April 2, 2008
The New York Times made one of its periodic jaunts to Somalia this week, painting a hellish picture of the fruits of the Bush Administration's third Terror War "regime change" operation.
To be sure, reporter Jeffrey Gettleman glosses over the larger context and immediate causes of Somalia's deterioration into foreign occupation, brutal civil war and the world's worst humanitarian disaster. The deep and bloody American involvement is only lightly glanced at; there is no mention of the deadly U.S. bombing raids on civilians that accompanied the invasion by Ethiopia (and no mention of the American role in arming, training and funding the armies of the tyrannical regime); no mention of the U.S. death squads sent in to "kill anyone still alive" after bombing strikes; no mention of American security apparatchiks "renditioning" fleeing refugees, including American citizens, to Ethiopia's notorious dungeons; no mention that most of these atrocities took place under the command of the recently-fired and now-saintly Admiral William Fallon, who directed all three of the Terror War's overt wars – in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia – until he was fired by Bush last month, presumably for insufficient enthusiasm about a fourth regime change op -- in Iran.
Still, these lapses aside, the NYT story is an important piece. It goes further than almost any other previous mainstream story in putting across some measure of the horrific reality in Somalia to a wider audience. And to be fair, Gettleman does mention, briefly, some context that is almost always omitted in corporate media reports: such as the fact that the "transitional government" installed by Bush and the Ethopian dictator Meles Zenawi is rife with warlords, some of them on the CIA's payroll.
However, this whisper of truth buried deep in the story is undercut by the large whopper Gettleman purveys near the top: the claim that the transitional government "was widely hailed as the best chance in years to end Somalia’s ceaseless cycles of war and suffering." Only in the imperial courts of America's political-media class would the imposition of a gaggle of walords and CIA tools, put in place by the brutal invasion of a despised foreign enemy, be seen as a way to end war and suffering. Then again, this is precisely the same idiocy that imperial courtiers – led by the New York Times – advocated for Iraq.
Gettleman -- once an eager cheerleader for the murderous Somalia caper -- doesn't make that connection, of course, but he does find a "respectable" source to say what most sentient beings looking at Somalia have been saying since the Terror War operation began: that Bush and Zenawi have turned Somalia – which had known its first measure of peace and stability in many years under the alliance of Islamic groups ousted by the invasion – into a replica of the Bush-made hell in Iraq. Of course, the dissenting figure is a Democrat – Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey – so the criticism can be safely portrayed as a "partisan attack," maintaining the sacred "balance" of mainstream journalism. But Payne's observation, whether motivated by partisanship or not, is simply a description of the objective truth: "We’re Baghdad-izing Mogadishu and Somalia. We’re making people feel wrongly treated and pushing them toward more radical positions."
This indeed is the crux of the matter. Just as in Iraq, the invasion, occupation, repression, corruption and brutality unleashed upon Somalia have radicalized many people and empowered the more extreme factions in the Islamic alliance. As in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Terror War is breeding more terrorists. In fact, this dynamic is so obvious that a cynic could almost believe that this is the actual aim of the Terror War: to generate "ceaseless cycles of war and suffering" – with the war-profiteering loot and enhanced state power that inevitably follow.
The suffering of the Somali people plays no part in these machinations of the great geopolitical game, of course. Why should it? Bush and the American political class have already killed a million Iraqis and driven four million from their homes, with the whole world watching; they are certainly not going to wring their hands over dead and despoiled nobodies in a land the world abandoned long ago.
Excerpts from Somalia’s Government Teeters on Collapse (NYT):In recent weeks, the Islamists have routed warlords and militiamen who have been absorbed into the government forces but are undermining what little progress transitional leaders have made with their predatory tactics, like stealing food. After 17 years of civil war, Somalia’s violence seems to be driven not so much by clan hatred, ideology or religiosity, but by something much simpler: survival."We haven’t been paid in eight months," said a government soldier named Hassan, who said he could not reveal his last name. "We rob people so we can eat."Nur Hassan Hussein, the prime minister, does not deny that government troops rob civilians. "This is the biggest problem we have," he said in an interview this month.But, he said, he does not have the money to pay them. Each month, more than half of government’s revenue, mostly from port taxes, disappears — stolen by "our people," the prime minister said.That leaves Mr. Nur with about $18 million a year to run a failed state of nine million of some of the world’s neediest, most collectively traumatized people....Aid organizations say that more than half of Mogadishu’s estimated one million people are on the run.War, drought, displacement, high food prices and the exodus of aid workers, many of the elements that lined up in the early 1990s to create a famine, are lining up again. The United Nations World Food Program said on Thursday, in a warning titled "Somalia Sinking Deeper Into Abyss of Suffering," that the country was the most dangerous in the world for aid workers.Most Somalis do not argue with that. They say Mogadishu is more capriciously violent than it has ever been, with roadside bombs, militias shelling one another across neighborhoods, doctors getting shot in the head and 10-year-olds hurling grenades....In the rat-tat-tat of nightly machine-gun fire, people are beginning to hear the government’s death knell. Many residents have mixed feelings about this. They contend that the government has enabled warlords. They say, almost without exception, that things were better under the Islamists. But they fear what lies ahead...Government officials say much of the resistance is simply spoilers who are deeply invested in the status quo of chaos, like gun runners, counterfeiters and importers of expired baby formula.But some of the men believed to be the biggest spoilers are part of the government. To get clan support and — just as crucially — more militiamen, transitional leaders have cut deals with warlords like Mohammed Dheere, now Mogadishu’s mayor, and Abdi Qeybdid, now the police chief. These are the same men whom the C.I.A. paid in 2006 to fight the Islamists, a strategy that backfired because the population turned against them, mostly because of their legacy of terrorizing civilians.Hassan, the government soldier, said he had been in one of these warlord militias since he was 8. He cannot read or write. He has thin wrists, a delicate face, empty eyes and a wife and two children to feed, which is why he said he routinely robs people. "We are losing," he said.He said many of his friends were defecting to the Islamists because that was the only way to survive.