[dehai-news] Globalresearch.ca: The Nightmare in Somalia - Another US Sponsored Catastrophe

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Feb 17 2009 - 05:23:44 EST

The Nightmare in Somalia - Another US Sponsored Catastrophe


by Len Wengraf


February 17, 2009


U.S.-BACKED Ethiopian troops withdrew from their remaining positions in
Somalia at the end of January, bringing an end to a two-year occupation
carried out in the guise of the "war on terror."

The Ethiopian Army invaded Somalia in December 2006, overthrowing the Union
of Islamic Courts (UIC) government and installing the Transitional Federal
Government (TFG). Two years later, approximately 10,000 people have lost
their lives, and 1.1 million Somalis were turned into refugees, the victims
of Ethiopian occupiers and an ongoing civil war.

>From the beginning, the TFG, though backed by the U.S., was weak,
maintaining control in only a small area of the capital of Mogadishu, and
some regions of western Somalia. Several thousand African Union
troops--including U.S.-trained Ugandan forces--ostensibly bolster the TFG,
to little effect. The U.S. also intervened directly in Somalia with sporadic
air strikes.

After the Ethiopian invasion, sections of the UIC and other opposition
forces regrouped in the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS),
with others coalescing around the fundamentalist al-Shabab group and other
armed factions.

Ethiopian troops withdrew after a unity agreement between the TFG and the
ARS, now the major opposition faction. Sheik Sharif Ahmed, the ARS leader
and head of the UIC government in 2006, was elected president of the TFG on
January 31.

* * *

SOMALIA IS located in the strategically crucial Horn of Africa on the
eastern edge of the continent--adjacent to the Red Sea, Suez Canal and key
commercial waterways. Somalia and neighboring Sudan have been targeted for
oil exploration by U.S. companies, but China, India and other countries have
also gotten their foot in the door with development contracts.

Competition past and present is behind the U.S. government's concern with
Somalia. The U.S. has variously engaged in direct intervention (as in the
infamous "Black Hawk Down" Marine invasion of 1992-3), backed different
warlord factions and supported proxy armies (such as Ethiopia).

Actually, the history of Western intervention in Somalia and the Horn of
Africa extends back throughout the 20th century, during which time colonial
powers and the Cold War superpowers waged proxy battles in constantly
shifting alliances and conflicts. Somalia's civil wars--like those in Darfur
and southern Sudan--must be seen as a direct result of the U.S. and the
former USSR arming different sides with billions of dollars, all while
famines raged.

The so-called humanitarian intervention by U.S. Marines in Somalia in
1992-93 was merely a continuation of this policy with a different name.
Along with "fighting terror," humanitarian intervention became a watchword
for the Clinton administration and the Bush administration after
it--providing a cover for Washington's pursuit of economic and military
aims, and justifying U.S. military deployment in the region.

In 2003, while the U.S. was invading and occupying Iraq, the U.S. military
built a major base in Djibouti, a tiny but strategically located country
next to Somalia and across the Red Sea from Yemen. The U.S. used its Camp
Lemonier to train Ethiopian forces in the lead-up to the December 2006
invasion of Somalia.

As Mike Whitney pointed out on the Counterpunch Web site: "The Bush
administration invoked the 'war on terror' to justify its involvement in
Somalia, but its claims are unconvincing. The UIC is not an al-Qaeda
affiliate or a terrorist organization. In fact, the UIC brought a level of
peace and stability to Somalia that hadn't been seen for nearly two

Political analyst James Petras made a similar point:

The UIC was a relatively honest administration, which ended warlord
corruption and extortion. Personal safety and property were protected,
ending arbitrary seizures and kidnappings by warlords and their armed thugs.

The UIC is a broad multi-tendency movement that includes moderates and
radical Islamists, civilian politicians and armed fighters, liberals and
populists, electoralists and authoritarians. Most important, the Courts
succeeded in unifying the country and creating some semblance of nationhood,
overcoming clan fragmentation.

But Bush didn't let this relative stability under the UIC get in the way.
According to a Chicago Tribune article, the invasion in Somalia was "a
covert war in which the CIA has recruited gangs of unsavory warlords to hunt
down and kidnap Islamic militants...and secretly imprison them offshore,
aboard U.S. warships. The British civil-rights group Reprieve contended that
as many as 17 U.S. warships may have doubled as floating prisons since the
September 11 terrorist attacks."

Only one month after the 9/11 attacks, Paul Wolfowitz, one of the top
neo-con hawks in the Bush administration, met with various factions in
Ethiopia and Somalia, alleging that al-Qaeda terrorists might use these
territories as "escape routes."

On December 4, 2006, Gen. John Abizaid, then the head of U.S. Central
Command covering much of the Middle East and the surrounding region, met
with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Three weeks later, Ethiopian
forces crossed into Somalia, and the U.S. launched air strikes to back them
up. The air attacks were supposedly against terrorist targets, but they
killed dozens of civilians. The U.S. also embedded small numbers of Special
Forces in the Ethiopian army, and provided naval and air support.

* * *

THE END result of the U.S. intervention has been untold destruction. Human
Rights Watch published a report in December 2008 detailing the impact:

Two years of unconstrained warfare and violent rights abuses have helped to
generate an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis, without adequate response.
Since January 2007, at least 870,000 civilians have fled the chaos in
Mogadishu alone--two-thirds of the city's population...Somalia's
humanitarian needs are enormous.

Humanitarian organizations estimate that more than 3.25 million
Somalis--over 40 percent of the population of south-central Somalia--will be
in urgent need of assistance by the end of 2008...Freelance militias have
robbed, murdered and raped displaced persons on the roads south towards
Kenya. Hundreds of Somalis have drowned this year in desperate attempts to
cross the Gulf of Aden by boat to Yemen.

Amnesty International documented numerous accounts of killings of Somalis by
Ethiopian troops. In one case, "a young child's throat was slit by Ethiopian
soldiers in front of the child's mother."

And according to the Red Cross, about half of Somalia's population is
dependent on food aid. Millions live in tent cities without adequate water,
food or power, while hyperinflation has driven up the price of staple goods
by six times since the start of 2008. As Whitney puts it, "It is the
greatest humanitarian crisis in Africa today; a man-made hell entirely
conjured up in Washington."

Somalis celebrated the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, and President Sheikh
Ahmed enjoys popular support as a legacy of past UIC rule. The U.S.
government's short-term goal of installing a partner in counter-terror
appears thwarted.

Yet Sheikh Ahmed's openness to the U.S. and his collaboration with the TFG
now divides his forces from other wings of the former UIC, including groups
like al-Shabab, which is on the U.S. government's list of terrorist
organizations. For the U.S., the split is welcome.

Meanwhile, attacks by Somali armed groups have continued. Suicide bombers,
likely connected to al-Shabab, attacked African Union troops on February 3.

The longer-term picture likewise indicates increased volatility in the
region. Since the collapse of the UIC government in 2006, a resurgence of
pirate attacks off the Somali coast--with some holding multimillion-dollar
tankers hostage--recently prompted the Chinese and Indian governments to
send naval patrols, an unprecedented move for China.

Faced with this heightened militarization, Bush called for sending warships
to the Gulf of Aden as well, and Barack Obama has pledged support for
continuing that policy.

The Obama administration is also a strong proponent of Africom, a new U.S.
military command for Africa officially launched on October 1, 2008, with the
frightening potential to subject Somalia and other countries and regions to
U.S. terror on a new scale. In fact, Africom could mean the Somali
experience writ large for the entire continent, with local proxies and
enhanced military reinforcement.

As Nunu Kidane put it in an article titled "Africom, Militarization and
Resource Control":

If you're thinking traditional bases with thousands of military personnel,
think again. General Kip Ward has said it is not about "bases" and
"garrisons," but rather a network of sophisticated military operations
strategically placed throughout the continent, which can be moved around and
utilized for any purpose.

General Gates called Africom "a different kind of command with a different
orientation, one that we hope and expect will institutionalize a lasting
security relationship with Africa." It is "a civilian-military partnership,"
where diplomatic and humanitarian relief by the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) will get directives from the Department of

Africa Action and other human rights groups have rightly called on the Obama
administration to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia. But one
often-proposed solution--United Nations peacekeepers--would only escalate
the problems for ordinary Somalis. On the ground, UN troops would carry out
U.S. priorities, just as they did during the "humanitarian intervention" of

Instead, activists should stand against any U.S. military intervention in
Somalia, from Africom to the naval patrols. Challenging the "war on terror"
is a crucial first step toward real peace for Somalis.


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