Bush-Backed Liberation of Somalia: "Most of the dead are poor people"

In the new Terror War front opened by the Bush Administration and its proxy armies – the brutal "regime change" invasion of Somalia, led by the American-trained troops of the Ethiopian dictatorship – conditions for innocent civilians are worsening by the day. The BBC reports that the Ethiopians and their Somali warlord allies have essentially sealed off large quadrants of the capital, Mogadishu, and are shelling the residential areas to root out "insurgents" – forces loyal to the Islamic Courts government overthrown by the invasion, tribal groups on the outs with the ascendant warlords, and ordinary Somalis defending their country from foreign attack.

More than 300,000 people have fled the carnage in Mogadishu, some heading for the Kenyan border – where many have been captured with the help of U.S. Special Forces and intelligence agents and "rendered" to Ethiopia's notorious torture-chamber prisons – while many other refugees have been forced to simply camp out in the open, prey to extreme hunger and exposure, and the spread of disease. Some have become so desperate that they have had to return to the rubble of their homes in Mogadishu, and are now trapped in the ring of fire that the American-backed invaders are drawing around the city.

At least 250 people have been killed in Mogadishu in this week alone, almost all of them civilians, say relief workers and UN officials. And the innocent victims are overwhelmingly the most vulnerable people in Somali society; the poor, the sick, the crippled, the old and the very young. The BBC reports:

Heavy shelling is taking place as Ethiopian-backed government forces battle insurgents in Somalia's capital. Ethiopian tanks have been pursuing Islamists and local militias into their stronghold in the north of Mogadishu. The United Nations refugee agency says many residents are trapped in the fighting as roads leading out of Mogadishu have been blocked.

…Many bodies are lying around Mogadishu and hundreds of people are fleeing towards the Kenyan border, says the BBC Swahili reporter Khadra Mohammed. Some have serious injuries and need urgent medical attention, she says. Only people with money are able to move out of the capital on public transport vans, most of the dead are poor people, our correspondent says.

UNHCR spokesperson Catherine Weibel has told the BBC they are now providing relief supplies to about 20,000 displaced people out of the more than 300,000 who have fled the violence.

The U.S. corporate media – and indeed, much of the "progressive" media as well – have largely ignored the conflict in Somalia, beyond a few brief mentions in the traditional "oh, those African savages are killing each other again" mode. But the war in Somalia is an American war. As we have reported often here – drawing on the extensive work of other researchers – the Bush Administration has armed, trained and financed the war machine of the Ethiopian dictatorship, with special attention paid to "counterinsurgency" training in preparation for the "regime change" that Washington wanted in Somalia. What's more, American warplanes assisted the invasion, launching airstrikes on fleeing civilians and natives of the border regions, ostensibly in a flailing, ham-handed attempt to kill a few suspected "al Qaeda" leaders supposedly hidden among the refugees. Many innocent people were killed – but no terrorist operatives. In addition, U.S. Special Forces troops have been operating with the invaders, and U.S. intelligence agents have been interrogating refugees and "rendering" some of them into a nightmarish journey through warlord prisons in Somalia on their way to captivity in Ethiopia. Again, all of this is going on with practically no U.S. news coverage – and absolutely no political debate in America.

The proxy conquest of Somalia is being undertaken to serve the Administration's strategic aim of dominating the oil supplies and distribution lines in the Middle East and Africa. The "justification" for this act of aggression is, as always, "terrorism." Bush and his proxies accuse the Islamic Courts government of "having ties to al Qaeda," a charge with the Courts faction has always denied, and of which there is no proof. But the accusation provides a handy excuse for attacking, arresting, rendering or killing anyone remotely associated with the overthrown government – or anyone who opposes the new Bush-imposed regime. "Al Qaeda" has become a magical incantation by which the Bush Administration can transform anyone into a "terrorist" or an "enemy combatant." As with the Islamic Courts government, no proof is necessary; the accusation itself will suffice.

And what are the practical results, the reality, of these grand geopolitical games being played by the well-wadded elites in Washington? What are American citizens paying for, what is being done in their name? The Independent gives us a glimpse in this story from AP:

There are no more hospital beds available in this bloodstained capital, and barely enough bandages to patch up the wounded. Even the bottles of medicine are running dry. But still the patients keep pouring in - and they are the lucky ones, having survived another day of gunfire and mortar shells as Islamic insurgents battle troops allied to Somalia's fragile government.

"Even the shades of the trees are occupied at this point," Dahir Dhere, director of Medina Hospital, the largest health facility in Mogadishu, said yesterday. "We are overwhelmed."

Battles rocked Mogadishu for the sixth straight day Monday as Somalia heads toward one of the worst humanitarian crises in its history, with civilians getting slaughtered in the crossfire. A local human rights group put the death toll at 1,000 over just four days earlier this month, and more than 250 have been killed in the past six days. More than 320,000 of Mogadishu's 2 million residents have fled since heavy fighting started in February.

 Ahmed Mohamed, 32, was not one of them. A mortar shell hit him over the weekend, crushing his right leg. "The doctors told me I would die unless they cut off my leg," Mohamed said, tears streaming down his face in the city's Keysaney Hospital, which was packed beyond capacity with nearly 200 people. "So I have to let them do it."

…Last month, troops from neighboring Ethiopia used tanks and attack helicopters to crush a growing insurgency linked to the Council of Islamic Courts. The movement had controlled Mogadishu and much of the country's south for only six months in 2006, but those were the most peaceful months since 1991. The group was driven from power in December by Somali and Ethiopian soldiers, accompanied by US special forces, who have accused the group of having ties to al-Qaeda…

Meanwhile, the capital and its surrounding towns have become scenes of ghastly despair. Women and children flee on foot with little more than their clothes and some cooking pots, then sleep by the side of the road. In Afgoye, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the capital, fights were breaking out over a spot of shade beneath a tree.

"Everyone wants to sit in the small area under the tree," said Asha Hassan Mohamed, a mother of seven who reached Afgoye last week but returned to Mogadishu because she couldn't find any food. "It's so crowded because there is no shelter."

The United Nations said the fighting had sparked the worst humanitarian crisis in the war-ravaged country's recent history, with many of the city's residents trapped because roads out of Mogadishu were blocked. Catherine Weibel, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, said many of those who haven't fled the capital are simply too vulnerable to do so. "All the people who are sick, in wheelchairs, disabled," she said, "they cannot leave."

Again, all of this happening – helped by American money, arms, training, planes, bombs, troops and intelligence – without the slightest debate or controversy among the American Establishment, and with no attempt whatsoever by the media to inform the American people of the situation. A whole new front in the never-ending, Constitution-shredding, death-dealing, atrocity-bearing "War on Terror" has been opened – a third "regime change" operation descending into murder and ruin – but no one pays the slightest mind. And as long as the Bush Administration can avoid another "Black Hawk Down" incident, as long as most of the dead are poor people – poor black people, those eternal non-entities in the public consciousness – then the American amnesia about the slaughter in Somalia will go on and on.