680.story> 8/15/11). "The spread of Islamic terrorism has turned a
drought into a famine that didn't have to happen," reported NBC Nightly
News' Ann Curry (8/16/11) from Mogadishu. Curry's colleague Richard Engel
(NBC, 8/5/11) argued earlier: "But what may be most tragic of all, the
famine here is largely man-made. Somalia is a failed state and a war zone.
Peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi are fighting to drive out Al-Qaeda
backed militants called Al-Shabaab. The militants control half the country."

While Al-Shabaab certainly bears responsibility for any of its actions that
prevented food from reaching people in need, other major pieces are missing
from this story of man-made disaster-including climate change, agricultural
policy and the history of U.S. foreign policy in Somalia.

Scientists have long warned that a warming planet would lead to more
dramatic weather patterns, including droughts. And in recent years, drought
has hit the Horn of Africa much more frequently than the historical average
mine-east-africa-climate-change> 8/8/11). On prominent TV news programs,
though, climate change simply wasn't considered in reports on Somalia's
famine. In newspapers, climate change was relegated almost exclusively to
opinion pages, either in print (e.g., San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/11;
Baltimore Sun, 8/1/11) or web-only (e.g., New York Times Dot Earth Blog,
-famines-roots/> 8/3/11).

Weather effects are compounded by poor agricultural policies. A lonely
Washington Post op-ed (
-drought-famine-isnt-inevitable/2011/07/28/gIQAJCrsfI_story.html> 7/29/11)
by Macalester College professor William G. Moseley pointed out that a
market-based agricultural agenda, pushing cash crops and large-scale
commercial farming, started under colonial rule and was ramped up by
development banks. These policies, Moseley explained, left people more
vulnerable to drought years than in the past, when they grew and stored food
for consumption. Understanding this has important implications, he argued:

The problem is that the USAID plan for agricultural development in Africa
has stressed a "New Green Revolution" involving improved seeds, fertilizers
and pesticides. While this energy-intensive approach may make sense in some
contexts, it is financially out of reach of the poorest of poor farmers, who
are the most likely to face food shortfalls. A more realistic approach would
play down imported seeds and commercial agriculture in favor of enhanced
traditional approaches to producing food for families and local markets.

U.S. foreign policy was perhaps the hardest to find catching blame except in
alternative media. One prominent exception, an excellent September 5 piece
in Time magazine by Alex Perry-"A Famine We Made?"-stood as a rare corporate
media investigation of how U.S. aid policy exacerbated the famine.
Generally, however, when any fault was laid at the U.S. government's
doorstep, it was simply framed as a lack of efficacy: The New York Times
editorial board (
=famine> 8/12/11) argued that the problem with U.S. policy toward Somalia
for the past decade has been "a lack of focus and internal battles."

Elsewhere in the Times (
8/2/11), Somalia was simply "a lawless cauldron... dominated by chaos since
1991, when clan warlords overthrew the central government and then tore
apart the country." At the very end of the long report on the famine, almost
as an aside, the paper mentioned that another problem with getting famine
aid to Somalis is "American government restrictions," which since 2008 have
made it a crime to "provide material assistance" to Al-Shabaab. "Aid
officials say the restrictions have had a chilling effect," the Times
reported, "because it is nearly impossible to guarantee that the Shabaab
will not skim off some of the aid delivered in their areas."

As Lauren Sutherland pointed out in a much more detailed report in the
Nation (
amps> 8/15/11), U.S. aid to Somalia plummeted from $237 million in 2008 to
$29 million in 2010 as a result of those tightened sanctions against
Al-Shabaab. Those sanctions have also "virtually prevented U.S. or
U.S.-funded agencies from operating in Al-Shabaab controlled territory."

That means that even though this famine had been predicted since last August
last-year.html> 7/14/11), U.S. counterterrorism policy kept preventative or
emergency measures from being put into place until thousands had already
started dying. And even once aid started flowing, the organizational
infrastructure wasn't there to distribute it as quickly and effectively as
it could have.


Furthermore, talk of Somalia as a "lawless cauldron...dominated by chaos
since 1991" neatly erases a critical piece of recent Somali history and the
U.S. role in destabilizing the country, which has led to the rise of
Al-Shabaab. One of the only mentions of this U.S. role turned up by a Nexis
search of U.S. newspapers and wires was an op-ed by University of Minnesota
professor Abdi Ismail Samatar that appeared in a few smaller papers
(e.g.,Contra Costa Times, 8/20/11), courtesy of the Progressive Media
Project, which works to place diverse and dissenting viewpoints on newspaper
opinion pages. Wrote Samatar:

The American-supported Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 dashed
Somalia's only chance in 16 years to restore a national government of its
own. The invasion displaced more than 1 million people and killed 15,000
civilians. Those displaced are part of today's famine victims.

That invasion was prompted by the great reduction in Somalia's chaos by
people the U.S. government didn't approve of: the Islamic Courts Union, an
Islamist group that rose to power in opposition to much-hated warlords who
were receiving backing from the U.S. The Islamic Courts gained control of
much of the country and had brought stability with their rule, which was
largely (though not uniformly) moderate. Their overthrow essentially cast
the moderates out of power and drove their more radical youth wing,
Al-Shabaab, into hiding to launch an insurgency that has led to the current
situation (Extra!, <http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3387> 3-4/08).

And that Al-Qaeda connection? There's no evidence any substantial connection
existed prior to the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Islamic Courts, but it
served as useful propaganda to sell that invasion (Extra!,
<http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3387> 3-4/08).

When NBC's Ann Curry (8/16/11) calls Somalia "the capital of chaos, torn to
ruins by decades of war and anarchy," she forgets to note who, exactly, was
partly behind that war and anarchy.


      ------------[ Sent via the dehai-wn mailing list by dehai.org]--------------

(image/jpeg attachment: image001.jpg)

Received on Mon Oct 31 2011 - 17:36:50 EDT
© Copyright DEHAI-Eritrea OnLine, 2001
All rights reserved