Thursday, January 29, 2009

MSM Silence on Somalia

"Silent as the Tomb: Another American-Backed Slaughter Ignored

by Chris Floyd

Before taking office, Barack Obama was chided -- in certain quarters, at least -- for his long silence on the slaughter in Gaza. Of course, as we noted here the other day, the main reason he stayed mum on the subject before his inauguration was that he was in complete accord with George W. Bush's stance on the American-backed massacre of civilians.

However, there is another horrific, American-backed slaughter that Obama has been silent about for even longer -- throughout his entire presidential campaign, in fact, and continuing into his presidency. We speak, of course, of the ghastly Terror War "regime change" operation in Somalia, where American bombs, American weapons, American training, American money -- and American death squads -- aided the military forces of the Ethiopian dictatorship in its brutal invasion and murderous occupation of the long-shattered land. [For more background, see this, especially the links at the bottom.]

The aim of this savage operation was to overturn the "Islamic Courts" movement -- a coalition of various sectarian factions which had brought Somalia its first semblance of stability and security after 15 years of violence, chaos and abandonment by the outside world. The broad-based movement included a range of groups, from the very moderate to the more extreme, and represented a grass-roots effort by Somalis to rebuild their own nation on their own terms.

But these terms were not those approved by the Potomac poobahs, who had their own hand-picked warlords -- some of them on the CIA payroll -- whom they preferred to see in power. And so the "regime change" was launched in December 2006, with American bombers and missiles targeting fleeing refugees while Washington's proxy forces poured in from Ethiopia.

The results were entirely predictable: one of the worst humanitarian disasters on the planet, with many thousands killed, hundreds of thousands displaced, and millions driven into hunger and deprivation. Week after week, as the American-backed occupation went on -- with U.S. missile attacks on villages, the insertion of U.S. death squads to "clean up" after covert ops, the "rendition" of Somali refugees (and some U.S. citizens) to Ethiopia's notorious, torture-laden prisons -- more and more Somalis were radicalized, and the more extreme element in the former coalition grew stronger -- and more virulent. This too was inevitable; it has been the inevitable outcome of every single major operation in the so-called "War on Terror" that Obama has now made his own. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia (and Pakistan too, which has been a shadow theater of the Terror War, but now looks to be taking center stage soon), religious extremism has been strengthened immeasurably. And each of the Terror War theaters has been turned into seething hotbeds of anti-American fury. Now Obama is pledged to continue and exacerbate this process, with his surge in Afghanistan and his incursions into Pakistan.

In Somalia, the very extremists which were the ostensible reason for the "regime change" are now on the verge of capturing most of the country. As the Washington Post notes:

The departure of the last Ethiopian tanks from Somalia's capital is ushering in a new phase of conflict in a nation known for clan warfare: a battle for power among militias flying Islamist banners.

In some ways, the situation in Somalia, where people have long practiced a moderate and mostly apolitical form of Islam, has circled back to where it was when the Ethiopians invaded two years ago. The U.S.-supported operation was intended to oust a popular movement of moderate and radical Islamists that had taken over the capital and that the United States accused of having ties to al-Qaeda.

But the operation drove the more radical Islamist fighters, known as al-Shabab, into a brutal insurgency against the Ethiopian occupiers and the secular, transitional government their invasion installed. After the deaths of at least 10,000 people and the displacement of 1 million, Ethiopia and the United States are now supporting a political compromise that stands to return to power some of the same moderate Islamist leaders they originally ousted.

In other words, the entire operation has been completely pointless -- at least in terms of its stated objectives. A union of the "transitional government" and the Islamic Courts could have been achieved through long and arduous negotiations -- and yes, perhaps some internal fighting with the then-small extremist factions. But in any case, it would have been Somalis working out a Somali solution, building on the stability achieved by the Islamic Courts, and aided perhaps by economic and diplomatic help from the Western powers who backed the transitionals.

But of course, the true aim of the "regime change" operation was neither to quell a non-existent "terrorist threat" from the Islamic Courts nor to bring peace and stability to Somalia. It was to install, by blood and iron, a compliant government that would serve the American imperial agenda in the strategic Horn of Africa. A grass-roots movement like the Islamic Courts would be too independent, could never be relied upon; so it had to go.

Now in its place comes more chaos and murderous ruin. The insurgency against the U.S.-backed occupation is splintering violently into opposing factions now that this first attempt at "regime change" has failed so miserably. This is of course in keeping with the age-old "divide and conquer" strategy of all imperial powers. The almost certain result will be a hydra-headed, multi-sided civil war. And as the Guardian notes:

It's no mystery who will pay the highest and most immediate price. "The human rights and humanitarian catastrophe facing Somalia today threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions on a scale not witnessed since the early 1990s," Human Rights Watch's latest report warns. UN agencies say 3.25 million Somalis are already dependent on food aid; 1.3 million are internally displaced, including two-thirds of the population of Mogadishu. Twenty-five per cent of the total population is suffering from acute malnutrition.

Beset by conflict and drought, thousands more are fleeing each month in all directions – to north-eastern Kenya (already home to 220,000 Somalis), Ethiopia, Eritrea and, risking the perilous passage across the Gulf of Aden, to Yemen. This exodus is likely to grow significantly if the political impasse and related insecurity intensifies.

The seizure of a few commercial ships by the remarkably non-violent pirate gangs operating in Somalia last year brought a swift international response, with the world's great powers teaming up and giving each other carte blanche to strike Somalia whenever and however they please, as we noted here last month. [See "Abandoned by the World: UN Declares Open Season on Somalia."] It is likely that these blank checks will be cashed over and over, especially as the fighting goes on. Under the rubric of "protecting business interests" -- which is, of course, the violent extremist cult of the 'civilized world' -- and "fighting terrorism," we will likely see more and more interventions in the incipient Somali civil war.

The entirely predictable result will be more chaos, more extremism, more needless death, and more unimaginable suffering of multitudes of innocent people. But the military-business establishments of many great powers, from Washington to Beijing, will reap huge dividends -- financial and political -- from this churning sea of blood. So it will go on, while the world, and the White House, looks the other way.

I can only conclude here with the words I wrote in the piece linked above. They are just as apt today, despite the "regime change" in Washington and the promised dawning of a new age:

There are many injustices in the world, of course; murder, destruction and cruelty almost beyond reckoning – and most of it slathered over in pious hypocrisy and self-righteousness of one sort or another. But I've never seen anything quite like the relentless assault on the Somali people in the past two years – and the near-universal silence that has greeted this on-going abomination. It is a blot on all humanity.


Update: Another thing the MSM has been quiet about.

"A Carrier Group To Attack Somalia

The U.S. supported Ethiopian army has finally retreated from Somalia and the Al-Shabab group has taken the city of Baidoa, the seat of the U.S. installed provisional war-lord government.

Meanwhile a lot of military ships are cruising the Somali coast to prevent the Somali coast guard/pirates from taking cargo ships for ransom. Even the Japanese are joining the party.

Economically this does not make any sense. With more of 20,000 ships passing the Gulf of Aden each year, a few captured ships will slightly increase the insurance premium for passing the area. But that hardly justifies to have over 20 expensive navy ships with thousands of sailors protecting it. There were 293 acts of piracy worldwide last year. Only 111 of them took place at the Somali coast. Yes, the area is important for world trade, but others with even more pirate action are too without getting this much attention.

Is this just a show of force by everyone to impress competing nations? Maybe.

The U.S. has so far not taken any real action in the area. But that may well change. The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is on its way to the area and it carries a very unusual number of helicopters.

The new wing configuration has two full squadrons for a total of about 19 aircraft, with their leadership aboard, all under the carrier air wing and strike group commander. These helicopters are heavily armed and will take over missions such as anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and supporting SEALs or other special operations troops.

I doubt that a carrier with so many helicopters is the best platform to fight piracy. A few smaller ships with one or two helos each could cover a much bigger area. But a carrier strike group may well be an asset for land attacks on targets in Somalia.

Steve Clemons muses about such an endeavor:

In the period between President Obama's November 2008 victory at the polls and his taking office on January 20, 2009, members of Obama's transition team began talking to military planners about various options that might be available for dealing with Somali pirates.
But the source recounted to me that those asking for the development of these option plans seemed more focused on whether a low-cost, low loss-of-American lives action could be quickly taken in a strike against pirates because of the need to demonstrate that Americans could still strike hard and achieve their military and political objectives.

The source worried that in my source's opinion, there was perhaps not enough consideration of what it might be like to potentially open yet a third active military front in that region.

military front."Kill some people to show the world Obama has balls? Sure, but patrolling against pirates is not an "active military front." Special operations on ground targets would constitute one.

So I expect the fighting piracy theme will now be used as a fig leaf to justify attacks on Al-Shabab and other groups that might take power in Somalia against the wishes of Washington DC.

For lack of intelligence such attacks by the U.S. will fail to hit these groups but kill a lot of innocent people. Nothing new here. Just another "crappy little country" again throw against the wall.