Clone Wars: The Replication of Ruin From Iraq to Somalia

The rough beast that is George W. Bush's Terror War replicates itself with remarkable fidelity. Each new monstrosity it brings forth exhibits the same markings, the same structure: a weak, corrupt client regime maintained in office by the occupation army of a foreign power, in brutal conflict with an ever-growing opposition led by -- but not limited to -- religious sectarians. And each replication produces the same results: chaos, ruin, atrocity, suffering, repression and the spread of violent, virulent extremism.

This has been the pattern in all four of the Terror War's "regime change" operations: the two direct U.S. interventions, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the two proxy wars, in Palestine and Somalia.

There was a slight mutation in the Palestine caper, of course; Bush and his Israeli allies relentlessly fomented a civil war in order to overthrow the elected Hamas government, but their Fatah proxies lost the battle in Gaza. It didn't matter in the end, however: the defeat gave the Fatah client regime an excuse to declare a new, unelected "emergency government," one entirely dependent on largess from America and Israel to survive.

But in Somalia, Bush's proxies -- the brutal dictatorship of Ethiopia and a faction of Somali warlords in the pay of the CIA -- were more successful. Under their assault -- with the assistance of American airpower and Special Forces units -- the coalition government of the Islamic Courts Council, which had brought the first measure of stability to Somalia after 15 years of violent anarchy, was swept away earlier this year. The consolidation of this Terror War "victory" was brutal: hundreds of thousands of Somalis were driven from their homes, sent out on the harsh refugee road -- where dozens were killed by American air attacks, and hundreds (at least) were captured, often with the help of American agents, and "renditioned" into Ethiopia's notorious torture chambers.

Then there were the black ops of "Task Force 88, a very secret American special-operations unit," described in a laudatory article in Esquire this spring. "The 88's job was simple," wrote Esquire: the unit was to be helicoptered into areas hit by American airstrikes in Somalia, then "kill anyone still alive and leave no unidentified bodies behind." (Your tax dollars at work.)

So where does Somalia stand today in the wake of the Terror War operation? Why, in chaos, in ruins, in lamentation for vast suffering, in the grip of growing repression and the spread of violent, virulent extremism. It has rapidly become an Iraq in miniature. The International Red Cross reports that the chaos spawned by the Bush-backed conquest means that "no really effective [humanitarian] action is possible, whether with regard to protection or detention." In other words, just as in Iraq, the ordinary people of Somalia are being left to wither and die.

As just as in Iraq, the Terror War has spawned a broad-based insurgency dominated by religious factions that have been increasingly radicalized by the assault. And as in Iraq, the continued presence of foreign troops has made any political solution impossible. The resistance -- both religious and secular -- will not treat with a government it considers illegitimate due to its installation by foreign invasion. The shaky, unpopular government cannot survive without the military power of the foreign invaders. And so the insurgency will continue, and grow, as long as the occupation goes on.

[To see a striking parallel with the situation in Iraq, read the remarkable stories in today's Guardian: an unprecedented interview with the political leaders of the Iraqi insurgency, who make two notable points: there will be no political solution in Iraq as long as the occupation continues; and they will deal swiftly with "al Qaeda in Iraq" once the Americans are gone.]

This week in Somalia, the "Transitional Federal Government" backed by America and Ethiopia convened a long-promised "National Reconciliation Conference" that seems guaranteed to -- indeed, designed to -- prevent any genuine political reconciliation in the war-ravaged land. Instead, it aims to sow new discord and internal conflict among the resistance to the invasion, and to keep the TFG's CIA employees and their cronies in power. The terms of the Conference specifically preclude a political settlement, concentrating instead on stirring the hornet's nest of clan and tribal conflict that has brought so much anguish to the land. Washington and its European allies have acquiesced in this farce, and handed over millions of dollars to the TFG for a process pre-doomed to failure.

Power and Interest News Report (PINR) has produced a detailed, thorough -- and devastating -- study on ''Somalia's Compromised National Reconciliation Conference'' and the larger context of ruin and collapse in which it is taking place. Written by Professor Michael Weinstein of Purdue University, the report is well worth reading in full for anyone interested in the devastation and suffering wrought by the Bush Regime's brutal attempt to bring Somalia into the "Arc of Domination" it is seeking to extend over the strategic center and the tactical peripheries of the world's oil heartlands.

Excerpts of Weinstein's report can be found after the jump. 

From ''Somalia's Compromised National Reconciliation Conference'' (PINR):

On the ground, violent attacks on Ethiopian forces and T.F.G. militias, including mortar fire, targeted assassinations of officials, roadside bombings, shoot-outs and grenade assaults, have been a daily occurrence. In response, the Ethiopian and T.F.G. forces have engaged in indiscriminate return fire, imposition of a curfew, intensive weapons searches, arrests of suspected insurgents and their supporters, and raids on media houses, civil society organizations, mosques, businesses and schools -- all in an attempt to secure Mogadishu ahead of the N.R.C. On the political front, the T.F.G.'s opponents have continued their process of coalescing into a bloc and have refused to participate in the National Reconciliation Conference (N.R.C.) through their clans.

The run-up to the N.R.C. and its truncated opening confirm PINR's consistent assessment since the Ethiopian intervention that Somalia has entered a devolutionary cycle marked by regional, local and clan fragmentation, with the addition of political and ideological divisions, and a revolutionary Islamist insurgency...

The most incisive analysis of the country's political situation during the past month appeared in an interview published by the International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) with the head of its delegation for Somalia, Pascal Hundt, who reported that the country is so insecure that "no really effective [humanitarian] action is possible, whether with regard to protection or detention."

....Put in the bluntest terms -- and they are justified -- the N.R.C. is a nuanced yet simple power play by the T.F.G. executive to maintain its position by keeping international financial, military and diplomatic support; keeping the Ethiopian occupation in place barring the deployment of an adequate African Union (A.U.) or preferably U.N. peacekeeping force; and controlling the electoral process that is supposed to result in a permanent government and is mandated to take place in 2009. It is in the T.F.G.'s interest to ride out the remainder of the transition period and to prolong itself into any permanent arrangement. Part of staying in the saddle is to frame the reconciliation process to accord with its interests, which it has done for the time being, and to drag it out, attempting to use clan negotiations to build support and, if necessary, to divide and rule...

The oppositions to the T.F.G. represent a diverse array of groups and positions that are incipiently strained and have coalesced around resistance to the Ethiopian occupation and the transitional institutions, which they consider to be Addis Ababa's illegitimate pawns...

Beyond their points of agreement, the political oppositions diverge on their aims and strategies, with the I.C.C. remaining committed to an Islamist formula, the nationalists to an ethnic-Somali state and the S.D.N. to a reconciliation process in which the T.F.G. has no control over the selection process and does not host the conference, and which would lead to a "legitimate unity government that would prepare the way for democratic elections in 2009."

Although the nationalists would prefer a unified opposition movement, the I.C.C. is insistent on maintaining its organizational independence, rendering the oppositions a coalition rather than an incipient party. Nevertheless, on July 12, the oppositions made their decisive break with the N.R.C. by announcing that they would hold their own "constituent congress" on September 1 with the aim of "liberating Somalia from the yoke of the Ethiopian occupation."

...On July 14, McClatchy Newspapers published parts of a recent U.S. intelligence briefing on Somalia, to which it had gained access. The report stated that the T.F.G. is perceived by Somalis as "little more than a pawn of Ethiopia, yet its continued survival, certainly in Mogadishu, remains dependent on the support of the Ethiopian military." Under those conditions, the report goes on, extremists are able to "regain their footing and heighten inter-state tensions."

On July 13, in an interview with Agence France-Presse, Roland Marchal of the Center for International Studies and Research in Paris, commented that Somalia's conflicts are not rooted in clans, but in political and military divisions... He continued that there would be no cease-fire in the absence of "politically inclusive talks," offering that "alternatively you can pretend to have won, like it was done in Iraq and Afghanistan."