Silent Scream: Anguish Grows in the Terror War's Forgotten Victim

With each passing week, anguish and atrocity are deepening in Somalia, the third "regime change" target of George Bush's Terror War. Thousands of innocent people have been killed and a million have been driven from their homes by an Ethiopian invasion backed, funded and armed by the Bush Administration, which has also intervened directly with air strikes, naval shelling, renditions of fleeing refugees (including U.S. citizens) to Ethiopia's notorious prisons and, on at least one occasion, with a U.S. death squad sent in after an airstrike with orders to "kill anyone left alive."

This week, both the International Red Cross and UN officials issued dire assessments of the "dramatically" deteriorating situation. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are surviving on "something less than one meal a day," the Red Cross reports. Food and water shortages are now "life-threatening" in several regions across the country. Violent conflict with insurgents – and brutal "counterinsurgency" measures by the Ethiopian invaders and the "transitional government" – are intensifying, sending thousands more fleeing into the already stripped and overburdened countryside. Hospitals in the capital of Mogadishu are overflowing with wounded civilians, while there is little or no treatment for multitudes in other regions, where conflict and disease are spreading rapidly. Six humanitarian workers have been killed in Somalia in this year alone; only 2,000 are working there now –while there are 12,000 in Darfur, as Reuters notes. "I truly believe this is the worst humanitarian crisis on the continent, possibly in the world," says Phillipe Lazzarini, the UN humanitarian chief for Somalia.

Lazzarini made his remarks to Newsweek, which devoted three brief paragraphs to the crisis this week. Yet even this tiny whisper was like a gargantuan roar compared to the coverage in the rest of the American media and political establishments. The vast suffering inflicted on Somalia in America's name is virtually invisible in the American press – and entirely ignored by the presidential candidates, who have all pledged to expand the size and reach of America's military might and to continue the Terror War.

True, there was a flurry of small stories last week, after a U.S. missile strike on a Somali village – ostensibly aimed at an alleged terrorist allegedly hiding there – killed three women and three children. But there was no editorial outrage, of course; the incident was merely noted, sometimes with no mention of the victims. The emphasis was entirely on American efforts to nail a terrorist.

For example, here is CNN's take: "A U.S. missile strike in southern Somalia on Monday targeted a man wanted by the FBI, two senior U.S. officials said Tuesday," it began – as if it were the most normal thing in the world to send a missile into a foreign town to kill an FBI suspect. It is now simply assumed without question that American leaders have the right to kill anyone they please, anywhere in the world. The concept of "extrajudicial killing" is now perfectly, openly acceptable to America's great and good– as is the notion that innocent people will be blown to bits in these assassination attempts. To its credit, CNN did finally mention the dead women and children – 13 paragraphs into the story, after first providing copious context on the unmitigated (if unproven) evil of the alleged terrorist…who, as it happens, was not even in the village.

But there were not even pro forma apologies to the families of the dead for this "mistake." These six dead Somali people – like the six thousand killed in the American-Ethiopian "regime change" – mean nothing. The only thing that really matters is the display of American power, the stamp of domination.

But while the American people have been kept deliberately ignorant about the reality of the Terror War, those on the receiving end know it all too  well. What's more, they have their own ideas on how to deal with the problems in their country; they don't need the wise white men of Washington like Fred Kagan or Michael O'Hanlon to set their affairs in order with think-tank nostrums and generous helpings of military force. And while the voices of Terror War targets go unheard in the Homeland, they do find outlets elsewhere. This week, for example, Somali political scientist Afyare Abdi Elmi offered a sharp and clear-eyed assessment of the situation in Somalia, and what should be done, in a column in Canada's Globe and Mail -- Somalia's message to the world: Get Ethiopia off our back:

The Ethiopian occupation did not deliver the outcome that Washington desired….Instead, after more than a year of occupation, the picture is one of assassinations, bombings, looting, media repression and systematic displacement. Worse, there is no end in sight to the quagmire.

If there is the will, the U.S. and the rest of the international community can reverse the Somalia crisis. The issue is not about fixing an artificial and illegitimate government that exists on the backs of Ethiopian soldiers and donors' money. The U.S. should aim at the real goals: ending the Ethiopian occupation (the source of Somalia's current problems), addressing the humanitarian catastrophe, initiating a genuine Somali-owned peace process, and dealing with the war crimes committed in the country.

It is about time the U.S. realizes that Ethiopia's occupation is radicalizing more Somalis and that the government of warlords is beyond repair. There is no choice: The occupation has to end immediately. Somalis do not want Ethiopian troops in their country and, based on what has been happening so far, resistance to the occupation will only grow….

What is needed is a comprehensive process that addresses governance, security and justice. The debate should start with Somalia's 1960 constitution — it is the only one that a majority of Somalis voted for and one that can accommodate different groups' constitutional and policy concerns.

The real challenge is establishing a Somali-owned peace process. One important precondition would be to empower a neutral and credible third party. The UN understands this, and urged the Saudi government to take the lead. Others believe Qatar would be an excellent candidate. The international community should also tap the expertise and connections of the Djibouti government and its president, Ismail Omar Guelleh. As an ethnic Somali, Mr. Guelleh understands the nature of the conflict, and he has good relations with Washington. He might be able to facilitate such a process if the international community is serious about ending the conflict.

Charles Taylor, Liberia's former warlord/president, is on trial for the crimes that his forces and his proxies committed against the civilians of neighbouring Sierra Leone. Therefore, the international community should not turn a blind eye when it comes to the war crimes that Ethiopia's troops and proxy Somali warlords have been committing against Somalis for the past year…

If a Somali-owned peace process is established, there will be no need for foreign forces — Somalis will keep the peace as they did in peaceful areas of the country, and they will challenge all forms of extremism. The key to bringing the Somali people on board is ending the Ethiopian occupation and the warlords' impunity.

Wise words, and seeds of hope. But they will doubtless fall on stony ground. For a genuine investigation of the war crimes of the Ethiopian occupiers and the warlords in the Somali "interim government" would inevitably lead to the godfather of the entire operation: the American government. Not only have U.S. forces been directly involved in the invasion and "counterinsurgency" operations in Somalia, but some of the warlords in the "interim government" have been – and probably still are – on the CIA payroll. As long as the United States finds the dictatorship in Ethiopia useful to the "unipolar domination" agenda behind the Terror War, the "international community" will never be allowed to take the very reasonable and practical steps offered by Elmi to end – or at least ease – the suffering in his country. And in any case, there will never be any justice imposed on the American collaborators in the war crime in Somalia.

No, it's likely that the words offered by a Somali commenter – "Yusuf from Mogadishu" – on an excellent round-up story by Reuters this week will stand as the last word on this ongoing atrocity for a long time to come:

As a somali i am very Angry at what the united states government are doing to us, how could the world be so silent when ethiopia has invaded us and our brutally killing us.

Is there no more justice and love left in this world.

May God help us cos the world won't.