Somalia: US Foreign Policy and
Why the US supports the warlords
by Justin Raimondo
www.antiwar.com, December 29,
In our Orwellian age, no one is surprised
when American foreign policy takes a U-turn, and, suddenly, we
are at war with Eastasia - because, you see, we have always been
at war with Eastasia. Yet even the most jaded observers are bound
to raise an eyebrow over our embrace of the Somalian warlords,
whose disarmament and capture was our announced goal the last
time we intervened. That failed effort, you'll recall, was dubbed
"Operation Restore Hope."
Now we are back, albeit semi-covertly
- using Ethiopia, a major recipient of American arms and technical
support, as our proxy - in a new project that ought to be named
Operation Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here. In the post-9/11
Bizarro World alternate universe that our leaders and policymakers
seem to have slipped into, the Bad Guys have become the Good Guys,
and the formerly fiendish Somalian warlords are now part of the
"anti-terrorism coalition" that the U.S. is assembling
in the region.
A little history: The failed UN/U.S. intervention
of 1993 led directly to the triumph of the warlords, who plundered,
raped, and murdered their way through the streets of Mogadishu,
the Somalian capital, and reduced the country to Mad Max territory.
In response, an "Islamic courts" movement sprang up
to impose some sort of cohesion on a rapidly disintegrating social
order. The business community and public opinion rallied behind
these courts, which were and are all that stand between civilization
and savagery in Somalia.
As I've pointed out before, the long history
of U.S. intervention in Somalia is a veritable case study of how
and why American foreign policy always manages to generate the
deadliest, most horrific "blowback," as the intelligence
professionals put it. Blowback, a concept exhaustively explored
in Chalmers Johnson's classic book of the same title, means the
unintended consequences of our bumbling, culturally tone-deaf,
invariably unsuccessful efforts to manipulate local proxies to
maximize our alleged national interests. In the 1990s, the Americans
intervened in the name of "humanitarianism," against
the warlords; in the new millennium, we have tossed aside humanitarian
concerns in favor of the ruthless pursuit of "terrorists,"
real or imagined. The former "warlords" hunted by U.S.
troops and blamed for Somalia's shocking degeneration into pure
chaos are now aided and abetted by the Americans and their Ethiopian
This latest American turnabout - flooding
Somalian warlords with money and arms - came about largely as
the result of an imaginary confrontation between U.S. officials
and supposed "terrorists." It happened a year ago, when
U.S. government personnel investigating possible terrorist infiltration
of Somalia landed at a makeshift airport just outside Mogadishu.
No sooner had their plane set down uneasily on the tarmac than
they heard shooting, and, assuming they were under fire, beat
an unceremonious retreat. As far as the U.S. government was concerned,
this was clearly an ambush, pulled off by terrorist elements possibly
associated with al-Qaeda.
In reality, however, the Americans had
stumbled into a conflict involving two rival clans, one of which
controlled the airport, and the other which had recently purchased
a large tract of land bordering the road to the airport. The former
were outraged that this purchase would cut into their very profitable
extortion and protection racket, and that their control over the
heavy road traffic would be challenged. This led to an escalating
series of threats and counter-threats, eventually exploding, on
January 13, 2006, into open violence just as the American visitors
The protagonists in this dispute were
characterized by the Washington Post as follows:
"Abukar Omar Adan was a devoutly
Islamic and heavily armed clan elder with ties to the strict neighborhood
religious courts that had brought a semblance of order to a city
without a government.
His rival, Bashir Raghe, was a brash,
younger man who had been a waste contractor with the U.S. military
forces in Mogadishu before the United States pulled out."
Guess which one is the U.S. proxy.
No, it's not the bourgeois businessman
and city father whose stature in the community as a force for
order advertises him as the natural and only logical choice -
it's Raghe, the street punk and gang leader, who, together with
his fellow killers, has reduced Somalia to a kind of living hell.
When the warlords were driven out, the
U.S. resorted to its ally in Addis Ababa to return its gangster-proxies
to power. Washington has openly signaled its support for the Ethiopian
invasion, which is shortly about to be billed as a "liberation"
and a great "victory" in the "war on terrorism."
The illusion can be maintained only so long as one squints one's
eyes sufficiently to blur the exact identity of these "liberators"
- Somalian thugs and the army of Ethiopia's dictator, "President"
A former pro-Albania communist and leader
of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, comrade Zenawi morphed
into George W. Bush's staunchest ally in the Horn of Africa. U.S.
military aid increased by leaps and bounds. Zenawi's trajectory
parallels Somalia's Mohamed Siad Barre, the former Soviet client
and avowed Marxist, who seized power in 1969, immediately became
a Soviet client, and eventually led his Somalian Socialist Revolutionary
Party into a military and political alliance with the U.S. (The
Soviets had championed Barre's Ethiopian arch-enemies in the ongoing
dispute over the Ogaden region.) One of Africa's most brutal despots,
Barre enjoyed Washington's full support right up until he was
driven from the country, in 1991, by numerous local uprisings.
Zenawi is a budding Barre. In the summer
of 2005, his U.S.-trained-and-equipped army fired on student protesters
who objected to the blatant rigging of the recent election: over
20 were killed, and many wounded. This same army has now turned
its guns on the Somalian people, violated Somalian sovereignty,
and set up a puppet Somalian "government" that virtually
no one in Somalia recognizes -again, with full American support.
Our complete misunderstanding of Somalia,
its culture and unique politics, has led us into the trap of making
decisions based on ideological constructs rather than anything
related to the facts on the ground. The blundering into a local
clan dispute and mistaking it for an armed attack on U.S. interests
is emblematic of the problem: in the end, it seems, it's always
about us. A foreign policy founded in the spirit of hubris, and
based on pretensions to "global hegemony," is inevitably
blinded by a disabling narcissism.
That is what's really frightening about
U.S. foreign policy and the decision-makers who have such an adverse
impact on the lives of people around the world. These guys are
wandering around in the dark, utterly clueless: i.e. they're typical
Policy is made not only with imperfect
knowledge but with a complete disdain for knowledge, as such.
That's for the "reality-based community," as one White
House advisor put it to Ron Suskind - those vulgar empiricists
who insist that American policy must have some anchor in factual
knowledge, as opposed to the neo-Trotskyite wet-dreams of various
neoconservative gurus and White House speechwriters.
This anti-realist methodology is precisely
what lured us into Iraq. In the case of Somalia, yet another quagmire
beckons with its siren song of "fighting terrorism."
How long before Ethiopia requires the presence of U.S. "advisors"
- in addition to those already there - can probably be measured
by the time it takes to post this piece. No doubt U.S. "emergency"
aid to Ethiopia is being rushed to Zenawi even as I write, and
you can bet we won't hear much protest anywhere. Certainly not
from most Democrats in Congress. Anyone who doubts that the U.S.
is acting out of motives other than those that are proclaimed
will immediately be smeared as an enabler if not outright supporter
of "terrorism." Congress hasn't got the gumption to
cut off aid to the death squad "government" of "liberated"
Iraq - and I doubt they'll deprive murdering dictator Zenawi of
his blood money as compensation for their cowardice.
I would love it, however, if I were to
be proved mistaken, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
The Islamic courts movement was a logical
response to the condition of Somalian society, and the complete
absence of any law enforcement whatsoever. For the Americans to
hold up this movement as proof that "terrorism" has
taken power in Somalia is the best evidence that, as Michael Scheuer
puts it, the U.S. government is Osama bin Laden's one "indispensable
ally." If al-Qaeda is credited with reversing the threat
of a complete social breakdown in Somalia, and the gangster warlords
we once held responsible for the country's torment, in league
with a foreign invader, is held up as the only alternative, then
surely the terrorist leader is smiling somewhere in a deep dark
cave, rubbing his hands together and chortling at his extraordinary