A human catastrophe is taking place in Somalia, the result of drought, famine — and the savage war conducted by the Obama administration, complete with a CIA training facility and prison. According to the Guardian, 150,000 desperate Somalis, mostly women and children, have walked more than 60 miles to a crowded refugee camp in Kenya in the past three months. “[The] predicted figures climbed to a staggering 750,000 who could die in Somalia before the end of the year,” Madeleine Bunting reports, “more than double the number who died in the early 1990s in a previous famine.”
The catastrophe is often attributed to natural conditions, but neighboring areas are not experiencing the same threat.
The difference is Obama’s war. In the guise of fighting terrorism the U.S. government, beginning under George W. Bush and continuing with a vengeance under the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Obama, has turned Somalia into a hellhole. If Americans knew what was happening in their name, they would hang their heads in shame. Or would they?
Somalia is a demonstration of the damage bound to be done by U.S. intervention in foreign situations about which the ruling elite know nothing and care even less. The U.S. government’s agenda, the so-called war on terror, may make Americans feel good, and it certainly makes government contractors richer and government officials more powerful. But it destroys many innocent people along with their societies. With President Obama stepping up deadly drone attacks — nine civilians were reported to have been killed last week — things are only getting worse in the Horn of Africa.
In 1992 the President George H.W. Bush intervened in a Somali civil war after the U.S.-backed Marxist dictator was overthrown. In 1994 President Bill Clinton withdrew the troops after the bloody Battle of Mogadishu, during which two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down. After 9/11 the CIA financed vicious warlords who played on American fears about al-Qaeda. Life for Somalis in Mogadishu was hell. Weary of the violence and terror perpetrated by the warlords, they welcomed the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a relatively moderate coalition of Sharia courts, which drove the warlords from the capital and brought a measure of peace and stability. But, as Jeremy Scahill of The Nation points out, that was a setback for the U.S. government and its warlord allies that could not be tolerated.
Did the administration of George W. Bush leave well enough alone? No. “Most of the entities that made up the Islamic Courts Union did not have anything resembling a global jihadist agenda,” Scahill writes. “Nor did they take their orders from Al Qaeda.” Nevertheless, the U.S. government resolved that the ICU could not rule. In late 2006, backed by the Bush administration, an armed force from Ethiopia, a Christian neighbor and traditional enemy, invaded Somalia and overthrew the ICU. “Many [ICU leaders] were rendered to Ethiopia, Kenya or Djibouti; others were killed by US Special Operations forces or the CIA,” Scahill writes. That generated an insurgency and boosted the most radical of the groups within the ICU, the Shabab. Today the U.S. government refers to the Shabab as a mortal threat to Americans, justifying an intense drone and special ops war in the country.
Scahill, who has reported from the scene, observes, “The Ethiopian invasion was marked by indiscriminate brutality against Somali civilians. Ethiopian and Somali government soldiers secured Mogadishu’s neighborhoods by force, raiding houses in search of ICU combatants, looting civilian property and beating or shooting anyone suspected of collaboration with antigovernment forces.... If Somalia was already a playground for Islamic militants, the Ethiopian invasion blew open the gates of Mogadishu for Al Qaeda. Within some US counterterrorism circles, the rise of the Shabab in Somalia was predictable and preventable.”
Much of Somalia is now in the hands of the Shabab, which, distrustful of the United States, forbids Western aid organizations access to the starving people.
In the topsy-turvy world of intervention and opportunism, enemies quickly become allies and vice versa. Today the leader of the U.S.-backed government in Mogadishu is a former ICU leader.
Bunting writes, “Somalia’s catastrophe is about how ‘humanitarian space’ ... has been destroyed by US policy in Somalia since 9/11.”
And blood drips from Obama’s hands.
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine.
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