"The soul of a nation is under the knife...." -- Bob Dylan
In the recent presidential "debate," both candidates expressed their eager, unstinting, even feverish support for the so-called "War on Terror" being waged by Washington and its proxies around the world.
Indeed, throughout the entire campaign, Barack Obama and John McCain have repeatedly pledged their fealty to the Terror War, and all that it entails: an even larger war machine (with even more public boodle for war profiteers); a continued military presence in Iraq (under one guise or another); a substantial expansion of the hate-fomenting war in Afghanistan (with a concomitant raise in "collateral damage"); an extension of that war into Pakistan (destabilizing and radicalizing a fractious state with a nuclear arsenal); pressing ever closer to the threshold of war with Iran (with bellicose threats, blockades and demonizing propaganda); establishing even more military satrapies to exercise dominion over the regions of the earth (including new proconsular commands for Africa and the United States itself); and -- as we have noted here over and over -- the bloody rendering of Somalia into a boiling, hellish cauldron of slaughter, suffering and chaos.
Somalia is the invisible third front of the Terror War, an American-backed "regime change" operation launched by the invading army of Ethiopia and local warlords in December 2006. In addition to helping arm, fund and train the army of the Ethiopian dictatorship, the United States has intervened directly into the conflict, carrying out bombing raids on fleeing refugees and nomads, firing missiles into villages, sending in death squads to clean up after covert operations, and, as we reported here long ago, assisting in the "rendition" of refugees, including American citizens, into the hands of Ethiopia's notorious torturers. [See note below for more links.]
Together, the American Terror Warriors, the Ethiopians and the warlords (some of them directly in the pay of the CIA) have created the worst humanitarian disaster on earth. Thousands have been killed in the fighting. Hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes, many fleeing to northern Kenya, where more than 215,000 people are languishing in a single refugee camp in Dadaab; 45,000 people have poured into the camp this year alone, says the UN. In some of the camps, Somali refugees are living without any shelter at all: "The BBC's Mark Doyle, who has recently visited the camps in Kenya, says some refugees do not even have a basic plastic sheet to protect them from the sun and rain."
In just the last two weeks, more than 18,500 people have fled the capital of Mogadishu, which has already been decimated by the warfare. Many were sent on the run by one of the Ethiopians' favorite tactics: mortar and artillery fire into civilian areas believed "sympathetic" to the insurgents.
The United States is not only backing the Ethiopians and the Somali transitional government (TGF) propped up by the occupation; Washington has also provided "robust financial and logistical support to armed paramilitaries resisting the command and control of the TGF," according to a major new study of the conflict by the human rights organization, Enough. In addition to these freebooters, it turns out that the wide-ranging Somali pirates -- who last week hijacked a shipload of heavy weapons being funneled into African conflicts by Ukrainian war profiteers -- are supported by "backers linked to the Western-backed government" in Mogadishu.
In other words, the United States is sponsoring a hydra-headed conflict that spews fire and destruction in every direction, and is trampling an already ravaged people deeper into the dirt. It is by any measure -- even the mass-murdering standards of our day -- a sickening abomination, a war crime of staggering proportions. Yet it goes on, day after day, without the slightest comment, much less criticism, from the entire bipartisan political establishment, and almost all of the media -- including most of the "dissident" blogosphere. The Somalis are simply non-people, a nation of ghosts, unseen and unseeable.
An exception to the media's "cloud of unknowing" around Somalia appeared this week in Salon.com, where Jennifer Daskal put a human face on a single aspect of the Terror War atrocity: rendition. From a refugee camp in Kenya, she writes:
Ishmael, a 37-year-old shepherd from the Ogaden region in Ethiopia, looked at me with tears in his eyes. Ethiopian forces -- who had already killed his mother, father, brothers and sisters -- murdered his wife days after they were married. They then slaughtered his goats, beat him unconscious, and slashed his shoulder to the bone, he said.
In December 2006, Ishmael crossed through Somalia into Kenya, heading for the nearest refugee camp in search of medical care. But when he didn't have enough money to pay a 1,000 shilling ($15) bribe, the Kenyan police bundled him into a car and took him to Nairobi. Less than a month later, he was herded onto an airplane with some 30 others, flown to Somalia and handed over to the Ethiopian military -- the same forces that he previously fled.
Ishmael is a victim of a 2007 rendition program in the Horn of Africa, involving Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and the United States. There are at least 90 more victims like him. Most have since been sent home. A few -- including a Canadian and nine who assert Kenyan nationality -- remain in detention even now. The whereabouts of 22 others -- including several Somalis, Ethiopian Ogadenis, and Eritreans -- remain unknown....
[In the immediate aftermath of the invasion], Kenyan authorities arrested at least 150 men, women and children from more than 18 countries -- including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada -- in operations near the Somali border, and held them for weeks without charge in Nairobi. In January and February 2007, the Kenyan government then unlawfully put dozens of these individuals -- with no notice to families, lawyers or the detainees themselves -- on flights to Somalia, where they were handed over to the Ethiopian military. Ethiopian forces also arrested an unknown number of people in Somalia....
An unknown number of them -- likely dozens -- were questioned by the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Addis Ababa. From February to May 2007, Ethiopian security officers daily transported detainees -- including several pregnant women -- to a villa where U.S. officials interrogated them about suspected terrorist links. At night the Ethiopian officers returned the detainees to their cells....
In addition to working with the U.S., the Ethiopians used the rendition program for their own ends. For years, the Ethiopian military has been trying to quell domestic Ogadeni and Oromo insurgencies that receive support from neighboring countries, such as Ethiopia's archrival, Eritrea. The multinational rendition program provided them a convenient means to continue this internal battle -- and get their hands, with U.S. and Kenyan support, on those with suspected insurgent links.
Ishmael was one of their victims.
The questions his Ethiopian interrogators asked were nonstop, and always the same: "Are you al-Qaida? Are you an Ogadeni rebel? Are you part of the Somali insurgency?" Each time he said no, he was beaten, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness. When he resisted answering, they targeted his testicles.
Then, in February 2008 -- some 14 months after his original arrest -- the Ethiopians decided Ishmael was no longer worth the trouble. They dumped him, along with 27 others, just over the Somali border....Now Ishmael is back in the refugee camp, limping and urinating blood. He is still waiting for the healthcare he came searching for nearly two years ago.
Daskal's story is marred by the same timidity which groups like Human Rights Watch (where she serves as senior counterrorism counsel) generally displaywhen discussing American direction of and complicity in war crimes. These references are often couched in terms of "a perception" (or even misperceptions!) of American intentions. The latter are always given the benefit of doubt and qualification. Still, it requires little reading between the lines to see the confirmation of what every honest observer of the conflict can see: the Terror War operation is creating more of the violent extremism that it purports to combat:
Almost everyone I spoke with assumed -- whether true or not -- that the United States backed the arbitrary arrest and unlawful rendition of men like Ishmael and the still-detained Kenyans. Almost everyone assumed that the Ethiopians operate with America's blessing.
They "assume" these things, of course, because they are true.
Their stories have circulated, fueling anger and resentment. As one man, whose childhood friend became one of the rendition victims, told me, "Now when I go to the mosque, I pray to God to punish the Americans."
....The U.S. is funding the Ethiopian military, supporting its activities in Somalia and training Kenyan security forces in counterterrorism -- so as U.S.-backed military and police forces in the region brutalize their domestic opponents in the name of fighting terrorism, the United States is often blamed.
Gee, I wonder why? If I hire a killer, give him a gun and directions to your house, and he goes and blows out the brains of your children, who are you going to blame? Or as I put it a few weeks ago:
Mass death, mass ruin and immeasurable human suffering: this is what the War on Terror does. This is what the War on Terror is all about. It can have no other outcome. When someone supports the War on Terror -- as Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden all do, with eagerness and enthusiasm -- this is what they are embracing. They are dipping their hands in innocent blood.