From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Dec 21 2009 - 06:21:59 EST
Somalia is greatest victim of President Bush's War on Terror
Martin Fletcher: Commentary
December 21, 2009
Warning that Somalia is becoming a terror haven
market becomes a slaughterhouse
Afghanistan and Iraq have monopolised the headlines but Somalia is arguably
an even greater victim of George W. Bush's ill-conceived and lamentably
executed War on Terror. America's interventions have proved so catastrophic
that its best hope of salvaging something from the wreckage is a president
it chased from power three years ago, who controls a few square miles of a
country three times the size of Britain.
It has delivered a people that practised a moderate form of Islam into the
hands of religious extremists. Its efforts to combat terrorism have turned
Somalia into a launchpad for global jihad. Somalia is now the ultimate
failed state whose mayhem threatens to destabilise the region and whose
pirates maraud the vital shipping lanes off its shores. Its people endure
Africa's worst humanitarian crisis.
During the Cold War, the US pumped arms into Somalia to counter Soviet
support for neighbouring Ethiopia. In 1991 clan warlords ousted the dictator
Siad Barre and turned that arsenal on each other. In 1992 President Bush Snr
sent in the Marines to help its suffering people - a venture that ended in
the Black Hawk Down debacle, a humiliating US withdrawal and a dozen more
years of anarchy as the feuding warlords ran amok.
In 2006 a grassroots movement called the Islamic Courts Union emerged.
Fearing that the Courts would become a new Taleban and Somalia another
Afghanistan, Washington sought to stop the Islamists by giving the warlords
millions of dollars for arms - the same warlords who had humiliated America
in 1993 and subsequently caused such carnage. The plan failed. The Courts
drove the warlords from Mogadishu and imposed order for the first time in a
generation. The city's roadblocks and machineguns vanished. Exiles returned,
businesses reopened and people ventured out at night.
The Courts' titular leader was Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a relative moderate, but
the movement included a militant wing called al-Shabaab, as well as
extremists who imposed strict Islamic law, backed Somali rebels in
neighbouring Ethiopia and sheltered terrorists.
Europe broadly favoured engagement with the Courts' moderate leaders. The
Bush Administration backed an invasion by Christian-ruled Ethiopia,
Somalia's bitter enemy, which replaced the Courts with a deeply unpopular
transitional government of former warlords. After six months of relative
peace Somalia was plunged back into war, with al-Shabaab portraying
themselves as nationalists fighting a puppet government. Revisiting
Mogadishu in April 2007, I saw how the hopes of peace had evaporated.
Today al-Shabaab controls much of Somalia and most of Mogadishu. It has
morphed into a jihadist movement with ties to al-Qaeda.
In February Sheikh Ahmed became President as part of a UN-sponsored deal
that included the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops. The international
community, thinking his moderate government could peel support from his
former allies in al-Shabaab, promised him $200 million, and the US has given
him tonnes of weapons. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, called
the man her country helped to oust in 2006 Somalia's "best hope". Right now,
his writ scarcely encompasses the views from his embattled hilltop villa.
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