Our text for today: Somalia descends into Africa’s worst crisis.

This is an excellent summary of the deteriorating situation in Somalia, where Bush’s “Terror War” unleashed yet another “regime change” operation last year, using American bombers, special ops, death squads and security forces to aid an invasion of Somalia by undemocractic Ethiopia. Writing for McClatchy Newspapers – one of the very few mainstream American news organizations that still practices actual journalism – Shashank Bengali does what almost no corporate media story on Somalia I’ve seen has ever done: he notes the U.S. involvement in the very first line. In our degraded times, Bengali’s straightforward, factual account – the kind of thing which should of course be as common as muck – stands as a bold act of truth-telling.

As you read, remember that Bush not only greenlighted the invasion by Ethiopia’s ruthless dictatorwhose army has been trained, funded and armed by Washington – but also committed American forces to a direct role in the attack, and the continuing repression.

A year after the U.S.-backed Ethiopian army toppled a hard-line Islamist regime in Somalia, the country has become Africa’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. Some 200,000 refugees, mostly women and children, have fled from a pro-government offensive to makeshift camps along a 10-mile stretch of sun-baked asphalt that leads from the seaside capital of Mogadishu toward the inland town of Afgoye.

The crisis is brutal on young people. One night last month, Fatima Sheikh Ali awoke to the deafening crash of mortar rounds on her neighbor’s roof. Shrapnel blasted through Ali’s tin-walled home in Mogadishu, and sent her 13-year-old daughter, Muna, into her arms, quaking. Sometime in the chaos of that night, Muna stopped speaking. In an overcrowded encampment of sand and scrub a few miles from the capital, where the family now lives among thousands made homeless by the war, Muna silently collects firewood and looks after her siblings, a worried gaze fixed in her almond eyes.

“She is traumatized,” her mother said, and a warren of women who’d gathered around her murmured sympathetically. A nurse with the Somali Red Crescent Society said, “There is nothing to be done. It is a very sad story.”

…Most displaced Somalis, such as Muna’s family, live in dome-shaped huts fashioned out of spindly tree branches and covered with tattered swatches of fabric or plastic. They sprout from the sand like multicolored mushrooms along the road from the capital. The United Nations Children’s Fund said last week that one-quarter of the refugees around Afgoye were younger than 5. Both sides are using older boys as combatants, and girls who venture out of the camps risk being raped by freelance militias, the agency said.

“Things are now getting absolutely worse,” said Christian Balslev-Olesen, the UNICEF representative for Somalia. “There is a dirtiness to this war. Children are a real target….”Local groups estimate that 6,000 people have died in the fighting this year…

Traveling Somalia’s roads is fraught with danger once again. Aid groups and former residents say that Somali government forces, far from ending militia rule, are starting to behave like militias themselves.
Checkpoints have popped up throughout southern Somalia, with government soldiers and allied militiamen demanding payments and harassing civilians and relief workers. According to UNICEF, sick children and pregnant women often are turned away at checkpoints. In some areas, trucks carrying food and other humanitarian aid have to pay tolls of $500 each, U.N. officials said.

As in Iraq, Bush’s “Terror War” operation has put corrupt and vicious militias in control of a despised and ineffectual government installed and maintained by foreign forces. The inevitable result is brutality, atrocity and privation on a massive scale. And as in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere in the Terror War imperium, there is nothing that Washington’s proxy forces can do – no crime they can commit – that will lose them the support of their Potomac masters…as long as they continue to prove useful to the Terror Warrior’s larger agenda.

A recent story in the Washington Post bears this out. While Ethiopa continues to enjoy Bush’s firm support, the CIA-paid Somali warlords installed in power by the invasion are rapidly losing favor. The Bush Regime is now looking at breaking Somali apart, keeping the more stable region of Somaliland for itself — and letting the rest of the country rot and die. This is a strategy we may see played out in Iraq in the future; certainly it’s the dearest wish of many in the American foreign policy establishment, including “liberals” like Joe Biden and Michael O’Hanlon. (See Bipartisan Paradise: Liberals, Bush Unite in Ethnic Cleansing of Iraq.) As the Post notes:

In recent months, human rights groups have accused Ethiopian forces of abuses such as rape and indiscriminate killing of civilians as they bomb and burn villages in counterinsurgency operations. Despite those allegations, the Pentagon continues to back the Ethiopian presence. “Any government that provides Somalis with assistance we support, including Ethiopia,” a senior defense official said. “I am unaware of specific allegations regarding the conduct of the Ethiopian troops.”

As for the integrity of the sovereign Somali state:

One approach, Pentagon officials argue, would be to forge ties with Somaliland, as the U.S. military has with Kenya and other countries bordering Somalia. A breakaway region along Somalia’s northwestern coast, Somaliland has about 2 million people and an elected president, and offers greater potential for U.S. military assistance to bolster security, even though it lacks international recognition, they say.

“Somaliland is an entity that works,” a senior defense official said. “We’re caught between a rock and a hard place because they’re not a recognized state,” the official said. The Pentagon’s view is that “Somaliland should be independent,” another defense official said. “We should build up the parts that are functional and box in” Somalia’s unstable regions, particularly around Mogadishu.

Thus do the masters play with nations, shaking and breaking them as they see fit. Meanwhile, the tide of blood — and unspeakable human suffering — keeps on rising.

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