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I know no one cares about Somalia;  every time I write about it on the website, the traffic drops like a stone. (Let's see if that headline draws a few eyeballs, though. If it works, we might just rename the whole damn blog.) But I don't care if no one cares. There is a continuous slaughter and ravaging of innocent human beings going on in Somalia, a vast atrocity that is sponsored, funded, greenlighted and directly aided by the United States government, and I'm going to keep on writing about it.

This third Terror War campaign of  "regime change" by the American military machine has already spawned what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and every day leaves more civilian bodies rotting in the streets, and more fleeing families stranded in the middle of nowhere, with nothing. At every step of the way, the Bush Administration has assisted its proxy force of Ethiopian invaders and CIA-paid warlords, by rocketing villages, killing goatherds, capturing refugees and "renditioning" them to Ethiopian torture chambers, and even sending in openly avowed "death squads" to "kill anyone left alive" after bombing strikes. At every step of the way, the Bush Administration has conducted and assisted operations that Americans once would have considered the stuff of old-movie Nazis, twirling their waxed Prussian moustaches as they send a young mother off to a concentration camp, or order artillery barrages on residential areas, or dispatch death squads to pump bullets into the heads of human beings left twitching, burned and bloodied after a sneak attack by Stukas.

Oh, I know none of this is nearly as important as working up a mighty "blogswarm" against ABC because some witless TV talking heads aimed some witless questions at politicians on the make who have been spouting witless bumpersticker platitudes all over the country for months on end. I know I should be out on the street in protest, sticking it to The Man with some really ironic placards or something. Because after all, the only thing that matters in this election -- where the American proxy war in Somalia has not been mentioned at all, and where all the candidates earnestly pledge to conduct the global War of Terror with even more ruthless efficiency than the "incompetent" Bush -- is what a few Beltway insiders say to each other on the Tee-Vee.

But surely, in the big and glorious tent of the blogosphere, there is room for a minor story or two about a little American-backed mass murder in one of those funny little countries across the ocean, right? Like this AP story featured -- that is to say, buried -- in the New York Times on Monday: "81 Die in Clashes Between Islamists and Troops in Somalia."

You will note the NYT's clever headline, which completely distorts the plain facts reported in the second paragraph of the AP story:

The deaths were caused when Ethiopians fired heavy artillery and tank shells in residential areas of Mogadishu, said the rights leader, Sudan Ali Ahmed, chairman of Elman Human Rights. “We condemn this latest fighting,” he said. Besides the 81 people who were killed, 119 were wounded, he said. His group said that all of those killed were civilians.

This doesn't exactly sound like a fierce firefight between "Islamists" and the unidentified "troops" in the headline. Instead, it sounds as if the occupying forces of a military invader turned their guns on civilians and slaughtered a few dozen of them. But this eternal blazon must not be to ears of flesh and blood.

Yet let's be fair to the old Gray Lady. It's not just the headline; the AP story itself is riddled with verbal sleight-of-hand to keep the reader from learning the reality behind the "objective" report. For example, directly after quoting Ahmed, the human rights leader, by name, AP goes on to provide some mitigating spin from anonymous "witnesses" who "said that because the insurgents wear civilian clothing, it was impossible to say how many of the dead were noncombatants."

Who were these witnesses? Are they more credible than Ahmed, whose group has condemned the atrocities on all sides, earning the enmity of every armed group in the country? Was Ahmed lying?

What if there were "Islamist fighters" among the dozens of dead? Does that mitigate the crime of firing heavy artillery and tank shells into residential areas? Was it OK for the Nazis to, say, bombard a French neighborhood to ruins, as long as there were a few Resistance fighters wearing civilian clothes in the area?

There were a few more witnesses willing to be named in the story. Let's see what they had to say:

A witness, Aden Shire, said the Ethiopians had seemed to be searching for the bodies of fellow soldiers killed Saturday. Another witness, Omar Abdulahi, said that among the dead he counted were two old men in their homes who had been shot by Ethiopian soldiers.

A woman, Nasteho Moalim, said her 7-year-old daughter and three neighbors had been killed, and her husband wounded, by tank shells that hit their homes.

But wait; everything's OK, it wasn't an American-backed war crime after all, because someone in the neighborhood fired back at the Ethiopian/warlord forces that were firing heavy artillery and tank shells into the civilian area:

On the government’s side, at least one Somali soldier and two Ethiopians were killed, said another witness, Asha Shegow Abikar.

Those bodies were certainly not taken to the hospitals and clinics in the disputed area where the human rights group totaled up the dead from Sunday's battle, so they did not figure into Ahmed's death count.

But in the end, what does it matter? Anyone killed in one of our righteous "regime changes" had it coming one way or another, right? The story goes on to retail the same kind of amorphous demonization we have seen of every single person in the Terror War (and its conjoint operations) who does not openly and avidly collaborate with an occupying force. In its very brief background graf on the conflict -- which naturally omits any mention at all of American involvement -- AP tells us that:

Ethiopian troops supporting the transitional government’s soldiers ousted Islamist fighters from power in Mogadishu, the capital, in December 2006.

What the forces of the Ethiopian dictatorship actually ousted with the help of American money, training, weapons -- and direct military support -- was a federation of Islamic groups that had coalesced into the first relatively stable government that Somalia had known since 1991. Some of the groups in this Islamic Courts coalition had militias -- like every other clan and political faction and criminal organization in the anarchic land. But not everyone involved in the new government, and not everyone who supported it, or tolerated it for the security and stability it had brought, were "Islamist fighters." Yet AP's description -- repeated over and over in most of American media stories on this Terror War front -- paints them all with this sinister brush.

And thus any Somali who now opposes the Ethiopian occupation is automatically an "Islamist fighter" or an "insurgent" or, inevitably, a "terrorist." Just as every Palestinian in Gaza is part of Hamas, and every Iraqi not actively working for the Bush-backed government is a "Mahdi Army fighter" or an "insurgent" or, inevitably, "al Qaeda" -- and thus fair game for a drone missile attack launched by some goober eating Hot Pockets at his computer terminal in Nevada. The killing of anyone slapped with these labels is considered "justified" by the Bush Regime, and by the American press. Even the murder of innocent people who happen to be in vague proximity to someone assigned one of these ever-expanding labels is considered a "regrettable" but necessary bit of "collateral damage."

And so the slaughter goes on in Somalia. If you are an American, it has your name on it. If you are a Democrat, neither of your presidential candidates gives a damn about it. (It goes without saying that Bush-hugger John McCain doesn't give a damn.) But hey, that's all right; the main thing is that George Stephanopoulos probably feels a bit sheepish right now. I'm sure that will make Nasteho Moalim feel a whole lot better as she buries her seven-year-old daughter.

UPDATE. More innocent dead: Clerics killed in Somali mosque. From the BBC:

The bodies of 10 people have been found in a mosque in the Somali capital, after two days of clashes between Ethiopian troops and insurgents. Local residents blame the killings on the Ethiopians, who are backing the government against Islamist fighters.

Six of the dead are religious leaders from the Tabliq Sufi sect, which is not involved in the conflict...

Aden Haji Yusuf, 60, was one of the local elders helped to bury the dead on Monday. "We are now out, for the first time in two days, to discover the dead bodies of some neighbours and bury them," he said.

Tabliq official Shiekh Abdi-kheyr Isse said the Ethiopians had "slaughtered" the clerics. "The Ethiopians surrounded al-Hidaya Mosque on Sunday and killed [the] mullahs mercilessly, including Sheikh Sa'id, the chief of the group in southern Somalia," he said.

Elsewhere, the story notes that the "regime change" in Somalia has had the same effect as the similar operations in Iraq and Afghanistan: it has destroyed moderate forces, radicalized multitudes, and fueled the rise of religious extremism:

Islamic militants of the al-Shabab movement are still holding the south-western town of Wajid, 90 kilometres (52 miles) north of Baidoa, the current seat of the interim parliament. They took the town on Sunday, shutting down video cinema and kiosks selling narcotic leaves known as "khat" and also forced some boys in the city to shave their heads because they had their hair cut into western styles, witnesses said.

"Heavily armed young men, who masked their faces with turbans, have been in control of the town and they have also been patrolling in the streets," local resident Madey Isaq Nur told the BBC by telephone.

This actually follows a much older strategy followed by the US and the UK in the region. The Western powers have long favored alliances with pliant (or paid-off) warlords and tyrants -- the Saudis, the Shah, Mubarak, Saddam, etc. -- helping them destroy any centrist forces that might pose a genuine alternative to rule by U.S. clients. Very often this also takes the form of deliberately stoking religious extremism, giving violent sectarian groups money, arms, and support to bring down more nationalist, secular targets: such as the democratic Iranian government toppled in favor of the Shah. Or Israel's role in the rise of Hamas as a counterforce to the secular, nationalist PLO. Or Putin's obliteration of Chechen society, leaving nothing but Kremlin-backed warlords and fanatical extremists to fight it out.

Likewise in Iraq, the Bush Administration has empowered a client government dominated by violent Shiite factions long aligned and nurtured by Iran's mullahs. And of course the supreme example of this strategy is the key American role in creating an international organization of militant Islamic extremists to topple the secular, Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan.

And even where active support is not given to extremists (as in Egypt today), the chaos and suffering wrought by aggressive "regime changes" and the political repression imposed by American-backed tyrants drive people toward extremist factions, which are often the only alternative organization left standing when civic society has been destroyed.

But again, that's all OK; the more chaos and extremism there is out there, the bigger the profits of the war machine -- and of the politicians who serve it so faithfully.

For a recent example, see Hillary Clinton's bloodthirsty promise to "obliterate" Iran if it dares to attack Israel -- something that is not even remotely a possibility. What will be the effect of Clinton's bellicosity? Why, to strengthen the extremists and hardliners in Iran, of course! To store up more suffering, death and chaos for generations to come.

But why on earth would she do that? Well, which candidate has received the most money from the war machine in this campaign? Here's a hint: It's not Bush-hugger McCain or Business-as-usual Barry. (Although both men are also trousering plenty of blood money, of course.)