Somalia: Another CIA-Backed Coup
by Mike Whitney
December 2, 2008
"The Ethiopian invasion, which was
sanctioned by the US government, has destroyed virtually all the
life-sustaining economic systems which the population has built
for the last fifteen years." Abdi Samatar, professor of Global
Studies at the University of Minnesota, Democracy Now
Up until a month ago, no one in the Bush
administration showed the least bit of interest in the incidents
of piracy off the coast of Somalia. Now that's all changed and
there's talk of sending in the Navy to patrol the waters off the
Horn of Africa and clean up the pirates hideouts. Why the sudden
about-face? Could it have something to do with the fact that the
Ethiopian army is planning to withdrawal all of its troops from
Mogadishu by the end of the year, thus, ending the failed two
year US-backed occupation of Somalia?
The United States has lost the ground
war in Somalia, but that doesn't mean its geopolitical objectives
have changed one iota. The US intends to stay in the region for
years to come and use its naval power to control the critical
shipping lanes from the Gulf of Aden. The growing strength of
the Somali national resistance is a set-back, but it doesn't change
the basic game-plan. The pirates are actually a blessing in disguise.
They provide an excuse for the administration to beef up it's
military presence and put down roots. Every crisis is an opportunity.
There's an interesting subtext to the
pirate story that hasn't appeared in the western media. According
to Simon Assaf of the Socialist Worker:
"Many European, US and Asian shipping
firms - notably Switzerland's Achair Partners and Italy's Progresso
- signed dumping deals in the early 1990s with Somalia's politicians
and militia leaders. This meant they could use the coast as a
toxic dumping ground. This practice became widespread as the country
descended into civil war.
Nick Nuttall of the UN Environment Programme
said, "European companies found it was very cheap to get
rid of the waste."
When the Asian tsunami of Christmas 2005
washed ashore on the east coast of Africa, it uncovered a great
scandal. Tons of radioactive waste and toxic chemicals drifted
onto the beaches after the giant wave dislodged them from the
sea bed off Somalia. Tens of thousands of Somalis fell ill after
coming into contact with this cocktail. They complained to the
United Nations (UN), which began an investigation.
"There are reports from villagers
of a wide range of medical problems such as mouth bleeds, abdominal
hemorrhages, unusual skin disorders and breathing difficulties,"
the UN noted.
Some 300 people are believed to have died
from the poisonous chemicals.
In 2006 Somali fishermen complained to
the UN that foreign fishing fleets were using the breakdown of
the state to plunder their fish stocks. These foreign fleets often
recruited Somali militias to intimidate local fishermen. Despite
repeated requests, the UN refused to act. Meanwhile the warships
of global powers that patrol the strategically important Gulf
of Aden did not sink or seize any vessels dumping toxic chemicals
off the coast.
So angry Somalis, whose waters were being
poisoned and whose livelihoods were threatened, took matters into
their own hands. Fishermen began to arm themselves and attempted
to act as unofficial coastguards." (Socialist Worker)
The origins of piracy in Somalia is considerably
different than the narrative in the media which tends to perpetuate
stereotypes of scary black men who are naturally inclined to criminal
behavior. In reality, the pirates were the victims of a US-EU
run system that still uses the developing world as a dumping ground
for toxic waste regardless of the suffering it causes. (just ask
Larry Summers) In fact, the dumping continues to this day, even
though we have been assured that we're living in a "post
racial era" following the election of Barak Obama. Unfortunately,
that rule doesn't apply to the many black and brown people who
still find themselves caught in the imperial crosshairs. Their
lives are just as miserable as ever.
Ethiopia's Plan for Withdrawal
In 2006, the Bush administration supported
an alliance of Somali warlords known as the Transitional Federal
Government (TFG) that established a base of operations in the
western city of Baidoa. With the help of the Ethiopian army, western
mercenaries, US Navy warships, and AC-130 gunships; the TFG captured
Mogadishu and forced the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) to retreat
to the south. Since then the resistance has coalesced into a tenacious
guerrilla army that has recaptured most of the country.
The Bush administration invoked the war
on terror to justify its involvement in Somalia, but their case
was weak and full of inconsistencies. The ICU is not an Al Qaida
affiliate or a terrorist organization despite the claims of the
State Department. In fact, the ICU brought a high level of peace
and stability to Somalia that hadn't been seen for more than sixteen
Political analyst James Petras summed
it up like this:
"The ICU 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
ICU 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."
The Bush administration is mainly interested
in oil and geopolitics. According to most estimates 30 per cent
of America's oil will come from Africa within the next ten years.
That means the Pentagon will have to extend its tentacles across
the continent. Washington's allies in the TFG promised to pass
oil laws that would allow foreign oil companies to return to Somalia,
but now all of that is uncertain. It is impossible to know what
type of government will emerge from the present conflict. Many
pundits expect Somalia to descend into terrorist-breeding, failed
state for years to come.
The latest round of fighting has created
a humanitarian disaster. 1.3 million people have been forced from
their homes with nothing more than what they can carry on their
backs. Over 3.5 million people are now huddled in tent cities
in the south with little food, clean water or medical supplies.
According to the UN News Center: "Nearly
half the population is in crisis or need of assistance....Continuing
instability, coupled with drought, high food prices and the collapse
of the local currency have only worsened the dire humanitarian
situation in recent months. The UN estimates that 40 per cent
of the population, are in need of assistance. In addition, one
in six children under the age of five in southern and central
Somalia is currently acutely malnourished." (UN News Center)
The war between the occupying Ethiopian
army and the various guerrilla factions has steadily intensified
over the last two years. Fighters from the ICU, Al-Shabaab and
other Islamic groups have moved from the south to the vicinity
of Mogadishu where fighting could break out at any time. It's
"game-over" for Bush's proxy army and the transitional
federal government. They cannot win, which is why the Ethiopian
leaders announced a complete withdrawal of troops by the end of
the year. By January 1, 2009, the occupation will be over.
In a recent Chicago Tribune article, "US
Appears to be Losing in Somalia", journalist Paul Salopek
sums it up like this:
"(Somalia) is 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 Sept. 11 terrorist attacks...
"Somalia is one of the great unrecognized
U.S. policy failures since 9/11," said Ken Menkhaus, a leading
Somalia scholar at Davidson College in North Carolina. "By
any rational metric, what we've ended up with there today is the
opposite of what we wanted." (Paul Salopek, "US Appears
to be Losing in Somalia" Chicago Tribune)
The CIA has done its job well. It's created
a beehive for terrorism and the potential for another catastrophe
Currently, negotiations are underway between
the guerrilla leaders and the TFG over a power-sharing agreement.
But no one expects the talks will amount to anything. The moderate
ICU may regain power but the country will still be ungovernable
for years to come. At best, Somalia is a decade away from restoring
the fragile peace that was in place before Bush's bloody intervention.